Categories
Can You Trust the Bible? Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

The Certainty of Truth

Author: Charles Hegwood

One of the questions we should always ask of any book of the Bible we are reading is, “Why was this book written?” Part of understanding the meaning is understanding the purpose. Often the writer will tell you the ‘why’. Others will require more thought and some light research to uncover. So what about Luke? We see that Luke begins his gospel with an explanation of why he is writing this. He wanted his audience to know his purpose and intent in writing this gospel. We need to consider the purposes and intentions of Luke as we read and interpret his gospel. If we do not then we risk missing the meaning entirely. So why did Luke write? Luke wrote to a specific person or people to tell them that they can have confidence in the truth of Christ that they were taught. So let us look at each part of the first four verses and answer the questions.

The Recipient

The recipient is the original audience the author is writing. This may sound obvious but we must identify the original audience as we consider how to interpret and understand the message that Luke is trying to convey. We discover that the recipient is Theophilus. We do not know who this is. His name means ‘lover of God’ which could be a person’s name or a pseudonym. Some scholars even suggest this could be a pseudonym for a local church as well, so not one person but many. And while we are not sure of exactly who Theophilus was, we do know enough to understand Luke’s message and purpose.
Theophilus was a person or people that Luke knew and had respect for. We know that Theophilus was a believer as well. Luke is not sharing the gospel for the first time with him either, but instead writing to give Theophilus more confidence in what he already believed. This information helps us as we read and understand Luke. It is written to believers like us. We have believed and therefore Luke’s purpose is to give us more confidence in what we already believe.

The Process and Message

How does Luke compile his information? Or another question we can ask is, “How can we trust Luke’s information?” For the first question, we see that Luke took it upon himself to compile information from interviews with eyewitnesses. He sought to investigate from sources who saw and heard Jesus, what he believed to be true. This corrects the claim that Christians are not allowed to test and question their faith. We should have confidence to research our faith and the claims it makes. It can withstand scrutiny. We must of course go to valid sources and that is just what Luke did. Luke went and asked eyewitnesses who saw and heard Jesus. He likely asked some of the apostles. Luke also asked other people who were compiling accounts of Jesus too.
Let us take a second and marvel that within the first twenty years after Jesus and likely earlier than that, people were already writing down what they heard and saw. They knew it was important. And these witnesses to the gospel and recorders of what happened were already busy writing these things down and passing the message to all who believed.
Some criticism of the gospels you might hear is that the accounts were written down much later than the events. For example, Luke was written down sometime before 70 AD. That means Luke may have written his account decades after Jesus was resurrected. However, these detractors fail to realize that much of what Luke contained was from writings that had been written much closer to the event. We do see from Luke that he got his information from people who were speaking and writing with the purpose to pass down the information. His goal was to be orderly. He wanted to take all of the accounts and put them in an order that would best convey the message to his audience.

The Purpose

Luke, among many others, was investigating and researching the claims of the gospel he heard. And what did Luke find? He found that what he had received as the gospel was trustworthy. So much so that he compiled the information and underwent the difficult process of writing down all that he had learned so that he could share it. His purpose was so that Theophilus would have the same confidence in the gospel that Luke did. The gospel is not simply good information. It is good news that calls us to follow a risen Jesus. Luke is not a simple historian. He writes with a purpose to grant confidence in what has been thoroughly investigated. Luke wrote to defend this certainty to his reader. Even in the first century, God had set people about the task of writing to defend the truthfulness of what happened.

Conclusion

So with Luke, we can see the recipient, process, and purpose are all to give us confidence in the things that we believe regarding Jesus. Luke is a great book to build your confidence in what you have already learned. Luke desired to show the importance of the truthfulness of the gospel. It is not a mere story. Jesus really came, taught, died, and rose again. We can have confidence in the truthfulness of God’s word to us. God’s word has the purpose of bringing us life. So read with confidence the good news that Jesus is our Savior and many throughout the ages have gone to great lengths to ensure that we have and can trust that good news.

