7/11/2006                                                                                       View Comments

The Bible Stands

This post is excerpted from The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love and Truth (www.lulu.com/tarico).

The Bible Stands

The Bible stands like a rock undaunted
‘Mid the raging storms of time;
Its pages burn with the truth eternal,
And they glow with a light sublime.
The Bible stands like a mountain towering
Far above the works of men;
Its truth by none ever was refuted,
And destroy it they never can.
—Haldor Lillenas1


WHEN I WAS A CHILD, THE BIBLE WAS AS TIMELESS AS MY PARENTS. ALONG WITH
the foundations of the earth and the valleys of the sea, it had always
existed in its present, unchanging form. As a teenager, I spent hours
weekly studying its passages under the guidance of others, wiser and
more experienced than I. The contents of the Bible opened up to me. I
learned the basics of “biblical exegesis,” the methods by which Evangelicals
analyze scriptures phrase by phrase, word by word, even turning
to the original Greek or Hebrew to better mine the depths of meaning
layered into each perfect word of God. It never occurred to me to ask
the book’s history, because it had no history. Like God, it simply was.

Even through college, when I took one course called Old Testament as
Literature and another called New Testament Theology it never occurred
to me to ask about the histories of the Bible rather than the histories in
the Bible. This may sound odd to someone from a more liberal background,
one in which Bible texts are taught and studied in their historical
context. It may sound even more odd to someone from a background
external to Christianity. But as humans go, my ability to hold unquestioned
assumptions is not unusual at all.

In childhood and adolescence, each of us spends years building a world
view, a mental house that we can live in comfortably for the rest of our
lives. This is a process that psychologists call identity development.2
The deep structure of this house includes our basic ethnic identity,
political orientation, religious beliefs, occupational goals, and moral
framework. As adults, most of us do at least some cosmetic remodeling—
shifting our priorities and fine tuning our values—but it’s rather
unusual for an adult to go back and re-excavate the foundation. Unless a
life event, often something traumatic like a divorce or a death or a failed
career or emotional breakdown, opens up cracks in the deep structures,
we normally limit demolition and reconstruction to the upper stories.
Constantly remodeling our foundational assumptions is simply too costly
from the standpoint of emotional energy and life disruption. The earlier
a foundation block was set in place, the more expensive it is to dig it out.

If I hadn’t spent years as a high school and college student wrestling
with depression and bulimia, both of which failed to respond to devotion
and prayer, I might never have begun the process of questioning
that ultimately dismantled my faith. It is curious—and curiously human—
that even after my faith lay in rubble, I still was able to walk past that
familiar rubble without seeing it, without ever picking up and turning
over individual bits of my old foundation, like the Bible itself.

Once I did examine the Bible of my childhood more closely, here is
what I found:

The Bible is a collage. It is a collection of documents written over a
time span of 600 years or more. These documents take many different
forms and reflect the varying socio-political context and intent of their
authors. Like middle-aged lovers, each piece has a complicated history.
Some show signs of having their roots in oral traditions, in storytelling
or chant. Others appear to be fragments of liturgy. Older documents
may be quoted loosely or even misquoted. The Bible occasionally refers
to other texts, some no longer in existence.

Every piece of the Bible existed in some form as an independent
document before it found its way into the Holy Book. Pieces of text
written at different times circulated separately from each other. Later,
some of these manuscripts were brought together into canons: agreedupon
sets of most sacred writings. Experts argued about which ones
should be in and which ones should not. The canonization of the Hebrew
Scriptures was left largely in the hands of Jewish scholars, while
Christian authorities made decisions about the collection of writings that
would become the New Testament.

How the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible Came To Be

I said the Bible was written over a time span of at least 600 years. But
some of the content of the Old Testament had circulated for centuries in
earlier religious traditions. The first five books of the Bible, are known
as the Pentateuch, Torah, or books of the Law. According to tradition,
Moses gets credit for authoring the Torah, but linguists and antiquities
experts believe this authorship is unlikely. Evidence for authorship
by Moses relies simplistically on the claims the books make for themselves.
Analyses of individual texts suggest multiple authors and imply
that the books were crafted later. (The Moses story is set about 1,500
years before the time of Christ.)

The books of the Torah integrate stories and legal codes inherited from
cultures that inhabited the Middle East at the time that the tribes of the
Hebrews emerged. For example, the story of the Great Flood appears in
the ancient Epic of Gilgamesh, an Akkadian religious text that pre-dates
the time of Moses by about five hundred years. The hero, Utnapishtim,
is warned by the god Ea to build a ship 120 cubits in length, breadth, and
height. (Noah is told to build one of different dimensions.) Utnapishtim
brings into the vessel not only the seed of all of the animals, but of all the
craftsmen as well. It rains for six days and nights, in contrast to the biblical
forty, before the boat lands on Mount Nisir. He releases a dove after
seven days, while Noah sends a raven first and a dove later.3

Similarly, the story of the baby Moses parallels the earlier story of
Sargon, who united the Sumerian and Akkadian kingdoms 800 years
before the time of the Israelite account. In the Sumerian tale, Sargon is
put into a basket of rushes and floated down a river. He is rescued by a
woman named Akki, who raises him in the royal court. But he eventually
breaks away and becomes a powerful ruler in his own right.4 The baby
Moses, too, is put into a basket of bulrushes by his mother and rescued by a
woman who raises him in the royal court. He breaks away with power
given directly by God and frees the Israelites from their Egyptian masters.

Other examples are scattered through the Old Testament. The creation
story of Genesis parallels the creation myth of the ancient Babylonians.
Out of primeval chaos and darkness, a divine spirit creates light;
firmament; dry land; the sun, moon, and stars; and man, before resting.
In some places, Hebrew writings draw on the surrounding Canaanite
texts. The sacred writings of the Canaanites depict their God, Baal, wrestling
against an evil one whose form is that of a serpent. Some hymns
praising Yahweh literally draw their words and cadences from hymns
praising Baal.5 The code of the Law, although it claims to have been given
by Yahweh to Moses, not only borrows legal concepts from earlier codes
but even at times imitates their linguistic structure.6

These elements inherited from earlier traditions nourished Hebrew
religious thought, which then produced additional sacred stories and
laws. Over time, fragments were woven together by scribes, and a
specific ordering of texts began to be handed down from generation to
generation. A small but important set of Hebrew writings would have
been recognized as sacred more than a thousand years before the Christian
era. These may have been primarily chants, prayers, and ritualized
stories that were used during worship.

It appears that the writings gathered into the Torah were accepted as a
sacred body by about 400 BCE, but evidence for an earlier date is scant.
The Samaritans, who split from Judaism in around 300 BCE, recognize
only the Torah as scripture, so scholars hypothesize that the other books
of the Hebrew Bible were not universally accepted within Judaism before
then. Over time, the Hebrew understanding of their God expanded,
and later writers documented this theological progression. Some of their
manuscripts would come to be seen as particularly sacred. The last books
now included in the Hebrew Scriptures were written more than a century
before the birth of Jesus, probably about 160 BCE. They would not
become an official Bible for another 250 years.

The Hebrew Bible was not finalized until nearly a century after the
death of Jesus. At the time, Judaism was threatened by both the growth
of Christianity and the loss of the Jerusalem temple, the center of
worship and society, which had been destroyed twenty years before. From
records that remain, it appears that about 90 CE Jewish scholars gathered
in a town called Jamnia, currently Yebna in Israel, to resolve disagreements
about the canon of Hebrew scripture. They feared that without a
clear center, Judaism itself would die. This center could no longer be a
place, it needed to be something Jews could carry with them no matter
where they might live. Ultimately, they declared thirty-nine books to be
essential to the Hebrew Bible. These books are the same as the current
Protestant Old Testament.

Modern scholars disagree about how important this process was. Some
argue that the participants merely formalized what was already broadly
agreed among Jewish leaders and worshipers. However, we know several
books were disputed by those present, including Esther, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel,
and Proverbs; and disagreements about whether certain books belonged in
the Hebrew Bible continued to spring up in the centuries that followed.

The earliest existing manuscripts of much of the Hebrew Bible are
from a set of scrolls found between 1947 and 1956 in caves near the
Dead Sea. It is believed that the scrolls were hidden for safekeeping by a
messianic Jewish sect that lived in the area.7 The Dead Sea or Qumran
Scrolls, as they are called, contain fragments of all of the books now in
the Hebrew canon except Esther, which has led scholars to speculate
that the sect that hid the scrolls may not have accepted this book as
scripture. (It is interesting to note that at the time of the Protestant Reformation,
Martin Luther also questioned the inspiration of Esther along
with the New Testament books of James, Hebrews, and Revelation.)8

Also interesting is that the scholars of Jamnia did not endorse seven
books Catholics call the Deuterocanonicals, also known as the Apocrypha.
The Deuterocanonical books are Tobit, Judith, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Wisdom
of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (or Sirach), and Baruch. They were a
part of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible used
by Christians in the first centuries CE. In other words, at the time Christianity
was first spreading among the Gentiles, these books were packaged
with the other books of the Hebrew Bible. When the Apostles in the
New Testament quoted from the Old Testament, they almost invariably
quoted the Septuagint translation, which suggests the sacred body of
writings on which they drew included these books.9

Even after they were separated officially from the Hebrew Bible in Jamnia,
these books remained in the Christian Bible. When challenged by some
reformers, they were reaffirmed as biblical canon at the Council of Trent in
1500. In the years after the Reformation, they continued to be regarded as
scripture by many Protestants and as important sacred texts by almost
all. Ultimately, though, the Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Puritans rejected
these books, and today most Protestant Bibles are printed without
them. I have never met an Evangelical who has read the Deuterocanonicals.

This history poses some thought-provoking challenges to the doctrine
of inerrancy. Councils are committees—human committees, presumably
fallible. Few Evangelical Christians, or other fundamentalists, would
insist that the decisions of church leaders, or, in this case specifically,
Jewish scholars, are perfect and without error. But in their fevered defense
of biblical inerrancy, this is exactly what they do.

How the New Testament Came To Be

The books that make up the New Testament were written over a time
span of about seventy-five years beginning about 50 CE. Thus, the books
that describe Jesus and claim to quote his words verbatim were compiled
a generation or more after the events they report.10

The first known proposal for a Christian canon came from a second
century Gnostic, Marcion. His list included a partial Gospel of Luke and
some of Paul’s letters, the only Christian writings he saw as inspired by
God. Marcion was considered a heretic, but he got things moving. In the
centuries that followed, Christian leaders responded to his challenge by
putting forth their own lists of sacred texts.

The first surviving list that includes the books of the modern New
Testament was written by Eusebius in the early fourth century. Eusebius
divided existing sacred texts into four categories: agreed on, disputed,
spurious, and those cited by heretics. It is noteworthy that he listed James,
Jude, 2 Peter, and 2 and 3 John as disputed, and Revelation and Hebrews
as spurious.11 A generation later, church leaders adopted the modern
canon at a council held in 382 CE. Yet the Greek Orthodox Church continued
to debate the book of Revelation until the tenth century. The Syrian
Church, even today, excludes 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation
from its canon. The Copts and Ethiopians, both ancient Christian
traditions, have additional books not accepted by the Roman Catholic
Church and its Protestant offspring.12

Competing interpretations of Christianity flourished during the first
centuries of the Christian Era. Both Arianism and Gnosticism had particularly
widespread followings. Their power threatened the unity of the
church and prompted the church hierarchy to create unifying doctrinal
statements known as “creeds.” The Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed,
statements of orthodox doctrine that are still recited by many believers
today, were developed to refute the “heresies” of Arianism and Gnosticism,
respectively.

Christians who held the Arian view believed that Jesus was of different
substance than God, created by him, and that the Holy Spirit was
secondary to both of these. To combat such beliefs, the Council of Nicea
established the doctrine of the trinity and then drafted a creed to be
recited by believers, specifically asserting that Christ was equal with God.
“Only-begotten of the Father, that is to say, of the substance of the Father,
God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being
of one substance with the Father …”

Gnostics emphasized the spirit over the body. They believed that matter
is inherently evil and that only spirit can reflect the goodness of God.
For people who worshipped in Gnostic variants of Christianity, it was
impossible that Christ could be fully human. Gnostic believers had their
own version of sacred Christian scriptures. Many of the texts were burnt
or otherwise destroyed by advocates of the orthodox view and are known
of only because they are mentioned in other manuscripts. However, treasured
portions of these writings, now known as the Gnostic Gospels,
survived because they were hidden in jars beneath a boulder in the Egyptian
desert for almost 2000 years.13 These gospels offer a very different
perspective on the person of Jesus than do the writings adopted by the
orthodox hierarchy.

Once an orthodoxy became established, communities of believers that
disagreed with this orthodoxy were persecuted and their sacred texts
destroyed.* As a consequence, much of the rich early history of Jesus
worship is lost. More than twenty gospels were produced during the
first three centuries of Christianity. Many were systematically purged by
believers who held the dominant views. Some that remain have been
gathered into a book called Lost Scriptures along with non-canonical
Acts of the Apostles, epistles, and apocalypses or prophesies.14

Those gospels that made it into the Christian New Testament—Matthew,
Mark, Luke, and John—reflect the orthodox perspective. Whether
they were the ones that most accurately described the life of Jesus or his
teachings, we will never know. The earliest surviving fragments of these
books date from about 175 years after the death of Jesus, and our first
complete copy is from 350 CE Paul’s letters make no mention of the
gospels, and few non-Evangelical scholars believe they were actually written
by the apostles whose names they bear. The structure and wording
of three (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) suggest that they drew on each other
or an earlier text, now lost. John is a later document and differs from the
others, not just in its structure, but in its emphasis on the deity of Jesus.

Literally thousands of copies of New Testament books in Greek and
Latin exist. These manuscripts are impressively consistent. Evangelical
apologists, or defenders of the faith, point to the similarity of these manuscripts
to illustrate how little the Bible changed across centuries of transmission.
However, virtually all of these copies date to the time when
Christianity was already the state religion of the Roman Empire. The
collection of writings contained in the New Testament had become an
official sacred bible by that time. As a consequence, the agreement among
these texts tells us little about how true they were to the literal words of
an historical Jesus.

Anthropologists point out that the time when traditions and texts
would have evolved and changed most was during the early period—
before an official canon of sacred texts was finalized. The record of those
early years is spotty at best partly because early Christianity spread by
word of mouth and partly because, as mentioned, once a view became
dominant, its adherents worked to obliterate all others.

How Do Modern Scholars Study the Scriptures?

Lives have been spent, and as we shall see in later chapters, lives have
been taken, in the quest to define one inspired body of scripture. The
resulting collection of sacred texts bears the marks of cultural evolution
and borrowings, of debate, of political influences, and of centralized
power imposing consensus by force; in other words, of human history.

Few worshipers may ask about the history of their Holy Scriptures or
about the criteria used for inclusion or exclusion of specific passages.
Fewer still may revisit the decisions made by their ancestors in the faith.
But among theologians, there have always been dissenting opinions about
the content of the biblical canon and the merits of different passages. At the
time of the Protestant Reformation, John Calvin penned the following
words: “But in regard to the Canon itself, which they so superciliously
intrude upon us, ancient writers are not agreed. Let the mediators, then,
enjoy their own as they please, provided we are at liberty to repudiate
those which all men of sense, at least when informed on the subject, will
perceive to be not of divine origin.”15

Thomas Jefferson, deeply versed in
theology, went so far as to dissect a copy of the Bible, retaining those
passages he deemed worthy inspirations for worship and morality. His
goal was to excavate the authentic teachings of Jesus from under the
Platonist philosophy superimposed by early Jesus worshipers. The text
he created is known as The Jefferson Bible and is still available today.16

In the mid-twentieth century, Bible scholars from universities on both
sides of the Atlantic formed a group called the Jesus Seminar. Some were
believers; some were not. None were inerrantists, since inerrantism
doesn’t allow the type of inquiry they were about to undertake. Over a
period of years, seminar members examined the gospels using the methods
historians apply to analyzing other ancient texts. These methods are
called “higher criticism.” They looked at similarities and contrasts within
and among the gospels. They studied other texts from the same time
period, made linguistic comparisons, and dissected content. In the end,
they voted on which parts of the gospels they thought reflected the actual
words of a historical Jesus.

