Monday, December 28, 2009

A Rational Look at the Bible - Part 1

The Uniqueness of the Bible – Part 1

Often when I am talking to people about God or the reasons that I am a Christian, they ask me questions about the Bible. Most of the time they say, “You don’t really believe the Bible do you,” or, “Why do you even read the Bible? It’s old and irrelevant.” These questions are usually based on false assumptions or ignorance.

There is no greater book in the entire world than the Bible. The Bible has sold more copies than any other book in history. The Bible has been translated into more languages than any other book in history. The Bible is unique in its survival, teachings and especially its influence on civilization. There is no other book ever written that can even come close to influencing the world as much as the Bible. Now, in this article I am not claiming that the Bible is inspired or inerrant, these issues will be dealt with in later articles, but what I am claiming is that mankind hasn’t had any book with such uniqueness and influence than the Bible.

Let us first think upon the uniqueness of the Bibles continuity. The Bible itself is the only book that was ever written over a fifteen hundred year span of time. No other book even comes close to this time span. The Bible was also written by more than 40 authors. These authors came from very different walks of life. The Bible was written by kings, military leaders, peasants, philosophers, fisherman, tax collectors, poets, musicians, statesmen, scholars, and shepherds.

For example, Moses was a political leader and a judge. He was also trained in the universities of Egypt. David was one of the greatest kings of Israel. He was also a poet and musician. Before he was king he was a shepherd. And even while he was king he was a distinguished warrior. Amos was a herdsman. Joshua was a military general. Nehemiah was the cupbearer for a pagan king. While Daniel was in exile he was a prime minister and advisor in Babylon. Solomon was a king and a first-rate philosopher, one of the greatest philosophers of all time. Luke was a physician and distinguished historian. Peter was a lowly fisherman. Matthew was a tax collector. Paul was a Pharisaic rabbi, and Mark was Peter’s secretary.

The Bible was also written in many different places. Moses wrote while he and the Israelites were in the wilderness. Jeremiah wrote his book in a dungeon. Daniel wrote on a hillside and in a palace. Paul wrote while in prison. Luke wrote while traveling around the ancient world and John wrote while in exile on the isle of Patmos.

The Bible is unique in the different times it was written. King David wrote the Psalms in times of war and sacrifice. Solomon wrote in times of peace and prosperity. Daniel wrote while in exile in Babylon. It was also written in different moods. Some writings were written from the heights of joy. Others from the depths of sorrow and despair. Some during times of certainty and conviction, and others during times of confusion and doubt.

The Bible was also written in three continents and in three different languages. The Bible was written in Asia, Africa, and Europe. The Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Hebrew was the language of the Israelites and practically the entire Old Testament. In 2 Kings 18:26-28 and Nehemiah 13:24, it is called “the language of Judah,” and in Isaiah 19:18 it is called, “the language of Canaan.” David Dockery wrote about the Hebrew language and said, “Hebrew is a pictorial language in which the past is not merely described but verbally painted. Not just a landscape is presented but a moving panorama. The course of events in reenacted in the mind’s sight.” He expressed emphasis on the phrases used throughout the Old Testament like “he arose and went,” “he opened his lips and spoke,” “he lifted up his eyes and saw,” and “he lifted up his voice and wept.” These expressions illustrate the pictorial strength of the Hebrew language.

The Bible was also written in a wide variety of literary styles. In the pages throughout you will find poetry, historical narrative, song, and romance. You will also find didactic treatise, personal correspondence, memoirs, and satires. There are also biographical and autobiographical writings. There are books on law and prophecy and books that have parables and allegories. There is no other book which features such a wide variety of literary styles.

The Bible also addresses hundreds of controversial subjects, subjects that create opposing opinions when mentioned or discussed. The writers of the Bible considered many important and controversial subjects ranging from marriage to revelation of God. You find writings on divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, adultery, obedience to authority, lying and telling the truth, character development, moral responsibility, parenting, and the nature of God. Yet through all the different topics and with all the different writers there is an amazing degree of harmony from Genesis to Revelation.

I would say that in spite of diversity, the Bible presents a single unfolding story when centers of God’s redemption of human beings. Paradise Lost in Genesis becomes Paradise Regained in Revelation. The relationship to God is shattered in Genesis and restored in Revelation. The unifying thread is salvation from sin and condemnation to a life of complete transformation and acceptance.

Most importantly, the Bible is focused on one Person. The leading character of the entire Bible is the one true God, revealed to us through Jesus Christ. The Law of the Old Testament provides the foundation for Christ. The historical books show the preparation of Christ. The poetical works aspire to Christ and the prophecies display the expectation of Christ. The New Testament records the historical manifestation of Christ, the propagation of Christ and the interpretation of Christ. The consummation of Christ is also found in the last book of the Bible, Revelation. It is clear that from Genesis to Revelation, the whole of the Bible is what is called “Christocentric.”

In relation to my last point, F.F. Bruce wrote, “Any part of the human body can only be properly explained in reference to the whole body. And any part of the Bible can only be properly explained in reference to the whole Bible.” It is like each book is a different chapter leading to a final, corroborative ending.

When you compare to Bible with the compilation of Western classics called the Great Books of the Western World you can see just how unique it is. The Great Books contain selections from 450 different works by close to 100 authors spanning 2,500 years. The writers include Homer, Plato, Aquinas, Dante, Spinoza, Calvin, Shakespeare, Human, Kant, Darwin, Tolstoy, and Joyce, just to name a few. While these authors are all part of the Western tradition of ideas, they display numerous conflicting and contradictory positions and perspectives on almost every topic. The Bible is completely unique in its unity in regards to the vast amount of topics it speaks of.

Again, the uniqueness of the Bible does not prove that it is inspired or inerrant. But it does challenge any person seeking the truth sincerely to consider its unique quality in terms of its continuity. The Bible has no equal in this respect and deserves to be highly regarded on the bases of this fact.

-Joel Varner

1 comment:

Arnie Gentile said...

Great post, Joel! Well researched and well written. Enjoyable yet thought-provoking. Do not weary in well-doing, and continue to fight the good fight of the faith! May you and your family be richly blessed in the new year.

Arnie Gentile