The Bible - Pharos of God
Lewis C. Bond, Tavistock
From very early times towers were built with wood fires at the top to serve as lighthouses. Those erected by the Libyans and Cushites in Lower Egypt at the mouth of the River Nile were perhaps the first. In the British Isles before the reign of Henry VIII coast lighting was for the most part provided by individual benefactors, and often lights were kept burning upon the towers o£ churches. The dissolution of the monasteries caused much anxiety to seafarers who lost many familiar lights, and their need led to the growth of the organization which today builds and maintains our lighthouses, with its headquarters at Trinity House, London. Now there are over 1,600 lights around our shores.
The Pharos of Alexandria. Of all the ancient lighthouses the most famous was one built on the island of Pharos at Alexandria, B.C. 2S3, during the reign of Ptolemy II. From the mainland to Pharos a causeway was constructed by order of Alexander the Great; it was about a, mile long and 600 feet wide, but since then silting has increased the width to about half–a–mile. The lighthouse was a tower of white marble; rising in several tiers to a height of more than 500 feet. The higher storeys had windows looking seaward, in which fires were kept burning at night; some say these could be seen a hundred miles away. The tower lasted until the 13th century A.D. when it was destroyed by an earthquake, and in later years the ground on which it stood has been washed away by the sea. Today there is a lighthouse on the island but a very much smaller one than the original. The Pharos of Alexandria probably endured longer than any other lighthouse, and the name given to lighthouse–construction as an art and a science was ”pharology.”
At the time the Pharos was built Alexandria was one of the chief cities of the world. It took its name from Alexander the Great who founded it in 332 B.C., and or more than a thousand years it was the capital of Egypt. The Ptolemies made it a beautiful city, almost as magnificent as Rome and Antioch. Just when the great tower was constructed the Library of Alexandria was being formed; this later contained about 400,000 manuscripts, but a large part of it was accidentally burnt when Julius Caesar was besieged in the city. The same Ptolemy who built the Pharos ordered the Hebrew Old Testament to be translated into Greek the language which was to be carried over the known world and become a language of scholars everywhere. This translation is called the Septuagint version because of the tradition that 70 scribes were appointed to the task. Tradition also says the work was done on Pharos Island. The Septuagint is by far the most important Greek version of the Old Testament and is the oldest translation of the Hebrew Bible. It is constantly quoted by the writers of the New Testament, and all other early translations were made from it except the Peshito (i.e. common) Syriac version and Jerome’s Vulgate (i.e. common) Latin version.
In the history of Alexandria during the 3rd century B.C. we see pioneer efforts to give light to storm –tossed mariners, the light of learning to the World of scholars, and the transmission of those recorded truths which give to all mankind the light of the knowledge of God.
Physics and the ”Pharos.” The ancient Pharos is no more; the library has gone; but the preservation of that Book, which is God’s Pharos guiding and warning sailors on the sea of human life, is indeed a wonder of the world. It has been attacked by infidel scholars, burned by uneasy statesmen, scorned by the worldly–wise, and ignored by the populace. Yet it has been translated into over a thousand tongues, arid the number of copies distributed monthly is an average of more than a million. In our own day many who walk by the light of human reason think they have no need of God or His Book. The searchlights of science have been directed upon the Book in the belief that its claims would be proved false and its teaching unacceptable to the twentieth–century mind. Nevertheless the light which modern discoveries throw upon the Book make many of its statements more wonderful, which fact may be proved by considering some Bible passages in the light of present–day physical science. Within the limits of available space we shall deal only with the following topics: the nature of matter and light, radiation from the sun, and atomic fission.
From the New Testament we learn that created matter –” that winch is seen” – was” not . . . made out of things which do appear” (Heb. 11. 3, R.V.). Before the 19th century there were two main theories of the nature of matter. The first view was that a piece of matter is the same throughout its bulk, without any division between parts of it, much as water looks in contrast to sand. The later view was that a piece of matter is made up of a large number of small particles, like very fine and in contrast to water. Taking either of these ideas, it is clear that if we cut up a piece of maker into the tiniest pieces imaginable, even if we could cut up one of the minute particles, the resulting pieces would” appear” if we had a microscope powerful enough. Since the 19th century it has been discovered by scientists that these theories are both incorrect. The modern idea of the nature of matter is that of” bottled–up waves” of radiation or light, which are nothing like the pieces of substance we see and do not” appear” at all! This is difficult to understand, but how remarkable it is that the very words used in the Letter to the Hebrews so many centuries ago should express the conception with such perfect accuracy.
Our present knowledge of the heavenly bodies illuminates the promise:” While the earth remaineth, Seed–time and harvest, and. cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night, shall not cease” (Gen. 8. 22). The maintenance of this promise involves numerous conditions: the earth must travel through space at a suitable distance from the sun at an appropriate speed, rotating upon its inclined axis at the correct rate. The sun is the Pharos of the solar system; but not only does it light, it also warms the earth; all our sources of power, and life itself, are dependent upon, the radiation it emits. Life upon earth can exist only as long as the surface temperature is kept within a narrow range of about 50 degrees C. To maintain this, the temperature at the centre of the sun, 90 million miles away, is about 20 million degrees, and at its surface 6 thousand decrees. If atomic disintegration in the sun raised its surface temperature to that of its centre the earth would be a pull of vapour in a few minutes.
The Bible tells us something of the final destruction of” the heavens and the earth.” Only in the Second World War was the terrifying destructive power of atomic energy demonstrated. Accounts of the devastation of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki describe vividly what may be the meaning of the words of the Apostle Peter:” . . . the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up... the heavens feeing on fire shall be dissolved” (2 Pet. 3. 10, 12).
The secret of the creation, preservation, and destruction of our planet, seems to lie in the nature of radiation. Indeed the whole story of the universe can be told in these six words from Genesis:” God said, Let there be light.”
These few examples show how one branch of science, physics, throws light upon the Book. Similar illustrations could be given from geology, archaeology and biology. We must not, however, overlook this fact: the mariners who sailed the Mediterranean Sea lung ago were concerned, not so much about the light which could be shed upon the Pharos, as with the warning, guiding light the Pharos gave.
Light from the ”Pharos.” The psalmist wrote: ”Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” The Book is a Lamp, a Lighthouse; therein we see One who said: ”I am the Light of the world.” Here, in a few lines, is set forth the importance of the Divine Pharos:–
“ The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts arc binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practise it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and confort to cheer you. It is the traveller’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword, and the Christian’s charter. Here Paradise is restored, Heaven opened, and the gates of Hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Head it slowly, frequently, prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered for ever. It involves the: highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labour, and condemn all who trifle with, its sacred contents,”