More and more people (including a recent president of the U.S.) are casting aspersions on the Bible, even blaming it for most of society’s ills. It’s one thing to recognize that people (from ecclasiastics to cult leaders) have twisted it to fit their agendas; that’s obvious. But that’s the bathwater, not the baby. Nowadays, though, many in the free world are as ready to burn the Bible as were the totalitarian leaders who feared it would let the masses see through their ruse. If it were just a collection of myths, as they say, it would be harmless enough to just ignore. But people who were once called “liberals” (because they took liberties with everything from human laws to the Bible) are now the least liberal of all, having no tolerance whatsoever for the book they think is responsible for racism, sexism, or “homophobia”.
Could those accusations stand up in court? Is there any substance to them? Or might they be “wishful thinking” on the part of those who know that if it proved true they would be responsible to obey it?
I realize there are some who reluctantly give up their faith because they feel it’s the honest thing to do, because someone has shown them “evidence” that it is not trustworthy. That is chiefly whom I am writing for, more than those who do not want to believe.
Of course we should not be so gullible as to believe anyone just because they tell you to, without something to vouch for their credibility. And admittedly, we can’t use the scientific method on every aspect of this question, because history only repeats itself in patterns, not in particulars. Nobody can repeat “the beginning” in the laboratory to see if it really occurred the way the Bible says it did. But if we find we can trust it in regard to the human history that can be verified, it would make sense to carry that trust over to the parts we can’t measure quite so precisely.
Though some parts are hard to make sense of from our viewpoint, when we know why a particular piece of literature was written, we can more easily interpret what would otherwise be ambiguous.
So why was the Bible written? The Torah directly tells us it was written to urge us to “walk in the ways which YHWH your Elohim has commanded you, so that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may extend your days on the land...” (Deuteronomy 5:33)
The New Testament adds another layer: “These are written that you may believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of the living Elohim, and that, believing, you may have life through his name.” (Yochanan 20:30-31)
What is the common theme? Life as opposed to death. The first 3 chapters of Genesis tell us why: the world has fallen from its prior, better condition where we would not even have had to die, barring a very unusual occurrence. But our ancestors ate something we were not supposed to eat, it apparently affected our DNA (with exponential effects in each generation), and now death is not just a remote possibility but universal. (DNA itself should be ample reason to believe in a Creator, but the Bible tells us about His character as well as the astounding things He can do and make.) The spiritual side is that since we disobeyed and cut ourselves off from our Source, contact with Him has been sparse. But He will not write it off as a loss. He intends to salvage whatever is still intact and eventually reconstitute that original goodness from its remaining vestiges. It is not an ideal world, but there are ways to navigate it that can still bring out its beauty and get us through to the other end of the tunnel relatively unscathed. The Bible is the story of that redemption, why it is needed, what made it possible, how it is being carried out, and most important for us, how to link up with it and ride along with its power rather than getting on the wrong side of the wave.
That is the only theme that it covers comprehensively. So while science (which really just means “knowledge of the facts”) is certainly included, it is only approached indirectly. I.e., only the facts pertinent to the stated purpose are emphasized. Other details are only there as supporting evidence.
But some scholars are suggesting that the Bible is just a patching together of numerous discourses written by people who were lobbying for different ways of fleshing out the vision.
One well-known description of this is called the “JEPD Theory”, based on the idea that there were at least four different sources which later became the Torah: the Jehovist (which preferred the use of YHWH’s name), Elohist (preferring to use the title Elohim instead), Deuteronomist (who supposedly wrote in Moses’ name to gain credibility for his own views), and a priestly source (which added in all the parts about sacrifices and offerings, which ostensibly were not present in the part “pseudo-Moses” wrote). It is also called the Documentary Hypothesis.
The problem is that if we divide it this way, it does not take much imagination to expect claims that the sources contradict each other, and if that is the case, which was right and which was wrong?
But the Bible clearly states that Moshe (Moses) wrote it. Is there genuine warrant for doubt of his authorship? Or did someone want to discredit and undermine Scripture’s authority so they would not have to obey it? Did they go looking for problems in the text to find “dirt” on it, like biased journalists?
There are less-complicated explanations: If we look carefully at where in the story each aspect comes into play, many “sacrifices” appear to have been added by YHWH after the golden calf incident and other encounters with idolatry, to give Israel “busy work” to “keep them out of trouble”. The psalmists and prophets strongly suggest that these offerings were not His original intent (Ps. 40:6; Mic. 6:7, etc.)—at least not in the quantity that ended up being required. (Hence the “priestly” theory.) They do, however, provide explanations in advance of what YHWH was planning to do through Yeshua, so at least the basic concept was not just an afterthought, and they were not wasted.
Another question is how Moshe knew so much about events before his lifetime. This can be explained by “multiple authorship” of a different kind—a series of records passed down all the way from Adam: Every time it says, “These are the generations of…”, I think it is the signature of the one who collected that portion of the history and passed it on to the next—Adam, Noah, Shem, etc., all the way down to Isaac, Jacob, and Levi, who was only two generations before Moshe on his mother’s side. We also have a few spinoffs from the mainstream, like Esau and Ishmael, who added important facts to round out the record and explain who was who. Moshe collated them, then continued the story he knew firsthand.
