The Biblical Structure of History (5): Chapter 2, Image

Gary North – October 28, 2021

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth (Genesis 1:26–28).

A. Covenant Model, Point 2

Point 2 of the biblical covenant model is hierarchy. God was above Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were above the creation.

The New Testament teaches that Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity, was subordinate to God the Father in God’s relation to the creation. He represented the Father covenantally. The New Testament also teaches that the Holy Ghost is sent by both the Father and the Son. (Eastern Orthodoxy denies this.)

Point 2 of biblical social theory is authority. All authority is delegated.

Point 2 of biblical history is man as the image of God. He is able to think God’s thoughts after Him. To do this, he has to have memory.

B. Analysis

1. God Speaks. Men Should Listen.

We are told that God spoke. He spoke in the plural: “Let us.” This plurality is confirmed by the phrase: “in our likeness.” This is the first indication in the Bible of the concept of the Trinity: one God with multiple Persons. This is a uniquely Christian doctrine.

We have already learned from earlier sections of Genesis 1 that God spoke the cosmos into existence. This means that there is a fundamental distinction between God and the creation. In this sense, the universe is personal. It is the product of the God who speaks. Language existed before the cosmos. God thought by means of language. He spoke the cosmos into existence by means of language.

In this passage, we learn that God spoke to Adam and Eve: “God said unto to them.” He revealed to them that they were made in His image. They reflected Him. One of the ways in which they reflected God is that they understood God’s language. They could understand what He told them. This made them responsible to Him.

The passage says that God blessed them before He gave them their assignment. This sequence reveals a fundamental biblical principle: grace precedes law. We are not told specifically in what way He blessed them. Certainly, one of the blessings was that He gave them life. Second, He made them in His image. This was a great honor. This equipped them to perform their assignment.

In drawing these conclusions, I speak as an historian. I am making judgments regarding the nature of the blessing. I am deducing these judgments by means of the text’s historical sequence. The sequence is this: blessing, assignment. We are told that God created them. Surely, this is not a curse. I say surely because I can read and understand the text. I can make judgments about the text. These judgments are in part historical judgments. I deduce from the first two chapters of the Bible that Adam and Eve were under God’s grace. Life was not initially cursed. In the third chapter, we learn about their rebellion against God. We also learn about the negative sanctions imposed on them by God. These were curses. They were the result of their disobedience. They were not built into the creation initially. Our understanding of this narrative depends on our knowledge of sequence. But this understanding also depends on our ability to make judgments regarding what is not explicitly said in the text regarding blessings. If we do not understand this procedure for making historical judgments, we will not understand the nature of history and the writing of history, i.e., historiography.

Historiography involves making judgments about the past in terms of information that we have been given by God. He expects us to make judgments regarding the past in terms of the information that He has given us regarding the past. We are required by God to fill in the gaps in the historical record. This requires creativity and imagination. This creativity reflects our condition as creatures made in the image of God. God is originally creative. We learn this in the first chapter of Genesis. Therefore, we are derivatively creative. We also learn this in the first chapter of Genesis.

2. The Bible’s Principle of Historical Interpretation

The first three chapters of the Bible provide us with the fundamental integrating theme of all history: the transition from grace to wrath, followed by the transition from wrath to grace. (I first heard this formulation from Van Til. He used it repeatedly in his writings.) Christianity rests on revelation in the New Testament. The final book in the Bible is the Book of Revelation. The final two chapters of the Book of Revelation provide a description of the restoration of the world without wrath after the final judgment. This will be the culmination of the story of mankind from the third chapter of Genesis until the end of time: the transition from wrath to grace. This principle of interpretation governs Christian historiography. Historiography that is faithful to the Bible and to the Bible’s account of history must reinforce, illustrate, and document this transition from wrath to grace. It is the job of the Christian historian to fulfill this task of interpretation self-consciously. History is not theologically neutral. Historiography therefore is not theologically neutral. All of history from the fall of man until the final judgment reflects the transition from wrath to grace. To the extent that Christians operate in terms of any other assumption regarding the primary meaning of history and the narrative of history, to that extent they are not remaining faithful to the Bible’s account of history. They have compromised their confession of faith by misunderstanding God’s original assignment to mankind, which we read in Genesis 1.