 

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All Can You Trust the Bible? Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible

The Purpose of the Bible

Author: Jon Slenker

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17

That God would reveal himself to mankind is no mystery! The very act is representative of who he is. His nature, character, personality, virtues and values, mission and vision, is all made known to mankind through the bible. God is a relational God who desires to know and be known. The express purpose of the bible is that we may know God, what he has done for us and how we should live in light of his revelation.

Three Kinds of Revelation

  1. General Revelation: Things that were made by God, like the galaxies, sun, sky, trees, and living things, are all ways that God has revealed himself and his handiwork. No one is without this evidence or knowledge of God. Refer to Psalm 19:1-6, Romans 1:18-25 for further study.
  2. Special Revelation: God interacting in special ways with his creation, include speaking audibly to man, revealing himself and his power through the Flood, a burning bush, a pillar of cloud and fire, the parting of the Red Sea, handwriting on stone tablets and palace walls, his written word the Bible, Jesus, his Spirit, miracles, dreams, and visions. Refer to Exodus 32:16, Psalm 19:7-13, Hebrews 1:1-3, Luke 1, John 1:1-14, Acts 2:1-4, Romans 1:16-17, 10:9-10.
  3. Progressive Revelation: The teaching that God has continually revealed more and more of his character, will and mission over time. Refer to Psalm 78:1-4, John 16:12-14 and Galatians 1:11-12. 

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
1 Corinthians 3:12

How to Know God

“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’”
Isaiah 46:9b–10

There is only one God (Deut 32:39; Isa 45:5-7; 46:9) and “the most fundamental need of humanity is to know God, and to know Him with ever-increasing clarity and intensity.[1]’” More than anything, the bible reveals God’s character, purposes and principles. It has been said “when you open the word of God, you are opening the mouth of God.” God uses the bible to speak to you and me so that we may know him, trust him and live out our identity and calling as faithful worshipers.

“For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Ps. 100:5

Identity, Character and Attributes of God

The bible reveals God’s character by how he relates with and rules sovereignly over his creation. In the bible, God self-identifies as and is called: Creator, the I AM, Abba Father, the Ancient of Days, the Living God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Lord of Hosts, Alpha and Omega, the God of Knowledge, God Most High, Mighty God, the Anointed One, the Word, the Lord Who Provides, the Lord Who Saves, Our Dwelling Place and more!

As we read the Scriptures observing how God interacts with his creation, we find that God’s character is upright and just. He does not lie, he does not change, does not do evil, is relentless for his people, is all powerful, all knowing, full of grace, truth, mercy and love. He is the light of men, holy, hallowed, a helper, and unique. He is the one true God.

“Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
Psalm 90:2

To Know God’s Will and Mission

One of God’s purposes in giving us his Holy Scriptures is to follow his will, not simply discover it. We read in 1 Timothy 2:2-3 to pray for all people, kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. Paul continues, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

God has already revealed his will to us through the bible. If there is any discovering for us to do surrounding his will, it is to know God’s character, attributes and personality with greater wisdom and affection than before. God’s will is clear, to be a righteous ruler, on mission to seek and save that which is lost and marred by evil, sin and death. Since creation, God’s will has been to establish a people for himself and to reign as a benevolent and just Father, Counselor, and King. We do not need to seek out God’s will for our lives, it is not hidden from us or kept in secret to be found out later to see. God’s will was established from the beginning and he has already revealed it to us in his word!

If you want to know the will of God, devote yourself to his word and discern the times. Author, J. Grant Howard, Jr. writes that “God doesn’t want confused, bewildered, frustrated Christians wandering around anxiously searching for His will. He wants people who are walking confidently and peacefully in His will.”

Our God, the God of the universe, is a missionary God. Since Genesis 3 and the Fall he has relentlessly pursued to the point of sacrifice for the salvation of his children from every tribe, tongue and nation (Rev. 7:9-10). Jesus entered humanity, put on flesh, forgave sin, granted new life, gave confidence to the broken-hearted and destitute, humbled the proud and corrected poor theology and practice. He laid the foundation for the establishment, the Church, and sits as the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:19-21). He began and ended his three year ministry with a focus on character as we live out, preach and disciple others on the good news that Christ has come and revealed himself and his salvation to mankind!

