The Bible is not the Word of God

Gareth is one of my favorite professors, and I love this.

Don’t misread this – he is not saying that scripture is not important, or inspired. He is saying that there is only one Word of God, and scriptures tell us that He is a person, and not a book.

gareth brandt

I have made the above statement numerous times in class at the risk of being called a heretic. I follow it up by saying that, “Jesus is the Word of God.” See John 1:1. I do not believe we should make statements about the Bible that the Bible does not claim for itself. Indeed, we could say that it is idolatry to claim that the Bible is the Word of God. We worship God, not the Bible. The Bible contains or proclaims the Word of God.

The reason I thought of this today is that I was looking at some 16th century documents in preparation for teaching an Anabaptist seminar and came across the following quote by Hans Denck.

“I value the Holy Scipture above all human treasures but not as high as the Word of God, which is living, powerful and eternal, and which is free and unencumbered by all…

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Mark 1.1

Alright, here we go. As a reminder, every other day I’ll be switching between the OT and NT, and covering as much as I have energy for – sometimes a verse, sometimes a chapter or more. I’ll cover the passage twice – once ‘liveblogging’ while reading the ESV, and a second time looking at some detail with the NET. I’m going to do it in a bit of a weird order though. I’m going to start with Mark, because it is the shortest, and both Matthew and Luke seem to draw from Mark – it may have been the earliest written Gospel. Then we’ll move on to Matthew, then to John, and finish the Gospels with Luke-Acts, as they were originally written as companion pieces. Ready? Here we go.

Mark 1.1-8

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Bold claims, right from the start – the author doesn’t beat it around the bush at all. It’s quite something to have the first line of ‘Good News’ be something that would be blasphemous to most Jews.

 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
    who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
     ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight,’”

And then we move straight into OT prophecy. Prophecy given to a people in exile, if I remember my OT theology correctly… a position that the Jews of Judea in the First Century could relate to I’m sure. They were really exiles in their own country, worshipping at a temple which God seemed to have forgotten about. He simply wasn’t there in the way He used to be.

 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

‘A baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.’ Do we think about baptism this way any more? As a public proclamation of repentance? Do we even truly repent any more?

And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 

What a character. If this man came calling people to repentance, I don’t know if I would have listened. I KNOW some churches near me wouldn’t have listened.

And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.  I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Difference between water and the Holy Spirit. Today this invokes images of pentecostals and charismatics – I imagine John was envisioning something closer to the ‘Spirit of the Lord is upon me’ of the OT prophets – the Spirit enabling the prophetic voice of His people.

And now, for the NET:

Mark 1:1

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 

Translator’s notes in the NET note that it is quite possible that Mark was alluding to the ‘In the Beginning’ of Genesis with this phrasing. If so, it’s a beautiful parallel – a new beginning.

1:2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare your way, 

1:3 the voice of one shouting in the wilderness,

Prepare the way for the Lord,

make his paths straight.’” 

It is interesting that this isn’t actually from Isaiah in its entirety. The beginning part is from Exodus 23.20 with a parallel in Malachi 3.1 – only 1.3 is a quotation from Isaiah, and a liberal quotation at that. The NT authors often had no problem grabbing various snippets of Scripture and using them to prove their point – something we would never do today. Interesting.

1:4 In the wilderness John the baptizer began preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 

I like Mark’s use of ‘Baptizer’ instead of ‘Baptist’ (there is a difference in the Greek). It’s an action word, something that John does, which fits in with Mark very well, as it is a very action-oriented book. The NET also mentions that this baptism was not simply a mental assent that one was in need of repentance – rather, one who was baptized was expected to act differently and live differently.

1:5 People from the whole Judean countryside and all of Jerusalem were going out to him, and he was baptizing them in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins.

At the beginning of v.5, there is, in the Greek, the word ‘kai’ which is translated ‘and’. This just goes on with Mark’s immediate style of writing – it’s often ‘And then this happend, and then that happened’ or ‘immediately this happened’ – something we lose in the English I think.

1:6 John wore a garment made of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

John was fully within the tradition of the prophets – as my NT Theology professor, Michael Szuk, puts it, John was the last of the OT Prophets, and the greatest.

