Bible Proof: Liberal Theology

Because the so-called “Higher Critics” or liberal “scholars” don’t believe in the God of the bible, they don’t believe the bible itself or even the supernatural; and because they don’t believe the bible they have to explain away its message.  Prophecy is one of the major targets of the liberal critics because they can’t allow it to be genuine, otherwise they would have to answer to a God they won’t believe in.  So they dismantle scripture by denying the authorship of its books and setting them in a later time period so that their authority and trustworthiness is negated or undermined.  According to them, for example, the Pentateuch was not written by Moses at all but by a number of different people over a long period of time; and it’s hard to find a single verse in it that isn’t the product of more than one author or redactor.  Or the books of predictive prophecy, such as Isaiah or Daniel, to name just two, are claimed to have been written by somebody else – multiple authors, in fact – from a later time period.  So, rather than the prophets, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, writing history in advance by way of prophecy, the liberal critics have them written after the event.  Thus, prophecy was written in hindsight when all the details were already known, by some dishonest scribe who ascribed the book to an earlier prophet (e.g. Daniel) to make it look as though the prophet was foretelling the future.  So, after the critics have finished, we’re left with a bible which is not what it claims to be and is filled with personalities and events which are fiction.  What, then, is the value of such a book?  Why bother with it?  If it’s not telling the truth, no matter how the critics and unbelieving scholars try to make it relevant, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on; and it’s certainly not an authority from which we can derive any kind of guide for living and hope for eternity. 

And, to add insult to injury, contemporary critics of the bible, particularly so-called scientific atheists, ex-Christians, and sceptics, frequently combine these attacks with mockery, scorn, and ridicule.  They dare to condemn God because he doesn’t measure up to their standards of justice.  They accuse him of being a cosmic bully, a “blood god” who delights in cruelty and who toys with humans, careless of their feelings; a being who metes out punishment far beyond that which the sin deserves, namely, an eternity of suffering and torment simply because they don’t believe in Jesus.  They blame him for the suffering in the world and refuse to believe in a god who would allow or inflict such suffering on people.

But God is not intimidated by this.  He warns the Church through prophecy, “But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.  These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit” (Jude 17-19). 

God will not dance to the tune of those whom he has created; he will not stoop to justifying himself or his actions to arrogant and mocking unbelievers; he does not feel obligated to explain himself to those who will not believe; he will not be shamed into meeting the demands of vain and ungodly men and women that he prove himself to them; he will not relinquish his requirement that every living being serve and worship Him.  God is God, and he calls the shots!

This view of God is reflected in the New Testament.  God has given ample proof that the bible is true, but unbelievers reject it and patronisingly call it a ‘religious text’, as if that makes it not worthy of serious consideration, and thus thinking this excuses them from committing themselves to a life of obedience to, and worship of, God.  They think it unscholarly to regard the bible as a trustworthy and honest historical document because it is filled with a mix of history and myth. And it requires of them a way of living which they don’t want to do.  They think it intellectual or academic suicide to regard the bible seriously.  So, before presenting examples of fulfilled prophecy in my article in this series, “The Bible is its Own Proof: Fulfilled Prophecy”, it will be helpful to establish that the Old Testament prophets from whom I quote prophesied when they said they did.  I’ve chosen the two most hotly disputed prophets, Isaiah and Daniel, as my examples.

The Prophet Isaiah

Isaiah began his ministry about 740 AD, “in the year that king Uzziah died” (Isa 6:1), and continued through the reigns of “Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah” (Isa 1:1).  He most likely died about 680 AD, as he records the death of the Assyrian king, Sennacherib (Isa 37: 37-38); thus his ministry continued for about sixty years.

The Unity of the Book of Isaiah

However, the liberal theologians insist that Isaiah didn’t write his own book but that it was written by two or three or more authors.  So they divide the book of Isaiah into Isaiah (ch. 1-39), and then Deutero-Isaiah (ch. 40-66), claiming that this was written about 150 years after chs 1-39 during the latter part of Judah’s exile in Babylon.  Others have even divided Deutero-Isaiah into a further two sections, so now there is also Trito-Isaiah, the divisions being ch. 40-54 and 55-66, with 55-66 being written by multiple authors.  What utter chaos!  This is despite the fact that the unity of Isaiah was never contested by either Jews or Christians until these geniuses came on the scene (Rom 1:22), beginning with J. C. Doderlein in 1795, the first to propose a second- or Deutero-Isaiah.