This process outraged conservatives, who said the vote trivialized the
sacred word of God. Yet in reality, the Jesus Seminar scholars were following
a time-honored tradition and engaging in the very process by
which the content of the Bible was established. Their criteria were new:
they based their decisions about each piece of text on linguistic patterns
rather than doctrinal orthodoxy or reputed authorship. Also, their level
of analysis was more detailed. For the council that ratified the New Testament
canon in 393 CE, the Synod of Hippo Regius, a “book” of writings was
either in or out. For the members of the Jesus Seminar, a phrase was
either in or out. But their goal– to make a best guess about the real teachings
of a real Jesus—was the same. So was their democratic approach.

Catholics who believe in biblical inerrancy are at least logically consistent.
They believe that God grants infallibility at times to the church
hierarchy and that he did so during the process of canonization. For
Evangelicals to insist on biblical inerrancy is bizarre. Evangelicals repudiate
the authority of the Catholic hierarchy and God’s control of Roman
Catholic history. In other words, they reject the very processes that
brought their Bible into existence while at the same time claiming that
the end product of those processes is perfect.

Some modern Christians call this stance “Bibliolatry.” Inerrancy, in
their eyes, is idol worship. It makes the Bible itself into a Golden Calf.
Inerrancy elevates a collection of human musings to a status that should
be accorded only to God himself. By doing so, it detracts from the human
struggle to grasp the sublime otherness of the Divine, whom we
humans see “through a glass, darkly.”

Biblical scholar Karen Armstrong argues that many literalist teachings
were created by a misunderstanding, a misapplication of the humanist
tools of reason and individualism to a body of ancient spiritual mythos
that was never meant to be interpreted in the concrete, and consequently
superficial, way it is now understood by modern Evangelicals.17

If we step back from debates about higher criticism and inerrancy, a
larger question looms: suppose God really wanted to make a perfect revelation
of himself to humankind. Does it not seem likely that he would
show himself in some form equally accessible to all rather than in a specific,
corruptible literary tradition?

To Consider

Biblical inerrantists insist that the Bible is the perfect, unchanging, and
final work of God. They argue that if we do not take it literally and defend
its perfection, then we cannot take it seriously. But I, myself, wonder
if the opposite is true, if taking the Bible literally prevents the reader
from taking it seriously. It puts the reader at odds with the stance of the
writers themselves. Each author labored to reach beyond the traditions
that had been handed down and to move forward in understanding the
realities, moralities, and mysteries that we call God. All wrote during a
time when people didn’t keep journals just for personal satisfaction, which
means they wrote because they were interested not only in personal spiritual
growth, but also the spiritual growth of the societies in which they lived.

Instead of fostering growth, biblical literalism locks the believer into a
state of developmental arrest. A literalist can progress as far as the authors
of the Bible did in their struggles to comprehend reality and goodness,
but no farther. Worse, literalism demands the suspension of learning
and of critical thought. As external knowledge accumulates— knowledge
of science, history, linguistics, and human nature—this stance
becomes more rigid and brittle. And as moral comprehension deepens,
this stance becomes more regressive. Many apologists who defend a
literal interpretation of the Bible become contortionists or even sophists.
Though they claim to worship the God of Truth, they risk joining those
whom Christian author Scott Peck called “people of the lie.”

By contrast, understanding the construction of the Bible allows scholars,
seekers, and worshipers to honor it in keeping with its history. As a
collection of sacred documents spanning more than a thousand years, it
records the struggle of our ancestors to establish fair societies, to empower
moral instincts, to identify and explain evil, to comprehend the
cycles of birth and death, and to reach for meaning beyond the day-to-day
struggle for existence. Seeing the Bible in this way means that wisdom
can be gleaned from both the attainments and the failings of those
who have come before us, from their insights and from their errors.
How can one approach such a task but with both reverence and caution?

*The first of the Crusades that targeted other Christians was a pogrom to exterminate the Cathars, who lived in the region of modern France and practiced a Gnostic variant of Christianity. It is estimated that 20,000–70,000 Cathars died in the first wave of assaults, with an estimated half million killed in total, the last being burned at the stake in the mid-14th Century.

Did you like this chapter? Check out the book at www.lulu.com/content/220355. Additional essays by this writer at www.spaces.msn.com/awaypoint.

24 comments:

Truthbound said...

Valerie,

This is an excellent article, thanks for sharing it. This is essentially the process that led to my deconversion. It was amazing to me that I had never considered to examine the thing that I had decided to make my ultimate authority in life. Very careless on my part considering the investment I was making. This information should be promoted heavily, though most are too afraid to even glance at it, because of what they feel is at stake, as the article so clearly stated.
Again, thanks for the article!

Piprus said...

Valerie,

Thanks for posting. This is a great article. Would that more fundamentalists would read articles like this.

Lorena said...

Yeah, great article. I've been reading , and enjoying Karen A. whom she cites in the article.

Anonymous said...

Excellent and well researched article. Thanks so much for sharing it. I plan on printing it and saving it.

Ex Atheist said...

Just a rehash of the old "its all those HEBREWS fault" argument.

Maybe its a Jewish conspiracy!

Marianna Trench said...

I posted this same challenge in response to another article above. Here it is again, just in case you missed it:

Hey, “EX-ATHEIST,” in case you didn't notice, this website is called "exchristian.net." That means, most of the members are former Christians, and they once believed what you do. They’ve all heard what you’re preaching – many, many, many times before. In fact, many of them formerly preached it themselves. But when their religion became less than satisfactory, they began to question it.

The overwhelming majority of the ex-christians here conducted active research into the history of the bible and the times in which it was written and canonized. For most of us, our quest for knowledge included research into other religions as well, including the older pagan religions that were incorporated into judaism and christianity. You'll even find many here who have studied linguistics in order to get a better understanding of the meaning of the bible and the earlier texts from which it was assembled.

When someone converts from fundamental christianity after an intellectual pursuit of this nature, they do not necessarily become atheists but they do NOT go back to putting “faith” into mythology. For this reason, I do not believe that you were ever really an atheist (unless you simply mean that you didn’t attend church or think deeply about religious matters prior to becoming a christian – in which case you don’t really understand the word atheist.)

But, maybe I’m wrong. So, I think it would be really interesting if you could tell us what kind of study and logical thinking went into you becoming an atheist AND what was the rational (i.e., non-emotional) basis of you rejecting atheism for christianity.

Frankly, I don’t believe you are intellectually up to the challenge and that if we hear from you again, it will just be more of the same sniping and name-calling. But, please, feel free to prove me wrong.

Anonymous said...

The Old Testament books were written down as the Word of God and recognized as such from the moment of their writing. Beginning with the words etched into stone by the finger of God himself, God's people recognized the Lord's writing as it came to them through their leaders and prophets. The books of Moses were recognized as scripture by Israel's earliest judges and kings, who referred to them in their writings as Scripture. From the time of Samuel, the words and writings of the prophets were kept in libraries, along with the histories. The Hebrew Bible, which Christians refer to as the Old Testament, was widely accepted and agreed upon by Jews well before Jesus' time. Thus the various councils that supposedly determined what would be Scripture actually only confirmed what was already widely accepted as the Word of God.

The Old Testament was begun by Moses circa 1446 BC and was completed by 400 BC. (About 400 years before Christ, according to other Jewish writings, the voice of God "ceased to speak to them directly" and the prophets "had fallen asleep," thus the 400 years of scriptural silence prior to the birth of the Messiah.) The Old Testament is written almost entirely in Hebrew, with small portions of Daniel and Ezra in Aramaic.

The Old Testament covers the history of the nation of Israel and the nations who dealt with Israel. It begins with creation and follows the Jewish people through the flood, the Exodus, the period of the judges, the reign of the kings, and finally into exile under the Babylonian Empire. They include all the laws God's people are to observe and the nation's history, as well as prophesy.

Old Testament Documentation

Both Old and New Testament documents were copied with excruciating attention to detail. When an entire scroll had been copied by hand, one letter at a time, if one mistake was made, the scroll was destroyed. In addition, the Jewish copyists of the Hebrew Scriptures adhered to detailed requirements in copying. We looked at this list in studying New Testament documentation, but it bears a second look. (Taken from Don't Check Your Brains at the Door, Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, and The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell):

1) Each copy had to be made on a brand new writing surface and had to be prepared in a specific way;

2) Each copy had to be written in a certain number of columns of thirty-letters width, with a certain number of lines to each column;

3) Each copy had to be written in a certain color and quality of ink;

4) Not even the tiniest letter could be written from memory, as one would glance at the word "to" and write the letters "t" and "o" before glancing back at the original, but every letter was copied singly from the original;

5) No letter could connect with or overlap another letter. The distance between each letter was measured by a single hair or thread;

6) Every letter of every page and book was counted and compared against the original. The number of times each letter of the alphabet occurred in a book was counted and compared against the original. The middle letter of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) and the middle letter of the entire Hebrew Bible were computed and indicated in the text. If one of these calculations was incorrect, the copy was discarded.

7) The Masoretes, who were responsible for copying Biblical text from AD 500 to 950, calculated everything that could be calculated. They numbered the verses, words, and letters of every book. They calculated the middle word and middle letter of each.

"These trivialities, as we may rightly consider them, had yet the effect of securing minute attention to the precise transmission of the text.; and they are but an excessive manifestation of a respect for the sacred Scriptures which in itself deserves nothing but praise. The Masoretes were indeed anxious that not one jot nor tittle, not one smallest letter nor one tiny part of a letter, of the Law should pass away or be lost."

Frederic Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts

"Jews preserved it as no other manuscript has ever been preserved ... They kept tabs on every letter, syllable, word, and paragraph. They had special classes of men within their culture whose sole duty was to preserve and transmit these documents with practically perfect fidelity-scribes, lawyers, masoretes. Who ever counted the letters and syllables and words of Plato or Aristotle? Cicero or Seneca?"

Bernard Ramm, Protestant Christian Evidences

The Old Testament has been shown to be reliable in at least three major ways:

1) textual transmission (the accuracy of the copying process down through history),

2) the confirmation of the Old Testament by hard evidence uncovered through archaeology, and

3) documentary evidence also uncovered through archaeology.

Information on documentary evidence and textual transmission follow:

Masoretic Text

The earliest Old Testament manuscript before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls dated about AD 916, called the Masoretic Text, after the Masoretes, who from about AD 500 to 950 were responsible for preserving and editing Biblical text, as well as other Jewish writings. It was been the primary Hebrew text used for translations and transcriptions until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The Masoretes are not the only Jewish group to have had charge of the scriptures and other Jewish writings, as the following list shows. Each represented a group of scholars whose entire lives were dedicated to preserving accurately the Hebrew Bible and sacred Jewish writings.

! Masoretes (AD 500-950)

! Talmudists (circa AD 100 to 500)

! Tannaim ("teachers" or "repeaters") (100 BC to AD 200)

! Zugoth ("pairs" of textual scholars)(first and second centuries BC)

! Sopherim (from the Hebrew for "scribes") were the Jewish scholars and custodians of the text between the fifth and third centuries BC.

The comparatively late date of the Masoretic Text and the lack of other preserved manuscripts is not startling, considering that earlier copies that were defective or damaged were destroyed after they were painstakingly copied. Also, repeated persecutions of the Jews resulted in the disappearance of many of their ancient manuscripts. Copyists were so accurate, and there were so many safeguards built into the copying process, that the newer document was considered as authentic as the one it was copied from. In fact, due to the fact that it was on new, undamaged materials, it was given the advantage, as the old manuscript might have become damaged or defaced. These were at once condemned.

"Thus, far from regarding an older copy of the Scriptures as more valuable, the Jewish habit has been to prefer the newer, as being the most perfect and free from damage."

Sir Frederic Kenyon, The Story of the Bible

Septuagint, or LXX

The Septuagint is the earliest complete Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible and was completed by a group of Jewish scholars around 250 BC. The group is said to have been made up of six elders from each of the twelve tribes of Israel, numbering 72, and is supposed to have been completed in the same number of days. (Hence the title, meaning "seventy," and its abbreviation, LXX, the Roman numeral for seventy.)

The translation was necessary as the Jews, dispersed from their homeland, adopted the languages of their new lands. The Septuagint was intended for use in public services rather than for scholarly or scribal purposes, and so, though generally loyal to the original Hebrew, was somewhat liberally translated and interpreted (something like our "Good News Bible" and "Living Bible" paraphrases of today). Still, it was translated from Hebrew texts far older than our oldest manuscripts and bears witness to the accuracy of the newer translations. Also, New Testament writers at times quoted from the Septuagint. The LXX, being very close to the Masoretic text (AD 916) we have today, helps to establish the reliability of its transmission through 1,300 years.

The Septuagint bridged the religious gap between the Hebrew- and Greek-speaking people, met the needs of the Alexandrian Jews, bridged the historical gap between the Hebrew Old Testament of the Jews and the Greek-speaking Christians who would use it with their New Testament, provided a precedent for missionaries to make translations of the Scriptures, and bridged the textual criticism gap by its substantial agreement with the Hebrew Old Testament text (Geisler, General Introduction to the Bible).

Samaritan Pentateuch

Samaritans separated from the Jews during the fifth or fourth century BC after a long, bitter religious and cultural struggle. The Samaritans took with them the Scriptures as they then existed, and their manuscript of the five books of Moses is a manuscript of the Hebrew text. The earliest copy dates to about AD 1200. Again, its primary value lies in its confirmation of the historical accuracy of the Biblical text.

Aramaic Targums

These were paraphrases of the Hebrew Old Testament in the Aramaic language, compiled around AD 500.

"The great utility of the earlier Targums consists in their vindicating the genuineness of the Hebrew text, by proving that it was the same at the period the Targums were made, as it exists among us at the present day."

J. Anderson, The Bible, the Word of God

Mishnah

The Mishnah, AD 200, was a digest of all the oral laws from the time of Moses. It was written in Hebrew and covered traditions as well as explanations of the oral law. Scriptural quotations witness to the reliability of the Masoretic Text.

There are other important manuscripts, but these are the most important documents relating to the historical and transcriptural accuracy of the Old Testament.

Dead Sea Scrolls

Around 1946 to 1947, a shepherd looking for a lost goat threw a stone into a cave and heard the unlikely sound of shattering pottery. Upon further investigation, he discovered what became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls - some forty thousand scrolls and fragments. It was the library of the Jewish community at Qumran, and included fragments of all the Old Testament books except Esther. These copies were 1,000 years older than any yet discovered, dating at about 100 B.C. They demonstrated the amazing accuracy with which the Bible had been copied for centuries, the later copies having remarkably few changes.

From these fragments more than 500 books have been reconstructed, many of which tell us about life in the community of Qumran. Others give helpful commentaries on the Scriptures. The most important documents, however, are copies of the Old Testament text dating more than a century before the birth of Christ.

