Historical Setting & the Bible

26 Apr

The following is taken from one of Jim West’s lectures for Quartz Hill School of Theology


Every historical document (and every document is historical in the sense that it is written at some specific time and in some specific place) must be understood in light of that historical situation. For instance, if we were to see a newspaper headline that said “WAR DECLARED” it would mean one thing if the dateline was 1941 and another thing if it said 1991. In short, to understand any piece of writing we must have some glimmer of the context in which it was written.

The same is true of the documents that have been collected in what we call the Old Testament. To grasp the meaning of these documents it is essential that the serious student of the Bible have some grasp on the historical events which gave them birth and shaped their development. Recent studies in the fields of OT History and Archaeology now suggest that it is quite possible, and even likely, that many of the documents contained in the OT were in fact written during the Hasmonean period of Israel’s history! Scholars like Niels Peter Lemche of Copenhagen University and Philip Davies of Sheffield University have been maintaining for years that the texts we find in the OT were produced during this late age and that the historical material in the OT is therefore quite minimal. To Davies and Lemche (as well as many others) the OT texts we now have are simply retrojecting Israel into the past in order to justify its presence in the land in the (Hasmonean) present.

While the bold words apply to human historical writing and events they do not apply to the Bible and its authors. If we want to know the context of the biblical books we do not look at human time to determine why they were written or who wrote them. Now we know that many scholars teach that this is the correct method to make determinations about the Bible and to do Bible study but it is misleading and wrong.

The Bible was not shaped by history nor was it written by a group of men to oppress women or others. The Bible is not a human authored work though God used humans to put his words to paper. Earthly historical contexts do not apply to the Bible for its context is divine, authored by one who has no past or future.

What believers need to realize that is that the scientific methods to study the Bible do not apply and only confuse people as the correct context surrounding the words of the Bible is holy, divine, and given to man by a God who is telling people who follow hi how to live their lives.We need to look at the Bible from the correct point of view. The instructions and commands found within its pages are not written out of the will of ancient men who had power and corruption as their motives.

They were written by a God who lives in the present always and intended his words to be heard, listened to and followed by all people for all ages. God is not putting his desires and will in a restricted and limited context where he is only speaking to one ancient group of people. He is speaking to all people who come into existence no matter what age they live in, whether it be prehistoric of nuclear.

To grasp the meaning of the Biblical message one has to do as the Bible says and follow the Holy Spirit to the truth, not use the historical settings to dismiss the words of God and go one’s own way. The rest of the words above, from the word ‘recently’ to the end are just not true. The two men mentioned by Mr. West in that lecture are minimalists, like West is, and they reject the historicity and truthfulness of much of the OT. They are not speaking from truth but from their deceived frame of minds.

Mr. West uses the word ‘retrojecting’ to explain why the Bible was written as it was but they have not one shred of evidence that this took place and we now that it didn’t.But this is the way it is with those who do not believe God. They make up any theory they want and apply it to the actions of long dead people without regard as to who those people were or if they are even close to being accurate with that theory.

Archaeology is far too limited and missing far too much information to be able to determine the motivations of ancient people, doesn’t matter if they are biblical writers or not. Archaeology is not omnipresent and cannot speak with any authority on past people or their actions and thoughts. Since the Bible was written by the only person who is omnipresent we know that its historical setting and words are true, accurate and apply to all nations of human history and the modern era.

It is ironic that people like West, Davies and Lemche accuse and condemn the Bible of being a human work yet accept their own or others human authored theories and assumptions but that hypocrisy is rampant throughout the unbelieving world. They will dismiss the Bible for many reasons yet ignore those reasons when accepting alternative ideas and religious works.

To do Bible study correctly, one has to believe God and follow the Holy Spirit to the truth. If you do not believe God then you won’t be able to follow the Holy Spirit. Textual criticism and other scientific methods of biblical study are not a tool, for the most part, for believers. Believers need to follow God’s rules not man’s when it comes to bible study.

Some of God’s rules are:

  1. Honesty– not letting secular ideas influence one’s view of the Bible
  2. Acceptance of biblical historicity if you doubt the validity of biblical history then you cannot be honest in your bible study
  3. Faith– believing that God will not and does not lie thus the biblical record is true
  4. Acknowledgement- God used human authors but that is because he chose to use people to do his will and that the authors did not write their own material for sinful purposes.

As you follow the Holy Spirit you will find out more of God’s rules when it comes to understanding his words. Suffice it to say we do not follow the unbelieving world in our biblical work for they do not have God on their side nor do they have the right way to go.


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Posted by on April 26, 2016 in academics, Bible, church, comparative religions, education, faith, history, leadership, science, theology


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