The reason the liberals can’t allow Isaiah to have written chs 40-66 is the detailed and specific prophecies given therein which have been fulfilled.  For example, in chs 44-45, God, speaking through Isaiah, says, “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.  Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him…..For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.  I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me” (Isa 44:28-44:1, 4-5).

The New Testament accepts the author of Isaiah to be the prophet Isaiah and that his book is a unity; it is accepted by John the Baptist (Matt 3:3; Lk 3:4; Jn 1:23.); by Matthew (Matt 8:17; 12:18-21); by Paul (Rom 9:27-33; 10:16-21); and by the apostle John (12:38-41) who mentions Isaiah personally, not just as a book; and he is referring to Isaiah’s words in Isa 53:1, a chapter in Deutero-Isaiah [Jn 12:38] and Isaiah 6:10 [Jn 12:39-40].  In just these two latter references, John shows the unity of Isaiah, and its authorship.  The different writing styles in the various sections of Isaiah mean nothing, and certainly do not mean the book of Isaiah had to be written by different authors.  Any author has different styles depending on his theme or subject (Information in this paragraph taken from “Believer’s Bible Commentary” p. 857-858).

The traditional and New Testament view

Derek Kidner (1994, p. 630) writes, “Until modern times the book of Isaiah was universally regarded as a unity, the product of the eighth-century prophet of the same name.  A single scroll was used for the whole of it, as we learn not only from Qumran but from Lk. 4:17 (where the chosen reading was from one of the latest chapters).  The same assumption of unity is already evident in Ecclus. 48:22-25, written some 200 years before the NT period.  The NT fully concurs: see e.g. Jn. 12: 37-41; Rom 9:27-29; 10:20-21”

Modern Criticism

However, the Higher Critics have challenged the traditional view and presented an alternative, complicated, false idea, which has divided and fragmented Isaiah into multiple portions written by multiple authors, to the extent that nobody in their right mind would regard it as a trustworthy document, being nothing better than man-made “instant tradition”.

Kidner (p. 630) writes: “…the idea of a multiple authorship of Isaiah has arisen only in the last two centuries.  Its simplest, most persuasive form is the ascription of chs. 1-39 to Isaiah and 40-66 to an anonymous prophet living among the sixth-century exiles in Babylonia…..But in fact no scholar holds the theory in this simple form, for by its own principles it demands to be carried much further”

He then goes on to show how the book of Isaiah was, according to the Higher Critics, sub-divided into many oracles and supplementary material; and says, “Commentators differ over the number of historical situations and of parties (e.g. moralist, institutionalist, patriotic, universalist) discoverable here, and consequently in their analysis of Trito-Isaiah; but at least four sources are commonly isolated in its eleven chapters.  It is important to realise that this suggested galaxy of authors and supplementers is not wholly arbitrary.  Once the initial criteria for dividing the book are accepted, they cannot simply be discarded after the first cut; they must be used consistently…or not at all.  So despite the attractive simplicity of a supposed two-volume work (by Isaiah and a successor), the only viable alternative to a single author is not two authors but something like a dozen” (Kidner, D. p  630). 

An assessment of the arguments for multiple authorship

Under this heading, Kidner considers “1. The analogy of prophecy”, “2. The distinctive style of of chs. 40-66”, “3. Vocabulary “and “4, Theology”.  In “3. Vocabulary”, he argues, “Isaiah’s early task of denunciation called for such terms as ‘briers and thorns’, the ‘scourge’, the ‘storm’, the ‘remnant’; but the later work of reassurance and vocation emphasized God’s initiative to ‘create’, ‘choose’ and ‘redeem’.  His ‘purpose’ is seen to embrace the distant ‘islands’, the ‘ends of the earth’ and ‘all flesh’; this naturally calls forth the invitation to ‘praise’, ‘rejoice’ and ‘break forth into singing’.  Even the subsidiary parts of speech reflect the change of subject, for the later chapters abound in those that give warmth and emphasis to an utterance.

