Chapter 3:

Getting Acquainted with God’s Word

If you open your Bible to the table of contents, you will notice that it is divided into two main sections, often called the "Old" and "New" Testaments. The older part was written mostly in Hebrew, so we call it the "Hebrew Scriptures." The later portion was written by followers of Christ in the international language of its time, Greek, so we refer to it as the "Christian Greek Scriptures."

The Bible was written in the Middle East starting about 3500 years ago. All of it was written or compiled by the descendents of a man named Abraham. Despite this, the Bible does not teach that God approves only of those in one privileged family or nation. —see Acts 10.34, 35, Mark 13.10, Isa 56.6, 7.

Some say that we need only the "New Testament" now, but actually the "Old Testament" is not outdated or of interest to Jews only. These two parts complement each other. Many prophecies in the first part were fulfilled in the Christian scriptures, and there are some prophecies that are only now undergoing fulfillment. Also, many teachings in Christianity can only be understood with knowledge of details found in the Law and history of Israel.

The Bible is, in fact, a library of 66 books, written by 40 different men over a period of 1,600 years (from about 1500 BCE to about 100 CE). Many of these men stated outright that what they wrote was from God. [2 Sam 23.2, Joel 1.1, etc] Some books are largely an account of events (Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua through Nehemiah, Acts), some give detailed laws (Leviticus, Deuteronomy), three are mostly poetry or songs (Job, Psalms, Song of Solomon), many are warnings, judgments and prophecy (Isaiah through Malachi, Revelation). Four recount the life of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), twenty-one are counsel and exhortation by his apostles (Romans through Jude). Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are the distilled wisdom of Solomon.

For many years the Bible had what would seem a very precarious existence. It was hand-written on perishable materials and had many powerful enemies, including wicked clergymen, who tried very hard to destroy it. Yet it inspired such loyalty and devotion that many risked their lives to copy it laboriously by hand so that it would survive. After the printing press was invented, copies could be made faster than enemies could destroy them. Today you may have several Bibles in your home. Do you appreciate the effort it took to make that possible?

You may be wondering why any clergyman would want God’s Word destroyed. Well, the Bible is very straightforward in condemning false teachings and those who would raise themselves up to oppress their fellowmen. [for example, see Matt 23.1-12.] Yet often the church hierarchies have conspired with political rulers to maintain systems that enabled them to live in luxury off the slavish labor of the common people. We still see such systems in place in some nations today. One way to pacify the people is to teach them that such an arrangement is "God’s ordaining," the way things are supposed to be. Anyone with access to the Bible would quickly find this to be a damnable lie; hence the efforts to deny the common people access. —James 5.1-6, Jer 22.13-17.

Today the Bible is readily available, but few people read it. Many of the clergy continue, in ways both subtle and not so subtle, to discourage careful Bible reading. But do not let anyone hinder you from learning all that God has revealed in his word.

Of course, many people of their own accord avoid reading the Bible, because they know it condemns what they themselves are doing. But how foolish it is to miss out on the wonders it holds just to cling to some dirty habit!

Are Bibles Today True To The Original?

The Bible has been translated into almost every language on earth. In English there are at least 10 versions commonly available, and many others have been published. Why so many? you may ask. It is not easy to translate all the fine nuances of Hebrew and Greek into English. Every new translation represents the effort of a different group of translators to bring out the meaning in a way that you and I can understand and appreciate. It is therefore often helpful to compare several translations when trying to understand a difficult verse or teaching.

Sometimes translators allow their prejudices (or ignorance) to color their rendering of a verse here and there. This can be discovered by making comparison to other versions. However, even in Bibles with these few defective verses, it is easily possible to come to a correct understanding simply by taking into account the many other verses that testify on the subject involved. Specific examples will come up in later chapters of this book.

Some have said that we cannot rely on the Bible’s accuracy because it was copied by hand for so many centuries, and this allowed copyist mistakes (such as missed or mispelled words) to accumulate. It is true that some mistakes have been noticed in the old hand-written copies still in existence. Most of these mistakes are of no consequence. For example, did you notice that the word "mispelled" above was misspelled? The error did not lead to a wrong understanding, did it? The same is true of most scribal errors. Further, copying was done in many nations. An error in one copy is rarely found in another, except for copies of the defective copy itself. There are literally thousands to check by. So it has been a fairly easy matter to discern what the original reading was.

