How Was the Old Testament Written? – Program 6

By: Dr. Gerald Lrue, Dr. Walter Kaiser, Jr.; ©1989
Are there certain characteristics of the Bible that set it apart from other books from ancient history, or other religious books? Did God really speak and reveal himself to his people through the Bible?

Was the Bible Given by Supernatural Revelation?


Tonight, John Ankerberg will investigate the topic: How was the Old Testament written? The Holy Bible is like no other book in all the world. It claims to be the written revelation of the one true God, and gives proof of this claim by presenting infallible evidence. Other religious documents such as the Qur’an may claim to be the very word of God, but they contain no such self-authenticating proofs as does the Bible. Only the Bible validates its claims by prior prophecy and subsequent fulfillment. But professors in American universities are teaching our students the theories of the higher critics who declare that the Bible is merely a product of human origin. The higher critics assert that the Old Testament can be dealt with in a purely literary way, and naturalistic explanations must be found for every account which depicts the supernatural.

In tonight’s program John will examine the theories that the higher critics have put forth denying the Bible is historically accurate. One of these assertions is that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch. Julius Wellhausen, the founder of the documentary theory, has stated, “Writing was virtually unknown in Israel during Moses’ time, and consequently Moses could not have written the Pentateuch.” If the higher critics are correct, then the Bible is in error. Even Jesus Christ Himself was wrong when He taught that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch. The higher critics have also written that the Bible is not historically trustworthy, pointing to the fact that they have never heard of any evidence of a nation revealed in the Bible called the Hittites. What about this? And finally, the higher critics claim they alone are scientific in their assumptions of approaching the Old Testament. But have they really given the Bible the benefit of the doubt in what it states, or have they approached the Bible with an anti-supernatural bias? These questions will be answered tonight as John examines the evidence from archaeology and history. Find out whether the JEDP theory of the higher critics has been demolished by the evidence or whether it still stands. We invite you to join us.

Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. Tonight, we’re talking about the credibility of the Bible and especially the Old Testament. Are the books that we have there, are they true history or are they just a collection of sagas and myths, legends that have accumulated among the Hebrew people? Did God really speak and reveal Himself to those people so that we have accurate information of what God is like? What is the message of the Bible?
And tonight, gentlemen, I want to pick up on where we were at last week. And we were talking about the Bible as one book; like the Qur’an, like Mary Baker Eddy’s. And I thought, “Goodness sakes, that’s not true. It’s actually 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament; 27 in terms of the Jewish people, but 39 otherwise. And you have a whole collection of authors and I’ve always thought, “Isn’t it miraculous that you have one message in all of these books coming down?” Is it monotheism? Isn’t this something that is absolutely unique, that the scholars are realizing. It didn’t happen in any place else. And here, if you have all of these books, don’t we have supernatural revelation being given through the many writers? And you don’t have something like Mary Baker Eddy. You don’t have something like the Qur’an. You actually have many different writers from a long period of years talking about the same thing. Dr. Kaiser, what do you think?
Kaiser: That’s the new thrust in scholarship and, of course, that’s always been the thrust in the conservative community. The unity of the Bible is extremely impressive. You have 66 books and who knows how many authors, at least that many authors, because in the Psalms we have a number of different authors working for a number of the Psalms. But you put all of that together, and the thrust of it all is about our Lord Jesus Christ, and about His death and His resurrection, and the fact that He is the hope of the world. He is the One who is going to return back. Now, that is the repeated message over and over from Genesis all the way through Revelation.
Ankerberg: Dr. Larue, what do you think?
Larue: Well, first of all, you’ve just eliminated a whole group of Christians who don’t have 66 books. The Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox include books that the Protestants do not.
Ankerberg: That’s a good issue to bring up.
Larue: And either those books are also revealed or they are not. If they are revealed, then they belong in the canon. If they are not revealed, then the Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox are absolutely wrong. So that first point I would make.