To Know Ourselves and Our Purpose

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–”
John 1:12

Identity and Calling

Another overarching purpose of the bible is to know our own identity and calling in relation to God. We were made to worship and obey. We were created for a spectacular purpose. Therefore, we must know who God is in order to truly know ourselves. We find our meaning, hope and peace in our identity in Christ. The bible is God’s way of telling us who we are and how to live out our days as “Children of God” (1 John 3:1), “ambassadors” of his Kingdom (2 Cor. 5:20), a “holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9), and “pilgrims”, in a world that is not our home (Hebrews 13:14-16).

The bible reveals our purpose, tells us how to live, grounds us in our physical and spiritual lineage and heritage, and gives us historical context for our lives and the times we now live. It teaches us about the past, present and future.

Every believer can be sure of their identity as adopted children of God, called to worship, obey, love others and make disciples. God gave us his word, so that we might know how to act  and behave in ways that honor him and others as we join him on his mission (Matthew 5; John 13:35). The author of Hebrews tells us an incredible purpose of the bible in chapter 4, verse 12 stating, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” It seems at times when we read the bible, it is moreover reading us.

The Great Commission passages in Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:14–18, Luke 24:44–49, John 20:19-23, and Acts 1:4–8 lay out our calling and responsibility as God’s ambassadors and Church. We are to preach the gospel, baptize, teach to obey, gather in community for the breaking of bread, worship, pray, make disciples and give of our time, talent, treasure and table as others have need (Acts 2:32-36).

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Ephesians 5:1-2


[1] Merida,  Faithful Preaching, 2009

Categories
Can You Trust the Bible? Digging Deeper into the Word

Gospel Confidence: In an Age of Fear and Shame

Author: Charles Hegwood

Have you ever had this happen? You are talking to a friend and then an opportunity for the gospel pops into the conversation. Suddenly you are filled with a sense of dread and stress that you know you shouldn’t be feeling. You may later try to assess why you felt this way. Could it be shame? It could. Could it be fear about what to say? It could. Either way a good reminder for us today was captured by the apostle Paul almost 2,000 years ago. Paul reminds us why we should not be ashamed, but instead empowered by the gospel. That was his motivation and that should be our’s as well.  

Romans 1:15-17 is a well-known passage of Scripture. And it is vital for us in our gospel endeavors. Paul reminds us that we should be eager to share the gospel and unashamed of it because the gospel is the power and righteousness of God to save those who believe.  

Eagerness to Share the Gospel  

In verse 14, Paul told the Romans that he was obligated to share the gospel with Gentiles. This obligation is not one of burden but of mission. Like Paul, we do not remain on this Earth to simply exist and enjoy life, instead we have a mission; a gospel mission. For Paul this mission gave him an eagerness to share the gospel with the Gentiles in Rome. He longed to strengthen their faith. We never move beyond the beauty and power of the gospel. More on that later. Back to Paul. Paul was eager to get to Rome and preach the gospel. A mark of a healthy disciple is one who is eager to share the gospel with those around them. Gospel sharing is our mission. If you were wondering what to do with your life, or what God called you to do, it is simple and clear: Share the gospel with as many people as you can. And be eager to do so.  

Confident in the Gospel  

Maybe today you would say you are eager, but like I mentioned above you sometimes become nervous and maybe a little ashamed when sharing the gospel. I get nervous sometimes when I have a chance to share the gospel too. Paul’s letter to the Romans in general and these few verses in particular encourage me and I hope they encourage you as well. Why? Paul said the gospel is the “power of God.” We should not fear sharing the gospel because the power of God is displayed in it. We see that through the gospel, God has the power over sin and death. There is nothing that can overwhelm or overtake God. After all, Paul said that the gospel is the power of God to save. The gospel’s power saves a lost and dying people from a lost and dying world.  

Do not be ashamed and do not fear telling a lost and dying world there is hope in the gospel. The hope of the gospel does not balance on our ability or eloquence, though those are nice, but instead the power of the gospel rests on the shoulders of our mighty God. The gospel is His power to save. It is our mission to share it. So when you feel ashamed or when you feel fear when sharing the gospel, remind yourself of this great reality. Remind yourself of Romans 1:16. I am convinced that when we do remember that the gospel is the power of God to save, we will have confidence to share with our friends and family.  

