1) Why learn about this?
There is good evidence to show that there is a God in our universe who is supremely powerful over the Earth. The consequences of this are far-reaching, and make it compelling to at least learn about this God and see how it could affect our lives.
The Holy Bible is connected to God as being the source of information about God, and also as his message to humanity. As such, it forms an important piece in this process of understanding who God is, and what he means to us.
At a personal level, the Bible contains a big message for everyone. That is the message of the “Kingdom of God”. It is about something that is going to happen on the Earth in the future, and parts of the Bible describe for us what events will occur at that time. It is like a history told in advance.
This kingdom will redefine the face of the world and is going to offer a world without evil, and an endless life for people who take the time to find out about God. A well known quotation emphasises the world peace of that time:
Micah 4:3: they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. KJV
A sculpture depicting “Let Us Beat Our Swords into Ploughshares” appears outside the United Nations Headquarters in New York symbolising the efforts of that organisation, but the goal of a peaceful and prosperous world has constantly eluded the governments. The Bible shows that it will happen, but only through the intervention of God.
Not only does the message of the Bible include the peace of the world, but also something individual. It describes a resurrection from the dead, where those people who have been faithful to God and died will be raised to life again in this kingdom time. So it is not something that is far-off and irrelevant now, but rather something that has a direct meaning to everyone.
Two thousand years ago, a man named Jesus lived in Israel and spoke of this kingdom of God. He was called “the Christ”, which has a meaning of “saviour”. He came to offer a way for people to be saved from death and overcome the problems in life. Some of his message was,
Matthew 11:28: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” WEB
The basis of Jesus’ message was that he was the son of the one true God, and that by believing in him and following in the commands of God, that great benefits could be obtained. One of these was forgiveness from God, which opens the way into entering the Kingdom of God when it is fully established.
The Bible is clear on saying that this way though Jesus was unique, and the only way to have a part in the reward and eternal life in the Kingdom of God. Jesus said,
John 14:6: … “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me. WEB
This makes Jesus a very important person, and certainly worth learning more about who he was, what he did, and what the promises were that God gave through him. The pages of the Bible reveal that to us.
Added Value To Life
Although the central message of Jesus was about the coming Kingdom and a better world, there is also something relevant to life here and now. For one thing, it gives an answer to the age-old question of “what is the meaning of life?”. By understanding who God is, and if you can relate to him, much of the uncertainty about life can be resolved. It means we know who we are, why we are here, and what we should be doing.
The result of this is the opportunity for a happy and peaceful life that doesn’t require wealth or status.
2) What is the Bible About?
The Bible is a compilation of writings that have come from many different periods in history. They are united together in the claim that their writing was directed by God. This God is a being that has power over the Earth and the lives of people. He is claimed to be a real living God with great power over the world, and essentially the true ruler of the world. Just one example is in the famous “10 commandments” passage:
Exodus 20:1: God spoke all these words, saying, 2 I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 You shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make for yourselves an idol… WEB
So here the writer is claiming to be speaking the words of an authoritative God. The Bible makes no apologies for being dictatorial, and instead claims the exclusive right to be that way. Thus the compilation of books in the Bible is considered to be the words of God to people.
The content of the Bible itself was written down over the period 1250BC through to about 100AD. Through that period of time, many different people wrote sections of text that were later put into the compilation. Despite the span of time and the various writers, the message that is contained in the various sections is coherent, and this in itself is an indicator that there is more to this book than just the ideas of humans.
Through its pages, the Bible details a number of areas:
- An account of a history.
- Knowledge about God.
- Knowledge of a Future Glory.
- A way of “salvation”.
- Description of a set of morals.
- The Meaning of life.
Although often only thought of as a religious work, the Bible also contains an account of history. The history mainly covers the nation of Israel and the Middle-East through the time period of 1000BC through to 400BC, and extends beyond that in places. It is unquestionably a very old book and reveals events that reach a long time back into history
On account of it’s age, the Bible tells us of history, but it can also tell us of things that are still in the future. It does this through its predictions, which are a form of “prophecy”. These are sections that describe things that would happen on the Earth at some future time. One theme of those prophecies is that there is to be a future Kingdom on this earth where the problems and sufferings that we have now will stop, and people will live in peace.