Ankerberg: The Apocrypha was canonized at Trent by the Catholics, so it was a few years before they did that.
Larue: Well, it was utilized before. And, in fact, the Christian Church in its early days utilized the Apocrypha, or so-called “Apocrypha.” This is a designation by those who do not accept the Apocrypha as Scripture. But, again, so we have a problem of, what is the Bible? The second thing is, when was the canonization? The Old Testament was not canonized by the Jews until the end of the first century of the Christian era. And before that time the Christians used, as you know, books that were not accepted into the canon. Quoting of First Enoch and references probably to the Martyrdom of Isaiah and some of these books that didn’t make it into the Bible; yet they’re quoted as Scripture.
Ankerberg: Well, I’m really glad that you brought that up, and I think before we go too many more questions, let’s have an answer. I don’t think we’ve ever had that question asked. How about the canonization of the Old Testament?
Larue: And the number of books in the Bible.
Kaiser: I think we need an outside expert on this. I would think “Only God Himself can say,” I think someone would probably say. And that’s why Jesus’ testimony is rather interesting. He sides with the Jewish collection, which happens to be the 39 books, and also points forward to the New Testament canon that’s going to come. He said, “I have many things to tell you yet which you’re not able to bear, but when the Spirit comes, He is going to reveal them to you.” [John 16:12-13] And I think even within our Roman Catholic brethren, I think that they themselves say they have adopted another dozen or 14 books there—because there’s some addition of two other ones there—that even they refer to them as “Deuterocanonical.” They see a different quality here. And so that’s never been referred to as full canonical. They feel that they have a devotional purpose, but even with the Council of Trent they were not made identical.
Then, with regard to the citations here, in the Book of Enoch, that’s debatable. Book of Jude, verse 13 and 14—any chapter in Jude will do since there’s only one—there I think you have a reference to Enoch, the seventh from Adam, as he says. But seven what from Adam? And is it citing the apocryphal Book of Enoch? Now, some think that it is. I need more text than what I have there to really demonstrate that. And further, even if it does cite it, he doesn’t use it in the quotation or the authoritative formula. “Scripture says = God says.” Jude does not introduce the reference to Enoch in the sense “As it is written,” or “God says” and therefore introduces this quote. There are many other references. Paul on Mars Hill in Acts 17 quotes, “as also some of your poets have said.” Now, certainly, I don’t think you want to get them into the canon either.
Larue: But those, he’s not talking about Jewish poets, he’s talking about Greek poets, and he’s talking to them and he’s making a point of reference.
Kaiser: But the fact that they are Jewish wouldn’t be a source of criteria.
Larue: No, but he is quoting this in a document.
Kaiser: That’s all right.
Larue: He’s quoting this in a document that is in the Christian Scriptures as inspired.
Kaiser: But my point is still that there are other citations, and the mere presence of a citation doesn’t make that source inspired.
Larue: May I touch on your “Deuterocanonical”?
Kaiser: Okay, then I want to come back on some things weren’t in the canon.
Larue: The Douay Bible does not make a division. It’s a complete Bible. That is the Catholic Bible. And while you might have your scholars playing little games with this, the average Catholic reading the Roman Catholic Bible does not have these books separated. In fact, in the Book of Esther, the additions to Esther are quoted right within the text. So you’re quite wrong in terms of the skepticism concerning these books. This is the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Bible.
Kaiser: I wouldn’t judge that, though, in terms of, there are a lot of things that pass in the general hoi polloi. I wouldn’t determine truth by how many raise their hands.
Larue: That isn’t the point. I’m saying that the Roman Catholic Bible officially includes all these books, and when you eliminate them, you eliminate all these who believe that this is the Bible.
Kaiser: Except their own teachers in…
Larue: Some of their own teachers.
Kaiser: No, it’s official church teaching here at this point.
Larue: Right.
Kaiser: But let me go on to the canon, which is much more important, because this is a common error, and I’d like to nail it. You have a statement made over and over again: “The Old Testament canon was not concluded until the Council of Jamnia in 90 AD.”
