THE DIVINE ELEMENT IN THE BIBLE
By Professor Wilbur F Tillett (ABC). Edited by J E Bradburn.
Jehovah = הוה’
10 And the disciples came and said unto Him, “Why speakest unto them in parables?”
11 He answered and said unto them, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.”
The Approach to the Question.
In pointing out some of the reasons why the great body of Christian believers have long regarded the Bible as a Sacred Book, possessed of a Divine element, it is the writer’s purpose to indicate and emphasise those considerations which may be expected to appeal most strongly to intelligent and devout minds in the day in which we now live; 2013.
The pendulum of human thought and faith is not static but is in perpetual motion, and in the fact that it swings, to and from extremes, lies the secret of progress in seeking and finding TRUTH.
The history of religious and philosophical thought is a study in mental reactions. If one generation, in its study of the reasons for believing the Christian religion to be Divine, states and stresses to the point of exaggeration what have been called the “external arguments” among the evidences of Christianity, it is sure to be followed by a generation of that which will seek and find most satisfaction in what are called the “internal evidences”. We seem now to be living in such a time as this. We should, therefore, pursue that method in our study of the Divine Element in the Bible which seems to make for our day and generation the best approach to the subject and the strongest appeal to devout Bible students, who, while reading the Bible reverently, interpret it rationally. Only as we do this can the Bible continue to hold its place.
II Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of TRUTH.
A Book both Human and Divine.
The Christian religion can be best understood and interpreted by considering its relation to four things:
1. First; A person, Christ.
2. Second; the Holy Spirit [bestowing internal understanding, truth, and direction to individuals].
3. Third; An organised institution, the Church.
4. And fourth a book, the Holy Bible.
It is not uncommon to refer to, and characterise Christ as a Divine-human Person, the church as a Divine human institution, the Holy Spirit as a figment of the imagination, and the Bible as a Divine-human book. It is important that we have a true conception of the sense and degree in which each of these four things are Divine, and in what sense human, and how they are related to each other. Misconceptions here lead not only to misinterpretations but to hurtful and erroneous views as to that which we may call Divine in the realm of literature.
To see in the Bible nothing more than a collection of ordinary human contributions to religious literature would be, in the judgement of those who know it best and prize it most, to fail to see in it that which is its noblest characteristic, namely, a message of God to the human soul—a message of high moral and spiritual value not to the people of past ages only but to all generations of men in all ages.
To read this Book, on the other hand, as if it were, because of its Divine inspiration, placed and poised above all human limitations and imperfections, as if it were Divinely dictated and there were something so magical and Divine in the manner of its writing as to make it improper to subject it to the canons of literary criticism—this would be not only to depreciate its value as literature, but would result in embarrassing the reader with literal and moral difficulties which, though altogether inexplicable on this theory, would disappear at once if its genuinely human element and character should be recognised as no less real than the Divine (That is the prophets and people involved in all the chapters).
To read it as something combining in a unique way the human and the Divine, as a book in one aspect as thoroughly human and in another aspect Divine, as a book in which God is speaking to men in and through men, is to increase its value as human literature without in any way discrediting its significance as a Divine message and as a book of unequalled moral and spiritual value to the human race for all time.
The Sphere of Trust-worthiness.
The church, although it is a Divine-human institution, is now and always has been subject to errors and imperfections, both intellectual and moral, such as belong to in varying degrees to all things human. This is at least the Protestant view of the church
The claim of Roman Catholics, however, is that the church (i.e. their church) is so guided and dominated by the Divine Spirit as to make it inherent (intrinsic), and infallible.
The faultlessness and infallibility which Roman Catholics claim for the church, protestants claim only for Christ the Head of the Church; The Cornerstone.
Ephesians 2:20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
Christ is truly inerrant (free from error) and faultless, but freedom of error cannot be claimed for His church. Shall we say, now, that the Bible is inerrant made inerrant by virtue of its Divine inspiration, or that, being a product of the church, it is like the church, subject to human limitations that may involve errors? If the latter be the case, we may carry the analogy still further and say that as the church, although it be subject to error both intellect and moral, is nevertheless a Divine institution and agency through which God works, so the Bible, a product of the church, even if it should be found to contain errors and imperfections such as are characteristic of all things human, may nevertheless be a Divinely inspired book, a book abounding in moral and spiritual in and through which God reveals His mind and will to men.