Not only does the Bible prophesy that this Kingdom will appear, but also that there is a way to become a part of it. It introduces the two concepts of “salvation” and “resurrection”. The salvation is the means to be saved from the condemnation that results from our present failures before God. The Bible also speaks of a resurrection, where people will be raised from the dead to be able to participate in this future Kingdom.
The Bible also contains numerous laws and moral codes. These are presented the laws and standards of behaviour dictated by God for the people of the earth. Many people feel that these are good moral standards for people to live by, but if this book is truly the words of an all-powerful God, they are also the only true morals that we can live by.
The Old Testament
There are two main sections of the Bible. There is first the “Old Testament”, which is the older section, and was written through the period 1250BC to about 400BC. This formed the book of scriptures for the Jewish people. It is primarily about the ancient nation of Israel, and includes sections of law and history that have been important to the Jewish people for a long time. It was written in the Hebrew language, and has been meticulously preserved by the Jewish people over the centuries.
The New Testament
The New Testament is quite different to the Old Testament. It was written over a comparatively short time, approximately spanning the years 50 to 100AD. It details the life of Jesus Christ, his teachings, and the early Christian movement. It starts with a number of books that are largely written as a historical narrative, and then includes a series of letters written to various Christian groups and individuals. These describe the teachings of God, and many practical guidelines of how life should be lived.
3) Starting With Christianity
For someone with little background in religion, learning about God or the Bible can be a rather daunting task. The Bible is a large book and people can spend a lifetime studying it, and still keep learning new things from it. So when first approaching you have to be patient and not place too great expectations on yourself.
One first step is to start by reading a section of the Bible, but conscious of the fact that you may not understand all of what it is about initially. Because things are so much interconnected, full understanding of one part can only come after first understanding other sections. So the first objective is to find the big picture and then later resolve the details in your mind.
When people think of God often they will see that as something that happens at a church, but church is just one aspect of Christian life. A church is simply a group of followers of God who have associated together to help each other relate to God. You don’t need a church to take part in God’s promises, reward and forgiveness, but interacting with a group can make the road easier.
Why so many sects?
The Bible is one and all will agree the Bible is imporatant. Some will emphasise one part while ignoring other parts and others will give priority to their interpretation. The more the Bible is treated as simple ordinary communication, the more people agree on what it says. Look for those groups who read the Bible every day, and who read the whole Bible.
4) Is God Real?
If the Bible is true, then it offers a great opportunity, but one must ask whether it really came from a God with the power to carry it out. For thousands of years different civilisations have believed in a God or gods that had powers beyond what humans could achieve. There is good reason for this, because there are a lot of strange and wonderful things about the world that we as humans can barely begin to grasp, yet bear the hallmark of order and intelligence.
Evidence in Nature
In the Bible, it states that God has revealed himself to people by the things that have been made, and that the signature of his power can be seen there,
Romans 1:19: because that which is known of God is revealed in them, for God revealed it to them. 20 For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; WEB
When we look to the world we live in, the elegance in the design of nature argues for a creator behind it. There are many complex interactions between different living things that humans still only understand a small part of.
In recent years, the Theory of Evolution has been offered as an alternative explanation for the creation of the world in the absence of a god. Although it creates a potentially plausible mechanism, if it were the only designer, the world would represent the results of many amazing coincidences
As an example, Cephalopod molluscs like the octopus have an eye that is geometrically similar to that found on vertebrates, like humans. However, the actual receptor construction is the reverse and there is no plausible mechanism for one to develop from the other via Evolution. So this would mean that the eye not only developed once by chance, but also a second time independently, but yet arrived at strikingly similar design components in terms of the cornea and lens.
It is perhaps plausable that the eye developed by chance once, but to have it independently develop many times, and each with common elements of design is just asking too much of the evolutionary theory. There is something more than just that behind our world.
Possibly one of the most influential people who defined the modern scientific method, is Isaac Newton. Natural Philosophy was a combination of observation of the natural world and theory about that observation. Isaac Newton in his work on Optics had shown a method of objective observation of the natural world and pointed out that he would not infer causes. Newton, however, was of the opinion that his own work showed God as cause for forces in the motion he observed in the Universe. No-one has shown otherwise. No one has answered Newton’s point that there has to be a currently acting cause of the huge force holding planets and moons in circling motion. As Newton pointed out such an ordered force could not arise from nothing, and it is not a historical force, but a current force, acting moment-by-moment, even now.
