The Logic of Faith

(8) Harmony

Introduction

The Bible contains sixty-six books. These were written over a long period of time (almost one and a half thousand years) by a large number of different people (at least 36 and possibly as many as 47 writers were involved). The books were written over a wide geographical spread (from Rome to Babylon). Three different languages were involved. In spite of this the book contains a unified message. This is the basis of the argument from Harmony. How could a book, or collection of books, like the Bible be written by so many different people over such a long period and still show such unity?


The Chronology of the Bible

The oldest book of the Bible is probably Job, which seems to have been written before the exodus. This would place it in 1500 BC or (most probably) even earlier. However, even if this book is ignored the oldest books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers were written before the Children of Israel entered the promised land in about 1400 BC. The book of Deuteronomy was probably finished shortly after the Israelites crossed the river Jordan, and was therefore also completed in about 1400 BC. At the other end of the range we have the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation, both of which were probably written shortly before the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in 70 AD. The following table illustrates this chronological spread:

Old Testament   New Testament
Book When Written   Book When Written
Job c1500 BC   James 40 - 47 AD
Exodus c1400 BC   Galatians 47/48 AD
Ecclesiastes c1000 BC   Mark Before 50 AD
Isaiah 700 BC   Luke 58 - 60 AD
Daniel 600 - 650 BC   Acts 62 AD
Nehemiah 430 BC   Hebrews 64 AD

The Number and Variety of Writers

The number of writers of the Bible is large. There are nine New Testament writers and 22 writers of Old Testament books after Job. The number of writers of the historical books is more difficult to estimate as it is not clear exactly who wrote them. Assuming one writer each and one writer for the first four books of the Bible we have another 13 writers (Ezra and Nehemiah being counted as one book) bringing the total to 35 writers for the Old Testament. However, the historical books show signs of having been written by a succession of people, raising the number still further.

Not only were there a large number of different writers, but they were from a wide variety of walks of life, from kings to peasants and from scholars to tax collectors. Again, the variety can be illustrated by a table which gives a sample of the different walks of life:

Old Testament   New Testament
Writer Profession   Writer Profession
Moses Slave who became a prince   Matthew Tax collector
David Shepherd who became king   Mark Rich man's son
Nehemiah Civil servant   Luke Doctor
Daniel Civil servant   Paul Scholar and tent-maker
Amos Farm labourer   Peter Fisherman
Zephaniah Nobleman   John Small business man

Given that there is 1500 years or more between Moses and John one can imagine the difference in their outlook. A first century AD fish dealer would have nothing in common with a fifteenth century BC ruler of people, especially as Moses came from Egypt having been brought up in the ways of the Egyptian court.


Geography and Language

Not only were the books of the Bible written over a very long period by a large number of different writers with different outlooks, there is also a wide geographical separation between the places in which they were written. Even in the first century the difference of outlook between Jerusalem and Rome was great, as it was between either city and Babylon or Antioch.

In fact the different writers of the Bible did not all speak one another's languages. Moses would not have understood New Testament Greek and Nebuchadnezzar (who is credited with part of the book of Daniel) would probably not have spoken Hebrew. Even where the language remains the same in name it changed over the centuries so that the Hebrew of Malachi is not quite the same as the Hebrew of Job.


Unity

In spite of all this variety, the Bible is a very united book (or, more correctly, set of books). The scope of this unity can be seen by exploring almost any theme in it. By following a concordance and the marginal references one soon finds oneself in a chain of passages which covers the whole Bible.

Consider, for example, Galatians 36-9. This refers to the promises made to Abraham in Genesis 156 and Genesis 123. The promise of Genesis 156 is also referred to in Romans 413,16 and there is a cross reference between Galatians 37 and Romans 413,16. Following through the promises to Abraham one finds another promise in Genesis 2217,18 which is a specific promise about one special descendent of Abraham, the Messiah. This is referred to in Galatians 316, a little further down the page from our original reference. Following the promises to the descendants of Abraham shows that they were given to Jacob in much the same words as to Abraham, and that they later rested on David (2 Samuel 712-14). The promise of a descendant of David who would sit on David's throne and establish it forever continues through the Old Testament, being found also in Ezekiel 2132; it is commented on in Luke 131-33 where the birth of Jesus is being foretold. This birth was itself in fulfilment of Genesis 2217, already mentioned.

This process could go on to cover much more of the Bible. A different starting point will produce a different network of connections but in the end it will grow to cover a large portion of the Bible. What is interesting is that these chains never end up contradicting themselves (provided that one is prepared to relax one's assumptions as directed by the Bible). The Bible is clearly one united whole.


Conclusion

The content of the Bible is united over fifteen centuries, three languages, upwards of 36 writers from completely different backgrounds who wouldn't have all understood each other if they had been put together by a time machine.

For this to happen there needs to be a single controlling interest. This has to span fifteen hundred years and two thousand miles. It has to have the power to make all the different writers produce a unified message. There is only one possible candidate for this controlling interest. It has to be the will of God. This means that the Bible must have been produced by men writing for God under God's direction. In other words, the Bible must have been inspired by God.
 

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