But Protestants, in affirming the errancy and fallibility of the church both as to its teaching and its practice, do not thereby give up the claim that it is, in some true and genuine sense, a Divine institution through which God now works and has always worked for the Salvation of the world.
To say that Christians get their God and their church from their Bible is a statement full of confusion and error. On the contrary, God and the church come first. It is from God and the church that we get our Bible; and only by recognising this fact are we prepared to understand and interpret it correctly.
To say that we believe in the Bible because we believe in God, rather than in God because we believe in the Bible, is to state a self-evident truth. God comes first then the Bible later. God was believed in before there was any Bible at all.
We have to remember that our written scriptures began with Moses, say in 1490 B.C.: and thus for more than 2500 years, the revelation of the hope which God gave in…
Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”
…was preserved in the naming of the stars and their grouping in Signs and Constellations.These groupings are quite arbitrary. There is nothing in the positions of the stars to suggest the pictures originally drawn around them, Dendera right.
The Signs and Constellations were first designed and named; then the pictures were drawn around them respectively. Thus the truth was enshrined and written in the heavens, where no human hand could touch it. In later years when Israel came into the possession of the written “Scriptures of truth” there was no longer any need for the more ancient writing in the heavens. Hence, the original teaching gradually faded away, and the heathen, out of the smattering they had heard by tradition, evolve their cosmogonies and mythologies. http://godsplan.org.uk/thestarsalso2.htm
God makes the Bible to be what it is, gives it all its moral and Spiritual value. Unless God had existed in the faith and experience of men before there was any Bible, there would have been no Bible. In like manner we believe in the N. T. because we believe in Christ. Christ comes first the N.T. later. Christ existed and was believed in, and had thousands of followers, long before there was any N.T. The Christian church existed for a long time before there was any N.T. The N.T. did not make the church; it is more nearly correct to say that the church made the N.T. Nevertheless, while it is true that faith in God, both logically and chronologically, precedes faith in the Bible, it is also true that the Bible, because of the high and true conception of God and the many testimonies it contains, is an aid and guide to our faith in the knowledge of God so invaluable as to warrant the claim that it is practically indispensable to the religious education and Spiritual illumination of the world.
John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
It is indispensable, not only for correcting misconceptions, but for clarifying, confirming, re-enforcing, and preserving the faith of those whose conceptions are true. To serve this purpose it must be a trustworthy book; but for a book to be a trustworthy and altogether a safe and helpful guidebook in the realm of religion does not require that it shall be inerrant in all matters.
In matters of science, for example, the biblical records simply reflect the views that prevailed at the time records were made.
The purpose of the Bible is to furnish information and guidance, not in those realms of human research and knowledge, but in matters of religious, moral, and spiritual TRUTH. http://www.godsplan.org.uk/thetruth.htm
The Claim of Verbal Inspiration.
No other word applied by Christian Theologians to the Bible is as suggestive of a Divine Element in it as the word “inspiration”. This term does not mean exactly the same thing to all who use it, But whatever variations may be found in the use of the term, we may say to all that who use it intelligently it means that quality which the Bible, taken in its entirety, possesses by virtue of which it is a safe and trustworthy book of information concerning God, and man’s relation to God’s Will so far as it has been revealed or may be known.
How the biblical writers were inspired and how the Bible came to possess that high moral and Spiritual value that has led to its being designated as an inspired book, may be and is a point about which there are serious differences of opinion; http://www.godsplan.org.uk/spiritualman.htm but the fact that it does, when rightly interpreted, possess the highest moral and Spiritual value as a trustworthy book about God and Divine things is a point upon which all believers in the Scriptures are practically agreed. See: Parable of the Wheat and Tares Matthew 13: 24-30; 36-43 to discover why there are differences of opinion on this fallen earth).
From this point of agreement [Wheat and Tares] between those who hold different views of biblical inspiration in the Bible we may calmly consider the character and merits of the two views. Those who hold the view commonly designated as plenary (absolute) and verbal inspiration claim that the biblical writers were Divinely secured against any and all mistakes by virtue of their Divine inspiration, and, affirm further, that that which constitutes the Bible a Divine book is the fact that the Holy Spirit so dominated and guided the minds and pens of those who wrote to make their writings free from mistakes of any and all kind, whether it be mistakes of history, chronology, botany, biology, or astronomy, or mistakes as to moral or Spiritual truth pertaining to God and man, in time or eternity. According to this view of biblical inspiration, whatever the Bible says must be true because it is God’s own Word; what it says is what God says.
