We may have written on this topic in the past, but it is an important one to place up here again. Too many pastors, bible school students, and bible scholars keep pointing to the wrong source.
The words, ‘the Bible is a product of the culture of its time’ are what these people keep teaching undergraduates, church members, and the unbeliever. They are also words we heard when we were in undergraduate school as well.
They have been passed down from generation to generation as if they are some long-held truth. Instead, those words nullify most of the biblical commands, instructions, and other teachings the biblical authors have put into the content via God’s instruction.
That simple declaration opens up an escape clause that allows modern believers to cherry-pick which of the biblical verses they will accept and believe and which ones they will discard.
To use a word we do not like, that sentence empowers ‘Christians’ to take charge of the Bible and fashion it into a religious book that they like. Removing the harder to follow scriptures and focus on the easier ones, even though the latter is often misunderstood and misapplied.
As Peter has told us, the biblical content is not from any human source or private interpretation. That means that those words in that sentence are wrong. God did not take wise sayings, words of wisdom, or other top-quality works from secular culture or the unbelieving world and ‘Christianized them.’
The culture that the biblical content came from is not one from this world nor trapped in a limited era of history, applicable to that era alone. The Bible and its content come from a holy culture, one that transcends earthly time and is applicable in all eras of history.
As Moses wrote in Deut. 4:
You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, so that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I am commanding you...
See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you are to do these things in the land where you are entering to take possession of it. 6 So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? 8 Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole Law which I am setting before you today?
The Biblical content comes from God who has his own culture. It is holy, just, fair, and it applies to everyone no matter how little, how big, how young, or how old.
The Bible has no earthly source and is God telling us how we are to live in his culture. Once we become Christians, we enter that culture and leave the old one behind. Our home is not this world, as the song goes, we are just passing through but as we pass through we are still expected to live by God’s culture, not this world’s.
John 14:2 records some very calming words that keep us secure in the knowledge that the Bible is not a human authored book restricted by one society that lived 3,000 years ago. There are 10 words that will apply to this topic:
if that were not so, I would have told you
If Jesus is not going to lie about the place he prepares for us in heaven, then he is not going to lie about the OT content. He would have changed it so that we have the truth. Jesus said, he is the truth, so we know that the OT is not written in some ancient people’s desire to control others.
Or that the content was stolen from secular nations just to make the OT sound good or divert their attention from the reality. If creation were not so as written in the Bible, Jesus would have told us.
Instead, he confirms Moses’ words in John 5:44ff. If the flood account was copied from Babylonian records, Jesus would have set the record straight. he did not, so we know that God punishes disobedience and unrepentant sinners.
If David and Solomon did not reign in all the glory the Bible attributes to them, Jesus would have corrected the account and gave everyone the truth. But he did not. We know that both David and Solomon reigned with wealth, splendor and did the acts they did.
If it were not so… are very powerful words telling us we can have complete confidence in God’s word and that they are from God and his culture. The words of the Bible are true, they are historical and they are for all of us.
How do we know the NT is from God and not written by an ancient culture that lived only 2000 years ago. Jesus spoke more calming and confidence-building words when he prayed to his father:
for the words which You gave Me Ihavegiven to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. (John 17:8)
The words of the NT authors did not come from the Hebrew culture of the 1st century. The disciples were given the words by Jesus and they are his words, not the disciples’.
Then as you can see in the words of Jesus, those words were given to Jesus by God his Father. The NT content comes from God and his holy culture. If this were not so, Jesus would not have prayed that prayer and changed the words he gave his disciples.
Our responsibility is not to categorize those words and relegate them to history. Instead, our responsibility is to follow the Spirit of Truth so we get the truth of God’s words given to us by Jesus and his disciples and implement them correctly into our lives.
God’s culture exists. It is the source for the Bible and those words apply to all ages of history. No one is left out and missing out on God’s instructions, commands, and teachings.
And since God does not know or follow earthly time, his culture & words do not either. They govern all cultures and all eras of human history. When we die, we will enter that culture forever never to be distracted by sinful and secular cultures ever again.