Unfortunatly some started writing philosophy about natural philosophy (and Newton’s and others findings), and began to define science as the observation of the material world. Some came up with the idea that the universe was governed by mechanical laws.
The most sucessful science has been the observation of currently occuring phenomena. It has resulted in extraordinary advances since the objective method of experiment and observation became dominant (mainly intially in England). Everything from telecommunication to nano-particles, to advances in medicine. Because of the success of repeatable experiment, science now favours theory based on repeatable verifiable results.
Experimental science confirms Bible observations of day-to-day repeating phenomena, in the few instances where the Bible makes such observations. The langauge may be different, but the substance of the observations is the same. An example observation is,
Nahum 3:17: Your crowned are as the locusts, and your captains as the great grasshoppers, which camp in the hedges in the cold day, but when the sun arises they flee away, and their place is not known where they are. KJV
In addition modern observations confirm the value of the Law of Moses, especially in relationship to hygiene. Hygiene has practical effects on human life. Merely following the law would have prevented the extremely high mortality in giving birth in Europe that was experienced for hundreds of years until doctors began washing their hands properly between dead patient and women giving birth. The Jewish population was more advanced of the Europeans they lived amongst because of the Bible’s Law.
Newton referred to a Cause, but did not include that into the scope of his observations. Modern science has many explanations of mechanisms of natural events, but tends to fail in explaining causes. Earthquakes and destructive storms are a case in point. There are good descriptions for the mechanisms of these phenomena, or how they happene once they begin, but there has been little advance on the ultimate causes of these things. In effect they don’t know why the concentration of energy should be in one place and why it’s not more uniform.
If the issue of Causes is a problem for regularly observed events in science, the problem of ‘Origins’ is even greater. Fundamentally any explanations about ‘origins’ fo eny phenomena is about events in the past that are not occurring now. They are not repeatable, and they are not testable. There is the science of Forensics, but forensic conclusions are far less certain than, say a laboratory experiment on the growth of an organism.
When scientists are talking about origins of the universe or of life, they are talking about history. As such it belongs to teh disciple of history and should be judged by the same standards as the examination of what happened in other history, as say for example, the settlement of America. In historical study both archealogical evidence and any written evidence is used. Sources closest to the evensts not withstanding bias, are more valued. When there is a lack of evidence of any sort, the result is speculation. An expert’s speculation may not be any more valuable, than another who has an interest in the area or field of study.
Some thoughts on the Speculation of Origins
Due to the Bible’s claims in Genesis there is no half way position on origins. The New Testament speaks of events as literal history, and as examples that may be applied to our lives. More that it is states with authority that Jesus was literally descended from Adam, through his mother Mary.
Those studying Darwin have noted that with God in the process only the right variations occur, which is creationism, and not natural selection. (Himmelfarb, G, Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution. Garden city NY Doubleday Anchor 1959, 329-30). The point is that the whole theory rests on events occurring without a Creator as divine intervention. If there is any intervention at all the theory fails.
The Evolutionary paradigm is more about a world view than about forensic science. The reason for its success is that people want to believe it, not because its true but it makes them feel unconcerned about breaking God’s laws (which have been a kind of social pressure in Anglo-Western society). For this reason the supporters of the theory have maintained many scientific ‘proofs’ even when found to be untrue or lies.
There are now many vocal scientists supporting Creation or Intelligent Design as support who Evolution, and they have the stronger evidence. They have as evidence a Law: The law of biogenesis. Louis Pasteur made the observation that living things can come only from other living things by reproduction and that life cannot arise from non-living material.
Evolution presupposes that all life, of itself, came from building blocks. All agree there has been biological change (little ‘e’ evolution). This was observed by as variation within Biblical ‘kinds’ even before Darwin, and is the the foundation of animal and plant breeding. In fact creationists are amoung the leading researchers in this area. But Evolution proposes that all living creatures descended from a common one and the variation was the result of natural selection on random genetic mutations.
