Question: (1) Why did God not perfectly preserve this word to the extent in which we don`t have to study original texts and changes in language over the years to understand it? (2) How do I know that Satan is who the bible reveals him to be and not the version proposed by Satanist and Luciferians as standing for individuality and not simply a rebellious angel?
Answer: Greetings friend. It will be my pleasure to answer your two questions today… although they both have more to do with the use of language than with Bible doctrine. So let’s dig in.
Your first question rests on a false assumption…because God did indeed perfectly preserve his word so that we may understand it without referencing the original texts. Now, he has also preserved the thousands of ancient manuscripts in their original languages, and anybody may consult these to see that our English translations represent them faithfully, but for day-to-day Bible study this is unnecessary — and I’d like to demonstrate this. So please navigate to the following link.
You should now be on the Bible Hub website looking at twenty-four distinct English Bible editions that translate Romans 1:20… yet they all “say” the same thing; they might use different phrasing, but (… and please investigate for yourself) they all tell the same truth.
This resource is an absolute treasure! You can (and at a glance) review centuries of Christian scholarship… and it’s all right there on the page — the blood, sweat and tears of countless scholars who have checked and challenged each other as part of the process of coaxing the Hebrew and Greek into idiomatic English.
But if scholarly consensus is not enough for you, you may select the label “Greek” from the top-central menu, and this will bring up Romans 1:20 in the original language — the Greek — and there you may check the scholars’ work… or even come up with your own translation! Anyone with reasonable Internet access (which is about ½ the world) can view the relevant materials almost instantly, and this egalitarian access to scholarly materials is a modern-day safeguard for God’s truth. It’s all “out there” — and there are fewer and fewer roadblocks to accessing these materials.
But even with our present-day access to the data, we still find ourselves at a crossroads concerning God’s methods for preserving that data, so let me ask which of these would you rather God to have done: Would you rather that God had frozen human language so that people all over the world and throughout all time could only speak the biblical Greek… and unchangingly at that? Because only then would a fixed document like the one you proposed be of supreme value to the general population (… but we’d still be stuck with a translation of Old Testament, like the Septuagint). Or would you rather he do what he did — have his full intended meaning come across in all languages and at all times… but at the expense of translating from the original documents? I prefer the latter. This is a better fit for how people live, how they study and how they process information. But in spite of this, Muslims claim that Allah’s method for transmitting the Quran was better that God’s method for transmitting Scripture.
Muslims believe that Allah dictated the Quran to Mohammed in Arabic — and that this Allah-to-Mohamed dictation method makes their document inherently superior to the God-and-man confluence of Christian scriptures. This is not true, of course… but you can see the temptation when it comes to documents: people want an artifact more than they want the truth; they insist upon on a bronze serpent when the promise of God should suffice (2 K. 18:4). And guess what? People have not changed through the millennia; they still want a thing… a physical, unchanging chiseled-in-stone word of God to place within the arks of their own making. But is that a good idea? No; it spawns things like the KJVO (King James Version Only) movement.
The KJVOs require that God’s word be a fixed text. So they insist that a 400-year-old English rendering of the Bible is the version that God intended to be the word of God… and a fixed text would certainly support their fixed thinking. They interpret Scripture with wooden fidelity to straight-and-stupid English (— one that doesn’t even work in the real world) rather than endure the flexibilities that are natural to a language… like genre, context, figures, voice…
Here’s the problem with what the Muslims and the KJVOs think God’s word should be: Unless God created people so that they too would not vary their languages, his communicating to them through a firmly fixed document would be fraudulent… because language does indeed morph through time. But since freezing the language would frustrate God’s purposes at Babel (Gen. 11:9) this is probably not an option.
The real issue, I believe, is that God made us far too clever to be shackled to an artifact — be it Nehushtan or a fixed document. But doesn’t a robust stand on biblical inerrancy require a belief in fixed documents? It does… however, it only requires belief that the original documents were fixed — as inspired, inerrant and infallible. But there’s a fly in this holy ointment. We don’t have those original documents in hand. What we do have, however, is enough of those ancient “witnesses” (which is what we call the early documents) to reconstruct the New Testament to a communicative certainty — with only a few non-consequential words in dispute.
I personally like it that we do not have the originals, because this affirms that God created us humans as a clever bunch. You see, even secular historians agree that we have a stunning supply of ancient witness texts and that we have reconstructed the New Testament faithfully and credibly. And since we have translated those manuscripts into English, we have God’s meaning… but we have this without the burden of a physical artifact… and without the necessity of referencing the original language documents in our day-to-day studies. How is that not the perfect product?
William Lane Craig of Reasonable Faith Ministries offers some perspective on the usefulness and inerrancy of the Scripture to both unbelievers and believers.
