A Vital Key for Studying History
He who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it. Winston Churchill was a student of history, especially military history. William Manchester, one of his biographers, said he “saved Western civilization” during World War ii. How? Churchill practiced history.
Are you a practicing student of history? Most people are not. In fact, the people of Britain and America see little value in teaching and learning history. “Today we hear many academic voices telling people that learning history is of little or no value,” the Trumpet’s editor in chief wrote in January 2006. “This is an extremely dangerous trend that may be too entrenched ever to correct.”
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (isi), after conducting a comprehensive study of freshmen and seniors at 50 American colleges and universities, concluded last September that these schools “fail to increase knowledge about America’s history and institutions.” College seniors flunked a civic literacy exam, averaging a score of 53.2 percent. At many schools, seniors knew “less than freshmen about America’s history, government, foreign affairs and economy”—a fact isi labeled “negative learning” (emphasis mine). Why would college seniors know less American history as they conclude their “higher” education than those who are just beginning it? isi stated, “[S]tudents don’t learn what colleges don’t teach.”
Why don’t colleges and universities teach more history? Actually, the answer to this question is a matter of history.
Contempt for History
The roots of today’s contempt for history go back to 18th-century Europe and America. Writers, philosophers and scientists dubbed the time period the Age of Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason. They were confident they were bringing the world out of medieval darkness and ignorance into the glorious light of human reason and the advances of science.
Those of the Enlightenment held the Roman Catholic Church primarily responsible for the mental slavery of the previous centuries, so scholars began the war against religion and the Bible. As the age progressed, all authority—religious and civil—came under fire. Many see the Age of Enlightenment as the spark that ignited the American and French revolutions.
Smug in their self-conceit, the so-called enlightened ones belittled most knowledge gained in the past. Even famed Greek philosopher Aristotle came under attack. The rationalists became the new source of knowledge—the educators of how to produce knowledge. Their methods of knowledge production (including the scientific method) required reliance on human reason alone.
It should not be surprising, then, to realize that the leaders of that age viciously attacked the subject of history. The enlightened rejected it as a source of knowledge. Alan Richardson writes that history “was held in low esteem by all except a handful of antiquaries and their circle of devotees; to the philosophical mind in the Age of Reason all history was vitiated by the credulity [gullibility] of historians …” (History Sacred and Profane). The idea that recorded history could inform current decision-making “was utterly foreign to the Age of Reason, as it is to rationalists in every age.”
In essence, the only history important to the rationalists was the history they were making. No one needed to look to the past; the present was all that mattered.
Unfortunately, the influence of the Age of Enlightenment on our modern educational system is now pervasive. Our world is suffering as a result. But do we see it?
Bible History Scorned
During the Age of Enlightenment, rationalists promoted human reason to chief judge of all truth. The Bible as a book of special revelation was maligned by rationalist criticism. Rationalists viewed the Bible as a confusing book. In fact, the men of that age believed they could have done a better job with the writing and design of the Bible. Richardson states: “They did not find in it what they thought they had a right to find. They would have expected the Intelligent Author of Nature … to speak clearly, as Locke and Newton did; he could not be regarded as the author of the jumbled collection of tales and legends, prophecies and portents, which comprised the allegedly sacred history of the Bible.”
The rationalists subjected the Bible to intense scrutiny—more than any other ancient text. The five books of Moses they pulled to pieces and belittled. At this time, the so-called higher criticism of the Bible developed in Germany. Influenced by both evolution and anti-Semitism, German rationalists led the way in attempting to destroy the Bible’s impeccable reliability. They insisted that Moses did not write the books attributed to him; some ridiculously suggested that writing had not been developed by Moses’s time. They regarded the Bible as a collection of highly suspect sheepskins. They viewed the miracles of the Bible as the attempts of undeveloped, pitiful men to explain events without the knowledge of science. They saw the history recorded in the Bible as a mixture of half-truth, myth and legend.
Essentially, German rationalists stole Bible history from humanity.
Who believes the Bible today? The majority in this world have come to greatly disrespect the Book of books. Most scholars scorn its history. Even some of the religious do not take the Bible seriously. Few use it as the authoritative guide of life.
Here is something truly amazing. Even though biblical archaeology has proved the Bible’s history true, many still hold to the views of higher criticism. Why? Human nature. A few—and only a few—rationalists admitted that they discredited the Bible because they wanted to throw off all authoritative restraints in their pursuit of a sexually immoral lifestyle.
Here is the point. You must decide if you are going to believe men who worship their own minds, or men who know and speak for the true God—the all-powerful Creator and Ruler of the universe.
The truth is, the Bible provides the all-important key to studying history.
A Coded Book
The Bible is unique because its contents and design were divinely inspired. It covers three main categories: history, prophecy and instruction from God.
