Is It Okay to Re-Imagine Bible Stories in a Fictionalized Manner?

Question:  Is it okay to retell Bible stories? I know there are many stories inspired by the Bible; it’s such a powerful book full of wonderful stories, so it’s kind of difficult to be a writer and not be inspired by biblical themes and lessons. However, I’m wondering if it’s alright to re-imagine Bible stories in a modern or fictionalized manner, and if so, what sort of rules should a writer follow when doing so?

Furthermore, I read somewhere that writers have rewritten the entire Bible to read and flow more like a continuous story. Is it acceptable as long as they give it a different title and keep it separate from the actual Bible? What do you make of that?

Answer:  Every time we preach or teach the Bible we are re-telling it.  We re-imagine it in the sense of seeking to understand how it applies to us today.  If you do a fictionalized version of a Bible story that is true to the intent of the original author and seeks to be accurate in regard to the cultural setting I think you do us a service.  You are creating a sermon on Scripture for us.

Yes, a continuous story Bible should identify itself as such.  That’s a helpful tool for understanding the Bible.
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Is Jesus God or the Son of God?

Question:  Was Jesus God or the Son of God–did God beget him or was he always around–and did he (Jesus) create the world?

Answer:  Yes.

All of that is true.  Mark 1:1 says Jesus is the Son of God.  John 1:1 says Jesus is God.  John 1:3 it says nothing was made without Jesus.  Colossians 1:15,16 says Jesus is the firstborn of all creation and that in him all things were made.  John 1:18 says Jesus is either “the only [begotten] God” or  “the only [begotten] Son” depending on what the correct text is.  And I put the word “begotten” in brackets because there is a question as to the meaning of the Greek word used here, monogenes.

The word monogenes could mean “only begotten” or it could mean “one and only” or it could mean “unique.”  It is used of Jesus in John 3:16.  But it is also used of Isaac in Hebrews 11:17.  Was Isaac Abraham’s only begotten son?  No, he had sired Ishmael earlier.  But Isaac was his special son by Sarah, the one to whom he was giving his inheritance.  Is Jesus begotten by the Father, or does this term monogenes simply designate him as the unique Son of God as opposed to all created beings who might be designated sons of God?

I lean toward the view that monogenes, when applied to Jesus, means “unique” Son of God.  However, Scripture also says in 1 John 5:18 of Jesus that he is “born of God.”  There is a doctrine that has developed from this called the eternal generation of the Son, which it says is “an eternal personal act of the Father, wherein, by necessity of nature, not by choice of will, He generates the person (not the essence) of the Son, by communicating to Him the whole indivisible substance of the Godhead, without division, alienation, or change, so that the Son is the express image of His Father’s person, and eternally continues, not from the Father, but in the Father, and the Father in the Son.” (See Theopedia)

What this means is that from all eternity God the Father has been in a relationship with the Son by which He has generated the personality of the Son (and He and the Son have “generated” the personality of the Spirit) so that they share the same essence (deity, divine nature).  This makes them entirely equal in every sense of the word so that each is rightly called God, and yet Jesus can also rightly be called the Son of God.  This doctrine makes a lot of sense of the data of Scripture concerning Jesus absolute deity (John 1:1) and yet his submission to the Father in all things.  This makes it reasonable for him to be the one who takes on human nature (the Father and the Spirit did not do this) and to rule God’s kingdom until it can be handed over to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24).  Jesus is thus “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3), which seems to speak of some kind of derivation from the Father, and yet at the same time exact equality.

This is a difficult concept to wrap our heads around, but then God is the most amazing and unique being of all, infinite and beyond our ultimate ability to comprehend, yet able to correctly reveal Himself to us in true ways that enable us to know Him.

So the answer to all your questions is, “Yes.”

Praying in Public

Question:  If we are not supposed to pray in public “like the hypocrites”, shouldn’t all prayer be private prayer? 

Answer:  There are many examples of public prayer in the Bible.  Jesus’ point was not to avoid praying publicly but to avoid praying publicly in order to receive praise.  We inadvertently fall into this trap when we do pray publicly because we want people to think we’re great Christians as evidenced by the way we pray.  We shouldn’t have that as our focus, but merely be focused on speaking honestly and worshipfully to God on behalf of those with whom we are praying.  Forget about how you sound to others and focus on how you sound to God.

Did Islam precede Judaism?

Fresco with image of Abraham to sacrifice his ...

Image via Wikipedia

Question: I keep hearing that the Bible references Islam before it split from Judaism in the Old Testament. Is that for real, and, where can I find it? It seems like there’s a chance to heal that breach, and the answer is in the Bible somewhere. Just like witnessing to Jews, only more difficult.

Answer: Islam did not start until roughly 600 A.D. You’re probably thinking about how Ishmael and Isaac were separated in a sense as they each fathered separate nations. Ishmael was removed from Abraham’s family when Isaac was identified as the child of promise from God to Abraham and Sarah. Muslims argue that Ishmael was the favored child and meant for the greater destiny, i.e., Islam. In fact, they teach that it was Ishmael and not Isaac who was offered as a sacrifice before God provided a substitute animal. But check out Genesis 21 and 22.

Randall Johnson