If there is, in analogy, ‘programmed’ variation, and it seems there increasing evidence there is some, the problem for Evolution is that it is established that for a program to exist and function it requires a non-material aspect ‘information’, which in turn requires both an author and a recipient.
The discredited icons of evolution equal a kind of mythology.
- 1. The Miller-Urey experiment of 1953: Using electricity though an idealised atmosphere to create amino acids is still often featured as evidence. The problem is that the assumptions are now discredited. We cannot know what the atmosphere was like in the past but by 1995 all the experts agreed Miller’s was not possible, as if it was hydrogen rich it would have escaped into space. When something more realistic is used as an atmosphere the books will say organic molecules are acheived, but they don’t say what these are (as they achieve the organic molecules of formaldehyde and cyanide!) Which is why not much is made of the later experiments. In addition even if a molecule was achieved, it has been shown by the increasing knowledge since 1953 to be further and further from being even enough to begin to have a living cell, as dozens of the right kinds of protein molecules are required in the right sequence, and even then there is a huge gap between a lump of chemicals and a living cell. Even if electricity or energy makes the building blocks of life, the chances of life vanish so small as to be in the realms of miracle. Despite this being known as a dead end it is still published in some textbooks. As yet no experimental evidence (despite much effort) including investigation of chemical affinity, self ordering tendencies seeding from space deep sea ocean vents clay and pre-biotic chemicals not one has been able to withstand experimental scientific scrutiny. With greater an greater knowledge the gap becomes wider for an explanation of how life could have arisen – in fact they have found evidence for ‘miracle’ and intelligence! The odds are so absurdly high as there are so many conditions that have to be right for even one cell, let alone the complexity on complexity that is even the simplest life form. They are further in the 2000’s from explaining how life could have arisen than in 1953.
- 2. Darwin’s tree of life.There has been 120 years of discovery of fossils since Darwin drew the tree that represents well his theory of successive changes. However the tree is not supported by the discoveries. Even in Darwin’s day the fossils failed to represent the theory as they seemed to appear suddenly in the Cambrian explosion. There were some jelly fish sponges and worms prior then suddenly the variety of life much as we see today (except some are extinct). Some still hope for something to emerge from the fossil record but one discovery is unlikely to balance the weight of existing discoveries. Evolutionist now are investigating molecular evidence for a common ancestor, however there is no agreement. Also, though in species, there may be a common ancestor at the next level at the level of Phyla the evidence now cannot support a common ancestor. That is each arose independently and the tree has been discredited by scientific discovery. According to Jonathan Wells icons of evolution Washington DC Regnery 2000. Darwin’s tree is not even a good hypothesis-and any scientist in the field should know. But yet this tree still appears in some textbooks.
- 3.Haeckel’s embryos:Earnest Haeckel’s drawings of embryo’s but when actual photos are compared they didn’t match. He was actually exposed in 1860 (note photography is possible but even today they use the drawings!!) Haeckel had used the same woodcut. He also picked only examples that were similar to start with, then made them look more similar. Also he omitted the earlies stages when they don’t even remotely look alike- at the midpoint of development some become a bit more similar then become very different again. Real photos of embryos show that there is no similarity between mammals and fish, or even between mammals in some cases. The real evidence shows more difference than similarity. Any similarity seen was wishful thinking at best or fraud at worst. That some use this example as evidence for the theory now shows they are willing to accept fraud.
- 4. Gills: Evolutionists as late as 1996 presented say that human embryos at one stage have gill like structures on their necks as amongst the strongest evidence for evolution. But humans and other mammals necks are bent and the ridges reflect this. They are not gills, and certainly never are gill slits. Even fish in the same stage don’t have gills. Due to Haeckel there once was a theory that embryos show characteristics of their evolutionary history, but it has never been empirically supported, and has been dropped even by evolutionists. Any resemblance is an illusion, like seeing a butterfly in an inkblot.
