Is the Bible Really the Word of God?
The Proper Cure for the Disease
John Warwick Montgomery tells us a parable:
A great king (God) had a son (mankind) who had grown up out of contact with his father. While journeying in a distant province the son fell seriously ill. The doctor accompanying him (reason) was incapable of treating the disease, but the king, learning of his son’s plight, sent instructions (the gospel) for the healing of the boy. However, the king’s numerous enemies also discovered what had happened, and they likewise sent remedies – purporting to come from the king – which were actually poisonous (non-Christian religious and philosophical options). The son’s solution to this dilemma was to evaluate the remedies by three tests: first, what each remedy revealed about his father (comparison being made with the likeness to the father possessed by the son himself); second, how accurately each remedy pictured the nature of the disease; and thirdly, how sound the various curative methods appeared to be. With the help of the doctor, the son finally made his decision in terms of the remedy that best satisfied all three tests. (1)
Montgomery proposes three tests. The first test is “What each remedy revealed about the son’s father.” Evidence from the creation (2) strongly argues for the existence of a god who is personal, powerful, eternal, wise, and moral. The Bible declares all of these attributes of God.
Montgomery’s second test is “How accurate each remedy pictures the nature of the disease.” Many of the liberal and humanistic religions stress the basic goodness of man’s nature. They say corruption comes from society. This goes contrary to the facts of history and logic (see ‘People are Basically Good’ – Proof to the Contrary). History reveals that man is not basically good; he is basically selfish and sinful. The liberal view is also illogical because society is a group of individual people. To blame the situation of the world on society is to blame it on people. This is exactly what the Bible teaches: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Montgomery’s third test is “How sound the various curative methods appear to be.” If God has revealed Himself in propositional form, that revelation would have certain properties due to His infinite knowledge and moral perfection:
- It would be entirely true – His infinite knowledge would prevent errors and His truthfulness would keep Him from deception.
- It would be a coherent unity, therefore not self- contradictory.
- It would contain God’s will for man, and provide the motivation to live according to that will (3).
God has revealed Himself in the Bible without error. The Bible itself claims this inerrancy (2 Timothy 3:16-17 (4); Matthew 5:18 (5); etc.). Let’s look at some of the proofs for the Bible’s claim to be the infallible word of God.
The first proof we have testifying to the reliability of the Bible is the archaeological evidence. Nelson Glueck, a respected Jewish archaeologist claims: “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever contradicted a biblical reference.” (6) The liberals made wild claims against the Bible a hundred years ago but now they are silent. This is not true of other religions. The Mormon claim for inspiration of the Book of Mormon has been categorically condemned by the Smithsonian Institute because of the fallacies shown by archaeology; this is not so with the Bible. A.N. Sherwin-White, a respected classical historian at Oxford says, “For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming…”, although, not being a Christian, he still regarded it as being “propaganda.”(7)
Historicity of Jesus
A case in point is the historicity of Jesus. Although many atheists state that Jesus never lived, He is mentioned by many contemporary, non-Christian historians. Let us look at the evidence.
Flavius Josephus, a first century Jewish historian wrote of Jesus and the Christians:
“so he [Ananus, son of Ananus the high priest] assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before him the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others (or some of his companions) and when he had formed an accusation against them, he delivered them to be stoned.” (8)
Other Jewish rabbinical writings, including Rabbi Eliezer and writers of the Talmud, talk about Jesus and his miracles. Surprisingly to many atheists, they never denied that miracles took place, but attempted to explain them as a result of evil (9). More information about Jesus in the Talmud can be found at Jesus Christ In The Talmud.
Cornelius Tacitus wrote about Jesus and the first century Christians in his Annals (a history of the Roman empire):
“Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus.” (10)
Thallus, a Samaritan historian, wrote ca. 52 A.D. attempting to give a natural explanation for the earthquake and darkness which occurred at the crucifixion of Jesus. Mara Bar-Seraphon wrote a letter to his son in 73 A.D. which tells of the deaths of Socrates, Pythagoras, and of Jesus, “What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise king?…Nor did the wise king die for good; he lived on in the teaching which he had given.” Jesus is also mentioned by Phlegon, a first-century historian, Lucian of Samosata (in The Passing Peregrinus), and Plinius Secundus, (Pliny the Younger).