When the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, it became possible to compare the modern readings of several books of the Hebrew scriptures with those much older versions. Although the Scrolls were a thousand years older than the next newer copies available, only very small differences were found, mostly variations in spelling. This testifies to the extreme care that copyists took to do their work well. It also confirms our faith that God was watching over his Word to see that it remained available to mankind. —Ps 12.6, 7.

Is The Bible Really Inspired Of God?

Obviously, it claims to be. The only way for you to become convinced of it is to become acquainted with it. That is the purpose of this book. Here we will name 5 reasons to believe that the Bible is indeed inspired. As you study the Bible, you will find these proven true many times over. As a mnemonic, we have arranged them for this sentence: "HAPPIness comes to those who obey God’s word."

H stands for Harmony. Despite being written by 40 men over 1,600 years, the Bible is not a hodge-podge of conflicting views. Rather, it presents a harmonious view of God and his purposes. Of course, in casual reading, some get a different impression. Some search the Bible just to find difficulties, so as to dismiss it. Yet for every supposed contradiction of any substance, reasonable persons have found logical explanations. Only minor contradictions remain (such as variations in numbers given in parallel accounts of an event) and these can be explained as viewpoint difference or later scribal error; none affect the overall meaning.

One "contradiction" often put forth is "where did Cain get his wife?" The Bible says Adam and Eve were the first humans. Then they had two sons. Cain, their first son, killed his brother Abel and was banished to a distant land. There, the King James version says, he "knew his wife". (Gen 4:8-17) Because no other children were mentioned, the casual reader assumes that this wife, and the other people Cain thought might harm him, were from some pre-existing population; so they jump to the conclusion the Bible is wrong about Adam being the first man, and so what else can we trust in it? The solution lies in trusting the Bible when it says at Gen 3:20, 'Eve was to be the mother of everyone.' Hence Eve must also be the mother of Cain's wife*; the fact that his wife's birth is not mentioned explicitly does not prove it did not occur. This is fully as logical as the other explanation, and has the advantage of not requiring we discard the greatest Book ever written and declare its account of God a myth. Of course those determined to do that will choose the view that satisfies them. Granted, the story would have been 'neater' from our vantage point if every pertinent detail had been included; unfortunately, you will find that the Bible often leaves it to the reader to assume certain details as obvious. We have what we have, and when you meet your Maker you may complain, if so inclined at that time.

View of whole Earth in space

A stands for Accuracy. When the Bible mentions a city or nation, it really existed. Time and again archaeologists have had to retract claims of Bible error when they finally found and confirmed the places mentioned. The same is true of persons, events and dates. Even in matters of science, the Bible has proved true. For example, it said the earth was a "circle" or globe, and was "hanging upon nothing," at a time it was common belief that the earth was flat and carried by a giant. —Job 26.7, Isa 40.22.

P the first P stands for Practical. When the laws and principles of the Bible are carefully and conscientiously applied, the quality of life is vastly improved. It leads to peace, prosperity, improved health, and contentment. For example, the world considers marital fidelity unimportant, but the Bible requires it. How much heartache and violence would be avoided by being faithful! The Bible teaches honesty. How many trillions of dollars spent on security fences, locks, surveillance systems, weapons and the like could be saved if this were respected? Is the Bible impractical for expecting such virtues? No. Millions have lived by these principles at least to some extent, and the result is: Civilization. Today’s world is worried because so many have abandoned the civilizing virtues. The Bible is not to blame for that. It still says the same thing it always has.

P the second P stands for Prophecy. The greatest proof that the Bible is really from God is its perfect record in foretelling the future. It has foretold major events important to world history, things which are now a matter of record: they came true. The exactness is so remarkable that some insist that the prophecies were written after the event. Yet that has been proven false. For example, there were many details concerning the life of Jesus foretold in scripture unquestionably written before his lifetime: that he would be born in Bethlehem, of a virgin; that he would be unjustly condemned as a criminal, that lots would be cast for his garments, and many more things. These details were noticed and recorded by Jesus’ disciples. Were they lying? No; some of these matters can be confirmed from independent sources. —Micah 5.2, Matt 2.1-6; Isa 7.14, Matt 1.18-23; Isa 53.12, Luke 22.37, 52, 23.32, 33; Ps 22.18, Matt 27.35.

A great prophecy is being fulfilled in our lifetime. This one you can check for accuracy yourself. It is considered in detail in Chapter 9.

I stands for Integrity. The Bible writers lived by the standards they believed in. They did not whitewash events to flatter rulers or to make themselves look good. They risked death, indeed some did die, for daring to write what they did. A person who knows he is lying is cowardly; he is unwilling to take the risk of being truthful. These men were both honest and courageous. The terrible sins of the nation and its leaders that they exposed are confirmed by archaeology and by the independent historical record. This gives us confidence that everything they wrote was true, yes, that it was inspired by God. —see Acts 5.27-33, Hebrews 11.32-38.

