Updated: Jan 27
When I signed up for an “Education for Ministry” (EfM) course, year one was partially about reading the Old Testament. It was not so much about explaining the events of the Old Testament as it was set on instilling doubt about the divinity of the texts.
By that, I mean the Biblical Scripture portion of the course was designed to promote a scholastic theory, which saw the all of the Old Testament as having been rewritten during the times of exile (in Babylon) and the Jewish return to Jerusalem. Instead of Torah scrolls forever maintaining a written text, which I had assumed were continuously read (and saved) since the days of Moses, the EfM scholars (Seminary school professors) had figured everything out. The tradition had been oral, not written. What we know today is nothing but a rewrite; and the EfM course was designed to teach paying Episcopalians, Methodists, and Catholics how to stop trying to defend Scripture, and just learn to explain all the errors from an educated perspective.
Their conclusions were supposed to solve all the confusion found in Holy Scripture. The confusion, according to their theory, was an inconsistency in understanding the translations of words said to mean “God,” from different words also said to translate as “God.” This was deduced to be the J-writer (where “J” was the German equivalent to “Y,” referring to Yahweh or Jehovah) versus the E-writer (those stupid Jews who wrote the Hebraic plural form of “gods,” Elohim, while meaning only one God). They also struggled with some aspects of the “Law” not jiving with the later “Law.” This was because the D-writers (those who rewrote the Book of Deuteronomy to match ‘modern law’ with the ancient days of Moses) were at odds with the P-writers (the fools who were rewriting for the perspective of the Priests of the rebuilt Temple, after a return from captivity). From confusion comes profound confusion.
In the end, a student of Scripture needs to know this wisdom of scholars, in order to make sense of what has been read and misunderstood for centuries. The only problem with that theory was the EfM mentors who taught my class did not have any of this concept truly figured out. They were UfM, or Uneducated for Ministry, becoming as the blind leading the blind. They kept making it clear they were not teachers, but guides. Instead of clearing up scriptural matters, they maintained a confused state. It became so confused that our time spent reading and discussing the Old Testament (one-third of a weekly meeting’s schedule) was reduced. Over time, it went from over an hour in discussion, to almost nothing (maybe 10-15 minutes). Their approach was: When confused, don’t talk about it.
I remember one night our discussion was over the part of Genesis that told of the Tower of Babel. One mentor offered how he had only heard “Nimrod” used in a sentence when his lawyer father referred to someone as an idiot. He said, “Dad would say, ‘That Nimrod,’ so all I could assume was he was being called intellectually challenged.”
From that mentor memory, he then went on to say how stupid it was to believe there was ever only one language on the earth. He continued to state that the idea of a tower to the heavens, one which could be constructed by bricks, was simply more reason to not believe any of the story at all. This is the “Throw the baby out with the bath water” approach.
An historic depiction of the Tower of Babel
It was then that I was struck with insight.
Having read the book of Genesis, and the propaganda that came with the EfM notebook accompanying that assignment, I had not considered any of what I was about to blurt out. I had never had this idea come to me, as though trying to solve Scripture was my purpose on earth. However, as soon as our mentor made those comments, I felt moved to counter such a blatant rejection, which suggested that truth was worthless fiction.
I said, “Perhaps the one language that everyone spoke was mathematics? Suppose, through the science of numbers and formulas, ancient man planned to build rocket towers that would project ships into the heavens. Are we not doing that today? Are we not scattered around the world, so that only those nations with a command of this language of math can pretend to be godlike?”
A modern Tower of Babel?
The mentor looked at me and said, “That is a good point. I had never thought of it that way.”
The thought I had was not my own, in the sense that I sat down and consciously tried to solve something in the Old Testament. I do not know of anyone else who has come to the same conclusion that I suddenly blurted out. I hope others have seen this too; and I hope others have gone beyond such sudden enlightenment, to study Genesis Chapter 11, verses 1-10, with a fresh set of eyes.
I understand first-hand that schools of thought are biased. There are no professors who teach the art of receiving the Holy Spirit … not even in seminaries. The same conditions exist today, as have always existed. Jesus came to face the Scribes of the Temple, and the ‘know-it-all’ Pharisees and Sadducees, to tell them, “You are over-thinking and under-feeling.” Too often our institutions of higher learning are pretending to be in the know, while rejecting the prophets sent by God to help them understand.
Certainly, the metaphor of building a physical tower to reach the heavens is a statement of man seeking to be gods. The Old Testament, and all of the Holy Bible, speaks of metaphors and dreams, visions and unbelievable happenings. We are to believe it is all true, because through faith we profess belief. The problem becomes transforming that blind faith into common practice. Only when we stop reading the Holy Bible as mythology, never expecting to find how reality is the foundation of metaphor, can our eyes can be opened and we can see the truth. The truth comes when we receive the spirit of knowledge, the one which Christ advocates.
R. T. Tippett.