Old Testament Authors’ World View


In any study of the writings of the Old Testament it is essential to bear in mind the world view of its authors. In contradistinction to Greek philosophy, which views history as merely a haphazard collection of events, or to Buddhist thought, which sees history as cyclical, replaying itself eternally in an endless reproduction from which there is no escape, the Old Testament view of history is linear – history, it affirms, has a beginning, a middle and an end.

The writers of the Old Testament assumed history began with a Creation in which the world, man, and the universe as a whole came into being through the direct action of God, that they were created, and that they were created ‘good’. By good is meant that it was correct morally, that it was created with purpose and with all the various parts of creation working harmoniously with all the others, and that there was nothing sinful, evil or painful inherent in it. The universe and all that is in it was created to function properly as
long as God were in sovereign control.

But the writers were also aware that the world as it now exists is not as God created it. Thus, there is a second phase of history: The Fall. The Fall is the entrance into the world of sin and of all its consequences. Man broke God’s law, committing spiritual treason against him who is the King of Creation. Thus was introduced into creation sin, which caused a great separation not only in man’s relationship to God but to all other parts of creation as well. With the introduction of sin all of man’s experiences were skewed, not only his religious side (spiritual) but also his view of himself (psychological), his relationship with other men (sociological), with the environment, and every other part of the universe. This breaking of relationships, along with every other type of evil we find in the world, is all a result of a broken relationship between God and man.

Most non-Christians complain that this sort of a view – that the breaking of a relationship between God and man could have such universal repercussions – is unrealistic or naive. But is it? If a boyfriend and girlfriend, or a husband and a wife, have a disagreement which results in a strain in their relationship, the quite common experience is that, as the strain continues, eventually everything begins to come apart. If a husband finds himself estranged from his wife he will often find he can’t sleep or eat, that he begins to have
problems in his relationships with others, and that he begins to lose concentration at work or elsewhere. The one broken relationship has affected every area of his life.

The Bible suggests that this is the way of things with man’s relationship with God. Once this relationship – this most crucial of relationships – was broken, every part of man’s existence was affected.

The result of the fall is that the universe which was created good has become ‘apparently’ evil. ‘Apparently’, because it is not so inherently. The evil we see in the world around us did come come from within creation, was not inherent in it, but was introduced from outside of it. In addition, man’s nature has changed. Not only does man continue to commit acts of sin, but he is by his very nature a sinner.

The third phase of history then sees God’s discontent with the state of creation as it has become, and with the break in his relationship with man. Here, then, God moves to restore that relationship, to reconcile creation, and to rejuvenate the universe. He moves to set in motion events which will in the course of time
correct the plight of mankind. This is done not only that his rightful place as King of Creation be restored, but that man’s redemption might be completed.

Thus the writers of the Old Testament viewed the history they were recording not just as any old history but as a special history – the history of redemption. The events they recorded were the events through which the God of the Universe entered into history, acting in it, revealing himself and the reconciliation and redemption so desperately needed; they were the events through which God not only provides but actually applies his reconciling work. And it was with this history – this history of redemption – this holy history – that the writers were concerned. It was here that they – and we – could see God at work.

And history has an end. This is the fourth and final phase: Consummation. In the age to come, God’s holy history will be complete, and the universe – and with it mankind – will be restored to harmony and fellowship.

Calvin Culver

Computers for Christ – Chicago