In this book you will find that we accept what the Bible says trustingly, without skepticism. That does not mean we take everything literally. The Bible uses many figures of speech; in fact, expressing abstract ideas with concrete things is inherent in the Hebrew language and in Jewish thought. Most of these symbolisms are obvious (for example, John 1.29: Jesus was not really a small woolly animal). Many Bible readers have come to unreasonable or contradictory conclusions because of improperly taking symbolisms literally. How can one know, if it is not clear at once? The only way is to assemble the Bible testimony on the subject: collect many related references together and compare them. This will almost always make it easy to discern what is literal and what is not. Occam's Razor helps: the simplest explanation (with fewest complications) is usually correct. —1 Thess 2.13

Logic, Science, and the Bible

The Bible is subject to reasonable understanding. For example, 1 Cor 13:5 says "love does not become provoked." Yet, although "God is love" (the very zenith of its expression; 1 John 4:8), he can be provoked to wrath (Deut 9:7, 8). Or "love is not jealous" (1 Cor 13:4), but God is Jealous (Exodus 34:14). Likewise, "love believes all things" (1 Cor 13:7). Of course it does not believe vicious slander! Either there is a contradiction (which is what mockers assert) or it has to be understood reasonably, and not taken absolutely, exactly as stated. Unbending literalists who read scripture exactly, without thinking, often make themselves look foolish and unreasonable. Those who listen to them may get the impression that the Bible is irrational and quit trying to understand it, to their loss.

Of course, some go to the opposite extreme, conjuring up mystical hidden meanings from what really are simple straightforward statements or accounts, disdaining the obvious explanation as unsophisticated. Such "philosophers" often are more interested in looking smart to others than in truly understanding the passage. Those who listen to them may get the impression that the Bible is too complex for ordinary mortals and quit trying to understand it for themselves, to their loss. They may then let the "philosopher" guide them, which was his aim.

The balanced approach is to assume first that it is trustworthy, worth diligent consideration. God gave you a brain to use; you are not required to suspend logic in order to believe His word. Read it thoughtfully, looking for lessons to learn, principles to apply to yourself. Be aware that a passage may have layers of meaning, some obvious, some not. These will never be contradictory, but it can get very deep. For example, scripture itself says that some events served as prophetic scenarios (Gal 4:22-26). Yet, everything connects sensibly; if a piece doesn't seem to fit, either you are missing a detail that connects them or you have misfitted something earlier. Be patient; some things only God will uncover at the right time. And as mentioned in chapter 2 and discussed in chapter 12, he has a faithful people that he has unified, educated and organized to instruct those whom he is drawing to himself. No, they don't know it all. In fact, they may have some flawed understanding themselves (more on that in chapter 12) but he uses them anyway. They are not like the "philosophers" mentioned above; their explanations make sense, and more important, will not mislead you into doing anything God condemns.

In accepting what the Bible says, we never have to deny reality. Science, the study of what can be tested, is composed of careful reasoning on meticulous measurements of physical objects and forces. It is imperfect, colored by the prejudices and limitations of the people involved, but at least we can be confident that the Hindu view is wrong, namely, that reality is all in your head, an illusion, what is true is nothing more than what you believe. The Bible presents itself as a book rooted in real events, extraordinary but plausible even when the supernatural realm is involved. We have to allow that there are forces and places beyond our experience (actually scientists should know that better than most) but even these have a logical consistency. Some people answer all tough questions by saying "with God all things are possible." (Matt 19:26) Actually, that's not strictly true, since scripture plainly says he cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Let us consider an example.

When the science of geology (the study of this planet's structure) was young, evidence of massive changes in earth's surface were all attributed to a single event related in the Bible: the Great Deluge of Noah's day. Further examination proved this explanation untenable: layers of sediment going down over a mile deep were clearly not laid down in single year. In these layers were found fossils of animals and plants, each layer differing from the others. Was it reasonable to think that a single flood had sorted everything so neatly, since floods tend to mix things up quite thoroughly? Some, incapable of letting obvious evidence instruct them, have said that God had the Flood do that miraculously, to conceal the evidence and confound the infidel scientists. H'mm... This would make God out to be a liar. Wonder whose idea that would be?

