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When Herman Melville wrote his novel Redburn, he told the story of a young man who went to sea for the first time. When he left for England, Redburn’s father gave him a very old map of the city of Liverpool. After the arduous voyage, Redburn entered Liverpool confident that his father’s map would guide him through the city. But the map failed him. Too many changes had taken place since the map was made. Old landmarks had disappeared, streets names had been changed and people’s residences were gone.
Some see in the story of Redburn Melville’s private protest at the inadequacy of the ancient Scriptures to guide him through life. That same sense of protest that grows out of frustration is being made by many people today.
1. God has revealed Himself in many ways in the range of Scripture writings.
a. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)
b. God, through the writer to the Hebrews, is telling us that God’s revelation includes a variety of human authors and reflects many times and even different “ways.”
2. The record of God’s work with His human creatures.
a. Reflects the human and historical side of the Scriptures.
b. The Scriptures reflect a historical movement and God’s superintendence of that movement of history.
3. Some unorthodox approaches (read unbelief)
a. Neo-orthodoxy sees the Word of God as Jesus – the incarnate Word. The written word as a matrix through which Jesus may appear.
b. The words of the Bible reflect the testimony of the Church to Jesus and will invariably incorporate elements of human weakness and fallibility in reporting of Jesus.
c. The study of the Bible involves getting “behind” the words of the Bible to find the kernels of truth behind the myths (e.g. Rudolf Bultmann).
4. The Bible is a divine book.
a. It is inspired by God.
i. 2 Timothy 3 – theopneustos – “God – breathed”.
ii. It’s origin is from God.
5. God made use of human beings to write down His Word.
a. 2 Peter 1:21 – “…men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
b. The prophets, beginning with Moses were “carried along” by the Spirit.
c. “The Word of the Lord came to…”
d. Prophetic ministry was varied – visions, theophany, dictation.
6. Can the infinite God communicate with finite and even fallen creatures?
a. Spurgeon, “If there is a God anything like the God portrayed in the Bible, He is well able to communicate with me.”
b. “If anyone is able to speak in an absolutely unambiguous fashion and to make himself understood with irresistible efficacy, such a one is God…” (Luis Alonso Schoekel
c. “He who planted the ear, does he not hear? He who formed the eye, does he not see?” (Psalm 94:9, ESV)
d. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:1-2, ESV)
e. Any fault in communication between God and man rests upon finite and sinful humans.
i. God is true, though every man be a liar (Romans 3:4)
7. The Bible is a human book.
a. All Scripture has human authors – those to whom God delivered His Word that they might commit it to writing.
b. “Though inspired of God, it was written in human language and within human cultures. By the very nature of language the Bible’s univocal truths are couched in analogical languages and cultures of the ancient Hebrews and Greeks, and we must understand those cultures in order to interpret the biblical texts properly.” (Grant Osborne)
c. “Human language, by its very nature, is largely equivocal, that is, capable of being understood in more than one way.” (Biblical Hermeneutics, Kaiser and Silva)
d. “Words are signs, not to be understood as things in themselves, but as signs pointing to the things to which they refer.” (Augustine)
e. So, the ancient words are words and signs which can be used and abused and are subject to changes in use and meaning.
8. The Problem of Distance
a. Distance in time – time between events recorded
i. Period of time between events and events recorded in Gospels
b. Distance in culture – customs and practices that are foreign to us
i. Customs and practices well known to original readers are often lost to us.
ii. These were real people in real time: how did they understand their world and express themselves?
c. Distance in Geography (Palestine and the other cities/nations are foreign to us)
d. Distance in Language
9. Unity and Diversity in the Scriptures.
a. The unity of Scripture derives from the role of its divine author.
i. Ultimately, God, by the Holy Spirit is the author of the Bible.
ii. It unfolds a single unified saving plan through a sequence of historical periods which each have particular emphases and are played out against varied historical periods and backgrounds.
b. The diversity of Scripture comes from both God’s varied revelation and from the human elements brought by the human authors of Scripture.
i. “The concept of diversity is the backbone of biblical theology, which is the necessary link between exegesis and systematic theology (centering on the unity).” (Osborne)
ii. “Each writer expressed himself in different ways, with different emphases and quite different figures of speech.” (Osborne)