Prophetic Malnutrition By Steve Schmutzer How well will your car perform if you’ve removed one…
By Chuck Missler
The Bible is not merely a collection of writings by scattered desert nomads who combined the worship of two different gods named El and Yahweh into one God, who scratched their faith together from a mishmash of Canaanite beliefs. Every book of the Bible, every place name and strange detail work together to describe the God of the Universe and His passion for mankind. The whole package hangs together. It’s an integrated message system from outside our time domain.
In its entirety, the collected books of the Bible work together to describe our need for a Savior. Together, they prophesy about that Savior and give us the fulfillment of those prophecies. They promise us a future where He rules and reigns over all the earth. The entire dramatic narrative is told from Genesis to Revelation, from the promise in the Garden that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the Serpent to the destruction of the Dragon, the old Serpent in Revelation. There’s nothing accidental about it; the Bible’s 66 books tell one complete story.
The word “Bible” is derived through Latin from the Greek word biblia, which is a diminutive of biblios, the word for “book” or any kind of written document. Originally it connoted something written on papyrus, but today the word “book” has become the name for the Book, the ultimate Document of all time.
The word “testament” – whether we speak of the Old Testament or the New Testament – comes from the Latin testamentum, which hails from the Greek term, diatheke, indicating a legal arrangement. When Jesus says in Matthew 26:28, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins,” he does not mean “testament” the way we think of a testimony today. Language changes over time, and the word we might choose today would be “compact” or “covenant.” While the Jews had lived for centuries under the Law, Jesus’ blood offered a new legal setup, one in which grace triumphed over legalism. Following the meaning of Jesus’ words, we might be better off today using the terms Old Contract and New Contract.
The Jews of Christ’s day considered the Old Testament to be Scripture, but Peter makes a novel step and calls Paul’s New Testament writings “scripture” as well. (Another 3:16 verse!)
“…Even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction.” – 2 Peter 3:15-16
When we read the first sixteen verses of 2 Peter 3, it’s clear that Peter regards Paul’s writing as equivalent to the Hebrew Law and the Prophets. In those days, most Jews read the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament. Peter recognized Paul’s writings as of equal authority, and Paul cites Luke 10:7 alongside Deuteronomy 25:4 as Scripture, quoting them together in 1 Timothy 5:18. The writers of the New Testament books declare they are ministers of God, whom God uses to bring His Word.
This is not out of line on their part, for Jesus preapproved their ministry through the Holy Spirit in the upper room discourse:
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” – John 14:26
How did these documents actually come about? The writers were chosen and prepared for their writing of these documents.
“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” – Jeremiah 1:5
The authors of the books of the Bible wrote exactly what God wanted to communicate through them to the world, which has been confirmed through subtleties in the coding structures. As we examine the text even more carefully, we have found that there are a wide variety of messages that disappear if we change one letter. God spoke to Moses face to face, and as we carefully study the books of Moses, it appears that the Torah was given to Moses letter by letter, whether he realized it or not. The prophets claimed to be speaking the very words of God. “The word of the LORD came to…” As we continue our study, we will review some examples of those details.
Infallibility and Inerrancy
The Doctrine of Infallibility is the subjective consequence of divine inspiration; that is, we trust that the Bible is reliable to all who turn to it in search of God’s truth, because it provides us with information that God gave us through human pens.
The Doctrine of Inerrancy states that the Bible contains neither errors of fact (material errors) nor internal contradictions (formal errors). Inerrancy is generally attributed only to the original autographs and not to the translations or copies, because we recognize the potential imperfections inherent in the transmission of Scripture, whether by copying error, inadequacies in translations, et al. There are also cultural, historical and rhetorical gaps between the writer and the reader, which can lead to confusion. When humankind gets into the act, it messes things up, but we affirm that the original documents penned by the original writers were fully reliable.
While there are always skeptics, it is important to appreciate that less than one percent of the Scriptures are under competent dispute. And fortunately, no doctrine of the Scriptures depends on any of the disputed passages. There are questions about certain verses and there are issues that scholars ponder, but they don’t impact any critical doctrine. We find that we have in the Bible an integrated package that God superintended and watched over in every detail.
If we accept any of it, it all ties together. There’s no excuse to buy part of it and not the others. If we want to reject any of the Bible, then we should reject the whole thing, but if we accept any of it, we must accept the total package because it has integrity – it works together as a whole.