Of course there are minor adjustments to these generalities. Our family’s friend Jodell Onstott addresses this masterfully in chapter 8 of her book, YHWH Exists. One of the biggest solutions to why there are different writing styles within the Torah is that the Book of the Wars of YHWH (referred to in Numbers 21:14-15) used to be a separate book, which is why Moshe mentioned it as such. Later, however, scribes merged some parts of it with the “Law of Moshe”, interspersed chronologically to maintain the historical flow, and thus narrative style shows up between segments with a more legal writing style. But that does not negate the many times the text says “Moshe wrote…” (Exodus 24:4; Num. 33:2; Deut. 31:9, 24-26)
When Moshe stopped writing, Y’hoshua (Joshua) took up the record and annotated some of it (including, for example, Moshe’s death, which common sense tells us Moshe himself would not have documented).
There are also tantalizing references to other books: “Isn’t it written in the book of Yasher?” (Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18) I.e., “If you want more information about this subject, look there. Here, it would just be a tangent, and isn’t this book long enough as it is?” And sure enough, when we look at Yasher (and similar extrabiblical but parallel books like Enoch, Baruch’s accounts, and Jubilees—of which there were more copies found among the Dead Sea Scrolls than any other document), the story is the same, but there is a lot more detail. Some of the phraseology is exactly the same as what is in the Torah, and I would not be surprised if Moshe and Joshua drew many of their historical accounts directly from those, but streamlined them for conciseness, using only the parts relevant to their purpose for writing (and possibly leaving out some parts whose accuracy may be debatable).
During the days of Raamses (13th century BCE), the prophetess Deborah also did what we might do with a 17th-century document that spoke of “New Amsterdam”: we would add, “that is, New York” in a marginal note. They explained obsolete or borrowed foreign phrases that appeared in the original version, which needed no explanation for the original readers who were familiar with them. Sometimes marginal notes accidentally got included as part of the text of the next copy, especially in the New Testament, causing some doctrinal hiccups. But that does not mean the rest of the document was not written at the earlier date. Many times these “glosses” were put there to confirm the veracity of the account with phrases like “which remains there to this day” (e.g., Joshua 7:26; 28:8-9, etc.). They would not have been written just after the fact, when it was still well-known and fresh in the readers’ minds, but was important for later generations. And someone did the same for Israel’s other historical records.
“Who Scripture’s late-date scribe or editor was is an important consideration for Scripture’s credibility, validity, and overall constancy”, notes Mrs. Onstott. “Yet again Scripture furnishes evidence to solve this dilemma.” 2 Kings 17:7-41 gives reasons for the deportation to Babylon. The writer was clearly a scholar fluent in the covenant, who could trace the connection back to the Torah, where Moshe warned that this is exactly what would take place if Israel continued to abandon their agreement with YHWH. “Ezra was a priest eligible for the high priesthood… Ezra was ordained to edit the nation’s surviving archives. He understood YHWH, His prophecies, and the need for adding clarifications to texts that would seem ambiguous to later generations. Ezra’s editing ensured that significant information remained accurate and truth was passed on to succeeding generations.” He is probably the one who organized and divided Scripture into the arrangements that we still use today.
There is especially strong archaeological evidence for Ezra’s credibility. Mrs. Onstott remarks, “The validity of letters sent directly to a Persian king as recorded in Ezra has been a source of heated academic debate. Not until similar letters were unearthed… near Elephantine, Egypt, was any credibility given to Ezra’s testimony. Acclaimed ancient Near Eastern historian, A.T. Olmstead, wrote: ‘…Here were the closest parallels in language and style to the Aramaic of Ezra. Prescripts from Persian kings were cited in Ezra; Old Testament critics had declared them inauthentic, but now there was ample proof that the critics themselves were in the wrong.’ Ezra’s book gained further credibility when excavations unearthed a reference to the regional governor Tatnai (Ezra 5:3)… One archaeological discovery also confirms the name Gashmu [‘Geshem’], a local governor who opposed Nehemiah’s efforts in Jerusalem… [Neh. 2:19, etc.] A Lycian cult charter [found] in 1973 added credibility to Ezra’s testimony by providing striking parallels with Cyrus’ decree for Temple restoration”, through similar wording, similar requests, and similar official responses that showed this was standard practice at that time. The critics’ views turned out to be the unrealistic ones.
Other textual critics theorized that there were two different writers of the book of Yeshayahu (Isaiah), since the first 39 chapters are so different from the latter 27. But Chuck Missler pointed out that Yeshua testified to “both” Isaiahs being one: In Yochanan 12:38 he quoted Yeshayahu from 53:1, then in the next verse stated that “Yeshayahu said again/further”, and he quoted from Isaiah 6:10. Thus he credits both this (from the “first” writer) and the other verse, from the “second Yeshayahu” to the same author. To anyone who accepts his testimony as authoritative, the two-Isaiah theory is therefore suspect.
According to Mrs. Onstott, Isaiah actually delegated his writing to his scribes: Isa. 8:1-4 says YHWH told him to write and he found faithful witnesses--Uriah and Zechariah—to record what he said (specifically the prophecies of chapters 7-35, then 36-39, their fulfillment). Ironically, the “late” portion (which textual critics think was written 7 centuries later than Isaiah’s time) is the only part of his book (except for the first 6 chapters) that we can assuredly credit to Isaiah’s own hand! His style changes because he was writing in different roles: in some sections he spoke as a prophet, in other parts as a court official. If a poet also wrote prose articles for a magazine, you would not claim he could not be the same author, would you?
