Uninvented: Did the Israelites Hear God’s Voice? Deuteronomy 4

Uninvented: Did the Israelites Hear God’s Voice? Deuteronomy 4

Deuteronomy 4 is an amazing passage both in Uninvented and theological terms. I will address the former here and the latter in my next post. If you’ve read Uninvented, you will know I was tempted numerous times to pontificate on the incredible theology in certain passages, but my focus had to remain on my uninvented argument. The question in the book was always, did this happen and in just this way, or not. Was it made up by the authors, mere human fiction to further a religious agenda? Or was it history, and happened pretty much the way the narrative presents it happening? It is either one or the other; there is no in between. One either has to accept the entire narrative or reject it all. Any partial acceptance or rejection is completely arbitrary and requires some human authority to determine what should be accepted and what should not. If we compare how scholars’ approach other ancient literature to how they treat the Bible’s historical claims, we’ll see just how arbitrary and biased they are. The reason is as simple as it is unjustified.

Critics for several hundred years have insisted that anything claiming to be supernatural in the Bible, the miraculous, had to have been invented, made up, fiction, because those kinds of things, those not explained by purely natural, material phenomena simply cannot happen. This, as I contend, is rank, anti-supernatural bias without any justification other than worldview preference. Bob is a materialist (the material is all that exists, there is no spiritual reality), so Bob cannot accept anything that contradicts his materialist worldview. Coming to the text begging the question like this means the reader must reject anything that cannot be explained “naturally.” If we come to the text without that bias, and not rejecting God’s existence and power a priori (i.e., beforehand), we can see if the narrative evinces realness, or verisimilitude as I discuss in the book.

Deuteronomy 4 is a tremendous example of a stark choice readers have. Either the author is lying, or he is telling the truth. The authors of the Bible throughout claim to be eyewitnesses to the works of God for his people. These were not events as portrayed in fairy tales that happened a long, long time ago in a land far, far away, where maybe little snippets of possible historical fact are embellished over time to make up a coherent grand historical narrative. Fairy tales or legends don’t tell coherent grand historical narratives over 2,000 years like the Bible, which even the critics agree is one of or the greatest works of literature in history. As I said over and over in the book, the Bible doesn’t read at all like the myths and legends critics insist it is, and this chapter is an excellent example of why.

Moses here is re-telling the Israelites’ history of their Exodus from Egypt, and how God rescued them, as he says, “from the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance.” The key to this passage, and the challenge before us, is a phrase he uses multiple times, that what happened in their rescue was something they witnessed “with their own eyes.” We only have two options when reading this passage: either the author is telling the truth, or he is not. Critics contend it is the later. Deuteronomy, they claim, was written sometime during the Babylonian captivity of the Jewish people in the fourth century BC, not by Moses a thousand years previously. If the critics are right, the author is fabricating a story he knows is not true. On the other hand, if we don’t come to the text assuming miracles can’t happen, thus begging the question, we can let the text speak for itself and see if it reads real. You decide:

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.” 11 You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. 12 Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice.

15 You saw no form of any kind the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire.

33 Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire, as you have, and lived? 34 Has any god ever tried to take for himself one nation out of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, or by great and awesome deeds, like all the things the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?

35 You were shown these things so that you might know that the Lord is God; besides him there is no other. 36 From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire.

If this is fiction, then the Bible is a monstrous lie. If the critics are right, then there is absolutely nothing of value to be found in the Bible’s pages. I’m not interested in moral lessons told as “nobel lies.” On the other hand, if we’re willing to let the Bible speak as what it claims to be, God’s revelation of the history of the redemption of his people, we’ll let the text speak for itself.

This passage, of course, doesn’t stand in isolation, and it is the grand historical narrative from Genesis to Revelation that makes this passage so powerful, and read so real. God is continuing to reveal himself to his people, those he rescued from slavery in Egypt, allowing them to “hear his voice” so they will know that this God is unlike the gods of any of the other nations on earth. Which is a good segue to the amazing theology in the passage, the topic for the next post. 

