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.
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 many to what God reveals.
2 Tim 3:16 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”
We know this can’t be a true statement because the wrong words of Jobs friends (about equal in dialogue to that of Job) are not profitable for instruction in righteousness.
The word “is” in 2 Tim 3:16 is added by 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.
Before the canonisation of the Bible, Tertullian (approx. 160–220 CE) also understood Paul’s message in this way –
Nothing at all must be rejected by us which pertains to us; and we read that “every Scripture suitable for edification is divinely inspired.” Tertullian, On the Apparel of Women, Book 1,Ch.3
1 Peter 1:19-20 is also often quoted out of context. The intention of Peter was to endorse the words of God’s prophets –“We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable … No PROPHECY of the scripture (referring to writings of Old Testament prophets) is of private interpretation for it came not by man but from God.”
The ISV translates v19 as
“Therefore we regard the message of the prophets as confirmed beyond doubt.”
At the time Peter wrote this the Old Testament was not compiled into 39 books such as we have. 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 – Peter was not endorsing every word of the Old Testament as divine truth – but every word of the prophets like Zechariah, Isaiah etc.
So how do we determine which parts of scripture are divine truth, and which are the records of men from which we must discern whether their actions and words were right or wrong ?
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) – no mention of the history books such as Ezra/Nehemiah. Jesus endorsed what was written about Him in 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
Yet it doesn’t mean that Jesus endorsed every word of the Law of Moses – indeed his interpretation of it often contradicted the Jews interpretation of it.
Paul said the Law and Prophets testified to 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.
As well as the words of Job’s friends being condemned because they spoke in error, the words of Ezra (the scribe and self-proclaimed ‘teacher of the Law’ Ezra 7:10) are not endorsed in the New Testament. His lists of genealogies only included men who were descended from Abraham, 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.
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 judgement as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.” 1 Cor 7:25
Apart from the sure words of the prophets – The Bible is inspired in that we can compare the words of God (via His legitimate prophets) 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.
“So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah” Ezra 6:14
|“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 flintand would not listen.” Zech 7:1, 9-12
(Zechariah continued to condemn the Jews for their anti-gentile policies and lack of compassion and was murdered by “teachers of the Law” after the temple was completed – between the temple and altar See Matt 23:25)
So we can see that although Ezra praises the building of the temple and claimed the Jews prospered under the preaching of Zechariah, God, via Zechariah, condemns 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. Jesus linked the ‘teachers of the Law’ in His day, to the ‘teachers of the Law’ who murdered Zechariah:
“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.
So we can paint a picture – from the 4th year of Darius, Zechariah was telling the Jews to change their ways – they murdered him after the temple was completed ‘between the temple and altar’. It was from Ezra’s perspective that the Jews prospered, not from God’s perspective who said they “shut the door of heaven in people’s faces” Matt 23:13. So Ezra said the elders of the Jews “prospered under the preaching of Zechariah” but Zechariah said they “Made their hearts like flint and would not listen“ and Jesus said they murdered Zechariah.
So, when looking at the history books of the Bible (Ezra, Nehemiah, Kings and Chronicles) they should be compared to 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) Chief men Close friends Priests 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.”|
One perspective is revealed through the prophet Hosea. The other is via the Jewish historians. God left us both records to compare.
Job’s friends claimed “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.
The Old Testament writers gave us great detail about the life of David, good and bad. We have to discern what parts of his life lined up with God’s will, and which parts were his own will. He was told that he shed too much blood to build a temple, yet had the wisdom to discern ‘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. Jesus also endorsed David for breaking the Law
“he(David) entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” Matt 17:4
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 (contemporary to Ezra/Nehemiah) 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 God, 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
WOMEN LEFT OUT
In both the Old and New Testament the witness and perspective of women is often left out. Many stories are told from the male perspective. Yet the message is also there (for those who look) that in God’s eyes being male or female make no difference – we are born again. There are no separate roles for those in Christ, but all are to become like Jesus. This is covered in greater detail in “The Missing Women at the Last Supper” which also further explains the picture below –
A belief that every word in the Bible is ‘of God’, without error or contradiction, gives a false sense that every passage can be taken at face value as being ‘of God’. Yet there are clear contradictions that have been glossed over. Rather than trying to make them say the same thing, surely it is more important to search out why they are different.
An example of a contradiction is the resurrection account in Matthew compared to that in John.
The author of the 4th Gospel is the only Gospel writer to claim that they were an eye witness. One can imagine their frustration at reading other accounts that didn’t quite get the information right and desiring to leave a record that was accurate from their first hand perspective and from being in the presence of Jesus Himself. No doubt all the gospel writers had good intentions, but the writer of the 4th Gospel was the closest witness to the events. They were present at the foot of the cross. They knew the very thoughts of Mary Magdalene – See ‘Under the Banner of Love’
We can easily fall into the same trap as the Jews – taking passages as being ‘of God’ instead of searching out God’s real message through the lens of Jesus.