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Friday, 11 February 2011 06:59

Question on the Book of Jasher

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A Reader Writes:

Dear Jacob,

I am from a small town in South Africa (Springfontein, Free State). In my home and also in our home church, we are blessed tremendously by your teachings. Thank you very much for that. At the moment we are busy with a bible study on Genesis. On this I have two questions:

1. Was Melchizedek Shem a pre-incarnate Christophany or somebody else?

2. Can anything in the "Book of Jasher" (Jos 10:13) be proven to be incorrect from the Bible? I understand it is not considered inspired, but from a historical perspective it seems to confirm everything in the Bible. It also seem to explain the background of Genesis very well and also fill in some gaps.

If these questions are a hassle to you I would appreciate it very much if you could just refer me to a trustworthy source.

Thanks in advance

Jacob Responds:

I am of the view that Melchizedek was a Christophany (we have a recording of this teaching at Moriel).

The Book of Jasher is of course not a basis for doctrine as it is not Scripture, but similar to the inter-testamental apocrypha it is a non-canonical scripturally valuable external source of relevant history and literature. Although some points are debated in academic circles even among conservative scholars, most accept its essential historicity but not, of course, as infallible or divinely inspired. There are no major contradictions on the mutual points of contact bearing in mind that both the Genesis text and Jasher have areas of no overlap. Scholars dispute Jasher in contrast to Scripture in the same manner they dispute Josephus' book Antiquities of the Jews; it is not so much about contradiction as variation in emphasis.

What is helpful to note is that Jasher is written more as history while Genesis, although absolutely historically true, is historical narrative or stories of divinely inspired authorship that are written more for the theological interpretation of history. God uses different literary genre (styles of literature) to convey varying truths. Similar to the Gospels, the Genesis narrative is a unified collection of true stories of historical events which God inspired to be authored in order to explain doctrinal theology in multiple respects.

First and foremost Genesis established the basis of "Heilsgeschichte" or salvation history that follows this theme throughout Scripture and typologically foreshadows future prophetic events of Christ and the promised redemption. Genesis also gives us an historically true story of the Creation in order to present us with the  doctrine about the existence of God Himself and how man fell and needs to be saved. It is not written to give us the history of the creation even though what it says about the creation is historically true and accurate, but it is written to explain what the history of the creation, the fall of man, the Flood, the Tower of Babel etc., mean theologically and doctrinally. It is actually rather the closing chapters of the Book of Job and Proverbs 8 (understood in light of John chapter 1), not Genesis, where God speaks in the First Person about the history of the Creation, purely focused on creation itself, telling us that He did it but that we cannot know how He did it, except that He did it through Christ.

Genesis however, while historically true in what it states, is used by God for a different purpose. Genesis is inspired and designed by God not primarily to relate that history but to interpret that history theologically and explain what it means doctrinally. Like the Gospels it is written as a narrative having historicity (that is, it is a true story), but it is not written as a history book or intended to be read mainly as a history book although it is historically true in what it says. In the Book of Job however, God is focused on the history of Creation; that is, "what He did". In Proverbs 8 God is focused on doing it through Christ; that is, "how He did it". Genesis however, tells us "what it means".

There is however, yet another dimension to God's reasons for inspiring the authorship of Genesis. Among many other aspects of the reasons He ordained the Book of Genesis is that other ancient Near Eastern civilizations knew about the Creation, Noah and the Flood, the Tower of Babel, etc.  but because of paganism and monotheism they had an historically distorted interpretation of those events. Genesis was also written under divine inspiration as a polemic against pagan creation myths in Egypt and flood myths in the Gilgamesh epic which distorted both the account of these events and their theological meaning.

I trust this helps. I am considering an article on this subject for our website.

In Jesus,
Jacob Prasch

Read 12614 times Last modified on Friday, 11 February 2011 06:59

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