Questioning the Whole Bible

(Old and New Testaments)


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The Bible


This name “Biblia” is from the Greek through Latin, and signifies ‘The Books’. The whole is called ‘The Scriptures,” and once ‘The Holy Scriptures,’ that is , ‘The Sacred Writings,’ distinguishing them from all others. The advent of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the great subject of the scriptures, John 5: 39, and in whom as ‘Son’ God spoke, after a silence of 400 years, naturally led to a division of the sacred writings into two parts, called the Old and New Testaments. The ‘Old Testament’ is mentioned as being read in 2 Corinthians 3: 14; but the term ‘New Testament,’ as applied to the collection of books that commonly bear that title, does not occur in scripture. There was also a change in the language in which various books of the two Testaments were written. The Old was written in Hebrew, except Ezra 4: 08 to 6: 18; 7: 12-26; Jeremiah 10: 11; Daniel 2: 04 to 7: 28: these portions being written in Chaldee or Aramaic. The books of the New Testament were written in Greek (without now taking into consideration whether the Gospel by Matthew was originally written in Aramaic). The glad tidings of salvation were for the whole world, and the language most extensively known at that time was chosen for its promulgation. The New Testament brings out not only the history of redemption by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, but gives the doctrine of the Church in its various aspects, showing that Christianity is an entirely new order of things, even a new creation. Those who form the church are instructed as to their true position in Christ, and their true position in the world, with details to guide them in every station of life. The Bible is the inspired Word of God from cover to cover. Though the word ‘inspiration’ occurs in the Holy Book but once in reference to the scriptures, yet the one statement in which it is found is important and full of deep meaning: “Every scripture is divinely inspired (God-breathed), and is profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, fully fitted to every good work.” (2 Timothy 3: 16-17. This places all scripture on one basis as to inspiration, whether it be historical, doctrinal or prophetic. We learn by this quotation that not simply the persons who wrote were inspired, but the writings themselves are divinely inspired, (Compare 2 Peter 1: 21).


What makes the Bible to be a holy book?


Three world religions – Judaism for the Old Testament, Christianity and Islam for both Old and New Testament accept the Bible as a holy book, or a book divinely inspired containing a message for their followers. To Jews, this message appears only in the first collection, the Tanakh, a Hebrew acronym derived from the words Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim, or Law, Prophets, and Writings. To Christians, all three collections together with the twenty-seven books of the New Testament represent “The Bible”. The Old Testament contains the historical background to the message of the New Testament. Muslims look upon both Old and New Testament as the historical background to a separate sacred text which embodies their own divine message, namely the Qur’an, a book of later origin that the Jewish and the Christian Bibles.


Is the Bible a book of history, of faith, or both?


The Bible is above all a book of faith. As such, it transcends history. The events described in both Old and New Testaments, however, are rooted in human history. Only the first ten chapters in the first book of the Bible deal with the question of the beginnings of the universe and the human species, which may be defined as prehistory. In chapter eleven the scene shifts to Babylonia, known to be the place of some history’s early civilisations, and to the ancestors of the People of Israel who originated in that part of the Ancient World. The remainder of the Old Testament covers the history of Israel, from enslavement in ancient Egypt to the conquest of the land of Canaan, which becomes the Land of Israel, to exile in Babylonia, and the second return to the Land of Israel.


The overall framework of the Bible is firmly rooted in history. Some individuals and specific events cannot be readily authenticated, although archaeology and such major discoveries as the Dead Sea Scrolls have done much to confirm a great deal of biblical data. For example, there are no precise records of the physical existence of an individual named Jeremiah; but, the prophetic message attributed to Jeremiah is clearly established as the product of the time of the fall of Jerusalem in the sixth century before the Common Era (B.C.).


Is the Bible strictly for the few only?


No. Not any more than God is strictly a Jewish or a Christian God. The message of the Bible is the brotherhood and sisterhood of all men and women under the parenthood of God. God did not take the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt, given them the Law, and bring them to the Promised Land for their own personal gain and well being. And, the result of Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection is that man is reconciled to God, meaning that man, who was estranged and alienated from God, is now at peace with Him. The enmity and hostility has been removed (Romans 5: 10). Through his rebellion in the garden, man moved out of fellowship with God and needed to return to fellowship. Reconciliation is God providing peace where previously there was enmity, and God restoring man to fellowship with Himself (2 Corinthians 5: 18-20). In other words, God made godliness known to humankind through the story told in the Bible. Without that story, humankind would, for instance, still be worshiping idols.


