By Pastor Jack
Scripture reveals the culture of the Patriarchs from the time of the Hebrew disciples, a period of over 3000 years since Noah and the flood. Anthropologists, linguists, theologians, historians and archaeologists have made no small effort in their study of the Bible to uncover and present to the modern interpreter as much factual information about the land, culture and history of the people in the book.
The Bible was not written with a priority to reveal “all things about all things”. The stories, written within their cultural context, did not have as their primary purpose a comprehensive expose’ on the people, places and things of scripture. Some may be surprised that the Bible doesn’t go out of its way to fully detail all of the elements of interest to the reader. Take, for instance, the account of creation. This has been the subject of much debate and it simply starts with the words: “In the beginning…” One would ask the question “When would that be?” Is the answer 6,000 years ago as some have reckoned time using the recorded biblical genealogies? Or should we consider this: Recently astronomers have estimated that the origin of the universe occurred between 12 and 14 billion years ago but they say our solar system is less than 4 billion years old. Is that what “in the beginning” is supposed to mean?” Let’s take another example: the very general and somewhat obscure facts of where the Garden of Eden was situated.
Genesis 2:8
8“Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.”
Genesis 2:10-11
10 “A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon…the name of the second river is Gihon.”
Genesis 2:14
14 “And the name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.”
“Many biblical scholars have debated the exact location and even the existence of Eden for centuries. Because the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are clearly named in Genesis, it has been thought to be in the Middle East. Some have suggested Babylonia in Mesopotamia, and others Armenia, north of Mesopotamia. However, the other two rivers named, the Pishon and Gihon, are hard to identify.” (
They don’t seem to exist anymore. The eastern mountains of Turkey have been suggested as a possibility because the origins of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers are found there. If that is so, then we are talking about an area 100 miles by 100 miles square, although, the mountainous terrain doesn’t sound ideal for a garden. However, and this is significant, these rivers are not from a single place, as the scripture reveals. The flow of the river does not start at the same source but end up flowing together through Iraq and into the Persian Gulf—the very opposite of what the scriptures tell us.
Are there other questions raised from scripture that we might like answers too? We can be silly with our questions, as some critics might be inclined to ask, such as “What did God have in mind when he created the Aardvark?” Some might ask “What is an Aardvark?” Well, it’s not an Aard-wolf if that helps. And yes, there are such animals!
Let’s ask some more adult questions that are left unexplained:
“Where did the wives of Cain, Able and Seth come from as their births are not announced? Where exactly is Ur of the Chaldees? What is the origin of Abram’s faith? When precisely was Jesus born? We know where he was born and where he grew up, but why not the year and day He was born? Did the disciples have to replace Judas by casting lots when all of the other disciples were called by Jesus? What was the thorn in Paul’s side? Is the rapture of the church before, during or after the tribulations period? Why can’t we know?
Some theories have been offered to answer all of these questions but without any real certainty. If scripture is a book of truth, why is it often so un-precise? Wouldn’t this lack of clarity be an argument that the Bible offers limited revelation?
The answer is the Bible does only offer limited revelation.
What do we mean by that?
The Bible limits itself in what it reveals, it is not a book that contains “all truth”, but it is a book that is “all true” in what it contains.
This means the Bible has a specific purpose for its existence. It was never intended to be a scientific journal although much that would intrigue and direct the scientific mind can be found within its pages. Historians can find within its pages names and events that correspond to, and give a fuller understanding of, ancient times. Archaeologists are uncovering the locations of ancient wells, roadways, citadels, villages, towns and cities because they were mentioned in the Bible but unknown and lost in the most ancient of the world’s libraries. Students of languages cross reference the original manuscripts of the Bible to determine and chart the development of both the Semitic and Romance languages. Cultural engineers take the stories and try to dissect and construct an understanding of male and female relationships, family units represented, the rise of ethnic and racial cultures, all because the Bible is one of the more reliable sources for this knowledge.
The Bible has many beneficial uses as we have noted without exhausting the possibilities, but that is not its primary purpose. As we stated in part 8 on Culture, we see a constancy of culture over the Bible even though it covers a period of time greater than 3,000 years. This constancy of culture wasn’t found in their dress, language, place or wealth, it was in their constancy of behavior. Anthropologists agree that the one constant is the behavior inherent to man as revealed in the Bible has not changed over time. Whether Romans, Egyptians, Greeks, Ethiopians, Chaldeans or Jews, etc., they all had basic human traits that remain unchanged. However, the book isn’t really about every culture of the world. It is about a certain people who embraced a specific culture.
The behavior of the principal characters of the Old and New Testaments remained remarkably consistent. This we explained was the influence of God upon the culture. God’s heavenly culture was being transplanted over the culture of men. Man adopted the culture of God, who is constant and unchanging, and their moral culture, which impacted their social culture, is observed to be remarkably consistent though people, places and times changed.
People who are on a Sacred Journey remain remarkably alike and consistent in their moral behavior, even if time and place change. Traits of this “God” culture can be observed around the world but they are not indigenous or ingenious to that group of people. These moral traits, while observed by some skeptics of the Bible to be common to man, are actually foreign or alien to man. Morality implies there is some inherent good in man. The Bible reveals that man is inherently evil.
Romans 3:10“As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one.”
1 Kings 8:46“When they sin against you–for there is no one who does not sin.”
Moral goodness is absent from natural man. It is beyond his inherent nature. To be moral, this knowledge, this change of culture must come from without. Moral goodness has only one source and that source is alien to us—that source is God’s culture. The main purpose of the Bible is to reveal the culture of God to His creation, mankind.
This is the answer to the “why question” that we seek. Why is scripture about God’s culture and not man’s? Because the revelation of God’s culture to man is meant to become the absolute focus of our Sacred Journey. Everything of eternal value that is relevant for man’s ‘good’ is only found in the scriptures.
This revelation is only found through the study and adoption of God’s Culture. If man does not recognize the true purpose of scripture, he can never hope to be truly good. He can only try to ‘act’ good. Again, scripture is given so that we may discover God’s Culture so that we may know how to adapt.
This adaption or adoption of God’s culture in continuous priority and action has been given the term religion because we adapt to God’s culture religiously. Man, chose to make God’s culture his culture and conform himself to match what God instructs man to do. Mankind actively becomes involved with the process by making it the highest priority of his life, not by his own choice, but by discerning God’s revelation.
Is man capable of hearing and discerning God’s revelation (often called His voice)? It is not dependent upon man’s capabilities but upon God’s Spirit.
“An omnipotent God…can certainly communicate His will to human beings in an unambiguous way if He chooses to do so.” To deny this is “to impose upon Him a limitation of dumbness that would insult the least of His creatures.”
-Rabbi Norman Lamm
“To say that religion is a creation of human beings and their communities in no way implies that religion is fiction.”
-Mordecai Kaplan
Religion is merely the taking upon oneself the culture of heaven. It is indeed a behavior that exhibits self-control, but it is not a solo act. It is entered into in communion with the One we are emulating. It is entered into in communion with others. This culture of heaven is vibrantly alive, and our participation brings us into life. The forms it takes do not make the religious communion alive, it is the relationship formed with God that makes us alive! The culture of God is revealed in scripture so that we might live!
What remains before us is the searching of the scriptures to know God and the characteristics of His culture.
Song of Solomon 3:2
“I will get up now and go about the city, through its streets and squares; I will search for the one my heart loves.”
Romans 2:13
“For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.”
Isaiah 1:18
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”