Book review: Has God Spoken?
by Hank Hanegraff
From the introduction: “This book counters such contentions and crafts a cumulative case for the absolute authority of the Bible. It answers the question, ‘Has God spoken?’ in the affirmative and demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt that the Bible is divine rather than merely human in origin. Without such assurance, Christianity would not have any more authority for faith and practice than does Islam, Mormonism, or a host of other misguided movements.”
I offer the above quote to set the tone of the book. I had a hard time with this book merely because of Hanegraff’s style. Not that his writing isn’t good—it’s actually quite superb and fun to read—but because he’s so downright feisty! He takes on an apologetic role, zealously attacking Bart Ehrman, President Obama, Bill Maher, or Richard Dawkins on every other page. When he’s not dissin’ scholars, he’s dissin’ fellow religions.
He says, “It is as unlikely that Jews falsified the Exodus as it is that they fabricated the Holocaust. Archaeology provides a wholly plausible framework for Jewish contentions regarding their enslavement and emancipation. While archaeology has thoroughly discredited the Book of Mormon, internal evidence provides credence to the people, places, and particulars found in the biblical text.” Oh, wow. Need I say more? One thing archaeology can say for certain is that there were never two million people tromping around in the desert for forty years.
Nevertheless, the book does hold your attention! I definitely never grew bored. It’s a little like listening to a talk show host that drives you totally bonkers, but that you can’t shut off.
At times, Hanegraff’s apologetic stance left me bewildered. He had no trouble arguing for the historic reliability of the flood story in the Bible, while in the next breath ridiculing earlier versions of the flood myth, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh. Does he really not recognize that the Hebrew version of the story is just as fantastic as the others? He then waffles on the subject, suggesting that perhaps Genesis implies a local flood rather than a worldwide one, and thus totally misses the point of the myth: That the ark was necessary to sustain life on the earth, because God was going to destroy everything he had made.
If you can ignore the sermonizing, however, there is a lot of thought provoking conversation in the book. I particularly enjoyed Hanegraff’s discussion of typology. Was Isaiah thinking of Jesus as he wrote about a young maiden giving birth to the child Immanuel? No, not according to Hanegraff (and he’s surely right), Isaiah was writing about his own time period. Did Hosea have Jesus in mind when he wrote, “Out of Egypt I have called my son?” Of course not, he was writing about Israel, not Jesus. How about Jeremiah’s words, quoted by Matthew to highlight the slaughter of the innocents by Herod: “A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” This quote highlights the utter silliness of imagining that Matthew was taking these prophesies as predictive; unquestionably, Matthew rightly understood this passage in Jeremiah to be a warning to the southern kingdom of Judah that they were about to experience what happened to Israel. These are not predictive prophecies, but typological prophecies. In this discussion, Hanegraff brings the Bible’s prophecies back to life in a believable and recognizable way. As Hanegraff explains, Matthew saw a historical pattern of events from the past that corresponded to present situations, and he saw them as quintessential fulfillments. The historical patterns reached a climax in the life of Jesus.
Other topics that I enjoyed were the discussion of archaeological finds, of the Abomination of Desolation (Hanegraff’s preterist tendencies subtly poke through here and there), and of figurative language in the Bible. Hanegraff writes a great book, he just gets a little too aggressive at times.