All of the writers of both the Old Testament and New Testament of the Bible were Jewish, with very few exceptions. It is believed that Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon during the time of Daniel the prophet, wrote the fourth chapter of Daniel. While tradition has claimed that Luke, the physician who was a companion of the apostle Paul and who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, was a Gentile, there is probably more evidence which supports he was more likely a Jew. Therefore, most of the ideas and teachings would be from a Jewish perspective. The idea of time would be no exception.
A day is defined in the Bible, and by Jewish teaching, as “an evening and a morning” (Gn 1). Of course, this then begs the question of whether the days mentioned in the first chapter of Genesis are literal days. There are four main reasons to believe that they are literal days:
i) There is nothing to suggest that it was not a literal day. If we use Occam’s razor principle, i.e., the simplest solution tends to be the right one, then it is less complicated to see it as a literal day.
ii) This is how Moses, the believed author of Genesis, and other Jews throughout history defined “a day.”
iii) In Exodus 20:11 and 31:17, where the importance of the Sabbath is described, each passage states that the earth and heavens were created in six days and that God rested on the seventh. Since the emphasis in these two verses was on the seventh day of each of our weeks, if God rested on the seventh day and it was a literal day as implied here, then the other six days should be literal days.
iv) Since Moses was the author of both Genesis and Exodus, then if he taught in Exodus that these were literal days, then he probably meant them to be literal days in Genesis as well.
Why is it important to understand this? Paul stated that the Jews were entrusted with the words of God (Ro 3:2); therefore, it is important to understand the Jewish perspective of life and time. It is unclear why God chose the Jews, but scripture is clear that God chose Abraham and made an everlasting covenant with him (Gn 15:17-21). Somehow, God made an impression on Abraham. It is possible that Noah was still alive in Abraham’s early years [then known as Abram (Gn 11:27)] and had an influence on him. God’s covenant to Abraham was not only for Abraham but for his descendants through the line of Isaac (Gn 17:19) and Jacob (Gn 28:13-15; 35:9-13). This covenant included promises of blessings, having a great name, becoming a great nation, and being a blessing to others and the whole world (Gn 12:1-4). Abraham believed in the Lord and it was credited to him as righteousness (Gn 15:6). Because the covenant was everlasting and unconditional (Gn 15:17), its fulfillment was entirely in God’s hands and not in the hands of Abraham, or his descendants, the Israelites. Although they would reap consequences of their actions (Lv 26; Dt 28), God has promised to keep his part of the covenant regardless of their actions (Jr 31:36) because He is faithful (Dt 7:9). All through history, even through judgments of captivity and sword, God has, and will, ensure that a remnant remains (Is 10:22, Jr 23:3).
Because of this relationship with the Jewish people which God initiated, it is important to understand the hows and whys of His interactions with them. It was God who initiated the Jewish calendar (Ex 12:2), often referred to as the Mosaic calendar, and the festivals to which the Israelites were to follow (Lv 23). The calendar we have today, known as the Gregorian calendar, was devised by an Italian doctor named Aloysius Lilius and adopted by Pope Gregory in 1582. Prior to this was the Julian calendar, issued by Julius Caesar in 45 AD, which had a year as 365 days and added an additional day every 4 years making a year being 365.25 days. The true value is 365.242 days for the length of the earth’s orbit around the sun. This little error of 0.008 days per year had added up to almost 10 full days by 1582 and was making the first day of spring very close to the beginning of summer. The Gregorian calendar skips the leap years in 3 out of every 4 century years which makes each year 365.2425 days and keeps the spring equinox on either March 20 or 21 of each year. These calendars are based upon the sun as its reference point whereas the calendar instituted by God in the Bible is a lunisolar calendar which uses the moon as its reference for seasons (Ps 104:19). A lunisolar calendar is probably more apt for an agrarian society which is highly dependent upon knowing the stars and ends of seasons (and the reason it was used up to the Roman era), but as we have evolved to more of a financially-dependent society, the Gregorian calendar has become more useful. Although God referred to the months of the calendar as numerals, over time and due to influence of surrounding nations (Dt 16:1, 1Ki 6:1, 37; 8:2) and Babylonian captivity (Er 6:15; Ne 2:1, 6:15; Es 2:16, 3:7, 8:9; Zc 1:7, 7:1), names used by other nations were sometimes used. Often, they would cross-reference them to the Mosaic calendar (e.g., Es 8:9).
The timeline in the Bible is always related to the Jews. Although Gentile nations are described, events are always presented from the Jewish perspective. A few examples are the timeline for the Egyptian bondage (Gn 15:13), the Babylonian captivity (Jr 25:11), and the death of Messiah (Dn 9:26). These types of timelines are not provided for Gentile events. Prior to the Church Age (Ac 2), Gentiles were the minor component of God’s salvation plan, whereas during the Church Age (modern times), Gentiles are the major component of God’s salvation plan. Therefore, the time of the rapture is not provided. Yet, as we have stated in other posts, even the Rapture is from a Jewish wedding perspective. After the rapture of the Church, God’s timeline for the Jews will again be started (Dn 9:27).
Time and prophecy are interrelated, but are they intricately connected? A prophet’s message was considered from God if the prophet’s words came true (Dt 18:21-22). However, no timeframe is specified. How do we know all the prophecies in the Bible are literal and true? One is the belief that the Bible is God’s word (2Tm 3:16). Another is to see what has already come true and see if that gives enough credence to the validity of other prophecies. Future posts will give some examples to consider.
Heaven for the Bride
Gentiles in the Bible
God and Time