The final two chapters of Revelation are post-judgment. They are post-historical. They describe eternity. They are descriptive of a world without sin and therefore without God’s wrath. God’s wrath will be confined cosmically to the eternal lake of fire (Revelation 20:14–15). Revelation 21 and 22 represent a restoration of the world before the fall of man. That future world will be vastly improved over the pre-fall world. Why? Because of historical progress, there will be a steady fulfillment of the dominion covenant. There will be an increase in people’s creativity and also an increase in their rendering of accurate judgments. There will be a multiplication of mankind and the living beings that are under man’s jurisdiction. Despite sin, history is the fulfillment of the covenantal assignment that God gave mankind in Genesis 1:26–28. There will be covenantal continuity between history and the new heaven and the new earth. This continuity will be visible retroactively at the marriage supper of the lamb: Christ and His church (Revelation 19:6–9).

I am claiming that there is a grand narrative for all of history. I make this claim because I also claim that there is a Grand Narrator: the Trinitarian God of the Bible. God has revealed Himself in the Bible. This Grand Narrator is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. He has structured all of history in terms of His providential purposes for history. His decree perfectly implements His plan for the ages, moment by moment. He passes judgment on His work continually, bringing His judgments in history. This grand narrative ends in Revelation 20. Then will come the culmination of the kingdom of God, referred to in both testaments as the new heaven and the new earth: eternity for covenant-keepers.

I argue in this book that without these presuppositions regarding history as providential, historians are blind. They have no legitimate epistemological way to affirm their claims that they can understand the past. They affirm that they can interpret the past individually, but when pressed, they deny the foundations for understanding how the facts of the past can be understood by the records that survive. They deny that historians can successfully impute an agreed-upon coherence to the past. (See Chapter 9.)

C. Apprenticeship

1. God Spoke to Adam Face to Face

Genesis 2 provides an account of the first day of man’s existence. Immediately after having created Adam out of the dust, God spoke to Adam regarding his assignment.

In Genesis 1, God gave Adam his dominion assignment, which was a covenant. Eve was not yet created. Yet it says that God spoke to both of them. In what sense did God speak to Eve when Eve did not yet exist? He spoke to her covenantally through Adam. Adam was given the dominion covenant, and sometime after this, God created Eve. Adam informed her of this assignment. He was Eve’s teacher. More to the point, he was Eve’s historian. He told her what God had told him regarding both of them and also their heirs. This was an historical account. I cannot prove that Adam spoke to Eve from a specific verse in the text, but I have concluded this because of the sequence of Adam’s first day.

Before God gave Eve to Adam, Adam had to perform a task: naming the animals of the garden. He had to begin to exercise dominion. God also gave mankind an ethical command: do not eat from a tree. Attached to this command was a negative sanction for disobedience: death. This is what made the command a covenant. Every covenant has law: point 3. Every covenant has sanctions: point 4. “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:15–17).

Eve did not hear this. We know this because of the next verse: “And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him” (v. 18). But, before God announced this, He made Adam His apprentice. “And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him” (vv 19–20). He worked with Adam side by side and face to face.

To follow orders, Adam had to have a language. God gave him the ability to speak with God. Second, Adam had to understand something of cause and effect in nature. He had to know what to name each of the animal species. Again, I am making a judgment as an historian. I have studied the use of the Hebrew word “to name.” Naming is more than providing a sound that is randomly attached to a specific object. The most important example of this in the Old Testament has to do with the rebellion of mankind at the Tower of Babel. “And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). Those people were going to name mankind, i.e., define themselves autonomously. They were not going to define themselves as creatures made in the image of God. They vowed to replace God. They would become sovereign in word and deed. This enraged God.

And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city (vv. 5–8).

Again, we see the use of the plural: “let us go down.” Christians insist that the Old Testament speaks of a unified God who is more than one Person. This is what separates their interpretations of the Bible from monotheistic Jews and Muslims. This is why there can be no common theological ground of interpretation. Conclusion: if there can be no common ground of interpretation among Christians, Jews, and Muslims, all of whom officially profess faith in the authority of the Bible, how can we legitimately expect to discover a common ground of interpretation among Christians and all of the anti-Christian groups that do not accept the authority of the Bible? Interpretation governs historiography. Facts do not speak for themselves. Facts are always interpreted facts. They are never brute facts, meaning uninterpreted facts. Historiography in not neutral theologically.

