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Back to the Bible

Harry Tennant

Paperback or e-book (ePub)

96 pages

Back to the Bible

The Christadelphian review (from October 1962)

A new book for preaching the Truth

A short book specially written for this year’s National Effort arranged by the Auxiliary Lecturing Society will be in supply from the office of The Christadelphian.

Under the title Back to the Bible: the Word of God, bro. Harry Tennant has written a simple and appealing outline of the Bible message. It has the warmth of tone and the spiritual approach that one would expect from the writer, and many will feel that in this respect it meets a need not previously supplied in the same way. There is in any case a need for a fresh presentation of the principles of the Gospel message, and while this little work does not aim to be a full exposition of first principles, it is certainly a useful contribution to that end. Its scope may be indicated by the chapter headings: “The Book in our hands”, “How the Book came to us”, “The Author is God”, “It does not depend on us”, “The Bible puts Man in his place”, “The unanswerable challenge of Jewish history”, “The Old Testament looks forward”, “The Book in the hands of Jesus”, “The Uniqueness of Christ”, “The power in the Word of God”, “What are we waiting for?”, “The Word of the Kingdom”. The book runs to 88 pages.

It is published on behalf of the Christadelphian Auxiliary Lecturing Society by the Christadelphian Publishing Association, with special editions for sale to the brethren and sisters at the net price of 2s.

L. G. SARGENT

The Testimony review (from December 1962)

Back to the Bible: the Word of God

IN a world at its wits’ end to know how to survive its own “advancement”, and in the third generation of theological and scientific emanations from the wisdom of this world which have largely destroyed faith in the efficacy of the world’s sole preservative, it is critically opportune that once more [1] a collective effort should be made, a bannered slogan held aloft, and the bold cry go forth: “Back to the Bible”.

A commencement was made by the nationwide effort in October, arranged by the Christadelphian Auxiliary Lecturing Society. In connection with the effort, two well-produced paper-backed books were written and are now available.

One of these is entitled as above and has been written by Mr. Harry Tennant. It opens with a section on The Book in our hands, in itself a unique achievement – for, avoiding all controversy, in swift simplicity, it epitomises in a mere nine pages the peak points of the purpose of God, from the drawing aside of the curtain of history to the penning of revelation’s final page on Patmos.

Five more easy pages tell of How the Book came to us, touching lightly, but informatively, upon matters from Wycliffe to the modern joyous, confirmatory discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The curiosity of the reader is aroused as to this binding together of sixty-six books. Are they quite separate? Are they chapters in one great book? Is there a master plan? How were they each produced? “Let us pass through the binding into the Book”. says Mr. Tennant.

The reader is asked to note that from the beginning to the end of the Bible there runs one word – “God”. Then, by well-chosen passages, one is made to appreciate that this God is no mere local or tribal god: offspring of man’s need or superstition; but is unique and utterly different: the sole God, inescapable – infinite in terms of both time and space. Fathomless in power and limitless in knowledge, He is seen to be – but also as perfect and righteous in character, displaying, moreover, an incomprehensible magnitude of tender love and compassion toward man, notwithstanding that all nations, before Him, are less than nothing and vanity.

Of Him it is that the Bible speaks, in grandeur and simplicity; supreme and everlasting: fountain of wisdom and unfailing might; Maker, Animator – Sustainer of all things. He is seen, in other words, to be as Paul presents Him to Timothy in that doxological outburst of 1 Timothy 1:17, “Now unto the King of the ages, incorruptible, invisible, The Only God, [2] be honour and glory for the ages of the ages; so be it”. And in this section, The Author is God, Mr. Tennant shows that the secret of the unity of the Book is that God empowered men to think, speak and write, so that as inspired messengers they may place in the hands of His creatures a Word which is One, even as He is!

The section, It Does not Depend on Us, makes the very telling point that, so far from this Book being the product of any religious genius in either themselves or their national neighbours, “often the message was ahead of the messengers”; and, we might add, this will be found true to the extent of not mere hundreds of years, but even thousands! The pattern and plan of God’s revealing of Himself and His purpose, has, from the first, taken the line of using the weak and the base, the despised and of no account, both of men and of the peoples, that in this work of God none may preen themselves in flesh-blown credit.

