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What Does the Bible Say About Demons?

Author: Patrick Krentz Th.M., Managing Editor for Foundations by ICM

 

Little, red, horned creatures with pitchforks; huge, dark, scary creatures with sharp claws and teeth; shadowy, stalking, creepy creatures that speak in deep whispers… this is what most people think about when you say the word ‘demon’. But how does the Bible talk about them? Are these depictions based in reality, or are they simply figments of some author or filmmaker’s imagination? Let’s spend some time looking at what the Bible says about demons, and what Bible teachers have come to understand about this confusing and interesting subject. 

Here are some questions we want to answer:

  1. Are demons real?
  2. What are demons?
  3. What about Satan?

Are Demons Real?

Most people put demons into the same category as ghosts, goblins, zombies, and so on, and therefore relegate them to the realm of fantasy. But if you believe the Bible means what it says, then you have to take demons seriously. This is especially true because Jesus spends a lot of time dealing with them and talking about them. The life and ministry of Jesus is really the core of the Christian faith, so we can’t just explain away these encounters. 

Mark 5, for instance, recounts an event wherein Jesus meets a man who is possessed by a demon. Jesus speaks to it, and it speaks back. It even gives its name. This sort of encounter is not uncommon in the Gospels as we read about all that Jesus did. 

So, the very simple answer to the question, “Are demons real?” is yes, the Bible clearly indicates that they really exist. More significantly, then, let’s see what the Bible says about the nature and actions of these creatures.

What Are Demons?

Part of the confusion that we have about demons is the word itself. More often, we read in the New Testament “unclean spirit.” Thinking about them in these terms is much more helpful. If you go back and read Mark 5, you learn a few important details about demons. 

First, demons are spirit-entities. In most instances in Scripture, demons are not visible and do not have a physical form. Second, they are personal entities. They are not some evil, impersonal force but individual creatures. This leads to the third point: they are thinking entities. Jesus reasons with the demon as he speaks with it. The demon in Mark 5 even has a request, and Jesus grants its request. Then, fourth, demons, as personal, individual, thinking creatures, have wills of their own. This means they are not all part of the same collective mind, and they are not controlled directly by Satan.

If we compare these features to another well-known spirit-entity in the Bible, we may realize something surprising. Angels are likewise invisible, personal, thinking, spirit-entities that each have their own will. While this may be shocking, the reason for it is simple: they are actually the same type of creature.

That’s right, ‘Demon’ and ‘Angel’ are just two classifications for the same thing. The word demon simply means ‘supernatural entity’ and is a generic term, while the word angel is actually a job-description meaning ‘messenger.’ In the Old Testament, you will notice that demons hardly make an appearance. Instead, another term, eelohim, is used which also means generically ‘supernatural entity’.1 The main distinction between a demon and an angel is their relation to God. Particularly in the New Testament, this becomes clear as angels are servants of God while demons are His enemies. 

Now, the term ‘unclean spirit’ tells us that there is another distinction to be aware of. Every time we see an unclean spirit, it is possessing and tormenting some unfortunate person. Think back to what the terms clean and unclean mean in the Old Testament ritual system. Something becomes unclean when it mixes with something it shouldn’t. A person would become unclean by touching a dead body because the Holy God is the God of the living. Something that is alive mixing with something dead makes the living thing unclean. In the same way, a spirit-being mixing (or possessing) a body of flesh makes that spirit unclean. 

It is also true that these unclean spirits are evil spirits, but that is a given as the very act of possessing a person, subverting their will, is an intensely evil act. 

But where did demons come from? We know that God created the holy angels before He created humans, but when did He create evil spirits? To answer this, let’s talk about Satan.

What About Satan?

It’s amazing to realize that Satan was not always evil. God created Satan, and everything God created was good and perfect. Ezekiel 28 describes what Satan was like in the beginning. He is called the “signet of perfection,” and was incredibly beautiful. But as great and powerful as he was, he became prideful. What is really significant in this whole discussion is that Satan was merely one elohim among many; perhaps the greatest among them all, but still just a created being. 

Jude 6 tells us that the demons are, like Satan, “angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling…” Also, Revelation 12 speaks of Satan leading a third of the angels in rebellion against God. These rebels make up the evil elohim, some of which become the unclean spirits we see in the New Testament.

While Satan himself does not control these demons, he is the most prominent among them. In several passages of the New Testament, Satan is referred to as the prince of demons, indicating a position of leadership among them. 

We know that Satan’s objective is to oppose God and His plans at every point. He also passionately hates humanity. This is why we see Satan and the other demons attacking people, but more importantly, attacking the Son of God. 

Significantly, Satan and these angels are defeated initially by Jesus’ death and resurrection, and they will be defeated ultimately when Jesus returns. At that point, according to Revelation 20, Satan and his demons will be thrown into the lake of fire. Thus, contrary to the popular view of Satan as ruler of hell, Satan himself will be thrown into hell where he will experience everlasting torment. The demons neither want to go there, nor will they enjoy their existence there, and they most certainly will not be the ones tormenting people for eternity. 

So, as you realize what the Bible says about demons, recognize that they are very real, and very powerful. We should take them seriously, but know that God is still in control. They must still answer to God, and He will judge them. Satan is our great enemy, but he is merely a creature, and he has already been defeated. While Satan and his demons are fighting with everything they have right now, let’s close this discussion with the biblical hope of their defeat as it is beautifully portrayed in the hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”:

The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! His doom is sure.
One little word shall fell him.

 

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1 Elohim is typically translated as gods (with a small g), and sometimes even refers to God Himself. Really, the Old Testament refers to every spirit-being as a god. This is why God is called “God Most High,” because He is the God who is above all other gods.

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What’s in a Name? A Theology of Personal Identity

Author: Andrew Sargent Ph.D., Contributing Author for Foundations by ICM

 

What’s in a Name? A Theology of Personal Identity

Personal identity is at the very center of our society’s cultural debate. The important question is, who gets to determine who you are? Modern society answers emphatically that everyone has the right of self-determination. As Christians seek to answer this question, a core biblical doctrine is frequently overlooked: The Theology of names. In doing so, significant ground is ceded to ideologies that do not find their grounding in Scripture. Today, let’s spend some time thinking about the significance of names in the Bible

What’s in a name? This is one of the most famous lines passed down to us from Shakespeare. In a way, it is a great and concise articulation of the prevailing cultural dogma of self-determination. What IS in a name? Today, the answer would likely be something like this: a name is nothing more than an arbitrary designation given by someone who does not understand your true identity. We’ll come back to this later because it is not entirely incorrect. However, this is not how Scripture uses names. In the Bible, names carry a certain measure of significance and tell us something about the person. Let’s look at three ways that the Bible helps us to understand personal identity through the giving of names: 

  1. Names tell us who we are and where we’ve been.
  2. Names tell us who we belong to.
  3. Names are not our true identity, after all.

