Since I started this blog a few weeks ago, I’ve had some really good questions pop up in the comments to my various articles and in private e-mails to me. These questions are legitimate and deserve a biblical, logical answer. Therefore, I’m starting a “Questions” category in my blog, and from time to time I’ll be posting articles which answer the questions people bring to my attention.
A great question was asked in response to the fourth article in my series on Accurate Hermeneutics. Here it is:
The people you read about in the Bible… are mostly people who came to know God without reading the Bible — certainly without reading their own stories or anything found in it later. In other words, that was possible then and remains possible.
But if someone read the Bible without knowing God, how would they recognize any truth in it? At best they would be like Job before his epiphany, knowing God only by hearsay, “by the hearing of the ear.” Although Job was living an exemplary life, doing much good and no wrong, this was not a condition in which he could remain happy; it was worth great suffering to get beyond it.
While you were diligently reading, couldn’t God [in a sense] come up behind and say, “Excuse Me?” Would you then tell him, “Go away, this is the only source of information I can trust”?
In response to the first paragraph of the question, the Bible reveals many people who came to know God without reading Scripture. In fact, we have no inspired record of any written communication from God to man until he gave the Ten Commandments to Israel at Mount Sinai and then inspired Moses to write for Israel the Pentateuch, which consists of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (Ex. 20:1-17; 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; Num. 33:1-2; Deut. 31:9-11). However, that is not to say that God did not communicate to man in any way before Moses. Before the nation of Israel received God’s written law at Sinai, Genesis records God speaking directly to various patriarchs, people and kings (Gen. 1:28-30; 4:9-15; 6:13-22; 12:1-3; 20:3-7; 21:17-18; 25:22-23; 26:1-5; 28:10-15), and also indirectly through miraculous prophetic interpretation (Gen. 40:1-23; 41:1-39). We also read in Genesis of God-fearing people from families, countries, and backgrounds different from those to whom we read that God directly spoke, which implies that God also directly communicated with these people even though we have no specific record of him doing so (Gen. 14:18-20; cf. Josh. 2:9-13). This divine, miraculous communication outside of inspired Scripture would continue at certain times with certain people both during and even after inspired men started writing the Old Testament (Num. 22-24; Josh. 1:1-9; Judg. 6:11-27; etc.).
It would also continue during the time when the New Testament was being written. Men who already had inspired Scripture from God in the form of the completed Old Testament still directly received communication from Deity during the days of Jesus, sometimes without knowing so (Matt. 1:20-25; 2:12-15, 19-20; 3:16-17; Luke 1:67-79; 2:8-14, 25-38; 9:34-36; John 11:49-52; 12:28-30). Jesus would tell his apostles that the Holy Spirit would directly communicate with them after he had gone (John 14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15). This the Spirit did, starting on the day of Pentecost and continuing on from then (Acts 2:1-4; cf. 4:31; 5:1-10). Later, the apostles would through the laying on of their hands give other Christians like Stephen and Philip the ability to miraculously receive communication from the Holy Spirit and thus miraculously prophesy (Acts 6:5-6, 8-10; 7:55; 8:18, 26-29). Around this same time, some of these apostles and prophets were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the Scriptures which would become the New Testament (1 Cor. 2:10-13; Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
However, does God communicate to us directly today? The person who wrote this question believes so (considering that he said, “…that was possible then and remains possible.”), but is that what the Bible teaches? Scripture teaches that while God spoke to the Hebrew patriarchs in various ways at various times, he now speaks to us through his Son (Heb. 1:1-2; cf. John 15:15). God’s Son, interestingly, is referred to “the Word” (John 1:1, 14). Jesus told the future writers of the New Testament that they would be inspired by the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15), who would only communicate to them what Jesus and the Father told the Spirit to communicate (John 16:12-15). These men would then write the New Testament Scriptures under inspiration of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10-13; Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Scriptures they would write under inspiration therefore came from God’s Son (1 Cor. 14:37). Thus, whenever we read our Bibles, we are reading a message from the Son of God, who is the only way God communicates to us today (Heb. 1:1-2). Any other method of communication is cursed and forbidden (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Gal. 1:6-9; 1 Cor. 4:6; Rev. 22:18-19), and since it is not Scripture would not equip us to do any truly good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The miraculous spiritual gifts imparted by the apostles through the laying on of their hands (Acts 6:5-6, 8; 8:5-18) – some of which are direct communication from Deity (1 Cor. 12:1, 4-11) – ceased “when that which is perfect has come”(1 Cor. 13:8-10), “that which is perfect”referring in the literal Greek to that which is “complete” or “mature.” This same word is used to describe the complete Word of God, “the perfect law of liberty”(James 1:25; Rom. 12:2). In other words, God’s Word says that miracles involving men (including receiving miraculous, direct communication from Deity) would cease when the New Testament was completed.