1:7 He proclaimed, “One more powerful than I am is coming after me; I am not worthy to bend down and untie the strap of his sandals. 1:8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

I love how the story of of Jesus does not start with Jesus. The Gospel begins with John, announcing the coming of Christ. For me, this just furthers my belief that God uses ordinary people for extraordinary purposes. It’s incredible the way that He includes us.

Genesis 1.1


Creation. So, this is how these posts are going to work: I’m going to liveblog while reading through the passage in the English Standard Version (ESV) quite quickly, and then go back through the passage again with the New English Translation (NET, link here), an open-source, always-free-online translation, which allows both side-by-side english and greek/hebrew with word highlighting (a useful feature for those of us who can’t read much of the ancient languages), and fully public translator’s notes. Seriously, everyone should be using this.

Along the way, I’ll talk about how I feel, things I’ve learned from various classes, and how I see this text influencing my theology. Now, let’s get started.

Genesis 1.1: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

Bam. A couple things strike me right away. First, why didn’t God just create everything already in motion? I mena, it’s not like he had to come up with stuff on the fly. If he had wanted to, he could have snapped his Eternal Fingers and created a fully-formed Earth fully populated with everything.

This reminds me of an old Atheist mind game called Last Thursdayism. It’s the idea that an omnipotent being created the world last Thursday. Everything prior to last Thursday are memories created within our minds at the moment of creation. It’s very interesting that the Scripture does not speak about creation this way – or at least, doesn’t seem to.

Second, God was there. Right from the very beginning, God was there. He has always been connected with his Creation, and has never been distant from it. Awesome.

And now, with a little more in-depth analysis, using the NET as source.

1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
1:2 Now the earth was without shape and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the watery deep, but the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the water.

The first statement has been interpreted in two main ways. I’m not going to source a lot of stuff here, but if you’re interested ask in the comments and I’ll find sources for you. First, it could be ‘at the beginning of everything, God created everything’ – that is, all the raw matter that would be necessary to carry out the act of creation. The second way it could be read is as a summary statement of what will happen over the course of the creation event – ‘God created everything at the beginning’ – essentially a title for the creation narrative that follows. The nuance may be slight, and perhaps it doesn’t matter much. Personally I prefer the second reading, as it fits better with a narrative reading of Genesis, which I am personally more comfortable with. I’ll get into why later on when we deal with the six days of creation.

One final note on v.1 – the word ‘create’, bara, is often connected with renewing, restoring, or creating something right and good. Beautiful. Sometimes I wish I could read the nuances of Hebrew.

On to v.2. The phrase ‘without shape and empty’, tohu bohu, is fascinating. Later, the prophets (Jeremiah, I think) would use this construction to speak about judgement – perhaps they were evoking the imagery of the chaos prior to creation. Another interesting note is that the sea was often representative of the grave or of death for the Hebrew people. Darkness, throughout the OT, often represents evil, sin, or destruction. So, out of a chaos of destruction and death, God brings life. Beautiful. In the first two verses of the Bible, we have a God who has the power over the forces of death and destruction, and who is intimately connected with his creation.


There is always more that could be said, but let’s leave it there for now. Creation narrative coming up on Friday (hopefully) – tomorrow, we look at Matthew!

Steady, Steady…

Ok, Jordan, hold on. You can do this. 

I just exhausted myself picking a theme and header image for this. I haven’t even arrived at any sort of meaningful content yet.

You can do this. 

Four years ago, I fancied myself artistic. I was idealistic, single, and had lots of time on my hands. Why not write some poetry, take some pictures, write creatively? Why not call myself good at these things, and glow in the adoration of those who thought my pictures looked neat and that my words were, well, maybe not poetic, but at least somewhat honest?

Then, I moved into the Downtown East Side of Vancouver. I promise not to talk about this often, but I think it is important. And it’s on my mind right now. Self-editing has never been a strong suit of mine.

When I moved into the DTES, something snapped. It became harder and harder to pick up the camera. It felt like work rather than pleasure. It was so strange. The same thing began to happen with my writing. I was seeing so much, experiencing such a unique slice of life, and yet I seemed to be utterly incapable of capturing it with either words or pictures. It was if God was saying ‘No. This is for you. Watch, listen, participate, but don’t record. This is for you.’ And I suppose he was right. He almost always is.
After spending a year in the DTES, being transformed by the addicts and criminals that I now call friends, meeting my wife, and having my life completely changed, I returned to my home on the west coast of Vancouver Island. I expected that my creative juice would come rushing back the moment I left the DTES. It never happened. 

