So, what exactly does a human authorship of the Bible change about how we read it? Everything.
The book of Job is the key about where to begin.
First, let me tell you that Bible scholars have found that the opening and closing sections of Job are likely written at a later date than the centre portion. In light of this, let us examine only that which falls between the human imaginings of what God had to say about the whole situation.
What we find is a window into how ancient Hebraic theology functioned. Theologians call it “Retribution Theology” and it goes like this. If something bad happens to you, that bad thing is evidence that you have sinned. In Job, we see this reasoning in Chapter 8:3-4, “Does God pervert justice? Or does the Almighty pervert what is right? If your children sinned against Him, He gave them over to the penalty of their sin.”
The next verses reveal a similar logic but in the other direction, if you do good, then good will come to you. This is the foundation of the prosperity gospel. Job 8:5-6, “But if you will look to God, and make your supplication to the Almighty; if you become pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself for you, and will restore your righteous abode.”
Everything that happened in the world of the ancient Hebrews was interpreted using this logic. When a volcanic eruption occurred near Sodom and Gomorrah, that was proof that horrible and heinous things must have been occurring in those cities, and thus the story goes. If you look, you will find tar pits near where those two cities were located, evidence of magma pockets close to the surface, and a likely source of “fire and brimstone.”
Most of the angry God events in the Old Testament can be best understood in this fashion. These are not the tried and true actions of God, but the interpretation of God’s actions as told by an ancient people who believed that bad things happen to bad people. Again we see this logic in Job 4:7-8, “Call to mind now: Who, being innocent, ever perished? And where were upright people ever destroyed? Even as I have seen, those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble reap the same.”
We know today that this logic is false! Bad things happen to good people all the time! Good things happen to bad people every day! Just look at the financial inequalities that exist in the world. There are countless examples in our modern world of how this logic is false, but this is what the ancient Hebrews believed, and so this is how they interpreted all events and actions. Did God, the forever the same and unchanging God, ever truly change His mind? Or did the ancient authors of the Bible see two events, and follow their logic to that conclusion?
Who God is has never changed. However, our human understanding of Him has changed drastically. The Bible is the story of that journey, and it is very much worth reading. It is a valuable lesson of where we should not return to, and in the case of the words of Christ, what we should remind ourselves about who God is.
Think about all of the stories that bother you about the Old Testament. If you think of them this way, as the ancient perspective of an ancient people, does that help or hinder your understanding of who God is?
Which is more reasonable, that the vast ranging versions of God across the Bible are all somehow accurate despite his being repeatedly established as unchanging and forever? Or that each is a new generation’s perspective on who they believe God to be, and who God really is remains a mystery behind the closest description we have through the words of Christ?
Think about it.