- 5. Homology in vertebrate limbs”There are drawings depicting the similar bone structures in a bats wing, a porpoise flipper, a horse leg and a human hand. The idea is that because they look a bit similar they may have a common ancestor. But homology ideas were well published before Darwin by Richard Owen as evidence of a common designer who used an ‘archetype’. (Any designer knows they creatively recycle ideas). In fact any line up of man made items such cars (as was made by Tim Berra in 1990) shows how a design process with a Creator would produce similarity. Darwin supporters had an idea of ‘common developmental pathways’ where different animals have a pathway to a similar embryo, but this has been found to be untrue. So now no scientist studies the development from embryo to adult to support evolution. Another idea is that they had similar genes, but this has been proven to be mostly untrue also. Many animals have similar genes and very different features for example mouse and octopus eyes have a superficial similarity. A mouse eye is nothing like the eye of a fruit fly yet a mouse gene in a fruit fly can make a fruit fly eye! In any case the fact that there is similar DNA is no more convincing evidence, as it is also very good evidence also for a common Creator. Human Genes and Ape genes: Humans may have 98% similar genes to apes. However it turns out the 2% different are not body building genes and no-one can explain how the two are therefore so different. A designer may use the same bits to make 2 different designs. The building blocks may be the same but the outcome very different, as how it is put together is the product of intelligence.
- 6. The Archaeopteryx missing link:Darwin himself pointed out that the most serious objection to his theory was the failure of the fossil record. Whereas in 1859 it was possible to believe more fossils would be found, now it is not. The Archaeopteryx was found in Germany in 1861. It was thought at the time to be a missing link, but now it is known to be a bird with feathers like modern birds and is not even considered an ancestor of modern birds, merely an extinct species. In addition they have since found more reptile like forms -dated after the Archaeopteryx. They have found no series of fossils that could be considered transitions. That one fossil has a mixture of features is no more evidence of evolution than design. The problem is we have a platypus sharing features of both ducks and marsupials. But no-one can say how it made the transition from one to the other. In any case one or even two examples are not enough as everywhere there a huge number of types in the fossils and with many fossils found, many transitions need to have been found, and it is simply not the case. Species seem to arrived suddenly, stayed much the same within the type then become extinct . The lack of evidence has even lead to fraud. Also embarrassingly for some scientists, before thinking they published in Science they had found modern turkey DNA in dinosaur bones. Even modern birds don’t have DNA exactly like turkeys so it was known he must have had a contaminated sample.
- 7. Java Man:Bones found in 1891-2 on an Indonesian island, became the foundation of a theory of a hairy ape-like man with large jaw and very little forehead. Unfortunately all the images are based on is a skullcap, 3 teeth and a thigh bone. The rest is speculation. In addition the excavation was so poorly carried out few would give much consideration to the findings now as the thigh bone may not have even belonged to the skullcap. Recent scholarship suggests the skullcap has a brain capacity well within variation in humans found today and that the remains were human.
Though many fossils are found the amount of fossil evidence for human ancestors is very small, often consisting of a bit of skull or teeth. There is not enough evidence to form a theory on. A paleo-anthropologist has analysed Evolutionary narratives and found they have much in common with the structure of ‘folk tales’ and nothing in common with experimental science methodology.
The Evolutionary theory is now in such crisis with regard to the evidence there is even a theory called “punctuated equilibrium” to explain the very obvious fossil gaps. This theory asks even more, postulating that radically new species developed rapidly in isolation and turned up suddenly. But this theory has been criticised much by Evolutionists, even though it fits the fossil record well, as it doesn’t help in providing an explanation.
Due to the many dead ends Evolutionary science is moribund, and increasingly outpaced by experimental developments. The scientists breaking new ground now may be creationists, as they often were, or intelligent design proponents, as the case for design has been supported by increasing amounts of evidence.
Once an evolutionist could have had some kind of blind acceptance of the idea and hoped for evidence to appear but hard results from experimental science, have discredited every possible theory so far. In addition the probability of evidence for the idea ever being found is now approaching virtually impossible. As the evidence mounts for interconnected design, it’s easier to have an evidence based faith in the idea of a Designer than in blind chance.
There’s just so much more evidence for design than there is for chance.
The first Christians spoke always of the evidence. Their faith was based on many eye witness accounts of a resurrection. This came out from a Hebrew culture where every step of the way, the God of the nation had given evidence of his power, that people from other nations could see.
Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” KJV
It is sobering to think on it and write down, no matter what you belive, what solid evidence do you have for what you believe? As the world is full of ideas, many of them contradictory, if you can’t think of any evidence why is what you believe better than another’s idea?
6) Western Culture
One reason for getting to know the Bible is the sheer impact it had on ‘Western’ art, writing and culture from the time it was translated into English.
It also had an impact on Middle Eastern Culture.
The following will examine some common ideas and concepts deeply embedded in Western, and in particular Anglo-American culture.
The ideal of sacrifice is highly regarded in Western culture. People who might die for their country in battle might be described as making a great sacrifice for their country. The word is assocated with individuals whose actions are considered to be totally, and unselfishly, dedicated to another person or nation. It is more than mere altruism, it is given to actions where there is no personal gain, rather personal loss.
The whole concept of such a sacrifice has its origins and power through the willing death of the Christ in crucifixion on a stake. The account or witnesses have Jesus chosing to submit to death to be a pattern of redemption, to do what God wished. Just as he submitted to those who were evil, so must others. Just as he was raised from the dead, so will others. In leading the way by being selfless, in giving his life for others, he is the pattern of what the Western world understands as ‘sacrifice.’
The word ‘sacrifice’ itself comes from the animals offered in the Old Testament, Law of Moses. This Law is the basis of Jewish culture. The New Testament parallels Jesus death with that of the animal sacrifices in the Law of Moses. Becasue of this common origin, Jewish culture aslo shares the idea.
To get a sense of what it means you might read one of the Gospel record. Mark is considered the simplest. You might then read a short section from the book of Hebrews to get the connection.
This word is used so often, yet few realise what it really means. It is a combination of two words ‘escape’ or ‘scape’ and ‘goat’. In Hebrew it is literally ‘goat of departure.’ In a complicated ceremony, every year, the tabernacle and the highpriest had their sins covered.
Leviticus 16:8-10): Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD’S lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness. KJV
This became such an important saying because of how it is explained,
Leviticus 16:21-22: Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness. KJV
The key modern meaning of the term scape-goat from this event, is that, though innocent of any sin, it bears the sin of others, and by leaving and going far away from sight, it takes away the sin or inquity of others.
A David and Goliath battle
When people speak of a conflict where one party or company is small, and another is large and powerful, they may describe the situation as a David versus Goliath battle.
The whole account is to be found in 1 Samuel chapter 17. In a famous and pivotal incident in Israel’s history, the Philistine army (a people dwelt on the South coast about Gaza) had come to fight Israel. They had what we might regard as a novel approach in that they sent out their mightest man to begin the hostilities.
he stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. (1Samuel 17:8-9)
It seems this man at about 3m was very, very tall, but bulky enough to carry the height. Much taller than king Saul of Israel, who was the tallest man in Isarel (1 Samuel 10:23). We have a few indications that the Israelites might not have been overly tall on average one is that their spies spoke of seeing tall people.
There we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, which come of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight. (Numbers 13:33)
In any case none of the Hebrews felt like taking on Goliath, and so the two armies faced each other, and did nothing.
Then young David, who looks after the sheep, is sent by his father to take food to his brothers. He is clearly not old enough to go to war. He hears the challenge and says to those about him, “who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”
David convinces king Saul he can take Goliath on as if a lion or a bear. and we have this classic passage,
When the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance. (1Samuel 17:42)
Then said David to the Philistine, “You came to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day will the LORD deliver you into mine hand; and I will smite you, and take thine head from you; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD’S, and he will give you into our hands. And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came and drew nigh to meet David, that David hasted, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag, and took from there a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath, and slew him, and cut off his head with it. (1Samuel 17:45-51)
The picture that is taken form this is a thin slight and possibly not tall youth with not much apparent strength, overcoming a huge mighty man, bulky as he has been trained in warfare. The small had overcome the powerful. In context David is shown as having ‘right’ on his side. It is so powerful an image that it is useful to use where the small protagonist is thought to be ‘right’ in the issue in contention, and the bigger powerful party is seen as oppressing. This incident and others like it, might explain the cultural liking for’under-dogs’ or the weaker in sporting matches and similar situations, which is inexplicable otherwise.
