"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Bible and those bats-as birds-things

Guess what, y'all!  I'm reading a new book! Surprising, I know.  :)

I finally finished the 500+ page A Survey of Old Testament Introduction by Gleason L. Archer, Jr. that I've discussed in recent days. It inspired posts on these topics.

Moses being the author of the Torah
The reinterpretation of Jephthah's daughter being sacrificed for his rash vow
Why suffering though doing good
Does God allow Himself to look weak
King David and Jesus on the topic of enemies

(those are clickable links if you want to read them and add your own thoughts)

Thanks to all who left feedback on those posts!  Enjoyed it all as usual!

Now I'm reading another of my dad's books, An Historical Survey of the Old Testament by Eugene H. Merrill.  In the introductory chapter I found three statements that I wanted to record and discuss. 

Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible.

Jesus and the Apostles mention Mosaic authorship many times.  If one argued Jesus erroneously attributed Moses to the Pentateuch, this "is a reflection of His Divine omniscience" (not there) "or that He 'accommodated Himself to the ignorance of the people of His time,' which constitutes an assault upon His integrity."  -- pg.18

I just thought this was interesting as I posted about this Mosaic authorship not long ago.  If you don't believe Moses wrote the Torah, how do you explain Jesus and the apostles and their "error" in attributing the Torah to Moses?

On the inspiration of the Bible.

"[The biblical authors] were not permitted to invent their message, but they were permitted to express it within the bounds of their own intellectual and cultural resources, at the same time being divinely shielded from error of message content.  An uneducated, roughhewn Amos was given a divine message, but he was not expected to express it in a style and with words which were beyond his experience.  On the other hand a refined, cultured, poetic Isaiah was entrusted with revelation and permitted to express it in the inimical manner so much admired in his writings." -- pg. 9

I really liked this because it doesn't mean God dictated word for word what each person would say as if each author were a robot. If that were the case, you may not find the variety of styles presented in the Old Testament. And it would be hard to explain why a bat was considered a bird!  However, the message was not invented.  The divine message. Which doesn't rely on whether or not a bat can be scientifically categorized as a bird.  Compare this to the Quran which supposedly is word-for-word revelation from God. Does this leave any room for bats-as-birds scenarios? I'm not saying they are there, but what if those scrutinizing the Quran found such things?  Can they attribute it to a human messenger expressing himself within the bounds of his own intellect and cultural resources or do they explain it as God speaking in what was known by the humans at the time or something else entirely?

Historical and scientific matters.

"We certainly should expect the Old Testament, if it be the inspired Word of God, to be accurate in all historical and scientific matters with which it deals. Yet, and this is vitally important, we must always bear in mind the fact that the Old Testament does not always profess to speak in twentieth century scientific terms, but often employs the prescientific language of the day in which it was written." -- pg. 18

Maybe this is a bit contradictory from the above quote, but I still found it of interest for some reason.
And now I found this when I googled "bat as bird in Old Testament." 


When is a bat a bird? (Leviticus 11:13-19)
Leviticus 11:13-19 states that bats are birds. How can this be?


The Bible did not look forward and use modern biological categories, just like we in this century do not look 8000 years into the future and use names they will use then. In 8000 more years a bird may be called a ‘flycat,’ or some other unusual name, but for the time being we still call them birds. The Bible is using a rather generic category in which to group bats, as modern science uses a different classification system than the Ancient Near East. To the ancients, creatures such as a bat were considered birds since they categorized all flying animals as birds (and bats were a similar size, etc.).

We must to read the Bible from the view of its original audience (exegesis) and not bring modern categories, etc and read them upon it (isogesis). This is a common error made by many. Once, at a funeral, a person told me that baptism had to be done by dunking someone all the way under the water – as Jesus was buried 6’ under the ground. While this question is not meant to answer this specific question, what the person was doing was reading an American custom upon something that happened 2000 years ago – besides Jesus was not buried 6’ under – but sideways in a tomb! I then asked him if he baptized people sideways in a tomb, etc. … which laid his argument to rest.

The Ancient Near East categorized bats as birds in that time.


Do you have any thoughts on any of this?


Amber said...

I just thought this was interesting as I posted about this Mosaic authorship not long ago. If you don't believe Moses wrote the Torah, how do you explain Jesus and the apostles and their "error" in attributing the Torah to Moses?

The apostles could be excused simply for being human, and not having direct, immediate access to the omniscience of God. The question of Christ attributing the Torah to Moses is, perhaps, more difficult. Let me ask, since I don't know, did Jesus ever say, flat out, that Moses wrote the Torah? Or is it referred to as the books of Moses, the law of Moses, etc? Because I think, if the later, then it's more that He is referring to the texts as they are known, not affirming or denying their specific authorship.

Susanne said...

Amber,that is a very valid point...makes a lot of sense. I don't know right off the top of my head. I'll try to take notice as I read the Gospels.

Thanks for the feedback!