Now, as we look at this list, we might see some things that appear overly simple, perhaps slightly oppressive, and even a bit contradictory. Bear with me as we unpack these. Hopefully, you’ll see how they all tie together cohesively. 

Names Tell Us Who We Are and Where We’ve Been

How is a name not just an arbitrary designator? After all, didn’t your parents, who were young and overjoyed (and perhaps overwhelmed) by the reality of parenthood, simply pull a name at random from the ether and scratch it onto a piece of hospital documentation? Well, perhaps, but not necessarily. It likely depends on where you were born. Western society tends to put very little emphasis on family lineage or heritage when giving names. But, for much of the world, and through most of world history, this was not the case. Consider just how many genealogies you find in Scripture. Entire chapters are devoted to tracing family lines. In fact, the book of Genesis presents itself as a genealogy of the family of Abraham. Names, especially family names, tie you into that history.

This is certainly true for last names, which are not chosen but rather inherited. But this is also true of first names, sometimes more directly than others. Many families name children after ancestors, but nearly all families use names common within their own culture. Even when parents choose a name that is entirely outside the bounds of normal naming conventions, they do so for deeply personal reasons. Every parent who has named a child understands how sacred the duty of naming is. There are few decisions that rival the significance of selecting a name for another person. So, from this we can say that names tell us a lot about who we are, especially in terms of our family history. But the rite of naming brings out another important aspect of personal identity.

Names Tell Us to Whom We Belong

What does naming entail? Why, exactly, is it so significant? The answer is not always in the name itself, but also in what naming represents. Let’s consider some biblical examples:

Genesis 2:19, “Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.”

Immediately after God creates Adam and places him in the garden, God gives him the command to take dominion over all creation, and over every living thing. What we see in Gen. 2:19 is Adam fulfilling the first step of that dominion. Now, naming is something typically done by a thing’s creator. When an artist finishes his painting, he gives it a name. When parents ‘create’ a child, so to speak, they name him or her. So, when God gives Adam the right to name all the living things, he is also giving Adam the right and responsibility to have dominion. This entails a sort of ownership and authority over the thing named. That authority carries with it the responsibility to care for it, as well. Whatever Adam names, he becomes the steward of those things. Parents understand this type of stewardship implicitly, with all the rights and responsibilities it entails. 

Consider a few examples that solidify this concept:

Genesis 17:5, “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.”

Also, consider Genesis 35:10, “And God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.’”

And one final, but powerful, example from the New Testament. When Andrew brings his brother Simon to meet Jesus, we read in John 1:42, “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter).” 

What do these have in common? Each of these rites of naming involves God changing the identity of the person named. God renames someone at a significant point in his life. He changes Abram into the father of many nations. He changes Jacob into Israel, patriarch of His chosen people. And he changes Simon into Peter, the rock through whom He will build the Church. In each case, as in the case of Adam, the naming, or re-naming, involves taking ownership. God is establishing His dominion in the lives of Abraham, Israel, and Peter. But God is also promising to do great things through them. With each of these names, God makes Himself responsible for the work that would come through them. 

So, while Abraham’s mom may have named him Abram, God establishes a superior identity through a superior relationship. What is mind-blowing about this is when we realize what God has to say about our true identity.

Names Are Not Our True Identity, After All

While names tell us about who we are, where we’ve come from, and to whom we belong, the name our parents gave us is not our ultimate identity. That, only God knows. Listen to what Jesus says in Revelation 2:17: “To the one who conquers… I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” Jesus knows you better than anyone ever could; better than your parents, better even than you know yourself. He has a name reserved for you that only He knows because, ultimately, you belong to Him if your identity is bound to Him. 

So, as you think about the concept of personal identity, ask yourself who has the right to give you a name. Society asks “What’s in a name?” and declares that you are free to self-identify, to name yourself whatever you wish. In this worldview, you are who you say you are, and that’s all that matters. But in Scripture, we see the opposite: you are who God says you are, and, ultimately, that’s all that matters. 

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Discovering the Temple

Author: Kevin Richard Ph.D., Managing Editor for Foundations by ICM

 

Discovering the Temple

With a story as large as the one in the Bible, it can be difficult to see how different parts of the story tie together. It has been suggested that there are four major acts that unfold in Scripture: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. While these four categories do help us to see significant themes in Scripture, thinking of the Bible in this simplified way creates difficulty when we try to make sense of other parts of Scripture that don’t seem to fit well into these big four. What of the Garden of Eden? What of tabernacles and sacrifice? What of temples and priests? What of the role of Israel in God’s plan? What of the Messiah? The list could go on…

Return to the Beginning

The good news is that this difficulty can subside when we uncover a central theme that ties all of Scripture together…from the beginning to the end. In order to do that, however, to discover this missing theme, we must look to the beginning for this is where the theme enters into the story. The Creation account in Genesis 1-3 tells of God’s creation of the world and the purpose or function He gives to it. The way that the story of Creation is often taught today, we are disconnected from the original context. We get caught up in all sorts of debates and miss one of the most important aspects of the Creation account, the theme that will help tie all of Scripture together – God establishing His temple. 

To highlight the disconnect, consider this question: What is the most significant day in the week of Creation from Genesis 1? If you were to ask a room full of modern Christians, the answer would likely be Day 6 because that is the day that God made Man from the dust of the earth and breathed His life into him (c.f. Gen 2:7). The 6th day of Creation is no doubt significant as it tells of a special kind of creation and of a personal kind of creature that has been made in the image and likeness of its Creator (Gen. 1:26-28). But is that correct, is that the most significant day? Close, but not quite.

The most significant day of creation is Day 7. This may queue the mental head scratch and rightly so. This day of creation does not fit well into the modern narrative and often ends up being a “throw-away” day. But it makes sense that this happens, right? God is all-powerful and doesn’t need to “rest” (Hebrew shabat). The creation of the world was not taxing on His power so why does He need to rest? You will often hear it said that Day 7 is merely an example for us because we need the rest. In this view, God is modeling the week for us which includes Sabbath rest. However, this line of thinking misses the main emphasis of Day 7. While the text does say that God “rested” it does not mean that God needed to take a break, it meant that he was ceasing from His work – He was done, it was completed. He had created order and beauty out of darkness and chaos. He had created a sacred space in which to dwell with mankind. God had made His temple!