The earliest Old Testament manuscript before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls were from A.D. 900 and later. How could we be sure they were accurately transmitted from before the time of Christ? The Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed the accuracy of that transmission.

Among the fragments is a complete manuscript of the Hebrew text of Isaiah, dating to about 125 B.C.

The Isaiah copies of the Qumran community "proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling."

Gleason Archer, Survey of the Old Testament

The Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts are highly significant because they confirm the accuracy of other manuscripts dated much later. The major conclusion from the Dead Sea Scrolls was that there was no significant difference between the scrolls found at Qumran and the Masoretic Hebrew text dated 1,000 years later. This confirms the reliability of our present Hebrew text.

"Critics of the Masoretic Text charged that the manuscripts were few and late. Through the Dead Sea Scrolls, early manuscript fragments provide a check on nearly the whole Old Testament. Those checks date about a thousand years before the Great Masoretic manuscripts of the tenth century. Before the discoveries of the ... Dead Sea caves, the Nash Papyrus (a fragment of the Ten Commandments and Deuteronomy 6:4-9), dated between 150 and 100 BC, was the only known scrap of the Hebrew text dating from before the Christian era."

Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict

"We have given practical proof of our reverence for our own Scriptures. For, although such long ages have now passed, no one has ventured either to add, or to remove, or to alter a syllable; and it is an instinct with every Jew, from the day of his birth, to regard them as the decrees of God, to abide by them, and, if need be, cheerfully to die for the,. Time and again ere now the sight has been witnessed of prisoners enduring tortures and death in every form in the theatres, rather than utter a single word against the laws and the allied documents. ... What Greek would endure as much for the same cause? Even to save the entire collection of his nation's writings from destruction he would not face the smallest personal injury. For to the Greeks they are mere stories improvised according to the fancy of their authors ..."

Flavius Josephus, First Century Jewish Historian

"After trying to shatter the historicity and validity of the Scripture, I came to the conclusion that it is historically trustworthy. If one discards the Bible as being unreliable, then one must discard almost all literature of antiquity."

Josh McDowell, New Evidence that Demands a Verdict

posted: 7/13/2006 7:46 PM EST

Anonymous wrote:

Is the Bible Historically Accurate?

The question of the accuracy of the Bible breaks down into three separate questions.

1) Is the Bible historically and factually accurate in its original text?

2) Is the text we have today an accurate transcription of the original text?

3) Was the original text inspired by God?

The next few pages will provide some answers for the first question: the historical accuracy of the Bible, as it relates to the New Testament.

It is true that there is not historical and/or archaeological evidence to back up every fact stated in the Bible. However, it is also true that, despite countless attempts to prove the Bible false in every age since the beginning of recorded history, no one has ever been able to prove that there is one historical or factual mistake in the Bible. This is in itself a very powerful argument in favor of Biblical truth. If many events in the Bible can be proved to be accurately recorded, and none can be proved to be inaccurate, then does it not stand to reason that we must give credibility to those areas for which we have no proof?

In order to establish that credibility, we must show what proof we do have. All these issues can be explored in more depth, but a basic defense for the reliability of the New Testament follows, including support for the New Testament from writings other than the Bible (both Christian and non-Christian), support from archaeology, and a thorough look at how the integrity of the original Scriptures has been maintained through the centuries.

History and the New Testament

Many critics argue that the New Testament documents are unreliable since they were written by Jesus' disciples and supported by other Christians. They claim that there is no confirmation of Jesus or New Testament events in non-Christian sources. This claim is false, and the objection itself is ill-founded. We will examine eyewitness accounts and also non-Christian confirmation of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.

Eyewitness Accounts in the New Testament

Critics often reject the authority of the Bible because it was written by people who were close to Jesus. To reject records because they come from eyewitnesses is a false premise. Those who witness an event and know the people involved personally are considered the best sources. This applies to firsthand accounts of battles, crimes, or anything else. New Testament witnesses should not be disqualified simply because they were close to the events they related.

"Suppose there were four eyewitnesses to a murder. There was also one witness who arrived on the scene after the actual killing and saw only the victim's body. Another person heard a secondhand report of the killing. In the trial the defense attorney argues: 'Other than the four eyewitnesses, this is a weak case, and the charges should be dismissed for lack of evidence.' ... Since the New Testament witnesses were the only eyewitness and contemporary testimonies to Jesus, it is a fallacy to misdirect attention to the non-Christian secular sources."

Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics

The New Testament authors repeatedly claim to have been eyewitnesses, and also reinforce that their listeners, too, have seen and heard these things.

"We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty."

2 Peter 1:16

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-this we proclaim concerning the word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ."

1 John 1:1-3

"Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."

Luke 1:1-3

"In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God."

Acts 1:1-3

"After that, he appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all, he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born."

I Corinthians. 15:6-8

"Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

John 20:30-31

"'We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen-by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.'" (Peter speaking)

Acts 10:39-42

"To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed."

1 Peter 5:1

"After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight."

Acts 1:9

"'Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.'" (Peter speaking)

Acts 2:22

"At this point Festus interrupted Paul's defense. 'You are out of your mind, Paul!' he shouted. 'Your great learning is driving you insane.'

"'I am not insane, most excellent Festus,' Paul replied. 'What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.'

"Then Agrippa said to Paul, 'Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?'"

Acts 26:24-28

Critics would gladly have refuted these claims and exposed these errors, but they could not. The critics, too, were witnesses to these things, as the apostles often stated.

The earliest preachers of the gospel knew the value of ... first-hand testimony, and appealed to it time and again. "We are witnesses of these things," was their constant and confident assertion. And it can have been by no means so easy as some writers seem to think to invent words and deeds of Jesus in those early years, when so many of his disciples were about, who could remember what had and had not happened.

And it was not only friendly eyewitnesses that the early church had to reckon with. There were others less well disposed who were also conversant with the main facts of the ministry and death of Jesus. The disciples could not afford to risk inaccuracies (not to speak of willful manipulation of the facts), which would at once be exposed by those who would be only too glad to do so. On the contrary, one of the strong points in the original apostolic preaching is the confident appeal to the knowledge of the hearers; they not only said, "We are witnesses of these things," but also, "As you yourselves also know" (Acts 2:22). Had there been any tendency to depart from the facts in any material respect, the possible presence of hostile witnesses in the audience would have served as a further corrective.

F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?

In other words, they could not have lied about these things, because they would have been caught.

The eyewitness records should be considered the authoritative voice on Jesus' life and words. However, confirming evidence for Jesus can be gleaned outside the New Testament.

Supporting evidence for New Testament history

from early Christian writers outside the Bible

(taken from Josh McDowell's New Evidence that Demands a Verdict):

Eusebius - In his Ecclesiastical History, Eusebius preserves the writings of Papias, bishop of Heirapolis (AD 130), in which Papius records sayings of the apostle John.

Irenaeus -Irenaeus was Bishop of Lyons (AD 180) and student of Polycarp. Polycarp was bishop of Smyrna and was martyred in AD 156 at the age of 86. Polycarp had been a disciple of the apostle John. Irenaeus wrote,

"So firm is the ground upon which the gospels rest, that the very heretics themselves bear witness to them, and, starting from these [documents], each one of them endeavours to establish his own particular doctrine."

Irenaeus, Against Heresies III

Clement of Rome - Clement of Rome (circa AD 95) used Scripture as a reliable and authentic source.

Ignatius - Ignatius (AD 70-110), bishop of Antioch, was martyred for his faith. He knew all the apostles and was a disciple of Polycarp. Ignatius based his faith on the accuracy of the Bible and had ample material and witnesses to support the Scriptures.

Tatian - Tatian (circa AD 170) organized the Scriptures in order to put them in the first "harmony of the Gospels," the Diatessaron.

Supporting evidence for New Testament history

from early non-Christian writers outside the Bible

(taken from Josh McDowell's New Evidence that Demands a Verdict):

Tacitus - Tacitus was a first-century Roman, and is considered one of the more accurate historians of the ancient world. He gives an account of the great fire of Rome, for which some blamed Emperor Nero. According to Tacitus, in response to this report, Nero blamed the Christians for the fire and tortured them. Tacitus goes on to describe the Christians:

"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, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their center and become popular."

Tacitus, The Annals and the Histories

The "mysterious superstition" refers to the resurrection of Jesus.

Suetonius - Suetonius was chief secretary to Emperor Hadrian (reigned AD 117-138). He confirms the report in Acts 18:2 that Claudius commanded all Jews (among them Priscilla and Aquila) to leave Rome in AD 49.

Josephus - Josephus (circa AD 37-100), a Pharisee of the priestly line and a Jewish historian, worked under Roman authority. He wrote an autobiography as well as two major works, Jewish Wars (AD 77-78) and Antiquities of the Jews (AD 94). He also wrote a minor work, Against Apion. He makes many statements that verify the historical nature of both the Old and New Testaments. Josephus supports the Old Testament canon without the Apocrypha. He lists the names of the books, identical with our thirty-nine. He grouped them into twenty-two books, corresponding with the Hebrew alphabet.

"For we have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another [as the Greeks have], but only twenty-two books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them, five belong to Moses, which contain his laws. ... The prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life."

Josephus, Against Apion

Josephus also refers to Jesus as the brother of James, who was stoned to death. His reference to Jesus confirms that Jesus was a real person in the first century, that he was identified by others as the Christ, and that he had a brother named James who died a martyr's death at the hands of the high priest Albinus and his Sanhedrin.

Josephus also confirmed the existence and martyrdom of John the Baptist.

Thallus - Thallus wrote around AD 52. Only fragments of his writings survive, preserved by other writers. Thallus recorded the darkness following the crucifixion, as well as the earthquake. Thallus explains the darkness as a solar eclipse, but also reports that the death of Jesus occurred during a full moon. A solar eclipse can not take place during a time of full moon.

Pliny the Younger - Pliny was a Roman author and administrator. In a letter to Emperor Trajan in AD 112, Pliny described the early Christian worship practices - how they would meet before light; sing hymns to Christ; take an oath not to do wicked deeds or to commit fraud, theft, or adultery and never to lie; then they would partake of food. This provides evidence that early Christians worshiped Christ as God and followed the practice of breaking bread together, as reported in Acts 2:42 and 46.

Emperor Trajan - In reply to Pliny's letter, Trajan instructed that Christians who were denounced and did not deny that they were Christians be punished. One accused could vindicate himself by adoring the Roman gods and be pardoned.

Talmud - Writings of the Sanhedrin record Jesus' crucifixion, the time (Passover), and the intent of the Jewish religious leaders to kill him.

Lucian - Lucian of Samosata was a second-century Greek writer who wrote sarcastically about Christianity. He describes, however sarcastically, Christian beliefs and practices, including their belief in eternal life and in the resurrection of a man everyone knew to be crucified. His text confirms that Jesus was worshiped, that he introduced new teachings which his followers observed, that he was crucified, and that Christians denied false Gods.

Mara Bar-Serapion - Mara Bar-Serapion was a Syrian, wrote to his son sometime between the late first and early third centuries. His letter contains reference to Jesus and his execution by the Jews. He also showed that the Jews gained nothing by it, as their kingdom was abolished shortly thereafter.

Gnostic "Gospel of Truth" - There were many non-Christian (heretical) groups flourishing after the time of Christ, among them the Gnostics. "The Gospel of Truth," written circa AD 135-160, also confirms that Jesus was a historical person.

The Acts of Pontius Pilate - Though the document itself does not survive, it is referred to by Justin Martyr in about AD 150 and by Tertullian about AD 200. Both claim the Acts of Pontious Pilate mentions Jesus' hands and feet being pierced by the nails of the cross. It also mentions lots being cast over his garments. Justin Martyr also claims that the miracles of Jesus can be confirmed in this document.

Norman Geisler summarizes:

The primary sources for the life of Christ are the four Gospels. However there are considerable reports from non-Christian sources that supplement and confirm the Gospel accounts. These come largely from Greek, Roman, Jewish, and Samaritan sources of the first century. In brief they inform us that:

1) Jesus was from Nazareth;

2) he lived a wise and virtuous life;

3) he was crucified in Palestine under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius Caesar at Passover time, being considered the Jewish King;

4) he was believed by his disciples to have been raised from the dead three days later;

5) his enemies acknowledged that he performed unusual feats they called 'sorcery';

6) his small band of disciples multiplied rapidly, spreading even as far as Rome;

7) his disciples denied polytheism, lived moral lives, and worshiped Christ as Divine.

This picture confirms the view of Christ presented in the New Testament Gospels.

Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics

The New Testament Canon

The first Christians gathered together for meetings and read the Old Testament, as Jesus had done. Those who knew Jesus would talk about him and share his teachings. Paul's letters were copied and circulated and read during gatherings. As the eyewitnesses began to die, Christians realized they must write down the facts about Jesus' life and work so they would not be lost or altered. The gospels were set down. By the second century, four were agreed upon as genuinely inspired.

The church did not decide what would be called Scripture, it merely recognized Scripture.

"A book is not the Word of God because it is accepted by the people of God. Rather, it was accepted by the people of God because it is the Word of God."

Norman Geisler, A General Introduction to the Bible

Five principles guided the recognition and collection of divinely inspired books:

1) Was the book written by a prophet of God?

2) Was the writer confirmed by acts of God? (Miracles, fulfilled prophesy, etc.)

3) Did the message tell the truth about God? If there was any doubt, they threw it out.

4) Did the message of the book come with the power of God/transforming power?

5) Was the book accepted by the people of God?

6) For the New Testament Canon, the primary test was apostolicity. Was it written by an apostle or was it approved by an apostle?

The rise of heretical groups and persecution combined to require Christians to establish which books were divinely inspired once and for all.

Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, who wrote in the mid to late second century (AD 160-180) referred to the four gospels as a clearly established and accepted fact.

"For as there are four quarters of the world in which we live, and four universal winds, and as the Church is dispersed over all the earth, and the gospel is the pillar and base of the Church and the breath of life, so it is natural that it should have four pillars, breathing immortality from every quarter and kindling the life of men anew. Whence it is manifest that the Word, the architect of all things, who sits upon the cherubim and holds all things together, having been manifested to men, has given us the gospel in fourfold form, but held together by one Spirit.

Matthew published his Gospel among the Hebrews (i.e. Jews) in their own tongue, when Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel in Rome and founding the church there. After their departure (i.e., their death, which strong tradition places at the time of the Neronian persecution in 64), Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself handed down to us in writing the substance of Peter's preaching. Luke, the follower of Paul, set down in a book the gospel preached by his teacher. Then John, the disciple of the Lord ..., himself produced his Gospel, while he was living at Ephesus in Asia."

Irenaeus, Against Heresies III

The list of New Testament books we have now was agreed upon and in use long before the councils of Laodicea (AD 363) and Carthage (AD 397) formally accepted them.

The word "canon" came from word meaning "standard." Origen in the third century called the scriptures "the rule of faith, the standard by which we are to measure and evaluate." Thus the collected Scriptures came to be called the "canon."

In AD 367, Athanasius gave the earliest list of New Testament. books that is exactly what we have today. Jerome and Augustine followed suit, and the New Testament was defined. There has been no serious questioning of the New Testament since.

New Testament Documentation

The original New Testament documents were written in AD 50 -AD 90. The earliest surviving fragments date to AD 120, and there are some 50 other fragments dating within 100 years of that time.

Approximately 5,686 Greek manuscripts of all or part of the New Testament still exist.