Therefore, we know that God would not, as the commentator hypothesized, come up to us and whisper in our ear while we were reading our Bibles, because God has already told us how he communicates to us today. He has already directed us to go to his Word for guidance in doctrine, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness, and has condemned everything else. He said that miraculous, direct communication from him would cease when his Word became complete. He does not lie (Tit. 1:2), so we can be confident that all we need to do is to go to his Word and “rightly handle” it in order to be on the right path (2 Tim. 2:15).
However, can we know that the Bible truly comes from God? As the commenter asked, “But if someone read the Bible without knowing God, how would they recognize any truth in it?” That’s a great question, and the answer is a resounding “YES!!!”
Consider this. What no one can successfully dispute due to overwhelming secular evidence is that the Bible contains sixty-six books which were written by approximately forty different authors over a period of 1,600 years. The books were written on three different continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe. They were written in three languages: Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. The authors of these books came from very different backgrounds. Moses was a prince trained in the universities of Egypt who later became a shepherd. Peter and John were fishermen. Joshua was a military general. Nehemiah was a butler. Amos was a herdsman. Luke was a doctor. Daniel was a slave who became one of the prime ministers of two different empires. Matthew was a tax collector. Paul was a tent maker and a rabbi. David and Solomon were kings. These men wrote their books in very different environments. For example, David wrote his books during times of war and hardship, while his son Solomon wrote his books in times of relative peace. What the authors wrote about in many cases were subjects that were extremely controversial, topics such as the nature of sin, man’s redemption from sin, the nature of God, and the origin of man and the universe.
In spite of all that, there is harmony and continuity in the Bible. This is very important to point out, because no other similar collection of writings would be able to claim the same thing! For example, what if one took just ten authors from only one walk of life, from only one generation, from only one place, from only one time, from only one continent, speaking only one language, and all ten were in only one frame of mind…and asked them to write on just one controversial subject? Would what they wrote be united in harmony? Or would the result be a conglomeration of ideas? I think all of us would agree that the end result would be a hodgepodge of different takes and opinions on the controversial subject! However, what we see in the Bible is unity and harmony from many authors, from many walks of life, from different times, writing on many controversial subjects. Why is this so? It is because they all were moved by the same Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21). To anyone with an open mind, this is evidence that the Bible is inspired by God.
What might surprise some is that there is also overwhelming scientific evidence which, when combined with plain common sense, supports the Bible’s claim of being inspired by God. For example, the book of Isaiah, written around 701 B.C., says that the earth is round (Is. 40:22). The book of Job, likely written around 950 B.C., says that there is an empty space north of the earth (Job 26:7), the earth is suspended over nothing (Job 26:7), air has weight (Job 28:25), and there are springs in the sea (Job 38:16). The Psalms, likely written around 990 B.C., say that the oceans have currents (Ps. 8:8). The book of Ecclesiastes, likely written around 950 B.C., says that the winds move in a circular motion (Eccl. 1:6), and all rivers flow into the sea without causing it to overflow (Eccl. 1:7).
Historically, man did not become 100% sure about the roundness of the earth, the fact that it is suspended over nothing, and that there is an empty space north of it until the latter half of the twentieth century. We did not discover that air has weight until the barometer was invented in the 1600’s. Sea currents were not charted until the 1800’s. Wind currents were not charted until the twentieth century. It took almost 1,500 years for Western Civilization to explore enough of the planet to state with certainty that all rivers empty into the sea, and it wasn’t until the late 1800’s that we discovered that there were springs of fresh water in the oceans. Around that same time, we figured out the water cycle and thus discovered why the oceans do not overflow.
How could men living in ancient times write about these scientific facts thousands of years before science discovered them? What technology did Isaiah, Job, David, and Solomon have to make such claims? Without factoring God into the equation, there is no logical explanation. However, if one takes into consideration that these men were inspired to write these facts by a Being who created both them and the entire universe, then not only does the Bible’s claim of Divine inspiration become valid, but the existence of God is also extremely logical!
Time does not permit me to write in detail right now about all the prophecies written in Scripture which are historically fulfilled, nor does it permit me to write about archeological discoveries continually being made which support events recorded in the Bible, such as a recent discovery of John the Baptist’s cave. Nevertheless, I encourage the reader to take evidence such as what is presented in this article and use it to plant the seed of truth in honest, open minds! God does exist, and the Bible was definitely inspired by him! Since it is, let us “in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21), and encourage others to do the same!