I Don’t Need Scholars, I Just Read The Bible!

(Genesis Study Series)

If you’ve been reading along in this series about the opening chapters of Genesis, by now you are probably wondering who came up with all this “new” information about the creation account. Someone might be thinking, “What strange interpretation is this about a ‘functional creation’ and ‘cosmic temple’? I’ve never heard this before and my Bible teachers never mentioned any of this. This is just the result of a bunch of egghead seminary scholars sitting around navel-gazing and coming up with some preposterous theory, or perhaps, heresy!

There is a reluctance on the parts of some Christians to accept anything they’ve never heard about the Bible before. This is especially true if some new idea comes by way of a Bible scholar. A pastor friend of mine has shared with me that it is not unusual among some congregations to require ministers they hire to have a graduate degree from a seminary, yet are skeptical of what their pastor teaches. He has gone to school and had his head filled with strange notions and is now viewed with suspicion because he is “too educated.”

Golden age of Bible study

Many of us have the mistaken impression that all which can be known about the Bible is already known. This is far from the truth. We are fortunate to live in a golden age of Bible study. With the exception of those who lived at the time of Jesus and the Apostles, there has never been a better time for Bible students. Why? Because the last 100-150 years has seen an explosion of information which sheds light on the Bible.

An abundance of both biblical and non-biblical ancient texts were discovered in the last two centuries by archaeologists which directly relate to the biblical world. It has taken time for these texts to be translated, analyzed, and the findings published. The information scholars have discovered help us understand the world of the biblical period.

Ancient texts help with our understanding of the Bible

Did you know that The Dead Sea Scrolls contain biblical texts 1000 years older than any previously known? These scrolls were the find of the millennium and have been invaluable in understanding ancient Israel. The Amarna tablets are letters of correspondence between Canaanite rulers and their Egyptian counterparts which most likely bear witness to Joshua’s conquest of Canaan. The Taylor Prism records the attempted conquest of Judah from Sennacherib’s point of view (which corroborates the biblical account). The list goes on and on, but suffice it to say thanks to these relatively recent discoveries, the Internet, Bible software and other technologies, we have information at our fingertips that would have made the most learned and prestigious scholars of our grandparents and great grandparents day green with envy. Do we really need all of this to know what the Bible teaches? No, and yes!

The “I just read the Bible and I don’t need scholars” crowd forgets that they stand on the shoulders of scholars every time they read their Bibles.

No, because none of these archaeological finds have resulted in altering our conclusions about any of the core doctrinal truths from previous centuries. The most fundamental truths of the Scriptures have never been lost nor forgotten.

Yes, because long forgotten information is coming to light. Scholars are learning how the ancients viewed the world and what their daily lives were like. Their idioms, traditions and culture are being rediscovered and this helps us to know where some of the hard to understand pieces of the “biblical puzzle” fit. New information about the Bible is still being discovered which deepens our understanding of it. Thanks to these ancient extra-biblical texts and artifacts, scholars are helping us to have a more nuanced understanding of the Bible so that passages like Genesis 1-2 can be placed in their ancient context helping us to have a better understanding of the text.

I don’t need no stinking scholars

The “I just read the Bible and I don’t need scholars” crowd forgets that they stand on the shoulders of scholars every time they read their Bibles. Scholars translated the ancient Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into English. Scholars have researched and discovered what the ancient words mean. After all, no ancient equivalent of Daniel Webster has left us a dictionary. Scholars in the form of archaeologists have dug up the past and have uncovered a wealth of information, the analysis of which is ongoing.

Are there poor biblical scholars? Yes. Are there unbelieving, even heretical biblical scholars? Yes. However, there is an abundance of good, competent, Bible believing, and God fearing biblical scholars. We must “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1) and let undeserving suspicion give way to an honest examination of their ideas. Let’s not forget that the Apostle Paul was a highly educated man who was a world class scholar in his day. Like scholars today, he was also accused of being driven mad from much learning (Acts 26:24).

Rediscovering the biblical past

As Christians and Bible students, we must deal honestly with the Scriptures. Failure to do so results in a version of Christianity which is nothing more than folk religion which is based as much on superstition and tradition as the Scriptures. Error must give way to “book, chapter, and verse.” If I can’t prove it by the Scripture, it has no place in my biblical world view no matter what beloved pastor, Sunday School teacher or relative put it there. If there is a reluctance to rely on ancient non-biblical literature as a Bible study aid, we must remember that we aren’t dealing with new and highly suspect knowledge, but with ancient forgotten knowledge which has been rediscovered.