Uninvented: Who Invents a Talking Donkey as History?

Uninvented: Who Invents a Talking Donkey as History?

One of the strange things about the Bible is that most of it is written as straight-ahead historical narrative, but many of the stories don’t read like any history we’ve encountered outside the Bible. The story of a talking donkey would have to be at the top of that list. If you want anyone to believe a story you’re writing, would you include a talking donkey? So, why put a talking donkey in a story if you want people to believe you’re writing history? That’s a good question. In the first chapter of Uninvented, I give a brief overview of the history of biblical criticism. To understand that history, and its skepticism about the Bible’s historicity, we must understand the Enlightenment assumptions that inform the critics’ perspective.

The fundamental belief of these critics, going back some three hundred years, is anti-supernaturalism. For a variety of complicated historical, philosophical, and cultural reasons, Western intellectuals began to see the universe as a closed system. The world was merely matter, and cause and effect moving that matter, with no room for a God to interfere. Miracles messed with this, so miracles in the Bible had to go. I call this question begging anti-supernatural bias. To “beg the question” is a logical fallacy that means to assume the conclusion without having to prove it. So, a talking donkey? Don’t be ridiculous! Everyone “knows” donkeys can’t talk, therefore, the story of a talking donkey in Numbers 22 must have been made up. It can’t be history because, well, donkeys don’t talk. Question begging at its finest. But let’s get rid of the anti-supernatural bias and look at this story another way.

One of my arguments in Uninvented is that if someone wants to write a believable story, they won’t put stuff in the story that is clearly unbelievable, unless it really happened. If you’re an Enlightenment rationalist any miracle is unbelievable, but if you’re not, some miracles in the Bible are more believable than others. This is where we come to the talking donkey story of Numbers 22. If you’re not familiar with the story, Balaam is a prophet, and the king of Moab, one of Israel’s enemies, is asking for Balaam to curse Israel. He tells the king he can only say what God tells him to say, and it is most definitely not to curse Israel. God was angry with Balaam because he really wanted the rewards the king of Moab could give him, rather than being faithful to what God had said, so the Lord had a donkey rebuke him. When you read this on the surface it sounds like some kind of fairy tale, or a tall tale like the fish getting bigger and bigger with each telling:

21 Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the Moabite officials. 22 But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, it turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat it to get it back on the road.

24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path through the vineyards, with walls on both sides. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam’s foot against it. So he beat the donkey again.

26 Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat it with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If only I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”

30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”

“No,” he said.

31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.

32 The angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared it.”

34 Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”

With an anti-supernatural bias, you dismiss it immediately as invented, unhistorical, something added to the narrative to maybe teach a lesson about obedience to God. However, without the bias you can ask yourself, why include this in the story if it isn’t real? Everyone knows, even 3,500 years ago, that donkeys can’t talk. If the person who wrote the story, and we believe it to be Moses, wanted to be believed, why write this unless it really happened? And as Christians, we believe in God who is the Creator of everything out of nothing, an all-powerful being to whom nothing is impossible. If he wanted donkey to talk to make a point to a wayward prophet, who are we to say that is not possible?

Regarding miracles specifically, as Christians we don’t have to beg the question and assume miracles can happen, therefore this happened. However, our assumptions do influence how we view the text, and all people come to the text with certain assumptions. We, however, don’t come to the text with an anti-supernatural bias, and dismiss miracles out of hand; that begs the question. Our assumptions are rather more reasonable and logical. God is the Creator of all things out of nothing, an all powerful being who by definition can do anything. As he said to the 90 year-old Sarah when he told her she’d have a child in a year, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” No! This talking donkey story is like every other miracle presented in the Bible, muted, mater of fact, part of the historical narrative. Biblical miracles don’t read at all like legends and myths the biased critics insist they are, including a talking donkey.

