This article is in response to the modern-day scholars who teach that the Bible does not contain the word of God, does not tell the future in advance, and is only the moral message of men – often copied from the nations around Israel. It can be demonstrated that the Bible does contain the word of God (though not solely) and it accurately predicts the future.
Scholars have also drawn attention to some truths that many Christians have failed to understand – Scholars, such as Christine Hayes (Professor Religious Studies/Classical Judaica, Yale University) in her comments below –
The Bible clearly had many contributors over many centuries, and the individual styles and concerns of those writers, their political and religious motivations, betray themselves frequently. I leave aside here the question of divine inspiration, which is an article of faith in many biblical religions… But there is no basic incompatibility between believing on faith in the divine inspiration of the Bible and acknowledging the role that human beings have played in the actual formulation and editing and transmission and preservation of that same Bible. (Christine Hayes, Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible): Lecture 1 – The Parts of the Whole)
There is no denying that parts of the Old Testament were edited over time – especially place names, and portions demonstrate the thinking of the Jews rather than the prophets who were in conflict with them. However, the human element doesn’t take away from the ‘God’ element. It’s a case of discerning how we are to interpret it. The Bible itself doesn’t claim that every word is ‘of God’ in the sense of being His instructions to us. We are told plainly in the book of Job that Job’s friends spoke wrongly –
“After the LORD had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” Job 42:7
So approximately half the book of Job is not the words ‘of God’, yet the misguided advice of Job’s friends is still there for our learning.
2 Tim 3:16 has been poorly translated into English as –
“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 (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 the translators. A more accurate rendering of this passage 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, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”
This is a critical difference. It’s not saying all scripture is inspired by God for righteousness – it’s saying that all the scripture which is inspired by God is profitable.
Several versions of the Bible 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 also understood Paul’s message in the same 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 another example of a quote used to justify the holiness of every word in the Bible. 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 today. 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. For further thoughts see How is the Bible Inspired
WRITINGS IN CONFLICT
By the end of the Old Testament the Ezras and Nehemiahs were in conflict with God’s prophets. Both records are in plain sight and contradict each other – the scholars are right about contradictory passages. Whilst Ezra said that Israel prospered under Zechariah and Haggai, the words of the prophets condemn the actions of the Jews and the point is made that the Jews didn’t listen to them –
Rebuke of Zechariah
4th Year of Darius – Zech. 7:9-12 ‘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 to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by His Spirit through the earlier prophets.
Contrasting Comments of Ezra – The temple was completed without the help offered by foreigners. Ezra didn’t record the rebukes from Zechariah, just the prosperity of the Jews-
6th Year of Darius –
So the Jewish elders built and prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of (Berekiah) son of Iddo. Ezra 6:14
When the records are placed side by side there are contradictions and questions. Why do they paint a different picture? What became of the prophet Zechariah Son of Berekiah, grandson of Iddo ?
Jesus tells us –
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!… 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 23:35
UNSOLVED MYSTERY – WHICH TEACHERS OF THE LAW MURDERED ZECHARIAH approx 460-480 BC?
What did Zechariah say to anger the Jews so much they would kill him?
Perhaps it was his last prophesy- Zech 14:21
“On that day holy to the Lord will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the Lord’s house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the Lord Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them.”
“Holy to the Lord” was previously reserved for the gold band worn on the high priests turban (Ex.28:36-38) but Zechariah was saying that every pot in Jerusalem and Judah would be “holy to the Lord” and FOREIGNERS would come and do their own sacrifices and cook in the pots themselves – holiness would no longer be just for the priests.
Very often we need to read the New Testament commentary on the Old Testament to see the full picture.
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah were from the patriarchal, anti-gentile, Jewish perspective that brought the wrath of God and the prophets.
Nehemiah records that the prophets were against him, and also Sanballat was against him. Sanballat went on to build a temple to God at Samaria because Nehemiah tossed out his son-in-law who was a priest (Neh. 13:28) –
O my God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat for what they have done, and also Noadiah the prophetess and the other prophets who tried to intimidate me. Neh. 6:14
It seems likely that the book of Ruth was written at this time – while Ezra and Nehemiah were excluding gentiles – to remind the Jews that God welcomed foreigners and it was His plan for all ‘gentiles’ to become ‘Jews’.
When Stephen addressed the Sanhedrin he also condemned the Jewish fathers –
You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit, just as your fathers did. Which of the prophets did your fathers fail to persecute? They even killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One. And now you are His betrayers and murderers. Acts 7:52-53
For a fuller explanation of these events see Last Events of Old Testament – Right or Wrong
The Jewish fathers (by the end of the Old Testament) and the prophets were teaching contradictory messages for us to compare and learn from. This is not a case of the Bible giving contradictory messages from God, but messages for us to interpret.
It has been claimed that repetition and contradictions point to multiple authors and revisions over time (Christine Hayes “Introduction to the Old Testament”, Lecture 4) and that the Old Testament does not have a uniform message (Christine Hayes – 5 misconceptions about the Bible).