You see, one of the keys to unlocking the significance of the Creation story is the connection of gardens to “sacred spaces” or “temples.”  In Genesis 1, the earth is described as being “formless and void” as God’s Spirit hovered over the deep waters. There was darkness over the earth and it was not yet suitable for life. For the ancient reader, this language would have evoked themes of chaos and disorder. In the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) context the waters (including the oceans) stood as a symbol of chaos. So, as God’s Spirit hovers over this world of chaos and disorder and begins to create, He is bringing order out of chaos. In the middle of the chaos and disorder, God creates Eden, a garden that is lush and teeming with life and herein lies the significance. In the ANE context, gardens (as well as mountains) were often seen as sacred spaces, or temples; places where the gods dwelt. It’s easy to see how ancient people would have made this connection. In a largely agrarian culture, a lush garden is a place of abundance, sustainability, and most importantly life. The source of this sustenance was connected to the power of the god(s) whom the people associated as creator.

But what is so important about a temple? In the ANE context, a temple was the dwelling place of the gods. The temple did not contain the gods, as if a mere building could do such a thing, rather, they were the place where the gods would meet with man. There was a sense in which the temple was the location of specific divine presence – a sacred space, a place where heaven and earth meet. The temple was also a place of ritual worship. Worship of the gods was carried out in the temple as acts of devotion and reverence. Thus, the Garden not only as a place for relationship with God but a place to worship Him. 

Another related theme becomes important here: the theme of man as an image-bearer of God. As God establishes His Temple on Earth, and the Garden as the first Sacred Space, you will see the purpose of the image-bearer. God places man in His Sacred Space and charges him to care for and expand it (Gen. 1:28). Almost immediately, however, this appointment of the image bearer raises a potential problem in the narrative. If God’s plan at creation was to create a sacred space in which to dwell with humanity, has God’s plan failed?! Already, in just the third chapter of the narrative, the image-bearers disobey the Creator and are cast out of the Garden (Gen. 3:1-24). They fail to faithfully fulfill their role and are punished. What of God’s plan, what of His intent to be in relationship with creation? This is both the beautiful and tragic beginning of the redemptive narrative of Scripture. Tragic in the sense that man’s failure brought separation, sin, and death but beautiful in the sense that God’s plan had not failed, he would not give up on His creation.

Bringing It Together

The Temple theme is central to the message of the Bible. Once you see it in Genesis, the temple narrative forms a unifying theme throughout the whole story of Scripture. From Genesis 3 onward to the end of the Scriptures, the story of Scripture is God’s plan of restoring the union that was lost when humanity was sent from the Garden, cast out of the Temple. Throughout Scripture, we can see how time and time again, God establishes the Temple with His people. In the Wilderness, it was in the Tabernacle. With the Kings of Israel, it was in Solomon’s Temple and later Zerubbabel’s Temple. There are times when God’s people are not faithful and the Temple is destroyed and God’s presence is in a sense distant or removed. But following a long period of waiting and distance, God returns and tabernacles with man in the most distinct and profound of ways – the incarnation of the Son, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ (John 1:1-14). In Jesus, God and man come together in a unique way. He is both God and an image-bearer at the same time. He takes on the function that the first image-bearer – Adam – could not fulfill. He demonstrates his dominion over creation and establishes the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom that looks forward to the time where the Temple will be fully restored in the renewed heaven and earth (cf. Rev. 21).

In Christ, the relationship between God and man is restored, heaven and earth reunited. The role of the image-bearer has been redeemed. Those that are part of God’s people have a renewed purpose as image-bearers in the Kingdom of God. Empowered by God’s Spirit, the church body is commissioned to be that location of sacred space we first see in the Garden. In this way, a community of believers who are committed to loving God and loving others (Matt. 22:37-39) are the temple (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Through God’s Spirit, it is our love for God and love for others that continues to unite heaven and earth. Part of the church’s function then is to be curators of sacred space in a dark world of chaos and disorder. It is the church’s responsibility to share the good news of who Jesus is and what he has done and invite people into this sacred space.

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What Does the Bible Say About Marriage?

Author: Patrick Krentz Th.M., Managing Editor for Foundations by ICM

 

The conversation around the topic of marriage came to the forefront of social consciousness a few years back. These debates typically center on the limits of marriage, whether it is only meant for one man and one woman or whether it is open to any loving relationship. Most biblical arguments for the traditional view focus on two aspects; procreation and God’s design for men and women. However, these arguments don’t often speak to what marriage is, only what it does or why it exists. So today let’s ask the more important question: what is biblical marriage

To state it as succinctly as possible: Biblical marriage is a union of two persons – a man and a woman. This union involves a number of different aspects, like love, commitment, and so on, and it produces certain results, like relationship and offspring. But at its core, marriage is a union. While the Bible has much to say about procreation and the roles of men and women, let’s take some time to see what it says about this concept of union. 

There are three significant aspects of this union that we find in Scripture: 

  1. The marriage union is physical 
  2. The marriage union is personal 
  3. The marriage union is relational

The Marriage Union is Physical

After God creates the first man, He says something that He had never said before; He says “It is not good…” Everything He had done before was declared “good.” So, what was not good? God continues, saying “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 2:18). What happens next is informative: God shows the man every creature that He had made, but none was fitting for him. They were all good, but they were coming from outside the man, separate from him, and they were not made like him. So, God creates the woman from the flesh of the man. They originate from the same substance, and she was made specifically to fit him. So, as Scripture declares, the man and the woman “shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). To put it plainly, this is talking about sex, but that sex itself is the means of physical unification.

This physical aspect of union is essential to marriage. Like puzzle pieces that fit together just so, the man and woman are physically unified. They are of one substance, like a single object divided in two, that is made whole as it is brought back together. No other piece will complete the puzzle. 

This is an important distinction: the one who is fitting for this union is of the same substance, and is complementary to the other. Two different kinds of things won’t unify, and two that are not complimentary will not be fitting. 