At different times in history, “accuracy” seems to have been defined in slightly-different ways. Different scribal schools had different rules for spelling, which was not as universally codified or standardized as it is today. Different dialects, with their differences in accent, also spelled names differently (e.g., Yoram vs. Yehoram). But sometimes variant spellings or forms were deliberate, intended to defame or discredit someone who had not reigned righteously. (Yehoyachin, Jeconiah, and Coniah were the same man, and all three versions have the same meaning, but using several different names diminished his fame and thus his honor in the minds of all but the few who read carefully enough to recognize this.)
Onstott summarizes, “Scholars who accept the JEPD theory may be correct to see at least four writing phases in Israel’s history. We are not left in the dark to see how these phases occurred. Scripture tells us when these collaborations took place and it has preserved who administered these writing phases: Moses-Joshua, Deborah, Samuel and the priests under the Monarchy, and Ezra.”
She points out that the authors of the Chronicles are identified elsewhere in Scripture (2 Samuel 8:16-17 referring to 1 Chronicles 10-22, for example), and many times they were Levites. (1 Chron. 24:6) In another case, to preserve the historical flow, several biographies of David (such as “the book of Samuel the seer, the book of Nathan the prophet, and the book of Gad the seer”, per 1 Chron. 29:29) were combined to form a single narrative running chronologically through 1 and 2 Samuel. The same thing was done for Solomon, combining the records of Nathan, Iddo, and Ahiyah. (2 Chron. 9:29) Most of the psalms identify who the author was in a short prologue. Christians have typically separated these from the body of the psalm, whereas Jews include “a psalm of David”, for example, as part of the first verse and even include it when the psalm is set to music! But this shows just how important historical accuracy has been to those who have preserved the text for so many centuries.
Evidence from Outside
Yeshua said of some of those same Jewish people, “If they become silent, the very stones will cry out!” (Luke 19:40) And in the last century and a half, we are seeing that very thing occur.
In 1935 a series of letters from other cities was found at the tel of Lakhish in Israel, and some of them spoke of a “prophet who was discouraging Jerusalem”. This corroborates with what Jeremiah (Yirmeyahu) was doing—telling the king to submit to YHWH’s discipline and surrender to Babylon this time, as submission to YHWH’s chastening. Many idioms similar to those in Jeremiah 38:4-27 were found in the Lakhish letters, showing that the time frame was the same. Most of Jeremiah’s prophecies were actually written down by Baruch ben Neriyah, and a seal bearing this complete name was excavated in the City of David, the part of Jerusalem where the kings lived. A similar signet impression (called a “bulla”) was found verifying the existence of Sanballat, the Assyrian official who gave Nehemiah so much trouble. And those are only samples of many such “bullae”. Jeremiah himself did write a few sections, mentioned right in the text (39:13-18; chapter 45; 51:61-64) If we follow what the text actually states, we find that there are many places where the authorship is directly acknowledged.
The most game-changing actual inscription was found in the ruins of the city of Dan at the extreme northern end of Israel in the 1990s. It was the first extrabiblical reference to the “House of David” (the name by which the northern Kingdom of Israel called the southern Kingdom of Judah). Many skeptical theories about David never existing or having just had a tiny fiefdom came crashing down.
And this has become a regular occurrence because of the discipline of archaeology. Within the last ten years a text found at Khirbet Qeiyafa put to rest all skepticism that the Kingdom of Israel already existed in the 10th century B.C.E., when Scripture says Kings David and Solomon lived. An old adage says, “With every turn of the archaeologist’s spade, another ‘higher critique’ is buried.” While of course more questions are raised from the physical data as well, numerous Biblical characters have been proven to be historical after all.
And as far as alleged tampering with the text, with the seismic discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we suddenly had original manuscripts 1,000 years older than anything else extant before that, and the differences in the texts from what we otherwise had were minuscule—just copying mistakes: an extra reduplication of the same word here, a missing letter there, but nothing that changed the meaning.
Timing is Everything
Archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon’s claim that there was no evidence of Jericho’s destruction was swept away when the chronology was corrected; then ample evidence was found to have already been discovered, but not recognized because they were not expecting it at that time period in the strata.
The same revision of chronology solved the difficulty scholars were having in aligning the Egyptian historical record with the timeline of Joseph’s arrival there and the Exodus. But when 1 Kings 6:1’s claim that the exodus took place 480 years before Solomon’s temple was dedicated was finally taken seriously and the dates shifted earlier accordingly, things lined up perfectly. Immanuel Velikovsky (Ages in Chaos) was one of the first to notice this in the 1950s, and others carried it further and made it much easier to follow, like Timothy Mahoney in his recent Patterns of Evidence film series, who uses excellent visuals to explain this clearly.
A similar problem arose when scholars attempted to reconcile the chronologies of the kings of Israel and Judah. The answer turned out to be the common ancient near eastern practice of co-regency, where an aging king would install his son as king while he was still alive to take over the day-to-day duties he no longer had the strength to handle, so the dates overlapped. (Edwin Richard Thiele documented this in great detail.)
Factors We Don’t Usually Consider
What about the “fanciful” stories about impossible things like sundials going backward, the sun standing still, or a sea splitting into with walls of water standing motionless on both sides of a path that opens up through the water?