Getting back to the real world, using various careful dating methods researchers have concluded that the historical period (only about the past 5 or 6 thousand years, if we exclude anything that has to be dated indirectly) is not at all deep compared to these other layers. Since the Bible's account places the Flood at 2370 BC— a mere blip in geologic time— whatever effect it had on the topology of the land has to be rather close to the surface. It is not at all unreasonable or irreverent to ask, what effect would such a Flood have had on the landscape, and do we see it? The Flood story says that the water took only 40 days to cover every mountain on the planet, and kept them covered for over 7 months. Then the water drained completely off all the land in about 3 months more. Noah and his passengers disembarked 2 months after that. —see Genesis 7 and 8.

It really boggles the mind to think of water 5 miles deeper than the present oceans (enough to cover Everest). Where did it all go? Some suggest that the oceans weren't so deep then, nor the tallest mountains so very high. That is a postulate that is testable, so what is the evidence? We know that the Himalayas are among the youngest ranges on earth, upthrust too recently to be eroded soft and rounded like the Appalachian range in America. Not knowing the details, one might accept that they could have been somewhat lower a mere 4000 years ago. Could the Flood, by dumping a vast amount of water on the surface of the earth, cause the weaker seafloor to fall, tectonic plates to shift, and mountain ranges to be thrust up? It is an idea. But there are significant mountains clearly much older than the Himalayas, so those, at least, had to have been there. Ararat comes to mind, no little hill.

Grand Canyon/NASA photo
Grand Canyon from space: NASA photo

That much water coming down from the sky and up from "the springs of deep waters" so quickly, then flowing away so abruptly, would surely do tremendous damage. (Think tsunami millionfold.) It would cause washes like the Grand Canyon. Scientists say that that immense canyon formed very slowly by gradual erosion from a rather minor river. They could be wrong; if the tableland had been widely fractured first, perhaps this canyon (and the few others like it) could have appeared rapidly. Of course, if a canyon is sinuous, meandering in riverine fashion across unbroken flat land, it has to have formed more slowly. A torrential flood would more likely erase an existing meander rather than deepen it.*

It is interesting that Noah relates that the tallest mountain was covered to a depth of 15 cubits (about 22 feet). For a mountain, let's say, 17,000 feet high (Ararat today) that means it was overwhelmed by a factor of .0017, or 1/772 of its height— just barely made it! As described, the ark might have had a draft of about 22 feet, so one could wonder if this was simply Noah's way of saying that the ark didn't ground on anything at the time, and looking out, he couldn't see any mountains, just water as far as the horizon, or the mist and clouds. Or did God inform him, "there is one mountain [Everest] far far away that is covered to a depth of 22 feet," putting nearby Ararat a good 2 miles underwater? Which suggestion seems more plausible?

What are we trying to say? That the Flood is a myth? Not at all. Jesus clearly spoke of it as a real event and as a warning that something even greater is to come. (Matt 24:37-42) God exists, men ruined their world, God acted, those men perished. Abundant violent water was involved, only those in a protected vessel survived. Those basic features of the story cannot be disproved by physical evidence. But clear and reasonable evidence shows that some of the peripheral details must be incomplete as related. We should not have to deny sound evidence in order to have faith.

Some have thought that since the flood was the fall of water accumulated in the upper atmosphere, the world was warm like a greenhouse before that, that it was temperate to the poles. To them this explains the verse that seems to say there was no rain until the Flood (Gen 2:5, 6). Unfortunately, there is strong evidence against that interpretation. Many rivers are clearly older than 4000 years, and great rivers are not fed entirely by dew. They require either rain or snowmelt. The fact that the same rivers existed before and after (as Genesis itself says) militates against that severe a climate change or landform adjustment. Further, we know woolly mammoths existed before the Flood. Why were they woolly? Because it was cold where they lived. From the food found in their stomach we know what they ate: subarctic flora, which is cold-climate vegetation. Clearly, many died in freezing floods alongside watercourses that still exist. If these quick-frozen remains date that far back (and scientists of course date them as much older), to produce them the Flood would have had to change the local climate from very chilly and damp to a hard permafrost lasting for centuries, yet not damage the landscape very deeply. It does not look like it was 5 miles underwater for a year.

On the rescue of all the animals: there is an enormous variety of species on earth, many of them being unique to isolated islands and continents, far away from Noah. For example, Madagascar has numerous odd animals found nowhere else, and fossils prove that these have been there longer than 5,000 years. Nor is there any indication of an abrupt break in the kinds of species there. Did God bring to Noah all these thousands of minor variations, then send them all back to their ecological niches afterward, and miraculously recreate their homelands just for them? That does not seem reasonable.