The Bible as a Hologram
If you’re a communications engineer and you’re designing a message system that you anticipate will be subject to hostile jamming by an adversary, one of the things you do is you take your message and spread it across the available bandwidth. That’s exactly what the Bible has done. It’s what Isaiah mentions in Isaiah 28:10 “I have established my truth, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little.” It’s deliberately spread out that way, so that pages can be torn out of the Bible without destroying any of the vital doctrines. We may lose clarity on some issue, but the whole design has been integrated.
From a communications engineer perspective, the Bible is fascinating. I’ve even written a book called Cosmic Codes: Hidden Messages from the Edge of Eternity to explore these things from an information technology point of view, because when taken all together, we see that the Bible had to have been written by one Author who sees things from outside of time.
In fact, as we begin to understand the Bible from an information science point of view, we discover the integrity of the total package manifests a strategy to avoid hostile jamming. It’s interesting to note that we can’t say, “Where’s the chapter in the Bible on baptism? Where’s the chapter on salvation?” There is no critical subject in the Bible that is found in only one passage. Every major issue is explained or portrayed repeatedly by a wide variety of authors in a multitude of passages.
One of the things we find throughout the Scriptures is what would be called in the computer field a “macrocode.” The Bible contains a multitude of “anticipatory macrocodes” that demonstrate a message originating from outside our time domain. As we study the Hebrew Scriptures, we discover again and again that there are elements introduced early on, elements that make no sense except in the context of an event that occurs a thousand years later. There is a story with a multitude of small parts, a story that is detailed in advance and only brought together at the end. In other words, certain ideas or concepts came from Someone who knew what was going to happen well in advance, Someone who “knows the end from the beginning.”
The Brazen Serpent
For example, in Numbers 21 Moses is told to hold up a bronze serpent in the wilderness. Deadly serpents covered the desert camp of the Israelites, and people were being bitten and killed. Moses went to the LORD for help, and the LORD told him to raise up a brazen serpent on a pole so that everyone who looked to it would be healed. Moses did as the LORD instructed, and the people who obeyed were spared from death.
Why a serpent? What in the Jewish understanding could have connected a serpent with anything good?
It’s a challenge to read the Old Testament and find an explanation for that serpent on a pole. It makes no sense. Why would God use a snake of all things? From a Levitical viewpoint, a serpent is a symbol for sin, and bronze is a symbol for judgment. Everybody who looked to a snake symbol on the pole was healed? Why? If we go through the whole Old Testament, we find no explanation for this serpent-held-high imagery. In fact, many centuries later, that bronze serpent was still around and the Israelites had started worshipping it. King Hezekiah had to have it destroyed because it was becoming an idol (2 Kgs 18:1-4).
Then, Jesus Himself explains the imagery in John 3 during His meeting with the Pharisee Nicodemus, who came to Him one night. Jesus describes the serpent as a symbol anticipating the cross of Christ. As Moses raised the serpent in the wilderness, so would the Son of Man be raised up. Suddenly, the fog lifts and we realize that the serpent in the wilderness was a Messianic anticipation of Jesus Christ: He was held up; He became sin for us and bore our transgressions; and through His death we are healed.
We find dozens of these types placed all through the Scripture like woven threads that bind the entire design together. If we reject any part, then we should reject the whole thing, because it is all tied together. If we accept it, we need to accept the entire package. The important question is not whether we like any particular part of the Bible, but whether it is true.
The New Testament is in the Old Testament concealed, the Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed. It is one book, it has an integrated design, and once you discover that for yourself it will change your entire perspective on every passage in the Bible.
The Old and New Testaments
The books that we find in our Old Testament today are in a different order than we find in the Hebrew Bible. The Jews divided the Hebrew Scriptures into three sections:
The Torah is the “Law” of Moses, made up of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These five books are also called “the Pentateuch,” and they are the Jews’ most venerated portion of the Scripture.
The Nevi’im is the “Prophets.” It includes both the Former Prophets – Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings – and the Latter Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Twelve Minor Prophets. These 12 books are called “minor” because they’re smaller in size and not smaller in importance. They are often grouped together into The Book of the Twelve Prophets.
The Ketuvim is the “Writings” portion of the Scriptures. This includes the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, The Five Scrolls of the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther, and finally, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles.