This section is to show that the contradictions are there deliberately – they are not hidden – they are in plain sight. They are there to make us compare and ‘THINK’. Jesus showed us how.
Perhaps the most glaring contradiction is the one between the Old and New Testament. Some have said that the God of the Old Testament is different to the God of the New Testament – this has been a hot topic since the first century.
The Old Testament and Law of Moses need to be interpreted, not through the patriarchal and pro-Israeli lens of the Jews, but through the prophets, Jesus and writers of the New Testament. For a fuller explanation see ‘The Beatitudes in the Law of Moses’.
There is a very deliberate design to the structure of the Bible that spans 1500 years by multiple authors. When we look beyond the Jewish histories of the Old Testament to the inspired words of prophecy (sometimes even contained in the histories), we see that the same symbols established in the first book Genesis are still used in the last book Revelation.
In Genesis God creates heavens, earth and sea and everything in them in six days. In Revelation He judges and uncreates them with six seals, trumpets and bowls of wrath. The old heavens, earth and sea pass away – the conclusion of the same theme by a different author after 1500 years. It dove tails in too well to be chance –
|GENESIS – Creation: In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them. Ex. 20:11||REVELATION –New Creation: And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. Rev. 21:1|
2 CREATION STORIES
The claim has been made that there are two contradictory stories of the creation of man and woman –
|So God created man in His own image: in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Gen. 1:27
| The LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and while he slept, He took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the area with flesh. And from the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man, He made a woman and brought her to him. And the man said: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’for out of man she was taken.” Gen. 2:21-23
In Chapter one God creates man and woman in His own image.
In chapter 2 He creates Adam first, then after some time He creates Eve out of Adam. Adam is from the dust, Eve is taken from the side of Adam.
Certainly, we have two different perspectives of the creation story here. This is not a new observation. The rabbis have long debated why this is so, and many of their comments are found in the Babylonian Talmud, it’s not a new observation.
Rather than being contradictory or written by different authors there is a better explanation. God wanted us to understand the point of both stories.
When God made mankind in His image in Genesis chapter one, it was the creation of lots of people who lived outside Eden including in the land of Nod and included the Nephilim (giants who existed before and after the flood). When Cain had a mark and went East, there were already people there and he didn’t have to marry a sister. Eden is set as a parable within the creation of Genesis 1.
Applying the symbols helps to understand the rest of the Bible. The serpent of Eden is the tempter – one of the ‘Beasts’ – more subtle than any other ‘Beast’. The Beasts Kingdoms are the Kingdoms of men without God’s morality. Genesis sets the symbols that appear throughout the rest of the Bible. Eden was where God met with man on earth, it was a sanctuary, a type of the tabernacle. The rivers flowing out of Eden were to water the rest of the earth just as rivers were supposed to flow from Ezekiel’s temple to give life. Revelation uses the same symbols – the tree of life turns up again and also a river of living water. Jesus showed that living water can be in each of us now. For a fuller explanation see ‘Symbols Established in Genesis’.
God’s justice has been called into question by destroying all people on earth by a worldwide flood.
But did the flood cover the entire planet? When the Bible talks of ‘the whole earth’ it usually refers to the focal point – often the Promised Land. In the same way ‘all nations’ often refers to the nations around Israel not every nation on the planet. Noah’s flood can’t have been global because the Nephilim (giants) existed before and after the flood – they were outside the floodwaters. It’s absurd to believe that koalas found their way from Turkey to Australia some 4,500 years ago. However, it’s not absurd to believe that God did what he said and destroyed all the wicked people Noah had preached to for 120 years who turned their back on God and mocked Noah’s teaching.
The purpose of the flood wasn’t just to destroy the wicked, it was also to rescue righteous Noah from the world of the wicked he lived in –
2 Peter 2:5,9 If he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven other persons, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly… then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial.
For a fuller explanation see ‘Lot and his girls’
DATING OF DANIEL
The claim has been made by scholars that the Bible does not contain the inspired word of God and doesn’t predict the future. When prophecies like Daniel are very specific the assumption is made that they were written after the events they were talking about – for example
The visions of chapters 7–12 (Daniel) reflect the crisis which took place in Judea in 167–164 BC when Antiochus IV Epiphanes the Greek king of the Seleucid Empire, threatened to destroy traditional Jewish worship in Jerusalem (Harrington, Daniel J. (1999). Invitation to the Apocrypha.)…
But whereas the events leading up to the sacking of the Temple in 167 BC and the immediate aftermath are remarkably accurate, the predicted war between the Syrians and the Egyptians (11:40–43) never took place, and the prophecy that Antiochus would die in Palestine (11:44–45) was inaccurate (he died in Persia). The obvious conclusion is that the account must have been completed near the end of the reign of Antiochus but before his death in December 164 BC, or at least before news of it reached Jerusalem, and the consensus of modern scholarship is accordingly that the book dates to the period 167-163 BCE. (Wiki – Book of Daniel, Historical background).
