The Bible

Artwork by Elhanan ben-Avraham

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth. – 2 Timothy 2:15

Yes, the Bible is the Word of God, and I love the Bible. From my own long experience, I find the Bible to be quite reliable, right on up to where I can trust those parts that are mysteries far beyond our understanding as created beings, to have profound significance. But the Bible tells us nothing of exactly how God created, only that He did by a timeless ‘word’ uttered not by human lips and tongue, and unwitnessed by any human. To take every word of the Bible in an absolute literal sense is to sometimes misconstrue their point, as many scriptures are ‘poetic imagery to express truths deeper than the imagery itself,’ as we see in visions such as Daniel’s and the Book of Revelation. For example, the reference to ‘the sun and the moon standing still’ in the sky for Joshua is likely just that, a probable subjective poetic expression in Hebraic forms of that time some 3000 years ago, as the sun cannot stand still, nor can the Earth, any more than can literally ’the stars of heaven fall to earth.’ And such poetic passages as this referring to the sun, that tell us that Heaven has two ends:

Its rising is from one end of heaven,

And its circuit to the other end;

There are also problems of translation from the original ancient tongues, as such ‘truths’ from the Bible held by many believers for generations that a loving God afflicted Eve with much increased pain in childbirth, and thus every woman from that day forth, who never even heard of Eve, including every beast, now gives birth in pain, some even dying in childbirth. But the original Hebrew word translated pain is etsavon – which refers to ‘sadness’- the same word used for Adam who would till the earth not in physical pain, but in the pain of sadness (King James has Genesis 3:16-17 correctly translated).

I do not think the Bible is intended to be a book of science, biology, geology, or botany, as Jesus speaks a parable wherein the mustard seed is “the smallest of all seeds,” which it is not, yet the intent of the parable holds true. It is probable that none of the writers of the Bible were aware in their time that the Earth goes around the sun, a knowledge that came only with the scientific investigations of Galileo and Copernicus. Whereas science has finally caught up with the Bible and Genesis’ “In the beginning” with the modern discovery of the ‘Big Bang’ and an expanding universe, unlike the long-popular Greek idea of an eternal cosmos. I tend to think, as did many of the devout scientists in the past, of real science as a beneficial discovering of God’s wonders and attributes in His creation, not an enemy to be fought against. The sages of Israel have thus commented: ‘The Torah is not a science book and does not provide any scientific information; therefore, there is no way for Torah and science to contradict each other. The Torah is not a source of scientific information; it is a source for fear of G‑d, love of G‑d, and worship of G‑d,’ and Maimonides: ‘when the Torah and philosophy (science) seem to contradict one another, either the Torah or the philosophy is not yet properly understood.’ And according to Jewish thought, “The Torah is given in the language men,” to speak to many generations who could not even come near some of what we know today of the universe.

The dinosaurs indeed existed, and most likely long before the Adam, and many like Tyrannosaurus Rex were carnivores, which killed other creatures to eat them. So I contend that much is not fully known by us. Six literal 24-hour days (even before the sun was created on day 4) and less than 10,000 years since creation does not figure well with the speed of light and the light years of greatly distant stars that existed far enough from us to no longer exist by the time their light reaches our telescopes. So time is relative, and the universe far more mysterious than it appeared to be when we were born into the second half of the 20th century, when we all still thought our own Milky Way galaxy to be the entire universe, until the advent of Einstein and Hubble.

Yet there are some theologians, taking every word literally, who would almost kill for something that is perfectly beyond our reach and understanding – such as God creating from nothing or from mud – and them laying claim to knowledge of life after death and activities in the Heavenlies, while at the same time completely denying the reality that is here and now right before their eyes: the uncanny return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel after 2000 years as prophesied by all the Prophets, calling it nothing more than “a political accident.” That sure beats me how they cannot take that part of the Bible literally. Errant Replacement theologians deny that G-d is the Creator and Sustainer and sovereign Overseer of history, not only of the distant past and of the future.

Personally, I don’t put all my money on a single text lifted from its context and culture, or simple theological extrapolation of Biblical texts for my salvation, recognizing that there are yet great Mysteries, and I, for one, do not have all the answers, and can live with mysteries.  Between the relativity of time and the dinosaurs I do not want to get caught like the Church did when Copernicus and Galileo proved that the Earth goes around the sun and not vice versa, only to be excommunicated as heretics- until the church caught up with the science and recanted.

Words are symbols that by necessity require interpretation. Allow me to make things clear: I am not anchored to or worshipping a Book or the symbols of its words as ends in themselves, but that to which the symbols point outside the Book. Nor am I bound to human interpretations or religious doctrines or dogmas formulated by their limited understanding of the Eternal. There is one Creator God YHVH, the God and Father of Yeshua the Messiah, who is the intermediary between God and us. Could it possibly be that your interpretation is only partially correct, and that it is true that “we see as in a glass darkly,” and that “we know now only in part,” as the Bible also tells us?

At this point in my 76th year I am less in need of absolute certainty on all points, or wild speculations of what will be, in my walk with God than I am interested in how those with such ‘certainty’ live their lives down here on Earth. As one grows older one’s emphasis on certain things theological tends to change. There are now certain points in the Bible that have become more refined and central to my understanding. The fundamental idea expressed in the Bible that Abraham was a “friend of God” has captured my attention, and even more so where Yeshua at Passover carries that point even further, saying, “I no longer call you servants (slaves- the same word in Hebrew, avadim), but friends (haverim).” This now is my main objective, as I believe that friendship is the highest form of relationship in the universe, between God and man, man and man, and man and his wife. To achieve that goal widely in truth would be to create the long-hoped-for solution to la condition humaine, methinks.

No, I am not to be relegated to the infamy of a Dawkins or an Unbeliever, or implied that I am a mere Deist, or worse. I am simply a Jewish artist belonging to no other Religion or institution, enjoying the grace of God whom I serve, knowing now only in part and thus asking questions, especially of those who believe that they only have the correct understanding of the Bible.