….we don’t need to “argue over inspiration or inerrancy” with unbelievers, but we do need to discuss these questions with fellow Christians. With unbelievers we should simply make the case that the documents collected into the New Testament are reliable enough to warrant the beliefs that Jesus understood himself to be the Messiah, the unique Son of God, and the Danielic Son of Man, and that his crucifixion, burial, empty tomb, post-mortem appearances, and the origin of his disciples’ belief in his resurrection are historically well-founded. With fellow believers we need to discuss the nature of biblical inspiration and what follows from that for the truthfulness of Scripture.
According to Craig, the important thing is that the ancient biblical documents are reliable… and that’s not a function of faith; that’s a function of the historical and documentary sciences. But Craig asks, with such reliability in place, what follows for the Christian?
What follows? Let’s run with what we have — a living, lively word whose flection preserves the truth — rather than looking for a fixed text or bronze serpent… which might better fit our weakness… but which do not better fit our science.
If you are interested in learning more about the Quran — whether its ostensive dictation to Mohammed was superior to the God-to-man confluence of the Christian Scripture, you can find my response to a related question at the following link:
Your second question has a lot to do with the biblical documents, too — even more so than the culture’s perception of the devil. Here’s why. Satan (a.k.a. Lucifer, the great dragon, the ancient serpent, etc.) is introduced very early in the Bible and has a well-developed character. So, when the task is to compare ideas that appear in the culture, one must give the oldest appearances special consideration… and the biblical documents have “the oldest with the mostest,” whereas the Luciferian ideas are recent by comparison (… and they are poorly defined on a good day).
But your point is well taken; Satan is indeed the embodiment of evil (Rev. 13:4) — and this makes him the perfect object for a figure of speech. I have no quarrel with a culture that uses such figures in its language… even this one where they set Satan up to be “the bad” which opposes God whom they may set up to be “the good” — because we do this all the time; this is legitimate usage. But I do have a quarrel with people who do not understand the limits of these literary structures and who develop aberrant theology because of it.
The main problem with the good-versus-evil motif is that it levels God and Satan… which is false in so many ways. For one, Satan is a created being while God is the Creator of all beings… and Creator/creature are different categories; they are beyond comparison… except for the obvious relationship between the Maker and the made. Yet that common perception persists — that God and Satan are opposite forces… but equal and balancing forces. The Bible will have none of that! Let us see how this is the tail wagging the dog.
People-at-large readily absorb the idea that God and Satan are mere caricatures for good and evil, but they do not understanding that working the symbolism backwards is a logical no-no. Since metaphors use images that are necessarily different from their target entities, and since they usually highlight only one aspect of a relationship, you cannot work the metaphor backwards and expect to arrive at the original. That is, a reader cannot take the metaphoric “vehicle” and project it backwards to define the metaphoric “tenor” … not without some serious reverse engineering. But since the culture is biblically illiterate, and since people do not think deeply and logically about everything at every moment, we propagate truisms that are patently false. What’s a Christian to do?
Teach your children the Bible and point out where the culture gets it wrong… but don’t become a prickly objector to the culture’s misuse of ideas. That’s how language works … and until Jesus “undoes” the curse of Babel, be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. The images of God and Satan as good-versus-evil will not likely go away, so we will have the occasional opportunity to clarify what God’s word teaches about God and Satan: they are actual beings; they are not equals.
Lastly, Satan is usually presented as a personal being in the Bible as opposed to a mere symbol, force or idea. For instance, Matthew Mark and Luke attest that the person of Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness; he was not tempted by a symbol of evil, a force from the heavens or an idea in his own mind (Mat.4; Mk.1; Lk. 4). Moses too portrayed Satan as a being (albeit taking the form of a serpent) who had certain personality traits coming into the story and who acted with personal volition throughout the account (Gen. 3). Paul teaches that Satan is one of the angels (which are actual beings) — and he gives us a little surprise: Satan appears as an angel of light! But this too speaks to his personal activity as a deceiver rather than a mere embodiment of evil (2 Cor. 11:14). Peter describes the devil as a being who acts like a roaring lion in seeking your harm (1 Pet. 5:8). But the most telling of all Satan’s appearances is in the book Job where he converses with God and travels back and forth to the earth. Mere ideas cannot converse with God, and mere ideas cannot collapse a roof. That requires the agency of a being.
Now, none of these citations can (or should) stop anyone from using Satan as a figure — he will always stand for arrogance, individuality and rebellion. But there is nothing in logic that says he must be one or the other. So I conclude that he is both. As an icon for rebellion, he is indeed a symbol of individualism… but not the good kind! And as an angel, he is a spirt-being, a personal being and a volitional being… all which make him an actual being — an agent of evil.