The Marriage Union is Personal

Now, if bodily unity were the most significant aspect of marriage, then certainly we would not have much reason to consider marriage important. So much of what our culture gets wrong about sex and marriage comes from this point: physical intimacy involves the whole person. It is intimately personal. Sex is the means of procreation, but procreation is not essential to the physical union; rather, it is a result. The marriage union brings a person into intimate connection with another person in a way that nothing else can. Most modern cultures want us to believe that sex is merely a physical act, but Scripture teaches otherwise. 

This union is a loving communion of equal and distinct persons. When the two become one, it is more than a physical connection. It involves a connection on the personal level, where the two persons commune in a way that is unique to that relationship. Sex is a means of connection, but the whole of the marriage relationship involves this personal connection. The physical union is merely one level of contact. As we already mentioned, marriage involves the whole person: physical, emotional, spiritual, and so on. The goal of the biblical marriage is for the two to become one as they connect and commune with each other at each of these connecting points.

So, marriage is physical because we are physical beings, and it is personal because we are personal beings, but we also see that marriage is inherently relational. 

The Marriage Union is Relational

When God first creates the man and woman, Scripture makes an interesting declaration: “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). The first time that the Bible mentions the distinction of the sexes is in relation to the image of God. So, the question becomes, what does this male-female union have to do with God? The answer is essential to Christianity, and to a proper understanding of Scripture: God Himself IS a union of persons. God is the relationship of Father, Son, and Spirit, Three-in-One; that is, three persons with one essence. Marriage is a picture of that union. 

The union we find in the Trinity is a loving communion of equal and distinct Persons who are One in essence. This is precisely what marriage is meant to be. While marriage is not the only expression of this divine union, it is perhaps the clearest picture God has given us to explain and even experience the Trinitarian life of God. Now, the question remains: what is this experience? What is the essence of Trinitarian life that is demonstrated in the marriage relationship?

As a loving communion of equal persons, this relationship consists of self-giving love which seeks the good of the other. The Trinitarian relationship is always outward-facing love from one to another. So also, the marriage relationship is meant to consist of this kind of self-giving, other-focused love. Consider what Scripture says about this: 

John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” And we know this is precisely what Jesus does on the cross, demonstrating the greatest form of self-giving love. Paul picks up on this idea and connects it with the marriage relationship when he says in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Every human relationship in some way models this type of self-giving love, but in marriage we see it most clearly. We could spend hours discussing Christ’s relationship with the Church as it relates to marriage, but we will save that for another time.

So, as we close out this discussion, here is a clear definition of biblical marriage to walk away with: biblical marriage is a loving, self-giving communion of equal but distinct and complementary persons. If we approach marriage with this in mind, much of our cultural confusion about the nature of sex and marriage can be resolved, and many of our marital conflicts can be avoided. But remember; to love as God loves requires the help of God, and a relationship that imitates the Trinitarian life requires that our personal relationship with God be intimately connected with our marriage relationship.

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Is the Bible Anti-Science?

Author: Andrew Sargent Ph.D., Contributing Author for Foundations by ICM

 

One of the many things that I do that annoys the easily annoyed is that I complicate supposedly simple things. When people denounce the Bible as “anti-science,” I annoy them with questions about the definition and limits of science. Then I challenge their perception of Scripture as merely a collection of unsophisticated children’s stories. 

While doing my Ph.D., I worked as a security guard at a hoity-toity high school. Once, while reading my Bible, a student said, “Why are you reading the Bible when Science has proven that there is no God?” I retorted, “My goodness, Science sure has come a long way. Last I checked, Science was limited to the material world, and was incapable of proving the non-existence of anything.” He scoffed and went on his way. This assumption was not generated in a vacuum, sadly. The student learned this disposition towards “science” from his science teacher, who once boasted to me that ‘science’ has solved nearly every great mystery of the world and has disproven the existence of the immaterial world. 

Perhaps you yourself have wondered if the Bible is anti-science. It is, after all, filled with miracles, talk of angels and demons, odd creation stories, visions, prophetic dreams, and the like. So, is the Bible anti-science? 

Quick answer: NO. 

Annoying answer: Define Science. Articulate the limits of Science. Describe the “pre-scientific” understanding of reality. Then ask me that question again.

Let’s unpack… 

Define Science

In modern times, the word science has taken on mythic proportions. Thanks to Thomas Dolby, it even has its own theme music. Unfortunately, its legend has incorporated many elements that go well beyond its definition. “Oxford Languages” defines science as “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” In other words, science is a methodology for studying our physical world where knowledge is gained through observation and experimentation.

The Limits of Science

So, science is an inductive method for studying the material world. That’s it. It is limited by the human capacity for observation, measurement, and the ability to conduct experiments with consistent outcomes. Scientists can be considered experts in many matters pertaining to the physical world, and their knowledge should be both welcomed and questioned. Unfortunately, this does not prevent some scientists or the “Scientific-minded” from venturing authoritatively into the realms of the unobservable and unobserved.

People like the teacher and student I mentioned above believe science can “inform” or “prove” many more things than it actually can. For instance, logical and mathematical truths are outside the realm of science and must be presupposed in order to do experiments. Math is rooted in deduction, not induction. Questions about morality or the observation of aesthetic qualities such as goodness or beauty are not determinable through the scientific method. Metaphysical truths, like believing that there are other minds than one’s own, cannot be proven in laboratory experiments. Even the scientific method itself cannot be validated by the scientific method!

The Pre-Scientific Understanding of Reality

Being raised in a science-minded civilization, we tend to divide history into two pieces… scientific and pre-scientific. When we say Pre-scientific, we typically mean “ignorant of reality” and “governed by silly religious superstitions.” This is quite misguided. 

Ancient documents, like pagan myths and even Scripture, were not pre-scientific attempts at science… far from it. Humans of every age and place have observed the cause-effect structures of the material world, continually adding to the compendium of human knowledge over the millennia. We are still learning, and still find ourselves having to unlearn many things that we were absolutely certain we already understood. No, what changed between the scientific and pre-scientific eras of man is, rather, the interest that our respective societies have in the world, our perceptions of the nature of reality itself, and our purpose in seeking to understand the world around us. 

Most scientific-minded people believe they live in a world of only physical things, governed by material laws alone. They accept only material causes as explanations for all phenomena. 

Pre-scientific people were functionally-minded, living in a world of human striving to survive and thrive. They were trying to discover and describe the behavioral patterns that lead to spreading human flourishing… at least for their group. While they were attentive to material cause-effect and implemented that knowledge practically, they were also concerned with the ultimate cause behind material causes. 

