The Logic of Faith
Undesigned Scriptural Coincidences
Many of the events in the Bible are described in two or
more different accounts. There are four gospel accounts of
the ministry of Jesus. The books of Kings and Chronicles
give parallel accounts of much of the history of Israel,
augmented by the books of various prophets. The Acts of the
Apostles covers a period also described in the epistles. The
reason for this is possibly to allow their witnesses to
support one another:
By the mouth of two or three witnesses shall
every word be established.
(also Matthew 1816,
2 Corinthians 131).
This gives one an opportunity to compare the accounts of
the different witnesses to discover whether they are
If one were considering the evidence which forms a case
in a court of law, one would compare all the pieces of
evidence together and see whether it was consistent. The
important comparisons here would not be the main points of
the evidence, but the insignificant details. If these
details are sufficiently insignificant there will be a large
number of them and it would be impossible for anyone making
the story up to keep track of all the tiny details. There
would thus be a discrepancy in the details or the detail
would be completely absent. If, on the other hand, the
testimony of the witnesses is authentic then there would be
any amount of corroborative detail present within it.
This is true of the Bible accounts. Where there are
several different witnesses to the same events one can see a
tremendous harmony in the insignificant details of the
stories. These harmonies of detail are called
Undesigned Coincidences as it
would be impossible to insert them into the text if the
accounts were fabricated. Even if the accounts were all
fabricated by the same person, it would still be difficult
to ensure that the correct undesigned coincidences were
present within the text.
Ahithophel, Absalom and Uriah
King David was, for most of his life, a man of great
faith. However, he fell from his high standard when he
committed adultery with Bathsheba the wife of Uriah, and
then had Uriah killed. God's judgement on David was that he
was not to be allowed peace, and that his wives would be
taken from him. The fulfilment of the sentence came in a
great degree when Absalom the son of David rebelled against
him and tried to take the kingdom from him.
Absalom proclaimed his rulership of Israel from Hebron
and David was forced to flee for his life. The people of
Israel tended to follow Absalom, but David's warriors and
companions went with David into hiding. The exception was
2 Samuel 1512
And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite,
David's counsellor, from his city, even from Giloh, while
he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong; for
the people increased continually with Absalom.
The question here is why Ahithophel should turn away from
David when all David's other companions remained loyal. The
answer is found in the lists of the names of David's mighty
men in 2 Samuel 23. Among these
we find "Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite" (2 Samuel 2334)
and "Uriah the Hittite" (2 Samuel 2339).
It seems that this group of thirty-seven fighting men was
one of the elite units of David's army. There would be close
comradeship between them and they would be expected to stand
up for one another. Thus when David had Uriah killed it is
likely that the members of this unit were shaken in their
loyalty to him, and Ahithophel had such strong connections
to the unit that it is likely that he also was affected by
But there was a closer connection still between Eliam and
Uriah the Hittite; it seems that Uriah married Eliam's
2 Samuel 113
And David... enquired after the woman. And one said, Is
not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife
of Uriah the Hittite?
When David seduced Bathsheba he was seducing the daughter
of Eliam and the granddaughter of Ahitophel. It seems that
the episode had turned Ahithophel against David so that he
was willing to support Absalom's revolt.
When one sees the connection between Ahithophel, Uriah
and David one can appreciate why events happened the way
they did. However, it seems very unlikely that the writer of
2 Kings would have made up
these details; they are separated by a considerable number
of pages and it would take a cunning writer to insert the
details so that they could be found under only a close
inspection. Had they been devised to create a false
impression one would have expected their presence to have
been more clearly pointed out.
Philistines in Gibbethon
According to 1 Kings the
city of Gibbethon belonged to the Philistines in the reign
of King Baasha of Israel:
1 Kings 1527
And Baasha the son of Ahijah, of the house of Issachar,
conspired against him; and Baasha smote him at
Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines; for
Nadab and all Israel laid siege to Gibbethon.
However, Gibbethon was not always a Philistine city. In
the account of the division of the land of Canaan Gibbethon
was in the portion awarded to the tribe of Dan, although it
was itself given to the Kohathites, one of the divisions of
And the families of the children of Kohath, the Levites
who remained of the children of Kohath, even they had the
cities of their lot out of the tribe of Ephraim.... And
out of the tribe of Dan, Eltekeh with its common lands,
Gibbethon with its common lands...
One is left to wonder why it is described in
1 Kings as belonging to the
The answer is given in an obscure passage in
2 Chronicles 1113-14
And the priests and the Levites that were in all Israel
resorted to him from all their territories. For the
Levites left their common lands and their possession, and
came to Judah and Jerusalem: for Jeroboam and his sons had
cast them off from executing the priest's office to the
During the reign of Jeroboam of Israel the Levites found
themselves without employment, as Jeroboam had set up an
alternative form of worship for the people. They therefore
left their cities and travelled to Judah, bringing with them
the more faithful of Jeroboam's subjects. As a result the
Levitical cities were left empty. Among these would be
Gibbethon, which would thus become an easy conquest for the
The history of Gibbethon is fairly complex and requires
three different books to explain it. In each of these books
the account of Gibbethon is a trivial detail of no
importance to the main story. In spite of this there is a
clear account which is wholly consistent. The only
reasonable explanation for this is that the account is an
accurate record of real events.
