Opening Up the Bible1

2. Where Did the Bible Come From?

St. Paul Lutheran Church, Cambridge ON

Sunday April 27 2008

10:00 a.m.

Children's Message

-Last Sunday,

we started learning about the Bible

in a series called “Opening Up the Bible.”

-Hopefully you remember me saying

that before the Bible was written down

and gathered into a book,

the Bible was told as stories

shared around a campfire.

-I want each of you

to have your own Bible Book

so that each week

we can add to it

as we learn more about the Bible.

-So for each of you,

I have a booklet

which you can put together at home.

-Adriana and Daniel have already put theirs together

to show you what it will look like....

-Each week I'll give you another page

to put into your Bible Book.


Thank you God, for helping the Church to put together the Bible so that we can learn about you from stories of the past. Thank you for coming to us through the words of the Bible, and help us all want to be met by you in Scripture. Amen.


-Last week we began a sermon series

called “Opening Up the Bible.”

-We noted that we got the Bible

through a long process of discernment and inspiration.

-Stories, traditions, songs, wise sayings, poetry,

and prophetic words

were first told,

and much later written down.

-These writings

were then laboriously and carefully copied by hand,


and preserved.

-Over centuries,

Jews and Christians

gradually sifted through the possibilities of writings,

eventually choosing

those that would be considered Scripture.

-Those choices, as well,

were laboriously and carefully copied by hand,

circulated, and preserved.


we read translations of these copies.

-And last week in the “Sending Thought”

I suggested that if the translation you read

is still the King James version,

it's probably time that you update your Bible

so that you don't have to translate the translation.

-Hopefully you've brought your favourite Bible

with you to worship this week.

-If not, there's always next Sunday.

-Today we begin looking at highlights throughout


so that we have a good overview of the Bible.

-The title of our Scriptures, “The Bible,”

comes from the Greek word biblia

which means “little scrolls.”

-It refers to the separate rolls of leather parchment

on which the first writings of scripture were written.

-But our Bible is not really a single book;

it's a collection of 66 books.

-It's a library.

-39 of these books are in the Old Testament,

sometimes called the “First Testament,”

meaning First Witness.

-Because this First Testament was written in Hebrew

it is also referred to as “The Hebrew Scriptures.”

-The Old Testament

describes God's relationship with all creation,

and with the Jewish people,

whom God chose for a special relationship.

-The back part of our Bible

is called the “New Testament”,

Second Testament,”

or –

because these books were originally written in Greek –

the “Greek Scriptures.”

-The Greek Scriptures are made up of 27 books,

many of which were originally letters,

and include four narratives about Jesus:

the 4 Gospels.

-The Greek Scriptures refer to events from the time of Jesus' birth through the next 70 or so years.

-Today we'll start with the first chapters of the

Hebrew Scriptures,

from the book of Genesis,

which means “Beginnings.”

-Before we look at the text of the Bible,

I'd like you to recall what it is that you know

about the biblical version of creation....

-You may remember that the Bible opens

with God's Spirit brooding over a watery chaos....

-You may recollect

that there was a certain order in which God created,

and that creation was accomplished over 6 days

with God resting on the 7th day....

-Try and recall

just how it was that Adam and Eve

fit into the process of creation....

-Now, let's turn to the biblical text.

-Those who have Bibles with them

can turn to Genesis chapter 1 verse 1,

and you'll read that Genesis opens with a watery chaos,

in total darkness,

until God creates the first thing: light.

-The people who told the story

that became the first chapter of Genesis,

lived 3000 years ago,

and viewed the earth as flat,

with the sky as a bowl-shape,

held up by the mountains”2:

Genesis 1:6-8 (NRSV) tells us:

6 God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. 8 God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.”

-On the third day, begining at verse 9,

land rises up out of the water.

-This is the kind of picture one would get

living in Egypt at the Nile River,

and watching sediment build up in the mouth

of the river

to form the Nile Delta.

-In verse 11,

this newly-risen dry land grows vegetation.

-On the fourth day, starting with verse 14,

God creates stars, sun, and moon –

somehow there was light before the sun was created.

-On the fifth day, God creates sea creatures and birds:

verse 20.

-Day six begins with God creating land animals

and then humans,

who are uniquely created in God's image

as rulers with authority over creation.3

-God gives them every plant for food,

and then rests on the 7th day

according to chapter 2 verse 2.

-In these opening verses of Genesis,

God is presented as a royal figure

so powerful that God simply speaks creation into being.

-The opening scene is watery chaos,

out of which land emerges.

-Sea creatures, birds, and then land animals come next.

-Humans are created last, after all the animals:

humans are, therefore, the crowning glory of creation.

-According to Genesis chapter 1,

humans have God's authority to rule over creation.

-Then a strange thing happens

in the early verses of chapter two.

-Up until now, the Creator has been called “God.”

-But now, part-way through chapter 2 verse 4,

the Creator is suddenly referred to

as “the Lord God.”4

-And God is addressed in that way –

as “the Lord God” –

until chapter 5 begins.

