To convince you that the Bible is indeed the very words of God given to us for our eternal salvation and how to live our earthly lives, is the purpose of this lesson. We begin by talking about the importance of our presuppositions when we approach the Bible and then we go into these four areas:
#1 Evidence for God as the One Author of the entire book, emphasizing his view outside of time
#2 The unity of the plot of the entire book follows the traditional structure of a novel of Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement
#3 The use of Progressive Revelation in the entire book
#4 The voice of the One Author in the entire book
This lesson is a little longer and more complex than some, but the issues discussed in it are tremendously important, worth your time, and foundational to your understanding of the Bible and your confidence that God is the ONE author of it.
When you see the Bible as one book by one author, our Sovereign God, it can make a tremendous difference not only in how you read it but in many ways and more importantly how you respond to it.
In contrast to seeing the Bible as one book by one author, if we believe the Bible is the creation of human authors, what I call the “short story view of the Bible,” though we feel it might have some inspiring and morally valid advice, it is our choice as a fellow human to pick and choose what we believe or obey.
If on the other hand, we truly believe the Bible is written by God Himself, our Creator and the One to whom we will one day give account, in what I refer to as the “Novel view of the Bible” above all else we should work to understand and obey it.
This lesson will give you the confidence to do that.
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Novel or Short Story?
and why it matters tremendously, now and forever
Teacher, Yvon Prehn
Intro to the lesson
• This lesson is a little longer and more complex than some because it covers a grouping of topics that are related and foundational to your understanding of the Bible,
• AND in many ways more importantly how you respond to it.
• If on the one hand, we believe the Bible is the creation of human authors, though we feel it might have some inspiring and morally valid advice, it is our choice as a fellow human reader to pick and choose what we follow.
• If on the other hand, we truly believe the Bible is written by God Himself, our Creator and the One to whom we will one day give account, above all else we should work to understand and obey it.
• To convince you that the Bible is indeed the very words of God given to us for our eternal salvation and how to live our earthly lives, is the purpose of this lesson. I pray you will pay close attention to it and that we will commit ourselves to getting to know Bible and live in ways more pleasing to our Lord because of it.
To begin, our presuppositions matter
• We don’t approach anything we read without presuppositions, whether it is the Bible or anything else…
• Let’s look at the results of looking at the Bible from these 2 presuppositions—
• One, that it is like a novel, in that it is one book by one author.
• Two, that it is like a collection of short stories, written by a group of authors.
Let’s now look more closely at the dangers of the short story collection view of the Bible
• Instead of the Bible being one book, written by God, the short-story view of the Bible assumes it is a collection of writings written by solely by humanity.
• This view assumes that we do not know for certain who the authors of the books of the Bible were or precisely when they were written or collected.
• This is the current presupposition of many biblical scholars, popular writers, and TV programs about the Bible today.
• Programs for example that search for the “real” Jesus, or present various theories about what “really” happened in the Bible.
• At their base, each of these views assume the Bible is a collection of books written by human authors.
Where did this view of the Bible as a collection of short stories (though they may not call it that) come from?
• Though this view is currently the predominate one in some scholarly circles and most popular writers and television programs on the Bible, it is a fairly recent development in how the church has viewed the Bible.
• I would highly recommend an excellent book on this topic: God’s Word Alone, the authority of Scripture by Matthew Barrett, for a detailed and scholarly history of this view of the Bible, but very briefly
• The author relates how through most of Biblical and human history including the history of the Christian Church through the Reformation, the Bible was viewed as the inerrant Word of God and human reason was subject to it.
• He then talks about the rise of the primacy of human reason (via the Enlightenment through post-modern philosophy) and that gradually the view of the Bible as the inerrant Word of God shifted to seeing the Bible as a scattered collection of religious writings that human reason needed to step in and determine what was useful or true.
• Here is how it worked out in practice in the scholarly world which then filtered down into popular culture.