Larue: Yes.
Kaiser: That’s 100% false! I’ll fall on the evidence on that one. I can show you that’s a citation of a footnote that began with one scholar saying “Perhaps” and another scholars saying, “So and so says,” and so it continued for 200 years. I’ll tell you, at the University of Chicago—a non-Evangelical school I think you would agree—the University of Chicago, a thesis submitted not more than two decades ago by Jack Lewis, Professor Jack Lewis…
Larue: I know Jack.
Kaiser: …said, “What do we mean by Jamnia?” And he concluded that at Jamnia there were only two issues. The one was the interpretation of Ecclesiastes, and the other was the interpretation of Song of Solomon.
Larue: Yes.
Kaiser: Nowhere does Jamnia have any point of evidence that shows that they said, “How many are in favor of Genesis? How many of Leviticus?”…
Larue: That isn’t the way it came…
Kaiser: …”How many Deuteronomy?” They never voted on it. But yet you’ll be told in book after book after book of survey and by my league—I’m talking about my peers, my scholarly league—they all say Jamnia is where the church decided on what our canon was.
Larue: No, I think this is a mistake if they say that.
Kaiser: But they do, and I’m glad you join me.
Larue: What I get is the Jewish community was very much concerned about the use of the Septuagint in Egypt where books other than the Kethubim, than the writings, were being included—some of those we now put in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha—were being used as Scriptures. They were also concerned about the Christian community, referring to Jewish Scriptures, where they quoted material that the Jews were not sure were Scripture.
Now, what they did, they said, “The Torah is fixed.” No argument about that. They didn’t have to vote on it. The books of the prophets, with the exception of Ezekiel where there are some contradictions with Leviticus, came under real fire, and one Jewish savant sat up 300 nights or burned 300 barrels of oil where he wrote when Ezekiel disagrees with Leviticus, he’s really agreeing, and it’s double-speak. Then we have the arguments over the Song of Songs. And it was one rabbi, Akiba who stamped his little rabbinic foot and said, “This is the holiest of all books. This is not man’s love for a woman or a woman’s love for a man,”—and I urge you to read it under a romantic setting—“this is God’s love for Israel.” The Christians said, “No, no. It’s Christ’s love for His Church.” But that’s why that one got in. There was real debate. And Ecclesiastes got in because there were arguments whether it was by Solomon, not by Solomon, whether it was written authoritatively and so on, and that was a real debate. So there were debates over the canon. There were debates!
Kaiser: It’s a debate, though, over the interpretation. And what you have just shown me is the Jewish community at work in terms of its own organization…
Larue: Right.
Kaiser: …of interpretation. But there is no evidence that they really are trying to decide what books are “in” or what books are “out,” or even if these two books which are under discussion were really in or out.
Larue: But this is not true. The problem was the temple had been destroyed. They could no longer be people of sacrifice, and the argument was, “We are now people of the book.” Then you have to decide, “What is the book?”
Kaiser: But see, I would argue that there is progressive recognition rather than canonization.
Larue: Oh. Okay.
Kaiser: As the book comes from the hand of a prophet: “Did Jeremiah write this? Do we know Jeremiah? Do we know his character?”
Larue: That wasn’t argued.
Kaiser: Yeah. And I think that was more the issue at that particular point. In other words, the contemporaries who received the word first are in a better shape to make the decision on canon than what we are. The further away we get, the more difficult it gets to make the decision on canon.
Larue: But canonization is an official act. It says, “These are the books that we accept.” And when you had Jews who were utilizing books that were questionable, then they had to decide whether this is an acceptable book or not. And again, whether the interpretation is acceptable, because we had young men down in the bar singing some of the sections of the Song of Songs, because they recognized it as a secular writing, not a sacred writing.
Kaiser: Well, I think it’s a sacred writing about true human marital love. I have no difficulty with that. I think that’s exactly what the message of that book is. And it is true…
Larue: It’s pretty sexy!