This traditional method of setting forth the Divine element in the Bible is still acceptable to many Bible students and makes to them the strongest appeal in the way of furnishing a Divine credential. But an increasing number of so-called; modern-minded Christian believers and Bible students find a different approach to the Divine-human book more satisfying and a different statement of the Divine element in it more intelligible and convincing.
There are of course many different views as to the credibility of the Bible, as Jesus Himself says, See John 14 1—6. (also Acts 4:12. 1 Tim 2:5—6. 2Tim24—25).
1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.
5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?
6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
1 Timothy 2:5-6
5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.
2 Timothy 2:24-25
24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
The Real Evidence of Inspiration (Genesis to Revelation).
The Bible begins with God, continues with God, and ends with God in a sense and to an extent that is true of no other book in the literature of the world. To affirm that the Divine Presence is imminent in the Sacred Scriptures does not mean, however, that the Divine is not also here and there transcendently manifest in different portions of the Bible. From the earliest beginnings of a literature among the people whose thoughts of God and relations to God are recorded in the O.T., to the revelations of God made in and through Christ, as these are found, e.g. in the writings of John http://godsplan.org.uk/john.htm the last of the inspired writers, there is a long but ever ascending pathway trodden by devout seekers after God.
The one thing that characterises these Pilgrims always and everywhere is there consciousness of God, a consciousness of Him that reveals their conformity and sometimes their disconformity to His will. This characteristic of the biblical literature would, in itself alone, call for and fully justify our recognition of a Divine element in the Bible. The Divine Element in the Bible means this, but means much more.
To most of those who in our day  study and reverence the Bible, the Divinest credential which these sacred writings furnish is found in their contents, the moral and Spiritual TRUTHS of which need no miraculous attestations to make them carry the message of God to the souls of men.
E.g 23rd, 46th, 93rd, 103rd, Psalm. The 42nd & 53rd chapters of Isaiah. The Sermon on the Mount. the 13th chapter of Corinthians. and hundreds of other like-worth and meaning are self-evidencing to their Divine inspiration. The dogma of verbal inspiration and biblical inerrancy and the “external arguments” drawn from miracles and predictive prophecy once occupied the foreground in apologetics. If these appeals were effective in making a former generation hear and heed the voice of God in the Scriptures, they served a good purpose, but there real value did not consist in any abnormal or preternatural and spectacular revelation or exhibition which they furnished of God’s power, but in their causing men to hear and heed the word of God that bade them to give up their sins, lead righteous lives, and love and serve their fellow men. This moral and spiritual truth in the Bible that makes it speak to the head and heart and conscience with the voice of God—that is the element in it which men of to—day recognise as Divine, whether they heed it or not; and we can but feel that this has been the Divinest thing in the Word of God, whether the Word was spoken or written, and whether it was accompanied by miraculous attestations or not. “No one comes to the Father but through me.”
John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Man’ Progressive Apprehension of God.
Whatever theory of inspiration makes God most perfect and His revealed Will; most rational and morally self-consistent must be the true view. No view of inspiration, no matter how Divine it may make the Bible to be, can be accepted as true if it should make God less than perfect in His words and works and ways. However different and conflicting may be the conceptions of God reflected in certain portions of the Pentateuch, the book of Judges, and the imprecatory Psalms, (Imprecatory psalms are those psalms that contain curses or prayers for the punishment of the psalmist's enemies. To imprecate means to invoke evil upon, or curse). on the one hand, and in the four Gospels in the other, we must not think that God Himself was anywise different, was any less holy and just, wise and loving, in ancient days than He was in the time of Christ, or than He, as interpreted to us by Christ, is to our faith now.
The difference is not in God, but in the variant, conflicting and changing views of God reflected in the different periods of biblical history and literature. The view of God’s nature and character is absolutely correct—the conception of God as a Being who is always essentially and absolutely perfect—is that which we find in the teachings of Christ and the Apostles as recorded in the N.T.
No view of biblical inspiration can be true that is inconsistent with this fundamental fact of the Christian faith—the absolute perfection of God in all that He does and says and approves. Accepting the interpretations and revelation of God given in and through Christ as the true conception, we may say that there is in the O.T. Scriptures an increasing ethicising of the idea of God.
It is unthinkable that Christ should attribute to God some of the things which He is represented in the earliest period of the O.T. history, as doing, or commanding, or approving. To write thus of the O.T. is not to discredit it, but simply to explain how, when it is rightly interpreted as a record of the changing and progressive conceptions of God entertained by the people, it is entirely reconcilable with the latter, fuller perfect and final Revelation of Christ preserved in the N.T.