Scholars have made statements such as, “no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus .” (11) The latest version of Encyclopaedia Britannica says in its discussion of the multiple extra-biblical witnesses:
“These independent accounts prove that in ancient times even the opponents of Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus, which was disputed for the first time and on inadequate grounds by several authors at the end of the 18th, during the 19th, and at the beginning of the 20th centuries.” (12)
Even the atheist H. G. Wells spoke of Jesus, “…one is obliged to say, “Here was a man. This part of the tale could not have been invented.” (13)
Recent scientific evidence is adding to the evidence supporting the reliability of biblical chronology from the scriptures. This study demonstrated the reliability of the Biblical record regarding the Egyptian plagues and demise of Jericho.
Drs. Hendrik J. Bruins and Johannes van der Plicht reported in the prestigious British journal, Nature (14), that the destruction of Jericho was dated to 1580 (+/- 13 years) B.C. (using 14C dating). This date is significant, since several archaeologists have insisted that Jericho was destroyed by the Egyptians between 1550 and 1300 B.C. The recent study discredits the Egyptian theory, since the date is much too old.
What is even more exciting is that scientists, using 14C dating and tree rings, have found evidence of a volcanic eruption from the Aegean island of Thera, which recently has been dated to 1628 B.C. (15). This would place the eruption at 45 years prior to the destruction of Jericho, at a time which coincidentally corresponds to the time of the plagues the Lord unleashed upon Egypt. Check out Exodus 10:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward the sky, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even a darkness which may be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. (Exodus 10:21-22)
Even the researchers commented that the 45 years difference in events was “rather striking.”
The Bible’s Uniqueness and Unity
The next proof is the Bible’s uniqueness and unity. The Bible was written by over 40 authors who came from just about every walk of life conceivable, including fisherman, kings, a butler, priests, and a tax collector. The 66 books of the Bible were written over a 1,500 year span in three languages on three continents with one theme and no contradictions. C.J. Sharp captures this miracle well:
- “If a fragment of stone were found in Italy, another in Asia Minor, another in Greece, another in Egypt, and on and on until sixty-six fragments had been found, and if when put together they fitted perfectly together, making a perfect statue of Venus de Milo, there is not an artist or scientist but would arrive immediately at the conclusion that there was originally a sculptor who conceived and carved the statue. The very lines and perfections would probably determine which of the great ancient artists carved the statue. Not only the unity of the Scriptures, but their lines of perfection, suggest One far above any human as the real author. That could be no one but God (16).”
Yet another reason Christians believe God is the ultimate author of the Bible is the predictive prophecies in the Bible. This aspect is unique to the world’s religions because if one predicts something will happen and it does not, they are proven to be phony. The Bible is literally filled with detailed prophecies that have been fulfilled with 100% accuracy. Here is a list of 85 Messianic prophecies (click here for a more complete list) along with their fulfilment through the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus:
Although some of these prophecies are vague and could have been deliberately fulfilled, many are very specific: 16. Place of birth (Micah 5:2). 17. Date of birth (Daniel 9:25). 18. Manner of birth (Isaiah 7:14). 62. Manner of death (Zechariah 12:10; Psalm 22:16 prophesied before the invention of crucifixion). 76. Piercing inside (Zechariah 12:10). 78. Burial (Isaiah 53:9).
The Bible made several prophecies of the complete destruction of cities. Many of the cities it said would be rebuilt and several it claimed would never be rebuilt – The Bible is 100% accurate in both categories as archaeology shows. One amazing example is the city of Tyre. Ezekiel 26:3-5,7,12,14 and 16 (17) predict:
- Nebuchadnezzar will take the city.
- Other nations will participate in the fulfilment.
- The city is to be made flat like the top of a rock.
- It is to become a place for spreading nets.
- Its stones and timber are to be laid in the sea.
- The old city of Tyre will never be rebuilt.
History records that Nebuchadnezzar took the adjacent mainland settlement of Ushu (“Old Tyre”), but the people escaped out to the island city. Later, Alexander the Great took the island off the coast by taking the old city’s rubble and throwing it into the sea making a land-bridge (this caused the old city to look flat like a rock due to the scraping of the material). The old city is now a place for fisherman but no city has been planted there even though there is an excellent water supply to support a major city.
Another interesting aspect of Biblical prophecy is the New Testament prophecies concerning the last days. John, Zechariah and others had prophecies and visions of the future which they attempted to describe with the words available to them at that time. The amazing thing is how accurate the prophecies are of the way the world is today. There was no way they could have known two thousand years ago what the conditions would be like today. For example, in Revelation 9:13-19 (18) John describes an army of two hundred million soldiers that will cross the Euphrates river from the east. At that time there weren’t even two hundred million people on the earth let alone in one army. Although China does not now have an army that size, it could at some point produce an army of two hundred million soldiers. John describes this army as riding on horses with breastplates and of which out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulphur. They had power in their tails and were used to kill a third of mankind. It sounds like John is describing modern day warfare with tanks. He called them horses because that was the only mode of transportation then.
