1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
We will be looking at this text today. I would like to first however, do some equipping for all of us. To some this may be review and to some this is completely new. Before we get started in the first verses of scripture, I would like to look at the nuts and bolts of how we are going to understand our Bible. Further to that I think we should look at why it’s the Bible we study. How do we know its trust worthy? And then finally how do we understand it. This is to empower you all with the ability to know how to always be able to hold yourself and others accountable to the teaching they try and give you. There cannot be growth by hindering anyone from proper spiritual growth and understanding of the Bible. This is not to say that you all are interpreting scripture wrong. I have no way to know that or not, that’s why it may be review in spots for some. New information perhaps for the younger people and all around strengthening to your walk in faith.
Let us pray and Begin.
First: Why the Bible and not a different religious text?
My first stop in helping to answer this question was to turn to a big brain. Ravi Zacharias for those who don't know is a very intelligent apologist. He writes the following.
Ravi Zacharias wrote on a blog the following:
“With the numerous religions in the world, how can Christians claim exclusivity? I am often asked this question in different settings. But I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the Christian faith is the only one that seems to have this question posed. The truth is that every major religion in the world claims exclusivity, and every major religion in the world has a point of exclusion.
Hinduism, for example, is often represented as being the most tolerant and accepting of other faiths. That is just not true. All Hindus believe in two fundamental, uncompromising doctrines—the Law of Karma, and the belief in reincarnation. These will not be surrendered. In fact, Buddhism was born out of the rejection of two other very dogmatic claims of Hinduism. Buddha rejected the authority of the vedas and the caste [sic: Ritual purities] system of Hinduism. The issue here is not who was right or wrong. The truth is that they were systemically different—both claiming rightness.
Islam, as you know, is very clearly an exclusive claim to God. A Muslim will never tell you that it doesn’t matter what you believe or that all religions are true.
But before we get upset with such claims, let us remember that it is the very nature of truth that presents us with this reality. Truth by definition is exclusive. Everything cannot be true. If everything is true, then nothing is false. And if nothing is false then it would also be true to say everything is false. We cannot have it both ways. One should not be surprised at the claims of exclusivity. The reality is that even those who deny truth’s exclusivity, in effect, exclude those who do not deny it. The truth quickly emerges. The law of non-contradiction does apply to reality: Two contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense. Thus, to deny the law of non-contradiction is to affirm it at the same time. You may as well talk about a one-ended stick as talk about truth being all-inclusive.
Christ is either the immeasurable God or one dreadfully lost. Apply the tests of truth to the person and the message of Jesus Christ. You see not only his exclusivity, but also his uniqueness.”(http://rzim.org/a-slice-of-infinity/point-of-exclusion/)
So where does that leave us? We must not be surprised at truth claims but we must test them before we believe them. If the test demonstrates truth then we are morally compelled to believe it. And this is precisely the point from which many are trying to run. As G.K. Chesterton said, the problem with Christianity is not that it has been tried and found wanting, but that it has been found difficult and left untried.
There is a method of testing a worldview that is attributed to Dr. Zacharias, (that I can’t seem to find a source for) called the 3-4-5 method
1) A worldview must pass 3 tests:
- Logically consistent: It cant contradict itself
- Empirically adequate: It has to match what we see in reality
- Existentially relevant – Its teaching must speak directly to how we live our lives.
2) A worldview must answer four questions:
Origin – Where did I come from?
Meaning – What am I worth?
Morality – Why is it wrong to do things/ or is it wrong to do certain things?
Destiny – Where am I going when I die. If anywhere.
3) Five academic disciplines used to study the worldview
- Theology: Study of God
- Metaphysics: the study of what is real
– Just a note: Can you believe we have to talk about this now? We have masses of children who cant decide if we are really here or not.
- Epistemology: The study of how we can know things
- Ethics: The study of moral right and wrong.
- Anthropology: The study of what and who humans are.
The beauty of boiling every worldview and faith to these points is there is no need then to read every piece of literature of a certain faith. Once a worldview breaks a rule it is falsified.
For example: Islam denies the death of Jesus on the cross. Islam cannot comprehend a prophet, being killed. Therefore Jesus in the Qur'an was caught up before death and perhaps switched with someone else. All the other historical evidence shows Jesus died. Greek history, Jewish history. Therefore something is fundamentally flawed.
Now that would be a Philosophically motivated answer to the question of why Christianity. If your interested in those types of discussions, Ravi Zacharias' ministry has a ton of info and I highly encourage you to check them out.