One more time: the people of the tower had one language. This meant that they had one confession of faith. This confession of faith was a declaration of autonomy from God. They would build a tower that rose from the earth to the heavens.

2. Language and Interpretation

I have provided an historical account of the meaning of the rebellion at the tower. The story had to do with the concept of language, which is an aspect of a confession of faith. Speaking a language is not simply a technical skill that enables people to communicate with each other. A language reflects a worldview. It shapes and reinforces this worldview. Therefore, naming something is more than coming up with syllables that would be easy to remember and then attaching the syllables to things, events, and people. Adam in naming the animals displayed knowledge of biological cause and effect. He also displayed knowledge of the environment. His naming of the animals displayed extensive knowledge of the world around the animals. Adam was an ecologist. This knowledge had been given to him by God before God assigned him the task of naming the animals. It was an aspect of God’s grace to him. But it was also an innate capacity of understanding that enabled him to begin to fulfill the dominion covenant that God gave to both Adam and Eve. He began this assignment before Eve had been created. I could be incorrect in my interpretation of the meaning of naming. I could also be incorrect with respect to my concept of language as reflecting a confession of faith. But this is the work of every historian. He must interpret the meaning of written documents. That is what I am doing with respect to Genesis 2 and Genesis 11. You may think that you have a better historical interpretation of the facts. But it will still be an interpretation. If you are a Christian, you should attempt to apply the revelation in Genesis regarding the early development of mankind. You have a moral obligation to try to make sense of Genesis. You must give thought to its meaning. You must give thought to the importance of the narratives in Genesis. This is the task of historiography. Historiography is an inescapable concept.

Christians become apprentices in the field of historiography at a young age. Our parents tell us Bible stories. In the case of the Israelites, God required them to tell to their children the story of the exodus. We find this account in Exodus 12.

For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you. And ye shall observe this thing for an ordinance to thee and to thy sons for ever. And it shall come to pass, when ye be come to the land which the Lord will give you, according as he hath promised, that ye shall keep this service.

And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped (Exodus 12:23–27).

The story of the exodus from Egypt was a matter of confession of faith. This story became central in the life of the Israelites, even in periods of rebellion. The prophets called them back to faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but from a liturgical standpoint, the God also of Moses. The Passover was to be celebrated annually. It was an act of national covenant renewal. It was basic to the culture of Israel. It was central to the worldview of Israel. Theologically, the doctrine of creation was more important, but liturgically, Passover was most important. Israel did not celebrate the creation week, because that was exclusively the work of God. The exodus was a joint event shared by God and His people.

D. From Journeyman to Tradesman

1. Man’s Transition to Independence

An apprentice is under the direct supervision of a master. For as long as he remains an apprentice, he must do as he is told. He does this in order to keep his job and thereby gain the skills necessary to begin his career as an independent tradesman. Adam was an apprentice in Genesis 2.

At the end of the contractual agreement, he is released from the legal obligation to obey the master. He legally becomes an independent tradesman. The master may even make him a partner in the organization. The former apprentice would profit from a business that he did not create. This is common when a master is ready to retire. He wants to step down from the direct management of the firm. He looks for a reliable former apprentice to whom he can now delegate administrative control. The journeyman thereby becomes a steward. He represents his former master economically.

The journeyman has limited skills. That was what Adam and Eve possessed in the garden in Genesis 3. They were not yet ready for the world outside the garden. They were not yet ready for full independence as stewards. (The New Testament pattern of stewardship is found in Matthew 25 and Luke 19: the parables of the stewards.)

In Genesis 3, God has departed for a time. Adam and Eve are left alone to dress and defend the garden. In Genesis 2, God gave this assignment to Adam: “And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (v. 15). Dressing it meant arranging it. This would be an aesthetic task: gardening. Adam was a journeyman within the geographical confines of the garden. He was also to keep it. That was an aspect of ownership. It was God’s garden, but Adam could use any of it, except for one tree. Adam even had access to the tree of life (Genesis 2:9).