While Christ treated the O.T. reverently as the Divinely inspired Word of God, He yet not only pronounced erroneous some of the things which were “said by them of old time,” but corrected them. If among the things Christ said and did any one thing may be said to be of highest moral and Spiritual value, we perhaps justified in saying that it was interpretation and revelation of God in such terms of Fatherhood and love which made the Divine Being loveable and brought Him near to us. The Divinest thing in the Bible, we repeat, is its testimony to the holiness and lovableness of God. Christ showed us—and as the ever-living Christ He continues to show men—God as the loving heavenly Father; and that, and that alone, sufficeth to satisfy the minds and hearts of men.
1 To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
to plant = Cp Ecclesiastes 2:5 I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits:
It is beyond man’s power to alter the seasons. Applied to a kingdom. (Ps 44:2; 80: 8, 12—13. Jer 18:9. Amos 9:15. Matt 15:13).
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to kill = i.e. judicially (1 Kings 2:23—24, 28—29, 34, 36—37, 46. Ps 88:31, 34. Jer 12:3). Out of its proper “time”, “to kill” is to murder. There is no “time” for this.
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
Meaning and Method of Revelation. http://godsplan.org.uk/therevelationofchrist.htm
In speaking of the Scriptures as a Divine Revelation of God, there is a possibility of conveying a false impression as to what is meant. the term “Revelation” expresses an important truth if properly used, but it is capable of being interpreted in an utterly misleading manner—and it is to be feared that some people so misinterpret it. It must not be interpreted as meaning that God, having prepared a book of Divine Revelation in some preternatural (existing outside of nature) manner, sent it to men accompanied by miraculous attestations and Divine credentials, in order to invest it with Divine authority, without which miraculous attestations it would be without authority.
God’s “Revelations” are nothing more nor less than communications of TRUTH in and to and through believing and holy men, men who came to know Him personally, vitally in an experience that was at once genuine and normal, and no less Divine because it was normal. If Divine Revelations were received in a normal way, and were recorded by the recipients in a normal way, with no supernatural accompaniments, they would still be Divine Revelations.
Instead of calling the Bible a Divine Revelation, it would be more accurate, and fitting, to think of it as a trustworthy record of revelations which God has made from time to time to devout and holy men in and through experiences, which were none the less real and Divine if they were normal and natural, than if they were abnormal and supernatural.
1 God, Who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
2 Hath in the last days spoken unto us by His Son, Whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by Whom also He made the worlds.
Though these words were originally spoken of the O.T. period, they are equally true of the period which gave rise to the individual N.T. books and the N.T. collection as a whole, as also of the whole course of human history.
In this sense we might say that the Bible, instead of it being itself God’s primary and original revelation, is, rather, the result of revelation. It is God’s revelations to men that have made the Bible to be what it is, and not the Bible that made the revelations. The revelations came before the Bible came. Nevertheless, having made this true and important distinction, it is proper to add that a book which collects and preserves in a trustworthy record the revelations which God hath made to and in, and through patriarchs and prophets and poets and psalmists and wise men and apostles, from age to age, all culminating in His revelation to and in and through Christ, may well be designated in its entirety as a Book of Divine Revelation.
All this indicates that unless the Divineness of the revelation is discovered in, and evidenced by its contents, and is discerned in the character of the TRUTH communicated, no supernatural accompaniments attending its communication to men could suffice to make it Divine.
It may be a matter of much interest to seek and to discover the manner in which the Word of The LORD came to patriarchs, psalmists, prophets, and apostles—whether in a normal manner and natural manner, i.e. under normal and psychological conditions, or in an abnormal and supernatural manner—but it would be a great mistake to make the Divineness of the Word revealed, depend on the miracle of communication to men. To make the Ten Commandments depend to any degree upon the miraculous accompaniments of their first promulgation to the children of Israel as described in the book of Exodus rather than upon the moral contents and Spiritual value of the Commandments themselves, would be to misplace utterly the real and true ground of FAITH in their Divineness.
It may be the modern Christian thinkers make too little of the miraculous physical accompaniments which are described as attending many Divine Revelations that were given to the elect, and holy men from age to age in the course of Bible history. On the other hand, they certainly are not open to the charge of minimising or obscuring that Divine Element in the Scriptures which is found in the moral and spiritual TRUTH which they contain, and in the moral and spiritual influence which they have on the character and destiny of men and nations.