In addition to the Greek manuscripts, more than 19,000 manuscripts exist in other languages. No other document of antiquity even begins to approach such numbers and attestation. Homer's Iliad is second, with 643 manuscripts surviving.

We believe we have accurate text for Sophocles' plays, but the earliest substantial manuscript upon which that assumption is based was written more than 1,400 years after the poet's death. Though no original manuscripts written by Paul or the other apostles have survived, the earliest complete manuscripts date to 250 to 300 years after their writing. Partial manuscripts date even closer to the composition date. Though there are minor differences in many of the manuscripts, "not one fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith rests on a disputed reading."

(David Dockery, Foundations for Biblical Interpretation)

"The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning ... And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt."

F.F. Bruce

"To be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament."

John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity.

"[The New Testament] is the most remarkably preserved book in the ancient world. Not only do we have a great number of manuscripts but they are very close in time to the originals they represent."

Edward Glenny

Even if there were no manuscripts available, the New Testament could be reconstructed almost in its entirety from the writings of the early church fathers. They quoted from it so prolifically that nearly every verse is accounted for. This also helps establish which New Testament books were considered scripture by the earliest Christians.

(Geisler, Greenlee)

The New Testament documents, in their original text, are historically accurate. But how do we know the Bible we have today is what was written thousands of years ago? In order to prove that this is true, we must first establish the accuracy of our earliest documents, then the accuracy of translations.

Jesus himself claims that the Law will not be lost or changed:

"I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth shall pass away, not one jot, not one tittle, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished."

Matthew 5:18

(Jot (Hebrew "y" or "yodh") is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet.

A tittle is the tiny mark which makes the Hebrew letters "r" and "d" different.)

But how can we know that the New Testament we read is essentially the same one penned by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, and others, and inspired by God?

For one thing, both Old and New Testament documents were copied with excruciating attention to detail. When an entire scroll had been copied by hand, one letter at a time, if one mistake was made, the scroll was destroyed. In addition, the Jewish copyists of the Hebrew Scriptures adhered to detailed requirements in copying (taken from Don't Check Your Brains at the Door, Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler):

1) Each copy had to be made on a brand new writing surface and had to be prepared in a specific way;

2) Each copy had to be written in a certain number of columns of thirty-letters width, with a certain number of lines to each column;

3) Each copy had to be written in a certain color and quality of ink;

4) Not even the tiniest letter could be written from memory, as one would glance at the word "to" and write the letters "t" and "o" before glancing back at the original, but every letter was copied singly from the original;

5) No letter could connect with or overlap another letter. The distance between each letter was measured by a single hair or thread;

6) Every letter of every page and book was counted and compared against the original. The number of times each letter of the alphabet occurred in a book was counted and compared against the original. The middle letter of the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament) and the middle letter of the entire Hebrew Bible were computed and indicated in the text. If one of these calculations was incorrect, the copy was discarded.

"Do instructors dismiss the writings of the Greek historian Thucydides of the philosopher Aristotle or the tragedians Sophocles and Euripides as being unworthy of serious consideration because of textual problems and variant readings?

"Probably not. Yet many people think the Bible is a faulty document, when in fact none of those other works can approach the reliability of the New Testament text."

Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler,

Don't Check Your Brains at the Door

Two factors are most important in determining the reliability of a historical document: the number of manuscript copies in existence, and the time between when it was first written and the oldest existing copy. Consider the New Testament in comparison with other ancient writer's works:

Author Written Earliest Copies Time Span # of Copies

Caesar (Gallic Wars) 100-44 BC c. AD 900 c. 1,000 years 10

Plato (Tetralogies) 427-347 BC c. AD 900 c. 1,300 years 7

Thucydides (History) 460-400 BC c. AD 900 c. 1,300 years 8

Sophocles 496-406 BC c. AD 1,000 c. 1,400 years 100

Catullus 54 BC c. AD 1,550 c. 1,600 years 3

Euripides 480-406 BC c. AD 1,100 c. 1,500 years 9

Aristotle 384-322 BC c. AD 1,100 c. 1,400 years 5

Homer (Iliad) 800 BC c. 400 BC c. 400 years 643

Herodotus (History) 480-425 BC c. AD 900 c. 1,350 years 8

Demosthenes 300 BC c. AD 1100 c. 1,400 years 200

Livy (History of Rome) 59 BC c. 350 (partial) c. 400 years 1 partial

to AD 17 c. 10th century c. 1,000 years 19

Pliny Secundus

(Natural History) AD 61-113 c. AD 850 c. 750 years 7

New Testament AD 40-100 AD 125 25 years 24,000+

(from Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, Don't Check Your Brains at the Door, and Josh McDowell, New Evidence that Demands a Verdict)

posted: 7/13/2006 7:48 PM EST

Anonymous wrote:

"How can you believe a Bible that is full of contradictions? It is, after all, filled with obvious discrepancies ..."

This skeptical statement assumes that the Bible disagrees with itself, and that God could not have inspired a fallible document. If the Bible did contain demonstrable errors, it would show that at least those parts could not have come from a perfect, all-knowing God Ñ this conclusion is true. But the initial premise --that the Scriptures are full of mistakes--is not true.

Certain passages at first glance appear to be contradictory, but further investigation will show that this is not the case.

Before we address specific concerns in the scriptures, let's discuss the issue of fairness. We must always begin by giving the author the benefit of the doubt. This is the rule in other literature, and there should not be different rules applied to examining the Bible. Unless we can prove the author wrong, we must assume he is correct.

Next, what is a contradiction? The law of non-contradiction, which is the basis of all logical thinking, states that a thing cannot be both "A" and "non-A" at the same time. In other words, it cannot be both raining and not raining at the same time.

One would have to demonstrate a violation of this principle from Scripture in order to prove a contradiction. Two statements may be different without being contradictory.

For example, Matthew relates how two blind men met Jesus at Jericho. Mark and Luke mention only one. However, neither of these statements denies the other.

Josh McDowell gives the following example:

"Suppose you were talking to the mayor of your city and the chief of police at city hall. Later, you see your friend,Jim, and you tell him you talked to the mayor today. An hour later, you see your friend, John, and tell him you talked to both the mayor and the chief of police.

"When your friends compare notes, there is a seeming contradiction. But there is no contradiction. If you had told Jim that you talked only to the mayor, you would have contradicted that statement by what you told John.

"The statements you actually made to Jim and John are different, but not contradictory. Likewise, many biblical statements fall into this category."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers, p. 31

Sometimes, two passages appear to be contradictory because the translation is not as accurate as it could be. A knowledge of the original languages of the Bible can immediately solve these difficulties. All languages, including Greek and Hebrew, have their peculiarities that make them difficult to translate.

For example, Paul's conversion as recorded in Acts:

"The men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man."

Acts 9:7, KJV

"And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me."

Acts 22:9, KJV

These statements seem contradictory, but the Greek verb for "hear" is not the same in both accounts. In Acts 9:7, the construction expresses sounds reaching the ear. It does not indicate any understanding. The construction in Acts 22:9 describes a hearing which includes mental understanding. Our English translation is simply not as expressive as the Greek, but the passage is not therefore contradictory.

Details may be left out of a biblical account. Again, this does not make the account contradictory. Something may not be explained thoroughly, but that does not make it wrong. We can speculate on the details that were omitted and offer explanations, which may or may not be accurate. However, a plausible explanation does prove that the passage is not necessarily contradictory.

"When a possible explanation is given to a Bible difficulty, it is unreasonable to state that the passage contains a demonstrable error. Some difficulties in Scripture result from our inadequate knowledge about the circumstances, and do not necessarily involve an error. These only prove that we are ignorant of the background.

"As historical and archaeological study proceed, new light is being shed on difficult portions of Scripture and many 'errors' have disappeared with the new understanding. We need a wait-and-see attitude on some problems."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers, p. 32-33

The following is a summary of principles for understanding apparent discrepancies in the Bible:

? 1. The unexplained is not necessarily unexplainable.

? 2. Fallible interpretations do not mean fallible revelation.

? 3. Understand the context of the passage.

? 4. Interpret difficult passages in the light of clear ones.

? 5. Don't base teaching on obscure passages.

? 6. The Bible is a human book with human characteristics.

? 7. Just because a report is incomplete does not mean it is false.

? 8. New Testament citations of the Old Testament need not always be exact.

? 9. The Bible does not necessarily approve of all it records.

? 10. The Bible uses non-technical, everyday language.

? 11. The Bible may use round numbers as well as exact numbers.

? 12. Note when the Bible uses different literary devices.

? 13. An error in a copy does not equate to an error in the original.

? 14. General statements don't necessarily mean universal promises.

? 15. Later revelation supercedes previous revelation.

Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, p. 47

Multiple authors theories

The Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) were supposedly written by Moses, yet many passages regarding Moses are written in the third person, rather than the first. Also, the Pentateuch contains the death of Moses. Critics assume such incongruities indicate that Moses did not write the Pentateuch. There are several reasons this need not be the case.

For one, an author need not inscribe with his own hand, especially in the case of a leader. Books could have been, and often were, dictated. As Josh McDowell points out in Evidence, what person would deny Hamurabi's authorship of Hamurabi's Code, simply because his hand did not chisel it into stone?

Second, Moses could have written of himself in the third person, as did Josephus (first century AD, The Wars of the Jews); Xenophon (fifth century BC, Anabasis) and Julius Caesar (first century BC, Gallic Wars).

It is true that the account of Moses' death was a later addition to Deuteronomy, traditionally attributed to Joshua.

"Chapter 34 is demonstrably post-Mosaic, since it contains a short account of Moses’ decease. But this does not endanger in the slightest the Mosaic authenticity of the other thirty-three chapters, for the closing chapter furnishes only that type of obituary which is often appended to the final work of great men of letters."

Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 224

Those who argue for multiple authorship of the Pentateuch identify differences in writing styles and divine names as reasons for dissecting books, chapters, and even sentences. A later editor, it is theorized, pulled together these varying accounts. The major "identified" sources follow:

? J source = Author used Yahweh (Jehovah) to refer to God

? E source = Author used Elohim to refer to God

? P source = Priestly tradition - author wrote about laws, ceremonies

? Other sources help fill in some of the gaps

Thus critics dissect which author wrote which portions of the Pentateuch, sometimes dividing a single verse between three authors.

It is theorized that the accounts of three different documents regarding the naming of Isaac have been included in Genesis. Genesis 17:17 (P-source) says Sarah laughed when told she would have a baby. Genesis 18:12 (attributed to J-source) says Abraham laughed with disbelief. Genesis 21:6 (E-source) says they laughed with joy at his birth. Thus the name Isaac, which means laughter. Critics say these three authors each had a different story to explain the origin of Isaac's name. Is it really too much to believe that both Abraham and Sarah laughed with disbelief when they were individually told that Isaac would be born, and that later they laughed with joy at his birth?

This story, as all others dissected into their respective "authors," is incomplete when divided into three different stories. No single source tells a complete or even comprehensible story.

William H. Green, The Higher Criticism of the Pentateuch, gave an illustration of the arbitrary division of scripture. He took Jesus' parable of the prodigal son and subjected it to the same treatment to which the documentarians were subjecting some of the Pentateuch narratives. Here are his results (phrases in parenthesis Green attributes to a fictional "redactor"):

Repetition and alleged contradictions

Critics' assumption: Since no author would have reason to repeat the same story twice, the repetition of certain narratives (parallel accounts) indicates more than one author at work. Those that are contradictory are obviously the work of a redactor or editor who wove together two different accounts of the same story (interwoven accounts). Since he could not decide for himself which account was accurate, he included both so the reader could decide for himself.

However, this need not be the case. There are many other explanations for repeated accounts of the same incident. In many cases, the Hebrew style (also popular in many other writing styles) was to give a general account, then give a more detailed account. Some English writing styles also follow this pattern. Often, the biblical accounts are offered by different witnesses and are thus different, but not contradictory. In still other instances, the repetitions accounts are not repetitions at all, but true accounts of separate events that have similar details. Thus contradictions are natural, even necessary. Examples of each of these follow:

Repetitious accounts are sometimes different stories with similar details.

Example: Abraham's lie concerning his wife/sister;

The Bible records that Abraham told this lie two different times, and his son, Isaac, repeated the incident. Critics argue that the incident happened just once, but was recorded three times because the editor could not decide which one of his sources was accurate. However, this is not an editor's error, or proof of several authors recording the same story without accuracy. The event happened three times. Considering them variations of the same event assumes that men never make the same mistake twice, and that sons never make the same mistakes as their fathers. Bad assumption! Both Isaac and Abraham lied to a King Abimelech. This fact has been cited as proof that it is actually the same account, since it was the same king. However, not only were the same names often used for fathers and sons, but this was most often the rule for kings.

A general account followed by a more detailed account

Example: Genesis 1 and 2

Other times a story is retold (as the creation story) twice, once to introduce the subject and once to expand upon it or offer more details. We do this in our own language and culture.

Critics say Genesis 1 and 2 contradict each other with two different and irreconcilable accounts of creation. Disagreements about the order of creation and the concept of God provide the main fodder for this argument. The first account of creation clearly gives the order. The second only indicates that the earth and animals had been created previous to the events discussed in chapter two. When God brings the animals that had been created before Adam, it is not an indication that Adam preexisted those animals.

Critics also argue that God is portrayed very differently in chapters one and two, thus demonstrating a different author for the two accounts. The argument goes something like this. The God of Genesis 1 is a transcendent God, as indicated by the actions attributed to him, God "called, saw, blessed, deliberated, worked, rested, created"

Genesis 2 reveals a more anthropomorphic God, God "fashions, breathes, plants, places, takes, sets, brings, closes up, builds, walks", he is much more "human" than the God in Genesis 1, thus the argument that Genesis 2 is written by a different author.

In reality, Genesis 1 describes the creation of the world. Genesis 2 details and further describes the specific creation of Adam and his immediate environment in the Garden of Eden. As for the argument that God is more "human" in chapter 2, man in his finite mind cannot express ideas about God in anything but anthropomorphisms. Calling, thinking, working, and resting are no less human qualities than breathing, planting, placing, and walking.

The two accounts of creation are not only compatible, but depend upon each other. The second chapter tells of "when the Lord God created the heavens and the earth," but says nothing about that creation, jumping straight to the creation of man.

"It must be emphasized that we do not have here an example of incompatible repetition. We have an example of a skeletal outline of creation as a whole, followed by a detailed focus on the final point of the outline--man."

Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, p. 496

Different eyewitness accounts of the same event

Example: Four gospels

There are many examples of different accounts of the same story appearing in the Bible. The books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles are full of such accounts in the lives and wars of the kings of Israel. The writings of the Prophets offer additional insights into these events.

Probably the most obvious instance of this occurring is in the four gospel accounts. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all record the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. They do so from four different perspectives, differing greatly in their accounts, and also overlapping in many areas. The accounts, though different, are not contradictory.

Rarity of words/lateness of words

This subject or rare words or words thought to be of later origin was discussed in the section on archaeology. To summarize, it is hard to prove a word is late. The fact that it is used rarely or even only once does not indicate that the word was unknown. In fact, the rule is the opposite. The fact that it is found in earlier writings indicates the word is earlier than formerly thought, not that the writing is later.

"Three thousand Old Testament words appear less than six times; fifteen hundred occur but once. Certainly a greater knowledge of Hebrew literature and conversation would establish many of these as everyday Hebrew terms. Similarly, no one would argue that words like 'invasion' (1 Samuel 30:14), 'jumping' (Nahum 3:2) and 'lance' (Jeremiah 50:42) are rare in English, yet they are found only once in the English Bible."

Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, 126-127

Specific "contradictions" in Scripture

Book of Judges: Account of the death of Sisera.

Judges 5:25-27 is supposed to represent Jael as having slain Sisera while he was drinking milk. Judges 4:21 says she did it while he was asleep. However, a closer reading of the former scripture reveals that it is not stated that he was drinking milk at the moment she killed him. In fact, the Judges 5 reference occurs in a poetic song extolling Jael's deed. The poetic structure leaps quite naturally from one event to the next, including Sisera's meal and later death.

Genealogies in Matthew and Luke

Both Matthew and Luke give a genealogy for Jesus. However, the family trees are not identical. Critics say this proves the gospel narratives cannot be inspired.

This apparent contradiction is most easily explained in that Matthew showed Jesus' legal lineage, through his foster father, Joseph. Luke, who makes special reference to the fact that Joseph was only thought to be Jesus' father, but actually was not, traces Jesus' lineage through Mary.

Peter's denial of Jesus

The gospels all record Peter's denial of Christ before his crucifixion. However, Mark's gospel seems to be slightly different. The others record Jesus telling Peter the denial will occur three times before the cock crows. Mark records Jesus telling Peter he will deny him three times before the cock crows twice.

So what was it? Once or twice? According to Josh McDowell and Don Stewart in their book Answers, it is quite reasonable that Christ made both statements. Mark, however, records the story in more detail. This is natural, since Mark's gospel was written under the influence of Peter.

"A possible reconstruction would be the following: Jesus reveals to Peter that before the cock crows, Peter will deny him three times. Peter, as was his way, probably objected loudly to this idea that he would deny his Lord. Jesus then in turn repeats his earlier prediction, along with a further note that before the cock crows twice, Peter will deny him three times."

Josh McDowell, Don Stewart

Time of Christ's crucifixion

Mark records Christ was crucified in the third hour (Mark 15:25), while John records Pilate presenting Jesus to the Jews in the sixth hour, then turning him over to be crucified (John 19:14).

According to Jewish reckoning, the third hour was 9 a.m. Thus the sixth hour would have been noon.

The most reasonable possibility is that John is using a different method of reckoning time than Mark. The Romans calculated the day from midnight to midnight. Thus John's sixth hour would have been 6 a.m., the time of the last trial and sentencing, giving time for the events leading up to the crucifixion, which Mark places around 9 a.m.

According to Josh McDowell, there is good evidence that John used the Roman method of computing time. In John 20:19, the evening of the day Jesus rose from the dead is considered part of that same day. For the Jews, the new day would begin with sunset.

Was Jesus in the tomb three days?

According to Matthew 12:40, Jesus prophesied that, just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, so he would be three days and three nights in the earth.

However, Christ was crucified and buried on Friday and resurrected on Sunday. This accounts for two partial days, one full day, and two nights.

Mark 8:31 records Jesus as saying he would be raised after three days. In Matthew 16:21, he says he will be raised on the third day. These expressions were used interchangeably.

According to Josh McDowell (Answers), Matthew 27:63 gives weight to the idiomatic usage of these interchangeable phrases. After the Pharisees tell Pilate of the prediction of Jesus, "After three days I will rise again," they ask for a guard to secure the tomb until the third day.

The expression "one day and one night" was an idiom the Jews used to indicate a day, even only part of a day. This is evident in 1 Samuel 30:12-13 and Genesis 42:17.

"The phrases 'after three days' and 'on the third day' are not contradictory, either to each other or with Matthew 12:40, but simply idiomatic, interchangeable terms, clearly a common mode of Jewish expression."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, (Answers, p. 181-182)

The death of Judas

According to Matthew, Judas hanged himself. Through Mark, Peter tells us he fell and was crushed by the impact of falling head first. But Matthew does not say that Judas did not fall; and Peter does not say that Judas did not hang himself. And Peter did not say that Judas died by falling head first. He says that his body eventually fell headlong and burst apart. This could have occurred long after he died.

Here's Josh McDowell's possible reconstruction (from Answers): Judas hanged himself on a tree on the edge of a precipice that overlooked the valley of Hinnom. After he had hung there some time, the limb snapped or the rope gave way and the body fell down the ledge. Such precipices are extremely common in the Hinnom valley.

Did Matthew know his prophets?

Matthew relates how Judas threw his thirty pieces of silver into the sanctuary before committing suicide, and how the money was used by the priests to buy a potter's field. Matthew concludes by saying that this action fulfilled what the prophet Jeremiah had said.

The prophecy appears in Zechariah 11:12-13.

Various solutions have been offered. One, that Matthew is referring to an oral prophecy that was not written down, or a written prophecy that has since been lost and was not included in the canon. Another, that a copyist made an error, and the original text read "Zechariah."

But a more probable solution is that Jeremiah was the first book in the ancient rabbinic order of prophetic books, according to the Talmud. Matthey was quoting from a collection of books, collectively referred to by the title of the first book, "Jeremiah." The same thing occurs in Luke 24:44, where Psalms is used to refer to the entire third division of the Hebrew canon.

Perhaps the best explanation is that Matthew is combining two prophecies, one from Jeremiah and one from Zechariah, and mentions the major prophet in reference. Jeremiah mentions buying the field (32:6-8). Zechariah adds the details of the thirty pieces of silver and the money thrown on the temple floor.

"There do occur in the Bible different perspectives of the same event, different emphases in retelling incidents and other apparent discrepancies. There have been difficulties in translating the original Hebrew or Greek text. There have been a host of misinterpretations of biblical passages. Nonetheless, when twentieth-century Christians open the Bible, they are reading the inspired, preserved, reliable Word of God. 'The grass withers,' said Isaiah, 'and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever' (Isaiah 40:8)."

Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, Don't Check Your Brains at the Door, p. 47)

posted: 7/13/2006 7:49 PM EST

Anonymous wrote:

Inspiration of Scripture
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Is the Bible Divinely Inspired?

Inspiration can be defined as the mysterious process by which God worked through human writers, employing their individual personalities and styles to produce divinely authoritative and inerrant writings. (Norman Geisler, A General Introduction to the Bible)

Inspiration inevitably leads to inerrancy. Inerrancy means that when all the facts are known, the Scriptures in their original autographs, properly interpreted, will be shown to be wholly true in everything they affirm, whether this has to do with doctrine or morality or with the social, physical, or life sciences. The Bible claims to be inspired by God, and is thus inerrant in its original writing

"The bottom line is that the Bible has been breathed by God. He used men to write out exactly what he wanted them to write. He kept them free from error but at the same time used their unique personalities and styles to convey exactly what he wanted."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

The Claims of Scripture

Scripture itself claims to be inspired by God. Other sacred writings also claim inspiration, but history and prophesy bear out the truth of the Bible's claim.

Many verses make this claim, including countless uses of the phrases "Thus says the Lord," "This is what the Lord says," and others. A few verses follow:

"But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry.

Zechariah 7:12

(Prophets continually referred to other writings as having divine authority. This is only one example.)

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

2 Timothy 3:16-17

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

Hebrews 4:12

"He (Jesus) said to them, 'This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.'"

Luke 24:44

"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws."

Psalm 119:105

"And we have the world of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

2 Peter 1:19-21

"When Moses went and told the people all the Lord's words and laws, they responded with one voice, 'Everything the Lord has said we will do.' Moses then wrote down everything the Lord and said."

Exodus 24:3-4

Many times, as in the following verse, God commanded his prophets to write his words. (See also Jeremiah 36:28; Isaiah 8:1; Habakkuk 2:2; among others.)

"Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness."

Isaiah 30:8

In John 10:35, Jesus refers to the writers of Scripture, "to whom the word of God came--and the Scripture cannot be broken."

These are only a few verses that show the Scriptures themselves claim to be Scripture--inspired by God and written at his request. This holds for the original writings, not the inspiration of copyists, though we covered the amazing accuracy with which the Scriptures have been transcribed through the centuries in the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament.

"Although only the autographs (original writings) are inspired, it may be said nevertheless that all good copies or translations are adequate."

Josh McDowell, The New Evidence the Demands a Verdict

"The Bibles we have today are accurate transmissions of what existed two thousand years ago. We simply have a translation in our current language of the God-breathed Scriptures that were originally written in Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek.

Josh McDowell, The New Evidence the Demands a Verdict

What we have is, for all practical purposes, the inspired word of God.

Other than the Bible's own claims, there are supports that it is God's word.

Unity

The unity of the Bible bears witness to its divine inspiration. Despite the fact that it was written over a period of about 1,500 years by more than 40 authors, there is one unfolding story of God’s plan of salvation for mankind. It is one astoundingly continuous work.

Testimony of Early Christians

We also have the testimony of early church. We know from Scripture and from other sources that these words were considered the Word of God from the time they were first set down. In the case of the New Testament writings, we have other writings of the day referring to the letters of Paul and Peter, as well as the Gospels, as Scripture.

The Jewish People

One of the strongest arguments for the existence of God and proof of his Word is the existence of the Jewish people.

About 4,000 years ago, God promised Abram, "I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great; so you shall be a blessing: And I will bless those that bless you and the one who curses you I will curse: and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed." (Gen. 12: 2, 3)

"And the Lord said to Abram, Now lift up your eyes, and look from the place where you are northward and southward and eastward and westward; for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever." (Gen. 12: 14, 15)

In other words, God promised to Abram:

? 1. A great nation

? 2. A great name

? 3. Being a blessing to all nations

? 4. A land which shall forever belong to his descendants

Several hundred years later, the nation numbered in the millions. They were about to enter the land of promise when God gave them some promises and warnings. He warned (Deuteronomy) against disobedience. He promised he would use other nations to remove them from that land if they were unfaithful to him. He predicted that they would be scattered across the whole earth as strangers in unfamiliar lands and that they would find no rest from their wanderings. God also promised he would bring them back into their own land.

What has been the verdict of history? The children of Israel fell into idolatry and were removed from their homeland. In 606 BC King Nebuchadnezzar took the people captive to Babylon and returned in 588-586 BC to burn the city and temple.

God allowed his people to return to their land in 537-536 BC, or after 70 years (Ezra 1). The removal from their homeland occurred a second time in AD 70 when Titus the Roman destroyed the city of Jerusalem and scattered the people.

For almost 1900 years, the Jews wandered about the earth as strangers who were persecuted from every side, until World War II, when six million Jews were put to death in concentration camps. In 1948, Israel was re-established as a nation, and Jews began returning to their homeland from all ends of the earth. Since then, they have survived the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Holy Day War.

Through all that time, the nation neither perished nor lost its national identity. History has demonstrated that any people who leave their homeland will, after about five generations, lose their national identity by being absorbed into the new culture, but the Jews remained a distinct entity. They have survived, while the nations that persecuted them (Moab, Ammon, Edon, Philistia, and many others) have either been completely destroyed or completely lost their identity.

"Have you ever heard of a Swedish Moabite? A Russian Philistine? A German Edomite? An American Ammonite? No! These people have been totally absorbed into other cultures and races. However, have you ever heard of a Swedish Jew? A Russian Jew? A German Jew? An American Jew? Yes! As prophesied, they have not lost their identity."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

Prophecy Confirms Divine Inspiration

Fulfilled prophecy serves as some of the most convincing proof that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.

"The purpose of prophecy is to let us know that God exists and that he has a plan for this world. But the foretelling of people, places, and events hundreds of years before their occurrence, the Bible demonstrates a knowledge of the future that is too specific to be labeled a good guess. By giving examples of fulfilled prophecy, the Scriptures give a strong testimony to their own inspiration."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

"I foretold the former things long ago, my mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. For I knew how stubborn you were; the sinews of your neck were iron, your forehead was bronze. Therefore I told you these things long ago; before they happened I announced them to you so that you could not say, 'My idols did them; my wooden image and metal god ordained them.' You have heard these things; look at them all. Will you not admit them ?

"From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you. They are created now, and not long ago; you have not heard of them before today. So you cannot say, 'Yes, I knew of them.' You have neither heard not understood; from of old your ear has not been open."

Isaiah 48:3, 5

"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God--the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son ...'

Romans 1:1-4

Fulfilled prophecy as proof of the Bible's inspiration/accuracy

"And we have the world of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

2 Peter 1:19-21

"According to Deut. 18, a prophet was false if he made predictions that were never fulfilled. No unconditional prophecy of the Bible about events to the present day has gone unfilled. Hundreds of predictions, some of them given hundreds of years in advance, have been literally fulfilled. The time (Dan. 9), city (Mic. 5:2) and nature (Is. 7:14) of Christ's birth were foretold in the Old Testament, as were dozens of other things about his life, death, and resurrection (see Is. 53). Numerous other prophecies have been fulfilled, including the destruction of Edom (Obadiah 1), the curse on Babylon (Isaiah 13), the destruction of Tyre (Ezekiel 26) and Nineveh (Nahum 1-3), and the return of Israel to the land (Isaiah 11:11). Other books claim divine inspiration, such as the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and parts of the [Hindu] Veda. But none of those books contains predictive prophesy. As a result, fulfilled prophecy is a strong indication of the unique, divine authority of the Bible."

Norman Geisler, William Nix,

A General Introduction to the Bible

Micah predicted that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. Zechariah predicted that the Messiah would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, that he would be betrayed by a friend for thirty pieces of silver, that his hands and feet would be pierced, that his bones would not be broken. Specific details, not vague generalizations that could be interpreted to fit many situations. And they all came true with 100 percent accuracy.

"Even a casual awareness of the prophecies concerning the Messiah must convince all but the most biased reader of the truth of the Bible."

Josh McDowell, Don't Check Your Brains at the Door

The chances of that happening by coincidence, according to Peter Stoner in Science Speaks, are 1 in 10 to the power of 157, or the number 10 followed by 157 zeros. You can't imagine a number that big or a probability that small.

"For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."

2 Peter 1:21

Prophecy -- Where prophesied Fulfillment
Jesus would be born of a virgin Isaiah 7:14 -- Matthew 1:28-25
Of the tribe of Judah Genesis 49:10 -- Luke 3:23, 33
Descended from Jesse Isaiah 11:1 -- Luke 3:32
Of the house of David Jeremiah 23:5 -- Luke 3:31
Born in Bethlehem Micah 5:2 -- Matthew 2:1
Preceded by a messenger Isaiah 40:3 -- Matthew 3:1-2
Enter Jerusalem on a donkey Zechariah 9:9 -- Luke 19:35-37
Betrayed by a friend Psalm 41:9 -- Matthew 26:48-50
Betrayed for thirty pieces of silver Zechariah 11:12 -- Matthew 26:15
Silent before his accusers Isaiah 53:7 -- Matthew 27:12
Hands and feet pierced Psalm 22:16 -- Luke 23:33;John 20:25
Crucified with thieves Isaiah 53:12 -- Matthew 27:38
Interceded for his persecutors Isaiah 53:12 -- Luke 23:34
Garments parted Psalm 22:18 -- John 19:23
Lots cast for garments Psalm 22:18 -- John 19:24
Gall and vinegar offered to him Psalm 69:21 -- Matthew 27:34
His bones not broken Psalm 34:20 -- John 19:33
His side pierced Zechariah 12:10 -- John 19:34
He was buried with the rich Isaiah 53:9 -- Matthew 27:57-60
His resurrection Psalm 16:10 -- Acts 2:31

posted: 7/13/2006 7:52 PM EST

Anonymous wrote:

Archaeology is the study of non-perishable debris, the rubbish man has left behind him that has survived the ravages of time. The task of the archaeologist is to take what remains from a society and reconstruct what the artifacts tell us.