The Scope of the Gospel 

We should be confident in sharing the gospel because it is God’s power to save. But save whom we may ask. “To save everyone who believes.” Paul talked about his obligation in verse 14, and we can call that mission. Paul talked about his eagerness in verse 15 and we can call that motivation. He talks about his confidence in the gospel as the power of God in verse 16, and we can call that encouragement. Then he expressed his hope and scope of the gospel. Paul’s motivation and confidence is that God has the power to save all that come to Him in faith. It is our mission, confidence and motivation to take that power and hope to all people. The scope of the gospel is global. It knows no cultural or geographical boundaries. “First to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Here ‘gentile’ means the rest of the world. Paul here is not creating a new scope for a new message either. The Old Testament always showed God as having a global scope to His mercy and grace. The only thing that is new is the new covenant which is grounded in the blood of Jesus. It is with this gospel that we can go to all people with confidence!  

Hope of the Gospel 

 “For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” Our confidence to share the gospel is in our hope of the gospel. We see that the gospel is the revelation of God’s righteousness and goodness. We can be confident and unashamed because when we share the gospel we are doing more than just speaking mere words. We are revealing the righteousness, justice, and moral uprightness of God to a lost and broken world. That should inspire hope that in the sharing of the gospel the light of God shines on a dark world. Have hope as you tell people about the powerful gospel that we have an eagerness to share.   

Go In Gospel Confidence 

This is just skimming the surface of this great and deep passage of Scripture. Even in skimming we should be encouraged in our gospel ventures. Again, this is a great reminder that when we feel ashamed or fear concerning the proclamation of the gospel, we must remember what the gospel is. The gospel should drive our mission and eagerness to tell others about this great truth. It is the power and righteousness of God to save all that come to Him. We are to go to all people and introduce them to the power of God and the hope within. Let these thoughts drive you to go to friends and family and tell them of the God who has the power to save all that come to Him. Do not be ashamed of the gospel, be empowered and emboldened by it.  

Categories
Can You Trust the Bible? Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible

Sense in the Serpent

I am quite interested in the work of those who investigate the details of the Genesis creation stories along scientific lines. I wholly support any honest study of the possibilities of things like a global flood, genetic analysis to see if man really does trace its origins back to a single pair, or even questioning whether or not there is some evidence that serpents used to have legs. I do not believe, however, that these studies hold the keys to understanding Genesis.

If you want to understand the theological messaging of Genesis, you have to read it like a pagan. That is to say that Genesis was written within the context of the global dominance of the pagan worldview and was intended as a help for those struggling to understand and embrace the biblical worldview under the great pressure of that pagan dominance. Stories of creation that sustained the pagan perception of god, man, and reality populated the imaginations of every society, and Genesis is constructed to preach the truth about God, man, and reality in intentional opposition to those stories. Genesis is about the true origin and nature of the Divine order. It reveals how the world was made to function so that man could learn how to function best within it.

Let me illustrate by talking about the context for reading about the serpent in Genesis 3.

Only a child imagines that Genesis 3 is some etiological tale about why women don’t like snakes or why snakes have no legs. Given the role of the serpent dragons in so many Ancient Near Eastern creation accounts one would be foolish not to believe that there is a connection between it and them. Indeed, many Scriptures show a keen awareness of these ancient serpent dragon stories. Authors cast enemies in their image, and link the serpent figure with Satan Himself.

My doctoral dissertation demanded extensive contrasts and comparisons between pagan and biblical creation stories and flood stories. We learn much about the pagan view of gods, man, and reality from reading their myths, and discover just how radical the biblical worldview was to them when they encountered it. So, if I were a pagan reading Genesis, let me tell you how it would strike me, and what I would intuit most from the story of the fall of man and the serpent.

