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The Bigger Picture

Is the Bible a collection of ‘once upon a time’ stories? Just another ancient (and extremely well preserved) text containing stories that may or may not have happened at one time or is this the Word of God, communicated by human authors, using their own writing skills, styles, artistry and experiences?

 

We can verify specific events and stories told in the Bible using other ancient documents and archeology but, the basic claim of the Bible as God’s Word must be taken in faith. After all most of the things the Bible deals with – like heaven, a resurrection after we die - are all things that cannot be put in a test-tube or seen with a telescope.

 

The Bible itself claims to be inspired by God (1 Tim. 3:16, 17), and this divine inspiration is guarantee the guarantee that the Bible is more than a collection of stories – these were real things that happened to real people interacting with the Living God.

 

Of course the Bible is not history as we would normally think of history. Biblical stories (and history) always reek of (or at least hint to) the divine presence on this planet. Since the worldview of the people living in the times when the Bible was written had more space for God and were less compartmentalized than our worldview, their stories were full of God. God spoke to individuals or congregations (Gen 16:13; Jer. 35:17); God fought for His people (Josh. 10:42); God instructed on issues ranging from lifestyle (Lev. 19:19), construction (Exod. 25:8), clothing (Lev. 19:19) to the choice of marriage partners (Deut. 7:3; 22:11). He really wanted to be part of the life of His people.

 

This does not mean that biblical history and biblical stories are always complete and give us the historic picture. They are selective and focus often on individuals (instead of nations) and sometimes they have gaps covering centuries (e.g., the gap of roughly 300-plus years between the death of Jacob in Gen. 50 and the birth of Moses in Exod. 2). All this is due to the fact that they have a specific purpose that goes beyond the writing of a complete history of who did what and when. The Bible stories want to tell the story of God’s immense grace, love and justice, in dealing with humanity.

 

In an age of political correctness, biblical history (and stories) is unabashedly interpretive. Events are often described from God’s perspective. Noah finds favor in the eyes of God at a time when the earth is ripe for judgment (Gen. 6:8). The Lord looks down from heaven and sees the selfish intentions of the builders of the tower of Babel (Gen. 11:3-8). God evaluates the behavior of the people during the golden calf episode as he speaks to Moses (Exod. 32:7-14). As we hear the bible story, we the readers, we are drawn into the story and are given the unique opportunity of looking at events and the processes leading to these events through the eyes of the divine “author” of the text.

 

The authority of the Bible as God’s Word gives Bible stories an edge over most other stories. What points of view make them so valuable?

 

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