Wisdom-Trek / Creating a Legacy
Welcome to Day 1241 of our Wisdom-Trek, and thank you for joining me.
I am Guthrie Chamberlain, Your Guide to Wisdom
Mastering the Bible – Unknown Authors – Worldview Wednesday
Wisdom – the final frontier to true knowledge. Welcome to Wisdom-Trek where our mission is to create a legacy of wisdom, to seek out discernment and insights, and to boldly grow where few have chosen to grow before.
Hello, my friend, I am Guthrie Chamberlain, your captain on our journey to increase wisdom and create a living legacy. Thank you for joining us today as we explore wisdom on our 2nd millennium of podcasts. This is Day 1241 of our trek, and it is Worldview Wednesday. Creating a Biblical Worldview is important to have a proper perspective on today’s current events.
To establish a Biblical worldview, you must also have a proper understanding of God and His Word. Our focus for the next several months on Worldview Wednesday will be Mastering the Bible through a series of brief insights. These insights are extracted from a book of the same title from one of today’s most prominent Hebrew Scholars, Dr. Micheal S. Heiser. This book is a collection of insights designed to help you understand the Bible better. When we let the Bible be what it is, we can understand it as the original readers did and as its writers intended. Each week we will explore two insights.
Mastering The Bible – Unknown Authors
Insight Seven: Most of the Authors of Biblical Books are Unknown
It goes without saying that understanding a book requires knowing who wrote it. This is especially true of nonfiction, where the author’s background, political and religious views, and education help frame what we’re reading. Unfortunately, few ancient books, including the books of the Bible, specifically name their author.
Most of the authorship problem as it relates to the Bible concerns the Old Testament. For example, we have no idea who wrote books like Judges, 1 & 2 Kings, and 1 & 2 Chronicles. Those books never name an author. Even books that bear the names of people are uncertain—for the same reason. The books of 1 & 2 Samuel never claim that Samuel wrote them. The same goes for Ruth, Esther, and Joshua.
Some Old Testament books have partially known authorship, but that means that parts are problematic. Psalms is a good example. The psalms’ superscriptions were likely added long after the psalms were composed, so they aren’t reliable indicators. Phrases like “Psalm of David” are actually inconclusive since the Hebrew phrase (le-daivid) can mean “by David,” “for David,” or “about David.”
The New Testament is less anonymous. The author of the book of Hebrews is unknown. Scholars argue about a few of the books that claim authorship (such as 1 & 2 Peter), but arguments contesting Peter’s authorship are not at all conclusive. Since there are more than one James and John associated with the life of Jesus, there is some degree of ambiguity for books bearing those names.
Because authorship is uncertain, it is best in interpretation never to base an interpretation on a presumed author. Guessing at an author and then presuming that person’s background as part of interpretation is a shaky strategy.
Because of this lack of clarity, scholars have had to work hard to find clues in the books themselves that situate them in the flow of biblical history. Things like allusions to events outside Israel (such as a battle), an environmental catastrophe (such as a famine), or even a natural disaster (such as an earthquake) are important clues.
Even without an author, if scholars can situate a book in a specific historical context, that book can be coherently interpreted. For this reason, whenever you study a book of the Bible, it’s wise to read a serious academic introduction to it that deals with authorship, setting, and questions of circumstance. You can’t assume that you know how to situate a book just by its title.
Insight Eight: The Bible Is a Products of Its Time
Saying the Bible is a product of its times takes us into the tricky (and, for most, mind-numbing) subject of biblical chronology. Taking the Bible on its own terms means coming to grips with the fact that biblical writers were influenced by current and past events.
The content of the Bible ostensibly spans from creation to the end of time as we know it, but that’s not really what I’m talking about. Dr. Heiser is referring to the chronological boundaries for the writing of the Bible—the times in which its authors and editors lived. In round numbers, if one presumes Moses had a hand in writing any part (or all) of the Torah, the beginning of biblical composition would have occurred in roughly 1450 BC. The last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, would have been composed around AD 100. That’s roughly a 1500-year span.
What was going on in that span? How do we get these numbers? Those questions are related. The Bible doesn’t provide us with “real-time” dating of events. In other words, it doesn’t tell us explicitly that an Old Testament event occurred 700 years before Christ, or that Paul wrote something three decades after the resurrection. The Bible instead gives us relative chronology—what happened before or after what. In addition, the Bible doesn’t date events by astronomical events—the way true real-time chronology must be calculated, since time is measured by the motion of earth around the sun and the appearance of the moon and stars in relation to the earth’s own spin.
Absolute chronology—actual numerical dates—is assigned to biblical events on the basis of synchronisms between people and events in the Bible that can be correlated with the records of another ancient civilization that did keep time by astronomy. Thousands of such records have survived—tables of lunar cycles and celestial observations that modern astronomers can reproduce to align ancient records with actual time. When something in the Bible correlates to those ancient records, we can fix the Bible in real-time.
Correlations have a progressively high degree of accuracy and certainty, moving from about 1000 BC forward. Events earlier than 1000 BC have less certainty because astronomical records are fewer and less consistent. There’s also simply less chronological material from places like Mesopotamia and Egypt for reconstructing their own history. There are gaps, for example, in the lists of kings and the number of years they reigned.
Situating the Bible in real-time allows biblical scholars to know how events in the Bible align with events in Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, Rome, and other civilizations. Political upheaval, droughts, famines, wars, and natural disasters sometimes become factors in what biblical writers say and why they say it. Time is, therefore, an important context for taking the Bible on its own terms. We should not neglect it.
While knowing some authorship and the timeline of events in the Bible help us to understand certain aspects, they do not control the overriding purpose of the Bible, which is God’s story to his fallen human family. There is a time for everything as we are told in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.”
That will conclude this week’s lesson on another two insights from Dr. Heiser’s book “Mastering the Bible.” Next Worldview Wednesday, we will continue with two additional insights. I believe you will find each Worldview Wednesday an interesting topic to consider as we build our Biblical worldview.
Tomorrow we will continue with our 3-minute humor nugget that will provide you with a bit of cheer and help you to lighten up and live a rich and satisfying life. So encourage your friends and family to join us and then come along with us tomorrow for another day of our Wisdom-Trek, Creating a Legacy.
If you would like to listen to any of our past 1240 treks or read the Wisdom Journal, they are available at Wisdom-Trek.com. I encourage you to subscribe to Wisdom-Trek on your favorite podcast player so that each day’s trek will be downloaded automatically.
Thank you for allowing me to be your guide, mentor, and, most of all, your friend as I serve you through the Wisdom-Trek podcast and journal.
As we take this trek together, let us always:
- Live Abundantly (Fully)
- Love Unconditionally
- Listen Intentionally
- Learn Continuously
- Lend to others Generously
- Lead with Integrity
- Leave a Living Legacy Each Day
I am Guthrie Chamberlain reminding you to Keep Moving Forward, Enjoy Your Journey, and Create a Great Day Everyday! See you tomorrow!