4. The Bible and Culture
In present times, the Bible is often labelled as a “Western book”, and is considered a part of western culture. Many people from other cultures do not think that it is relevant to them because they are not westerners. In addition to this, there is a lot of pluralist thought in modern philosophy, which suggests that there can be many different religions and cultures, but where each can be good for different people. The idea that many different religions can be “right” leads people to feel that the Bible has no relevance to them, because they are not part of that “religion”.
In the context of these ideas, it is worth considering how the Bible relates to culture and religion. Firstly, the Bible is not a western book at all, and the Christian religion is not a western religion. Instead, it has its origins in the Middle-East, with a particular focus on Israel. The Old Testament of the Bible could be considered to Jewish in origin, and the holy book of the Jewish people. Indeed the message in that section of the Bible is largely about the Jewish race, and God, as described in it, is principally attentive to the nation of Israel as it was at the time.
Even in the Old Testament though, the whole world is included in the message. For example, In a series of promises that were given by God to the patriarch Abraham, He states,
Gen 12:3: I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." NKJV
This was shown to be later fulfilled by the work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Although Jesus was also born a Jew, his message was to reach to people all over the world, and offer this blessing to all people.
The people who wrote down the New Testament were also Jewish in origin. The message though, was one about the life of Jesus, and to be given to the whole world. Even at the time, people had thoughts about restrictions of cultures, and wondered if it was just for the Jewish people, so there are passages stating that it was not restrictive.
Romans 3:29: Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also, NKJV
Here the term “Gentiles” refers to people who are not Jewish, so the God of the Bible is the God over the whole world. Expressed in a different way,
Galatians 3:28 : There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. NKJV
This is a statement of equality of all races and people, saying that they all have the same hope of being heirs of the promises given in the Bible.
Uniqueness of Salvation
It is really that way of salvation that is the offer of the Bible. There are many avenues of discovering aspects of history, and many different people have formulated codes of morals that they feel people should adhere to, but the concept of salvation in the Bible is claimed to be unique. In the New Testament, it states that people may be “saved” through the name of Jesus, and further that there was no other way of obtaining this salvation.
Acts 4:10: "let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. ... 12. "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." NKJV
This uniqueness is a theme that runs right through the Bible. Right from the earliest sections of the Bible, there is always the assumption and the explicit statement that there is only one God, and that that God has revealed Himself through the words of the Bible.
Deut 4:35: To you it was shown, that you might know that Yahweh he is God; there is none else besides him. WEB
The name “Yahweh” here is the English form of the name of God as described in the Bible. This passage claims that he is the God of the world, and that there is no other equivalent God.