We might imagine a No-Smoking sign. Some will talk about the material that went into the sign, or about the script used to deliver the message, or even the dynamics of its support. These are material-minded thinkers. The functional-minded man reads the sign and puts out his cigarette. So… who really understands the sign?

Regarding creation, we modern folk want to know how old the earth is, where all the stuff came from, the processes by which it became what it is… and we imagine that by discovering this we have come to truly understand the world. 

Pre-modern folk, however, wanted to know how the world works, so they could work well within it. Biblical literature is, therefore, as is most of the literary arts of the ancients, wisdom centered… at least in intention… and should be read so. 

The Bible is Not Anti-Science

The answers that ancient people gave about the struggle for human thriving—often articulated creatively in their myths—vary slightly from society to society, but most systems fall naturally under the label “pagan.” In Scripture, we find a radical departure from the pagan struggle for human thriving, but not a departure from their functional orientation to the world. It is important, therefore, to understand what we are reading in Scripture—a wisdom approach to reality. 

Applying a supposed scientific model of interpretation to pre-scientific stories about creation is a grand mistake. This does not make Scripture anti-science. It simply recognizes a completely different orientation to reality, to human need, and to biblical content. We must not demand that Scripture satisfy our modern curiosity about the material world; it is not written to do so. Rather we need to discern what the Bible intended to communicate about living in God’s world as it uses terms, grammar, literary relationships and structure, as well as genre to preach truth to minds struggling with a pagan worldview. 

Properly-applied scientific method, if freed from its enslavement to philosophical materialism and from the agendas of world power players, may add much to our knowledge of the processes of God in His world. Faith has nothing to fear from facts. This does not suggest that “scientists” have figured it all out, nor that what they think they’ve figured out is true. It merely holds out the possibility that man could, if unfettered by hubris and agenda, discover much more about the material world, and more easily escape their enslavement to unprofitable philosophical commitments so as to use this collection of facts wisely… i.e. to promote spreading human flourishing. 

Properly-understood Scripture, if freed from modern attempts to force its ancient texts into a scientific mold, would in turn, more easily bequeath to the modern reader its message of wise action in God’s world. 

Armed with this understanding, we are better prepared to address each instance in which some have proposed a conflict between “science” and Scripture, and can do so without fear. Neither Scripture nor faith has anything to fear from the truth. The Bible is NOT anti-science, but its authors have a different orientation to life… one outside the purview of the scientific method. The Bible is NOT anti-science, for it is the book inspired by the Creator of all.

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All Prayer Studying the Bible

Reading the Bible Better: The Importance of Prayer

Author: Patrick Krentz Th.M., Managing Editor for Foundations by ICM

 

The Bible can be a bit intimidating. It’s huge, it’s ancient, and it’s inspired by the eternal God who made everything. How can we possibly understand it? Well, it is one of the great miracles of history that God has communicated His Word to us in a way that even children can get it. And He has made us a part of His Church, so we are not alone in the effort. So, let’s spend some time trying to understand how we can study Holy Scripture so that we might not only understand it, but be changed by it.

What makes the Bible so intimidating is also what makes it so approachable: it comes from God. This guarantees two things that we should always keep in mind: first, that it is inexhaustibly rich and full of meaning beyond anything we will ever know; but second, that God Himself desires to communicate to us in specific ways—ways we can understand and respond to. This means that, no matter who you are or how intelligent you may be, you will benefit from your study of Scripture, even if you study the same verses every day for the rest of your life. 

Now, if God desires for us to read and study His Word, we must come to it with certain expectations and follow certain rules in order to get the most out of our study. The first and most important rule is described in 1 Corinthians 2:14, where Paul tells us that “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” If we rely solely on our own, natural wisdom to understand God’s Word, which was breathed out by His Spirit according to 2 Timothy 3:16, it will seem to us a very foolish thing. We who are in Christ study Scripture in order to pursue God and deepen our relationship to Him. Therefore, we must rely on His Spirit, active in us, to fully comprehend and engage with His Word.

All of this is to say that, even before you read your Bible, begin your study with prayer. Ask the Spirit of God to do for you exactly what Jesus promised that He would do. Jesus tells us in John 14:26 that “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” So, before you sit down to read Scripture, pray and ask God to teach you. Ask Him to help you understand what you read, to see new things that you’ve never seen before, and to understand and obey God as a result of what you read. 

Now, let’s take this understanding and apply it to an effective Bible Study method—inductive Bible Study.

Step 1: Observe the Text

The first step in a good inductive Bible study method is to observe the text. This means that you simply read the passage of Scripture, sometimes more than once, and make note of everything that stands out to you. Make note of what the passage tells you about God—who He is and what He wants. Make note of what it tells you about humanity—who we are, both as children of God and as sinful creatures. Finally, make note of any commands you see in the passage—how we are to respond to God. 

So far, this can all be done easily according to human wisdom, and it doesn’t require a relationship with God to do it. To transform your reading time from a book study to a devotional time of worship, take your observations and pray them back to God. Say anything that you find amazing or praiseworthy about Him. Remember, God loves to hear His own words spoken back to Him in praise and thanksgiving, so pray Scripture back to God. Then, tell God what you see about humanity, and about yourself, in the passage. You may see your own sin and shortcomings in the passage, so take time to confess. And finally, respond to any commands you see, telling God how you will obey, or confessing the difficulty you have with the command. 

When you respond to Scripture in this way, you are engaging with the God who is there; the very real and present God who indwells you by His Spirit if you are a believer, and who is the author of the words you are reading. You are no longer merely reading words printed on paper, you are conversing with your Creator who loves you and wants you to know Him. The next two steps fall in line with this:

Step 2: Interpret the Text 

After you have observed what is in the text, you can interpret its meaning. Sometimes the meaning will be clear, but there is often meaning beyond the surface. Other times you may have no clue what it means. Here, especially, prayer is needed. Ask God to help you understand His Word by His Spirit. God will certainly respond to the humble prayer, as James 1:5 says, “but if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” 

You will not likely experience an immediate flash of understanding. This will involve learning from others in your church community. It may be a long process of reading the Bible, wrestling with its content, and asking for clarity from people you can trust, but the Spirit of God will teach you according to His Word. The goal is not mere understanding. The Word is meant to change us, and that is why we also need step 3:

Step 3: Apply the Text 

Finally, you should look to apply what you have learned from Scripture and heard from God. If there were any direct commands in the passage you studied, this part is easy because it will be quite clear what you need to do. If your observation did not reveal an obvious application, ask God how He would like you to respond to what you’ve read. In either case, you can tell God how you want to obey His Word, what steps you will take, and that you need His help in doing so. And in every case, obedience means sharing what you have learned with others. 