Once you realize that geologic and astronomical processes are not uniform after all, a bigger picture opens up—outside of the box. 2 Peter 3:4ff speaks of people in the “latter days” willingly ignoring the fact that the processes that we see in motion today have not always proceeded at the same pace.
Velikovsky (Worlds in Collision) thought the events of the Exodus could have been set off by a huge comet that passed near the earth, with immense gravitational force which could help make the Red Sea stand up like walls--in addition to the “fierce east wind” which, according to Exodus 15:8, actually froze them in place until Israel got through, then the pillar of fire behind the Israelites must have started thawing them as the Egyptians entered the path behind it. Few people notice that precise wording!
Standing on Velikovsky’s shoulders, Patten, Hatch, and Steinhauer came up with a similar theory (but with a repeating pattern) by which such catastrophes in the past can be explained. This does not minimize the miracle aspect of the events, in which YHWH was showing just what He could do within the natural laws he had created when extremely rare factors which men had never seen before were introduced into the equation—right at the exact moment they were needed. One of the clues that set off the investigation was the fact that Jonathan Swift knew details about the moons of Mars that scientists did not even rediscover until many decades after he wrote Gulliver’s Travels. Clearly there were some ancient writings about them from which he drew. Either they had better telescopes thousands of years ago, or Mars was closer to earth at some time in the past.
Based on events that must have spawned stories that were later taken only as myths, and the fact that after 701 BCE every nation was trying to figure out how to reconfigure their calendars to fit a year that was now several days longer, they found that Mars used to have a 720-day orbit and earth 360 (hence the number of degrees in a circle). Every 54 years the orbits would cross, and every 108 years the two planets would come especially close—close enough for their gravitational force to affect each other, setting off massive earthquakes, tidal waves, and volcanic eruptions, and at least once even lifting a mountain off the ground so Israel could walk underneath it as a giant wedding chuppah (Deut. 4:11). Armies would sometimes schedule sieges of cities otherwise too strong to breach, in hopes that the upheavals would knock their walls down. This might also explain what Deborah meant when she sang that the “stars in their courses fought from heaven” against Sisra’s army. (Judges 5:20).
The crustal tides this would cause could have greatly speeded up the formation of high mountain massifs in addition to the rapid upward thrust of continents that collided much faster than they normally do, because of the massive forces in play. Once it tilted the earth’s axis fast enough to tear a big gash in the crust as the equatorial bulge shifted all at once, forming the Rift Valley that runs a third of earth’s longitude and overthrowing Sodom and Gomorrah. Another time there was just a wobble with one spot on the earths surface holding still while the rest of the globe pivoted around that point, making it look, from one place in western Israel, like the sun was standing still for that whole length of time. The final approach of the two planets, at the time of Assyria’s siege of Jerusalem, was so close that the poles of the two planets repelled one another, pushing them both into their present orbits and making the shadow on Hezekiah’s sundial temporarily move in the opposite direction than it usually did.
The mechanics of what occurred at the flood of Noah can also explain why Genesis says people could live nearly 1,000 years before that. Patten and friends discovered that there is a heat sink 11 miles above the earth’s surface, and Genesis 7:11 speaks of the “windows of heaven being opened”. The creation account tells of a “firmament” (literally a low-density area) above which there were waters at that time. If so, that heat sink could have formed a layer of translucent ice above the atmosphere, acting as a true greenhouse, more so than the ozone layer as described today. It would have kept the whole earth at a humid 72 degrees Fahrenheit, keeping plants lush and screening out much more solar radiation than gets through today. There would have been no storms or wintry weather to contend with, keeping people much healthier so early deaths would usually have been only those perpetrated by other humans. Also, genetic defects and mutations had not yet advanced very far. After that ice shield shattered and melted, producing some of that 40 days of rain, all of these things changed, within a few centuries lifespans got down to nearly where they are today. The ice-shield shattering and the volcanic effects that would have produced much more of the precipitation could have been caused by such a planetary passby, and also initiated rapid plate tectonics over a highly-heated mantle that caused the continents to drift very quickly, colliding and pushing up mountains after the mega-tsunamis these caused (according to Ken Ham) sloshed back and forth over mountains much lower than we have today; early in the deluge they would not have to overtop mountains as high as the Himalayas.
If I understand prophecy correctly in light of Psalm 114’s descriptions of the magnitude of what was going on at the time of the Exodus, we may get to see some of these kinds of forces--at least a huge asteroid falling into the sea (Revelation 8:8) but also something big enough to displace mountains (Rev. 6:14)--reshape our world again in the next few years. Ezekiel’s description of the Temple in the Messianic Kingdom is going to require some major topographic changes to Jerusalem to fit. Other things we may see, to bring about “the restoration of all things”, may include a return of the polar tilt to what originally gave Israel a climate more like northern California than the southern-California-like climate of today and allowed the cedars of Lebanon to grow as big as redwoods and made the land “flow with milk and honey” much more than it does today. One of my avocations is mapmaking, and I want the job of helping revise the geographical record after that!
