Previous article in this series: February 15, 2014, p. 222.
A recent post on the Young Calvinists blog informed readers of the depths to which our godless society and the apostate church have sunk in their depravity. At the same time the post demonstrates the extent to which God’s Word is contradicted, corrupted, twisted, and thoroughly distorted by one of the most powerful self-interest groups of our day: homosexuals and lesbians.
We have grown up in homes where God’s word is treated with reverence and respect. The Bible is received as God’s revelation to us His people…. Not everyone, however, holds the Scriptures in such high regard. A pro-gay translation of the Bible called the Queen James version recently came off the presses. This version has removed all negative references to homosexuality in order comfortably to adapt the word of God to people engaged in a homosexual lifestyle without bothering their consciences with the fact that they are sinning…. 1
“What is this world coming to?” was my first thought, while shaking my head vigorously as I finished reading the rest of the blog entry. The fact is that we Christians know what this world is coming to. The same Scriptures that are being denied and subverted tell us what this world is coming to. It is not improving as a common grace Christianizing of society and its institutions moves forward conquering and to conquer. Rather, an ungodly world that is outside of God’s grace develops in iniquity more and more until the very foundations—the foundations of marriage, home, family, church, and society as prescribed by the will of God—are overturned and the Man of Sin comes into his own. Along the way the beauty of holiness is converted—or rather perverted—into the ugliness of the grossest unholiness. And always appeal is made to the Scriptures in defense of such unholiness! Evil is called good, and those living in disobedience to God’s commandments are left at ease in Zion. Just as the devil once tempted our Lord to sin by quoting Scripture— Scripture out of context, Scripture misquoted, Scripture misapplied—so is Scripture appealed to in our day in order to justify what in reality the Scriptures condemn.
We are, in our current series of articles, busy establishing what the Bible says about itself. We have examined key passages of Scripture that teach the Bible’s divine inspiration, infallibility, and authority. We have looked at the two classic New Testament passages on inspiration:and . And we have taken note of two other significant passages that contribute to Scripture’s self-authentication. The first is Jesus’ word in that “the Scripture cannot be broken.” And the second is Paul’s word in , where the apostle speaks of Scripture as “the oracles of God.”
I want now to turn to the Old Testament Scriptures in order to discern what the Old Testament teaches about itself. I want to examine the Old Testament according to the arrangement of the books in the Hebrew Bible. In Christian Bibles of all languages, the Old Testament consists of thirty-nine books. These same thirty-nine books are also found in the Hebrew Scriptures, although they are numbered differently and placed in a different order. Both by the Jews of the Old Testament and by Christians in the New Testament, these books and these books alone are reverenced as the very Word of God.
The Hebrew Bible is sometimes referred to as the “Tanak.” Tanak is an acronym made up of the first letter of the three traditional subdivisions of the Hebrew Old Testament: the law (Torah), the prophets (Nevi’im), and the writings (Kethuvim). Jesus and the apostles recognized this threefold division of the Old Testament canon. To the disciples after His resurrection Jesus said, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses [the Torah, what we often refer to as the Pentateuch], and in the prophets [Nevi’im], and in the psalms [the writings, Kethuvim], concerning me” (). Frequently the Old Testament is referred to by means of a twofold division: “the law and the prophets,” or, “Moses and the prophets.” (Cf. Matt. 5:17; Matt. 7:12; Matt. 11:13; Matt. 22:40; Luke 16:16, 29, 31; Luke 20:42; Acts 1:20; Acts 3:21, 22; Acts 7:35, 37; Acts 8:28; Acts 26:22, 27; Acts 28:23; Rom. 1:2; Rom. 3:21; Rom. 10:5; etc.)2 What is the testimony of the Old Testament concerning itself? The answer to that question is that, without reservation or qualification, the Old Testament considers itself to be the very Word of God.
The Five Books of Moses
We begin our examination of the Old Testament’s testimony concerning itself with the first five books of Moses, also called the law (Torah) or Pentateuch. The fact that these books are called “the law” implies that they are to be regarded as the Word of God. For the law is the law of God. Not only is the moral law (the Ten Commandments, found in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 of the Pentateuch) the law of God. Nor is the law made up only of the civil and ceremonial laws. But the five books of Moses together—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy—are the law of God. That designation of the Pentateuch, found both in the Old and in the New Testament, bears testimony to the truth that the Old Testament Scriptures are the Word of God.
The human writer of the first five books of the Old Testament was Moses. He is recognized in both the Old Testament and the New Testament as the human writer of these books. Passages in the Pentateuch itself include: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua”; : “These are the statutes and the judgments and laws, which the Lord made between him and the children of Israel in Mount Sinai by the hand of Moses”; and : “And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished.” There are passages elsewhere in the Old Testament that recognize Moses as the human writer of the first five books. In we read: “…as Moses the servant of the Lord commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses.” And in the children of Israel are exhorted to “do according to the word of the Lord by the hand of Moses.” Besides the passages in the Pentateuch and in other parts of the Old Testament, the New Testament confirms that Moses was the human writer of the Pentateuch. Jesus says in : “For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death.” The apostle Paul says in : “For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them” (a quotation of ).
