By Irvin Himmel
God revealed Himself to man in the age of the patriarchs. Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not left without a disclosure of the divine will. However, there was no written revelation in those days. With the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai, God began the utilization of writing to make known and preserve His revelation. The ten commandments were given on tables of stone, “written with the finger of God” (Ex. 31:18; 34:1). Moses wrote the words of the law in a book (Deut. 31:24). He wrote “all the words of the Lord” (Ex. 24:4). He wrote Israel’s journeys “by the commandment of the Lord” (Num. 33:2).
The Book of Moses
The writings of Moses have been copied, translated, and read through the centuries. Nehemiah lived about a thousand years after Moses. In the time of Nehemiah, “the book of Moses” was read in the ears of the people (Neh. 13:1). More than four hundred years later, the book of Moses was still being used. Jesus asked the Sadducees if they had not read certain things “in the book of Moses” (Mk. 12:26). On another occasion, Jesus said to some of the unbelieving Jews, “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (John 5:46, 47). After the law of Moses was fulfilled and therefore no longer in force, some continued to read the writings of Moses and were trying to follow the old law. Several years after the establishment of the church, the apostles acknowledged in Acts 15:21, “For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day.” Today we have the writings of Moses in the first five books of the Old Testament.
The Writing Prophets
God used many other servants to write His words during the Mosaic age. Samuel the prophet told the people the manner of the kingdom and “wrote it in a book” (1 Sam. 10:25). Isaiah was charged, “Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever” (Isa. 30:8). Jehovah said to Jeremiah, “Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book” (Jer. 30:2). Habakkuk was told, “Write the vision, and make it plain upon the tables, that he may run that readeth it” (Hab. 2:2). Jesus Christ respected the Old Testament writings. He said to the disciples following His resurrection, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me” (Lk. 24:44). The apostles honored the Old Testament writings. For example, Paul said, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).
God used the New Testament writers to reveal the Messiahship of Jesus, the plan of redemption, and the blessings of the kingdom. John said, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30, 31). John wrote to produce saving faith in the hearts of honest readers. Through the study of the apostolic writings we learn our duties to God. Paul said, “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37). New Testament writings give assurance to the faithful in Christ Jesus. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13). “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4).
These sacred writings can be understood. Paul told the Ephesians that he wrote, “Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3:3,4). He said to the church at Corinth, “For we write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end” (2 Cor. 1:13, New Am. Stand. Bible). The Lord told John on the island of Patmos, “What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia” (Rev. 1:11). “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter” (Rev. 1:19). John did write those things, and he warned that we are not to add to, nor to take from, “the words of the book” (Rev. 22:18, 19).
Written revelation has distinct advantages over oral communication. That which is put in written form is conducive to preservation. Written words can be read, studied, re-read, copied, translated, and analyzed with ease. No communication is more important than that which comes from God. Wisely, God has made known through the Scriptures all that we need for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). We thank God that He has unveiled His will in a manner that will stand the test of time, and a form that makes it readily accessible.
Truth Magazine XIX: 32, p. 498
June 19, 1975