Do you think the Bible was written for historical purposes only? What evidence do you have that the authors had specific intentions on writing about certain aspects of history? Also, do you think the covenants play a role in proving that the Old Testament was a divine book for a specific purpose? Any book recommendations?


We do believe that all the biblical books were written for specific purposes other than maintaining a historical record, and there are many reasons that we believe this.

First, some books actually contain statements of purpose for at least some of their portions (e.g. Exod. 24:12; Deut. 28:58ff.; 31:19-21; Isa. 6:9-10; John 20:31; 2 Pet. 3:1; 1 John 2:12-13), and others comment on the purposes of other books (e.g. Josh. 1:8; 23:6ff.; 1 Cor. 10:11).

Second, almost every book draws or implies life applications from the facts of history or the teaching it presents. When authors interpret and apply the data they present, they depart from the preservation of history for the sake of the preservation of history.

Third, the Bible was written by people who had been called by God to hold his people accountable to the covenant, and who were responsible to proclaim messages that were to affect the way people lived their lives, thought their thoughts, performed their actions, and felt their feelings. Their writings were part of their ministries, and thus were designed to help them accomplish these goals.

Fourth, the fact that all Scripture is profitable for teaching, training, etc. (2 Tim. 3:16-17) indicates that it was intended to be so, and that it was not intended simply to provide raw data.

Fifth, the Bible is not magical literature, but divinely inspired human literature. All other human literature is written for a purpose, and we believe it is demonstrable that these purposes exceed the simple preservation of history for history's sake (compare for example Ezra 4:14-15). At the very least authors write so that history as they see it may be preserved. They try to preserve their own perspectives on history, and they try to do so in order to influence the way their readers understand and interpret that history. The human authorship of the Bible strongly implies the inclusion of this factor in its own pages.

Sixth, no book can say everything (compare John 20:30; 21:25). The selectivity of authors demonstrates that the elements they select for inclusion are important to know and to remember. Some of the elements they do not include are also very important, but they generally assume that their audiences already know or have access to this information (for example, books need not restate information contained in other books or available in other books). Moreover, they often make important general assumptions appropriate to their contexts, such as that their audience will understand to which "God" they refer, that they audiences will understand their theological assumptions and common ground, etc. Nevertheless, the fact that some historical facts are not worthy of inclusion (for example, exactly how many steps did the average four-year-old Israelite take to cross the Red Sea?), indicates that the author makes a value judgment regarding the information he includes. Selecting what to include and what to exclude on these bases represents interpretation and processing of history in a way that exceeds recordation for the sake of historical accuracy.

Seventh, God has no interest in unbiased, historically accurate history for the sake of unbiased, historically accurate history -- and God is the inspirer of all Scripture. God is pro-God. He is not a neutral party. He inspires history and teaching so that it may impact and change our lives, leading us to Christ and salvation, guiding us in our relationship with him. He does not inspire history so that people may know what happened in the past without also requiring that those people learn moral and other lessons from the historical records (compare Luke 12:47-48; Rom. 3:1-2).

Without a proper understanding of the effect an author intended his writings to have upon his audience, we can barely begin to apply those writings to our own lives. Thus, most good commentaries explicitly address authorial intentions. Many good books on hermeneutics and interpretation also tackle this issue. For Old Testament history in particular (which I gather is the area of your greatest questioning), I recommend most highly He Gave Us Stories by Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr. (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing, 1990). This book contains outlines and purpose statements for each book of Old Tesatment History, and explains in easy understandable terms how biblical authors demonstrated their intentions, and wrote history to affect their readers' lives.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.