Ken Ham also cites the formation of a “grand canyon” (smaller than but similar in structure to the famous one) by a second eruption of Mt. St. Helens in the sediment laid down less than a year before by the first modern eruption in 1980 showed clearly that the classic Grand Canyon would not have required more than a few years to form—if that. NewScientistSpace also reported that Box Canyon in Idaho is thought to have also been formed rapidly by a “megaflood” because slow-moving water could not have transported its large boulders downstream. The evidence of multiple tree trunks spanning at least a dozen rock strata shows that those layers could not have taken longer to lay down than the amount of time it would take a tree to decompose. So the Scripture’s implication that the earth is not more than a few thousand years old is quite scientifically plausible. It fits perfectly with the long-held Jewish view, based on Psalm 90, that the history of man is to last 7,000 years, with the final millennium being the “Sabbath”—the Messianic kingdom where the world is finally at rest.
If you just can’t accept that, consider the perspective of Dr. Gerald Schroeder (also Jewish), who points out that time is expanding outward along with the universe, and what was six days when the impetus began (from YHWH’s perspective looking forward) stretched out to many more years (from our point of view looking backward). But this still seems based on a uniformitarian view. If the same processes had been going on for billions of years, there should be much more salt in the oceans. The minuscule depth of dust on the atmosphere-free moon’s surface and how comparatively little silt there is from river deltas around the world, among other things, argue that a few thousand years is the maximum that the processes at their current rate could have been uniform.
Things You Just Couldn’t Fake
The periodic table of atomic elements has 92 elements that occur naturally. (Numbers higher than this are humanly synthesized.) 6 of them are inert—that is, stable; they do not bond with other elements. That leaves 86 that are not inert. My fellow Torah scholar David Ison discovered (and found a second witness, corroborated by Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh, who published his findings at www.inner.org) that in the account of creation, from Genesis 1:1-2:1, there are 86 unique Hebrew words used (i.e., some are repeated throughout in various grammatical forms, but the additional uses do not count as new words). In the following two verses, where Elohim’s rest on the seventh day is discussed, 6 additional unique words occur (corresponding with the 6 elements that are “at rest”)! This is like YHWH’s signature, because “by the word of YHWH the heavens were made” (Psalm 33:6) and “the worlds were framed by the word of Elohim, so that the visible things were not made of things that can be seen.” (Hebrews 11:3)
Along similar lines, Winkie Pratney cites the discoveries of Harvard mathematician Ivan Panin:
“Aware of the numerical values of the Greek and Hebrew alphabets, Panin experimented one day by replacing the letters with their corresponding numbers in Scripture… Suddenly, his trained mind saw a mathematical pattern! As he studied more intensely. his excitement grew. A few short hours of work had him utterly amazed. The verses he had studied bore unmistakable evidence of an elaborate mathematical pattern, far beyond random chance, or human ability to construct… Panin found that patterns of prime numbers, such as 11, 13, 17 and 23, but especially 7, were found in great clusters. He would add up the sum of all numerical values for different words, sentences, paragraphs, passages, and whole books, and he found the same patterns in each of these forms! He found that the number of words in a vocabulary divides by 7. The number of proper names, both male and female divides by 7… Words that occurred more than once divide by 7, and also words that appeared only once! The number of nouns is divisible by 7; also the words that are not. Even the number of words beginning with each letter of the alphabet!... Just the very first sentence in the Bible. ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (Gen. 1:1). That’s the way it comes out in 7 [Hebrew] words [that] have exactly 28 (4×7) letters. There are 3 nouns (God, heavens, and earth). Taking the letters of these, substituting their number equivalents and adding them up, you get a combined total of 777 ( 111×7)! There is one Hebrew verb, ‘created’. Its total numerical value is 203 (29×7). The first three words contain the subject, with exactly 14 (2×7) letters, likewise the other four are the object, with exactly 14 letters. The Hebrew words for the two objects (heaven and earth) each have 7 letters [when the connected conjunctions and object markers are counted]. The value for the first, middle, and last letters in the sentence is 133 (19×7). The numeric value of the first and last letters of all the words is 1393 (199×7); the value of the first and last letters of the first and last words of the verse is 497 (71×7). The value of the first and last letters of each of the words between is 896 (128×7)… in this verse alone there are 30 different features of 7. I have listed only 11 of them! The chance of this happening accidentally is 1 in 33 trillion.”
Pratney summarizes, “These are not just words; it’s an incredible mathematical pattern. It dances with its own poetry in mathematics. A computer would go into raptures over this! It’s like a building where every piece joins perfectly into each other. And… you can’t pull even one word out, without damaging the whole pattern. So the Bible carries within itself, a self-checking. self-verifying protection factor…This cannot be found in any other religious ‘holy’ book in the world.” (Since the advent of computers, countless more such sequencing patterns have indeed been identified—though, in all fairness, Jewish scholars in the Middle Ages found many of them without the help of machines!)
Two Biblical Religions or One?
Panin found similar examples in the New Testament, notably the genealogy in Matthew. That begs the question: Is the New Testament as reliable as the Hebrew Scriptures?
“All Scripture is breathed by Elohim and is useful for instruction, conviction, correction, and training in righteousness, so that a person belonging to Elohim may be complete, fully equipped for every [kind of] beneficial work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17) But when that was written, the only Scripture was the Hebrew Bible.
So it’s only fair to ask that question, and it’s one I struggled with as I learned how far off its base the New Testament had shifted. But when the coordinates of where it was supposed to sit are relocated and realigned, I have found that not only does it fit, but for those who lack the background to decipher all the hints in the original inscriptions that do indeed tell the whole story, or the wherewithal to find our way back from the ends of the earth in the dark, the lighthouse it forms, rising above the jungles that have grown up around the touchstone, is simply indispensable.