Together, the Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim make up what we consider the Old Testament. The Jews call this collection of books by the acronym, Tenach – from (T)orah, (N)evi’im and (Ch)ethuvim. As we can see, the Tenach has a slightly different order for the books of the Hebrew Bible than we find in the King James, and we Christians have split the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles into two books each, but this is essentially the same Old Testament that we read.
The New Testament is also divided into sections, the Gospels and Acts, the Pauline Epistles, the General Epistles, and Revelation. Hebrews is often placed with the Pauline epistles, since there is evidence that Hebrews was written by Paul.
The Gospels and Acts tell us about Jesus, His ministry, death and resurrection, as well as the history of the early Church. The Pauline Epistles are the letters written by Paul to the various communities of early Christians he had visited. These early church groups needed instruction, encouragement and admonishment. The General Epistles add additional instruction and answer questions the early Christians struggled over. Finally, Revelation is dedicated to the prophetic visions that Christ gave John regarding the spiritual end of times.
The Inspired Canon
The word “canon” comes from the Greek κανών which means a “ruler” or a “standard of measurement.” The canon of the Bible is the specific set of books considered God-breathed, the very Word of God. There are many other useful books from those early centuries, and scholars can study them for their historical and literary and cultural value, but they are not God-breathed. They can be valued as sources of information, as lenses for clearer insight into the beliefs and teachings of the people who lived in Biblical times, but they should not be considered as more than human works. The canon is a unique list of books which the early Church fathers recognized as birthed by the Holy Spirit, by God Himself.
This all began with the Torah. The five Books of Moses were placed in the Ark of the Covenant along with the two tablets of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:7ff; Deut. 31:24-26). That was the beginning of the veneration of the narrative and the text. The whole idea of the canon is based on two convictions: the words of Scripture are God’s own words; and men simply transmitted what they received from the LORD Himself.
Men, therefore, may have influenced the form of the Scriptures, but God determined the content. That’s the distinction. God’s own words were penned by human writers. The Old Testament includes a large number of passages described as God’s actual speech dictated to the prophets (e.g. Kings 22, Nehemiah 8, and most of Jeremiah). Clearly, the intent was that these were literally God’s own words to whomever He was speaking.
The Old Testament is a story of a nation that was brought forth to present the Messiah, and the New Testament tells about the arrival of that Messiah. Jesus Christ is not an afterthought. For thousands of years the Scriptures had foretold His coming. Every book of the Old Testament offers types and foreshadows and direct prophecies of His suffering and death and victory and future reign. The Messiah was validated by all the details that were anticipated centuries before He was born. The Old Testament establishes Christ’s identity in advance, and He in turn authenticates the whole package. Jesus Christ fulfills all the specifications beyond competent dispute, demonstrating the supernatural origin of the Hebrew Scriptures.
This is important. The books of the Bible are not merely a scattered collection of Jewish writings describing the history of a messy group of people who traveled about the Middle East. The books of the Bible are parts of a whole. As we study the Bible, we are able to establish the integrity of the design. We discover that these 66 books, penned by 40 different individuals over several thousands of years, are an integrated message and every detail is there by deliberate design. Once we understand this amazing reality, we find we can understand the full story of Jesus Christ from beginning to end. We know who Jesus Christ was and is as we read about Him in every book.
Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion” is an excellent portrayal of Christ and a remarkable piece of work. On the other hand, it doesn’t go far enough. It does not emphasize that Jesus is the Son of God. Nor does it mention that God’s plan for salvation had been planned before the foundation of the world – that Jesus faithfully went through the process for the benefit of each one of us. We need to understand it was an achievement, not a tragedy.
We know Jesus is the Messiah because He fulfills the Law and the Prophets. The first thing He did after His resurrection was give two disciples a seven-mile Bible study starting with Moses, pointing out all the references to Himself.
Epistemology is the study of knowledge, its scope and limits. It answers the question “How can we know?” How do we know that Jesus Christ was the Messiah? Our answer is that He fulfilled a multitude of prophecies – not just one or two specific, individual verses, but the Hebrew Scriptures as an integrated whole. Our epistemological approach recognizes the incredible power of fulfilled prophecy.