Does the Bible still hold secrets not yet revealed?


The Bible still holds many secrets as to the things to come. However, the greatest secret is who is God, as this is beyond human comprehension. Also, a great secret, is universal justice, and how does it really work. Here we may have some insights, but not enough. We can continue with the meaning of life, the soul, the historicity of biblical events and personalities, and much more. No book can exhaust the questions raised by the Bible, let alone provide all the answers. One can only try.




The title Genesis comes from the Septuagint Greek translation of the Old Testament and means “Origin” or “Beginning.” The book justifies its title in three ways:


(a)   As history it tells the story of creation, of the earliest civilisation, of the flood, and of the origins of the chosen people of God.

(b)   As revelation it teaches primary truths about God and Man: and with regard to the way of salvation it tells first of the coming of sin into the world through the fall; then of the utter failure of early man to save himself, culminating in the flood; and finally of God’s choice of one family in which all families of the earth should be blessed. The fact of God’s redemptive purpose, first foreshadowed in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3: 15), shines out from time to time with increasing clearness as the book proceeds. Genesis is thus the story first of man’s need of salvation, and then of the early stages in the unfolding of God’s wonderful plan of redemption.

(c)     As practical teaching it introduces us to personalities of profound and universal religious significance, such as Abel and Cain, Noah, Abraham, Jacob and Esau and Joseph, and by its unforgettable stories teaches lessons of lasting value, showing God at work in human life.


The Pentateuch or Five Books, of which Genesis is the first, was attributed to Moses by universal tradition of the Jews, which our Lord takes for granted and endorses with His own authority: Mark 12: 26; and, John 5: 46-47.


Abbreviated Outline of the book Genesis

Chapters 1 - 11

Primeval History of Humanity

Chapters 1 - 2



Chapter 3

The Fall


Chapters 4 - 5

From the Fall to the Flood


Chapters 6 - 9

The Flood


Chapters 10 to 11

From the Flood to Abraham


Chapters 12 - 50

Patriarchal History of Israel


Chapters 12 - 25



Chapters 25 -  28



Chapters 28 - 36



Chapters 37 - 50




Genesis Outline



Part One: Ancient History (1: 01-11:09)



The Creation

1: 01-02:25


A. Creation of the Universe and everything therein

1: 01-2:03


B. Creation of Man



The Fall

3: 01-5:32


A. The Fall of Man

3: 01-24


B. After the Fall: Contradictory Family Lines

4: 01-5:32


The Judgment of the Flood

6: 01-9:29


A. Causes of the Flood

6: 01-05


B. Judgment of the Flood

6: 06-22


C. The Flood

7: 01-8:19


D. Results of the Flood

8: 20-9:17


E. After the Flood: The Sin of the Godly Line

9: 18-29


The Judgment on the Tower of Babel

10: 01-11:09


A. Family Lines after the Flood

10: 01-32


B. Judgment on all the Family Lines

11: 01-09


Part Two: Patriarchal History (11:10-50:26)



The Life of Abraham



A. Introduction of Abram

11: 10-32


B. The Covenant of God with Abram

12: 01-25:18


1. Initiation of the Covenant

12: 01-20


2. Separation to the Covenant



3. Approval of the Covenant



4. Institution of the Covenant: Circumcision



5. Testing of the Covenant



6. Consummation of the Covenant



The Life of Isaac

25: 19-26:35


A. The Family of Isaac

25: 19-34


B. The Failure of Isaac

26: 01-33


C. The Failure of Esau

26: 34-35


The Life of Jacob



A. Jacob Gains Esau’s Blessing

27: 01-28:09


B. Jacob’s Life at Haran

28: 10-31:55


C. Jacob’s Return

32: 01-33:20


D. Jacob’s Residence in Canaan

34: 01-35:29


E. The History of Esau

36: 01-43


The Life of Joseph

37: 01-50:26


A. The Corruption of Joseph’s Family

37: 01-38:30


B. The Exaltation of Joseph

39: 01-41:57


C. The Salvation of Jacob’s Family

42: 01-50:26


Selected readings from Genesis as overview: Chapters 1 – 2; 3; 15; 27; 29; 37; 41.


Did God create the universe and all there is?