And so I waited.

And waited,

and waited.

It has been two full years since I left the DTES, and three since I felt really ‘creative’. I am slowly realizing that what I had before was perhaps not true creativity, but rather the energetic buzz of a man in his 20’s trying to prove himself on an artsy college campus. During the past four years I have discovered other passions – husband, advocate, organizer, scholar. ‘Artist’ slowly slipped to the bottom of an ever-growing pile. Every time the opportunity arose to do some creative writing, or to take my camera out, it just felt like too much work. 

I have often battled with self-doubt, as well. I often feel that I have nothing to contribute to the conversation, that my pictures couldn’t possibly compare with those photographers that I truly admire. And so, online at least, I keep to myself mostly, commenting only on a few blogs or facebook posts, but rarely authoring anything myself. 

I have tried to change this in the past. I have tried to set a schedule, to force myself to write, but up until now it simply hasn’t worked. I’m hoping that this time things will be different. The bedrock of this blog will be what I decided on last year, but never followed up on – I will blog through the Bible, as I read it. I think the way I will do this is that every other day I will switch from New Testament and Old Testament. By the time I’m finished, I wil have gone through the NT at least a couple times, I suppose. The amount I tackle each day will depend on the energy I have, and on how much I have to say about the passage. 

Interspersed with this I will have some pictures, some other thoughts, some rambles, and some rants. I’m actually excited about this, and I hoe you will join me. I’ll keep going this time.


You can do this. 

Genesis: an introduction

Genesis is a huge, epic book. From creation myth to genealogy, from promises to journeys, from epic towers and epic floods to famines and fornication, there is just so much going on in this book.

I view the bible, and subsequently Genesis, as inspired by God, but not inerrant in the classic sense. I believe that the Bible we have today is the bible we are meant to have, and that it is good for teaching, preaching, reproof, and generally revealing who God is. It is not, however, precise, in the modern scientific meaning of the word. It was written to reveal God, not to report with 100% accuracy every little fact about the history of the world or of the nation of Israel.

With this view in mind, I can read Genesis and believe that what it speaks about is 100% rooted in theological fact – what it says about God is what the writers thought about God. But I can also say ‘eh, worldwide flood… maybe not’.

Non-Christians would say, based on this, that I am inconsistent. Christians would say that I am wishy-washy and have no ground to stand on. I disagree. I simply believe that the Bible is not our sole revelation from God. Instead, I believe that we have three.

First is the Scriptures. They point to God, and reveal christ.
Second is Creation. Science is simply the study of Creation, and creation shows the glory and wonder of God. If Creation is a revelation of God, then Creation can be used to interpret Scripture, and Scripture can be used to interpret Creation.
Third is the Community of believers, past and present. God is present within the Community, and allows the community to interpret both Scriptures and Creation. In return, both Scriptures and Creation interpret and help form the Community. If these three are not kept in balance we begin to lose sight of who God truly is, and begin to make gods in our own images.

So, back to Genesis.  I believe this books contains important truths about who God is, and what he is ‘on about’, if this makes sense. Soon (hopefully tomorrow) I’ll post my first real look at the content of Genesis, starting right at the very beginning. See you then.

What am I doing here?

I’m blogging through the bible, that’s what. I know, it’s been done before, and will be done again, but I have never done it. I’m doing this more for myself than for anyone else, but if you happen to enjoy it, I’ll be pleased. This seems to be the story of my life – I try and do things for myself, while secretly desiring the respect and admiration of others. Not in a desperate, clingy way, but the desire is there nonetheless.

Now, on to the business at hand. I have tried writing blogs before, but have always drifted off directionless, not really knowing what to put down. I’m a photographer, so a photoblog would seem like a good idea… but then once I start writing a photoblog, I find myself wishing I could talk about life in general, or about God or something.

So for now I’ll write about God here, and about photos over at This space will be dedicated to systematically going through the bible and just writing my thoughts as I read and work my way through the texts. It might be dry as dirt, or it might be fascinating. Only time will tell.

A journey through the Christian life