So did Noah save animals or not? Of course he did. Anything less would eviscerate the story; that is one of the key elements. Clearly the deluge was sufficient to eliminate all the people God wanted dead, which meant it was a truly terrible event, so it did heavy damage to the land animal population as well. For his sake, God had Noah save a starter set of animals. As far as Noah knew, nothing else survived anywhere, so that is how he wrote the story. The physical evidence indicates that far away, where no people lived, God made other provision for many animals. That in fact would have been far easier for him than to cram every species in existence on the whole planet into a tiny box and then redistribute them back (including across vast oceans, so not by walking!) exactly where they came from afterward.

Some suggest that the ark contained only representatives of each family, say one kind of primate, one kind of canine, etc. Such a near-total loss of biodiversity would readily be discernable in the fossil record, unless it was extremely brief. There is, in fact, strong evidence of not just one, but several global extinction events; not that utterly extreme, but with permanent loss of species.* If there had been an extreme biodiversity bottleneck (not to mention habitat holocaust) a mere 4,500 years ago, then to account for the continuity of species we see in the record, God would have had to quickly repopulate all the farflung corners of the earth just as they were before the Flood, re-creating all the multitudes of species and subspecies and carefully rebuilding all their unique habitats, even some very delicate environments like river deltas and rain forests, down to the exact location of marshes and forests. Could he have done that? Sure, he can do anything. But would he have? That would be hiding the evidence of his bringing the Flood. Why would he do that?

In trying to balance solid scientific evidence with the Flood story, we can take one of three choices: (1)The story is false, and with it collapses the rest of the Bible. The Bible becomes no more than the wisdom of men, mixed with a lot of myth and fable. This is the choice many make, but it is wrong. (2) The story is absolutely perfect as written. Ignore physical evidence, do not examine it or trust it, it will only mislead you. Close your eyes, cover your ears and hum loudly if anyone wants to reason with you. Or drive them away, they are infidels. This is the choice made by the bug-eyed Bible-thumper and the terrorist fanatic, but it dishonors God. (3) The story was fundamentally accurate from the perspective of its writer; something like that actually happened. Still, there are details not included in the story as it came to us, observable reality that it does not account for. In that sense it is incomplete, but understood correctly, it has not been invalidated. The lesson it teaches is still critically important today. This is the rational and faithful choice.

This may be the thorniest example of a Bible account that is hard to square with solid evidence. We discuss this not to damage your faith but to make it more resilient. We will not tell you to ignore science. On the other hand, be careful not to trust it blindly either. Highly interpretive sciences such as archaeology and paleontology are naturally more subject to bias than harder sciences such as physics and chemistry. Beware that some scientists are not as neutral as they claim: some hate faith and will twist their "research" to break it. But most are more agnostic; they are just trying to see what is real, what is there, not trying to prove anyone wrong or right. Their conclusions may be tentative, but the objects they find and the measurements they make are usually not lies. God permits Satan to lie as loudly as he wants, but He doesn't allow him to warp reality itself. Therefore, our faith should not simply ignore it. You can believe the Bible and be a scientist too.

Let us now look into God's Word to learn about God himself.

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Acts 10.34, 35
At this Peter began to speak, and said: “Now I truly see that God is not partial, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

Mark 13.10
Also, in all the nations the good news has to be preached first.

Isa 56.6, 7
As for the foreigners who join themselves to Jehovah to minister to him, to love the name of Jehovah and to be his servants, all those who keep the Sabbath and do not profane it and who hold fast to my covenant, I will also bring them to my holy mountain and make them rejoice inside my house of prayer. Their whole burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar. For my house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.

2 Sam 23.2
The spirit of Jehovah spoke through me, and his word was upon my tongue.
Joel 1.1
The word of Jehovah that came to Joel the son of Pethu'el:

Matt 23.1-12
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the seat of Moses. Therefore, all the things they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds, for they say but they do not practice what they say. They bind up heavy loads and put them on the shoulders of men, but they themselves are not willing to budge them with their finger. All the works they do, they do to be seen by men, for they broaden the scripture-containing cases that they wear as safeguards and lengthen the fringes of their garments. They like the most prominent place at evening meals and the front seats in the synagogues and the greetings in the marketplaces and to be called Rabbi by men. But you, do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your Teacher, and all of you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called leaders, for your Leader is one, the Christ. But the greatest one among you must be your minister. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

James 5.1-6
Come, now, you rich, weep and wail over the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothing has become moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded away, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh. What you have stored up will be like a fire in the last days. Look! The wages you have withheld from the workers who harvested your fields keep crying out, and the cries for help of the reapers have reached the ears of Jehovah of armies. You have lived on the earth in luxury and selfish pleasure. You have fattened your hearts on the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one. Is he not opposing you?