According J. Barton Payne’s Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy, at least 8000 predictive verses forecast the future in 1800 different predictions on more than 700 different matters. This is just one catalog, but it makes the point that the Bible is prophetic. It’s not just a quaint collection of tribal history over the centuries. It is far more than that. It is supernatural in its origin, and it demonstrates its authenticity by manifesting an origin from outside the dimensionality of time altogether.
There are more than 300 prophecies of Christ’s First Coming, and we could take several books to carefully examine them one after another. For our purposes here, we don’t need to look at all of them. Nine will do, nine prophecies given centuries before their fulfillment:
– The Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Mic 5:2; Mat 2:1,5).
– He would present Himself as King riding a donkey (Zec 9:9; Mat 21:1-9; John 12:12-16).
– He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zec 11:12; Mat 26:15,27:3-5).
– The “blood money” transaction would occur in the temple and the money would end up finally in the potter’s hands (Zech 11:13; Mat 27:6-10).
– He would have wounds in His hands (Zech 13:6; John 20:24-28).
– He would make no defense even though He’s innocent (Isa 53:7; Mar 15:3-5).
– He would die with the wicked yet be buried with the rich (Isa 53:9; Mar 15:27; Mat 27:57-60).
– He would be crucified (Psa 22:16, Zech 12:10; John 19:16ff).
– He would rise again (Psa 16:10; Isa 53:12; Mat 12:40; Mat 28:6,7).
These are just nine prophecies, and by analyzing the circumstances surrounding each one, we come up with an a priori likelihood of each taking place. When we do this, the statistical calculation of a single person fulfilling all nine gives a ridiculously improbable number. There may have been several people born in Bethlehem and crucified during the years Rome ruled the world, but few would have been buried with the rich even though they died with the wicked, after having been betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, after having ridden into town on a donkey and hailed as King. Jesus didn’t just ride into town on a donkey; the people crowded Him to lay down palm branches and welcome Him, calling “Hosanna” and celebrating Him as the Son of David – the Messiah, the King (Mark 11:1-10; John 12:12-16). Then, above all else, He rose again from the dead! Remember, these are just nine verses. There are more than 300 to take into consideration.
The main point is that these prophecies establish Jesus’ identity with more certainty than probably any other person on the face of the earth. I’m more certain that Jesus Christ is the Messiah of Israel that I am of my own name, and I can demonstrate that mathematically.
Those nine prophecies are the easy ones. The Old Testament lays out in great detail in Genesis 22, Psalm 22 and in Isaiah 53 narratives that are just astonishing in their precision. Psalm 22 reads as if it were dictated by Jesus in first person singular while He hung on the cross. It opens and closes with His first and last statements, and it describes what He sees as He hangs on the cross. Crucifixion was not around until the Persians devised it, yet David describes the Messiah’s death and suffering 1000 years before Jesus Christ was born.
Isaiah 53 explains the purpose of the cross and its achievement with more detail than all of Paul’s epistles put together.
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” – Isaiah 53:5-6
The Old Testament is filled with types and foreshadows of the purpose and identity of the Messiah, but it also describes certain aspects of His coming in exquisitely precise detail. In Daniel 9:24-26, Gabriel tells Daniel the exact day the Messiah would present Himself as King to Jerusalem, and Jesus held the “teachers of the Law” accountable to do the math and expect His coming. Their failure to recognize that day is the reason, according to Jesus in Luke 19:42-44, that Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70. The precision and the accountability is all there and clearly laid out in the Scriptures.
Form and Content
What was the human role in all of this? From the standpoint of form, the human writers contributed much to the writing of Scripture. They did historical research (like Luke), gave theological meditation, and used their own linguistic styles, favorite vocabulary, and so on. The writers each had their own writing styles, and over 200 different kinds of rhetorical devices or figures of speech are used in the Scripture. The majesty of Isaiah’s book, the pragmatic pastoral rhetoric of Amos, the quick movie-script like descriptions of Mark, demonstrate the personalities of the writers. Their role shows up in the form but not in the content, and that is an important distinction.
Theologically, from the standpoint of content, the Bible regards the human writers as having contributed little. They are the conduits that God has used to give us His words. These concepts are what make the Bible distinctive, and a study on the inspiration of the Scriptures could alone fill volumes. It is a topic that Bible readers should research seriously.
This excerpt is from Dr. Chuck Missler’s book How We Got Our Bible.