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Faulty Biblical Pictures

By Rob Holding

We have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing you are dull of hearing. For at a time when you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and have become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For everyone that uses milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: he is a babe. But strong meat belongs to those who are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14)

I spend way too much of my time debating the Bible with Christians. Frankly, it wears me out. Consequently, I don’t get to spend enough time discussing Jesus with non-Christians; because I’m too busy telling them that what those other Christians said the Bible says, isn’t what the Bible says.

A lot of our misunderstanding comes from the traditions of men. We believe a lot of what we believe, not because we read it for ourselves in the Bible, but because someone told us. One of Dr Chuck Missler’s common lines was, “Don’t simply believe what I say, be a good Berean (Acts 11) and check it out for yourself.” 

Let’s find out what that means.

The Bereans are found in Acts 17:1-11. They “searched the scriptures thoroughly” to see if what they were being told was scripturally accurate, that is, the truth. When was the last time you did that with a sermon?

Psalm 1 says that the man whose “delight is in the law of the LORD; and he meditates in that law day and night” will be mightily blessed. Someone who keeps their nose in the Bible is not going to be fooled by anyone who misuses scripture. They are going to be able to discern when someone handles it incorrectly. 

Signs, Wonders and New Age Theology

There was a man doing the rounds in the late 1990s who seemed to have everybody’s ear. I was in Christian radio at the time and I had people who I had considered mature Christians ring me and ask, “Why aren’t you following this man? This is the biggest move of God on the planet today.”

My answer was, that if it was a move of God – and I certainly wasn’t convinced that it was – then it was possibly the biggest move of God among white, middle class, English speaking, evangelical Christians with internet TV. What I said to many people at the time was; that’s simply not the way my Father works, and I can’t believe you have been fooled by it. 

Paul went through a similar thing in 2 Corinthians 10-11 with people boasting to the Corinthian church that they had done this thing and that – but with no hard evidence.

Recently, a young fellow on a Christian social media page recommended a certain video as being essential for Christian business people to watch. Being wary of many of these things, I flicked the video on and in less than 10 seconds was able to discern that it was certainly not Christian, but rather someone who combined a few selected biblical principles with some dangerous New Age teachings.

In the ensuing conversation with the young fellow I was asked if I had watched the whole video through. I said I didn’t really need to do that to discern that it wasn’t of God. Bank tellers recognise forgeries because they spend so much time with the original. When a teller finds a fake bank note they don’t have to go all over it looking for everything that is wrong, they only need to identify one thing that proves it is a forgery. 

We must be prepared to throw out what we believe if the Bible clearly contradicts it. But you are not going to know if the Bible contradicts it unless you know what the Bible actually says. And you’re not going to know that unless you are regularly, constantly reading your Bible.

Common Biblical Misconceptions

Let me show you how ingrained our misbeliefs are. We all acknowledge that God does not use words lightly, that He says things in the Bible in a specific way, and no word is there accidentally or unnecessarily. 

This picture is indicative of the common perception of the scene spoken of in Genesis chapter 3:1-6, yet nothing in these verses even suggests that the serpent was actually in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, nor that Eve was anywhere near it when they spoke. In fact, the exact opposite is inferred in Genesis 3:3 when Eve refers to the tree as being “in the middle of the garden”. She does not say, “this tree” or even, “that tree over there” but refers to something unseen. Neither does scripture say that Adam was with her when she was tempted, just that he was there when she ate it.

The picture we have in our minds is one that has been imposed upon us from outside the Bible.

Why is this important? 

I have seen numerous articles, teachings and books that talk about Adam reneging his authority as head of the household by not standing between Eve and the serpent. “Why didn’t Adam step forward and say, ‘No!’ and command the serpent to depart?” Quite simply, because he wasn’t there. 

This next picture is designed to make you believe the story of Noah’s ark is a fairy tale.

Obviously, this ark could not contain two of every kind of animal. The Bible says the Ark was about 500 feet long; which this one, obviously, is not. 

This is more accurate. 

How about this one: A well-known story prefiguring Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. What is wrong with this picture?

We nearly always have Isaac pictured as a child. And yet there is nothing to indicate that. The term ‘lad’ in the KJV is also used of Joseph in Genesis 41 when he was 30. Josephus conjectures that Isaac was 25 and various rabbinic writings have him at 37. If we are looking at a biblical type of Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary, then somewhere around 33 would certainly be appropriate.

I may seem to be belabouring the point, but it is important that we get our understanding of God from the Holy Spirit illuminating the scriptures to us as we read the Bible; and not from Sunday School pictures or popular perception.

Two more, very quickly 

Speaking of children, how about this famous picture of Samuel and Eli?

The main problem here is the solid wall of the building. This event took place at Shiloh in the tabernacle; the tent of meeting. It would be over 100 years before the temple was built by Solomon. 

You might say, “it doesn’t say here that it was definitely in a tent. They could have built a building for it.” And that is true, it doesn’t say it here, but it does say it elsewhere. We should always compare scripture with scripture. Psalm 78:60 tells us, “He [God] forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which He placed among men.” (And I’m not sure who this slim gentleman on the left is, but 1 Samuel 14:15-18 tells us Eli was a very fat, old man.) 

Finally, there is nothing in the Bible that suggests that David was the runt of the litter and still a little child when he faced Goliath. In 1 Samuel 16:18 he is described as “a mighty valiant man and a man of war.” We only get the thought of him being small from 1 Samuel 17:39 where David tried out King Saul’s armour. 

“And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.” 

The term used in its most simplistic form is that David had not tested the armour. His comment was not that it was too big; merely that he wasn’t used to it. And really, what king would put his adult armour on a kid and send him out to fight a giant?

What’s the point?

The point is that our greatest source of input is visual. This is why Jesus used so many word pictures (parables) to conjure up images for us to learn by. But if the picture you have is wrong, then the lesson you take away is wrong. And if the lesson you learn is wrong, there is a good chance that when you try to put it into practice – it won’t work.

Tens of thousands of people have walked away from their faith because the picture of Christianity they were given was an incorrect picture. The foundation of their faith was, “come to Jesus and all the bad stuff in your life will stop.”  Instead of being told that they were sinners before a holy God, and had condemned themselves to eternal damnation and torment; but not to fear because God took the punishment upon Himself. 

Next time you read the Bible, read what it says, not what you think it says, and not what the Sunday School stories said. 

Conclusion

When you do that, you will realise that when Jesus said, “Follow me” He didn’t mean this…

He meant this…

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Rob Holding

Rob Holding

Rob Holding is a former pastor and Christian broadcaster with three decades of full-time ministry behind him. A gifted communicator and worship leader, Rob is the main speaker for Know My Faith and travels the country with an eye-opening multimedia presentation, encouraging believers to dig deeper into the Bible and giving them keys to understanding the scriptures in their original context.

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