Ownership is always partially defensive: the legal right to exclude others from access to some item. Therefore, he who owns something must defend it from invaders, thieves, and destroyers. That was Adam’s task. It was also Eve’s task. This is why Adam had to tell Eve about their joint responsibility. In Genesis 3, God was absent. He had spoken to Adam. He had worked alongside Adam. He had created Eve for Adam. Then He departed. He left them alone in order to see how well they would care for and defend His property. They had become journeymen.

2. Conflicting Historical Testimonies

Here was the historical setting of the great temptation. First, Satan had an agent: the serpent. The serpent spoke on behalf of Satan, in the same way that Eve spoke on behalf of Adam, and Adam had spoken on behalf of God. There is no indication that it was a fallen angel, let alone the supreme fallen angel. It was a beast of the field. “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made” (Genesis 31a). This beast could talk. It spoke the same language that Adam and Eve spoke. It was able to communicate with Eve. It was able to argue with Eve. It had the power of logic. It had the power of observation. We might say that it had a very high IQ. But this high intelligence did it no good, for it was evil. As Van Til used to say, smart people who hate God are like buzz saws that are set at a crooked angle. It does not matter how sharp they are, they cannot cut straight.

Second, the serpent knew what God had said to Adam. We are not told how it knew this, but it knew. As an historian, how do I know this? Because its argument invoked the words of God. The words were not what God had said, but they were close. The serpent asked the most perverse question that any covenant-breaker can ask: “Hath God said?”

And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:1b–5).

How did Eve know what God had said? There is nothing in the Bible that indicates that God had spoken to her separately from Adam. This leads me to a conclusion: Adam had told her what God had said. Adam had been in the presence of God. God had spoken to him face to face. Adam remembered what God had said to him. He warned Eve to obey God’s words. She learned what she was not to do from Adam’s historical narrative of his encounter with God. But then she made a mistake. She added something of her own: God had said not to touch the fruit. Had Adam told her this? We do not know. But it was something in addition to God’s original warning.

It may have seemed a harmless addition. It was not harmless. The issue was eating, not touching. It had to do with a communion meal. This was a covenantally significant tree. Her verbal addition left her vulnerable. She knew that she risked dying if she violated God’s command. But she was not quite certain of God’s command. She added something extra. Then the serpent told her that God had not said that they would die. She believed him. She touched the fruit. She ate.

The apostle Paul wrote: “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (1 Timothy 2:14). Adam’s transgression was far more self-conscious then Eve’s was. Eve was operating from second-hand information about what God had said. Adam was not. Adam was operating from his own memory. Eve had only the memory of what Adam had told her that God had said. Eve had accurate knowledge. It was sufficient for her to make a judgment about the proper response to the serpent: a refusal to believe it and a refusal to eat. She did not have perfect information, but she had adequate information. She was therefore responsible. She had been deceived, but she should not have been deceived.

3. Testing the Sovereign Word

Then, having been deceived, she lured her husband into transgression. He knew better. I believe that he was using her as an empirical test of God’s word. God had said that on the day that they ate from the tree, they would surely die. She had just eaten of it. Would she die or not? Was God’s word accurate or not? We do not know how long Adam waited to see whether his wife would die, but it is clear that he had already made up his mind regarding the reliability of God’s word. It was not absolute. No one in his right mind would have risked death by violating the command of an absolute God. Adam assumed that his word was better than God’s word. In doing this, he assumed that his wife’s word was also better than God’s word. Therefore, he assumed that the serpent’s word was better than God’s word. He decided that he would be the judge between God and the serpent. He would determine who was telling the truth. He would decide whose word is reliable and whose word is not reliable.

The judgment of God came on all three transgressors. God determined whose word was reliable. God imposed the sanction that He had promised: death. On that day, they definitively died. They moved from life to death. They moved from grace to wrath. But, in His grace, God did not execute them on that day. They were definitively dead. They were judicially dead. That is to say, they were covenantally dead. But they were not yet physically dead.

Then God gave them hope. He did this in the context of His curse of the serpent. “And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:14–15). This was a declaration to Satan, who was represented by the serpent. Christians believe that this prophecy refers to the coming of Jesus Christ in history: His life, His death, His bodily resurrection, and His bodily ascension to the right hand of God.

