Written by Femi Aribisala
The same “infallible” bible also credits the killing of Goliath to Elhanan, one of David’s mighty men.
One of the myths of Christianity is the infallibility of the bible. Quoting Paul, some Christians insist every word in the bible is “God-breathed.” (2 Timothy 3:16). When you identify contradictions in the bible, they either refuse to acknowledge them or try to rationalise them away with highfalutin apologetics. However, these apologetics have not made the contradictions disappear. All they do is establish that these bible-fanatics are not committed to the truth.
Christians generally believe little David killed mighty Goliath, according to the “infallible” account of 1 Samuel 17:50-51. This feat is drummed into us from childhood. We act in plays celebrating David’s victory. We listen to sermons extolling his achievement. However, the same “infallible” bible also credits the killing of Goliath to Elhanan, one of David’s mighty men. This contradiction leads to the inevitable conclusion that while the bible might indeed be a highly inspired book, it is nevertheless not infallible.
2 Samuel says: “There was another battle with the Philistines at Gob, and Elhanan son of Jair from Bethlehem killed Goliath from Gath.” (2 Samuel 21:19). This record of Elhanan (as opposed to David) killing Goliath can be found in the following bible translations among many others: New International Version (NIV); American Standard Version (ASV); New American Standard Bible (NASB); New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition (NASU); The Amplified Bible (AMP); Revised Standard Version (RSV); New Revised Standard Version (NRSV); and Today’s English Version (TEV).
Other bible translations of the same 2 Samuel 21:19 say Elhanan killed “the brother of Goliath.” These translations include the King James Version (KJV); New King James Version (NKJV); The Living Bible (TLB); and New Living Translation (NLT).
Of the latter, the New King James Version is remarkably unreliable. As a matter of policy, King James sometimes adds its own words to bible verses, effectively doctoring their meaning. In its own defence, it warns its readers in its introductory pages that: “words or phrases in italics indicate expressions in the original language which require clarification by additional English words.” The need for such dubious “clarification” led the New King James Version to alter 2 Samuel 21:19 as follows: “Again there was war at Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed THE BROTHER OF Goliath the Gittite.”
Although the translation says Elhanan slew “the brother of Goliath;” the words “the brother of” are written in italics, indicating that they do not appear in the original Hebrew text but were added at the discretion of NKJV translators. This leads to the following conclusion: either the original Hebrew of 2 Samuel 21:9 was not infallible, or the doctored 2 Samuel 21:9 of NKJV is not infallible. Whichever is the case, it means the bible is not infallible. The bible is a book written and compiled by men; and men are not infallible.
Who killed Goliath?
However, my purpose here is not just to demonstrate the fallibility of the bible. Bible-worshipping Christians will always reject that fact no matter what. My purpose is to determine if David killed Goliath. Faced with the dilemma of contradictions between 1 and 2 Samuel, the author of 1 Chronicles, written centuries after 2 Samuel; says: “There was another battle with the Philistines, and Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi, the brother of Goliath from Gath.” (1 Chronicles 20:5).
The question then arises as to which version we are going to believe? Should we believe the classical position that David killed Goliath, or should we believe the equally biblical position that Elhanan killed Goliath?
For a number of reasons, the account stating that David killed Goliath is the less believable. It is in the tradition of kings and rulers to take credit for other people’s achievements under their kingdom. David was no exception to this. For example, when Joab captured Rabbah, he tactfully gave the credit to David. David himself went along with this charade and pretended that he was the one who took the city. (2 Samuel 12:26-31).
It would appear that originally the killing of Goliath was part and parcel of a collection of tales extolling the exploits of David’s mighty men of war known as “The Thirty.” Elhanan was one of them. He distinguished himself by killing a mighty Philistine called Goliath. But in the process of magnifying the great King David, his substitution as the killer of Goliath was not long in coming.
Saul and David
The account of David killing Goliath is so full of contradictions that it is clear it is the fabricated version. One of the problems with the account has to do with the inability of bible-writers to determine precisely when David first met Saul.
We are told that when Saul transgressed against the Lord, God sent an evil spirit to trouble him. (1 Samuel 16:14). Someone then recommended to Saul that he should hire David to play the harp, offering the dubious thesis that soothing music is a demon-repellent. But then the man recommending David said something strange: he extolled David, a young teenager who was not even old enough to be in the army, as a man of war: “I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a mighty man of valor, a man of war.” (1 Samuel 16:18).
This description is a giveaway. It is obviously written after the fact. There is no basis for describing David, a youth keeping sheep, as “a mighty man of valour” and “a man of war.” By all accounts, David was not even a man yet.
On this recommendation, Saul sent word to Jesse, David’s father, that his son should be seconded to him. However, David entered Saul’s service not as a harp-playing musician, but as his armour-bearer, even though we are told later that Saul’s armour was too heavy for David. (1 Samuel 17:38-39). Nevertheless, whenever Saul came under attack by the evil spirit, David would play a harp and the evil spirit would depart. Saul quickly took a liking to David, and he sent to his father a second time that David’s secondment to him should become permanent. (1 Samuel 16:22).
However, when we get to the incident where David is alleged to have killed Goliath, we discover to our surprise that this same David, who was supposed to be Saul’s armour-bearer/musician, had never met Saul before. In that contradictory account, David was just a young boy tending sheep. His father sent him to deliver lunch to his two brothers at the war-front. On arriving there, he found Goliath terrorizing everybody and offered to fight against him.
He was then brought to Saul who, on meeting him for the very first time, said to him: “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” (1 Samuel 17:33). However, in the earlier version, David was specifically introduced to Saul as “a man of war.” Contrary to the earlier account where Saul sent emissaries to David’s father twice, he now did not know who David’s father was.
Conclusion – The bible is a book written and compiled by men; and men are not infallible.