THE BIBLE: the Word of God?

Artwork by Elhanan ben-Avraham

You are My witnesses,” declares YHVH, “and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may consider and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me no god was formed, and after Me none will come.” – Isaiah 43:10

“Because I, YHVH, do not change, you descendants of Jacob have not been destroyed.” – Maachi 3:6

Is the Bible, written between 2000 and 3000 years ago, the Word of God, or just another book among the other ‘holy books’ such as the Quran, the Upanishads, the Bhagvadgitathe Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Book of Mormon, etc.? First of all, the Bible is unique in that it is not a book, but a library, a collection of books penned by many Jewish authors over many centuries.  The modern ‘book’ is not the book of those ancient centuries, which were separate scrolls each called a sefer (book), from the root word l’saper– to tell.

The Hebrew scriptures are called the Tenach (Torah, Neviim, Ketuvim)- a combination of Torah, Prophets, and the Writings now under a single cover.  There are books of history, of instruction (Torah), commandments and laws, chronicles of the kings, proverbs, prophecies and visions, and poetry of praise and lamentation.

The Islamic Quran calls itself “the very words of Allah,” (Allah being not a proper name, but the Arabic word for “god”), even though attributed to the admittedly illiterate Muhammad, who lived in the 7th Century AD, some 600 years after Yeshua and the New Testament scriptures, and nearly 2000 years after Moses.  According to that late book in Arabic, Muhammad came to correct the errors of both Moses and Jesus, i.e. the Old and New Testaments. Whereas the Bible is called the Word of God (meaning YHVH) and the cement that bonds the many books of the Bible together as one is the overarching presence and reference to YHVH throughout, and through the generations. YHVH is present from the very beginning, permeating the texts, and is involved with and interacting in the unrolling scroll of history and its individuals, and specifically with the nation of Israel, His witnesses and chosen vessel to carry His name (‘shem’ in Hebrew, being the Shemites, or Semites) whose long history is traced in relation to YHVH, and from whom would arise the quintessential Jew, the Messiah. YHVH, which is a proper name* of the one Creator, the revolutionary concept of one God as against the many gods and goddesses that are the idols of the nations, is brought into the world by Israel, and carried and guarded from generation to generation. And that same YHVH breaks through to speak not only through events, but directly to His people through the words of His Prophets. The Bible and its fundamental principles has had a major impact on world history and thought to this day, especially in the free world of the West.

The actual text of the Tenach in the original Hebrew (and Aramaic) contains a depth that is not entirely translatable, some of it impossible to correctly translate. Even the New Testament texts, continuing the deeds of YHVH, in Greek for the sake of the Greek-speaking world of the day, was written by 1st century Jews in Hebraic thought. Hebrew is to the Bible as a telescope is to the heavens, whose beauty may be seen with the naked eye, but how very much more is revealed when seen through the telescope. Even the name YHVH is the impossible combination of the Hebrew word ‘to be’ in its past, present, and future tenses at once. There is many a hint (remez) hidden in the Hebrew, such as pointed out in the previous article on the Book of Esther, even enough to believe that it is not simply the works of man. There is knowledge lying beneath the surface of the Biblical texts, even enough to realize that YHVH exists beyond time and is not limited by it, its prophecies proving amazingly accurate. There is much more in the Bible than meets the eye at a glance, just as the “simple cell” was once thought to be a mere blob of protoplasm until a closer look has revealed a world of absolute wonder and functioning complexity:

* ‘God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘YHVH, the God of your fathers–the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob–has sent me to you.’ “This is my name forever, the name you shall call me from generation to generation’– Exodus 3:15.

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Elhanan ben-Avraham, born in 1945, is a professional artist, poet, writer and father of two, grandfather of four, living in Israel since 1979. He has served in the IDF, taught the Bible internationally, published five illustrated books of poetry, painted two large Biblical murals in public buildings in Jerusalem, and most recently produced THE JERUSALEM ILLUSTRATED BIBLE, among many other works. He and his wife live in a quiet village in the Mountains of Judah.