Some of the New Testament—at least the books of Matthew (from which Panin took his “core sample”) and Hebrews—are known to have been originally written in Hebrew, likely because of their intended recipients. Other books and letters included in it were written largely to audiences that did not speak Hebrew, so some were written in Greek, the first language of many recipients, or at least the commonly-understood lingua franca. Others were first written in Aramaic, another regional trade language based in Babylon, and then later translated into Greek. We may not be able to do as much with them as Panin did with Hebrew, and some might consider them less holy, and the point is well taken. But the main point in the choice of language was to be understood by the readers because it was meant to go straight to their hearts. YHWH, in His mercy, met us where we were so He could woo us back to where we belong.
Calling it “new” is also somewhat misleading. Yes, it ends with the promise that YHWH will “make all things new”. (Rev. 21:5) But that is speaking of an era yet to come, when the covenants that address humanity in its sinful condition will no longer be necessary—though “the word of YHWH endures forever” (1 Peter 1:25, based on Psalm 119:89), so undoubtedly the wording of His agreement will take on a meaning applicable to that time. (The Hebrew letters, which do not actually contain vowels until added for clarification, might even be in the same order but divided differently or with different vowels.)
But “renewed covenant” is a much better understanding of the term b’rith khadashah. (Jeremiah 31:31) The renewal spoken of in Jeremiah may not even be referring to the renewal that Yeshua said he ratified the night before he died. (Luke 22:20) Covenants can be renewed whenever there is a change of conditions for one party or the other and terms need to be updated to fit the new situation, but everything else remains in effect as before. The first renewal was the book of Deuteronomy--right before Moshe died and a new generation of Israel was about to cross into the Land and some rules (like those relating to the manna) would no longer be necessary.
Yeshua renewed the covenant to adjust for conditions of exile in which the Northern Kingdom remained and into which he knew Judah would soon be returning to. Many aspects of the Torah cannot be kept under such circumstances, though their underlying principles can certainly be applied, and thus the New Testament is couched in more generic terms, applicable anywhere, which, nonetheless, teach the exact same thing that the more specific examples given in the Torah taught for those in the Land and with an intact sanctuary and functioning priesthood.
The Renewed Covenant is also an answer to the issues that arose out of the first: “He [Yeshua] is the mediator of the Renewed Covenant, so that by means of death for the ransom of transgressions [committed] under the original covenant, those who are called might receive the eternal inheritance as promised.” (Heb. 9:15) The sins of the Northern Kingdom especially (but let’s not kid ourselves—of Judah also) had already reached the point of being a debt that we could never pay back by ordinary Torah means. That is why this renewal was necessary.
“In the place where it was said to [the descendants of Israel] ‘You are not My people’, they will be told, ‘You are the sons of the living Elohim!’” (Hosea 1:10) The Renewed Covenant is a direct answer to this: “Behold what kind of love the Father has bestowed on us: that we should be called the sons of Elohim…” (1 John 3:1)
“Once [you] were not a people, but now you are the people of Elohim. Once [you] had not obtained mercy, but now [you] have obtained mercy.” (1 Peter 2:10)
Once we factor in the promises made to the lost tribes of the Northern Kingdom, the renewal of the covenant proves to be of one piece with the original. They are not two different covenants, but a continuation of the same one, with provisions for some changed circumstances. But this is the one we are under now, and it fits our situation, allowing us some grace where we are not in a position to carry out some commands, but Yeshua made it clear that none of them is cancelled. (Mat. 5:18) When all the tribes are back together and restored to the Land, as Deuteronomy 30 and most (if not all) of the prophets promise will occur one day (probably soon), another renewal (probably that of Jeremiah 31) will be put into effect, and it appears that it will revert to looking a lot more like the first version.
So aside from those few places where the marginal or scribal notes accidentally got included in the text, the Renewed Covenant itself, when read with the Torah and the prophets as parameters, is reliable. It has been interpreted in many ways that contradict what came before, but the text itself does not do that.
But even more important than the technicalities is the content. The astounding redemption it describes is hinted at everywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures, but it was kept somewhat vague so it could be accomplished before the enemy could figure out and subvert the whole plan. With Yeshua, it finally came to concrete completion that could be grasped and responded to with understanding and a clear intent. Something we need so desperately cannot be made too complicated, for we all have one handicap or another. YHWH’s love overcame the obstacles so that even the simplest can respond. And YHWH even turned our exile into a blessing, because in the process of finding us, people from every nation—wherever we were scattered—got to hear about the availability of this redemption too.
So why would we reject something so beautiful? Where else can we read the words of a man who never lost the connection with the Creator that everyone else lost? As his own contemporaries said, “To whom else could we go? You have the words of eternal life!” (Yochanan/John 6:68) Is there really anything else that can solve the world’s problems not just on the surface but from the root?
Your Attitude Counts, Too
Why would someone not want such a love story to be true, especially when so many have experienced radically-changed lives through this message? All I can surmise is that many just don’t want to have to answer for their actions, so they try to claim there is no one to be responsible to. But they are still heeding the initial doubt that the serpent cast on YHWH’s goodness and benevolent intent. How did he do it? By twisting His words—taking them out of context or further than they were intended.