Now, if you approach Scripture in this way, you will begin to see your Bible study time as a divine appointment; a meeting with Almighty God. Rather than sitting down with a boring, confusing book that you know you’re supposed to read, you can see that reading the Bible is like sitting down for a rich and engaging conversation with a friend who loves you, and a teacher who cares for you. This kind of study does not just inform you; it changes you. 

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All Can You Trust the Bible? Christian History Studying the Bible

Can You Trust the Bible?

Author: Andrew Sargent Ph.D., Contributing Author for Foundations by ICM

 

Is the Bible Reliable?

One of the questions I get asked the most about the Bible concerns some element of its trustworthiness. “Can you trust the Bible?” 

In fact, I was asked to speak at a philosophy conference many years ago, in which my question for the evening was, “Is the Bible Reliable?” In the weeks leading up to the event, I asked the moderator for a few more specifics on what he meant by reliable, qualifying “reliable for what?” He laughed and told me to take it where I felt inclined. 

He was less than pleased when I opened the lecture part of my discussion with a list of things that we could absolutely rely on the Bible to accomplish. For instance, your Bible will hold up one corner of your couch if its leg is broken. It may be a sacrilege, but it will work. I have a friend who once used a bible to defend us against a street gang intent on robbing us. It was efficient. Indeed, a good Bible will even stop most bullets… assuming it’s not a digital one on your smartphone. 

 

What Can’t You Rely on the Bible to Do?

I followed with a list of things that one could NOT rely on the Bible to do. You cannot rely on all of Scripture to be easy to understand or to give up all its secrets to the casual observer. You cannot rely on the Bible to reflect your own cultural or personal sensibilities back to you, or to use all your own categories for understanding the world. Scripture is neither a math text, nor an encyclopedia, nor dictionary, nor a comprehensive history of the world written with modern standards of what does and does not constitute history. It is not a manual on psychology, philosophy, economics, nor is it a textbook on biology, archaeology, linguistics, physics, chemistry, anthropology, or medicine. 

This does not make its literature primitive babble, nor insist that the Bible is utterly useless when discussing these matters, but it does mean that the authors’ orientation to the world, their vocabulary, and categories will not replicate our own. It does mean that the intention of the writers is not to satisfy inquiring minds, but is to impart a specific body of understanding and wisdom to the diligent student. 

 

The Cosmology of Scripture

While we categorize the animal world with mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and the like, it is perfectly acceptable for the inspired writers to present a world organized around different categories, like swims, crawls, or flies. In that case, a whale can be called a great fish, a bat can be classed with birds. My inability to trust Scripture to organize reality as my modern mind does is NOT a testament to its frailty, but to the important distinction between wisdom and knowledge. 

The cosmology of Scripture, for instance—the vision of the structure and nature of the world—has the disadvantage of being almost entirely presented in poetry, making their beliefs about material world forces difficult to discern with precision. For instance, it is plain from the historical texts written in prose—normal talk—that the ancients understood quite well that rain came from clouds and that clouds were made of water, but that does not keep their prophets from recording God’s poetic challenge to Job and his friends saying, “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail…?

Just so, sailors have known for ages that the earth is round, witnessing at sea as the hulls of ships disappeared from view before their sails, exposing the curvature to view. In fact, the Greek mathematician Eratosthenes discovered the circumference of the earth with a stick and a shadow almost three centuries before Jesus walked the shores of the Mediterranean. 

There is a big difference between what the arrogance of modern souls imagine about the ignorance of the past and what the ancients actually knew. We can trust the Scriptures to present to us the divine wisdom of the ages in an ancient husk if we are wise enough to wrestle our way to it. Hubris will sabotage us.

 

Is Scripture a Science Book?

Let’s finish with one more. You cannot rely on Scripture to be a science book. The scientific method was articulated millennia after the writing of even the newest Scriptures. Our particular way of thinking about and talking about the world as scientific-minded readers (however poorly we do at it) will not be reflected back at us. This does not make Scripture untrustworthy or wrong, rather it qualifies the kinds of discussions we can and cannot have with the Biblical text. 

For example: The Creation story of Scripture, which in truth stretches from Genesis 1 through Genesis 11 is not interested in our modern ontological curiosities about the origin of the material world. The Biblical Creation story is more interested in functional ontology than material ontology. Scripture tells us not about the origins of all the stuff, beginning its tale with the material world in place, unformed as it was, but does tell us about the nature of divine order in creation as God takes that material and turns it into a functional world. 

We want to know “when” and “how,” but the author of Genesis wants to talk about “Who,” and “Why,” and “What.” Who made the world? What did He make the world to be? Why did He make the world? How did He make it function? The ultimate question then becomes a wisdom question: How can I function best in the world that Yahweh made and that man has influenced? This is the Bible’s bailiwick. 

 

The Truth of the Bible and Our Holy Creator

The inspired descriptions of creation are made within the bounds of interest for the inspired writer, dealing with the realities of a world drowning in paganism. Therefore, I cannot rely on him to dazzle me with a scientifically definitive answer to questions of “when” and “how,” but I CAN rely on the prophetic writer to tell me the truth about life before the one Holy Creator of all. I can trust him to tell me the truth about the fundamental problem in the world’s systems. I can trust the Bible to speak the truth about the hope that we have for redemption and restoration in the salvation plan of that Holy Creator. 

This does not mean that the inspired writers are ignorant clods on all matters we would regard as scientific. They lived and prospered in their world far better than most of us would if magically transported there. True, we understand many things that they do not. We know how far the moon is from the earth. We know what the bottom of the ocean looks like. We even know the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow. But we don’t know many things that they understood intuitively and that they learned by lived experiences so different from our own. 

It reminds me of the punch line in the majestic poem in Job 28, which after detailing all the then-modern accomplishments of man, asks the more meaningful question. We find boasts like those in verses 3 & 4, saying, “Man puts an end to darkness, And to the farthest limit he searches out. The rock in gloom and deep shadow. He sinks a shaft far from habitation, forgotten by the foot” But, the poet turns to the important counter in verses 12 & 13, “But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? “Man does not know its value, Nor is it found in the land of the living.