Confirmation in Experience.
No definition which we may give to the Bible and no claim however high, which we may make for it, can give Divine authority. What we need to be concerned about is not so much authority for the TRUTH as TRUTH for authority. No dogmatic definition of biblical inspiration in terms of Divine infallibility can invest the Bible with inerrancy (exemption from error) unless it really be inerrant. It is only as the Bible contains the TRUTH—the TRUTH about God and man, the TRUTH as it is in JESUS—that it can claim for itself a Divine element, imparting to it Divine authority. Let us not, then, look for the “DIVINE” in the Bible as if it were a subtle magic, mystic, preternatural or supernatural something in the origination or composition of it , that removes it from the province of literary criticism and amenability to all the tests of TRUTH to which other books are subjected [Not including fictitious dramas, and stories].
John 8:32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
There is, indeed, a Divine quality in it that distinguishes it in the literature of the world which makes it not merely primus inter pares [first among equals] among the world’s book of religion; it is that, but it is much more. That Divine quality which raises it above all other books is its self-evidencing TRUTH about the heavenly Father and the Divine Christ, and the Holy Spirit that keeps alive in men the sense of God and the TRUTH that makes men free—free from superstition as well as free from sin. The book that has in it the most TRUTH about God and man, about Salvation from sin and life eternal, will always be “THE HOLY BIBLE” to all who reverently read it, however much they may fail to heed it.
It is here, then, that our claim for a Divine element in the Bible must find supreme justification and a permanent ground of acceptance:
· Is the Bible revelation of God by our own personal experience with God?
· Do we find ourselves at our best morally when our lives are most in accord with what the God of the Bible commands and approves?
We can but answer these questions in the affirmative and in so doing we ratify and confirm the TRUTH of our Bible as having that revelation concerning God which alone can satisfy the enlightened conscience of normal religious and reasonable men.
The devotees of non-Christian religions, it is true, from the fetish worshipper of Africa to the Arab who makes a fetish of his Koran, all find varying degrees of satisfaction in the symbols of their religion. But this fact cannot nullify or weaken the force of our conviction that intelligent and Truth-seeking men in all countries and in all ages will ever find in the Scriptures of the Christian religion moral and Spiritual TRUTH not only unequalled anywhere else, but so satisfying to their heads and hearts, and so potent and efficient in meeting their moral and religious needs, that it is no exaggeration to say that, however genuinely human the Bible is, it is also possessed of a life-giving and inspiring quality which may be truly called Divine. This is at once the purpose and the abiding proof of the Divine inspiration which Paul claims for it, and upon the reasonableness and TRUTH of this claim we can let the question of its Divine inspiration rest.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
The Bible—A Library of Religion. Manifold Divine Revelations.
God reveals Himself, and always has revealed Himself in nature.
1.The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
2. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
God also reveals Himself in the events of history, be it the history of individuals or of nations. Sometimes the voice may be almost inaudible; at other times it sounds like the roar of thunder; but always recognised or unrecognised, God is working out His eternal purpose, slowly it may be because of man’s stubbornness, but nevertheless steadily, because in the end the Divine goodness cannot fail. Again, to many devout persons God speaks very distinctly through the outward acts of worship. To thousands of earnest seekers after God these forms and ceremonies are means of blessings and grace through which the Divine comes into contact with the mind and conscience.
Experience, moreover, indicates that God, in His attempt to reach the human soul, may dispense with external means; He may and does reveal Himself by working in and upon the mind and Spirit of the individual. Once more, God selects certain persons especially well qualified to hear His voice. These He commissions to declare Him and His will to the people. The belief in this method of revelation is the philosophic basis for the offices of the modern preacher, and religious teacher.
In a real sense the revelation of God in and through Jesus belongs here, for in Him, as He lives His life among men, God manifests Himself more fully than ever before or since.
These are at least some of the ways in which God reveals Himself today, and these are some of the ways in which God made Himself known during the O.T and N.T. periods; then, as now, He revealed Himself in nature, in the events of history, in the ritual, by direct impression; and at times He selected persons to whom He might make Himself known in all these various ways, persons who had sufficient Spiritual insight to appreciate and interpret these Divine manifestations, and the ability to transmit the discovered TRUTH to others. Then, in the fulness of time, He made Himself known in unique and Supreme fashion through Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Galatians 4:4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
Ephesians 1:10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him: Compare Romans 9:13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
He might gather together in one = to sum up, (literally “head up”). The verb in this place being in middle Voice is reflective, implying “for Himself”
Ephesians 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself.