The contrast is marked between the splendid simplicity of the Bible’s account of the beginning and the fantastic legends of the nations around. Men come and go throughout the Book, as instruments chosen and then laid aside. “No one can read it without being conscious of a tremendous purpose moving onward … There is power in the Bible and it does not spring from the writers: they are the channels, the wells, the showers which bring the water of life from heaven to earth.” The author beautifully illustrates, by fusing into fascinating narrative a number of Scripture passages spanning fifteen centuries, how “there are themes which run throughout the Book like insistent and repetitive but expanding melodies in a symphony”. There can be but one Cause adequate to produce so striking and unparalleled an effect – the one given by the product itself, namely, that men separated by God for the purpose, spoke and wrote, not by their own will, but as they were impelled by the direct impact of God’s purposeful energy upon them, when they were filled, from time to time, by His Own Spirit – as the writer indicates in his preceding section.

In the chapter, The Bible puts Man in his Place, we are reminded that notwithstanding the unquestioned uniqueness of man in structure and intellect, life and achievement, he cannot escape of himself being united in dust with those who have gone before. “His qualities are displayed only in a living body of dust”, and though he has advanced in knowledge more in the last fifty years than in the previous five thousand, he is not sure whether the universe is now to become his playground, or his racial destiny to be annihilation! The Bible makes clear the admixture of evil in man and its connection with the process of death; but besides putting man in his place as a mortal pilgrim to oblivion, it seeks to recover such as have faith to cry, “Master, save us: we perish!” Such as are “born again, not of corruptible seed, but by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever”, enjoy peace with God to Whom they have access by faith through Christ Jesus. They rejoice in hope of the glory of God, which, at Christ’s personal return to earth, will, for the faithful, take the form of supreme happiness in a body like his own, of glorious, deathless perfection.

The sections of this book are short, varied and very readable. The Unanswerable Challenge of Jewish History is next presented. Blind indeed must the reader be who cannot see in the content of this chapter the eternal purpose of the Eternal God as exhibited in the experiences of the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (or Israel) – all according to astonishing prophecies concerning this remarkable people. Their rejection of their own Messiah was foretold in the minutest detail centuries before it came to pass, and he in his turn told them of their coming terrible punishment which has resulted in nineteen centuries of the wandering Jew’s being found “everywhere except in his own land”.

There were individual promises, too, to the forefathers mentioned, which Jesus stressed would be kept when he came back to earth. The modern miracle of 1948, in the shape of the re-birth of the State of Israel, heralds its nearness. Mr. Tennant indicates the significance of “the mushroom growth of Israel” coinciding with “the mushroom cloud of the nuclear age”. Jesus mentioned a time-limit to the downtreading of Jerusalem. The Jews have suffered for their sins. The Saviour also was a Jew. Jews wrote all the Old Testament and most of the New. Preserved with meticulous care through long ages, these Scriptures can lead Gentiles who have the faith of Abraham in his Seed the Christ, to share, now, the Hope of Israel; and soon, as heirs with him of the same promise, the inheritance – and all that means of personal salvation and reigning with Christ, the coming King of Kings.

The author, in the chapter, The Old Testament Looks Forward, draws attention to a feature which, through the years, increasingly delights every Bible lover; the extent to which the Old Testament is filled with pictures of Christ. He has space for but a very small portion of this “great vision of the Coming One seen in lesser or greater degree by all the prophets”. The selections given must surely whet the appetite of every earnest reader of this book to be on the lookout for these inwrought Messianic allusions, both for their own intrinsic value and the collective witness they bear to the Divine Hand behind these wonderful writings; for as the author remarks, “There is no finer testimony to the truth of the Old Testament than its wonderful preview of the Lord Jesus Christ”. And again, “Despite and beyond their message of woe, they abound with inspired hope … All the prophets from Moses to Malachi were looking forward to the coming of God’s anointed”.

Truly, “the Old Testament brings us to the expectancy of waiting for the Servant, and, when we open the New Testament, HE IS THERE – WITH THE OLD TESTAMENT IN HIS HANDS!”