 

Can You Trust the Bible?

We can put an astronaut on the moon, but living peaceably with our fellow man is often beyond us. We can map the human genome but do not know how to cultivate truth and integrity. We may rightfully boast the former, but it is Scripture that will guide us in the mastery of the latter. 

As we continue to unpack the question, “Can you trust the Bible?” let us escape the simple-minded approaches to Scripture common to modern readers who have not learned to think reasonably or wisely about their own questions and expectations. Instead, let us articulate exactly what we mean (and don’t mean) when we ask, “Can I trust the Bible?” and continue the investigation in coming posts. 

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All Can You Trust the Bible? Christian History Studying the Bible

When Was the Bible Written?

Author: Patrick Krentz Th.M., Managing Editor for Foundations by ICM

 

Bible Timeline

(all dates are approximate)
BC
1900-1600 – Job
1445-1405 – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
1405-550 – Psalms
1405-1375 – Joshua
1150-900 – Judges, Ruth, Song of Solomon, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, 1-2 Samuel
900-800 – Obadiah, Joel
800-700 – Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Micah
700-600 – Isaiah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk
600-500 – Ezekiel, Lamentations, Jeremiah, Daniel, Haggai
500-400 – 1-2 Chronicles, Zechariah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Malachi

AD
40-50 – James
50-60 – Matthew, Mark, Romans, Galatians, 1-2 Corinthians, 1-2 Thessalonians
60-70 – Luke, John, Acts, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus, 1-2 Peter, Hebrews, Jude
90-96 – 1-3 John, Revelation

Most of the books you and I will ever read were written within the last century. Perhaps certain classics of literature date back two centuries. It is remarkable to realize, then, that the Bible is not just old, it is truly ancient. What is more, no other book in the history of the world can claim even a tenth of the span of years over which the individual documents in the Bible were written. Still, as long ago as that was, understanding these details is more than just an exercise in abstract history. Learning when, how, and why the Bible was written helps us to understand what God is doing. Looking back through the lens of history can teach us a great deal about what the Bible meant to its original audience, and, therefore, what it means for us today.  

The very simplest answer you can give to the question “When was the Bible written” is to say, “a very long time ago.” Even this seemingly useless answer can be helpful. You see, when we read the Bible as if it were written during our own time, we will read it wrongly. Knowing that it is an ancient text will help us to take a step back and think about details like, ‘to whom was this written?’ ‘What was happening at the time?’ ‘What did that mean in their culture, place and time?’ and so on. These are important questions to ask as you study the Scriptures. The Bible itself provides enough information to give context to the stories it tells. 

Now, if we stop with the simple answer, we will miss a great depth of truth. Therefore, we will spend some time among the details, answering the question specifically for each section of the Bible. 

The Old Testament

Let’s begin with the oldest book in the Bible. Perhaps you will be surprised to find out that it is not Genesis. No, the book of Job was written half a millennia before any other book in the Bible, making it the oldest by far. The events of Job take place somewhere around 2000 years before Christ. Unlike the rest of the Old Testament, we must use our best guess to come up with a date for Job, but it is likely that it was written between 20th and 17th century BC. 

With the details that God provides in His Word, we can reliably date the books of Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy, to around the middle of the 15th century BC. The last books to be written are known as the post-Exilic books, written around the middle of the 5th century BC. So, we can say that most of the Old Testament was produced over the course of 1000 years, between 1445-400 BC, with Job being the lone outlier. 

The book of Psalms is also an interesting exception in that it has many authors who lived at different times. The Psalm of Moses, Psalm 90, was written during Moses’ lifetime in the 15th century. Most of the Psalms were written by David in the 11th and/or 10th century. Some may have been written as late as the 6th century BC. So the writing of the Psalms spans nearly the same length as of the Old Testament itself. 

Now, there is considerable debate about these dates, with two significant views emerging. The main difference between these views is whether Scripture itself is historically reliable. The dates given above assume that the events of the Old Testament happened in the way that the Bible says they happened. The other view relies on something called the Historical-Critical Method. It assumes that the stories in the Bible were written long after they happened through a process of gathering and compiling ancient source materials. According to this view, the stories of the Bible did not necessarily happen the way they are told, but they are included in Scripture to teach important lessons. It dates the final compositions of the Old Testament books to a much later time, asserting that the majority of it was produced during the 5th century, and assigning Daniel to a mere century and a half before Jesus. 

This is an important debate, but it is one that will have to wait for another time. For the purpose of the Foundations course material, we believe that the Bible is historically reliable. The older dates we provided up front are trustworthy. We also believe that, when the Bible attributes a book to a certain author, and discusses the lives of particular characters it is giving accurate information. 

For most books in the Bible, this means we can know when they were written if we know when the author lived. Moses, for instance, wrote during the 15th century. David wrote during the 11th century BC, followed by Solomon in the 10th. Many of the Prophets’ lives can be dated by their proximity to the Exile, with most writing between the 8th and 6th centuries. The post-Exilic books (those written after the Exile of Israel), including Ezra, Nehemiah, and Malachi, among others, were written between the 6th and 5th centuries, BC. The Bible gives us clear historical markers by which we can date nearly every book in the Old Testament. Take a look at the chart at the end of the page for a complete listing.

The New Testament

While dating the books of the Old Testament is not difficult, dating the New Testament writings is remarkably simple. This is because every book of the New Testament was written within the first century AD. If you go on to study this in greater detail, you will find that there is considerable debate over the exact year that many of the books were written, but these are most often differences of 1 or 2, maybe up to 5 years. 

Furthermore, we know that almost every book of the New Testament was written after Christ ascended to heaven, but before the year AD 70. This latter date marks an extremely significant event in the history of the Church: this is when the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. No book in the New Testament makes references to the destruction of the Temple or any of the events that followed, save for Revelation alone. So, we can date the writing of every book other than Revelation and John’s letters to between the years AD 35 and 70. In fact, the great majority were written in less than a 20-year time span, between the years 50 and 68. 

John is the one outlier. John, the Apostle wrote Revelation and his three letters when he was an old man. We also know from multiple early sources that John wrote Revelation while he was in exile near the end of the reign of emperor Domitian, who died in AD 96. With these bits of information, along with details from within the texts themselves, we can say that John wrote 1, 2, and 3 John, along with Revelation, between AD 90 to 95. 