Alongside the variations, however, must be put the significant number of terms which are common to both parts of Isaiah but seldom or never encountered elsewhere in the OT.  ‘The Holy One of Israel’ (twelve times in 1-39, thirteen in 40-66) is the best–known example, but several other expressions for God add their smaller testimony: e.g. the term for ‘one who forms or designs’ used with a possessive pronoun (22:11; 29:19; 44:2); ‘the Mighty One of Jacob/Israel’ (1:24; 49:26; 60:16).  There are also unique or rare designations for Israel that occur in both parts such as ‘blind’ (29:18; 35-5; 42:16-18), ‘deaf’ (29:18; 35:5; 42:18; 43:8), ‘forsakers of the LORD’ (1:28; 65:11), ‘ransomed pf the LORD’ (35:10; 51:11), ‘the work of my hands’ (29:23; 60:21)…..It is this large stock of Isaianic expressions that has called forth the theory (for which there is very little supporting evidence) that a circle of disciples perpetuated Isaiah’s thought-forms through the centuries.  It is simpler to suppose a single mind”.

Under “4. Theology”, Kidner writes, “It should now be clear that these two main parts of the book face different situations and give complementary teaching.  But there is more than this.  As J. A. Motyer has shown (The ‘Servant Songs’ in the Unity of Isaiah…), the prophecies of 1-39 lead up to the prediction of a devastating historical punishment, which poses serious theological problems set out elsewhere in those chapters.  Chs 40-66 are therefore more than a completion; they are a solution without which chs 1-39 would end in unresolved discord.  And ‘if a prophet can be inspired to declare God’s truth in the context of history…it is no great demand that he should also be inspired to find the solutions to the theological problems raised by those revelations…’”.

In selections from his summary, we read: “…the theory of multiple authorship (since dual authorship breaks down into this) creates at least as many difficulties as it appears to settle…..It makes Isaiah the author of a torso; it admits a criterion of analysis which leaves few of the prophets the sole authors of their writings; it envisages centuries of creative activity by not only an ‘Isaiah-school’ but similar groups revering other prophets, whose freedom to expand or adjust their masters’ work compares strangely with the care, at a not much later date, to transmit it unaltered, and whose very existence is no more than an inference.  It also has to account for the unbroken early traction of Isaiah’s unity, and to come to terms with the NT’s evident endorsement of that view” (Kidner, F. D. 1994, p. 630-632.  Kidner has used the NIV as his bible references).

The Prophet Daniel

Daniel and his prophecies have also been the target of unbelieving scholars.  But the first person to reject Daniel as the recipient of divine revelation and as the author of his own book was Porphyry, a Jewish philosopher and enemy of Christianity, in the 3rd century AD.  This early date would be pleasing to the unbelieving liberal theologians because it would seem to give the authority of contemporary witness to their attacks.  But Daniel could not have been written during the Maccabean period as the liberals would have us believe because a manuscript of Daniel was found in Qumran Cave 1.  It is believed to have been copied before or during this period, which indicates that the book of Daniel was already in existence in order for it to have been copied. 

Linguistic evidence

The language of the book of Daniel is strong indication that it was written in the 6th century AD rather than the 2nd century AD because it contains Persian words from the era in which Daniel lived under Persian rule.  These words indicate a contemporary author.  A person from 2nd century Palestine would be unlikely to use such words because by that time Persia had disappeared as a dominant world power and had been superseded by the Macedonian Greek rulers.  Which, incidentally, fits in with Daniel’s prophecy of the four empires: Chaldean (Babylonian), Persian, Macedonian Greek, and Roman.

Other linguistic evidence “demonstrates that the use of Aramaic in Daniel fits a fifth-to sixth-century B.C. date because it parallels the Aramaic of Ezra as well as the Elephantine Papyri and other secular works of that period” (“Holman KJV Study Bible, p 1407).

There are also Greek words used in Daniel which the liberals insist militate against the book being written in the 2nd century because the Greek empire was still in the future.  But the Greek words in Daniel are only three, and each refers to a musical instrument.  This can be explained by the fact that Greek culture was spreading around the world even at that earlier time.

Biblical Evidence

The bible itself regards Daniel as the author of his book.  Thus Jesus refers to it in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14, calling Daniel a prophet: “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place….”  And, though it is not proof that Daniel was written in the 6th century BC, in Ezekiel, God mentions Daniel by name, pointing out his exceptional righteousness, along with Noah and Job (Ezek 14:14, 20); even so, it certainly places him much earlier than the 2nd century.  Daniel is also mentioned by God as being an exceptionally wise man (Ezek 28:3); he must have been far above ordinary mortals, as it were, to warrant being singled out by God.  This is contemporary evidence which confirms what the book of Daniel says about Daniel, that he was wise beyond all others (Dan 1:17, 20; 6:3), and righteous above all others (Dan 6:1-28; 10:11).  Ezekiel was a prophet and a contemporary of Daniel, and both were captives in Babylon.