Ephesians 1:9 Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself.
Different Types of Old Testament Literature.
The Bible contains records and interpretations of these manifold Divine revelations. It is only natural, however, that when attempts were made to record or interpret these manifestations of God, different kinds of literature had to be used in order to express most intelligently and forcefully the TRUTH or TRUTHS the author sought to impress on his readers.
In other words, the various types of literature are not the result of arbitrary selection; they are the natural outgrowth of the manifold character of Divine revelation. In the O.T. five kinds of literature may be distinguished:
1. The prophetic.
2. The wisdom.
3. The devotional.
4. The legal or priestly.
5. The historical.
In their production four classes of religious workers who observed, interpreted, and meditated the Divine revelations, were active, namely, the prophets, the wise men, the priests…
Jeremiah 18:18 Then said they, “Come and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words”.
with the tongue = with hard words.
…and the sweet singers of Israel, the Psalmists. In the N.T. the first five books may be regarded as in a general sense historical, while practically all the others resemble in general character and purpose the prophetic, and in one instance the Apocalyptic, literature.
Prophetic Literature of the Old Testament.
Prophetic literature owes its origin to prophetic activity. The prophets towered above their contemporaries in purity of character, strength of intellect, sincerity of purpose, intimacy of communion with God, and ensuing depth of Spiritual insight. As a result of these intellectual, moral, and Spiritual qualifications, they were able to apprehend and appreciate TRUTH hidden from the eyes of those who did not live in the same intimate fellowship with their God. The deep insight into the character of God enabled them to appreciate the Divine ideals of righteousness, and they sought with flaming enthusiasm, to impress on their less enlightened contemporaries the TRUTH burning in their own hearts.
In carrying out this purpose they became patient and painstaking teachers of religious TRUTH, bold and fearless preachers of right living, sane and courageous reformers of social abuses, idealistic and tactful statesmen, seeking to establish a world order in harmony with the eternal purpose of God. [Today  this fallen world is anything, but in order; and only to Satan].
No records have been preserved of the utterances of the early prophets; but when, with the general advance of culture, reading and writing became more general, the prophets anxious to reach a wider circle and to preserve their messages for more responsive ears, began to put their messages in writing; and to this new development we owe the sublime specimens of prophetic literature in the O.T.
Nothing escaped the observation of these wise men; and from beginning to end they sought to teach the important TRUTH that religion and daily life were inseparable. The book of Proverbs is a collection of such wise sayings coming from various Hebrew and Jewish history. The books of Job and Ecclesiastes bear witness that the problems the wise men sought to solve were no mean problems.
Historical Literature of the Old Testament.
The historical literature of the O.T. is of vital importance to the seeker of TRUTH (see before Genesis, and Keys links below). It affords interpretations of the movements of God in the history of Israel and of the nations with which the authors were familiar. It owes its origin in part to prophetic, and in part to priestly activity. As has been pointed out the prophet was a representative of Jehovah, whose business it was to make known the Divine Will to his own-day generation. Sometimes he looked into the future, and by doing so sought to give emphasis to a TRUTH he was trying to express concerning the present. (N.T.) At other times he found inspiration in the past (O.T.). Frequently the people failed to understand the real significance of events in their own history and thus missed the religious TRUTHS they might have otherwise drawn from them. If these lessons were not to be lost, someone must serve as an interpreter; and who would be better qualified than the prophet to furnish the right interpretation?
Sometimes he embodied these interpretations in his discourses; but the demand for a religious interpretation of the entire course of events made the prophet in a sense an historian, not for the purpose merely of recording events but of interpreting them at the same time on the basis of his faith in Jehovah. To these prophet-historians we owe a large part of the historical literature.
But not all O.T. history comes from the prophets. The legal and ceremonial literature may be traced to priestly activity. Now, in connection with the recording of the laws, custom, institutions, and ceremonial requirements, the origins of these laws and institutions became a matter of importance. This interest and the demand arising from it led to the priests also to become historians; and to these priestly authors we are indebted for not a small part of O.T. history. http://godsplan.org.uk/beforegenesis.htm http://godsplan.org.uk/keys.htm.
Types of New Testament Literature.
