This is a common question format leveled at students as a presumably unanswerable criticism of the Bible. For instance, one argument I heard begins with a question to the Christian. “Who killed Goliath?” Most Christians would easily give the answer, “David killed Goliath.” The skeptic would then ask, “Then how come it says in 2 Sam 21:19, “Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath . . . So who killed Goliath? What part of the bible is true and what part isn’t?”
When this type of argument is stated with authority, especially if it is quickly followed with several other “purported” Bible contradictions, it begins to weaken a Christian’s faith. The problem is that most young people are not prepared with answers.
So “Who killed Goliath?” I spoke at a meeting where I challenged the people on this to get the point across. Most stared blankly without an answer. One teen raised his hand and simply said, “Context, please!” Wow, right on! This very appropriate answer will frequently clear up most of the apparent contradictions that the atheists point out in the Bible. First of all, the atheist objection only quotes part of the verse. Read it all:
(18)“Now it came about after this that there was war again with the Philistines at Gob; then Sibbecai the Hushathite struck down Saph, who was among the descendants of the giant. (19) And there was war with the Philistines again at Gob, and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. (20) And there was war at Gath again, where there was a man of great stature who had six fingers . . .
Note the wording “there was war again.” Also note the end of vs. 18, “among the descendants of the giant.” At this point it becomes obvious that this is likely a relative or a descendant of the famous Goliath who was killed by David. Perhaps there was another person later who was surnamed or nicknamed Goliath or perhaps “Goliath” began to be an expression for a giant like it is today? 1Ch 20:5 makes it clearer regarding “brother” of Goliath. (By the way the word “brother” could have also been translated as “relative.”)
So, stand firm on the Word. You might not have the answer at the time, but there are answers! In AOI “Boot Camps” we intend to challenge the students to think so that they can gear up for the evolutionary and anti-Biblical assault!
Originally published in the September/October 2012 Think and Believe newsletter.