Early digs were driven by the hope of finding buried treasure. Today, scientific methods are used to recover and study the remains of the past in order to better understand the ancient people and their lives.

Archaeology without history gives us only a sequence of cultural development. History gives us the chronology, events, people, places. Archaeological finds of the past one hundred years have verified much of the Bible's history. So far, the findings have verified, and in no case disputed, the historical biblical record.

While archaeology can not prove the Bible is the Word of God, it can illustrate the accuracy of many biblical passages and shed light on various passages in the Bible. You are on solid ground arguing that archaeology confirms the historical accuracy and trustworthiness of the Bible, that it can illuminate formerly obscure passages. You are on shaky ground to claim it proves divine inspiration or revelation.

"One cannot stress too strongly the importance of the Bible giving an accurate historical picture. Christianity is a historical faith which claims that God has broken into history with many mighty acts. ... If the biblical writers were incorrect in their historical picture, serious doubt would then be cast upon their trustworthiness in areas which couldn't be verified. ... [But] if the authors of Scripture are accurate in their accounts of the things that transpired, it then follows that they cannot be ruled out of court because they happen to mention things out of the ordinary."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

Archaeological Support for the Bible

From Genesis to Revelation, there is not a book in the Bible that can not draw support from the field of archaeology. There are libraries of books devoted to the subject, and archaeologists are constantly digging up new revelations. Some of the highlights follow. Information has been drawn from several sources, including: Josh McDowell, New Evidence that Demands a Verdict; Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers; Bryant Wood, archaeologist, Association for Biblical Research, as read on the web at christiananswers.net; The Oxford Bible Atlas; and Roberta Harris, Exploring the World of the Bible Lands. Other sources are cited as they are listed.

Biblical scholars once believed Moses could not have written the Pentateuch because it had been proven that writing was not in existence at the time of Moses. Therefore, it had to be of later authorship. Then, the "black stele" was discovered, containing the detailed laws of Hammurabi. It preceded Moses' writings by at least three centuries.

The Ebla Archives

One of the greatest archaeological finds in this century, Ebla was discovered in northern Syria in the 1970s. Excavations at Tell Mardikh, now known to be the site of Ebla, uncovered a palace which yielded some 15,000 clay tablets dating circa 2300 BC. Though most have not yet been translated, those that have demonstrate that the ancient site was once the prestigious city of Ebla, which ruled the Near East as the seat of a great empire. It is located in the modern-day city of Aleppo in North Syria. Its existence coincides with the time of the biblical patriarchs. The tablets provide an abundance of background material and biblical place names.

Among other things, the tablets mention Sodom and Gomorrah, previously thought by some to be mythical cities. The Ebla archives also preserve place names such as Hazor, Megiddo, Jerusalem, Lachish, Dor, Gaza, Ashtarot, and others. Personal names and common names of the time are also recorded, and correspond with the names we read from that time in biblical history.

Many words deemed "late words (600 BC) or Aramaisms (words influenced by Aramaic) can now be determined to be ancient. If they were used in Ebla in 2300, then they can hardly be lately developed.

Critics have long said Canaan was a word not used at the time of Moses and was used incorrectly in the early chapters of the Bible. Another word, "tehom" ("the deep") was said to be a late word (around 600 BC) and to prove a late writing of the creation account. Both the land of Canaan and the word "tehom" were found on the Ebla tablets, which predated Moses by some 800 years. Kitchen wrote of the Ebla archives:

"The lessons here are - or should be - clear. Set against two thousand years of history and development of the West Semitic dialects, the whole position of the dating of the vocabulary and usages in biblical hebrew will need to be completely re-examined."

K.A. Kitchen, The Bible in Its World

The Ebla archives also verify pagan religious practices of the time, also recorded in the Bible: the existence of temples, belief in certain gods, offerings, etc.

Old Testament Rulers and Empires

Many scholars of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries thought there were no Hittites at the time of Abraham because there were no records of them outside the Old Testament. The Hittites were thought to be biblical legend. Wrong again. Archaeological research has since uncovered evidence revealing more than 1,200 years of Hittite civilization. The capital and records were discovered at Bogazkoy, Turkey in 1906.

The Sumerian King List is an ancient tablet listing kings who reigned for long periods of time. The tablet records a great flood, after which there was a break in which no kings reigned, and when they were reinstated their reigns were much shorter. This corresponds with the Bible's record that the human life span was shortened following the flood.

Scholars once claimed that no Assyrian King Sargon ever lived, because the Bible was the only record of such a person (Isaiah 20:1). Then his palace was discovered in Khorsabad, Iraq. The very event recorded in Isaiah 20-his capture of Ashdod-was recorded on the palace walls.

According to recorded history, the last king of Babylon was Nabonidus. The Bible, however, records a King Belshazzar, who reigned during the time of the prophet Daniel. Critics thought this was a biblical error, until tablets were found showing Belshazzar as Nabonidus' son, who served as co-regent with his father. Thus Belshazzar could offer to make Daniel "third highest ruler in the kingdom" (Daniel 5:16) for reading the handwriting on the wall-the highest available position. (Bryant Wood, archaeologist, Association for Biblical Research; christiananswers.net)

Sodom and Gomorrah

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was thought to be mythical until evidence revealed the existence of these cities as centers of commerce in the area where the Scriptures describe them. The biblical description of their demise seems to be no less accurate. Evidence points to earthquake activity, and bituminous pitch, which would be explained by the brimstone hurled down on those cities that had rejected God. There is even evidence that the layers of sedimentary rock were molded together by intense heat, and evidence of burning has been found on Mount Sodom. Secular archaeologists have suggested that an oil basin beneath the Dead Sea ignited and erupted. Whether or not this is true, "Such an explanation in no way subtracts from the miraculous quality of the event, for God controls natural forces. The timing of the event, in the context of warnings and visitation by angels, reveals its overall miraculous nature." (Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics)

Jericho

Excavations of Jericho between 1930 and 1936 revealed something so startling that John Garstang and two other members of the archaeological team prepared and signed a statement describing what was found. In reference to these findings, Garstang says:

"As to the main fact, then, there remains no doubt: the walls fell outwards so completely that the attackers would be able to clamber up and over their ruins into the city. Why so unusual? Because the walls of cities do not fall outwards, they fall inwards. And yet in Joshua 6:20 we read, 'The wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.' The walls were made to fall outward."

John Gartsang, The Foundation of Bible History, Joshua, Judges

Bryant Wood, writing for Biblical Archaeology Review, includes a list of collaboration between archaeological evidence and biblical narrative as follows:

1. The city was strongly fortified (Joshua 2:5, 7, 15; 6:5, 20).

2. The attack occurred just after harvest time in the spring (Joshua 2:1; 3:15; 5:16).

3. The inhabitants had no opportunity to flee with their foodsheds (Joshua 6:1).

4. The siege was short (Joshua 6:15).

5. The walls were leveled, possibly by an earthquake (Joshua 6:20).

6. The city was not plundered (Joshua 6:17, 18).

7. The city was burned (Joshua 6:24).

Saul, David, and Samuel

Saul's fortress at Gibeah has been excavated. One noteworthy find was that slingshots were one of the primary weapons of the day. This relates not only to David's victory over Goliath, but to the reference of Judges 20:16 that there were 700 expert slingers who "could sling a stone at a hair and not miss."

Upon Saul's death, Samuel tells us that his armor was put in the temple of Ashtaroth (a Canaanite fertility goddess) at Bet She'an, while Chronicles records that his head was put in the temple of Dagon, the Philistine corn god. This was thought to be an error because it seemed unlikely that enemy peoples would have temples in the same place at the same time. However, excavations have revealed that there are two temples at this site that are separated by a hallway: one for Dagon and the other for Ashtaroth.

One of the key accomplishments of David's reign was the capture of Jerusalem. Problematic in Scripture was that the Israelites entered the city by way of a tunnel that led to the Pool of Siloam. However, that pool was thought to be outside the city walls. Excavations in the 1960s revealed that the wall did indeed extend well past the pool.

The site of Solomon's temple can not be excavated due to its nearness to the Muslim holy site The Dome of the Rock. However, Philistine temples built in Solomon's time fit the design, decoration, and materials described in the Bible. One ornament with the inscription "belonging to the Temple of Yahweh" has been recovered and is in the Israel Museum.

The excavation of Gezer in 1969 ran across a massive layer of ash that covered most of the mound. Sifting through the ash yielded pieces of Hebrew, Egyptian, and Philistine artifacts. Apparently, all three cultures had been there at the same time. This puzzled researchers greatly until they realized that the Bible confirms exactly what they found. "Pharaoh king of Egypt had attacked and captured Gezer. He had set it on fire. He killed its Canaanite inhabitants and then gave it as a wedding gift to his daughter, Solomon's wife." (1 Kings 9:16)

A remarkable inscription from the ninth century BC that refers to both the House of David and to the King of Israel was discovered in 1994. This was the first time the name of David had been found in any ancient inscription outside the Bible. The inscription refers not simply to a David, but to the House of David, the dynasty of the great Israelite king. It is possibly the oldest extra-biblical reference to Israel in Semitic script. It proves that both Israel and Judah were important kingdoms at this time.

Other Examples of Extra-biblical Confirmation of Biblical Events

(from Bryant Wood)

¥ Campaign into Israel by Pharaoh Shishak (1 Kings 14:25-26), recorded on the walls of the Temple of Amun in Thebes, Egypt.

¥ Revolt of Moab against Israel (2 Kings 1:1; 3:4-27) to Sargon II, king of Syria, as recorded on his palace walls.

¥ Defeat of Ashdod by Sargon II (Isaiah 20:1), as recorded on his palace walls.

¥ Campaign of the Assyrian king Sennacherib against Judah (2 Kings 18:13-16), as recorded on the Taylor Prism.

¥ Siege of Lachish by Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:14, 17), as recorded on the Lachish reliefs.

¥ Assassination of Sennacherib by his own sons (2 Kings 19:37) as recorded in the annals of his son Esarhaddon.

¥ Fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (2 Kings 24: 10-14) as recorded in the Babylonian Chronicles.

¥ Captivity of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, in Babylon (2 Kings 24:15-16) as recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder.

¥ Freeing of captives in Babylon by Cyrus the Great (Ezra 1:1-4; 6:3-4), as recorded on the Cyrus Cylinder.

¥ The existence of Jesus as recorded by Josephus, Suetonius, Thallus, Pliny the Younger, the Talmud, and Lucian.

¥ Forcing Jews to leave Rome during the reign of Claudius (AD 41-54) (Acts 18:2), as recorded by Suetonius.

Tombs and Burial Sites

Burial sites of many people from the Bible have been found. Just as a tombstone today is used as "concrete" evidence of a person's life and death, so the tombs and sepulchers of the past can be used to determine the life and significance of those they contain.

The tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem has been identified since the first century as that which is now beneath the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. In the 1800s, the Garden Tomb was identified as the temporary resting place for the body of Christ. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is generally accepted as the correct location.

Caiaphas was high priest from AD 18-36. He was the leader of the conspiracy to crucify Jesus. After his arrest, Jesus was detained at Caiaphas' house overnight. Caiaphas interrogated Jesus and handed him over to Pilate to be tried. Caiaphas continued to persecute the early church and the disciples (Acts 5:28-29). The Caiaphas family tomb was accidentally discovered by workers constructing a road in a part just south of the Old City of Jerusalem. Archaeologists examined the tomb and found twelve ossuaries (receptacles for bones) containing the remains of 63 individuals, including those of Caiaphas. This remarkable discovery was the first to provide the physical remains of an individual named in the Bible.

Caesar Augustus ruled the Roman empire from 27 BC to AD 14. He issued the census decree that brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. The remains of Augustus' tomb exist today in the middle of the Piazza Augusto Imperatore.

The Bible says that Sarah, Abraham, Isaac, Rebekah, Leah, and Jacob were buried in Hebron, in a cave called the Cave of Machpelah, purchased by Abraham (Genesis 23). Traditionally, this cave has been located below the Haram el-Khalil ("sacred precinct of the friend of the merciful one, God") in Hebron, today a Muslim mosque. References as early as the second century BC testify that this is the authentic location of the burial place of the patriarchs. The cave was explored by the Augustine Canons in 1119, at which time they claim to have found the bones of the patriarchs.

Kings of Judah were buried within the city of David. At the southern end of the city, south of the Old City of Jerusalem, there are two monumental tunnel tombs which many scholars believe are the tombs of David and Solomon. They have been damaged by quarrying, so no identifying inscriptions have survived. One king of Judah, Uzziah, was an exception to the burial custom. As a leper, he was not buried near the other kings, but "near them in a field" (2 Chronicles 26:23). In 1931, an inscription was found on the Mount of Olives dating to the first century AD: "Here were brought the bones of Uzziah, King of Judah - do not open." His bones had apparently been moved from the field and transferred to a yet more remote location.

Cyrus the Great ruled the Persian empire from 559 to 530 BC and is best know for his capture of Babylon in 539 BC, predicted by Isaiah some 160 years earlier. Cyrus was buried in a simple gabled stone tomb outside his capital of Pasargadae in modern Iran. According to the historian Strabo, this inscription once graced the structure, "Oh man, I am Cyrus, the son of Cambyses, who founded the empire of Persia, and was king of Asia. Grudge me not therefore this monument."

Darius I the Great was king of the Persian empire from 522 to 486 BC. He gave permission to renew the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 6:1-12). His monumental tomb is cut into a cliff near the Persian capital of Persepolis, Iran. There are three other tombs there, thought to be those of the Persian king Xerxes (485-465 BC; married to Esther); Artaxerxes (465-424 BC; king while Ezra was a scribe and Nehemiah was a cupbearer; authorized Nehemiah to rebuild the city walls); and Darius II (423 to 405 BC; perhaps the Darius mentioned in Nehemiah 12:22?). However, aside from the tomb of Darius I, there are no accompanying inscriptions, so these identifications are uncertain.