Christians do not believe that Jesus literally stomped on the head of Satan at the resurrection. This prophecy used a metaphor to get across a covenantal point. Jesus would covenantally crush the head of the serpent. Why? Because the serpent was the covenantal representative of Satan. Satan had only this hope: through his covenantal representatives, he would bite the heel of Christ in history by biting the heels of His followers. He would make trouble for Jesus by making trouble for His followers. That was what the temptation of Adam and Eve was all about. Satan hoped to disrupt the plans of God.

4. Sanctions

What should Eve have done in response to the temptation? She could have picked up a stone and hit it in the head. She could have called on her husband to join her. Here was an invader of the garden. This invader was tempting her to revolt against the God who owned the garden. Because it tempted her to commit a capital crime, it deserved death. She had the lawful authority to impose this sanction. God had given mankind control over the beasts. She knew this because Adam had told her. God had spoken to her through her husband. The serpent was a beast. It was under her jurisdiction. By tempting her, it had risked death.

God imposed negative sanctions on Adam, Eve, and the serpent. They had all violated His sovereign word. There was a price to pay for rebellion. Adam and Eve either would impose negative sanctions on the serpent or else God would impose negative sanctions on all of them. The serpent was doomed either way: “damned if they did, damned if they didn’t.” This was the inescapable judicial price of becoming a covenantal agent of Satan.

I did not derive all this from Genesis 3. I derived it from my understanding of chapters that followed. As an historian of the fall of man, I make use of subsequent historical information and subsequent revelation from God regarding the meaning of the fall. This information is part of the biblical story: the transition from wrath to grace. I can make sense of subsequent biblical revelation because I understand this principle of interpretation. It is biblical interpretation and therefore also historical interpretation. We call a principle of interpretation a hermeneutic. The word comes from the name of the Greek god Hermes, known as the messenger god.

E. Hermeneutics

1. An Inescapable Concept

Every historian operates in terms of a hermeneutic: a principle of interpretation. He interprets facts in terms of a general principle of interpretation. In a world of seemingly unlimited facts, he must select from among them in his quest to understand the overall historical process. Without a principle of interpretation, he cannot make sense of the enormous quantity of historical data that confronts him. He cannot tell his story without a principle of interpretation.

Every hermeneutic is based on a set of presuppositions about God, man, law, sanctions, and time. I wrote a book on this framework: Unconditional Surrender: God’s Program of Victory (2010). These presuppositions are accepted on faith. They are not self-evident. They cannot be proven by some higher principle of logic. Even if they could be proven this way, then the principle of logic would be a matter of faith. This was why the historian Charles A. Beard selected this title for his 1933 presidential address to the American Historical Association: “Written History as an Act of Faith.” (See Chapter 9.)

I have asserted that the principle of historical interpretation that is explicitly taught in the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament, is this one: the transition from grace to wrath, followed by the transition from wrath to grace. This overarching theme should govern Christians who are attempting to understand the past. When they read any historical document, they should always keep in mind the fact that God is sovereign over history, and that the Bible testifies to the reality of a specific hermeneutic. There is no escape from this hermeneutic for Christians. There is also no escape from this hermeneutic for non-Christians, but they do not acknowledge its existence, and they probably are unaware of it. After all, Christian historians are generally unaware of it. Most Christian historians do not use a specific principle of interpretation in their historical investigations and published results of their findings.

A Christian who understands this hermeneutic, and who systematically uses it when examining historical records, has a tremendous advantage over those historians who do not understand it and who do not use it in their research. This hermeneutic provides coherence to the story of mankind. Without some principle of coherence, the historian is overwhelmed by the magnitude of his task. There are too many facts available to interpret. He thinks of his task as connecting the historical dots, but there are too many dots to connect, and too many missing dots that he has not yet discovered.

2. A Faithful Steward

The principle of stewardship is fundamental to understanding the relationship between God and man. It was established by the dominion covenant in Genesis 1:26–28. God has provided mankind with the resources necessary for fulfilling this covenant. People have a moral obligation to fulfill it. This is a covenantal obligation.