Jer 22.13-17
Woe to the one who builds his house without righteousness and his upper rooms without justice, who makes his fellow man serve him for nothing, whose wages he refuses to pay; the one saying, ‘I will build for myself a roomy house with spacious upper rooms. I will fit it with big windows and panel it with cedar and paint it bright reddish orange.’ Will you continue reigning because you outdo others in your use of cedar? Your father also ate and drank, but he upheld justice and righteousness, and it went well with him. He defended the legal claim of the afflicted one and the poor one, so that it went well. “Is that not what it means to know me?” declares Jehovah. “But your eyes and heart are set only on your dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on committing fraud and extortion.”

Ps 12.6,7
The sayings of Jehovah are pure, like silver refined in an earthen furnace, purified seven times. You will guard them, O Jehovah; you will protect each one from now until forever.

Job 26.7
He stretches out the northern sky over empty space, suspending the earth upon nothing.

Isa 40.22
There is One who is dwelling above the circle of the earth, and [compared to Him] its inhabitants are like grasshoppers...

Micah 5.2
You, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, the one too little to be among the thousands of Judah, from you there will come out for me the one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from ancient times, from the days of long ago.

Matt 2.1-6
After Jesus had been born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, look! astrologers from the East came to Jerusalem, saying: “Where is the one born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when we were in the East, and we have come to do obeisance to him.” At hearing this King Herod was agitated, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him: “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is how it has been written through the prophet: ‘And you, O Bethlehem of the land of Judah, are by no means the most insignificant city among the governors of Judah, for out of you will come a governing one, who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Isa 7.14
Therefore Jehovah himself will give you a sign: Look! The maiden herself will actually become pregnant and will give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel.

Matt 1.18-23
But this is how the birth of Jesus Christ took place. During the time his mother Mary was promised in marriage to Joseph, she was found to be pregnant by holy spirit before they were united. However, because her husband Joseph was righteous and did not want to make her a public spectacle, he intended to divorce her secretly. But after he had thought these things over, look! Jehovah's angel appeared to him in a dream, saying: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take your wife Mary home, for what has been conceived in her is by holy spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All of this actually came about to fulfill what was spoken by Jehovah through his prophet, saying: “Look! The virgin will become pregnant and will give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel,” which means, when translated, ‘With Us Is God.’

Isa 53.12
For that reason I will assign him a portion among the many, and he will apportion the spoil with mighty ones, because he poured out his life even to death and was counted among the transgressors; he carried the sin of many people, and he interceded for the transgressors.

Luke 22.37, 52
37 For I tell you that this which is written must be accomplished in me, namely, ‘He was reckoned with lawless ones.’ For this is being fulfilled concerning me.
52 Jesus then said to the chief priests and captains of the temple and older men who had come there for him: “Did you come out with swords and clubs as against a robber?”

Luke 23.32, 33
Two other men, criminals, were also being led off to be executed with him. And when they got to the place called Skull, they nailed him to the stake there alongside the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

Ps 22.18
They divide my garments among themselves, and they cast lots for my clothing.
Matt 27.35
When they had nailed him to the stake, they distributed his outer garments by casting lots.

Acts 5.27-33
So they brought them and stood them in the Sanhedrin hall. Then the high priest questioned them and said: "We strictly ordered you not to keep teaching upon the basis of this name, and yet, look! you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you are determined to bring the blood of this man upon us." In answer Peter and the other apostles said: "We must obey God as ruler rather than men. The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, whom you killed, hanging him upon a stake. God exalted this one as Chief Agent and Savior to his right hand, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses of these matters, and so is the holy spirit, which God has given to those obeying him as ruler." When they heard this, they became very angry and were wanting to do away with them.

Hebrews 11.32-38
And what more shall I say? For the time will fail me if I go on to relate about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David as well as Samuel and the other prophets, who through faith defeated kingdoms in conflict, brought about righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, stayed the force of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from a weak state were made powerful, became valiant in war, routed invading armies. Women received their dead by resurrection; but other men were tortured because they would not accept release by some ransom, in order that they might attain a better resurrection. Yes, others received their trial by mockings and scourgings, indeed, more than that, by chains and prisons. They were stoned, they were tried, they were sawn in two, they were slaughtered with the sword, they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, while they were in want, in tribulation, mistreated; and the world was not worthy of them. They wandered about in deserts and mountains and caves and dens of the earth.