In Genesis, the entire nature of Yahweh is radically different from pagan conceptions of God. Rather than being untrustworthy, powerful but highly limited, self-absorbed, fickle, super-being bound to the created order that was established by someone else wholly unknown and unknowable… i.e. a pagan deity… Yahweh is the One Holy Creator of all. He is omnipotent, omniscient, all-wise, eternal, immutable, omnipresent, transcendent but immanent.  Yahweh is positively disposed to his creation as a loving and good Creator, can be trusted and personally known, and is the very source of all morals and ethics. All creatures spiritual and material are heading for a trial before the judgment seat of Yahweh to answer for their actions in Yahweh’s world toward Yahweh and Yahweh’s creations.

In Genesis, the entire nature of man is radically different from pagan conceptions of man. Rather than being created as a barely tolerable slave of the gods, kept in check by suffering to keep him from proliferating and adding to his general annoyance of the pagan gods… rather than being on his own to work out his destiny for himself by manipulating pagan gods through ritual to achieve his own ends without any dependable moral or ethical guidance from the gods… in Genesis Man is Yahweh’s highest creation. Man was made to be filled with Yahweh’s Holy Spirit as His ruling and reigning image in the world. Man is given a mission and a blessing and declared with all the rest of Yahweh’s beloved creation, to be very good.

In Genesis, the entire nature of reality is different from pagan conceptions of it. Rather than being a random compilation of conflicting pagan gods who are the cosmic forces of the world cycling endlessly and purposely… the world of Yahweh had an intentional beginning and is driving toward an intentional end. In Genesis, nature is a body of material forces wholly subjected to the order of Yahweh and without personal volition. The wisdom of Yahweh is woven into the fabric of reality as a system of natural reward and punishment.

As the pagan’s mind reels in the face of such declarations, the role of the serpent appearing late in the creation tale blows his mind. The images of sea and serpent dragon are, in the pagan stories of creation, the very visage of chaos, the amoral destroyer of worlds, the enemy of an active and thriving cosmos. This ruinous force predates the populating cosmos, is at enmity with it, and must be conquered for it to progress. In defeat, the serpent dragon becomes instrumental in the natural world’s establishment as a necessary but ever-threatening part of its foundations.  If something could be said to be “wrong” with the world as the pagans conceived it, it would be the idea that chaos is part of the world’s primary wiring and only man is truly looking out for the interests of man in the cosmic battle against it.

Not so, in Genesis. There, the world is very good. Other portions of Scripture will work the poetic imagery of the sea as a barely controlled enemy, but in the Genesis creation, the sea is just one more purely material force among many. The waters of the deep divide at command, above from below, seas from land, just as the darkness flees the light, and the waters and land team when God demands that they do so.

World trouble is born in Genesis 3, not Genesis 1 or 2. The serpent comes as an enemy to entice the man and woman into rebellion against God. As regents over God’s world, the creation is cursed by their sin and not by the presence of the serpent, malicious as he is. The source of world evil, of world chaos, is found not in the sea, serpent, or Satan, but in the rebellious heart of man himself. Satan may tempt and lure, seduce and deceive, but it is man’s own selfish heart that spawns evil in the world. The fault of man is not his failure to create the right kinds of systems, cultures, laws, or institutions, but the fact that none of these are immune to the influence of his corrupt heart. Satan may seek our ruin, but man’s greatest enemy is himself.

You can debate the literalness of the snake and look for scientific evidence of his curse in his namesakes, but I want to understand his role in the creation story, the meaning and influence of his words, and the impact that he had on bringing human evil into God’s good world, and how we, the children of Adam and Eve can find stability, restoration, and redemption in the world that we, and not he, ruined.

 

1 A global flood is not necessary in the Hebrew reading of Genesis 6-8. In fact, evidence, as I’ve seen it, points more strongly toward a massive regional flood in the Black Sea area, though some have brought forth some interesting data in support of the other.
2 Some wonderful claims of this have come forth of late by those looking at DNA records, as well as genetic evidence for a spontaneous explosion of species around the same time mere tens of thousands of years ago.
3 These serpents are usually the visual double of the primordial sea, the great enemy of creation. Leviathan shows up in Job 41, Psalms 74 and 104, and Isaiah 27. Rahab shows up in Job 9, Psalm 87, and Isaiah 30. Labu appears without name in Ezekiel 29.  We have great adversaries rising as beasts from the sea in Daniel 7 and Revelation 13. There are more.
4 Revelation 12 and 20.
5 i.e. standing outside the created order, but wholly present in its operation, flow, and purpose, making Himself known to His creatures.