God holds each person responsible for fulfilling his or her tiny aspect of this covenant. But, because God holds people responsible, He provides them with the tools and resources necessary for their completion of their tasks. It is the responsibility of each of us to recognize the limits of the task, the tools available for the task, and the economic resources associated with the task. This includes intellectual tasks. Among these intellectual tasks is historiography. We need not write down all of our interpretations of the past, but we cannot escape the task of interpretation when we are making judgments about our responsibilities in the present in relation to the future. We must put our capital to productive uses. Again, we are back to these five points: God, man, law, sanctions, and time.

Men do not have exhaustive knowledge. The attempt to attain such knowledge is inherently demonic. God not only does not require exhaustive knowledge, He forbids the quest. “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). From this verse we should draw a conclusion: we do not need exhaustive knowledge in order to have reliable knowledge. We do not need perfect historical knowledge in order to have reliable historical knowledge. We do not need to know everything perfectly in order to know something accurately. God possesses such knowledge, but we do not.

Eve did not have to have perfect knowledge of what God had told Adam. She had sufficient knowledge to make a God-honouring interpretation of the lies of the serpent. God held her responsible to do this. This is true of all of our labours. It is surely true of the historian’s labours.

A faithful steward should not allow himself to become paralyzed in his quest for ever-greater knowledge of ever-narrower fields of knowledge and the accompanying responsibilities. He can legitimately pursue greater specialization. He will become better equipped to speak authoritatively with respect to a few fields of knowledge, including historical knowledge. But he should be humble with his specialized knowledge. He should not assume that his success in understanding a narrow area of life provides him with the knowledge to speak authoritatively outside of his fields of expertise. He can offer his opinions, of course. His opinions should be well-informed. But they can never be opinions based on his exhaustive knowledge. He must rely on God to provide him with missing data and better interpretations.

In every field, Christians should be open to new interpretations based on superior evidence. They should allow the Holy Spirit to speak to them in these areas. This is especially true if they are pioneers in a field of interpretation. They should be judicious. They should assume that God will provide them with the required information to make better decisions in specialized areas for which God holds them responsible. They should listen to the opinions of others. “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14)

The division of labour operates in every area of life. This includes the division of intellectual labour. A faithful steward acknowledges the limitations on his knowledge. He searches for better knowledge, especially from other Christians who have successfully applied principles of biblical interpretation to their specific fields. This applies to the calling of historiography.

A diligent Christian should be confident in his ability to be a faithful steward in the area of knowledge, including historical knowledge. Paul offered this affirmation: “Or who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). Paul said “we.” This is a collective. It is basic to Christian civilization. Through the intellectual division of labour, Christians extend the kingdom of God in history. That is to say, they extend the civilization of God in history.

If Eve had not been certain what to do in response to the serpent’s lies and temptation, she should have asked her husband. The division of intellectual labour would have helped them both to make a better judgment. But she did not ask Adam. She ate. Then she offered her judgment of the fruit. It tasted good. He imitated her. She was in rebellion, and he was in rebellion. Neither of them subordinated themselves to the revelation of God. They did not honour Adam’s memory of what God had said. Such insubordination has been the story of mankind ever since. Because men have failed to obey the commands of God, which have been preserved in the Bible as a historical record, they have chosen to imitate our covenantal parents. They have dismissed the historical revelation provided in the Bible. They have suffered the consequences. This has retarded the corporate transition from wrath to grace. Nevertheless, this transition continues. It is inescapable.


As we mature in the faith, we are supposed to improve our understanding of the historical narratives that we find in the Bible. God requires us to make judgments about how these narratives are connected. We should ask questions. “What principles of interpretation enable us to understand what holds them together? What has God revealed in each narrative about the transition from wrath to grace?” We should search for principles of interpretation that are fixed. They must be logical. They must be theological. They will enable us to understand what would otherwise be a gigantic collection of facts that do not reflect God’s written revelation of the history of the transition from wrath to grace.

What I wrote in the previous paragraph also applies to our study of the non-biblical past, which is usually presented in the form of narratives. To make these points clear, I now repeat them. God requires us to make judgments about how these narratives are connected. We should ask questions. “What principles of interpretation enable us to understand what holds them together? What has God revealed in each narrative about the transition from wrath to grace?” We should search for principles of interpretation that are fixed. They must be logical. They must be theological. They will enable us to understand what would otherwise be a gigantic collection of facts that do not reflect God’s written revelation of the history of the transition from wrath to grace.

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