Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Is the Bible true?

Here at Abarim Publications we frequently receive emails from people who ask us – in various degrees of desperation – whether or not the Bible is true. Many of us have a lot riding on our conviction that, yes, the Bible is true, but we all hear about startling scientific reports that strongly suggest the opposite: The creation week made way for the Hot Big Bang Inflation Theory, the Ten Plagues never happened, the Exodus never happened, Solomon was just a minor tribal head, and so on. What’s with that?

What all of us need to understand is that what we call the Bible is nothing more than a best guess of what folks trough the ages thought that the source texts might mean. We work off translations and cultural interpretations of something that is vastly and unfathomably complex. In fact, our present understanding of the nature of the ancient Hebrew and Greek Scriptures is pretty much of the same level as the archaic  belief that the earth is flat and we might fall of the edge if we venture out to sea too much.

So no, the creation week doesn’t cover a period in historical time, and that hurts our pride a bit, maybe, but it doesn’t take anything away from the splendor of Genesis 1. Only from what we guessed Genesis 1 was about.

In the 20th century we saw the rise of quantum mechanics, chaos theory and complexity theory, all new and smashing insights in the working of the universe, and lo and behold, these methods applied to Genesis reveal that Genesis is right on a par with the hippest scientific slings and arrows. When we look at Genesis from a complexity axis instead of from a temporal axis - which is a dumb thing to do anyway because time is a by-product of creation, and thus The Beginning can’t be a point in the past (see my previous post) -  Genesis contains natural structures that mankind could not have consciously known about up until a few decades ago.

Then how did we get it?

The Standard Model of elementary particles (that’s the fundamental organization of the building blocks of the universe – subatomic particles and all that) was completed in the late 1990’s. When we finally had it, the Standard Model appeared to be as good as identical to the family of Abraham as described in the Torah. That family, says God in Genesis 13:6, would be like the ‘dust of the earth,’ and ‘dust of the earth’ is what God made everything out of in Genesis 1.

Whoever wrote that passage also compared the multitudinousness  of Abraham’s offspring to that of the kernels of sand on the sea shore  - billions and billions of them – and, in the same sentence, also to the stars in the sky - a mere few thousand visible to the naked eye; a mere few thousand people would hardly fill a town (Genesis 22:17). How did the author know that there are indeed billions and billions of stars out there, as many as there are sand kernels on a beach? And why did he expect his audience to accept that, and not throw him and his story out with the trash?

So is the Bible true? Goodness, we don’t even have an idea what the Bible is, or how we could have gotten our hands on it. There is clear evidence that the original Hebrew authors knew about the nature of the universe, from the vastness of multi-dimensional space down to the complexity of DNA.
As far as we can tell, the source texts of the Bible are at least as mysterious as the pyramids at Giza or the dessert drawings in Peru. And we are clueless about the lot of them.

My clumsy guess is that the Bible is very true, more true than any one of us could have ever imagined, and we just have to keep at it, keep interpreting, keep translating, keep comparing the unclear whole story that we got from history to the few clear parts of the mostly obscured story we get from science. Or as Dory said: just keep swimming, just keep swimming.

And the translations that we have may run a bit off track where creation and human history are concerned, but the source texts don’t. And the joy and consolation that waits for us in the translated versions of these event, and the Psalms, the Gospels and the Epistles have always been very real and readily receivable for anyone who can read or listen.

Communion with God results primarily in a lot of joy and peace. This He achieves by means of the Holy Spirit, not by means of giving us a knack for relativity theory and sorts. But knowledge is also promised at many locations in the Bible. Paul urges us to investigate all things and keep what is good, so go ahead and investigate. In this school of life theories come and go, and the convictions of today’s best and brightest tomorrow are dusty relics showing in trophy cabinets near the coat racks.

You know what? I’ll see you at recess. I’ll be out in the yard, playing marbles in the sun.


  1. I so agree when you say,"My clumsy guess is that the Bible is very true, more true than any one of us could have ever imagined." I didn't grow up believing anything, least of all the Bible. Later I discovered the angle of Swedenborg on the Bible and since he wrote so rationally I have come to appreciate that the Bible is indeed a font of wisdom and enlightenment.

    Thanks for the blog and I also love your site on Biblical names. I also always focus on the names in a story and find great delight seeing a story through that window.

  2. Muires, thanks for your kind words. We are glad to be of service.


Be nice.

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