Where does the Bible come from?

Can we trust the Bible? Why should we believe that it’s true? These are questions that are often put to Christians, and for which Christians should have a ready answer.

One of the ideas out there today is that a group of church officials at the Council of Nicea (AD 325) arbitrarily chose the books they wanted to put in the Bible, and in the process invented the religion of Christianity. This is the view presented in the Da Vinci Code book and movie. But despite the fact that this book admits to being fictional, many people have accepted it as a fact. So is this what really happened?  Not even close. So what did happen? Where do we get our Bibles from?

Belshazzar and the Writing on the Wall

Have you ever heard the expression, “he should have seen the writing on the wall”? This means there was clear evidence—evidence that was ignored—of a bad or dramatic event about to happen.  This connection between coming doom and writing on a wall traces all the way back to the Bible. It refers to a miraculous event in the life of Daniel the prophet, an event that preceded one of the most dramatic moments in all of history:  the night the Babylonian Empire was destroyed and replaced by the Persian Empire. This event is recorded not only in the Bible: It’s been preserved in other ancient writings as well.  Putting all these sources together gives us unparalleled insight into one of the great turning points in history.  To understand how important and dramatic this was, we have to set the stage with a bit of background.  But as you’ll see:  that background information is necessary to fully appreciate the incredible miracle that took place on that one memorable night.

This was at a time when the Jewish people were in exile in Babylon, one of the lowest moments in their history.  As it say in the opening verse of Psalm 137:  “By the rivers of Babylon—there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion” (Psa. 137:1).  Their exile meant the end of Israel’s existence as a kingdom, the end of their national sovereignty.   It looked very much like the final chapter in God’s special relationship with the Jewish people.

Jacob's Trip to Haran and Back

Two weeks ago, we talked about Jacob and his trip to Haran.  We talked about the dream he had at Bethel—the dream of the ladder—and the promise he made to God there.  We also talked about how he fulfilled that promise many years later when he got back to the Land of Israel.  

Today we’re going to talk about the rest of Jacob’s adventure:  his time in Haran and how God used that time to shape him into the man of God he later became.  Because if there’s one thing we know for sure about Jacob, it’s that when he started off in life, he was trouble.  Oh yes, he was a good boy, a mama’s boy (Gen. 25:27,28).  But he was also a liar and a cheater; a deceiver.

Jacob’s Vision at Bethel

Bethel:  site of Jacob's Vision

Do you know the song “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder(new tab: audio)?  It’s a famous Negro spiritual that understands Jacob’s ladder as a symbol of the believer’s spiritual ascent into heaven.  The ascent is slow and agonizing, but the result is glory. 

Images of Prayer in the Worship of Israel

Acts 3:1:  "But Peter and John were going up into the Temple for the hour of prayer, the ninth hour." 

So often through the years, Christianity has been presented as a total break with Judaism, a completely different religion that has nothing in common with the ancient religion of the Jewish people.  Instead Christianity has been presented as a philosophical faith that has more in common with Greek philosophy than with the Bible.  But if that's true, why were Peter and John coming here, to the Temple, to pray, after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus?  (Jesus ascended to heaven in Acts chapter 1, this is chapter 3.)

Scripture Garden II

Well and Watering Troughs

Last week we talked a little about the Scripture Garden where my wife and I used to work.  We covered about half of the items in the garden, and this week we’ll take a quick look at the other half.