Perhaps you feel like the late Adrian rogers and that “Philosophy is the study of things we already know… using words we can't understand.”
How about this then perhaps?
Fulfilled Prophecy as a proof of authenticity of the Bible.:
Looking just at Jesus, He fulfilled 333 prophecies from the Old Testament. Here are a few.
His Virgin Birth. (Isa 7:14; Mt 1:23)
His Bethlehem Birth. (Micah 5:2-3; Mt 2:5-6)
His flight to Egypt. (Hos 11:1; Mt 2:15)
His Childhood in Nazareth (Isa 11:1; Mt 2:23)
His Healing ministry (Isa 53:4; Mt 8:16-17)
His betrayal money by a friend for 30 pieces of silver (psalm 41:9, 55:12-14; Zech 11:12-13; mt 26:14-16, 21-25)
The betrayal money used to purchase a potters field. (Jer 18-14; 19:1-3; Zech 11:12-13; mt 27:9-10)
His scourging and being spat upon. (Isa 50:6; Mt 26:67; 27:26)
His crucifixion between thieves. (Isa 53:12; Mt 27:38; Mk 15:27-28; Lk 22:37)
The piercing of His hands and feet (Psalm 22:16; Zech 12:10; mk 15:25)
The ridicule and mocking as He hung on the cross (psalm 22:7-8; Lk 23:34; Jm 19:23-24)
His resurrection (Psalm 16:10; Mt 28:2-7)
His ascension. (psalm 24:7-10; Mk 16:19; Lk 24:51)
If one prophecy was fulfilled that would be neat. However that’s only 13, of some 300+ prophecies. Just for Jesus alone. Bearing in mind the following.
The Bible is technically 66 books not 1
Written over a period of approx 2000 years
by ~40 different authors
over 3 continents
from three different languages.
Keeping all consistency and free of error. Some STILL critique the Bible and say it was fabricated for gain.
1) looking at the above how on earth would that even be possible.
2) For what gain? The Bible is a book stained in martyrdom for the cause of Christ. No story of a man using God for gain ended well for that man.
So those would be two different ways to come to the conclusion that the Bible is the true text holding Gods word. There are certainly more ways to delve into this topic, for time I will stop there. Resources if your still interested, would be places such as Gotquestions.org, carm.org, RZIM.org, answersingenesis has been delving into these things, same with places like the ICR, and creation.com lots and lots and lots.
So we know the Bible is our source for truth, how do we know we can trust what we have.
Inspiration: Crash course in Bibliology.
First thing to note: Inspiration means to be “God Breathed” therefore came straight from the mouth of God.
A few false views (there are tons):
Natural inspiration theory.
This view says that the bible was simply written by “inspired men” just as anyone is inspired when they write a novel or a story
Partial Inspiration theory.
As the name suggests this gives the idea that portions and parts are inspired, however others are not. The decision of what is inspired work and what is only mans words are left up to each individual interpreter.
Mechanical dictation theory.
This view is that God mechanically moved the hands of the writers. No personality or person(s) distinct vocabulary or influences are shown in the text.
A Biblical view of inspiration:
Verbal plenary inspiration.
That is each and every word in the Bible is the words of God. Written by men while fully keeping their own writing style, vocabulary and influences intact.
What about preservation: Here at Bethel we have made a distinction as “The King James type”. From a leadership point of view we have taken that position and while not everyone who comes through these doors as a whole may agree with the view. That is where we currently stand. So what does that actually mean? We would say that the copies from originals to English we believe to be preserved. I would personally urge you that if you hold to this view strongly like even I do myself, let us not beat people with our convictions.
More information on VPP -> From the dean burgeon society:
What does VPP mean? “Verbal” means “every word to the jot and tittle” (Ps 12:6-7, Matt 5:18). “Plenary” means “the Scripture as a whole with all the words intact” (Matt 24:35, 1 Pet 1:25). So VPP means the whole of Scripture with all its words even to the jot and tittle is perfectly preserved by God without any loss of the original words, prophecies, promises, commandments, doctrines, and truths, not only in the words of salvation, but also the words of history, geography and science. Every book, every chapter, every verse, every word, every syllable, every letter is infallibly preserved by the Lord Himself to the last iota.
VPP extends past just the originals, the question is can God keep His word intact from one language to the other. Dean burgeon society like we here at bethel feel God has done just that into the English language with the KJV. There are still numerous projects to take the proper source texts and get them into other foreign languages and we should be praying for those and supporting if we can.
Now that we know why the Bible, how it got inspired, and that we have what was written from time past in our hands today. How do we understand it.