Taking the Mantle
In business or public life, a sucessor might be described as ‘taking the mantle’ of a predecessor. This might puzzle someone who has not read the Bible. It is not about merely taking on a role, it is about taking on their whole ethos and acting as if the previous person has never left. The anology is powerful because there is a story behind it.
Elijah a Hebrew prophet was sorrowful that after demonstrating the great power of their God to Israel at Carmel, the foriegn king’s wife, who worshipped another god, wished to kill him. He fled to Mt Horeb in Sinai. There he confessed his sorrow. His God, the God of isarel showed him his power was in a ‘still small voice’ and gave him the promise of help. He was to anoint Elisha the son of Shaphat to take his place. Elisha followed Elijah as a servant for a while, then he is told Elijah is to be taken. Elisha sticks with Elijah to the very end, and askes for a double portion of Elijah’s power to heal and do miracles. When Elijah is taken, his mantle falls to the ground. Elisha picks up this mantle. Witnessed by the son of the prophets, they see Elisha use this claok to stop the waters of the Jordan and cross over dry. In this way they could know Elisha was prophet in the role of Elijah.
Drop in a Bucket
A drop in a bucket is a very small quantity. The idea is from the English translation of a Hebrew analogy.
Isaiah 40:1: Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. KJV
Nations to us might seem large things, but they, by comparison to the God of the Bible, even the large and mightly nation of Russia, or the empire of Ancient Rome, are just drop into a bucket.
Skin of my Teeth
The meaning of this might seem odd, as we know teeth don’t have skin. If we have a ‘close shave’ we might have escaped by the skin of our teeth. The expression is from a very ancient Hebrew source, from the book of Job, when he loses all his family, all his wealth and then finally all his health.
Job 19:20: My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth. KJV
Weak as Water
This saying has a long history, and is entwined with Hebrew history. In the ancient account of Job, he speaks of being poured out like milk (Job 10:10). In the time of the Judges, before the kings, Samuel gathers the nation togther to re-dedicate themselves to the true worship if God of Israel. To begin things he pours out water before God. They fasted and confessed their sin.
Later in the history, King David is brought water from Bethleham by three brave men who broke through enemy lines to get it. King David, though he wished to drink it, poured it out to the Lord as ‘it was the blood of men who went in jeopardy of their lives.’ In all there is a sense of how water represents human fragility and weakness. Psalm 22, a national song of Israel, includes “I am poured out like water”(v14)
By the time of Ezekiel it appears to have become a saying (see also Ezek 21:7),
Ezekiel 7:17: All hands shall be feeble, and all knees shall be weak as water. KJV
We have not place to mention all influences culture as the Bible imagery has been borrowed heavily. In addition borrowed metaphors and images relating to doves, rainbows, olive leaves, lambs and lions, of natiosn as trees and etc. abound.
A talent is from Greek ‘talanton’ and is a measure of weight. As currency was valued by weight, it might also be used a measure of currency. It is used this way as meaning ‘a sum of money’ in one parable by Jesus.
For the kingdom is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. (Matthew 25:14-18)
From this parable the great lesson was that peope must do things with the abilities they had been given by God. It was so culturally powerful that ‘talent’ came to mean ‘ability.’ It is an undlying Christian value that everyone do things to their best ability.
7) Power of the Bible
It can change your life
How is that that reading this book makes people more creative? Why has the Bible been linked by well known theorists such as Nial Fergusson to the sucess of the ‘Protestant Work Ethic’ How is it that Jewish people and those influenced by the Old Testament have a far higher prepresentation amoung the names that have made a difference and who are known globally for contributions to Civilization?
The Bible itself contains claims that the Scripture has the power to renew the mind, to change us from conforming to peer pressure.
Romans 12:2: And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. KJV
The power of knowing remarkable people
The Bible reveals the hopes, failures and deep inspirations of truly remarkable people. Many have gone through great suffering and come out of it. By reading of their lives, there is inspiration to overcome, and also do great things. Bad habits can be broken. New patterns formed.
The most remarkable figure the world has ever seen, was Jesus. The greatest of the earth feel in awe at his wisdom. Nobody could have imagined such a person. A novelist can only write of what they have experienced, extrapolated and seen. To think those thoughts that we have recorded from him, someone who was just as great a thinker had to invent them.