Historical Evidence….

Belshazzar’s reign as king of Babylon shows him to be co-ruler with another (Dan 5:7, 29).  His real father was Nabonidus, and while Nabonidus was away from the city, Belshazzar ruled Babylon as his vicegerent.  The text of Daniel calls Nebuchadnezzar Belshazzar’s father (Dan 5:2, 11, 18, 22).  “Nebuchadnezzar is called Belshazzar’s father.  Most likely, Belshazzar’s father, Nabonidus, married Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter to establish his own claim to the throne of Babylon, making Nebuchadnezzar the grandfather of Belshazzar.  The Aramaic word ‘father’ is flexible, capable of referring to a grandfather, ancestor, even a predecessor to a king without any lineal tie” (“Holman KJV Study Bible” comment on Daniel 5:2-4).  So, not only does the apparent discrepancy not prove Daniel to be inaccurate, it demonstrates its accuracy because it shows Belshazzar to be co-ruler with his father, as the recently discovered historical evidence reveals.

Further historical and archaeological evidence is that “The Greek historians Herodotus and Xenophon confirm that Babylon fell while a great feast was in progress (v 30).  Excavations have uncovered a throne room that could accommodate a thousand nobles” (“Holman KJV Study Bible” comment on Daniel 5:1).

However, even if we allow that Daniel’s prophecy was written in the second century rather than the sixth (which I don’t), that only means it didn’t prophesy the first three empires, namely Babylon, Persia and Greece.  If it was written in the second century, it still prophesied the Roman Empire; and therefore is still a book of predictive prophecy, writing history in advance.

….But the Evidence is Rejected

“In summary, the late-date view is driven by a presuppositional rejection of supernatural prophecy and not by objective evidence” (“Holman KJV Study Bible” p. 1407).

“The real protest against Daniel, as a few liberal scholars, such as R. Pfeiffer (Old Testament Introduction, P. 755), are honest enough to admit, is prejudice against the supernatural.  There are too many miracles, too much precise prediction in Daniel to suit rationalistic criticism” (“Believer’s Bible Commentary”, p. 988).

And what was Professor R. H. Pfeiffer demonstrating when he admitted he was prejudiced against the supernatural but to confirm what the bible says about him, namely: “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14).  Professor Pfeiffer did not have the Spirit of God; therefore he was a “natural” man, and was thus blind to the supernatural.  And his blindness was not a benign blindness which comes from lack of information – Professor Pfeiffer had plenty of information at his disposal, having been a minister in a large Protestant denomination, a Professor in a prominent university, an influential author on the Old Testament, and a specialist in Assyriology.  No, his blindness was wilful, as he admits and as the bible passage here points out; the things of the Spirit of God were foolishness to him and he admitted he couldn’t receive them.  And, as is common to those whose faith has been shipwrecked by liberal theology, he then taught and promoted liberal theology in his own lectures and among his own students.  And, not content with that, he published his views in his books so that his heresy could be spread even further.  But Professor Pfeiffer is just one of many liberal scholars, both past and present, whose aim, under the guise of scholarship, is to undermine faith in the supernatural activity of a supernatural God by undermining confidence in a supernatural bible. 

People like Professor Pfeiffer come and go; they are mere flesh and blood, no more permanent than the grass they walk upon.  God’s verdict on them is, “All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is as grass.  The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isa 40:6-8).

References

“Believer’s Bible Commentary 2nd edition” by William MacDonald ed. Art Farstad, Commentary on Isaiah, copyright 1995, publ. Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tennessee

“Believer’s Bible Commentary 2nd edition” by William MacDonald ed. Art Farstad, Commentary on Daniel, copyright 1995, publ. Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tennessee

 “Holman KJV Study Bible Personal Size”, Introduction to Daniel, p 1407, copyright 2014 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee

Kidner, F. Derek, 1994, “New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition”, “Isaiah Introduction”, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England and Downers Grove, Illinois, USA

www.sovereignjesus.net