Torah teacher Tom Bradford states, “Some doctrinal error is just that: error, … just poor understanding of the Holy Scriptures…[But] much false doctrine is probably intentional or … from willful ignorance in that it serves a man-defined purpose. Today there are many false teachers and preachers of false doctrines who claim to be doing God's work but in fact are primarily seeking an opportunity to acquire personal wealth and power.” This “lying pen of the scribes” (Jeremiah 8:8) probably led to some of the excessive teachings with which Yeshua contended in his day and which continued nonetheless.
Bradford continues: “History proves that most errors that prophecy teachers and students have made, whether in ancient or modern times, is by not taking the words of prophecies literally enough… because in their era and in their culture they could not take seriously how the literal nature of what was being foretold could possibly occur. This inability to accept what is written as the literal truth leads to allegorizing and spiritualizing critical Scripture passages, and thus the intended meaning becomes obscured and is replaced with incorrect, man-made doctrines that can endure for centuries.” This accounts for the many myths that grew up around Scripture not read carefully enough. Again, they are “bathwater” by which we should not judge the “baby”.
Physicist Arthur Custance wrote, “In expressing human emotion this may or may not be so important in the ordinary course of events, but where revealed truth in the abstract is involved, it seems… virtually impossible for ideas or factual data to be conveyed without the aid of verbal inspiration. Man often chooses words poorly and consequently misleads his hearers. It does not seem to me that God would ever do this. But only rarely can ideas be conveyed by mere images, save in mathematical terms. It is words that are crucial as a rule. To claim that meaning is inspired, but not the wording, often seems to me to be an evasion…Literalism… is probably the only way in which to unravel the apparent contradictions that seem clearly to exist between certain key statements.” (Journey Out of Time, ch. 11) I.e., look at the details of what the text actually says, rather than having a knee-jerk reaction to what you assume it is saying based on things you have heard about it.
That brings us back to those accusations made at the beginning: Racists and anti-racists both claim that the Bible says YHWH cursed Ham (the ancestor of the Africans). But Ham was also the ancestor of the Chinese (through Sinim), the Egyptians (Mitzrayim), and some of the original Mesopotamians. Does anyone (other than their government) try to enslave the Chinese based on their ancestry? Ham had another son named Canaan, who was the one who was actually cursed (Gen. 9:25) and this is the background for why Israel had to conquer his descendants. It was not a random, unjustified, or selfish conquest. Read carefully before making blanket statements!
Does the Bible make people sexists—“male Chauvinist pigs”, misogynists who just want to hold onto their patriarchal power structures? Again, the actual hierarchy of which this is a caricature did not come about in a vacuum or just because men are often strong enough to force submission. It was one of the results of Hawwah (Eve)’s choice to believe the serpent rather than obeying YHWH. He told her, “Your husband shall be what you desire, but he will have authority over you.“ (Genesis 3:16) That word for “authority” is used in Scripture in both positive and negative ways—sometimes of other nations dominating us, but more often of YHWH Himself bringing order and keeping things under control so they do not get out of hand. The term is used of what the sun does to the day (Gen. 1:16), how we are to keep sin from ruling over us (Gen. 4:7) but rather that we rule our own spirit (Prov. 16:32) so as to not go wild with rage. It is even used of the kind of rule we were meant to have over the rest of creation (Psalm 8:6), before our getting out of line put the rest of creation out of balance (Gen. 3:18; Romans 8:20-22).
I don’t think it was a punishment so much as a safeguard that was now needed because of the new vulnerable position she had put herself in. There was now someone who could overrule choices (good or bad) that might be made in the emotion of the moment without consideration of the consequences. (Numbers 30:3-8) “The buck” has to stop somewhere, so YHWH put the husband in charge for those occasions when argument is no longer fruitful and a final decision is required. But this “privilege” of authority is a heavy responsibility. Whatever it means in other contexts, its character in regard to marriage is clarified in the Renewed Covenant, which portrays Messiah’s self-sacrificing love as the model for how husbands are to treat their wives. (Ephesians 5:25-30)
Back in Genesis 2, before the pattern was marred and the emergency mode was put in effect, the initial design said that YHWH made for Adam “a helper suited to him” (2:18). What it actually means in Hebrew is “correlated to him as a counterpart, or opposite". Avi ben Mordechai explains that the sense in which the wife is "opposed to" her husband: as a paper held in the air is too flimsy to write anything on, but when there is something to prop it against, it becomes useful rather than existing abstractly as in a vacuum. The opposing pressure keeps him in the upright position. If she were just like him, they would both fall into the same traps. He needs her different angle to keep him balanced. She will think of things he never could. He is not obligated to follow her every choice, but where her views are wise, why wouldn’t he take them into strong consideration? The Hebrew word for “bride” (kalah) also means “one who completes”. The “helpful opposition” (which does include some critique) is about upholding one another, not belittling each other’s differences. So no, it’s far from sexist. Women had more rights in Israel than anywhere else in the ancient world. Without that step in the right direction, who would even be asking the questions about rights and ethics today?