Uninvented: Leviticus 17 – Eating Blood is Forbidden by God, but Jesus says Drink My Blood?

Uninvented: Leviticus 17 – Eating Blood is Forbidden by God, but Jesus says Drink My Blood?

No wonder the people who heard Jesus say this were freaking out, and why nobody makes up Jesus saying such absolute craziness. And that applies especially to religious Jews in the first century. What exactly did Jesus say that was so radical? We find this in John 6:

“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.

And what was the response of those who were following him to such talk of eating his flesh and drinking his blood?

60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

I don’t know about hard, but it sure is strange. Even 2,000 years ago people found it offensive. Jesus then tried to explain himself to address their incredulity, and that didn’t go any better:

66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

Not exactly the old how to win friends and influence people approach. Jesus wasn’t really good at that. As I argue in Uninvented, Jesus was a terrible salesman. Such talk sounds absurd to us today given how enlightened we think we are. Eating flesh and drinking blood is for cannibals and vampires, not religious leaders, let alone Jewish religious leaders claiming to be Israel’s 400-years-long awaited Messiah. Why exactly would this have been not only so distasteful to Jews, but have bordered on blasphemous? The reason is found in Leviticus 17. The chapter is about the Lord’s instruction for the Israelites to not eat blood. I would guess that the heathen nations around them practiced such barbarism, and the Lord was making a people for himself who were holy and wholly different than those people. So, he says,

10 “‘I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people. 11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. 12 Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.”

13 “‘Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth, 14 because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, “You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.”

Seems pretty clear, doesn’t it. And it isn’t just not allowed, or that it must be punished, but that anyone who does such a thing must be “cut off from the people.” There is something so horrific about eating blood that the person who does it will no longer be considered one of God’s people, of Israel. Yet here is Jesus, a rabbi, a teacher, the ostensible Messiah Israel has been waiting for and who he claims to be (taking the moniker “Son of Man” is such a claim) and he says this? We only have three options to account for the text:

  1. Jesus was who he claimed to be, as John says, the word made flesh, God himself, and Jesus said this because it has profound theological meaning about his mission to save the world from sin.
  2. Jesus was not who he claimed to be, and he decided that to get people to believe he was Israel’s long-awaited Messiah he would say something expressly forbidden by Yahweh.
  3. Jesus didn’t say any of this, and it was made up by his followers to make him say something expressly forbidden by Yaweh.

There might be a fourth option that is even less plausible than 2 or 3. Biblical critics for well over a century believed the New Testament was primarily a Greek pagan creation written very late in the first century, and well into the second. If that is the case, then maybe some crazy pagans made up this story of Jesus teaching we should eat his flesh and drink his blood, but that position about the New Testament has been completely debunked. All scholars today believe the gospels were written in the first century, and by Jews, except Luke (and Acts) written by a Greek but getting all his information from Jews.

The most plausible explanation, for everything about Jesus, is option 1. As I argue in Uninvented, the conundrum that is Jesus, his teaching and personality, can only be explained if he was who he claimed to be, the divine Son of God come to save his people from their sin. You just can’t make that kind of stuff up!

 

 

Uninvented Book Review: Paul Among the People

Uninvented Book Review: Paul Among the People

I just finished a book I wish I’d read when I was writing Uninvented. The subtitle made me curious: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in his Own Time. The Author, Sarah Ruden, is a classics scholar, and an impressive one at that. Although she is a Quaker and not an Evangelical Christian, as I am, and does not believe in the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture as I explain it in the book, she is clearly a passionate Christian. The theme of the book fits an Uninvented perspective perfectly, although she never addresses why the Bible and Christianity are true. If it isn’t true, I don’t much care what Paul had to say, Apostle or not. However, as I argue in the book, the Apostle could not be invented, especially his teaching, which is what she addresses in her book.