A counter argument for this thinking is given by John Oakes – ‘Evidence for Christianity’
We have both Daniel manuscripts and quotes of Qumran authors from Daniel, labeling it as scripture, from the second half of the second century BCE in the Dead
Sea Scrolls. There are a total of eight known manuscript fragments from
Daniel so far in the Dead Sea Scrolls, including fragments from every
chapter except Daniel 12. Besides, a passage from Daniel 12 is quoted by
an author in one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. From this information we can
say that the book of Daniel was definitely accepted as inspired and
canonical by about 150 BCE or so, making the claim that it was written by
a fake Daniel around 160 BCE seem impossible to support by credible
argument. The likelihood that a pseudepigraphical (ie an autobiography by
a fake author) Daniel would have been circulated and accepted by the Jews
as a whole as scripture within ten or so years is essentially zero. In
fact, the Dead Sea MSS evidence argues for a date of writing at least
before 250 BCE, and most likely one hundred years before that date.
The reasoning of many ‘scholars’ is based on the assumption that there is not an all knowing God therefore the prophecies of Daniel had to be written after the events he accurately wrote about. They have failed to understand the prophecy of Daniel 11. Whilst it did remarkably and accurately predict Antiochus Epiphanes it didn’t end with his death but with the death of Herod the Great. This event is well past any late writing for the book of Daniel and was history given in advance. For a fuller explanation of Daniel 11 and how it describes Herod the Great see ‘Daniel 11 Explained’.
FAILED PROPHECIES OR FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND THEM ?
The 70 years for the desolation of Jerusalem is another prophecy used by scholars to show that predicted prophecies failed. It’s another prophecy they don’t interpret correctly. The 70 years were for Babylon as well as Jerusalem. ‘Babylon’ also become a symbol of foreign nations. To be ruled by Babylon means be caught up in the ‘Kingdoms of Men’. A symbol that carries through to Revelation.
Adding up the years of Israel under foreign rule (while in their land) gives us the answer to the riddle of 666. It begins with the ’70 years for Babylon’ in 609 BCE when Babylon defeated the Assyrians at the battle of Harran and ruled over the remnants of Israel. At the same time – 609 BCE – Egypt controlled Judah. 609 BCE was a pivotal year – Josiah, the last good king of Judah died in the valley of Megiddo, Judah joined Israel in coming under foreign rule (by Egypt), and Israel went from being ruled by Assyria to being ruled in captivity by Babylon.
This diagram shows the 70 years for Babylon – 609 BCE – 539 BCE which Daniel accurately predicted –
For more detail see: 666 Counting the Number of the Beast
The prophecy of Daniel 9 also predicated accurately the time that Christ began his ministry and the time He was killed. The time periods were literal until the cutting off of the ‘anointed one’ in the middle of the last ‘7’. The final 3.5 years became representative and are picked up in Revelation as 42 months, 1260 days, and times time and half a time. They are all the same time period and all point backwards to the rejected 3.5 year ministry of Jesus – a reminder to the Jews that they missed their Messiah.
27 AD The start of Jesus’ ministry was a marker on the Daniel 9 timeline – Mark 1:15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand.” What time? The time referred to by Daniel – the coming of the ‘anointed one’ –
Further explained in ‘Daniel 9 – First Coming of Jesus’
I have heard it said that God is not just – for example – why should Bathsheba have lost her baby for David’s sin. The assumption here is that Bathsheba was an innocent victim. Yet, as with many Old Testament stories – the focus is purely on the male. We only hear this story from the perspective of David. It is obvious that Bathsheba was part of the sin because she ended up having a baby. To say she had no say in this and was raped does not seem likely knowing the character of David. She could have said no – Shadrach Meshach and Abednego said ‘no’ to bowing to sin. When the messengers came for her the point is made “and she went”.
Rather than doubting God’s justice, I have doubts about human interpretations of God’s justice. God who was there, who knew the thoughts of Bathsheba and wanted to work in her life as the woman who would become the ancestor of Jesus via her son Nathan – See Bloodline of Jesus via Uriah or David
It is true that the stories of women are often excluded from the Bible – we don’t even know the name of Jephthah’s faithful daughter. The stories are often given through the examples of men. But there are also examples of the faith of women. Women can learn to have the faith of Abraham and the heart of David. Men can learn to be spirit filled like Deborah or messengers of God like Huldah or types of Jesus like Jael and Jephthah’s daughter. It doesn’t matter if the examples are male or female. In God’s eyes there are no barriers to being His ‘child’. In Revelation the ‘Bride’ (a woman) is New Jerusalem. Her foundations are the 12 disciples and the gates are named after the 12 sons of Israel.
It is through the lens of Jesus that we have a greater understanding of the Old Testament. With an allusion to the creation of story of Genesis 1, we read in John 1 –
The true Light who gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of blood, nor of the desire or will of man, but born of God. John 1:9-13
This cuts through the patriarchal, pro Jewish bias the Jews slid into. It was not a new teaching, Jesus showed how the Old Testament should have been interpreted. He said to Nicodemus “Are you a teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things?” John 3:10
Jesus expected the Old Testament to be interpreted, the prophets understood this – but the prophets and the Jewish leaders ended up with contradictory messages.