The Bible’s point of departure is the creation of the universe. The first sentence of the Bible reads: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Why should we believe those words? On whose authority? The easiest answer would be, we don’t know how the universe started. We have some scientific theories, but we are still in the dark when it comes to so-called ultimate questions, and may always be. Recalling someone, one can choose to believe the biblical account of creation rather than stay in the dark. However, the former Soviet physicist Joseph Davydov quite recently wrote a book called God Exists, in which he shows how science in our time has fully corroborated the biblical account of creation. He refers to our current understanding of matter, which proves that something physical can be created out of nothing. He points out to the existence of light before such luminaries as the sun existed. And he makes the case that, scientifically speaking, everything created must have a creator. He calls this creator the “absolute God” who created our “relative universe.”


Why does Genesis start with the story of creation?


If the Bible is a book of law, order and faith, why does it start with stories about the formation of the natural universe, instead of concentrating on issues of law, order and faith? Most likely, because the Bible is, primarily, the history of the God of the universe, and only secondarily the story of a certain small people (at the beginning) in antiquity called Israel to whom God turned to transmit knowledge of the absolute universal God, which they in turn were to impart to the rest of the world.


On the face of it, the biblical story of creation is a transmitted story, like so many other folk stories around the world. People have always wondered where they came from, and how it all started. Many stories about the origins of the universe and of human life have come down to us from civilisations as old or even older than the Bible. Some of the best known are the Babylonian Myth of Gilgamesh, the stories of Greek mythology, and the Popol Vu text of the ancient Maya. In all of those stories, some superhuman being or beings create the physical universe in which we live, and fashion human beings out of the elements of this physical creation, such as earth, water, and so on.


In this context, the story of creation in the Book of Genesis is another story of creation among many. But there is an essential difference between the biblical account and all others.


Most importantly, the biblical Creator “God”, unlike the one or ones in other cultures, is not superhuman, but rather metahuman, or beyond human. In other words, the nature of the Creator is beyond any human experience or understanding. One can never hope to reach direct or concrete knowledge of this metahuman reality. One can only experience its creation, but not the creator per se. In this sense, the Bible puts forth the idea of a God who created the universe, but whose existence transcends the universe.


Why did God create the universe and all there is?


Unlike other stories of creation, in which the world and human beings are created for no obvious reason, or, in some cases, for the gods to amuse themselves, the story in Genesis makes it clear that creation has a purpose and a reason. This idea is conveyed in the words, repeated on each day of creation (twice on the third day): “And God saw that it was good.” In other words, the universe was created in such a way that it has what one may call a moral purpose, reflecting the will of God who is not merely an aimless cosmic force or energy, but One that created the universe for a reason. That purpose can be seen in the words, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness”, meaning “Let us create a human being in our likeness.” The likeness here is not physical, since God has no physical likeness (as it is made clear in the Ten Commandments, “You shall make no graven image of what is in heaven above”). Rather, it is the likeness of God’s attributes of justice and mercy, which human being must live by.


How were man and women created?


The book Genesis presents the creation of man as male and female in the image of God (Genesis 1: 26-27, 5: 03; and 9:06), man’s fall and ruin, his judgment, and his possible triumph in the Grace of God. In relation to man’s judgment came the first whisper of the Gospel message of the final triumph of Christ over Satan. “And I will put enmity between you (the serpent) and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3: 15).  This prophecy was obviously fulfilled by the death of the Lord Jesus on the cross, a sacrifice that destroyed the works of the devil (1 John 3: 08)


Taken from Hebrew theology, there are three versions of the creation of human life in Genesis. In chapter 1, Adam, meaning “person”, is created as male and female. In chapter 2, Adam is first created alone from adamah (“earth” in Hebrew). Finally, in the third version, God decides Adam needs a “companion or helpmate,” and takes a rib out of Adam’s body from which Eve, meaning “companion,” is created. The first version, then, makes no distinction between male and female creation. Both are created at the same time. The second and third, taken together, seem more figurative than factual. Some may look upon this version as sexist, suggesting male superiority, while others may point out to Adam’s words after Eve is created from rib: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. (Genesis 2: 23)” Take this as an expression of man and woman being equal.


Are all people descendants of “Adam and Eve”, the first couple?


Human life as we know started somewhere, at some point in time. One could also argue that it started simultaneously at different places and times. Witness the existence of different races whose cultures developed separately from each other all over the globe. No long ago, genetic studies have shown remarkable similarities among human groups as far apart as China and Africa, Russia and South America. It appears that if we go far enough back in time, the entire human race is interrelated.


There is also a moral lesson implied in the first three chapters of Genesis, namely the appearance of human life on earth. There are no superior or inferior races. There are no superior or inferior people. All people stem from a common ancestor, and all have a common purpose. Each person has the right to say, “For my sake the world was created.” Each person is as important before the universal law of justice as the next one, whether prince, great genius or a common labourer.