The manner in which “he lifts it on high in splendid testimony” is the subject of a rich little section, The Book in the Hands of Jesus. “Messiah was no puppet pulled by the strings of the prophets.” The expectations of most of his contemporaries were misconceived, but “he fulfilled and excelled the dearest hopes of the faithful”; in fact in him the Old Testament became three-dimensional. He was the Lamb alluded to by Abraham, the Star for which Jacob looked, the Prophet to whom Moses pointed – and the one referred to by David, a thousand years before he was born, as “my Lord”; prophesying in psalms concerning every detail and aspect of his mission in the past, his present work and future glory when crowned Lord of all: Earth’s Emperor and High Priest. His life was “the supplement, the complement, the fulfilment of all that had gone before”.

For Jesus, every jot and tittle of the Scriptures had behind them the Authority of God and therefore these Writings Apart (which is what Holy Bible means in the language of today) constituted for him the only Court of Appeal.

Passing, now, from the Book to the Man himself, the writer treats of The Uniqueness of Christ. That same holy Spirit which had hitherto produced a Message, now produced a Messenger! “The virgin birth is no mere embellishment of the life story of Jesus of Nazareth: it is the logical and necessary prelude to all that foIlows.” It was foretold more than once, foreshadowed and typified in the Old Testament; announced in the New and quietly affirmed by the Living Word himself.

The Saviour fought out in his mind a battle unequalled between the urge to godliness and the tendency of his human nature, preserving absolute righteousness in a perfectly obedient life. Mr. Tennant makes the very good point that the prophecy, “I will be his Father, and he shall be My Son”, was no mere repetition, but rather two positive sides of this unique relationship. Sin was condemned in human nature and we are not to mistake the mercy of God for a kind of mild-natured benevolence toward sin which will save everyone in the end.

The truth of the triumph of Jesus over sin and death is not a matter of emotion only, but, as between the risen Christ and his disciples, a matter of reasoned proof and conviction from the Scriptures which can turn complete incredulity into conviction and deep-rooted delight.

The three final chapters of the book, The Power in the Word of God, What are we Waiting For? and The Word of the Kingdom, are themselves a real delight. How swiftly, indeed, would the frantic enemies of the truth have produced that body of the Crucified, if their faithless ferrets could have found it anywhere! The fact of his resurrection made scattered and hopeless sheep into lifelong bondslaves of the Word, declaring “the testimony of God”. They found that the words which Jesus had styled “spirit” and “life”, became when preached by them, manifestly a power which “exploded over the face of the Roman world. Divine ideas and intentions penetrated the hearts and minds of all kinds of people and profoundly moved them.” It was, as Paul said, “the word of God which effectually worketh also in you that believe”.

The author brings the matter to a sharp focus between the reader and Christ. In this personal encounter, if the reader will mix the Word with faith, then, seeing himself “as an outcast in filthy clothes staggering with an unspeakable disease towards the oblivion of death”, he will heed the question coming to him from compassionate lips, “What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?” and will know that the earth was not made to be “the mere cradle and grave of humankind, but the field where God works and which will be filled with His glory”.

“The very core of New Testament teaching is that the re-appearing of Christ will bring the break of our civilisation and the dawn of the Kingdom of God upon earth.” This word of the Kingdom has power to transform the whole life of everyone who receives it.

The style and content of the book is well calculated to suit our times and this present notice of it goes out with the prayer that it may help it reach a few more hungry souls, who in consequence may receive with meekness the engrafted word and be saved thereby, for “The gospel IS the Power of God unto Salvation”.

F. WHITELEY

[1] Older readers will recall the earlier effort by the A.L.S. made some thirty years ago on this same subject, in connection with which, also, a book was specially written by the late Mr. Joseph Sutcliffe, B.A., B.SC., Literary Editor of The Testimony from its commencement in January, 1931, until his death in July, 1934. The book was a cloth bound, 160 page effort with the same title, Back to the Bible, and is referred to in the Obituary in the issue for August, 1934. Its eight chapters ranged from “Can we trust the Bible?” to “The Obligations and Privileges of Fellowship”.

[2] The evidence is that neither Paul, here, nor Jude in his closing words, used the word “wise” which the A.V. inserts. Had they done so, in days of supposed “gods many and lords many”, it could have conveyed the sense that He was the only wise One among others! The Speaker’s Commentary says the marginal annotation crept into the text of late MSS. from Romans 16:27, where the form, “God only wise”, is faultless truth, for God alone is wise.

(Originally published in the December 1962 edition of The Testimony Magazine (pages 426-429), and is reproduced by kind permission.)

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