In contrast to the view (held for over 3,000 years) that Moses was the author of the Torah, this a group of scholars came up with—
The Documentary Hypothesis
• The documentary hypothesis (DH) is one of the models used by biblical scholars to explain the origins and composition of the Torah (or Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). A version of the documentary hypothesis, frequently identified with the German scholar Julius Wellhausen, was almost universally accepted for most of the 20th century. It posited that the Pentateuch is a compilation of four originally independent documents: the Jahwist (J), Elohist (E), Deuteronomist (D), and Priestly (P) sources. The first of these, J, was dated to the Solomonic period (c. 950 BCE). E was dated somewhat later, in the 9th century BCE, and D was dated just before the reign of King Josiah, in the 7th or 8th century. Finally, P was generally dated to the time of Ezra in the 5th century BCE. The sources would have been joined together at various points in time by a series of editors or “redactors.”
• From Wikipedia
• It sounds so scholarly and one assumes these very learned individuals know what they are talking about, but on close examination…..who wrote each of the documents? What independent manuscript proof do we have of them?
• There is no documentary support for them, no textual proof, no historical accounts of any of the supposed individuals who redacted (a favorite work used to describe their work, which simply means to edit) them.
• Conclusion: This view makes no sense unless you previously have an anti-supernaturalist view, that God could not be the author of the Bible and want to support that opinion
Though thoroughly discredited, the results of this and similar theories
• Have been incredibly destructive, even if we aren’t consciously aware of how we treat the Bible because of it.
• Here’s how it works:
• If you don’t know for certain the identity of the authors of the books, when they were written, or when they were finally complied into the form you have today (ALL FALSE ASSUMPTIONS) the assumed conclusion is that the authors, editors and compliers, were human and therefore the Bible is merely a book about God, not necessarily from or by God.
It then follows, according to this view….
• That the teachings in the Bible are useful if they speak to human need, but they can be ignored if they appear outdated or offensive.
• It also follows in this view that there might be spiritually useful material in the biblical books, but the books are also filled with errors and human opinion.
• Human reason and scholarship are then needed to make the distinctions between truth and error. The Bible becomes a book where the reader decides what is true, instead of discovering what God says is true.
• As it is sometimes summarized, this view believes the Bible might contain the words of God, but overall, it IS NOT the WORD of God.
Without thinking approaching the Bible in this way is how most people read it today
• This view has permeated more than scholarly circles and television specials about what really happened in the Bible, or who is the real Jesus.
• If you think that doesn’t apply to you, think back to the last time you were in a Bible study and someone asked, “What do you think this passage means?” or “How do you feel about this?”
• I don’t want to beat up on anyone, I realized in doing this study that I’ve done that far more in the past than I’d like to admit.
• Without thinking I’ve put myself in the position of deciding the value of the Bible and to correct that I realized I needed a correct overview of the Bible itself and that’s what I want to share with you.
This corrected view is to look at the Bible more like a novel than a collection of short stories
• I summarized the conclusions of seeing the Bible as a Novel with One Author vs. the Bible as a Short Story Collection with many authors in a chart that is available on www.Bible805.com. How I came to the conclusions of the Bible as a novel with One author, God, are the 4 areas we’ll now look at in the rest of the lesson.
• #1 Evidence for God as the One Author of the entire book
• #2 The unity of the plot of the entire book that follows the traditional Structure of a Novel
• #3 The use of Progressive Revelation in the entire book
• #4 The voice of the One Author in the entire book
#1 Evidence for God as the One Author
• No great novel was written by a committee and The Bible claims it has one ultimate author, our Triune God. (To understand the Trinity, go to www.Bible805.com for the lesson series on the Trinity).
• Summary verse is in 2 Timothy 3:16, Phillips All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the faith and correcting error, for re-setting the direction of a man’s life and training him in good living.