As we conclude, let’s answer our original question; “When was the Bible written?” The Bible was written over the span of 2000 years, between the 20th century BC and the 1st century AD. As you read and study the Bible, take a moment to recall this information, and be amazed at the remarkable unity of a book that was written by around 40 different people through multiple millennia. Indeed, this book must be the Word of God.

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All Can You Trust the Bible? Christian History Studying the Bible

Who Wrote the Bible?

Author: Patrick Krentz Th.M., Managing Editor for Foundations by ICM

 

There is no question that the Bible is a literary masterpiece. It is the most sold, most translated, most influential book in the history of the human race. This raises an important question. Who wrote such an important book? 

Most books list their author on the cover, but the Bible doesn’t make it this easy for us. While attempting to answer the question, “Who wrote the Bible?”, we will need to keep several important considerations in mind. 

First, we call the Bible the Word of God. What does that mean, and how does that relate to its authorship? 

Second, the Bible claims that many different people wrote the Bible. If so, how can we call it the Word of God? 

Third, if many people wrote the Bible, who decided to put it all together into a single book that is accredited to God Himself? How can we trust that they got the right books? 

Of course, each of these considerations deserves far more attention than we can give here, but let’s think of this as an introduction to these issues.

The Word of God

When we say that the Bible is the Word of God, we mean that the words we see on the pages of Scripture actually come originally from God Himself. The Bible attests to this, saying in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God…” The word “Inspired” literally means “breathed-out.” The Greek word translated as ‘inspired’ is theopneustos. This combines two Greek words into one. We find theo meaning ‘God’, and pneustos meaning ‘to breathe.’ Thus, Paul, who penned 2 Timothy, believed that Scripture is the Word of God in a literal sense. 

So, we could answer the question, “Who wrote the Bible?” by saying, “God did!” 

If we stop there, however, we will run into some problems. How, exactly, did God write Scripture? Did a finger appear to write the words on a wall, as it did in Daniel 5? Or perhaps God carved it into tablets, as He did for Moses in Deuteronomy 10

Of course, He could have done those things, but God had a more specialized instrument in mind when He decided to write. Just as God uses people to accomplish His mission and build His Church, God used people to write His book. As an artist wields a paintbrush or an author a pen, God wields men as instruments to record His words. This process is known as “Inspiration.”

The Inspiration of Human Authors

As God inspired men to write the Scriptures, He empowered them by His Spirit to write the words that He wanted them to write. This task, however, was far more complex than simple dictation. God worked with His human instruments, allowing their experiences, personalities, and even attitudes to come across on the page. As we dig deeper to determine who wrote the Bible, we find that there are around 35 to 40 human authors. They came from almost every imaginable walk of life. There were kings, princes, priests, warriors, musicians, farmers, shepherds, fishermen, carpenters, housewives, tent makers, medical doctors, and even a once despised tax collector.

Indeed, it is not an insignificant fact that the greatest, most influential literature in the history of man did not come from the world’s great philosophers or even rise from its great civilizations. Rather, from the least likely of places and the least likely of people at the least likely of times, these people came forward from all walks of life claiming to have had a prophetic encounter with, and a divine message from, the creator of all.

Now, each of these backgrounds shaped the content of their writing. David’s interest in music greatly impacted his writing of the Psalms, whereas Luke’s career as a physician led him to include many details that other writers would leave out. God did not simply turn the authors of Scripture into puppets so that He could say He wrote it through human agents. So, the question is, if each of these authors wrote the words they wanted to write, how can we say that God was writing through them? Perhaps an analogy will help.

Have you ever seen an orchestra playing a piece of music? If not, just imagine any group of musicians coming together to play a song. Each member has an instrument which they have individually learned to play. Not only that, but they play it with a certain style or flair all their own. Yet, the composer dictates where and how each musician plays. Thus, the final composition is under the ultimate control of the composer; and yet, each individual musician contributes his own unique personality to it. In a similar way, God is the composer of Scripture. He is ultimately in control of everything that is written, yet each individual author contributes something unique and personal. Understanding this, we call Scripture a Divine-Human work. God brings free human agents into the process, but it is accomplished through His supervision and by His power. 

The Bible as We Know It

Now, it is one thing to believe that God wrote the Bible through men, but that happened a long time ago. How can we be sure that the Bible we have today is the actual Word of God? There are many other books written by some very holy people, but they are not considered Scripture. Who decided which books got in and which ones did not? 

While there is a great deal of depth to the discussion of how we got our Old Testament, the simple answer is that it was assembled by prophets, kings, and leaders over many centuries. The Pentateuch, which comprises the first five books of the Bible, were well established as Scripture from the very earliest days of the Hebrew nation. Through the centuries, other prophetic works of history, prophetic oracles, and poetry were added. The final collection of the books Christians label “the Old Testament,” came some 400 to 500 years before Christ. When Ezra the priest and prophet returned from exile to find that the Jewish people had forgotten the laws of God, he led a national revival. Part of this revival included the rediscovery of the Jewish scriptures and efforts to organize, expand, and preserve them. 

The New Testament, on the other hand, appeared suddenly. While the Old Testament recounts the entire history of the world from Creation through the Jewish return from exile, the New Testament is about the life and works of Jesus and His disciples. These events span years rather than centuries. The books that make up our New Testament are those written by men who were directly taught by Jesus or His inspired Apostles. These books were used as Scripture by the church almost immediately. We can see that, even while the New Testament was being written, the Church was recognizing the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In 2 Peter 3:15-16, we see Peter refer to Paul’s letters as “Scripture,” placing them on equal footing with the entire Old Testament. Thus, our New Testament came together organically as God directed men to write. 

In A.D. 325, Church leaders held a council where they recognized and canonized Scripture. The Council of Nicaea, as it was called, did not make editorial decisions about which books to include or exclude; rather, it made official and forever unalterable what the church had been practicing since its earliest days. They affirmed that these are divinely inspired works. 

As we conclude, remember: if we believe that the Bible is the Word of God, then it is ultimately God who we should trust to deliver His Word to us faithfully. God has gone to a lot of trouble to make sure that His Word has been written precisely the way that He wants it. Jesus says in Matthew 5:18 that “Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the law until all is accomplished.” So, we should not look to men like Ezra or the council of Nicaea to know whether Scripture is reliable. God has seen to it that it was faithfully written, faithfully collected, and faithfully preserved. If we can trust the God of the Bible, then we can certainly trust the Bible that is from God.

Learn more about the bible by studying with our free bible study materials.