The types of literature in the N.T. are similar to those in the O.T. All its writings centre around Jesus Christ, and in one way or another they all seek to interpret the supreme Revelation of God through Him. Jesus was a historical person. His life, activity, and teaching were matters of history. the Gospels, http://godsplan.org.uk/john.htm whose primary purpose is to record and interpret the life and activity of Jesus, are in the nature historical, or possibly better, biographical sketches. The work of establishing the kingdom of God begun by Jesus was continued by His disciples and assumed organised form through the establishment of numerous churches. The progress of these events , especially in Syria, Asia Minor, Greece and Italy, is recorded in another historical book, The Acts of the Apostles.
Every new movement gives rise to problems and perplexities. Christianity was no exception. Very soon troublesome questions began to disturb the newly organised churches. Individuals failed to grasp the true significance of the new teaching; corruption and schisms [disharmony] threatened to disrupt the believers. In these extremities the leaders in the new faith were appealed to for guidance and inspiration (See guestbook on homepage).
Since they could not visit all the places from which requests for counsel came, they frequently sent their advice in the form of letters, which gave rise to the extensive epistolary literature in the N.T (e-mails in today’s society).
This sets forward the doctrines of the new movement, which seeks to assist in the proper administration of local churches, and gives counsel in the matter of personal and official conduct on the part of church leaders. In its general aims, if not in form and details, this literature resembles the prophetic books of the O.T. The closing book, Revelation, is the only one of its kind in the N.T. It has its counterparts in the O.T…
Genesis 3:15. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; It shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise His heel.
The one great central truth of all prophecy--the coming of One. Who, though he should suffer, should in the end crush the head of the old serpent, the Devil.
…in the book of Daniel, portions of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah, and less extensive sections elsewhere. It belongs to what is known commonly as apocalyptic literature, developed on the prophetic hope concerning the future. (See home page God’s Future Kingdom 1—12) http://godsplan.org.uk/Index.htm
Like the prophets, the apocalyptic writer seeks to interpret God, His Will, His Purpose, and the nature and laws of His kingdom. As a result the apocalyptic literature dwells more especially upon the triumph of the kingdom of God in the coming age; http://godsplan.org.uk/thestarsalso2.htm hence the name “Apocalyptic, i.e. the literature that “makes known what is hidden.” from the eyes of common men. The book of Revelation is the outgrowth of the early Christian persecutions, and its objective is the encouragement of the distressed and suffering Christians by the assurance of the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of God.
To search for the TRUTH and actually find it in this world, where Satan is the prince of lies, deceit, and murder; is no mean feat. The TRUTH which, has for so long been covered over, distorted, and hidden from view; leaving almost no-one knowing why anymore, or what life is all about. Even those professing to be Christians are not aware of the TRUTH. So where do we turn, and how do we find our way?
Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
“For the rest, be armed and well prepared for the fight against the spiritual forces of evil. Put on the Divine armour—TRUTH for belt, righteousness for breastplate, readiness to affirm the Gospel for shoes, faith for shield, and the inspired word of God for sword. Watch and pray”.
Romans 13:12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. http://www.godsplan.org.uk/searchingforthetruth.htm
II Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of TRUTH. http://levendwater.org/companion/append3.html
7. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8. For everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
it shall be opened. This is never done in the east to this day. The one who knocks is always first questioned.
The Bible as Literature
Interpretation and Literary Form. Among the many reasons for regarding the Bible “as different from other books” is the obvious fact that it looks different. One opens it at random and finds a formal arrangement of chapters and verses not found in other books, and this difference in form easily suggests a difference in fact. The consequence has been that the chapters, which developed out of sections suitable for public reading, have become more important than the complete books; while the verse divisions, instead of being solely a practical expedient for ready reference—which they absolutely are—have come to be regarded as part and parcel of the inspired Scripture itself—which most certainly they are not. The original writers’ new nothing of chapters and verses and until one is set free from the temptation to regard the Bible as a collection of these arbitrary fragments, is he prepared to see it and to read it as it really is.
Imagine for example, Tennyson’s “Idyll’s of the king” printed as prose (Prose is a form of language that exhibits a grammatical structure and a natural flow of speech rather than a rhythmic structure), divided up into “verses,” with the verse divisions often breaking the original lines as well as the original stanzas, (In poetry, a stanza is a grouped set of lines within a poem) then imagine these “verses” to be grouped into “chapters” that paid no regard at all to the original sections of Tennyson’s poems. Finally, place this curious document in the hands of an earnest reader that he may read it for the good of his soul, but tell him nothing about Tennyson, or the occasion of the poems, or even that they are poems. Yet something similar to this has happened to the Bible. In spite of its luxuriant literary variety, distinctions even between prose and poetry, to say nothing of the finer distinctions within these fields, are hopelessly obscured by the familiar custom of printing everything as though it were solid prose. This is to some extent corrected in the revised version by the use of paragraphs for prose and the use of lines for some of the poetry. But even this improvement is carried through with such reserve that the Bible is still left far behind any modern book in the use of printing devices appropriate to form and sense; but not moral and beneficial teaching of the soul. There are many who look askance (with disapproval or distrust) even at the Revised Version, preferring the familiar Authorised Version.
