Question:

Hello,

I have some questions about the New Testament, which I hope you can clear for me. I became very interested in the New Testament, and I saw some verses in the Bible which seems to contradict the Old Testament. For example at Acts 7:15-16 it says, "Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our ancestors died. Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money." This isn't factually correct as it is written in the Old Testament in Genesis 50:13 it says, "For his sons carried him into the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham bought with the field for a possession of a burying place of Ephron the Hittite, before Mamre." There are a few more contradictions that I have noticed and I could point them out to you but for now if you can please answer me this contradiction then I will god willing show you the other ones.

The next few questions I have is based what I know about Christianity and you can correct me if I am wrong. Jesus kept the all of the laws of Moses but after his death, one didn't have to keep it any more because of the new covenant that was made. How come then only after Paul came and made these claims did this come into affect and not right away after his death. And as far as I understand the Jews have something called the Oral Law which they claim that Moses got it and passed it on to them and the Christians claim that there is no basis for the Oral Law. How come then, that when Jesus was confronted for plucking fruits on Saturday that it is okay because it was for life or death situation like someone else in the Bible did for life or death situation (I am not sure who this someone else was maybe you can help me with that also). As far as I know, it doesn't say anywhere in the Bible that it is forbidden to pluck grain on Saturday. I am assuming that it is only written in the Oral Law so it seems that even Jesus kept the Oral Law. I appreciate that you are taking time to read my email and reply to it if possible. I am looking forward to reading your explanations. Thank you.


Answer:

"So Jacob went down to Egypt; and he died, he and our fathers. And they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham bought for a sum of money from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem" (Acts 7:15-16).

"And Abraham listened to Ephron; and Abraham weighed out the silver for Ephron which he had named in the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, currency of the merchants. So the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field, which were within all the surrounding borders, were deeded to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of his city. And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan" (Genesis 23:16-19).

"And he [Jacob] bought the parcel of land, where he had pitched his tent, from the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for one hundred pieces of money" (Genesis 33:19).

"For his sons carried him to the land of Canaan, and buried him in the cave of the field of Machpelah, before Mamre, which Abraham bought with the field from Ephron the Hittite as property for a burial place" (Genesis 50:13).

"The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, and which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph" (Joshua 24:32).

Jacob was buried in the cave of Machpelah near Hebron. Joseph, and probably his brothers, were buried in Shechem on land that Jacob had purchased from Hamor and his descendents. Thus, the "they" refers back to "our fathers" and not to Jacob.

The usual question is that Stephen said Abraham bought the land instead of Jacob. The possible explanations are:

  • A very early copiest replaced either "Jacob" or "he" with Abraham by mistake -- not likely.
  • Abraham had built an altar in Shechem (Genesis 12:6), so it is possible that he bought the land earlier and then Jacob repurchased the land later. The problem then is resolving whether there were two Hamors, which isn't unlikely.
  • Stephen was speaking in metonomy. Jacob bought the land, but since he is the direct and sole heir of Abraham, it was as if Abraham had purchased the land through him.
  • Best is that it is misunderstood because of missing implied pronouns: "And ( our fathers) were carried over into Sychem, and (he was) laid in the sepulchre that Abraham bought for a sum of money (they, in the sepulchre bought) of the sons of Emmor the father of Sychem" [Patrick, Lowth, Whitby, Lowman Commentary].
  • Others note that "that" in Acts 7:16 is hos, a demonstrative pronoun, and suggest that perhaps a better translation would be: "So Jacob went down to Egypt; and he died, he and our fathers. And they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb, as Abraham bought for a sum of money, from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem." In other words the sons of Jacob were buried in a prior purchased tomb similar to what Abraham had done.

While the issue cannot be resolved with certainty, which is why the reading remains, the point is that there can be an explanation for the disagreement.

The new Law of Christ began to be taught with Peter and the other apostle preaching on the Day of Pentecost 50 days after the resurrection. Paul didn't become a Christian until several years later. But it was Peter who taught people to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38), something that was not a requirement under the Old Law. Even Stephen was refuting the Jews, "And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke" (Acts 6:8-10). Thus they attacked Stephen by twisting the truth that he taught that the law changed. Twisted because they claimed it was blasphemous, but it was merely the truth.

While there is a claim of an oral law, it is without proof because it was never recorded. It is merely a convenient myth to cover things that cannot be proven from the Scriptures.

Regarding the eating of grain, see: Sabbath Rules and the Twelve Chosen. You'll find that Jesus kept the law as written. In other places Jesus scolds the Pharisees traditions that went against the Law. See Matthew 15:1-9.