John described in Revelation chapter 13 a one-world government which would have a cashless money system that worked with a mark on each person’s hand or forehead. Today we have scanners in our grocery stores that may do away with the use of money. This will cut down crime considerably and so will be accepted readily by a world in desperate need. Right now we use debit cards for these type of transactions but an invisible implant underneath the skin with an ID number will work better because it is more easily accessible and will do away with the problem of losing our debit and credit cards, not to mention the problem of credit card theft that will be done away with by this new system. Our technology is ready for this and yet we must ask, “How did John know?”
Zechariah 14:12-16 (19) describes a battle which God will use to judge the nations (compare with Revelation 19:17-21 (20)). He describes the “plague” like this: “Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.” This sounds gory but we can’t escape the similarities to the destruction of people by nuclear warfare and fallout or biological or chemical warfare. How did Zechariah know? There was nothing comparable to this at all in his day. The most likely explanation is that God, who can see the future, told him, thus verifying the Bible.
Allow me to mention one other prophecy. The existence of the nation of Israel is phenomenal. Throughout the Bible God said He would bring His people back to their inheritance. Shortly before the total destruction and exile of Israel in 70 A.D. Paul wrote how eventually in the end of time “all Israel would be saved” meaning they would come to Christ (Romans 11). God is not finished with Israel. Although Israel, as a nation, has proven itself time and time again to be wicked, but God is not through with the Jewish people, “For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). Look at the history of Israel. They began from a wandering nomad named Abraham who never owned a single plot of ground except his own burial plot. They grew in numbers as slaves in Egypt (somehow not intermixing with the other races of that land). After being slaves for 400 years they somehow left Egypt and actually conquered the nations living in Palestine even though they were not trained in warfare. Half the nation was destroyed and exiled during the rule of the world empire of Assyria (722 B.C.). The other half was destroyed and exiled during the Babylonian rule (586 B.C.). They returned under the Persian rule somehow not losing their identity during the forced domination and exile. The Greeks sought to annihilate their identity by forced integration; anyone who stood in their way was killed. After the Greeks, the Romans subjugated them and eventually destroyed the temple and banned all Jews from their homeland (70 A.D. and following). For the next 1900 years they roamed the earth as nomads under constant persecution (this was prophesied in Hosea 3:4-5 (21)). The Muslims would kill and disperse their groups. The so-called Christians would force them to recant their beliefs or kill them. Their money was constantly being confiscated. All of this led up to the atrocity of Hitler who exterminated six million Jews. Anti-Semitic prejudice still runs rampant today. The entire Middle Eastern world wants nothing more in life than to see the total annihilation of the Jews. The Six Day War was an incredible victory for Israel against the entire Arab world because all the odds were against them. How can we account for Israel’s existence? How can we account for the widespread hatred toward Israel throughout history unless there is a supernatural evil controlling their opposition? The survival of Israel and the fact that they are back in their homeland after 1900 years should at least cause us to consider the claims of the Bible.
Survival in the Face of Persecution
A final indicator of the reliability of the Bible comes from the lengths disciples of Jesus went through to proclaim the gospel. In spite of extreme persecution, people were willing to die for Jesus, who predicted the persecution of the church:
“Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name.” (Matthew 24:9)
An example of fulfilment of this prophecy came at the hands (and writings) of Pliny the Younger as governor of Pontus/Bithynia from 111-113 AD. He wrote to the Emperor Trajan regarding the early Christian church, their devotion to Christ, and how he persecuted, tortured, and murdered them:
“They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god… Accordingly, I judged it all the more necessary to find out what the truth was by torturing two female slaves who were called deaconesses. But I discovered nothing else but depraved, excessive superstition…. Meanwhile, in the case of those who were denounced to me as Christians, I have observed the following procedure: I interrogated these as to whether they were Christians; those who confessed I interrogated a second and a third time, threatening them with punishment; those who persisted I ordered executed. For I had no doubt that, whatever the nature of their creed, stubbornness and inflexible obstinacy surely deserve to be punished.” (22)
Pliny readily admits that they “were denounced to me as Christians” (“they will deliver you to tribulation”) and executed (“and will kill you”) just for “the nature of their creed” (“on account of My name.”). This is a chilling fulfilment of prophecy, which testifies that early Christians knew the truth of the gospel and were willing to die for it.
