This article is in response to some common arguments used to discredit the God of the Bible, and covers the following points:
- Doubt about the inspiration of the Bible
- God unfairly elevates Jewish men above women and foreigners
- Fulfilled Bible prophecies are contrived or written after the event
- Evolution has the answers
- If there is a god who has the power to stop the suffering of the innocent, then he is cruel if he doesn’t
What is Bible inspiration?
A misunderstanding of Bible Inspiration has resulted in much confusion about what it is that God approves or condemns. The Jews had a debated hierarchy for the importance of the Old Testament books. The Law (first 5 books) were generally considered the most sacred words of God (and were all the Samaritans accepted). Next were the prophets – also considered to be imparting the words of God. Then there were the writings – comprised of Psalms etc. many of which were prophetic and Messianic in nature. Incorporated in the writings were the history books – not claiming inspiration within the books, but men’s records of events.
Parts of the Bible are not revelation of Divine truth (such as the words of Job’s friends) although the production of the volume known as the Bible is clearly God’s work through His Spirit.
We read in the New Testament that it was the Law and Prophets that were regularly read in the synagogue (Acts 13:15, 24:14, 28:23). Jesus endorsed the Law, prophets and Psalms “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Luke 24:44. Paul also endorsed the Law and prophets as revealing the righteousness of God – “But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.” Rom 3:21. But the words of Jobs friends who spoke in error were not endorsed as the inspired words of God, even though some were wise words – eg the thoughts of Eliaphaz the Temanite are picked up in Proverbs which in turn is quoted in Hebrews as being correct and giving a word of encouragement
“Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. “For He inflicts pain, and gives relief; He wounds, and His hands also heal.”
|Prov 3:11-12 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, Because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.
And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Even Paul tells us that some of his words are only his own wisdom – “Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.” 1 Cor 7:25
The self-praise of Ezra who esteemed his lineage from Aaron as something worthy of honour is not endorsed in the New Testament. His lists of genealogies only included men, and were for Jews only. Ezra’s thinking was clearly condemned by John the Baptist “And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.” Matt 3:9.
One way the Bible is inspired is that we can compare the words of God with the words of men. For example, God inspired Ezra to record when the temple was completed and Zechariah to record what God was saying to the Jews while they were completing it – Notice the closeness of the dates:
|“The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the 6th year of the reign of King Darius.” Ezra 6:15.||“In the 4th year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen.” Zech 7:1, 9-12|
So we can see that although Ezra praises the building of the temple, God, via Zechariah, is condemning the attitude of the Jews. In recording the history of the time, Ezra also left out the murder of Zechariah who spoke words condemning the Jews – again we have to compare the Ezra records with the words of Jesus concerning this period – “Upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.” Matt 23:25
Thus, when looking at the history books of the Bible (Ezra, Nehemiah, Kings and Chronicles) one should compare them with God’s prophets of the time. Another example is the difference of perspective between Hosea 1 and 2 Kings concerning Jehu’s massacre at Jezreel of the house of Ahab and others –
|Hosea 1:4 “The Lord said to Hosea, “Call him Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel.”
JEHU KILLED at Jezreel
Joram King of Israel
Ahaziah King of Judah – Megiddo
70 royal princes
(heads in baskets)
42 Relatives of Ahaziah
All the worshippers of Baal
|2 Kings 10:30 “The Lord said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.”|
My explanation for this difference of perspectives is that God’s view was revealed through His prophet. The history record of 2 Kings is how the Jews saw it. But God left both records to compare. In a similar way Job’s friends say “The Lord says” or “The Lord does”, for example Job 8:5 says what God will do: “If you earnestly seek God… He will rouse Himself on your behalf and restore you to your prosperous state”. There is no authority from God for Bildad to proclaim what God will or won’t do – yet he does – we later learn that Job’s friends spoke in error, just as we learn from Jesus that the scribes and pharisees were in error and were linked to the murderers of the prophet Zechariah.
We know that the Old Testament prophets spoke the inspired word of God, because they were endorsed by Jesus. But we look back at Old Testament histories through the lens of Jesus to discern what was right and wrong – we are ‘born again’.
Understanding that the history parts were written from a Jewish perspective explains why the God of the Old Testament seems different to the God of the New. It explains why only men were listed in Ezra’s genealogies. David discerned what was important. He could say ‘sacrifice and offering you have not desired’ – when the Law plainly said God did desire sacrifice and offerings. Joseph was called a just man for choosing to put Mary away quietly rather than stoning her as the law required for adultery. He deliberately broke the Law of Moses.
In contrast to this some, like Ezra, took the Law at face value without mercy – “Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law.” Ezra 10:3 God’s prophet Malachi condemned such an action “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect” Mal 2:16 You have to compare God’s thoughts (via his prophets), with what is presented in the history books.