• Throughout the Bible the terms, “the Word of the Lord came to” “God said,” and similar terms confirm that though God used human authors, God is the ultimate author behind all the human writers giving them the content of their message.
• An important characteristic of God that relates to His role as the Author of the Bible is that…
God is outside of time
• Being outside of time, as Author of the Bible God could direct an event be written about hundreds of years before it would happen.
• Because knowing the entire plot of the story, God would know precisely how and when it would happen.
• We call God’s foreknowledge of the plot prophecy and here is an illustration that will help show how God’s view of the span of human history is reflected in the writing of the Bible.
Think about traffic helicopters
• As we here in S. Ca drive the freeways, we rely on the traffic helicopters.
• We have no idea what is going to happen on the 405 or the 110, but the pilot in the helicopter does because of his viewpoint, he can see the whole freeway system and can tell us what’s ahead.
• It’s the same with God—only His view is not just above LA, but outside of all time and human history.
• Because of that He can speak through the prophets to tell people what’s ahead.
I have an illustration for you that will help
• A link to this chart is on the website, www.Bible805.com
• Let me describe it to you–
A summary of the importance of God outside time
• It is important to understand that because God is outside time, and able to see the past, present, and future simultaneously and He is thus able to give us true prophecy in the Bible.
• He tells us about what will happen in the future and when it happens, it is one of the best evidences for the reality that God is the overall Author of the Bible.
• To be assured that is what happened is why it’s important to accurately DATE Biblical manuscripts which we will do as we go through the series on how we got our Bibles.
• We’ve seen how God is able to plan out and foretell the entire plot, but how then does He structure it?
#2 the unity of the plot
• Instead of scattered stories with a variety of plot lines, the Bible has ONE story, one plot line. To illustrate this, let’s analyze it like any novel.
• In 1863, Gustav Freytag, a German writer, advocated a [plot-story-line] model based upon Aristotle’s theory of tragedy. . . . . which divides a drama or novel into five parts.
• Rising action
• Falling action
• I’ll next define each part from Freytag’s definitions and then how the story line of the Bible fits that part.
• Exposition defined: The first phase . . . introduces the characters, especially the main character, also known as the protagonist. It shows how the characters relate to one another, their goals and motivations, as well as their moral character. During the exposition, the protagonist learns their main goal and what is at stake.
• Exposition in the Bible: Our Triune God (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit) is the primary protagonist in all the Bible. All other characters are subordinate to God, though their actions are meaningful. In the opening of Genesis, God created a world and placed the humanity created in His Image into a perfect garden. He met them there and walked with them.
• Definition of Rising Action: it starts with a conflict. . . . It starts with an event that catalyzes the protagonist to take action. Rising action initiates the progression of events until the climax.
• In this phase, the protagonist secondary characters understand the goal that will resolve the conflict and begin to work toward it. Smaller problems thwart their initial success and their progress is directed primarily against these secondary obstacles. This phase demonstrates how the protagonist overcomes these obstacles.
• Rising action in the Bible: The catalyzing conflict in the Biblical story is when the human couple God created for a relationship with Himself, turns their back on him and does the one thing He told them not to do—to eat the forbidden fruit. They chose to believe the enemy of God, Satan, rather than God. The consequence is death. First temporal, physical death and finally eternal death or separation from God.
• The only solution to the eternal death of his created characters is for God Himself to enter the broken world and die for them.
Rising action, continued
• The Rising Action continues: The Old Testament story-line is the progression of events about God’s preparation for work of redemption.
• Through the lives of a chosen people and the messages of his prophets, God illustrates an explanation of how it will work out, of who God is and what He expects.
• He can no longer walk with them, so He communicates through his Word (the written scriptures that become our Bible), and through events in the lives of a chosen people.
• Just as the rising action makes up the bulk of a novel, the rising action told in the Old Testament makes up the majority of our Bibles and much of human history.