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All Can You Trust the Bible? Studying the Bible

Is God an Egomaniac?

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

 

There is a common objection to the existence of God that has become popular on the internet and across social media. It goes something like this: A perfect, all-powerful, self-sufficient God would not need to create worshippers and demand that people worship him. The kind of God who does this is an egomaniac, and not actually worthy of worship at all. This may seem like a powerful argument when you first hear it, but let’s take a moment to analyze the question. We will quickly find that it makes assumptions that are not justified. Most importantly, it critiques a God that the Bible does not describe.

So, let’s answer not by reacting to the question, but by cutting away the very foundations of the objection.

 

God Is…

Before the beginning, there was Father, Son, and Spirit. Three persons sharing one essence. This relationship of three persons is God – or put another, God is a relationship of three equal but distinct persons. When we say God in a general sense, this is what we mean. From eternity past, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit exists in a relationship of mutual, self-giving love. Each person loves and exalts the others.

In Scripture, we see that it is the Father’s role to send the Son and the Son’s role to reveal the Father. Similarly, the Son sends the Spirit and the Spirit exalts the Son. Each person points to the others. You don’t see Jesus exalting himself in the New Testament. In fact, you see the opposite – Jesus humbled himself to the greatest possible degree, and fully submitted himself to the Father.

 

Humble God

Consider Philippians 2:5-9:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.

Jesus began in the highest position of total equality with the Father but lowered himself to the lowest position humanity has to offer. He could have exalted himself at any time, restoring his equality, but he chose humility and submission instead. As a result, verse 9 says, “God has highly exalted him.”

Why does this matter for answering the objection? Because a relationship of three other-exalting persons is quite different from a single self-exalting deity. To illustrate, let’s move from talking about pre-creation to creation itself.

 

Why did God create anything?

If God is self-sufficient, why did he create people to worship him? What is creation in the first place? A key clue to answering this question lies in the sort of creational power God gave to his creatures – procreation. In both a physical and a philosophical sense, procreation (having babies) happens as a result of self-giving love. Each person involved gives of themself in a unifying act that results in the creation of something new.

If we relate this idea to the God who is three-in-one, we can also say that creation itself is the outpouring or overflow of trinitarian, self-giving love. God’s love is unlimited and unbound. Creation was meant to grow the family of God; to create a vast multitude of persons who could experience the joyful union of the Trinity. These creatures were made like their creator in that they could willingly give of themselves in love for others, though they did not share in the perfection or equality with God.

 

God of Relationship

In our present condition, humanity experiences only a minute fraction of the relationship for which we were made. In Eternity, we will enter into that relationship in an ever-expanding, always increasing capacity. Even though this relationship will be enjoyed in eternity with God, distinction remains between God and humanity, God is the Creator and we the creature. This distinction is essential to answering the initial objection of egoism.

A simple answer to the question, “why did God create anything,” would be: To enter into relationship with more people. But did God create us so that we would worship him? No.

God does not need our worship in any sense. He doesn’t need us to say nice things about him so that he can feel better about himself. This is not why he demands that we worship him. Instead, he demands that we worship him because he wants us to enter into the perfect, joyful relationship that he created us to experience.

 

What is Worship?

Let’s pause here and ask, what is worship anyway? If someone objects to a deity who demands worship, it might be good to know the meaning of the word before answering. Worship, by its non-theological, simple dictionary definition, means to express respect and reverence for a deity. So, God demands that we express respect and reverence for him.

Now, let’s think about this in reverse. The objection states that a deity should not require that creatures show respect or reverence for it. If you think about it, that’s absurd. If a perfect, holy, and loving God exists, the only correct response to him would be respect and reverence.

