We learn to add one plus one before we even start our schooling. By time we’re ten we should be able to perform relatively complicated arithmetic. So the following math problem should not be too difficult for anyone:
30 + 1,000 + 29 + 30 + 410 + 1,000 = ?
Everyone got that? There’s no need for a calculator. You don’t have to show your work. I’m not grading this… because everyone should be able to solve this problem in less than five seconds!
The answer is — say it with me — 2,499.
The problem is that the author of the Book of Ezra got this math problem wrong. And I’m not talking that he forgot to carry the one; his answer was off by 2,901, or more than double the correct answer! Let’s look to the hebrew bible (quoted from the Catholic bible: Ezra 1:9-11):
And this was the inventory: gold basins, thirty; silver basins, one thousand; knives, twenty-nine; gold bowls, thirty; other silver bowls, four hundred ten; other vessels, one thousand; the total of the gold and silver vessels was five thousand four hundred. All these Sheshbazzar brought up, when the exiles were brought up from Babylonia to Jerusalem.
The Book of Ezra claims the answer is 5,400!
Some might argue that the list is incomplete. They might say that the bible doesn’t specifically mention all the gold and silver they brought with them. But that would make it even more absurd. That would be starting a list and then abandoning the list, knowing full well that the math just doesn’t add up. If they didn’t feel like listing everything, it’s much more likely that they would’ve simply said “it was 5,400” instead of including the partially itemized list.
This appears to be a simple case of uneducated people throwing out big numbers to impress their followers. But if we can’t trust the authors of the bible with the simple task of adding a few numbers together, then how much can we trust the rest of the bible?