To set up the theme of Uninvented, we’ll need to address the proverbial elephant in the room, Paul’s conversion. She glosses over his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus in a couple paragraphs in her preface, but never directly addresses the historicity of the event. No one disputes something happened to Paul on the road to Damascus, but many dispute something supernatural happened. Was Paul actually confronted by the risen Jesus, or not.  Ruden seems to believe the historicity of the events in the Bible isn’t as relevant as our perceptions of those events, however they were recorded or whatever happened. Be that as it may, there is much valuable in her book that lends credibility to the argument of Uninvented. In the vernacular the conclusion is, you just can’t make this stuff up!

Since what has come to be known at “the 60s,” the secular anti-biblical narrative broke out of academia and among intellectual elites in general, into the wider culture. The Apostle Paul in this telling is a big meanie, anti-misogynist bigot, among other things. I might be overstating the case a bit, but not by much. Needless to say, the text doesn’t support such conclusions about Paul, but broader secular culture isn’t much concerned with the text. Ruden most definitely is, in the original language and the Greco-Roman cultural context. Her knowledge of that context is impressive, and she quotes extensively from writers and thinkers of the time to try to understand the real societal situation Paul was writing to and for.

Many people since the Enlightenment carelessly read modern assumptions into the biblical text, including many of the most influential biblical critics of the last several hundred years. For much of that time, critical scholarship almost ignored the Jewish context of Jesus’ world and claimed much of what we read in the gospels was written back into the gospels by Greek speaking, non-Jewish Christians. For them it was the needs of the Christian communities much later that in effect created the gospel stories from a kernel of historical events. For these scholars with an anti-supernatural bias, this was a way to explain away the miracles as having actually happened because their bias wouldn’t allow them to happen. Miracles can’t happen, but they must be explained some way, and this was their way. The same thing, but without the bias, happens when people read Paul about women or homosexuality or slavery. Knowing little about the Jewish and Greco-Roman context of the gospels, they misinterpret what Paul says, and miss its world altering genius.

Ruden tackles these and a few other issues, and shows how those who know nothing or little of the ancient world will never understand Paul. His teaching was radically novel at the time, and it was largely Paul’s teaching based upon the implications of the gospel that created the modern world. Her premise makes the point:

To me, even the first efforts at setting Paul’s words against the words of polytheistic authors helped explain why early Christianity was so compelling, growing as no popular movement ever had before.

Speaking of marriage, she claims Paul’s teaching was “as different from anything before or since, as the command to turn the other cheek.” After Paul, men and women and marriage could never be viewed the same way it was in the ancient world. For Paul, “faithfulness in marriage now applied equally to both men and women” which was “a real shocker.” The fruit of such shocking novelty took a long time to develop, but it was because of Paul that women eventually became equal partners at the marriage table. Everything about the new Christian conception of marriage “was entirely against Greco-Roman norms.” Even Jews, who should have known better, often treated women as second-class citizens, and sometimes worse.

This all raises a question I talk often about in Uninvented: where did such unique teaching come from? And both from the lips of Jesus and Paul. Ruden is not a secularist and believes in a spiritual reality, and at times hints it can only come from world beyond this one, but her focus is more sociological. That is of course valuable, but I’m more interested in truth, if the Bible is what it declares itself to be, God’s inerrant authoritative revelation about himself and the ultimate meaning of all things. If it’s not, I’m not interested. So, I argue, what Paul and Jesus taught was so radical, so contrary to every Jewish and Greco-Roman teaching and expectation at the time, that it could not possibly be merely human invention. It is more plausible to believe that such teaching had behind it a divine source which Paul was confronted by on the road to Damascus: the risen Jesus!

Uninvented: Can Moses See God’s Face or Not?

Uninvented: Can Moses See God’s Face or Not?

Some Uninvented arguments are stronger than others, meaning certain passages and stories in the history of Israel can appear more easily made up, while others would require a leap of faith to believe they were. Much is in between, or simply doesn’t apply, like Proverbs, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes, the non-historical books. I would say Exodus 33 fits somewhere in the middle. There seems to be a blatant contradiction which needs to be explained in some way, and we’ll find the Uninvented explanation is much more plausible.

