Seidensticker Folly #49: Noah & 2 or 7 Pairs of Animals

Seidensticker Folly #49: Noah & 2 or 7 Pairs of Animals September 7, 2020

Atheist and anti-theist Bob Seidensticker, who was “raised Presbyterian”, runs the influential Cross Examined blog. He asked me there, on 8-11-18“I’ve got 1000+ posts here attacking your worldview. You just going to let that stand? Or could you present a helpful new perspective that I’ve ignored on one or two of those posts?” He also made a general statement on 6-22-17“Christians’ arguments are easy to refute . . . I’ve heard the good stuff, and it’s not very good.” 

He added in the combox“If I’ve misunderstood the Christian position or Christian arguments, point that out. Show me where I’ve mischaracterized them.” Such confusion would indeed be predictable, seeing that Bob himself admitted (2-13-16): “My study of the Bible has been haphazard, and I jump around based on whatever I’m researching at the moment.”

Bob (for the record) virtually begged and pleaded with me to dialogue with him in May 2018, via email. But by 10-3-18, following massive, childish name-calling attacks against me,  encouraged by Bob on his blog (just prior to his banning me from it), his opinion was as follows: “Dave Armstrong . . . made it clear that a thoughtful intellectual conversation wasn’t his goal. . . . [I] have no interest in what he’s writing about.”

And on 10-25-18, utterly oblivious to the ludicrous irony of his making the statement, Bob wrote in a combox on his blog: “Someone who’s not a little bit driven to investigate cognitive dissonance will just stay a Christian, fat ‘n sassy and ignorant.” Again, Bob mocks some Christian in his combox on 10-27-18“You can’t explain it to us, you can’t defend it, you can’t even defend it to yourself. Defend your position or shut up about it. It’s clear you have nothing.”

And again on the same day“If you can’t answer the question, man up and say so.” And on 10-26-18“you refuse to defend it, after being asked over and over again.” And againYou’re the one playing games, equivocating, and being unable to answer the challenges.”

Bob’s cowardly hypocrisy knows no bounds. Again, on 6-30-19, he was chiding someone for something very much like he himself: “Spoken like a true weasel trying to run away from a previous argument. You know, you could just say, ‘Let me retract my previous statement of X’ or something like that.” Yeah, Bob could!  He still hasn’t yet uttered one peep in reply to — now — 48 of my critiques of his atrocious reasoning.

Bible-Basher Bob’s words will be in blue. To find these posts, follow this link: “Seidensticker Folly #” or see all of them linked under his own section on my Atheism page.


Bob writes in his article, “The Leaky Noah’s Ark Tale” (7-2-13) [link]:


As with the two Genesis creation stories—six days vs. Garden of Eden—a flood story from the older J source (about 950 BCE) is squashed with one from the P source (500 BCE) to make an unhappy compromise. . . . 

See my articles: Documentary Theory of Biblical Authorship (JEPD): Dialogue [2-12-04]

Documentary Theory (Pentateuch): Critical Articles [6-21-10]

The P source says that Noah brought just one pair of all animals (Gen. 6:19–20), while the J source says that he also brought seven pairs of all birds and kosher (“clean”) animals (7:2–3).

According to [Robert] Price, these two sources each had their partisans, so each had to be preserved. Better to merge them, however imprecisely, than to drop a beloved story element.

First, let’s look at the passages:

Genesis 6:19-20 (RSV) And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. [20] Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you, to keep them alive.

Genesis 7:2-3 Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate; and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate; [3] and seven pairs of the birds of the air also, male and female, to keep their kind alive upon the face of all the earth.

Genesis 7:8-9 Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground,
[9] two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah.

This alleged “contradiction is a favorite of atheist anti-theists and other biblical skeptics. Dr. Steven DiMattei in his ambitious series, “Contradictions in the Bible,” writes about Genesis 6 and 7:

[T]he two flood stories, J’s and P’s, have been skillfully stitched together to produce a single narrative—a narrative, however, that contains a number of inconsistencies and contradictions.

Matt Young bluntly asserts: “In short, there are two contradictory statements: Noah took two of each kind into the ark, and Noah took seven.”

It’s not often that Bob himself offers the solution to his own proposed biblical contradiction in another article (“Dismantling the Noah Story”: 3-31-14) eight months later (thus contradicting himself: which is a not infrequent occurrence):

God also commanded that he take seven pairs of all clean animals plus one pair of all other animals. . . . 

J demands seven pairs of clean animals, but P demands only one pair. This is because only J has a sacrifice at the end, and you can’t sacrifice animals if they’re the only ones of their species.

Thanks, Bob! You make my work even easier (in refuting you) than it already perpetually is.

Bible scholar Gleason Archer, in his famous Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, elaborates:

Some have suggested that these diverse numbers, two and seven, involve some sort of contradiction and indicate conflicting traditions later combined by some redactor who didn’t notice the difference between the two.

It seems strange that this point should ever have been raised, since the reason for having seven of the clean species is perfectly evident: they were to be used for sacrificial worship after the Flood had receded (as indeed they were, according to Gen. 8:20: . . .). Obviously if there had not been more than two of each of these clean species, they would have been rendered extinct by their being sacrificed on the altar. But in the case of the unclean animals and birds, a single pair would suffice, since they would not be needed for blood sacrifice.

Christian apologist Eric Lyons expands upon this understanding:

[T]he clean beasts and birds entered the ark “by sevens” (KJV), while the unclean animals went into the ark by twos. There is no contradiction here. Genesis 6:19 indicates that Noah was to take “two of every sort into the ark.” Then, four verses later, God supplemented this original instruction, informing Noah in a more detailed manner to take more of the clean animals. If a farmer told his son to take two of every kind of farm animal to the state fair, and then instructed his son to take several extra chickens and two extra pigs for a barbecue, would anyone accuse the farmer of contradicting himself? Certainly not. It was necessary for Noah to take additional clean animals because, upon his departure from the ark after the Flood, he “built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the alter” (Genesis 8:20). (“How Many Animals of Each Kind did Noah Take into the Ark?,” [linkApologetics Press, 2004)

Nor is Genesis 7:8-9 a supposed additional contradiction. It’s simply saying that all the animals went into the ark by pairs, “male and female”; in other words, it was always pairs, with each gender, whether it was two pairs (unclean animals) or seven pairs (clean animals).

Once again, then, — for the umpteenth time — we see that an alleged “biblical contradiction” (Bob’s self-deluded stock-in-trade) evaporates upon close inspection.


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