Morning Musing: Joel 3:10

“Beat your plows into swords and your pruning knives into spears. Let even the weakling say, ‘I am a warrior.’” (CSB – Read the chapter)

One of the things critics of the Scriptures like to do is find apparent contradictions and use them to argue against their reliability. This is one of those places. This verse is set against Isaiah 2:4 where the prophet talks about just the opposite: beating swords into plowshares. Is this really a contradiction of that? What are we supposed to do with places like this?

The place to start is with your foundational assumption about the text. Is the Bible inerrant in all that it affirms, or is the possibility that it has real errors one you are willing to consider? If the latter, then you don’t have to do anything with verses like this one and Isaiah 2:4. You simply allow that there’s an error and move on.

Now, for serious students of the Scriptures, even those who allow for the possibility of errors, this place does not represent an error or a contradiction, but I’ll come to why that is the case in just a bit. One of the things we have to determine when engaging with critics is whether they are interested seriously in understanding the text and making positive sense out of it, or if they are what Solomon identifies as “scoffers” in Proverbs. The latter are most often lazy pseudo- or wannabe-intellectuals who haven’t really studied the issues at all, but have read a bunch of stuff (mostly from other scoffers) on the Internet and are just parroting it back to you. Spending any meaningful time trying to debate folks like that is a waste of it.

But, let’s say you are committed to the notion that the Scriptures are without error. Now what? Now is when the fun begins. The first thing you do is ask this question: What is the context of the passage in question? If you examine this thoroughly, it will probably resolve the issue entirely. If the authors—or even just the author—was writing for different purposes, then they might say something that seems to contradict, but they were simply using different illustrations to make different points. No problem at all there.

Another question to ask related to the context is whether the authors were speaking factually or using figurative language. If they were speaking factually, then you need to examine a bit more closely why there is a difference. For example, Matthew and Luke both tell of a time Jesus healed the servant of a Roman centurion. Luke describes the man as sending his servants to make the request; Matthew says that he went himself. That’s a differentiation of facts. Most scholars agree, though, that it is not a contradiction. The authors were using different stylistic devices as they wrote to two different audiences among whom those devices were acceptable.

For the particular case here, we don’t have to go beyond context. You have two different authors writing to two different groups of people at two different times for two different purposes using two different illustrations. There’s no real problem here at all, and you shouldn’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Here, though, is the real bottom line: For any challenge like this we find made to the text, we need to respond every time with the same question: Did Jesus still rise from the dead? If He did, then nothing else matters. This issue does not need to pose any kind of a meaningful threat to our faith or confidence in God or the text that reveals Him. There are likely good solutions to whatever the issue is, but as long as it doesn’t threaten the historical reality of the resurrection (and, spoiler alert, it doesn’t), then we need not let it worry us.

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