In verses 7-10 we read about the Tent of Meeting, where Moses went to talk to the Lord, and the people went to place their inquiries of the Lord. The pillar of cloud guiding the Israelites through the desert would park in front of the tent so the people knew the Lord was there. Then we read:

11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

At the end of the chapter, though, this face-to-face meeting possibility seems as if it’s completely contradicted:

18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.

21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

As we read this chapter through Uninvented eyes, we think this has to be true because it’s a total contraction on the face of it, pun intended. Since Moses wrote the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, he had to see the apparent contradiction. In one encounter he’s sitting down with the Lord as with an old friend, and in the other such an encounter will kill him. Yet Moses reported it this way because it really did happen, and he saw no need to not report it even with the apparent contradiction. In other words, someone making up the story would never report such a contradiction because it would destroy the credibility of the story. That’s the argument, anyway, and to me it’s a powerful one. We might file this under the criterion of embarrassment. This is a crucial concept to understand if we’re to read the Bible through Uninvented eyes.

I was originally going to call my book “Psychological Apologetics,” but nobody would have had a clue what that meant. I was thinking one of the ways we should train ourselves to read Scripture is through human psychology, so the mental and behavioral characteristics of both the authors and the characters they write about, how they think affecting how they act. When we read the Bible, we can ask ourselves, does this read like real people doing and thinking like real people from what we know of human nature? Or does it read like the myths and legends its critics have claimed it is for the last three hundred plus years? (Spinoza, 1632-77, was the first thinker in Western history to claim the Pentateuch was not written by Moses). One of the key ways to identify if it was made up or not is the criterion of embarrassment.

If you are trying to write a story you want people to believe is true, generally you will not want to contradict yourself, at least not in ways too obvious to the reader. When Moses wrote Exodus 33 the contradiction was so obvious that it must be true because a writer doesn’t want to contradict himself so obviously if he wants to be believed. Unless, of course, it’s only an apparent contradiction, as we have in this case. From what I’ve read, there are plausible explanations for this. One comes from Numbers 12, where Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ sister and brother, are challenging his authority because he married a Cushite woman. How dare he! She could possibly have been a dark-skinned woman, and while we might immediately think of the word “racist,” skin color in the ancient world wasn’t “a concept.” That came much later with American antebellum slavery and its aftermath. People have always been and still are threatened by cultural differences, and the ancient world was no different.

The Lord is not happy with Moses’ siblings for questioning the one clearly chosen by God to lead his people out of bondage to the promised land, and in no uncertain terms he calls them on the carpet. It is a scenario that reads real, as Scripture always does. He says, having declared Moses a prophet two verses prior:

With him I speak face to face,
clearly and not in riddles;
he sees the form of the Lord.

How this worked is described earlier in Numbers 7:

89 When Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law. In this way the Lord spoke to him.

We can see “face to face” as an idiomatic usage like it is in the first part of Exodus 33, and not literal as later in the chapter. Whereas here the Lord is communicating information to Moses, the latter is an ontological encounter with the fearsomely holy God. Moses had asked of the Lord, “Now show me your glory.” It must have taken some serious chutzpa to ask such a thing of Yahweh, but Moses wanted to see, visually, the true nature of Yahweh. For sinners, before Christ, that was not possible. Now, in him, we can see Yahweh’s glory, as Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

Uninvented: Exodus and the Building of the Tabernacle

Uninvented: Exodus and the Building of the Tabernacle

I recently finished eight years of a “walk through the Bible,” a very slow walk indeed. I also recently finished a book called Uninvented: Why the Bible Could Not be Made Up, and the Evidence that Proves It. Having spent so much time mining for gold in the infinitely rich soil of God’s word, I decided I needed a big picture view again, so I started at Genesis 1 and have been reading 2 or 3 chapters a day. I had become so addicted to writing about my thoughts on the Bible, it has been hard not to jump on to my computer and type away. I have resisted that temptation, until now. However, I’m not going back to a daily grind of chapter-by-chapter analysis, as tempting as that is. Rather, I’m going to connect Uninvented to my current reading so I can continue to write about Scripture and promote my book as well.