John 1.29
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and he said: “See, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Another example of an expression not to be taken too exactly is found at Mark 1.5:
"All the territory of Judea and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem made their way out to him [John the Baptizer], and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River, openly confessing their sins."

Taken literally, John baptized millions of people, including the chief priests and everyone who despised and ridiculed him, and all the Roman officials and legionnaires as well. Only a fanatic would insist that is what happened, because that is what it says and it must be believed exactly as written. Generally speaking, any verse that uses an absolute expression ('all' or 'none' or the like) should be understood with the absolute moderated by context and reason. The absolute is often used as merely an intensifier, a method of emphasis, not as a precise measurement.
Another figure of speech that illustrates how ludicrous it would be to always take the scriptures literally is at Isaiah 60:16. Describing the blessings God would bring to a restored Israel, it says, "you will drink the milk of nations, at the breast of kings you will nurse." Think about it. Queens maybe, but kings? Clearly figurative!

1 Thess 2.13
When you received God’s word, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it truthfully is, as the word of God.

1 Cor 13:4-7
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous. It does not brag, does not get puffed up, does not behave indecently, does not look for its own interests, does not become provoked. It does not keep account of the injury. It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Deut 9:7, 8
[Moses reminded the Israelites:] "Remember—never forget—the way you provoked Jehovah your God in the wilderness. From the day that you left the land of Egypt until your coming to this place, you have rebelled against Jehovah. Even in Horeb you provoked Jehovah, and Jehovah was so angry with you that he was ready to annihilate you."

Exodus 34:14
You must not bow down to another god, for Jehovah is known for requiring exclusive devotion. Yes, he is a God who requires exclusive devotion. [many translations use the word "jealous" for "requiring exclusive devotion", as they basically mean the same thing, but jealousy does have additional negative connotation, which is the point Paul was making to the Corinthians. True love does expect loyalty, but it is not obsessively possessive.]

Gal 4:22-26
For example, it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the servant girl [Hagar] and one by the free woman [Sarah]; the one by the servant girl was born through natural descent, the other by the free woman through a [divine] promise. These things stand as a symbolic drama; for these women mean two covenants, the one from Mount Sinai [the Law], which bears children for slavery and which is Hagar. Now Hagar means Sinai, a mountain in Arabia, and she corresponds with the Jerusalem today, for she is in slavery with her children [the Jews who cling to the Law]. But the Jerusalem above [the New covenant which replaces the Law] is free, and she is our mother.

The New covenant (which in turn represents the entire arrangement* that it establishes) is figuratively "mother" of anointed Christians, just as the Law (and the holy nation it established) was figurative "mother" of the people of Israel. This draws from the poetic depiction in Isaiah of literal Jerusalem (as symbol of the nation) as "mother" to her citizens, particularly in chapters 54, 60, and 62. This is multilayered symbolism, which illustrates the point of how deep some scriptures are. To understand it fully, one must be familiar with the original stories and background.

*The New Jerusalem, located "above" (on a "Mt Zion" in heaven), represents the Kingdom government that brings divine rule to the earth (as described in Revelation 21:2-4). There the city is figuratively Jesus' wife. This does not create a contradiction, where Christians are simultaneously Jesus' children and his wife. Paul's figures of speech work in their context (all Christians, included those selected for heaven, are "children" of Christ, and those selected to be the new Israel are "sons" of that kingdom), and John's independently in his (those chosen to reign with Christ together compose a figurative "wife" to him). The Kingdom is discussed further in chapter 6 of this book; more detail on these covenants is in this supplement.

Revelation 21:2-4, 9, 10:
I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. With that I heard a loud voice from the throne say: "Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his people. Yes, God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and there will be no death, no mourning, no outcry, nor pain anymore. The former things have passed away."
9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me: "Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife." So he carried me away in the power of the spirit to a great and lofty mountain, and he showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.

Titus 1:2
. . . based on a hope of the everlasting life that God, who cannot lie, promised long ago.

