The Impossible Book
Vol: 22 Issue: 31 Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Imagine, for a second, that a collection of several dozen books about the cultural, religious and historical heritage of a historical people began to be composed around the fifth century AD.
That isn’t when the collection was completed, but rather, when it started. Since 500 AD, the work had been taken up by forty different individuals along the way, a book here, two books there, etc., with the final book of the collection hitting the news stands in January, 2007.
So, we have the time frame of sixteen hundred years to deal with. Our first author would have composed his historical and cultural work as the Roman Empire began to collapse and the Goths and Vandals laid siege to Rome.
Mohammed had not yet been born. The world was just entering the Middle Ages. The prevailing science said that the earth was flat. The sun revolved around the earth. England was divided into tiny kingdoms. The Dome of the Rock had not yet been built on Temple Mount.
That is our starting point. Now, imagine that a couple of new books were added to the collection about every century or so. Very few of our authors ever meet, most are separated by hundreds of years and hundreds of miles at a time when few could read or write and libraries were about as common as ATM’s.
A couple of books in 500, a couple more in 600, etc., for about six hundred years. That brings us to the period of the Magna Carta, and our collection of books is about one-third finished. A few more centuries, a few more books, and it is half done around the time of Columbus.
A few more books, a few more centuries, and about the time of the American Revolution, our collection is three-quarters complete. And on we go through history: The War of 1812, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the War on Terror. . .and finally, in 2007, the last of the sixty-six books outlining the culture and historical heritage of our imaginary people is complete.
Now, to make it more interesting. Although our authors don’t know each other, lived centuries apart and never read each other’s works before composing their own, the entire collection must read as if it were penned by the same guy.
If we know anything at all about literary history, it is that values, principles and styles change over time. Even in his own lifetime, an author goes through fundamental changes in his own system of values and principles.
As a writer, I can go back and read what I wrote ten years ago and can track how my views have changed and matured over the decade. It is actually quite interesting to see how much my views have changed.
Societies change and mature as well. The Christian Church of AD 500 is not the Christian Church of 2007. But for the sake of this exercise, we must assume that none of those personal, social or religious changes throughout the ages have any effect on our collection of historical books.
The book written in AD 500 and the book finished in 2007 must flow together as seamlessly as if they were written by the same guy on the same week.
Impossible? Sure. If one compared a book on US history published in 1907 with one published in 2007, one would wonder if the two books were even relating the history of the same country.
That’s only a period of one hundred years. To fit within our analogy, they would have to read as if they were written by the same hand.
The first five books of the Bible were written by Moses. Moses was a Hebrew who was raised and was well-versed in what was a thriving Egyptian culture. He was reared in Pharaoh’s court and “was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22).
It would be natural to imagine that his writings would be heavily influenced by Egyptian thinking—yet they aren’t. Instead, they reflect thoughts and principles that remain unchanged after more than 3,000 years.
The Books of the Law contain, for example, considerable information about health and sickness. Notes Dr. S.I. McMillen in his 1972 book, “None of These Diseases”:
“From the record we discover that Moses had so much faith in God’s regulations that he did not incorporate a single current [Egyptian] medical misconception into the inspired instructions … The divine instructions were not only devoid of harmful practices, but had many detailed positive recommendations.”
Now imagine a book of medicine penned in AD 500 in complete harmony with existing medical knowledge in 2007. How amazing is that?
Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible. All the other authors to come later faithfully reflected exactly the same values, despite the cultural, linguistic and scientific advancements that are part of 1600 years of history.
These writers would consist of people from the most diverse backgrounds. Amos was a sheepbreeder and fruit caretaker. David was a shepherd who became a mighty king. Others, such as Daniel and Nehemiah, held high positions in foreign governments.
In the New Testament, the writers consist of several former fishermen (Peter and John), a tax collector (Matthew), a physician (Luke) and several others of different professions.
Few, if any, ever read what had been written before. Even fewer, if any, of the Bible’s authors ever met one another.
One of the foremost Bible scholars of the past century, F.F. Bruce, wrote in his book, “The Books and the Parchments: How We Got Our English Bible”:
“The Bible is not simply an anthology [a collection of books]; there is a unity which binds the whole together … Any part of the human body can only be properly explained in reference to the whole body. And any part of the Bible can only be properly explained in reference to the whole Bible.”
The narratives are historical, faithfully reflecting society and culture as history and archaeology would discover them thousands of years later. And while there may be disputes among archaeologists about certain details of the accounts, there is a general consensus of the Bible’s accuracy.
Dr. Norman Geisler, professor of theology, summarizes the findings of Biblical archaeology:
“In every period of Old Testament history, we find that there is good evidence from archaeology that the Scriptures speak the truth. In many instances, the Scriptures even reflect firsthand knowledge of the times and customs it describes. While many have doubted the accuracy of the Bible, time and continued research have consistently demonstrated that the Word of God is better informed than its critics.”
Not only is the Bible historically accurate, but when it deals with scientific subjects, it is also reliable. This is one of the reasons the Bible can be accepted as a trustworthy document that should be taken literally.
Although it was not written as a textbook on history, science, mathematics or medicine, when the writers of Scripture touch on these subjects, they were inspired by God not to make mistakes, but to write what was true—sometimes stating facts that scientific advancement would not reveal or even consider for thousands of years.
Isaiah knew the earth was round a thousand years before Columbus set sail for the New World. (“It is He that sitteth upon the circle of the earth . . . ” Isaiah 40:22)
Job explains the global hydrological cycle three thousand years before science ‘discovered’ it.
Hebrews 1:10-11 confirmed the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (all things deteriorate with time) nineteen centuries before Einstein:
“You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; and they will all grow old like a garment. . .”
How many times has an unbeliever picked up a Bible and sighed to himself, “If I just had proof that God exists, then I would believe.”
How much evidence does one need?
Featured Commentary: Grace, Freely ~ Wendy Wippel