2 Kings was probably written at the time of Jeremiah. Although Jewish tradition says Jeremiah wrote 2nd Kings, many scholars doubt it. Jeremiah warned of those who wrote in the name of the Lord wrongly. “How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the Lord,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?” Jer 8:8
“I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. Yes,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The Lord declares.’ Jer 23:30
So Jeremiah was condemning both false prophet and scribe for wrongly attributing words to God. The Jews wrongly cast out foreigners in the name of keeping God’s Law when God’s plan was always for Israel to convert foreigners to being so completely integrated that they would be known as Israelites.
Jeremiah warned against wrongly attributing things to God:
“You must not mention ‘a message from the Lord’ again, because each one’s word becomes their own message. So you distort the words of the living God, the Lord Almighty, our God. …Although you claim, ‘This is a message from the Lord,’ this is what the Lord says: You used the words, ‘This is a message from the Lord,’ even though I told you that you must not claim, ‘This is a message from the Lord.’ Therefore, I will surely forget you and cast you out of my presence along with the city I gave to you and your ancestors. I will bring on you everlasting disgrace—everlasting shame that will not be forgotten.” Jer 25:36-49
The Jews were in error in their understanding of what God wanted for a long time before He finally destroyed the temple and scattered them.
Unfortunately 2 New Testament passages have been misconstrued to impart a holiness to the black words on white paper as if every word itself is holy, which has blinded us to what God reveals.
2 Tim 3:15-16 has been poorly translated into English as – “All scripture (is) given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”
The word “is” is added by the translators. A more accurate rendering of this passage in context is – “From a child you have known the inspired scriptures which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus – all scripture given by inspiration is profitable for doctrine.”
This alters the meaning drastically. It’s not saying all scripture is inspired by God – it’s saying that all the scripture which is inspired by God is profitable.
Several versions of the Bible do correctly translate this passage without the “is” – for example the English Revised Version says – “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness:” . See also Douay-Rheims Bible, American Standard Version, Aramaic Bible in Plain English etc.
1 Peter 1:20 is also often quoted out of context. The intention of Peter was to endorse the prophecies given by God –“No PROPHECY of the scripture (referring to Old Testament prophets of God) is of private interpretation for it came not by man but from God.” At the time Peter wrote this the Old Testament was not compiled into 39 books. It was a collection of individual scrolls – Thus when Jesus read in the synagogue He was handed just the scroll of Isaiah. So Peter was saying that the words of the prophets gave instruction in righteousness – not necessarily the words of Job’s friends or the historians such as Ezra.
- GOD’S ATTITUDE TO FOREIGNERS & WOMEN
FOREIGNERS – God, in the Old Testament, seems to treat foreigners and women on unequal footing to those born as male descendants of Abraham. However, nothing could be further from the truth. God has always considered women and foreigners on equal footing to male Jews. The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New – See
GOD’S ATTITUDE TO WOMEN
Regarding the equality of women – it was not God who left them out of the Old Testament records and genealogies, but the history writers such as Ezra. In fact, a bit of searching reveals that below the surface God spoke through women prophets such as Huldah, and even Hilkiah the high priest sought the words of God via a woman.
Down the ages when men ruled over women it was God who gave them equality as Paul proclaimed – we are all ‘One in Christ’. It was traditions of men which turned the tables on what God intended. There are 2 passages by Paul which seem to silence women – they have been woefully misunderstood. Paul was not silencing women in Corinth, he was quoting the Judaisers who were trying to silence them and then rebuking them for their stupidity “What ! did the word of God come to you (men) only !” Explained more fully here:
God delights in using people across the board. Mary the mother of Jesus realised this when she said God brings down the mighty and exults the lowly – She was quoting Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 4:37) – From her mosaic of Old Testament quotes to her cousin Elizabeth is it evident she knew her Old Testament inside out.
The 70 week prophecy of Daniel 9 predicted the time of the coming of Jesus 568 years in advance. Even those who say that the events in Daniel 11 are so specific they are written after the event cannot deny that original texts of Daniel predate Jesus. The year in which Jesus was anointed is perhaps the most specific date passage in the Bible – Luke 3:1 “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness…v21 Jesus was baptized too.”
In 12 AD Tiberius began co-reigning with Augustus. 27 AD was the 15th year of his reign – the time Jesus was anointed.