• Like any careful story-teller, God is not in a hurry, He takes His time to tell the story and prepare the world for…
• Climax defined: The climax is the turning point or highest point of the story. The protagonist makes the single big decision that defines not only the outcome of the story, but also who they are as a person.
• The climax in the Bible: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In that, humanity sees in Jesus the perfect Man, how they were designed to live and obey God.
• Then that perfect Man Jesus, by an act of his free will takes his life and offers it in the place of his creation as a sacrifice for their sins.
• God the Father accepts the sacrifice, and the enemy, Satan and death are defeated.
• Falling action defined: The climax is not the ending, but it determines the ending. The falling action phase consists of events that lead to the ending. Depending on the complexity of the story, there are often multiple secondary plot lines yet to be worked out.
• The Falling action in the Bible, comes after death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus back to heaven. His disciples are charged with the task of sharing the message of salvation with the world. The secondary plot lines involve the establishment of the church and how his disciples are to live out the work of reconciling the world to God that is now possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
• The New Testament tells the story of the falling action not only of the characters when it was first written, but it invites us to join in and become part of the story.
• Denouement defined: In this phase the protagonist and antagonist have solved their problems and either the protagonist or antagonist wins the conflict. The conflict officially ends. Some stories show what happens to the characters after the conflict ends and/or they show what happens to the characters in the future.
• The Denouement in the Bible is Christ’s return to earth, the casting of Satan into the Lake of Fire, and the creation of the New Heaven and New Earth where God once again, physically, tangibly walks with His people forever.
• Paradise lost has become paradise regained.
• C.S. Lewis’ description of the denouement at the end of the Last Battle can describe our coming denouement of human history also, as he says–
• “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning. . . . . the beginning of the real story. All their life and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
Summary of the
• I found the way the Bible fits the structure of a novel to be very exciting when I first discovered it—I hope you do too.
• And I trust it was a good illustration to show that the Bible is one complete, organic story—the greatest of Novels written by One divine Author.
• It is not a scattered collection of short stories written by faceless writers who could have never collaborated independently to produce this ONE storyline over the centuries the Bible was written.
• Next, I’ll share some of the additional characteristics of the Bible that confirm the One Author, the one unified novel structure of it.
#3 Progressive Revelation
• Aristotle said “the events of the plot must causally relate to one another as being either necessary or probable.” (Wikipedia quote)
• If the Bible is like a novel with One Author, the scattered parts of it should relate to each other.
• That’s not necessary if it is a collection of short stories. A short story collection only needs to be loosely related to the topic; the individual stories can have a variety of authors with different viewpoints. We don’t expect them to agree with each other and there is no true narrative arc to the collection.
• However, in a novel, the key topics and plot points of the book need to relate to each other.
• Here is an example of it. . . . .
A specific example of Progressive Revelation
• One continuing plot line in the Bible is that a sinless sacrifice was needed for pay for humanities rebellion against their Creator.
• We don’t know WHY this is, why a sacrifice but it is simply a basic law of creation.
• In the Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis describes the necessary death of Aslan, the Christ figure, as one of the deep laws before time began. In the same way, why a sinless sacrifice was required to pay for sin is something the Bible does not tell us.
• It is simply an underlying law of divine reality and one carried through the Bible. We see it early in Genesis when Adam and Eve sinned, God covered them with animal skins (obviously from the sacrifice of a sinless animal);
• When Abel made his offering that was pleasing to God, it was an animal sacrifice;
• Job offered animal sacrifices, so did Abraham, all prior to Levitical laws;
• Later, the sacrifices (and their type, purpose, and procedure) were clarified in the Levitical Laws after the Exodus and became tied to the idea of a coming Messiah in Isaiah and other prophetic writings, until …..
Jesus was the final sacrifice
• This plot line moved along through the Old Testament and that is why it was extraordinarily meaningful when John the Baptist saw Jesus and announced, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the World”
• Finally, all the previous teaching about sacrifices were fulfilled with Jesus’ death on the cross.