Finally, destroying one human life is equal to destroying the entire universe, for each person embodies the entire work of creation.


Did Adam and Eve eat a forbidden apple?


This may seem an insignificant question, but it has to do with a misreading of the Bible, which ought to be corrected. The Hebrew text does not use the word ‘apple’.  Instead, it refers to “the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” We are never told what kind of fruit it was. This is an example of an interpretation, rather than an accurate rendition of the biblical text.


Why was man given free will?


The Lord God could have created an obedient creature, who did God’s bidding at all times and never strayed from the straight and narrow path. But this is not what God chose to do. God created a being in God’s likeness, namely, one endowed with free will.  This has been the source of both human greatness and human failure. After Eve talks Adam into tasting of the forbidden fruit, God asks Adam why he did it. Adam shifts the blame to Eve, who in turn shifts it to the serpent. It is then that God realises man must be taught to take responsibility for his actions, which can only be done through hardship and struggle. This may almost be the main lesson of the Bible. After 11th September 2001, many of us have asked: How could God have allowed this happen?  Indeed, no matter how atrocious it was, it was the result of human choice, not divine will.


Why is so much human history compacted into the first ten chapters of Genesis?


As was seen earlier, the Bible is not primarily a book of history. It is not the intention of the author of Genesis to narrate in detail the history of the world. Instead, the first ten chapters of Genesis set the stage for the rest of the Bible, providing us with a brief summary of the origins of mankind, seen through the perspective of God’s ethical plan for His creation. However, here is found the beginning of salvation history, the story of God and man, sin and grace, wrath and mercy, covenant and redemption even in the first book of the Bible. As the Book of Revelation is the climax and conclusion of the Bible, so the Book of Genesis is the beginning and an essential part of the Bible. Genesis is in fact an important book for understanding the meaning of the entire Bible, Old and New Testament.


Cain and Abel and the beginning of civilisation?


Read Genesis 4: 01-09. This story regarding Adam and Eve’s two sons, is not so much about the actual two children of the first human couple, but also a morality account about the early stages of human civilisation. Abel is a shepherd, while Cain is a farmer. Here we have the beginnings of civilisation, when man learns how to domesticate animals and cultivate the soil. The two activities are in conflict with each other, as one’s flocks violate the other’s fields. Disagreement and conflict result in violence which leads to murder, or the destruction of God’s work, created “in the likeness of God’s image.” Once again, as in the narration of the temptation of Adam and Eve, the one who breaks God’s law fails to take responsibility for his actions.  When God asks Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain replies, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Even today, human progress does not result in moral progress. Once again Genesis here makes it clear that rivalry and conflict are at the heart of the human condition.


Abel was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ as shepherd. There is no report of evil about him. In fact, he was hated by his brother without a cause. Abel died on account of his brother’s sin. Cain, how hated his brother Abel, foreshadows the Jew, who rejected Christ and delivered Him into the hands of the Gentiles and shed innocent blood.


Noah and the flood: history or fable; and, was the ark ever found?


The story of the flood in Genesis, chapter 6, points to a time of a global natural calamity, when life on earth was destroyed. The Bible looks upon natural calamites as an act of God meant to punish evil. Stories of great floods are also found elsewhere in all parts of the world. They may allude to earlier prehistorical times of great natural cataclysms. During the 1950s, archaeologists explored the peak of Mount Ararat, where, according to the biblical account, Noah’s ark landed. Embedded in the ice they found wood fragments dating back 5000 years. This gave rise to think that pieces of the biblical ark were recovered. There is no way of ascertaining this view, but the discovery does give merit to this possibility.


The Tower of Babel: Who was at fault?


In the story of the Tower of Babel as found in Genesis, chapter 11, the entire human race is concentrated in one place, presumably Babylonia (today’s Iraq). All people speak the same language. Civilisation makes great progress.  Tall towers are built, presumably the ziggurats of ancient Babylonia.  All seems well, until we hear people, who are given no specific identity, say: “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower reaching into the sky, and make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered over all the earth.” (Genesis 11: 04) God decides to punish the builders by confusing their language, so that they are not able to communicate easily with one another, and as a result they stop the construction and are scattered over the earth. Are we to take it to mean that unity and a common language lead to a folly such as building a tower reaching the sky? Did the builders seek to become like God? Did they fail to follow God’s command to spread and fill the earth? Commentaries of this story have abounded over the ages. Whatever the case may be, this story represents the culmination of the first ten chapters of Genesis, as the human race, incapable of living in harmony and unity with each other, is scattered over the face of the earth.