Instead of going through every different way some people come to interpreting the Bible, lets first look at how not to do it.
Things not to do:
1-Don't make a point at the expense of a text; This is known as the deductive method, or Eisegesis we do not approach a text with our conclusion set. Emotions have a sneaky way to getting into our conclusions before we have even read the text.
2-Think not of “what does the passage mean to me”, but rather what does the passage mean. What was the author getting across, and to what people? and knowing that! What is the implication of this truth?
2a-Generally; there are not multiple literal meanings to the text.
While some few passages are indeed both prophetical and historical, we must use the principles outlined in a few moments to be sure that is what’s happening. Otherwise as a general rule plain meanings in scripture are singular in interpretation.
3- Don't spiritualize or allegorize a text.
Eg: Davids slingshot that flung the stone that killed Goliath: The sling shot is the church and the rock are missionaries we send out to slay the false faiths in remote areas where we send them.
The following is not the plain sense of the text and therefore makes no sense to claim. It sounds nice to the ears, and could make any man behind the pen feel like he's unlocked some sort of new meaning. I would submit there are no new meanings, scripture is clear, literal and singular in meaning.
Through prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in illumination (Think of a light bulb turning on; That is a supernatural assistance in guiding our knowledge and wisdom of a text, it is the spirit opening our eyes to see what God is saying) we attempt understand the word through:
Historical grammatical interpretation: Exegesis (to draw out)
-Literal principle: Interpret the scripture according to normal language.
-Historical context: How the people think, the politics, what was going on in that time. What was the city like, what where the social pressures, customs. Etc.
-Grammatical principle: look at the language, the syntax, the way things are arranged.
-Synthesis: Scripture interprets scripture.
-Practical principle: What are the implications of this.
We are attempting to reconstruct the setting so we can understand ancient documents. We want to drop ourselves into that time and period while knowing the customs and beliefs at the time. Then see where else in scripture we see similar things and draw out the truth from the text. Then not ask “what does it mean to me” as that could lead to all sorts of weird theology. Rather ask what are the implications of this? What do I know now that I can apply practically to my life.
I hope that helps equip you a bit more, to hold yourself, me, any teacher accountable. Its never wrong to ask “Where do they get that idea from?” and go looking.
Ok Part 2!
Genesis “Book of beginnings”:
Now before we start lets ask this important question is Genesis Historical or allegory? (Biblical support for historical). It is my opinion that without taking hermeneutic jumps you must land on a literal historical view.
16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
From one verse we can't delve to deeply into the structure of how Genesis is written, however we will see that the language it self is not written using allegorical words that imply personal interpretation. Genesis is written as a historical document. (a quick example would be the use of the word day yom followed by a number is always indicative of a 24hr period of time, which is what we find in genesis)
In a brief sentence I would like to echo a sentence I learned in FBI. “Genesis is the story of the beginning of the Redemption of man through the promised seed of Abraham.
Note this point: “THROUGH THE PROMISED SEED OF ABRAHAM”. We will get to this later in Genesis but it is extremely important we always remember this point. The Jewish people have been and still are apart of Gods plan. This will help you understand scripture from end to end.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth”
First what do we learn immediately?
1) God lays out clearly summarizes what He did, and leaves no doubt of His creative work, and His alone.
In the beginning God
a) This disproves atheism.
1) because everything must have a beginning, and everything with a beginning must have a cause. A watch needs a watch maker and the universe begs for a creator. We need an un-caused first cause for the universe. This is and must be God.
B) disproves evolutionary thought: God created everything, there is no mention of a half baked creation and a period of waiting. Furthermore the Bible goes on to call everything very good at the end of creation week, billions of years of cancers and death and disease would not be a perfect creation by any means.
c) Disproves pantheism. (Pantheism identifies God with the universe. The Universe is God. This is where ideas like karma come from) we see Biblically God must be and is apart from His creation. Also God created Ex Nihilo That is “out of nothing”, not a “reconstruction of the pre existing universe)
d) Disproves polytheism. (ie many Gods)
The Bible here speaks of one God. Now just some… information on this word God I found extremely fascinating and hopefully I dont lose you but rather peak your interest a bit.
So lets pause for a second on this. We're going to get technical, so bear with me for a moment as I attempt to unpack a thought here.
It should be noted the ENGLISH word here “God” is the Hebrew word Elohim → Elohim is the PLURAL of the Hebrew word “Eloah”, the (-ohim) in Elohim makes it masculine plural. However, looking at the next word bara or “Created” is a singular verb. It is implied that the verbs / context surrounding the word Elohim define the singular use/definition of Elohim (at this time in scripture). Its not lost on theologians that this “plural” version of the word God, with the singular verb. Seems to be a blinding light towards the idea of the trinity. I will in a moment read from Adam clarkes commentary (but it should be noted now once and for all. I use a lot … A LOT of commentary’s when I teach, I do not agree with any single one of them 100%… Which kind of worries me, however feel free to check them out yourself but in all things practice solid disernment, there is only one and only one perfect Book, just know that while I use a variety of resources and I encourage everyone to do the same, I am not fully endorsing anyone. ever). Continuing on:
The original word אלהים Elohim, God, is certainly the plural form of אל El, or אלה Eloah, and has long been supposed, by the most eminently learned and pious men, to imply a plurality of Persons in the Divine nature. As this plurality appears in so many parts of the sacred writings to be confined to three Persons, hence the doctrine of the Trinity, which has formed a part of the creed of all those who have been deemed sound in the faith, from the earliest ages of Christianity. Nor are the Christians singular in receiving this doctrine, and in deriving it from the first words of Divine revelation. An eminent Jewish rabbi, Simeon ben Joachi, in his comment on the sixth section of Leviticus, has these remarkable words: “Come and see the mystery of the word Elohim; there are three degrees, and each degree by itself alone, and yet notwithstanding they are all one, and joined together in one, and are not divided from each other.”... He must be strangely prejudiced indeed who cannot see that the doctrine of a Trinity, and of a Trinity in unity, is expressed in the above words. The verb ברא bara, he created, being joined in the singular number with this plural noun, has been considered as pointing out, and not obscurely, the unity of the Divine Persons in this work of creation. In the ever-blessed Trinity, from the infinite and indivisible unity of the persons, there can be but one will, one purpose, and one infinite and uncontrollable energy.
I was going to quote from Keil & Delitzsch. However, while I love their commentary, it takes me about 30 reads to understand what they are getting at, So for your own clarity, they may be a resource for you to check out as well if you ever get to interesting spots in terms of language or culture in the OT. You can come back and tell me how many reads it took you! Ha!
Also let us think about the scripture “in the beginning”
If this is the beginning, this is the beginning of everything, The beginning of Time. The beginning of space. The beginning matter. (Think of energy as a form of matter)
None of these can exist without the others. Can you have, matter and time with no space? Where would you put matter? Can you have space and time with no matter (energy)? What would you put into space? How about, Space and matter with no time? Of course not. When would you put anything? All three must co instantly come into being. Not gradually but instantaneous. This can only be plausible with someone/thing outside these rules creating time, space, matter and the laws that govern how they behave. This can only and therefore demands that uncaused fist cause beginning we discussed before. Beyond our level of understanding. He is God.
In the beginning...“God”
Who is God?
- uncaused first cause.
From this passage alone we can draw some simple charactistics about God thus far. As we progress through scripture we will pull out more and more and more etc. At this time, just a few things to note already.
Omnipresent → He is everywhere.
Omnipotent → He is unlimited in power, and able to do anything within His nature.
Omniscient → He is all knowing.
“Created the heaven and the earth”
Created once again:
This word Created Bara, in the Hebrew, is creating Ex Nihilo out of nothing. Not a reconstruction of something already existing.
Notice the separation between Heaven and Earth. Some say that it could be the solar systems in creation perhaps everything but the lights listed in Genesis 1:14. I personally would reserve the celestial bodies as a whole for those following verses. Perhaps we see the creation of vastness of space...and in this (to us) seemingly endless space.
then we read:
and the Earth.
In the midst of all the grandeur of special creation. God creates Earth. The immediate question(s) of what is His plan? Why would He create earth? What was God doing before creation? And many more come into play and later on we can hopefully address those.
I didn’t know where to tag this in for fun so right here works, does anyone else find it neat we live in a Universe? (Uni → single, Verse → spoken sentence) “And God said…” I heard that when I was 16 and came to know God as creator and moments later Lord. It has always stuck with me I’m sure many have heard it, but I still enjoy repeating it.
What we do know and can say for sure real fast, God created earth. God created us, and we fell into sin. God in His foreknowledge saw our fall and had a solution. He would redeem His people by becoming a man, Gods Son, fully divine and fully man. Pay for the sins of those who trespassed Him. So that whosoever believes in Him/Jesus. Shall not perish in the sin they have laid on their own heads, But receive the everlasting life God graciously bestowed on those who love him.
And it all started with Creation.