Moses the Prophet
Clearly, the Bible teaches that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. At the same time, the Bible teaches that Moses was a prophet, in fact that Moses occupied a unique place among all the prophets of the Old Testament, asmakes plain: “And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.” As a prophet, Moses was uniquely a type of Christ, as God Himself made plain in His word to Moses in : “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.” At the same time, this passage makes plain what a prophet was. A prophet was one who received the Word of God immediately from God. Usually that reception of the Word of God took the form of a vision or dream, or of God speaking directly to the prophet. Having received the Word of God, a prophet was one who in turn spoke to God’s people the Word of God that he had received.
That Moses was a prophet has the most profound implication for the books of the Bible that he wrote. The implication is that what he wrote he received from God, directly from God. God made His Word known to Moses, and Moses in turn made known to God’s people what God had revealed to him. Thus what he made known to the people, what he made known to them in his capacity of prophet, what he made known to them in his writings, was the very Word of God. Through him, God spoke His Word to His people, fulfilling His promise to Moses: “And the Lord said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? Or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? Have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say” (). God “made known his ways unto Moses,” and through Moses “his acts unto the children of Israel,” according to the psalmist in .
“The Lord Said Unto Moses”
Over and over throughout the Pentateuch, we encounter the formula: “The Lord said unto Moses,” or “the Lord spake unto Moses,” or “Moses told the people all the words of the Lord.” Many chapters begin “Then [or And] the Lord said unto Moses….” The majority of chapters in the book of Exodus begin this way: Ex. 6:1; Ex. 7:1; Ex. 8:1; Ex. 9:1; Ex. 10:1; Ex. 11:1; Ex. 12:1; Ex. 13:1; Ex. 14:1; Ex. 20:1; Ex. 20:22 (which introduces the section that ends with the last verse of chapter 23); Ex. 24:1; Ex. 25:1 (which introduces the section containing the plans for the tabernacle, the priestly garments, and the sacrifices); and the last chapter of the book, chapter 40, verse 1: “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying….”
The book of Leviticus picks up where the book of Exodus leaves off: “And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying…” (). And the book of Numbers picks up where the book of Leviticus leaves off: “And the Lord spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of the congregation, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying…” ( ). After the introductory chapters of the book, Moses says in : “Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers giveth you. Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” Not only did Moses write down the Word of God, but he was conscious of the fact that what he wrote was the very Word of God.
Israel’s Reverence for the Law of Moses
The reverence that Israel had for the law of Moses as the law of God is evident from a number of things. That reverence was indicated by the fact that a copy of the law was placed in the sanctuary, in the ark of the covenant. For this reason, the ark was sometimes called “the ark of the testimony.” “Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee” (. Confer also ; ; ; ; ; ). This explains why later, under certain good kings of Judah, a copy of the law was found in the temple. There was always a copy of the law stored in the temple, although it was often, for long periods of time under the rule of wicked kings, forgotten.
A second indication of Israel’s reverence for Moses’ law as the law of God comes out in the fact that every seven years, in the year of release, the law was to be read before the gathered congregation: “And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, when all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law” ().
And yet another indication of Israel’s reverence for Moses’ law as the law of God was that every new king was to write out his own copy of the law, that it might be with him and that he might read it all the days of his life. This requirement was laid down in: “And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: and it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them.”
And finally, that Israel was to reverence the law of Moses as the law of God is plain from the prohibition— reminiscent of the prohibition with which the Scriptures end in—of : “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”
Clearly, it is the testimony of the Pentateuch (the Torah, the law) that it is the Word of God. This is how the Jews of the Old Testament regarded the Torah. This is the view that the Christian church has always had of the five books of Moses. From the account of the creation of all things recorded in the opening chapters of Genesis to the bondage and exodus of Israel, to all the Old Testament laws, to the history of the wilderness wanderings—the “church in the wilderness” ()—it is all God’s Word, Holy Scripture. As sacred Scripture, it is inspired by God, infallible, and therefore authoritative.
Next time we want to look at Old Testament prophecy and its testimony to the truth that it too is the Word of God.
1 Kevin Rau, “The Gay Bible, The Young Calvinists Blog, entry posted March 11, 2014, http://youngcalvinists.org/2014/03/11/the-gay-bible/ (accessed March 11, 2014).
2 One of the reasons on account of which Moses appeared with Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration was that together they represented the whole Old Testament: the law and the prophets. Together the law and the prophets pointed ahead prophetically to Christ and His saving work on the cross. The other reason was that Moses and Elijah were in heaven not only in their souls, but also in their bodies, Elijah being translated before he died and Moses raised up by God after he died. After His resurrection and ascension, Christ would also be bodily in heaven, as He is now. Their appearance on the Mount of Transfiguration had as its purpose encouragement for Christ as He faced the cross.