Kaiser: It’s God’s sex, though, not that which is yanked out of the realm that belongs to the living Lord. He’s talking about that which belongs between a husband and a wife. And, oh, yes; it is very, very explicit. But I wouldn’t argue against that or say that just because a particular rabbi said, “Look, this is a typological meaning of Israel and God and therefore we will explain it in this way,” that that is what sort of canonized it. See, the very act of canonization, that’s a modern, Western term. It does think of some official group putting their stamp upon this book. “Approved!” Nothing standing against it. This is for sure.
Larue: But this is true! This is what happened at the Council of Trent. This is what happened when the Protestants said the Apocrypha is not part of the Scriptures. They put their stamp….
Ankerberg: Okay. We’re going to follow this up and we’re going to talk about where this is going. If we do have books that give us information, we still want to get down to “What is the message in those books that points us to something that solidifies our lives?” So please stick with us.

Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back, and we’re talking about, “Where does this body of literature called the Old Testament point us?” And what is the message that should be taught in the classrooms? We usually talk the documentations; we talk about the JEDP theory; we talk about all these things. But nobody seems to talk about, “What is the message of the book?” Why is that so? And what is the message that’s crucial? Dr. Kaiser?
Kaiser: I think the message is that we as individuals, and Israel as a nation, had available to them Someone who would take the guilt, the weight, of their sin. It is something that deals with the problem of evil; it deals with the problem of sin; and it deals with the fact that you can’t forgive, even on a human level, unless someone pays.
Gerry, you mentioned a while back, and we never did have a chance to say something in one of our previous conversations, about, “I can’t understand a God who would kill His own Son!” I think where we’re lacking is with some understanding of a true love for the good, anyone who loves good and justice and righteousness and fairness with all their heart and soul is also, because of that love for the good, turned against everything that’s the opposite of it. And God is just as much turned against all that is evil. You say, “Yes, but how can God hate sin and love the sinner? I don’t understand that.” C. S. Lewis said, “I always had trouble with that too, until one day,” he said, “I found myself doing that.” He said, “I loved myself but I hated what I did.” And he said, “No big deal for God.” He said, “Then, He can do the same thing.”
What I like about the Old Testament is that it’s a big “Dick and Jane Reader.” Big picture, big print: “See Abraham. See Abraham sin. See the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. And look to Jesus who will be the sin-bearer, Who hates sin, but loves me, and will bring me back to Himself.” That’s what I like about the Good Book.
Ankerberg: Gerry?
Larue: I’m sorry, but this image of God is simply too limited for me. It’s too much tied back to the old idea of an altar with blood sacrifice, the blood of animals. The Jews moved away from human sacrifice. Christianity moved right back into it with the sacrifice of a human being to appease an angry and upset God.
Ankerberg: But isn’t that the very point that is at issue here, is that, wasn’t the Old Testament the very illustration that the sacrifice had to be made once and for all? It had to be something that would be with blood? I mean, isn’t that the illustration all the way through?
Larue: Then I can’t buy that kind of religion! I’m sorry. I teach courses on violence and abuse in the family. And when I see what parents do to their children—often in the name of religion, by the way—brutalize them, put them down and so on. And they say, “This is my image of God.” I can’t buy this.
Ankerberg: But isn’t the message of the New Testament that Jesus came voluntarily to take our sin?
Larue: I don’t want somebody to take my sin! I’m a responsible person. And when I do something, somebody else shouldn’t pay for it!
Ankerberg: But the question is, do you need somebody to take your sin? In other words, we’ve sinned. Do we need it in light of the evidence of the Old Testament?
Larue: I don’t need it!
Ankerberg: Huh? You don’t need it.
Larue: I simply don’t need it. I don’t want it, and I don’t need it.
Kaiser: My response would be, “You need to love the good.”
Larue: I do.
Kaiser: Well then, I would plead with you on the basis of your loving the good, Gerry, that the more you love the good, the more you will hate that abuse.
Larue: I don’t have to hate!
