In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. …
– Genesis 1:1-3
A long time ago, I had been teaching Sunday school for a while, and my wife and I decided to go to an evening Bible study on a weekday. I loved the idea in concept. I learned a lot while preparing for my weekly Sunday school class, but I needed something to recharge the batteries, so to speak. I needed to be fed myself and my wife wanted to hear someone else’s opinion on things.
Some of these studies were led by the pastor or other ordained teachers of the Gospel who lived in the area but did not have a church at the time. But there was one conducted by a layman.
In one of the layman’s classes, the subject got around to Genesis 1. The question was raised as to who believed in Creation rather than Evolution? I raised my hand for Creation. I was immediately challenged with the ‘facts’ of Evolution. I was then bombarded with the ‘facts’ regarding the age of the earth. Then the taunts about, “And you call yourself a scientist!”
First, I am an engineer by education, not a scientist. I am a Christian and a believer in the sacred text by the Grace of God.
Here someone, who had possibly read a book, challenged me, an engineer with a master’s degree, on Carbon dating. He was the teacher. The others pouring on the abuse were the teacher’s cronies. I was the outsider trying to learn something. I simply said that I stand behind what I believe. God is perfectly capable of creating a world that seems older than He says that it is.
Then the teacher said, “But you must know that the first ten or eleven books of the Bible are Midrashim. This means that they were passed down by word of mouth around campfires for hundreds and hundreds of years before the first writing implement was ever invented. You can’t take anything from Genesis until Abram appears in Genesis 11 as being the truth. Who knows how many people embellished those stories over the countless generations.”
I repeated that I believe what I believe. I had no idea what Midrashim was or how to spell it. Okay, some texts spell it with a “U”, Midrashum, but when I do that, I get the red line beneath the word. I did not want to embarrass the teacher or his friends, so I never looked up the word – until now.
Midrashim is the plural of Midrash. A Midrash is an ancient story, probably written by the early rabbis. It was used to illuminate, illustrate or explain the sacred text. It was never a part of the sacred text. Most experts do not leave out the concept of oral Midrashim, but the only knowledge we have of the existence of Midrashim are the ones written down.
How does anyone go from an ancient written story that augments the sacred text, that we now Know as the Bible, becoming the Bible itself in oral form, and thus subject to embellishments?
Okay, who knows how many embellishments were made around those campfires? God does.
And who says that the source of Genesis was an oral tradition told around campfires? Have we lost the knowledge of the author of the Bible? God is the author. He could have inspired Moses to write Genesis the same way He revealed visions to Ezekiel and the Apostle John. And once Moses wrote the words down, the people could critique the text versus the oral tradition. But God inspired Moses to write the words.
As for a Bible study leader making such a statement, be careful. If you teach a Bible study, you are allowed to say, “I don’t know. Let me get back to you on that.” You should never make something up. But if this Midrashim Conundrum had come from a book, a teacher should understand the source. Don’t repeat heresy just because the author of such heresy has a bunch of initials after their name.
And this one was so easy to debunk. A few seconds of research and the heretical author’s work, if there was one, is ripped to shreds.
But what of all the other adults in the room that never thought to check? They are thinking that the Bible is a book full of mistakes, and it cannot be trusted.
I took Jesus’ words seriously when He said that a teacher that guides people astray will be dealt with, severely. Matthew 18:6 may mention ‘little ones’, but we are all considered children of God.
And what of Creation? I believe in the Bible, as written. All science gets to a point where they have no ability to measure any further. The Big Bang was named for a reason. They needed a word for their idea, and it had to be big. At that point they must make an educated guess. In other words, they must have faith. As Mark Lowry once quipped about an atheist that he had met, he said something along the lines of, “I admire your faith. You believe that all this was evolved through mere chance. I don’t have that much faith. I believe that a loving God created this world, and He knew what He was doing.”
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.