• The later New Testament writers expand on and clarify the meaning of His death until in the final book of Revelation John has a vision of Jesus as both Lion and Lamb.
• The plot line of a needed sacrifice for sin of an innocent winds through the entire Bible, through the centuries and the voices of many, but its truth progressively revealed by the one Author—God—behind it all.
Jesus’ commentary on progressive revelation about his life and ministry
• He said, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” John 5:39
• And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
• Jesus begins this discussion, but other New Testament authors refer to and confirm progressive revelation of OT teaching further revealed or fulfilled in the New Testament.
• The Old Testament is quoted over 200 times in the New Testament with writer after writer quoting an OT passage and then showing how it was fulfilled in the life of Jesus.
• Read the book of Matthew as a great example—throughout the entire book he will mention something Jesus did and then say, “this was to fulfill” and he quotes an Old Testament passage.
#4 The voice of the One Author in the entire book
• This final point is subjective, but I think valid.
• Jesus said his sheep recognize his voice.
• When we read the canonical books of the Bible, we hear one voice.
• But then if we read books of the Apocrypha or of the Gnostic gospels, it is obviously a different voice.
• Looking at one example, the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas is very different than the 4 gospels in our Bibles, though some contemporary media wants you to believe it is the the same.
• I think you’ll hear the different voice behind even this short example from the Gospel of John and the Gospel of Thomas.
• The setting is the Last Supper Jesus has with His disciples.
Gospel of John, the Christian Bible
Gospel of John, New Testament, chapter 14
1″Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God[a]; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
…… 23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas
These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded.
1. And he said, “Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death.”
2. Jesus said, “Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, they will be disturbed.
When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all. [And after they have reigned they will rest.]”
3. Jesus said, “If your leaders say to you, ‘Look, the (Father’s) kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the (Father’s) kingdom is within you and it is outside you.
When you know yourselves, then you will be known, and you will understand that you are children of the living
Father. But if you do not know yourselves, then you live in poverty, and you are the poverty.”. . . . .
7. Jesus said, “Lucky is the lion that the human will eat, so that the lion becomes human. And foul is the human that the lion will eat, and the lion still will become human.”
Obviously TWO very different voices
• Not only different, but one (the Gospel of John) is clear, the other (the Gospel of Thomas) is confusing.
• Satan’s communication is often like that—it stirs us up, it is upsetting, it is confusing.
• When you know the Bible well, if someone says, “the Bible teaches this or that,” even though you may not be able to immediately recall a chapter and verse, you know that is not from your Lord.
To review and summarize
• The Bible is not a collection of isolated stories with anonymous authors written who knows when, but the greatest Novel, the greatest story ever written,
• By God the One Author inspiring the human authors to write the Bible to show His creation His ways, what went wrong in our world, and what Jesus did and will do to set all things right.
• Though there are many excellent study Bibles, and they have a place when we need background, it is easy to get distracted by all the notes and lose the sense of the text itself.
• Consider using a PLAIN Text Bible, or one with minimal notes. Even better is one organized in paragraphs, rather than verse by verse if you want to get more of a sense of the Bible as ONE Book.
• As to what translation?
• The best translation the one you will read or listen to.
• Listen or read, whatever translation it is your choice, but as Nike says, JUST DO IT!
One last thought when we look at the Bible as a novel
• All novels come to an end.
• And so to does the story of salvation in the Bible and so too will our world.
• And though the ending of the Bible does promise a potential happily ever after, each person must make the decision to trust the that the message of the Bible is true, and that Jesus is the only way to salvation for that to be true for them.
• God did not write the Bible to entertain us, but to save us or as J.I. Packer put it–
• The Scriptures are a lifeline God throws us in order to ensure he and we stay connected while the rescue is in process.
• My prayer is that you daily grab ahold of it as if your life depended on it…because it does, for your life today and your destiny now and forever.
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