Kaiser: Oh, yes, you do.
Larue: I can despise the fact that there is abuse. And I can understand the reasons for abuse. And I am a therapist and I will work with people to help overcome this. But simply to love and hate and to say you have somebody die so that God will be happy with me? No way!!
Kaiser: Well, I’ve got to come back and show to you that there is a way in which you can so be repulsed by abuse…
Larue: Alright.
Kaiser: …by downright evil, where people take advantage of one another. If you can look at Hitler and what he said and not get upset,…
Larue: I do get upset!
Kaiser: You do? That’s what I’m appealing to.
Larue: What’s this got to do about having somebody nailed up on a cross and suffering death so that God will be happy?
Kaiser: No, I think you’ve schematized the whole thing. What you need to see is the living God who is willing to pay.
Larue: What a way to pay! This is absolutely unimaginative!
Kaiser: Because I need forgiveness. And you need forgiveness.
Larue: I could figure out, I’m only a human, but I could figure out a dozen better ways than having my son killed, which I would not stand for. I would block everything. I love my children.
Kaiser: Yeah. Well, you don’t know how radically evil Evil is. And how deep the hurt is.
Larue: That’s a judgment statement. I deal with it perhaps more than you do, because I’m on the frontline. My wife’s a therapist working in a social condition with children who are abused all the time. She brings home all the poison that she absorbs from this environment. It’s terrible!
Ankerberg: Well, go the opposite way then, Gerry.
Larue: Alright.
Ankerberg: The thing is, you say you’re seeing all this poison. What is your answer to the poison?
Larue: My answer is to commit myself to doing everything I can to make changes within society and within people. And if people can find this through Jesus, fine! Or through Moses. Or through Muhammad. I don’t care!
Ankerberg: That’s wonderful. What do you do to the person that says, “I’ve got these evils and they’re in me and it’s so powerful. And I need help and I can’t get it from myself”?
Larue: Then I will sit down and I will work these things through with therapy. I don’t give them the magic of a God who kills a kid to make Himself eliminate these kinds of things.
Ankerberg: Yeah, but what I’m saying, Dr. Kaiser, in terms of the evil that is in people, you’re talking about something that is so evil, that the thing that repulses Gerry here shows us the seriousness of the evil. And it was dealt with, and Christ volunteered to take that evil to provide a remedy. Now, when you don’t like the death of Christ on the cross, you don’t like the remedy. And the question is, “Is there any other remedy?” Now, maybe you would have some other thoughts along that line.
Kaiser: Well, I need forgiveness. Gerry needs forgiveness. The whole world needs forgiveness very badly. And if I don’t like God’s remedy—and it’s not here for me to say, “Oh, I don’t like that one; I would re-do it” —then the question is, whose remedy are we going to accept then? And how am I going to get forgiveness? I think forgiveness is the key problem. And I do think God sent His Son to show us that this was His way. I don’t understand it, altogether. There’s mystery there. There’s some of the hard problems that Gerry’s asking me. None of us here know the answer to the problem of evil in all of its detail; only God knows that. But I do know that He has given this as the way because He was here, and He rose again from the dead. And that ought to give us a good enough evidence to listen to His way unless we can figure out something better.
Ankerberg: Gentlemen, I’ve got to say this. It’s been amazing to me that some of the most popular programs we’ve ever done have come out of the material in the Old Testament. I find that very interesting. And what I want to say to you, both of you tonight, that I’d like to do this again. I think that we’re just getting to some really great discussions here and I really appreciate Dr. Larue, you’re sharing, and I would like to continue this conversation another time.
Larue: Thank you, John. So would I.
Ankerberg: And I appreciate your openness as well as your scholarship. And, Dr. Kaiser, for your sharing, and for your breadth of scholarship, I thank you for sharing from your heart tonight. I hope that you folks have enjoyed this discussion. And, guys, I hope we can have you back again. Good night.
Larue: Thank you. Thank you, Walter.
Kaiser: Thank you.


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