Matt 19:26 Jesus said to them: "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Genesis 7 and 8 (abridged to bring out essential point at hand)
After that Jehovah said to Noah: "Go, you and all your household, into the ark, because you are the one I have seen to be righteous before me among this generation. . . . 4 For in just seven days, I am making it rain upon the earth 40 days and 40 nights; and I will wipe every existing thing that I have made off the surface of the ground." . . . 11 In the 600th year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the 17th day of the month, on that day all the springs of the vast watery deep burst open and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And the downpour upon the earth went on for forty days and forty nights. . . . 17 And the deluge went on for 40 days on the earth, and the waters kept increasing and began carrying the ark and it was floating high above the earth. . . . 19 And the waters overwhelmed the earth so greatly that all the tall mountains that were under the whole heavens came to be covered. Up to fifteen cubits [22-25 feet, or 8 meters] the waters covered the mountains. So all creatures that were moving upon the earth died, the flying creatures, the domestic animals, the wild beasts, all creatures that swarm upon the earth, and all mankind. Everything on dry ground that had the breath of life in its nostrils died. So He wiped every living thing from the surface of the earth, including man, animals, creeping animals, and the flying creatures of the sky. They were all wiped off the earth; only Noah and those with him in the ark survived. And the waters continued overwhelming the earth for 150 days.
8 After that God . . . caused a wind to blow over the earth, and the waters began to subside. The springs of the watery deep and the floodgates of the heavens were stopped up, and the downpour from the heavens ended. Then the waters began gradually receding from off the earth, so at the end of 150 days more, the waters had subsided. In the seventh month, on the 17th day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. And the waters were steadily decreasing until the tenth month. In the tenth month, on the first of the month, the tops of the mountains appeared. So at the end of 40 days, Noah opened the window that he had made in the ark and sent out a raven; it continued flying outside and returning, until the waters dried off the earth. Later he sent out a dove . . . The dove did not find any resting-place to perch, so it returned to him into the ark because the waters were still covering the surface of the whole earth. So he reached his hand out and brought it inside the ark. Then he waited seven more days, and sent out the dove from the ark again. When the dove came to him toward evening, he saw that there was a freshly plucked olive leaf in its bill! So Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth. He waited still another seven days, and he sent out the dove, but it did not return to him anymore. Now in the 601st year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, the waters had drained from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was drying. In the second month, on the 27th day of the month, the earth had dried off.

Matt 24:37-40, 42
For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence* of the Son of man will be. For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be. . . 42 Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.

*literally, "being alongside", a word sometimes used in describing a visit by a king. Why Jesus used this word is explained in chapter 7. The point here is Jesus' use of Noah and the Flood as a serious warning for an even greater event, which he surely would not have done if the Flood never happened.

Gen 2:5, 6
No bush of the field was yet on the earth and no vegetation of the field had begun sprouting, because Jehovah God had not made it rain on the earth and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist would go up from the earth, and it watered the entire surface of the ground. 7 And Jehovah God went on to form the man out of dust . . .

This appears to be a parenthetical comment about agriculture, not vegetation entirely, since Gen 1:11 says that God created plants long before man; science concurs. Hence the reference to "rain" cannot be taken absolutely. Exactly what it does mean is not clear.
Some say that this is an insertion summarizing conditions before any vegetation was created on the third "day", with a tremendous leap in time into the next verse, where man is created, on the 6th "day". But that would be confusing, since there was no logical connection between the absence of man and the flourishing of abundant vegetation on the 3rd day. Rather than reject the whole story because of one aside that doesn't make easy sense, we simply let it go and not make too much of it. It was not an essential detail then nor is it now.

Review for Chapter 3

How is the Bible organized? (sections, books, subjects, etc)

Who have tried to suppress the Bible, and why?

Why are there so many translations, and what is their value?

Why can we be confident that the original text is not lost?

What are the 5 reasons we can accept the Bible as inspired of God? (Use the mnemonic "HAPPIness comes to those who obey God’s word")

How can we discern literal from symbolic expressions in the Bible?

What evidence exists that acts of God related in the Bible actually occurred?

Restore Scripture View

Of course, this meant Cain married a sister. This did not pose a danger to the offspring, due to the nearly flawless genes involved. Nor was it a sin; the first generation had to do that, because God did not create two first couples. God forbade it many centuries later, but clearly did not at that time. Note that Eve herself was a modified "clone" of Adam (to use modern terms). All together, this substantiates the essential point the Bible makes: all mankind are of "one blood". —Acts 17:26.
See this recent science news item.
As for widespread extinction events, these recent items are very interesting: Did A Comet Hit Great Lakes Region? and Extraterrestrial Impact Likely Source Of Sudden Ice Age Extinctions. The estimated date is about 9,000 years too early, but close enough to make one wonder: the Flood could have been triggered by a comet swarm strike. (Composed almost entirely of ice, the effect is far different from a meteorite.) Here is evidence of the people living at the time. Note the comment near the end. Another interesting flood-related page.