Atheists and skeptics often take passages out of context as evidence that the Bible is merely the opinions of people and not the teachings of God. One such claim that we have seen in recent articles is the suggestion that the Bible endorses and encourages cannibalism. It is true that there are historical reports of cannibalism in the Bible. Second Kings 6:28-29 is the most commonly used passage where cannibalism takes place. Other passages are Deuteronomy 28:53, Isaiah 9:20, Jeremiah 19:9, and Lamentations 2:20 and 4:10.
It is essential in any question about the Bible to look at who wrote the passage in question, what the purpose of the writing was, to whom it was written, and how people of the time in which it was written would have understood it. This passage and all of the others cited above are merely a report of history. If you read the front page of a modern newspaper about a murder, do you assume that the person who wrote the article is the one who committed the crime? Of course not. A news reporter reports the news. They don’t do the event on which they are reporting. The fact that there are reports of cannibalism in the Bible does not mean that it endorses the practice.
The passage in 2 Kings 6:24-29 tells about King Benhadad who was the King of Syria invading Samaria. The people in Samaria ran out of food, and we are told that “an asses head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver.” Two women who were starving to death agreed to kill their two sons and eat them. The first son was killed and eaten and the second woman reneged on allowing her son to be killed and eaten. This is a news report, not ordered or sanctioned by God. The report is made to demonstrate how severe the starvation was.
There is no report of cannibalism in the Bible where it is approved, but the Bible does accurately record history. In the New Testament, the body is considered to be the temple of God where the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). Human life is sacred in the New Testament, and the teachings of Jesus are teachings of love, forgiveness, compassion, and care. Tomorrow we will discuss suicide in light of these teachings of Christ.
We often deal with people who criticize the Bible for one reason or another. However, some scholars study the Bible and apply what is called biblical criticism. They may be practicing lower criticism (also known as textual criticism) in which they work to determine the correct text of ancient documents. These scholars work with copies of ancient manuscripts of both biblical and non-biblical material to attempt to determine what the original documents said. There is also a method called higher criticism in which scholars deal with the authorship, dating, and unity of manuscripts.
There have been numerous instances over the years in which criticism of these two types has exposed frauds. In the fifteenth century, for example, higher criticism proved that a document called “Donation of Constantine” was not genuine. The events described in the manuscript turned out to be events that happened hundreds of years after the original document was supposed to have been written. Obviously, “donation” was a fraud. In this way, higher criticism can expose frauds and identify claims about manuscripts that could not be true.
At the beginning of the twentieth-century furious debates raged over higher criticism because many viewed it as a threat to the Bible and Christian faith. In our day it has become fashionable to use higher criticism to claim that the Bible is not the inspired Word of God. I confront skeptics in my lectures who use higher and lower criticism to attack the material I am presenting. We need to take a brief look at biblical criticism to understand it and to be prepared to defend the faith.
Higher criticism has sometimes been used to attempt to prove that one book or another in the Bible is fraudulent. In 1805, for example, a scholar by the name of W. M. DeWette tried to prove that Deuteronomy was not written by Moses but by Jerusalem priests in the time of Josiah. DeWette’s assertion was widely accepted until archaeologists proved that many parts of Deuteronomy reflect a period earlier than that of Josiah. In the nineteenth century, it was popular to claim that all ancient biblical manuscripts must be assumed fraudulent unless proven true. Archaeology has mostly removed that negative attitude, but it is not uncommon to run into it even today.
Many proponents of higher criticism attempt to use style as a means of proving a biblical manuscript fraudulent. A good example of this is first and second Peter. The styles of these two books are very different. Why would that be since they are supposedly both written by Peter? Subject matter can make a huge difference in the style of writing. Gilbert Highet of Columbia University pointed out that Cicero had at least six different styles depending upon what he was writing. There is even the possibility that Peter wrote one book in Greek and the other in Aramaic which would automatically produce significant differences in style.
There are questions about the Bible that higher criticism may help us solve. The Bible designates Moses as the author of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy but does not identify the author of Genesis. Jesus identifies Moses as the author of the same four books but makes no mention of the author of Genesis. If higher criticism could verify the authorship of Genesis, it would be a welcomed contribution to our understanding.
However, instead, some scholars have attempted to prove that the first and second chapters of Genesis were written by different authors who disagreed with each other. They ignore the fact that those chapters were written for different purposes and to show different relationships. Higher criticism scholars have also raised questions about the authorship and dates of some of the Psalms and Hebrews. We must remember that higher criticism is the work of people who have preconceived ideas and prejudices that affect their conclusions.
One of the most common catastrophic illnesses facing humans is cancer. If you live long enough, it is almost sure that you will experience cancer in yourself or a loved one. Atheists contend that there can’t be a God or He wouldn’t allow the cancer curse to become so common and cause so much suffering.
A study recently released by Johns Hopkins University found that 29% of cancer-causing mutations result from environmental factors such as Sun exposure or cigarette smoking and inherited genetic mutations cause 5%. The remaining 66%, according to the study, are completely random and are due to bad luck. The authors of the study say they wanted to offer comfort to people with cancer who were living a healthy lifestyle, by showing that it was not their fault they got cancer.
This type of study has many problems. First, it involved 32 cancer types and 69 countries. The sampling of the study would have been extremely difficult because cancer incidence in areas with large amounts of asbestos in the soil and bedrock would be different from areas with no asbestos. The effect of exposure to toxins in the environment would vary widely. The ages of the subjects are also important because part of the cancer problem is that more people are living long enough to get cancer. That was not the case even 100 years ago.
When God created the first humans, there was no cancer problem.The point is that God did not create cancer. Passages like Deuteronomy 28 tell us that rejecting God would result in God not withholding “curses” on humans. Verses 1-14 describe God’s protection from these things, but verses 15-68 describe the curses in detail. The Hebrew word for curse in these verses is arar which means to be completely without God’s help or blessing.
When humans reject God, we are left on our own to deal with the consequences. Galatians 6:7-8 talks about reaping what we sow. That principle applies to people or nations as well as individuals. James 1:13-17 describes God as a loving God who never gives us temptations of any kind, but rather brings good things. It also tells us that God does not vary or mislead in the way He deals with us.