As for “homophobia” (which actually means “fear of sameness”, but I think they really mean “fear of homosexuals”), fear is never what Scripture mandates, but it does state that “lying with a man as one would lie with a woman” is “repulsive” to the Creator. (Leviticus 18:22) It may be because it is an unfruitful lifestyle, or because of the self-devouring diseases it can spread (from something a man’s body is not designed to receive), or because it seems an indirect form of self-worship. Its cousin, cross-dressing, is described the same way. (Deut. 22:5.) And I won’t even go into that whole “sex vs. gender” thing; that is absolute confusion, not to mention an easy foot in the door for pedophiles and voyeurs. Out of compassion, we must recognize that many choose such behaviors out of desperation after countless rejections by the opposite sex or traumatic experiences that leave them tangled in perplexity. The guilt is not in the feelings one has; YHWH certainly understands the dilemma the poisonous fruit has left us all in. It is the actions we choose, over which we do have control, which render one “repulsive” in His eyes—or not.
Of course, eating pork or shellfish is described in the same terms of something disgusting to YHWH. (Leviticus 11:10-42; Isaiah 66:17) So don’t feel singled out…
Many who claim to have open minds about so many such social issues close them to this one viewpoint and this alone! That is nothing but prejudice, and an unfair starting point whereby you could cheat yourself out of something infinitely valuable. But, as G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The object of opening one’s mind, as with opening one’s mouth, is to close it again on something solid.” There comes a time when you have to commit yourself to what the preponderance of evidence seems to point to.
Have you really found a better explanation for the evils of the world, or a better, more accessible solution?
The Personal Side
Where the rubber really meets the road is the evidence of YHWH’s ongoing activity in our own lives today. One might argue with your subjective experience, but one would have to deliberately close one’s eyes to fail to see His hand in, only 3 years after the Holocaust, the restoration of Israel as a nation and Jerusalem as its focal point as He promised, and much more recently, the awakening of the Northern Kingdom to our true identity and our return to the covenant, as all of the prophets foretold. Learn the details and keep watching; fulfilled prophecy is one of the strongest evidences for the Bible’s veracity.
But lives changed from aimless--or worse, recklessly hostile--to benevolent, kind, and fruitful does constitute objective change, and there are thousands if not millions of testimonials to how the rebirth of spirit offered freely by YHWH (through simple trust in what He made available through Yeshua) has changed lives, often instantly, with constant additional improvement as well. “Too good to be true” applies to human advertising, but since the perfection of both goodness and truth are found in the same Creator, such an epithet should never be applied to what He offers.
The Bible ends with this offer, astounding in our world in which even access to the most basic necessities are monetized: “Anyone who is thirsty, let him come. Whoever wishes to, let him take of the water of life freely.” (Revelation 22:17, echoing Isaiah 55:1) Doesn’t that penetrate deep into your innermost core?
Belief in the afterlife that the Bible describes means that those who die without receiving justice for wrongs done in their lifetimes are not without hope. In the resurrection, they will receive the rewards they deserve and the “bad actors” will receive justice. So we can proceed through life with patience and confidence, not frustration and anger, and “live around” the indignities we experience.
This message satisfies the most profound needs of our hearts—not just our intellect.
Think about it deeply. If the Creator wanted to be known by those He created, wouldn’t He communicate to us, and have us pass on the communication in a sustainable form? If He wants us to act in a certain way, wouldn’t He give us instructions? If He wants us to change our behavior, wouldn’t He give us positive correctives? If he wants us to know His power—or His love—wouldn’t He demonstrate it in an unforgettable way, and entrust that knowledge to reliable witnesses?
And if the message were in danger of being “jammed” by interference from someone who hated the sender and did not want His love to be known, wouldn’t we find such “smear campaigns” to the reliability of the message as we see all the way back in the Garden of Eden? (“Did Elohim really say that? Did He really mean it THAT way? Don’t you think He has ulterior motives, like I d— I mean, like anybody sometimes would…?”)
Clearly there is opposition to this message getting through, as our opening comments exemplified. Chuck Missler pointed out that when you are trying to get a message through hostile territory, you don’t “put all your eggs in one basket”. You don’t give all the information about an impending military maneuver to just one infiltrator, in case it should be intercepted. Likewise, you don’t put everything about one topic in the same place in Scripture and nowhere else, in case it were to be lost, because then you would have no data about that aspect of truth. So YHWH spread all the messages out throughout numerous writings, so that each would have pieces of every puzzle and enough to get the recipients through their immediate situation—but also something to add to the fragments sent in a different direction, when once they do get back together and can all be compared and compiled. That is exactly how Scripture was written.
Consider where we would be without the Bible. Without the understanding it brings of the fast tracks to knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and thereby peace and prosperity, we’d be left to our own devices, which are little more than hit-and-miss trial and error. They may get us somewhere, but they are weak and unreliable most of the time. Without the hope it brings, we would have to succumb to despair as so many philosophers who tried to circumvent the Bible have done. Without its comfort, our pain would be infinitely sharper. Without the brakes it gives us to stem the horrendous pull of self-destructive habits, we’d be up the proverbial creek.
But we don’t have to be. There is a solid foundation. There is evidence that our Creator can be known, and that He is not hostile but friendly to any but those who want to deliberately mess things up for others. There is hope of not-just-incremental improvement, but a qualitatively better tomorrow. And most of all, there are redemption and restoration available. These are all found in this priceless volume.
What can we say but, “Thanks be to YHWH for His indescribable gift!”? (2 Corinthians 9:15)