- CHRIST ON SCRIPTURE by Richard L. Routh, Ph.D. – What did Jesus say about the Scripture?
- Jesus Christ In The Talmud, Midrash, And The Zohar by Gustav Dalman ( 94 KB RTF file)
- Jesus Christ – Messiah of the Rabbinical Writers
- Is Our Copy of the Bible a Reliable Copy of the Original?
- The Historicity of the New Testament by JP Moreland
- No Proof for the Exodus? – The potential role of Thera and 14C dating of the destruction of Jericho
- Hezekiah’s Siloam Tunnel Confirmed Through C-14 Dating
- Old Testament Dates of Edomite Kingdom Confirmed by Archeology
- Old Testament Dates of Solomon and Egyptian King Shishak Confirmed by Archeology
- Early (10th Century B.C.) Evidence of Written Hebrew Language at Tel Zayit, Israel
- Early (3rd Century A.D.) Christian Church at Megiddo, Israel
- Montgomery, John Warwick. 1978. Faith Founded on Fact. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, p. 120.
- Ross, H. 1995. The Creator and the Cosmos, NavPress Publishing, Colorado Springs, CO.
- Shelly, Rubel. 1990. Prepare To Answer. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, p 92.
- All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16)
- “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18)
- Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, Farrar, Strauss and Cudahy, New York, 1959, p. 31.
- “For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. Yet Acts is, in simple terms and judged externally, no less a propaganda document than the Gospels, liable to similar distortion. But any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd.” A. N. Sherwin-White. 1978. Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament. Baker, Grand Rapids, p. 189.
- Flavius Josephus The Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.1
- Matthew 12:24, Mark 3:22, Luke 11:15, Flavius Josephus The Antiquities of the Jews 18:63, Talmud P. Ta’an. 65b, and the Sanhedrin 3a
- Cornelius Tacitus Annals 15.44 from The Tech Classics Archive translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb
- Otto Betz. 1968. What do We Know about Jesus?, SCM Press, page 9.
- Encyclopedia Britannica (Article on “Jesus”)
- H. G. Wells, Outline Of History.
- Bruins, H.J. and J. van der Plicht. 1996. The Exodus enigma. Nature 382: 213-214.
- Friedrich, W.L., P. Wagner, and H. Tauber. 1990. Thera and the Aegean World III Thera Foundation, London, UK.
Kuniholm, P.I., B. Kromer, S.W. Manning, M. Newton, C.E. Latini, and M.J. Bruce. 1996. Anatolian tree rings and the absolute chronology of the eastern Mediterranean, 2220-718 BC. Nature 381: 780-783.
Renfrew, C. 1996. Kings, tree rings and the old world. Nature 381: 733-734.
- Shelly, Rubel. 1990. Prepare To Answer. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, p 114.
- therefore, thus says the Lord God,` Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves. And they will destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; and I will scrape her debris from her and make her a bare rock. She will be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken,’ declares the Lord God, `and she will become spoil for the nations.’… For thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I will bring upon Tyre from the north Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, king of kings, with horses, chariots, cavalry, and a great army…. Also they will make a spoil of your riches and a prey of your merchandise, break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses, and throw your stones and your timbers and your debris into the water…. And I will make you a bare rock; you will be a place for the spreading of nets. You will be built no more, for I the Lord have spoken,” declares the Lord God…. “Then all the princes of the sea will go down from their thrones, remove their robes, and strip off their embroidered garments. They will clothe themselves with trembling; they will sit on the ground, tremble every moment, and be appalled at you.” (Ezekiel 26:3-5,7,12,14,16)
- And the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so that they might kill a third of mankind. And the number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breastplates the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone; and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone. A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone, which proceeded out of their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads; and with them they do harm. (Revelation 9:13-19)
- Now this will be the plague with which the Lord will strike all the peoples who have gone to war against Jerusalem; their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, and their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongue will rot in their mouth. And it will come about in that day that a great panic from the Lord will fall on them; and they will seize one another’s hand, and the hand of one will be lifted against the hand of another. And Judah also will fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the surrounding nations will be gathered, gold and silver and garments in great abundance. So also like this plague, will be the plague on the horse, the mule, the camel, the donkey, and all the cattle that will be in those camps. Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. (Zechariah 14:12-16)
- And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God; in order that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.” And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies, assembled to make war against Him who sat upon the horse, and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat upon the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh. (Revelation 19:17-21)
- For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, and without ephod or household idols. Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the Lord and to His goodness in the last days. (Hosea 3:4-5)
- Pliny, Letters 10.96-97
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