Statues and Other Likenesses

Carvings and statues provide further evidence of the existence of biblical characters. Such likeness have been discovered for twelve Old Testament figures and six from the New Testament. These include (also taken from Bryant Wood):

¥ Pharaoh Tuthmosis III, 1504-1450 BC (Pharaoh of Egypt, possibly during the Exodus)

¥ Shishak, the Egyptian king who plundered the Temple during the reign of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:25-26)

¥ Jehu, king of Israel, who took power in a bloody coup; the only surviving likeness of a king of Israel or Judah (2 Kings 9:1-10, 36)

¥ Hazael, king of Aram, enemy of Israel (1Kings 19:15, 17; 2 Kings 8:7-15, 28-29; 9:14-15; 10:32-33; 12:17-18; 13:3, 22, 24, 25; Amos 1:4)

¥ Tiglath-Pileser III, king of Assyria, who invaded Israel (2 Kings 18:19, 29; 16:7, 10; 1 Chronicles 5"6, 26; 2 Chronicles 28: 20)

¥ Sargon II, king of Assyria, who defeated Ashdod and completed the siege of Amaria and took Israelites into captivity (Isaiah 20:1)

¥ Sennacherib, king of Assyria, who attacked Judah but was unable to capture Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:13 - 19:37)

¥ Tirhakah, king of Egypt, who opposed Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:9)

¥ Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, who succeeded his father Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:37)

¥ Merodach-baladan, king of Babylon, whose messengers Hezekiah showed the royal treasury, much to the indignation of Isaiah (2 Kings 20:12-19)

¥ Xerxes I, king of Persia, who made Esther his queen (Esther; Ezra 4:6)

¥ Darius I, king of Persia, who allowed the returning exiles to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 4:24 - 6:15; Haggai 1:1, 15)

¥ Augustus, Roman emperor, 27 BC to AD 14, when Jesus was born (Luke 2:1)

¥ Tiberius, Roman emperor, AD 14 to 37, during Jesus' adulthood and crucifixion (Matthew 22:17

¥ Claudius, Roman emperor, AD 41 to 54, who ordered the Jews to leave Rome (Acts 11:28; 17:7; 18:2)

¥ Herod Agrippa I, ruler of Judea AD 37 to 44, who persecuted the early church (Acts 12:1-23; 23:35)

¥ Aretas IV, king of the Nabateans, 9 BC to AD 40, whose governor in Damascus attempted to arrest Paul (2 Corinthians 11:32)

¥ Nero (referred to as Caesar in the New Testament), Roman emperor, AD 54 to 68, whom Paul appealed to (Acts 25:11, 12, 21; 26:32; 28:19; Philippians 4:22)

Many man-made structures also have been excavated, some of which follow (courtesy Bryant Wood; also Josh McDowell, New Evidence that Demands a Verdict):

¥ The palace at Jericho where Eglon, king of Moab, was assassinated by Ehud (Judges 3:15-30)

¥ The east gate of Shechem where Gaal and Zebul watched the forces of Abimelech approach the city (Judges 9:34-38)

¥ The temple of Baal/El-Berith in Schechem, where funds were obtained to finance Abimelech's kingship and where the citizens of Shechem took refuge when Abimelech attacked the city (Judges 9:4, 46-49)

¥ The Pool of Heshbon, likened to the eyes of the Shulammite woman (Song of Songs 7:4)

¥ The royal palace at Samaria where the kings of Israel lived (1 Kings 20:43; 21:1, 2; 22:39; 2 Kings 1:2; 15:25)

¥ The Pool of Samaria where King Ahab's chariot was washed after his death (1 Kings 22:29-38)

¥ The water tunnel beneath Jerusalem dug by King Hezekiah to provide water during the Assyrian siege (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:30)

¥ The royal palace in Babylon where King Belshazzar held the feast and Daniel interpreted the handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5)

¥ The royal palace in Susa where Esther was queen of the Persian king Xerxes (Esther 1:2; 2:3, 5, 9, 16)

¥ The royal gate at Susa where Mordecai met with Halthach, Xerxes' eunuch (Esther 4:6)

¥ The foundation of the synagogue at Capernaum where Jesus cured a man with an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21-28) and delivered the sermon on the bread of life (John 6:25-59)

¥ The house of Peter at Capernaum where Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law and others (Matthew 8:14-16)

¥ Jacob's well, where Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman (John 4)

¥ The Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a crippled man (John 5:1-14). This site was recorded nowhere except in the New Testament, but can now be identified in the northeast quarter of the old city. Traces of it were discovered in the course of excavations near the Church of St. Anne in 1888.

¥ The Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a blind man (John 9:1-4)

¥ The tribunal at Corinth where Paul was tried (Acts 18:12-17)

¥ The theater at Ephesus where the riot of silversmiths occurred (Acts 19:29)

¥ Herod's palace at Caesarea where Paul was kept under guard (Acts 23:33-35)

¥ The pavement. For centuries there has been no record of the court where Jesus was tried by Pilate (named Gabbatha, or the Pavement, John 19:13). William F. Albright, in The Archaeology of Palestine, shows that this court was the court of the Tower of Antonia, the Roman military headquarters in Jerusalem. It was left buried when the city was rebuilt in the time of Hadrian, and was not discovered until recently.

¥ The Pilate Inscription. A Latin inscription discovered in 1961 contained four lines, three of which were readable: "Tiberium, Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea." This inscription clarifies the title of Pontius Pilate as "prefect" at least during a time in his rulership. Tacitus and Josephus later referred to him as "procurator." The New Testament calls him "governor" (Matthew 27:2), a term which incorporates both titles. This inscription is the only archaeological evidence of both Pilate's name and this title.

¥ Three coins mentioned in the New Testament have been identified: the "tribute penny" or "denarius," equivalent to a day's wages; the 2/5 ounce silver coin that developed from the shekel (used in Judas' thirty pieces of silver, Matthew 26:14-15); and the "widow's mite" (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4), small copper coins worth only a fraction of a penny.

Luke as a Historian

Luke, the writer of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, has been attacked by scholars as an inaccurate historian. However, discoveries over the last century have vindicated Luke, proving him right to the smallest detail. Many of the fallacies formerly believed of Luke's writings follow:

At one time, it was conceded as fact that Luke was entirely wrong about the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. Critics argued that there was no census, and that everyone did not have to return to his ancestral home. They also argued that Quirinius was not governor of Syria at that time, but became governor around AD 6.

Archaeological discoveries show that the Romans did have a regular enrollment of taxpayers and held censuses every fourteen years, a procedure begun during the reign of Augustus.

Archaeologists also discovered an inscription fount in Antioch ascribing to Quirinius the governorship of Syria around 7 BC. Thus he was governor twice, in AD 6, as recorded by Josephus, and during the time of the early Roman census during which Christ was born. Luke does not ignore the later census conducted by Quirinius, but mentions it is Acts 5:37

An Egyptian papyrus was also discovered which gives directions for the conduct of a census. It reads: "Because of the approaching census it is necessary that all those residing for any cause away from their homes should at once prepare to return to their own governments in order that they may complete the family registration of the enrollment and that the tilled lands may retain those belonging to them."

Archaeologists at first believed Luke's implication wrong that Lystra and Derbe were in Lycaonia, and that Iconium was not (Acts 14:6). They based their belief on the writings of Romans such as Cicero, who indicated that Iconium was in Lycaonia. However, in 1910 Sir William Ramsay found a monument that showed that Iconium was a Phrygian city. Later discoveries have confirmed this.

Archaeological finds have identified most of the cities mentioned in the Book of Acts. The journeys of Paul can thus be accurately traced.

"In all, Luke names thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities and nine islands without an error."

Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics

Luke also references Lysanias, Tetrarch of Abilene, who ruled in Syria and Palestine (Luke 3:1) at the beginning of John the Baptist's ministry in AD 27. The only Lysanias known to ancient historians was killed in 36 BC, thus it was assumed that Luke was in error. However, an inscription found at Abila near Damascus confirms the existence of "Lysanias the Tetrarch" and is dated between AD 14 and 29, perfectly supporting Luke's record.

Excavations revealed the theater at Ephesus at which Luke records a riot (Acts 19:23-29). Luke also records a riot in Jerusalem because Paul took a Gentile into the temple (Acts 21:28). Greek and Latin inscriptions have been found that read: "No foreigner may enter within the barrier which surrounds the temple and enclosure. Anyone who is caught doing so will be personally responsible for his ensuing death."

Luke's word choice was often called into question, too. His reference to Phillippi as a district of Macedonia was considered an error, as were his references to Philippian rulers as praetors, civil authorities of Thessalonica as politarchs, and use of the title proconsul for Gallio. All of these "errors" of Luke have since been verified by inscriptions or other archaeological finds. His use of the term "politarch," once considered conclusive evidence of Luke's unreliability, has since been vindicated. More than a dozen inscriptions have been unearthed in recent years which make use of that ancient Greek title.

"The Acts of the Apostles is now generally agreed in scholarly circles to be the work of Luke, to belong to the first century, and to involve the labors of a careful historian who was substantially accurate in his use of sources."

Merrill F. Unger, Archaeology and the New Testament

"For Acts the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. ... Any attempt to reject its basic historicity must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted."

A.N. Sherwin-White, Roman Historian

Dead Sea Scrolls



The most famous biblical archaeological discovery of the past century, the Dead Sea Scrolls, did much to confirm the accuracy of transcription of the Bible since its original writings. The scrolls merit mention as an archaeological find. The following pages, written by Dr. Will Varner and taken from christiananswers.net.

"Problems still exist, of course, in the complete harmonization of archaeological material with the Bible, but none so serious as not to bear real promise of imminent solution through further investigation. It must be extremely significant that, in view of the great mass of corroborative evidence regarding the biblical history of these periods, there exists today not one unquestionable find of archaeology that proves the Bible to be in error at any point."

Morris, The Bible and Modern Science, 95

"In every period of Old Testament history, we find that there is good evidence from archaeology that the Scriptures speak the truth. In many instances, the Scriptures even reflect firsthand knowledge of the times and customs it describes. While many have doubted the accuracy of the Bible, time and continued research have consistently demonstrated that the Word of God is better informed than its critics.

"In fact, while thousands of finds from the ancient world support in broad outline and often in detail the biblical picture, not one incontrovertible find has ever contradicted the Bible."

Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclepedia of Christian Apologetics, 52

"This great antiquity of the Bible histories in comparison with those of other writings, combined with the evolutionary preconceptions of the 19th century, led many scholars to insist that the Bible histories also were in large part merely legendary. As long as nothing was available, except copies of ancient manuscripts, for the evaluation of ancient histories, such teachings may have been persuasive. Now, however, it is no longer possible to reject the substantial historicity of the Bible, at least as far back as the time of Abraham, because of the remarkable discoveries of archaeology."

Henry M. Morris, Many Infallible Proofs, 300

"Archaeology has not yet said its last word; but the results already achieved confirm what faith would suggest, that the Bible can do nothing but gain from an increase of knowledge."

Frederic G. Kenyon, The Bible and Archaeology, 279

posted: 7/13/2006 7:53 PM EST

Anonymous wrote:

The Christian faith centers on the figure of Jesus Christ. Belief in Jesus, his deity, his sacrificial death, and his resurrection are essential to salvation.

It follows that Jesus would be the focal point for attack from Christianity's critics. Attacks come from a variety of angles and involve several myths concerning Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.

Jesus was fully human. He was born to a Jewish family and lived his life in the lands surrounding Jerusalem. He cried, slept, worked, and was hungry. He knew anger, sadness, and was even near despair on the night before his death. He was also fully divine, equal with the Father, and given all authority in heaven and on earth.

This section will focus on refuting the most common attacks against the figure, character, deity, and resurrection of Jesus by answering the following myths:

Myth #1: Jesus never existed.

Myth #2: It is impossible to know the truth about Jesus since he lived so long ago.

Myth #3: Jesus was not born of a virgin.

Myth #4: Jesus never claimed to be God.

Myth #5: Jesus was just a good teacher or prophet.

Myth #6: Jesus did not rise from the dead.

"This Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without sciences and learning, he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of schools, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, he set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times."

Philip Schaff, historian, Exposing the Myths about Jesus

Myth # 1: Jesus never existed.

There is no scholarly ground to stand on when it comes to a claim that, historically, Jesus never lived. Many Christian and non-Christian sources reference Jesus, demonstrating that he lived, performed miracles, gathered a following, angered the Jews by claiming to be the Messiah, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate about AD 30. Even non-Christian histories report his supposed resurrection and the growth of the Christian sect that followed. They also purport that Jesus was worshiped as God by the early church.

The New Testament contains twenty-seven separate documents which were written in the first century AD and contain the story of the life of Jesus and the beginnings of th Christian church. These facts were recorded by eyewitnesses. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, born AD 37, also records the existence of Jesus. Cornelius Tacitus (AD 112), a Roman historian, wrote about Jesus Christ while writing about the reign of Emperor Nero. He wrote of the existence of Christians in Rome and referred to Christianity when alluding to the burning of the temple of Jerusalem in AD 70. This history has been preserved by Sulpicius Severus. Other references to Jesus and his followers occur in the writings of the Roman historian Seutonius (AD 120).

"The testimony, both Christian and non-Christian, is more than sufficient to lay to rest any idea that Jesus, in fact, never existed. In light of the evidence, it is absurd to hold such a view."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

Myth #2: It is impossible to know the truth about Jesus since he lived so long ago.

Refer to sections in this book on documentary support for the New Testament and historical reliability of the New Testament.

In short, between biblical and other historical accounts, we have as much or more information about Jesus than about most other historical figures. These accounts come from eyewitnesses and were written and circulated when Jesus' followers and critics were still alive to refute any errors. The extant manuscript copies are far closer to the original writings than any other document of antiquity, so there is no reason to doubt their authenticity.

"We know more about the life of Jesus than just about any other figure in the ancient world. His birth, life and death are revealed in much more detail than most ancient figures whose existence is taken for granted by historians."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

Myth #3: Jesus was not born of a virgin.

One argument against the virgin birth is that the Hebrew word in Isaiah's prophesy, "almah," can mean "young woman" as well as "virgin' (Isaiah 7:14). But the Greek "parthenos" used by Matthew and Luke must mean "virgin."

The virgin birth is set down in the Bible as historical fact. (See Luke 1:26-37; Matthew 1:18-24)

There are several reasons why the virgin birth was a necessity. The Bible teaches that the Word who became flesh was with God from the very beginning (John 1:1). The pre-existence of Christ is testified many times in the New Testament (John 8:58; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:15-16). When Jesus came into the world, he was not a newly created individual such as we are, but the eternal Son of God. To be born required divine intervention (McDowell, Answers).

Another reason was because of his sinless nature. To be a perfect sacrifice, he must himself be perfect and without sin. The New Testament teaches that from the day he was born until the day he died, Jesus was without sin. Had he be born of a human father, he would have inherited the sin nature that contaminates our race. A miraculous birth was thus necessary (McDowell, Answers).

"Moreover, if Jesus had been sired by Joseph, he would not have been able to claim the legal rights to the throne of David. According to the prophecy of Jeremiah 22:28-30, there could be no king in Israel who was a descendant of King Jeconiah, and Matthew 1:12 relates that Joseph was from the line of Jeconiah. If Jesus had been fathered by Joseph, he could not rightly inherit the throne of David, since he was a relative of the cursed line."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

The Bible records that Joseph had no sexual relations with Mary until after Jesus' birth, and records that he was known not to have fathered Jesus and that people assumed Mary had an illicit relationship. Even Joseph assumed this, and reasonably decided to break off their betrothal. He knew, as well as we do today, that a virgin conceiving a baby was a biological impossibility. And yet Joseph changed his resolve when an angel visited and told him of the miraculous nature of the conception.

"Some have attempted to account for the virgin birth by tracing it to Greek or Babylonian mythology. They argue that the Gospel writers borrowed this story from the mythology of their day. This view does not fit the facts, for there is not any hero in pagan mythology for which a virgin birth is claimed, and moreover it would be unthinkable to the Jewish mind to construct such a story from mythology.

"Many deities among the Greeks, Babylonians, and Egyptians were reported born in an unusual manner, but for the most part these beings never actually existed. The accounts are filled with obvious mythological elements which are totally absent from the Gospel narratives. They are reports of a god or goddess being born into the world by sexual relations between some heavenly being and an earthly woman, or by some adulterous affair among the gods and goddesses."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

"All these various stories of supernatural conceptions and births, which we meet within folklore and the history of mythology, have this one point in common--they serve to point not so much to the similarity as to the complete contrast and dissimilarity which exist between the Christian birth-story and the tales which are current in various pagan circles."

Dr. Thomas Thorburn, A Critical Examination

Myth #4: Jesus was just a good teacher or prophet.

The good teacher myth takes many forms. Jesus was a good teacher, a prophet, a good man who was misunderstood. These forms all share one major aspect--they deny Christ's deity. If Jesus can be labeled as a "good teacher," that classes him with Moses, Zoroaster, and Mohammed and dismisses his Lordship and divinity.