“From the time the word goes out to return and build up Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes there will be seven 7’s and sixty-two 7’s”. Dan 9:25
- Subtracting from anointing of Jesus gives start
- 27 AD minus 62 ‘7’s (434 yrs) = 408 BC (adjustment for passing year zero)
- 408 BC minus 7 ‘7’s (49 years) = 457 BC
So 457 BC is the starting date for the 70 week prophecy. It was also 7th year of Artaxerxes when Ezra returned (see Ezra 7:7) and “the word went out to return and build up Jerusalem”.
“The Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing… He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven’ (start of his ministry 26 AD) In the middle of the ‘seven’ (31 AD) he will put an end to sacrifice and offering” Dan.9:26-27
3.5 years after Jesus was anointed he died in the middle of the 7 as prophesied and put an end to sacrifice and offering.
Then ensues the ‘Gap’ the period of desolations until the completion of the prophecy. For a more detailed account of Daniel 9 see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPfRLxRZtPo
Revelation supplies the meaning for the last 3.5 years of the Daniel 9 prophecy (1260 days, 42 months, 3.5 years all the same) it is a message for us in these last days. Daniel 12 tells us when it begins. We are in exciting times. I encourage everyone to search for God while He may be found because time is running out and God is pouring out his vials.
This Daniel 9 prophecy accurately gave the time of the first coming of Jesus 568 years in advance – there is so much evidence for the God of the Bible it would be perverse to deny it.
- CREATION VERSUS EVOLUTION
I looked at the arguments for creation and evolution and am persuaded by the arguments for creation. God told us he “created things after their own kind” – and this is what we see continuing to this day. Some claim that human embryos retrace the history of evolution with features like fish ‘gill slits’ etc. This idea has been totally discredited with a better understanding of the human embryo. What were once thought to be gills are now known to be throat pouches and the site of development of important organs like ear canals, thymus and parathyroid glands. See http://www.creationtips.com/gillslits.html The missing link between apes and humans is still missing. Ancient fossils are either ape or human – “Bones of humans have been wrongly categorized with the bones of apes to create non-existent ape-men species. Diseased human skeletons have been distorted to look more ape-like and put on display. Even the wide range of potential anatomical variations among humans has been misinterpreted, not only among dead human specimens but among living humans as well.”Taken from http://www.gotquestions.org/missing-link.html THE AGE OF THE EARTH Clearly Genesis chapter 1 allows for the earth to be very old. We are not told how long ago God created the heavens and the earth nor when he put the first humans on it. The first century Jewish philosopher Philo had some interesting comments which show he didn’t believe the earth was made in 6 literal days.“And on the sixth day God finished his work which he had made.” It would be a sign of great simplicity to think that the world was created in six days, or indeed at all in time; because all time is only the space of days and nights, and these things the motion of the sun as he passes over the earth and under the earth does necessarily make. But the sun is a portion of heaven, so that one must confess that time is a thing posterior to the world. Therefore it would be correctly said that the world was not created in time, but that time had its existence in consequence of the world. For it is the motion of the heaven that has displayed the nature of time. I believe that the Genesis 1 record is more to do with John 1 than to explain in depth how God made the literal world.Also of interest is that many Jews didn’t believe that Adam and Eve were the first man and woman, but viewed the Eden story as a parable. This is backed up by a separate creation account of man and woman in chapter 2 where we are told God made both man and woman in His image. 5. WHY DOES GOD ALLOWING SUFFERING?A further argument by atheists is that if there is a god who has the power to stop the suffering of the innocent, then he is cruel if he doesn’t, and they want no part of such a god.
God never promised this life would be easy. Jesus was “a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief”, and He died on a cross because wicked men killed him – God didn’t spare His Son from suffering – why should He spare us or our children? Too often we cause God to suffer by sinning, and too often our focus is on “Why does God allow suffering”. God’s ultimate promise of healing and joy is for the kingdom age and it’s for those who search for Him – this life is a test – See: “Why Aren’t the Sick Healed When we Pray for Them in Faith” www.alsowritten.wordpress.com (July ’12 archive)
The creator of the universe knows exactly what He’s doing – the one who told Job his ways are not our ways – who made ostriches bury their eggs in the sand where they may be stood on – yet ostriches survive. He stretched out the inconceivable vastness of the universe, made us understand His love for us by giving us our own children to love. For those who seek Him and believe on His beloved Son the time will come when all suffering is ended. God knows who will be in His kingdom and He calls them
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44); “No one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father (John 6:65)
We preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23-24).
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” John 6:37
Rom 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
What person can discredit the justice of the God of all the universe whose wisdom is infinitely greater than ours?
“Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like his?
Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
Unleash the fury of your wrath,
look at all who are proud and bring them low,
look at all who are proud and humble them,
crush the wicked where they stand.
Bury them all in the dust together;
shroud their faces in the grave.
Then I myself will admit to you
that your own right hand can save you.” Job 40:8-14