Speaking of promoting, I would be grateful if you might share my posts on social media and with friends and family, if you think they’re worthy, because promoting a book when you’re a “nobody” is really hard, even a book as worthy of the attention as Uninvented. There is nothing like it out there, and most Christians don’t know why uninvented as a concept is such a powerful defense for the veracity of the Bible. If you’ve read it, a comment on Amazon would be much appreciated as well.

In Uninvented one of my objectives is to encourage Christians to read the Bible apologetically, specifically related to the psychology of the characters and the authors. That means in layman’s terms for those who are not “into apologetics,” that the veracity of the text, it’s truthfulness as history, is revealed in what the characters do and say, and how they act. In the book I encourage readers to see the verisimilitude in the text, which simply means does this read real, like it could have actually happened, as real people thinking and doing real things, not like fiction merely made up to further a religious agenda. And we must remember as we’re reading our Bibles that fiction (historical or otherwise) didn’t exist in the ancient world. Myths and legend did, as did epic poems like The Iliad and The Odyssey, but the Bible reads like none of those.

As I’ve been reading through the Pentateuch, as in the rest of Scripture, I see verisimilitude everywhere, including how many times the author (traditionally, Christians believe it is Moses) refers to the Lord, or Yahweh. According to biblegateway.com the numbers in each book are as follows:

  • Genesis (183)
  • Exodus (354)
  • Leviticus (281)
  • Numbers (358)
  • Deuteronomy (442)

If my math is good, and my fingers and iPhone work, the Lord is referred to 1,618 times in the first five books of the Bible. If these references are not true, if the Lord did not in fact speak to Moses and his people, then we must believe whoever wrote these books is a liar, or are liars because going all the way back to Spinoza biblical critics declared Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch, but numbers of people did much later in history. This came to be called by liberal biblical scholars the documentary hypothesis. I find this hard to believe given one of the Ten Commandments is, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.” Yet, if we’re to believe the critics over the last three hundred plus years whoever wrote the first five books of the Bible were in fact liars. Does that pass the smell test to you?

The reason these references to Yahweh stood out to me was not only that there are so many of them, but that Yahweh is telling the Israelites through Moses what to do. Another word added to Yahweh and repeated stood out to me later in Exodus as the Israelites were building the tabernacle, the place where Yahweh is to dwell. Over and over Moses says, “As the Lord commanded.” Doing a word search we see the following:

  • Genesis (12)
  • Exodus (48)
  • Leviticus (24)
  • Numbers (29)
  • Deuteronomy (33)

Most of these 146 references are the Lord commanding. Again, if as the critics insist this is myth and legend, then all the references to the Lord commanding or doing anything are made up, pure invention, or in other words lies. The reason they would be lies, and not just inspiring stories of a people’s founding, is that the author(s) clearly intend to convey these things really happened.

As I argue in the book, skeptical critics come to the text with a “question-begging anti-supernatural bias,” which means before they ever come to the text, they assume miracles can’t happen. If they can’t, then of course the Lord didn’t actually speak to Moses, or command him to do anything. The entire Exodus narrative would have to be fiction because, well, miracles can’t happen. Understanding where this anti-supernatural bias comes from is important for us to understand so we can see how arbitrary it is. In the first chapter of the book, I do a short historical overview of biblical criticism, and how it is based on philosophies, like rationalism and empiricism, that will not allow even the consideration of something outside of the so-called natural world. Such assumptions are nothing if not arbitrary and should be rejected by any honest observer. If we let the text speak for itself we can draw the most plausible conclusions, and will likley find in the text something historically reliable, and thus uninvented.