Herbert W. Armstrong wrote, “Through history and prophecy the Bible covers all God intended to cover of Earth and world events from the creation, on into the future and the eternity beyond. But, in a sense, this Book of God—His revealed knowledge for His people—leaves a most conspicuous gap in the progress of world events” (Good News, December 1980). Please note what he said about Bible history: It is revealed history—specially selected by God. Why? Many people understand God as Creator; few see Him as Educator. We all need to see God as a brilliant Historian. Also note, Mr. Armstrong stated that the Bible does not contain all history. There are gaps.
“For example, in its history, the Bible gives no history of anything concerning such populous nations as China, India and Japan,” Mr. Armstrong explained. “None regarding Russia except in yet future prophecy. History is concerned to the one nation Israel and the few other nations only as they were involved in contact with Israel” (ibid.). Many have been offended by the fact that the Bible is so focused on Israel’s history. Rationalists saw the gaps, and thinkers of that time downgraded the Bible’s history to story and legend. The gaps in Bible history have confused men for centuries. But you do not need to be confounded. There is a specific reason why God planned the Bible as we have it today.
Here is vital information only a few know.
In Mystery of the Ages, Mr. Armstrong called the Bible “a coded book, with answers to the paramount mysteries confronting all humanity.
“The revelation of these mysteries was lost, even to the Church of God, although the revelation of them has been preserved in the writings of the Bible,” he wrote. “Why, then, has the world not clearly understood? Because the Bible was a coded book, not intended to be understood until our day ….” This is a shocking statement, but it is true: Although men have read, studied, translated and recorded a lot of factual knowledge about the Bible over the centuries, it has not been understood until our time.
Mr. Armstrong continued, “I learned that the Bible is like a jigsaw puzzle—thousands of pieces that need putting together—and the pieces will fit together in only one way. Then the picture becomes crystal clear to the one willing to believe what God our Creator says.” God greatly desires that all men, women and children understand the Bible. But He has decided that only He can unlock the code.
Let’s Not Be Ignorant
Do you want to know the deep mysteries of the Bible, including why its history is mostly about Israel? Then you must approach your study with a humble, open mind. Why? God does not intend for the scholarly—those who worship human reason—to understand today.
Here is what the well-educated Apostle Paul wrote on this issue: “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise …” (1 Corinthians 1:26-27). Many educated people would consider it beneath them to pick up a Bible and read it, let alone study it. In time, however, they will read, study and love it. And the irony is, they will be taught by those once thought of as unschooled or uneducated.
A large part of the education of the future will be Bible history.
Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, showed that ancient Israel’s history is important for all mankind, not just the Jews. During his ministry, he spent much of his time giving history lessons from Israel’s past.
To the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea” (1 Corinthians 10:1). The Corinthian church was in real spiritual trouble. Paul knew that the Corinthians were ignorantly repeating mistakes that Israel had already made and suffered for. He wanted to prevent further suffering.
Take the time to study the entirety of 1 Corinthians 10. Most of this portion of the letter is taken from the book of Numbers. Twice Paul tells the Church members that the history was recorded for them. “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. … Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11).
As Paul said, let’s not be ignorant. Because the Bible was not to be completely understood until our time, it follows that Israel’s history was recorded specifically for us! This should dazzle us with excitement.
Many today are bewildered and distraught over current events. Few have real hope in a future. Realize that a true understanding of the Bible—including its history—provides great hope and comfort. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope,” Paul wrote (Romans 15:4).
A great future lies ahead for all mankind. God is working out an incredible master plan on Earth. This wonderful plan involves all men and women from every nation, race and religion. The Bible describes this plan in detail and records the history of how God is working it out. That history is tied directly to Israel’s history because that was the nation God worked with directly to fulfill a specific purpose in that plan.
Mr. Armstrong stated, “So finally, why does the Bible not record the history of all the Gentile pagan nations? Why this gap in the Bible?
“The Bible is the revealed knowledge of God. Its purpose is to reveal God’spurpose, His master plan and its working out.
“And that has involved Adam, the Flood, ancient Abraham and his family, national Israel and Israel’s prophets and His Church” (Good News, op. cit.).
Israel’s history teaches us lessons about obedience, faith, leadership, how God plans to rescue humanity from sin, etc. It provides powerful physical examples of the spiritual principles expounded on by Christ and the apostles in the New Testament. In fact, the record of Israel’s history with God was the foundation of its teachings. It’s time to bring back Israel’s history and restore a proper respect for it. Let’s shake off any prejudice we may hold toward the history of Israel. It was written as an example for all people of every nation.
If you study Israel’s history, you will find that much of it is positive and inspiring. Of course, there is the negative as well. Both can provide intense and profitable education. We must learn the lessons of Israel’s history. Doing so will give us the success, happiness and bright future we all desire.