Cultural artifact or divine revelation?

I believe that the Bible is a book that demonstrates its humanity, that reflects the cultures it was written in and the people who composed it.

But I also know that the Bible transcends that humanity. More than that, long before cultures shaped the Bible, the teachings of the Bible shaped those cultures. God’s revelation of Himself occurred before the Bible came into being, and the writers of the Bible were affected by that revelation and its effects.

Some believe that the Bible forbids the eating of pork because that was the practice of the Hebrew people. Others believe that the Hebrew people abstained from eating pork because God so instructed them; those instructions were later recorded in Scripture.

The first group sees the Bible as merely a cultural artifact, nothing more than a snapshot of how God’s people acted at a certain time. The second group sees the Bible as a divine revelation, inspired by God.

I’m firmly in the second camp. Even as I wrestle to understand how inspiration takes place and even to recognize how much of the Bible intentionally reflects a human viewpoint on things, I still believe that Bible is much more than a record of the beliefs of a given people at a certain time.

I have built my life around the belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. As life goes on, that belief only gets deeper and more anchored in my being.

3 thoughts on “Cultural artifact or divine revelation?

  1. Nick Gill

    “More than that, long before cultures shaped the Bible, the teachings of the Bible shaped those cultures.”

    But the cultures existed before their Scriptures came into existence. There’s no implication in Scripture that there was much communication between the Lord and Israel enslaved in Egypt. For example, although circumcision was given to Abraham as a sign of the covenant, Israel must stop and be circumcised before entering the Promised Land in Joshua – so that command has not been followed (but it doesn’t seem to be rebellious, but omitted out of ignorance).

    Slavery, too, is a challenging question: Scriptures states regulations for a practice that predates Scripture, when it could simply ban it. Is revelation shaped by culture in that instance, or did unrecorded revelation (“the teachings of Scripture” before Scripture itself came into existence) shape that practice?

  2. Tim Archer Post author

    I believe there were religious teachings that were handed down, even as some were forgotten. I think the Hebrews were shaped by basic principles that were handed down from Abraham, even as they lost some of the specifics of faith.

    The slavery question is hard. And complicated. I don’t think God ever intended for His people to dedicate themselves to the slave trade, though slavery was seen as a natural outcome of war. It is interesting to see how easily Christians adopted slave language to describe their relationship with Christ; that leads me to think that slavery at that time wasn’t anything like what was practiced in the Americas. But I could be wrong on that.

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