What do the stories of the beginnings of human history teach us about the human condition?


The picture that emerges from the biblical stories about the early origins of humanity is not very flattering. Quite to the contrary. “The inclination of man’s heart is evil from an early age (youth),” we are told early in the book of Genesis (Genesis 08:21).  This is confirmed by the fratricide committed by Cain against his brother Abel (an his refusal to take responsibility); by God’s decision to bring on a flood and put an end to a generation in which only one person, Noah, is found to be righteous; and by the arrogant act of building a tower reaching into heaven. The Bible seems to suggest that, left to its own devices, humanity fails time after time. It is for this reason that God decides to turn to one specific person, namely, Abraham to start a historical process involving Abraham’s descendants, which would lead to a reaffirmation of God’s plan for humanity, namely the pursuit of a world of justice and righteousness.


The first great Patriarch Abraham, ancient of Israel and perfect model for Christianity.


With the stories of Abraham, starting in Genesis, chapter 11, we emerge from biblical prehistory to enter history. The stories of Abraham, as all subsequent biblical stories, are rooted in historical fact. Abraham is a native of the Babylonian culture that dominates the prehistorical narratives of the Bible. Abraham was the father of the Hebrews and the prime example of a righteous man. According to the Midrash (Jewish legends and lore), when Abraham was a child, he realised that the idols worshiped by the Babylonians were powerless, and grasped the existence of the one invisible God who ruled the universe. So that when, years later, he hears God telling him to leave his native land and go to a strange land where his descendants would become a great nation, he does not hesitate, and embarks on the journey to the land of Canaan. Abraham had faith in the promises of God. Therefore, he is presented as a model for human behaviour. Welcoming the strangers (Genesis 18: 01-08, he was God-fearing man (Genesis 22: 01-18) who was obedient to God’s laws (Genesis 26: 05). The promises originally given to Abraham were passed on to his son Isaac (Genesis 26: 03), and to his grandson Jacob (Genesis 28: 13; 35: 11-12). In later biblical references, the God of Israel is frequently identified as the God of Abraham (Genesis 26:024), and Israel is often called the people “of the God of Abraham” (Psalm 47: 09; 105: 06; Isaiah 41: 08).  Abraham was in fact an ordinary person with an extraordinary mission. He was such an important figure in the history of God’s people that when they were in trouble, Israel appealed to God to remember the covenant made with Abraham (Exodus 32: 13; Deuteronomy 9: 27; Psalm 105: 09). In the New Testament, Abraham is presented as the perfect model of vivid faith and as the first example of the faith required for the Christian believer (Galatians 3: 06-09; and 4: 28). He is viewed as the spiritual father for all who share a similar faith in Christ (Matthew 3: 09; Luke 13: 16; Romans 11: 01).


Who are the “three angels” who visit Abraham?


In Genesis, chapter 18, Abraham is visited by three men. In the next chapter we are told of two angels who go down to the city of Sodom to find out about the wickedness of the Sodomites. Since the two stories are interrelated, the three men in the first part have been taken to be three angels. In both Greek and Hebrew, the word “angel” is derived from the word “messenger”. So, an angel is often an intermediary between man and God. In this story, the messengers are sent to investigate the evil deeds of men, which may result in divine punishment. The existence of angels (messengers, also defined as Sons of God, Holy ones, Hosts) is uniformly presented in the Bible. Thirty-four books of the Bible make reference to angels (seventeen in the Old Testament; seventeen in the New Testament). Critical to the belief in angels is the relationship of angels to Christ. The Lord Jesus was helped by angels following His temptation (Matthew 4: 11); He referred to the resurrected state as comparable to angels (Matthew 22: 29-30); He taught that angels would re-gather the nation Israel at the time of His return (Matthew 25: 31—32, 41). The existence of angels is tied to the reliability of the testimony of Christ.  Certainly, an angel is a creature, but also holy and uncorrupted spirit in original essence, endowed with free will, and therefore not necessarily impervious to temptation and sin. There are many indications of an angelic fall, under the leadership of Satan (Job 4: 18; Matthew 25: 41; 2 Peter 2: 04; and, Revelation 12: 09), but its effect belong strictly to the realm of demonology.


Sodom and Gomorrah – Why did Abraham question God?


To be continued

Please forward your questions.

The best questions and answers will be published here.


Recommended reading:

Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, by Gleason L. Archer. (Regency Reference Library / Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA.