Thursday, June 14, 2012
Is the Bible the Inspired Word of God? - II
The Unique Content of the Bible
But then what about the content of the Bible's message? Does it look as though it might have been divinely inspired? When seen in the context of ancient history one of the most striking features of the Bible is its monotheism. Israel alone among the peoples of the ancient world held to the idea that there is only one God and that He is the sole Creator of the universe. Granted, there was one Egyptian pharaoh, Akh-en-Aton, who took a step in the direction of monotheism in the 14th Century B.C., but he may very well have been influenced by Moses and the events of the Exodus (the Amarna Letters, written at about the same time, describe the invasion of Palestine by the "Habiru," who may very well have been the Hebrews of the Old Testament). In any event, the reforms of Akh-en-Aton did not last long, and Egypt quickly reverted back to its older polytheism. To us the idea of monotheism seems fairly obvious, but in the ancient world only the Israelites held to the idea. Why?
Another aspect of Israel's religion that made it stand out from the rest was its lofty ethical standards. The pagan gods worshipped by the surrounding nations were hardly better than their morally debilitated devotees, and pagan worship often involved licentious practices such as temple prostitution. But the Bible holds the human race accountable to a strict standard of morality, sternly condemning every form of dishonesty and exploitation, calling men and women to the strictest standards of fidelity in their relationships to each other.
By the same token the Bible paints a dismal picture of the human condition. Originally created in God's image, we have fallen far short of His standards. The Bible records a long and depressing history of human failure and perfidy. Even the heroes of the Bible – Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and Solomon – are deeply flawed characters who disappoint in the end.
The question is, how could Israel have arrived at such an unusual religion, and how could such an unusual book have been written? How could a book with a purely human authorship paint such an unflattering portrait of the human race? What possible motive could its authors have possibly had? Again, the answer that the authors themselves gave is that they were telling the story from God's perspective, and they told it from His perspective precisely because they had gotten the message from God Himself.
Then there is the phenomenon of fulfilled prophecy. This, of course, is controversial. Liberal critics will routinely date individual books of the Bible after the events they predict. But one class of prophecies is not so easy to dismiss, and these are the prophecies in the Old Testament about Christ Himself. New Testament writers could quote numerous passages from the Old that told of a Messiah that would come from the line of David who would be born of a virgin in Bethlehem, minister in northern Palestine, and suffer and die for the sins of the people. All that the modern skeptic has to do is to listen to a performance of Handel's Messiah and hear all these texts set to music!
The Bible, then, contains an extraordinary message that is not the typical product of the human imagination. In short, the Bible bears the unmistakable imprint of the Divine.