History, But More of a Testimony than ‘Straight Up History’

“This does not mean that the history recorded in the Bible is identical in every respect with the modern view of history. A historian today is supposed to give a full and objective account of all the facts of his period. The biblical historians, however, made no such claim. On the contrary, they were regarded as “the former prophets,” for they were writing “sacred history,” the story of God’s dealings with a particular people, for a particular purpose. They were convinced that God had “done this for no other nation” (Ps. 147:20). So their record is more a testimony than a history. They were writing down their own confession confession of faith. Therefore, they were selective in their choice of material and (the secular historian would add) unbalanced in their presentation of it. For example, ancient Babylonia, Persia, Egypt, Greece and Rome—each a mighty empire and a rich civilization—are only included as they impinge on the fortunes of Israel and Judah, two tiny buffer states on the edge of the Arabian desert, which hardly anybody had heard of. The great thinkers of Greece like Aristotle, Socrates and Plato are not so much as mentioned, nor are national heroes like Alexander the Great (except obliquely) and Julius Caesar. Instead, the scriptural record concentrates on men like Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah and the prophets to whom the word of God came, and on Jesus Christ, God’s Word made flesh. For the concern of Scripture is not with the wisdom, wealth or might of the world, but with the salvation of God. Biblical history is Heilsgeschichte, the story of salvation.” -John Stott, Understanding the Bible


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