This coincidence has been chosen from among the many
available because the period in which it occurred has
already been discussed in the Archaeology section.
In the book of Isaiah we
read of a visit of Merodach-Baladan, the rebel king of
Babylon, to Jerusalem:
At that time Merodach-Baladan, the son of Baladan, king of
Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he
had heard that he had been sick, and had recovered. And
Hezekiah was glad of them, and showed them the house of
his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the
spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of
his armour, and all that was found in his treasuries:
there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion,
that Hezekiah did not show them.
The description of Hezekiah's treasure is emphatic; at
this time Hezekiah was very wealthy indeed. This event can
be dated fairly easily. Isaiah 391
tells us that it happened shortly after Hezekiah had
recovered from sickness. We know from
Isaiah 385 that Hezekiah recovered from
his sickness 15 years before his eventual death, and as he
reigned for 29 years (2 Kings 182)
this is the 14th year of his reign.
We now come to the invasion of Judah by Sennacherib.
Now it came to pass in the fourteenth year of king
Hezekiah, that Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against
all the fortified cities of Judah, and took them.
This happened in the 14th year of Hezekiah's reign, the
same year in which he recovered from his illness. This is
consistent with the picture we have in the account of the
Isaiah 386 I
will deliver thee and this city from the hand of the king
When Sennacherib invaded, Hezekiah tried to buy him off (2 Kings 1813-14).
The tribute required from him by Sennacherib was large and
left Hezekiah quite without resources. He was even reduced
to stripping the gold leaf off the temple doors to pay it:
2 Kings 1815-16
And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in
the house of the LORD, and in the treasuries of the king's
house. At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the
doors of the temple of the LORD, and from the pillars
which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to
the king of Assyria.
The sequence of events is that Hezekiah was forced to
give his entire wealth to the king of Assyria (who attacked
anyway) and was therefore impoverished. Shortly after in the
same year he was showing off his great wealth to the king of
On the face of it this appears to be a contradiction, and
there would be great problems with it were it not for
another account of the same times. However,
2 Chronicles gives the
2 Chronicles 3222-24
Thus the LORD saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of
Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of
Assyria, and from the hand of all others, and guided them
on every side. And many brought gifts to the LORD to
Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah: so that
from then on he was magnified in the sight of all nations.
In those days Hezekiah was sick and near to death...
This explains the problem. After the defeat of the
Assyrian armies many of the other nations (who would
presumably have been victims of the Assyrians next) brought
gifts to Jerusalem, for God and for Hezekiah. These must
have replenished the royal treasury (and presumably replaced
the gold leaf on the temple). This is why there was an
abundance of wealth to show to Merodach-Baladan.
This coincidence appears in an account that covers three
different books. It is an incidental detail, which means
that it is unlikely that the authors could invent it. Thus
it is excellent evidence for the authenticity and accuracy
of the books concerned.
The Death of Joseph
The last mention of Joseph the husband of Mary and
step-father of Jesus is in Luke 243
where Jesus goes with his family to Jerusalem for the
Passover. After this there are several passages which
enumerate the members of Jesus' family and all of them omit
For example, consider the following:
Mark 63 Is
not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of
James, and Joses, and of Judas, and Simon? and are not his
sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.
This verse lists Mary the mother of Jesus, all four of
Jesus' half brothers and even his sisters (although not by
name). There are other similar passages:
- Matthew 1246
refers to Jesus' mother and brethren who come to speak to
- Luke 819 also
refers to the mother and brethren of Jesus.
- John 212 tells
of Jesus' mother, brethren and disciples.
- None of the accounts where Jesus' family are present
mentions Joseph, not even the wedding at Cana in Galilee
or the crucifixion.
- John 1926-27
is where Jesus tells John to care for Mary and she goes to
live in John's house. Why does she not go home to Joseph?
- Acts 113-14
tells us that Jesus' mother and brethren continued to live
in Jerusalem, which would have been odd if Joseph had
still been plying his trade in Galilee.
There is a simple explanation for these points, which is
that Joseph died sometime between the time when Jesus was 12
and when he began his ministry at the age of 30 years. There
is no statement of this in the gospels but it is consistent
across all four Gospels and the Acts. If there had been
errors in the accounts or if they had been invented then
this consistency would have been lost.
These four examples illustrate the harmony of the
biblical record. The fact that authors who were so widely
separated (in both time and space) could consistently agree
in the incidental facts which they relate is powerful
corroborative evidence for the truth of what they wrote, and
thus for the inspiration of the scriptures.