From: Peter Vanderkam
To: All Jan-28-94 22:35:10
Subject: WHO WROTE THE BIBLE?
The Bible is said to be the "least known best-seller of
all times". It continuous to be sold by the millions on a
worldwide scale, while at the same time it is generally
conceded that, especially in our Western society, acquaintance
with the Bible is on the wane to such an extend that we now
speak of a Bible illiterate generation. Now that religious
education in our elementary schoolsystem is becoming a thing of
the past (and I am speaking of the Canadian scene), this
situation can only get worse. Whether that is good, bad, or
indifferent, is a matter of one's point of view. In my
considered opinion this is a real (if not tragic) loss. Why?
In order to answer that question, we will have to take a
look backwards in order to become aware of the influence the
Bible (and its message) have had on society. We will
subsequently have to take a closer look at what is happening
today in order to assess how today's events can conceivably
influence the future of our society.
In general it can be said, without fear of too much
contradiction, that the influence of religion on the behavior
of people the world over has been, and is, tremendous.
Notwithstanding the fact that an enormous amount of good has
been done in the name of religion (including Christianity), it
can't be denied that much of the violence perpetrated between
nations today is religion based (including Christianity). We
only have to think of what is happening in Yugoslavia, Armenia,
Ireland, North Africa, Sri Lanka, Cambodia India/Pakistan and
the Middle East, to know that religious strife is rampant.
Seeing that this is an introduction to the Bible, we need
to acquaint ourselves with the success/failure of the Bible and
its message. A cursory glance at any world map, which shows the
world religions as a percentage of the world population, makes
it clear that Christianity is by far and away the largest among
the world's great religions. It is clear from this that
comparatively speaking the spread of Christianity has been
phenominal. With over a billion adherents, its influence has
been, and still is tremendous.
What we need to keep in mind is that all that influence
originated in reports which surrounded the life, death and
resurrection of a Jew, named Jesus. He lived and died some two
thousand years ago, but the story of that event, and its
meaning, have been carried abroad by missionaries with the
results just shown. That message ultimately came to be
contained between the covers of a book, the Bible. It is with
the relevance of the Bible that we are concerned today.
There are certain events taking place on the spiritual
level which are so well documented that they are accepted as
facts. One of those facts is that Islam today is the fastest
growing religion on a worldwide basis. Another fact is that
teachers of other world religions are seeing the North American
continent as a spiritual wasteland which has caused them to
target the US and Canada as prime areas for new recruits. Yet
another fact is that Christianity on the North American
continent as well as in Europe is on the decline, whereas it is
on the increase in otherworld countries.
Whether those facts fill us with elation or trepidation,
whether they fill us with sadness or joy is of little
consequence. There is, however, no getting away from the fact
that we Christians are under an obligation to tell the story,
which is contained in the Bible, to the best of our ability,
making use of the latest in technic and biblical research.
Does that research, our increased technical know-how, and
our greater secular sophistication threaten the Truth, either
singly or together? My answer is: NO, they don't, but.... they
may well force us to restate our centuries old story of the
Good News. That, for many, is a scary proposition, but given
the influence that book has had, and still has, and the
responsibilities we individually as well as collectively carry,
we have no other option than to engage in a thorough study of
all the relevant material we can find, if only for the sake of
What research are we talking about? The research I speak
of has been taking place in such diverse disciplines as
History, Archaeology, Geology, Literature, Biology, and others.
What new evidence has that research in those disciplines
unearthed, and what is the nature of those findings that they
could conceivably cause us to consider changing our belief
The findings in those fields of inquiry have enabled us to
place the Bible in its historical context. From my own
experience I can tell you that doing so is quite an experience.
For instance, thanks to incredible historical and literary
detective work, scholars of all stripes are now agreed that the
first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch) were not written
by Moses, but are a composite of the writings of different
authors who not only lived in different eras, but also lived in
different parts of the country.
That however is the topic of the next post.