ABC:John 3

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Verse 13

Jim Meritt of Infidels.org[1] and TheThinkingAtheist.com[2] think the Bible has a contradiction here.

2 Kings 2:11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

John 3:13 And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

Genesis 5:24 And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

As pointed out by Richard Anthony at Ecclesia.org[3], the following should be considered for these passages:

  1. 2 Kings 2:11 never says Elijah was taken to paradise to prevent dying, just like Genesis 5:24 never says Enoch was (which would contradict Hebrews 11:5,13). That would contradict verses clearly stating death passed upon all and it is appointed to men once to die. (Ecclesiastes 3:20; Romans 5:12-14; 1 Corinthians 15:22; Hebrews 9:27)

  2. 2 Kings 2:11 never specifies which heaven. There are three heavens referred to in the Bible (1 Corinthians 12:2). There's the sky/atmosphere (Genesis 1:20, Jeremiah 4:25; 34:20; Lamentations 4:19; Zephaniah 1:3), outer space (Genesis 1:14-17; 15:5; 22:17; 26:4; Deuteronomy 1:10; 17:3; Psalm 8:3, Jeremiah 8:2; Matthew 24:29), and the dwelling place of God (1 Peter 3:22) which is called the "heaven of heavens." (Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 2:6, 6:18, Nehemiah 9:6; Psalms 148:4) As Richard Anthony points out, that there is more than one heaven is evidenced in the Old Testament also by Psalms 115:16, "The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD'S..."

  3. Those with Elijah didn't believe he'd been removed from the Earth itself but transported by God's Spirit to another location. (2 Kings 2:16-18, 18:12 Similar occurrences happened to both Philip (Acts 8:39-40) and Ezekiel. (Ezekiel 3:12-15, 37:1-2) Elisha knew that God's Spirit would carry his master "whither I know not" but we are not told that it was to the third heaven as that would contradict other parts of the Bible.

    2 Kings 2:16 And they said unto him, Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master: lest peradventure the Spirit of the LORD hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. And he said, Ye shall not send.
    17 And when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, Send. They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but found him not.
    18 And when they came again to him, (for he tarried at Jericho,) he said unto them, Did I not say unto you, Go not?
    1 Kings 18:12 And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from thee, that the Spirit of the LORD shall carry thee whither I know not; and so when I come and tell Ahab, and he cannot find thee, he shall slay me: but I thy servant fear the LORD from my youth.

  4. As specifically pointed out by Eric Lyons of Apologetics Press[4] the Old Testament concept of paradise was not the future heaven where God dwells but part of sheol which is divided into two halves, one being punishment and the other peace. (Luke 16:19-31) Biblically this will give up its dead to be judged for the final Judgment and a "new heaven and a new earth" will be brought in. (Revelation 20:13-15, 21:1)

Because the Bible throughout uses the word heaven in three different ways and other similar Biblical events involved transportation to other parts of Earth rather than death-defying removal to heaven, there is no reason to assume other Bible verses saying none have ascended to heaven and all have died are incorrect. Rather, they form a composite whole showing the heaven Elijah ascended to was not the third heaven Jesus spoke of ascending to where His Father lived.

Sources

  1. Meritt, Jim (1992). A list of Biblical contradictions. Retrieved from http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html.
  2. TheThinkingAtheist. Bible Contradictions. Retrieved from http://www.thethinkingatheist.com/page/bible-contradictions.
  3. Anthony, Richard. Elijah, Enoch, and Moses. Devoted to Truth. Retrieved from http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/enoch.html.
  4. Lyons, Eric (2004). No one has ascended to heaven. Apologetics Press. Retrieved from http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=6&article=654.