We even understand this from a human perspective. Imagine your boss, or even the leader of your country (assume for a moment that he is a great leader) shows up at your house for dinner. How should you react? Will you casually go about your business, perhaps go out of your way to microwave some leftovers for his dinner? Of course not, you will show respect according to what he deserves.

So, worshipping God is merely the natural reaction we should have toward him. If we are not acting respectfully and reverently toward him then there is something terribly wrong. God, for his part, does not desire worship for worship’ sake, but because he desires that we be in right-relation to him.

 

Conclusion

The God who demands worship gave everything to reunite us to himself. He no more needs our worship than he needs our company, but he desires (and requires) our worship because it is a prerequisite for entering into true relationship with an Almighty God. If we are to be with him for all eternity, then we will worship him for all eternity. That is merely the natural and right response to being in his presence. It is something that anyone who experiences his love will do without question.

Is God an egomaniac? Quite the opposite. He simply wants us to respond appropriately when he pours out his love on us.

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All Can You Trust the Bible? Church Development

Is Jesus Coming Back in 2022?

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

 

When you read the letters of the Apostle Paul, you may notice something surprising – he seemed to think the world would end in his lifetime. Was the Holy Spirit inspiring an error when he wrote about Jesus returning soon? It’s been two thousand years… was he crazy? What possible justification could there be for his “wrong” opinions to be codified in inspired texts? Well, I think both he and the Holy Spirit were justified in preserving these thoughts. Let’s take a few moments to consider Paul’s words, and to think about why, perhaps, we should think the same.

 

The End of the World As We Know It

First, let’s recognize that Paul did believe Jesus could return very quickly – possibly while he was alive. This would be the climax of history, the end of the world as we know it, and the beginning of the age of the Messiah. Consider his words to the church in Thessalonica who were distressed about believers who had died. These believers were confused because they did not know what would happen to believers who had ‘gone to sleep’ prior to the return of Christ. Paul reassured them, saying:

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 NIV)

Do you see his argument? He said, “we who are still alive will be caught up.” His grammar, at least, anticipated that even he would be included in this great event.

 

Who’s Crazy?

So the question remains, was Paul wrong? Did he misunderstand the words of Jesus or the teachings of the other Apostles? And more importantly, did the Holy Spirit inspire Paul to write in error? The simple answer to each of these questions is No. Here’s why: every believer should think exactly the same thing that Paul thought and taught – that Jesus could (and would) return in their lifetime. Consider more from Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians:

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6)

In the first verse of this passage, Paul explains: “about times and dates we do not need to write to you…” Why? Because, first of all, times and dates don’t matter: we need to be ready all the time. But, second, because Paul and the Thessalonians don’t know when the return will happen.

So, while Paul expects Jesus to return soon, he understands that ‘soon’ could be quite literally any time. His emphasis is not about when Christ will return, but that we should be ready when he returns.

In several parables, Jesus tells stories of those who are waiting for their master to return (Luke 12:35-40, 42-49, Matthew 25:1-13, 14-30). He severely warns those who wait to watch at all times, expecting their master’s return at any moment. Jesus summarizes, saying: “You also must be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.Don’t be caught sleeping, distracted, or unprepared just because he’s been gone longer than we expected.

 

 

What’s Our Response?

Be crazy, therefore, as Paul is crazy. Expect the return of Christ in your lifetime. Live as if Jesus will return tomorrow, next week, next month, three years from now… Live like you believe what Jesus, Paul, and other New Testament writers say about the end of the world. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul and others to write about the return as imminent, meaning that it could happen at literally any moment. They were not wrong, they simply did not know when it would happen (and neither do we). This imminence of the return hasn’t changed even though it has been two thousand years since the time of Paul.

Jesus says, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32 NIV) He also says, “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Luke 12:40 NIV) If you believe in these words, they will radically change the way you live.

Peter encourages us toward this end, saying: “The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:7-8 NIV)

The End

The Holy Spirit allowed Paul’s expectations to pepper his inspired writings because this is exactly how we should think, how we should live, how we should speak. Jesus is coming back soon… are you ready and watching?

Let’s close with the words of Jesus, the very last words in Scripture, which were repeated four times in the book of Revelation: “Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20 NIV).

 

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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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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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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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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.

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