-Continuing on in chapter 2, now at verse 6,

we read that a stream rises “from the earth

and water[s] the whole face of the ground.”

-This is a scene more from desert life,

than from the Nile Delta kind of image.

-Here it's not land rising out of water

as in Genesis 1.9.

-Here in Genesis 2.6, it's the reverse:

water rises out of land.


before there is any vegetation in chapter two,

the Lord God creates a man

not male and female, but just male.

-After that in chapter 2 verse 8,

the Lord God creates vegetation.

-In Genesis chapter 15,

God created them the other way around:

vegetation before humans.

-Next, according to chapter 2 verse 19,

the Lord God creates land animals and birds,

and the man assists the Lord God

by naming the animals.

-No animal or bird seems suitable as a partner

for the man,

so the Lord God then uses one of the man's ribs

verse 22 –

and creates a woman.

-In Genesis chapter two,

water comes out of land.

-But in Genesis chapter one,

land arose out of the water.

-In Genesis chapter 2,

the man is created before vegetation,

and before the animals.

-But in the first chapter,

it's the other way around:


man is created last,

rather than first.

-In Genesis chapter 2, the Creator is referred to

as the Lord God;

in chapter 1, it's just “God.”

-What we have here

are two different accounts of creation!

-There are two different orders

in which things are created.

-The Creator is known by two different names,

and is presented in two very different concepts.6

-In the “Sending Thought” I'll say more

about how we think these two very different versions

came to be.

-Why on earth would we have a Bible

that tells us one thing in chapter 1,

and quite another in chapter 2?

-Either humans first appeared after the animals,

or they were created before.

-And why is it that in chapter one,

God is portrayed as a regal king with incredible power,

pretty much above and beyond creation;

while in chapter 2,

the Lord God is more of a sculptor

who kneels down to work in the dirt,

and lets the man name his artwork?

-Clearly, two different creation accounts.

-Reading Scripture carefully,

without preconceptions, and with an open mind,

makes it clear that the Bible was never meant

to tell us facts about how God created.


the facts would not differ from one author's account

to another.

-The Bible's intention is to tell us about God,

and about God's relationship with us.

-The Bible helps us to understand the role

in which we find ourselves:

as creatures with god-like powers

whom God has put in charge of creation.

-Reading Scripture carefully,

without preconceptions, and with an open mind,

allows us to avoid some of the nasty arguments

that have arisen

because of less-careful reading.

-Some Christians have not recognized

that the Bible opens with two very different accounts

of creation.

-So they've misunderstood the purpose of Scripture,

believing it to be as much about science

as about religion.

-These Christians have thereby pitted themselves

against scientists

who teach about an evolutionary process of creation,

taking place over millions of years, not a few days.

-Those Christians have missed out

on the marvels of creation

uncovered by scientists,

and those Christians have made it difficult

for anyone with a scientific bend

to take Christianity seriously!

-As a result, as Time Magazine reported,

an “antireligion position is being promoted

with increasing insistence

by scientists

angered by intelligent design”7 and creationism.

-All because some Christians

have unfortunate preconceptions

about what the Bible is,

incorrect assumptions

that could easily be corrected

through a careful reading of Scripture.

-The world would be a lot better place

if Christians hadn't pitted religion against science.

-For God knows,

science certainly needs religion

to help the discoveries of science

to be used for good.

-The world would be a lot better place

if Christians hadn't pitted religion against science.

-Christianity can certainly benefit

from an honest critique offered by science

to overcome preconceptions and prejudices.

-The world will be a better place

when all Christians

start reading Scripture carefully,

and allow the Bible itself

rather than our erroneous preconceptions –

to inform us about the Bible's role.

-Carefully reading

just the first two chapters of the Bible

makes it clear

that the Bible was never meant to tell us facts

about how God created.

-The Bible's intention, rather,

is to tell us about God,

about God's relationship with us,

and about the reality in which we find ourselves:

as creatures with god-like powers

whom God has put in charge of creation.

-This is how I pray we will benefit

in this series “Opening Up the Bible.” Amen.

#407 O Living Breath of God

Sending Thought

J, E, D, P: 4 Heads Are Better than One

for “Jehovah.”

The Benediction follows ....

1Jackie Nunns: Opening Up the Bible. 2004.

2“Opening Up the Bible”, page 12

3Biblical Studies Press. (2006; 2006). The NET Bible First Edition. Note 50 from Genesis 1.26

4with the name “Lord” in small caps, indicating it's the Hebrew word “Yahweh”, previously transliterated as “Jehovah.”

5Genesis 1.11 for vegetation, and Genesis 1.26 for humans

6In some translations of the Bible, there is a heading half-way through Genesis 2.4, indicating that what follows is, as one edition of the NRSV indicates, “Another Account of the Creation.” Headings like that aren't in the original texts; they're simply added as helpful kinds of bookmarks, and are not to be treated as Scripture.


8The Story of the Bible: How the World's Bestselling Book Came to Be. Alyson Huntly, editor. Wood Lake Books1998. Page 47 “Four Sources – J, E, D, P”