The fact that this is done in all good conscience does not defend the reader from the erroneous conclusions he so easily draws as to the meaning of what he reads (The guidance of the residing Holy Spirit is paramount in this matter).
Language and Literature. When reference is made to the Bible as literature, attention is directed to the medium through which the writers of the Bible convey their thoughts to others. That medium is language; and not painting, music, or mathematics, but speech. The art of speech, first oral, then written, is one of the most wonderful achievements of the human spirit, and some would freely call it the most wonderful of all. It is the chief means by which the ideas and inspirations, the hopes and fears, the plans and purposes, the discoveries and attainments, of one person may be passed onto others; not only to contemporaries, but those who live long afterward in later and distant generations. After thousands of years of use and elaboration this marvellous instrument, language, is now seen to have well defined forms which, in turn, are recognised as carrying with them their own definite laws of use and interpretation.
There are at least two reasons why the literary aspects of the Biblical writings have been overlooked;
1. The first of these is the fact that the Bible is, above all else, a religious book, and that it is studied almost exclusively for religious purposes. Indeed, it is sometimes felt that the religious values of the Bible are so predominant that to turn aside from them to a consideration of its historical or literary aspects is to turn away from its true purpose and to ignore its true character.
2. The second reason is the fact that so many people pay no attention to any language, not even their own. If they can carry on a conversation in a way that does not invite any embarrassing criticism, ridicule, or misunderstanding, they are content as far as the language itself is concerned.
Ignorant of the history of language, they are uninterested in its inherent power and insensitive to its intrinsic beauty. Both the literary and non-literary students of the Bible, however, are at one to discover what the Bible means. The difference between them is that the former try to take account of the laws of language in their bearing upon interpretation. Language is a wonderful instrument but, like all instruments, its use must be first understood and to some extent mastered before one can be sure that it will not wound the hand that holds it. It is part of the Divine order that human speech should play a large part in the communication of the Divine will; and it is therefore not optional but essential that any reverent search for the meaning of Scriptures are based upon the principles according to which speech serves its universal purposes. The literary study of the Bible, then, may be described as a study of the characteristic forms and methods by means of which the Bible messages are expressed in language.
Types of Literature. A further justification of the literary approach to the Biblical writings appears in the fact that they were written, circulated, copied, and preserved as literature before they were regarded, and finally isolated, as Scripture. The making of the Bible was by no means the same thing as the first writing of the different books of which it is now composed. The winnowing (a motion) and selecting of these particular books and booklets from the much larger body of writings existing at that time was a process that could operate only after these writings had established themselves as literature. They had proved themselves worthy preserving by actually being preserved. The writing of the books, in the first place, was one process, while their selection and exaltation into a sacred canon was a very different and much later process. http://www.godsplan.org.uk/formation.htm
It is not to be supposed that for the Biblical author the literary product was an end in itself. It sprang from his desire to share with his fellows his feelings of joy or sorrow, to impart to them his knowledge, or to influence their conduct by praise or blame. To him the idea of producing a best seller would have been inconceivable. These writings are great literature because they are greatly felt, and greatly uttered. And had it not been for their survival as writings, which is as literature, they would have disappeared before they could have been gathered into the later collection now known as the Bible. To approach them as works of literature is simply to retrace the Divine order according to which they first appeared.
In recent years there has been much study in this field. The biblical material has been examined and classified so that no one need lack any information on this aspect of the sacred writings. While the various outline and analysis differ in arrangement and detail, they all agree in their acceptance of the literary principle of approach. The aim of the outline that follows is not to give a mechanically complete classification of all the biblical material, distributing every chapter and verse into appropriate departments. Even if this were desirable, it would involve much duplication, for a great many passages represent in themselves several different types of literature, and they would then have to be repeated under each type. It has seemed better to indicate the more obvious types, distinguishing them on the basis of their spirit, aim, and content, as well as on that of external form.