But Jesus himself said "Before Abraham was, I AM." He shared glory with the Father before the world began. He claimed the power to read men's minds and hearts and to forgive sins. He claimed to have come down from heaven. He claimed the power to raise himself from the dead, and witnesses confirmed his resurrection.

If he claimed all those things and they were not true, he was not a good teacher at all, but a liar or a lunatic. Either that, or his disciples made up the whole rap and put words in his mouth, making them liars or lunatics.

"Logically, if Jesus was not divine, as the records unequivocally claim he was, we are reduced to three, and only three, interpretations of the New Testament data:

1. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God but knew he was not. He was a charlatan.

2. Jesus thought he was the Son of God, but actually was not. He was a lunatic.

3. Jesus never actually claimed to be the Son of God, though his disciples put this claim in his mouth. So the disciples were charlatans, lunatics, or naive exaggerators."

John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity

Was Jesus a liar or charlatan?

Jesus took pains to warn against lying, and said that those who lie are the devil's children (John 8:44). Would he then have lied concerning his own character and purpose?

"The idea of Jesus as a charlatan--as an intentional deceiver who claimed to be something he knew he was not--has never had much appeal, even among fanatical anti-religionists. Jesus' high ethical teachings and noble personal character have made such an interpretation extremely improbable."

John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity

William Lecky, the great nineteenth-century historian and a non-believer, wrote of Jesus:

"[The character of Jesus] has not only been the highest pattern of virtue, but the strongest incentive to its practice, and has exerted so deep an influence, that it may be truly said, that the simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind, than all the disquisitions of philosophers and than all the exhortations of moralists."

W.E.H. Lecky, History of European Morals from Augustus to Charlemagne

Was Jesus a lunatic?

Did Jesus honestly misunderstand his nature and believe himself to be something he was not? Could a human be sane and think of himself as the eschatological Son of Man who would come again at the end of the age, with the heavenly host, to judge the world?

No. A person who believed that of themselves would either have to be correct or insane. And so, some might argue, Jesus was a lunatic.

"Some paranoids manifest ideas of grandeur almost entirely, and we find patients whose grandeur is very largely of a religious nature, such as their belief that they are directly instructed by God to convert the world or perform miracles."

Dr. Albert Schweitzer, The Psychiatric Study of Jesus

"We cannot avoid the conclusion that Jesus was deranged if he thought of himself as God incarnate and yet was not."

John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity

"Yet, in view of the eminent soundness of Jesus’ teachings, few have been able to give credence to the idea of mental aberration."

John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity

As psychiatrist J.T. Fisher asserted in 1951:

"If you were to take the sum total of all authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene--if you were to combine them and refine them and cleave out the excess verbiage--if you were to take the whole of the meat and none of the parsley, and if you were to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have an awkward and incomplete summation of the Sermon on the Mount. And it would suffer immeasurably through comparison. For nearly two thousand years the Christian world has been holding in its hands the complete answer to its restless and fruitless yearnings. Here ... rests the blueprint for successful human life with optimum mental health and contentment."

J.T. Fisher and L.S. Hawley, A Few Buttons Missing

One can't have it both ways. Jesus' teachings can't exhibit optimum soundness while the teacher is a lunatic who does not understand his own nature.

Did Jesus' disciples paint a false portrait?

Could not Jesus' followers, in either an intentional or unintentional attempt to put him in the best possible light, have painted a false portrait of him? Jews had been waiting for a Messiah. Is it not possible that this desire for a Messiah led to the deification of Jesus?

These theories quickly fall apart upon closer examination.

"First, all types of Jewish messianic speculation at the time were at variance with the messianic picture Jesus painted of himself , so he was a singularly poor candidate for deification. Second, the apostles and evangelists were psychologically, ethically and religiously incapable of performing such a deification. Third, the historical evidence for Christ's resurrection, the great attesting event for his claims to deity, could not have been manufactured."

John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity

Jesus' attitudes toward the Gentiles, toward freedom from the yoke of the law, were not at all what was expected of the Messiah.

"Zealot activists expected the redeemer to appear sword in hand and to lead the people against Rome's military power. ... Most apocalyptic visionaries, on the other hand, expected redemption in the shape of a cosmic cataclysm, out of which would emerge a new world with the chosen people marching toward final salvation at the head of a transformed mankind."

Jewish scholar S.W. Baron,

Social and Religious History of the Jews

Jesus hardly fulfilled the messianic expectations of his day. Freedom from Rome. Reuniting of the Jewish people. A Jewish king returned to the throne. In fact, the Pharisees were his chief opponents, for he continually set himself above the law and refused to be bound by legalistic tradition. He disagreed with the Sadducees, who did not believe in angels or in the resurrection of the body.

So if anyone deified Jesus, it must have been his own disciples. They, too, were Jews. It took them a long time to believe that this Jesus, so different from what was expected, was the Messiah. When he was crucified, they doubted it anew. They were down-to-earth people--fishermen, tax collectors, and the like. To purport such a fantastic lie, they would themselves have had to be liars or psychotics.

Instead, we see a group of men gathered in a locked room following the crucifixion, all scared lest they, too, be arrested. They were scattered the night of the arrest, scared for their lives. Then something happened, and suddenly these frightened disciples of a crucified teacher went forth boldly and preached the gospel despite constant threats to their freedom and lives. All but one died for their faith in Jesus, and the one who was not martyred died in exile. These few disciples brought Christianity to the world. Could they have done so knowing it was a lie? There are those who would die for a cause. And doubtless many have died for a lie. But would a man deliberately give his life, knowing it was for a lie?

This change in the disciples and their subsequent relentless spreading of the message is one of the strongest arguments for the truth of the resurrection.

Myth #5 Jesus never claimed to be God.

This is a common argument, despite heavy evidence to the contrary. Even a cursory glance at the gospels reveals that just the opposite is true: Jesus made many claims that he was the Messiah, the Son of God, equal to the Father. His disciples clearly regarded him as the Christ, and all the New Testament books refer to this claim as fact and even offer prayers to God the Father and Jesus the Son without discriminating between the two. Even Jesus' enemies were well aware of his claim to be God, and it was for this "blasphemy" that he was ultimately put to death. Indeed, had it not been true, it would have been blasphemy of the highest degree.

Jesus forgave sins (example, Mark 2), again blasphemy for anyone but God. He used the term "Son of Man" in reference to himself, one of the Old Testament's most lofty ascriptions to God's Messiah.

Among the religious leaders throughout history, Jesus Christ is unique in claiming to be God in human flesh. It is a misconception that other religious leaders made similar claims. Buddha did not claim to be God, nor did Moses. Muhammad did not identify himself as Allah, and Zoroaster did not claim to be Ahura Mazda.

But Christ claimed that he existed before Abraham (John 8:58), that he was equal with the Father (John 5:17-18), that he had the ability to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-7) (something the Bible teaches only God can do, Isaiah 43:25). The New Testament equated Jesus as the creator of the universe (John 1:3) and the one who holds all things together (Colossians 1:17). Paul says that God was manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16).

Jesus' enemies wanted to stone him for blasphemy, "because you, being a man, make yourself out to be God" (John 10:33).

The following scriptures are just a sample of several in which Christ's deity is claimed and affirmed.

John 20:28 records Thomas' confession upon seeing Jesus' hands, feet, and side, "My Lord and my God!"

"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father".

Paul, Philemon 2:10-11

"Again the high priest asked him, 'Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?'

'I am,' said Jesus. 'And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.'

The high priest tore his clothes. 'Why do we need any more witnesses?' he asked. 'You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?'"

Mark 14:61-64

"Therefore go an make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Jesus, Matthew 28:19-20

"Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his word. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves."

Jesus, John 14:9-11

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."

Jesus, John 14:6

Clearly, Jesus did claim to be divine, and his disciples came to believe as well. History shows that the earliest Christians, too, prayed to Jesus as to the Father, sang songs of worship to him, and regarded him as one with God.

"Other teachers adhered to a set of teachings and principles. Jesus did not just claim to be teaching mankind the truth; he claimed that he was the truth (John 14:6)."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

"Anybody who would dare to make such claims would have to be either out of his mind or a liar, unless he was God. Jesus clearly claimed all these things and more. If he is God, as he claimed, we must believe in him, and if he is not, then we should have nothing to do with him."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

All right, so Jesus claimed to be God. Why should anyone believe such a claim?

The Bible gives miracles and fulfilled prophecy as convincing proof that Jesus was who he said he was. But the primary sign was the resurrection. When the religious leaders asked for a sign, Jesus said, "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40). In John 2:19, Jesus was again asked for a sign. He said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up ... but he spoke of the temple of his body."

Jesus' ability to raise himself from the dead separates him from everyone else in history. Thus anyone wishing to refute the case for Christianity must explain away the resurrection.

Myth #6: Jesus did not rise from the dead.

Christ's resurrection from the dead is an essential element to the Gospel message. Without it, the rest is meaningless. Jesus himself recognized that it would serve as proof of his deity:

Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you."

He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."

Matthew 12:38-40

The resurrection set Jesus apart from everyone who ever lived and confirmed that he was the Son of God.

... who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul, Romans 1:4

And the apostles recognized the importance of the resurrection as central to the faith.

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the de4ad are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

Paul, 1 Corinthians 15:12-191

More recently, Michael Green said it like this:

"Christianity does not hold the resurrection to be one among many tenants of belief. Without faith in the resurrection there would be no Christianity at all. The Christian church would never have begun; the Jesus movement would have fizzled out like a damp squib with his execution. Christianity stands or falls with the truth of the resurrection. Once you disprove it, and you have disposed of Christianity."

Michael Green, Man Alive

Those who have set out to discredit the resurrection use different theories to try to explain it away. Those theories follow.

The "swoon theory"--Jesus wasn't really dead

The swoon theory supposes that Jesus didn't really die. He merely fainted from exhaustion and loss of blood. Everyone thought him dead, but he later recovered and the disciples thought he rose from the dead. Some have even suggested Jesus arranged to be drugged on the cross so that he could feign death and recover from the beatings, exposure, trauma, and loss of blood.

This makes no sense. Prisoners occasionally died from the beating preceding crucifixion. Jesus went through such a scourging. If it was a plot, it was an extremely foolish one, for he could not have expected to survive the beating and crucifixion. After the beating, he was so weakened he could not carry the cross to Golgotha. In fact, the Bible records that he collapsed. Death by crucifixion followed, and Frederick Farrar attempts to describe what such a death was like:

"Death by crucifixion seems to include all that pain and death can have of horrible and ghastly--dizziness, cramp, thirst, starvation, sleeplessness, traumatic fever, tetanus, shame, publicity of shame, long continuance of torment, horror of anticipation, mortification of untended wounds--all intensified just up to the point at which they can be endured at all, but all stopping just short of the point which would give to the sufferer the relief of unconsciousness.

"The unnatural position made every movement painful; the lacerated veins and crushed tendons throbbed with incessant anguish; the wounds, inflamed by exposure, gradually gangrened; the arteries--especially at the head and stomach--became swollen and oppressed with surcharged blood; and while each variety of misery went on gradually increasing, there was added to them the intolerable pang of a burning and raging thirst; and all these physical complications caused an internal excitement and anxiety, which made the prospect of death itself--of death, the unknown enemy, at whose approach man usually shudders most--bear the aspect of delicious and exquisite release."

Frederick Farrar

During this torment, Jesus was pierced in the side with a spear. Following hours of this sort of treatment, Jesus was removed from the cross after a Roman centurion certified he was dead. There was some surprise that he died so quickly, and as a result his legs were not broken, as was the custom to hasten death.

"The disciples of Jesus may not have been as sophisticated as twentieth century man in the realm of scientific knowledge, but they surely knew the difference between someone who was dead and someone who wasn't."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

To suppose that Jesus not only survived that experience, but then walked whole and unharmed out of the sealed tomb to proclaim that death was conquered, is beyond ludicrous. It must also be considered that, where other criminals might hope to escape closer inspection (though they could not hope to escape death), this man, whose claims that he would rise again were widely known, would have had to have been most certainly dead before the Romans would have handed over his body.

The bodysnatchers theory -- Someone stole the body

The Bible itself mentions this myth. After the resurrection, some of the soldiers who had been guarding the tomb went to the chief priests and reported what had happened. Matthew reports:

When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, "you are to say, 'His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.' If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble." So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

Matthew 28:12-15

Many factors make this story impossible to believe. The stone, for example, most likely weighed a couple of tons. The women, on their way to the tomb Sunday morning, wondered aloud who would roll the stone away for them (Mark 16:3). It would have required several men and a great deal of noise to remove the stone.

The chief priests had requested a detachment of soldiers from Pilate (from four to sixteen men) to guard the tomb. These would have been trained fighting men, under Roman law penalized by death for failing their mission or falling asleep at their post.

Christ was publically put in the tomb on Friday. On Sunday morning, the body was missing. If he did not rise from the dead, then someone took the body. There are three groups that could have taken the body: the Romans, the Jews, or the disciples.

The Romans would have had no reason to steal the body, since they wanted to keep the peace in Palestine.

The Jews would not have taken the body, because the last thing they wanted was a proclamation of the resurrection. In fact, they asked for the Roman guard (Matthew 27) to make sure no one stole the body.

The disciples of Jesus had no reason to steal the body, and if they did, they later died for something they knew to be untrue.

"Those who entertain the stolen body myth suppose that a group of disciples, who days before had run like scared bunny rabbits, confronted a guard of heavily armed, battle-trained Roman soldiers. They either overpowered them or snuck past them in their sleep to move a two-ton stone up an incline without waking a single man. Then, so the thinking goes, the disciples carted off Jesus' body, hid it somewhere and, over the course of the next several decades, endured ridicule, torture, and martyrdom to spread a lie--what they knew to be a lie--throughout the known world.

"On the contrary, however, that is too much to believe."

Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler, Don't Check Your Brains at the Door

The wrong tomb theory -- The tomb was empty because it was not the right tomb

There are actually a few who cling to the theory that the women went to the wrong tomb, and that's why Jesus' body was not there.

This point hardly deserves an answer. However, some of the more obvious flaws in this theory follow.

First, the women went together, and the two Marys had been there already.

Second, there were angels awaiting them, with a message: "Jesus is not here, he is risen." Did the angels, too, visit the wrong tomb?

Third, Peter and John, not believing the women's testimony, ran to the tomb themselves, and they, too, found it empty. Did they, also, run to the same wrong empty tomb? It's starting to seem coincidental that all these witnesses happened upon the same "wrong tomb" ...

Fourth, the stone and Roman seal marked Jesus' tomb and would not have been present at the wrong one.

Fifth, the chief priests and Romans would have been all too happy to point out the mistake and locate the right tomb, and the body.

The fact of the matter is ...

The facts just don't support any other theory than the truth--Jesus did rise from the dead and appear to his disciples.

The accounts of his appearances are recorded for us by eyewitnesses to whom Jesus appeared alive over a forty-day period after his public crucifixion. (Acts 1:3)

Writing about AD 56, the Apostle Paul mentions that more than 500 people had witnessed the resurrected Christ at one time and most of them were still living when he wrote (1 Corinthians 15:6). This is a challenge to those who might not have believed, since Paul is saying that there are many people yet living who could be interviewed to find out if Christ had indeed risen.

Not only is there evidence to support the resurrection, but there is also a severe lack of evidence to support any alternative explanation. So many people in Jesus' day opposed him and wanted to destroy his following. All they would have had to do was produce a body. They could not. By far the most logical explanation is the one the Bible presents: They could not disprove the resurrection because it actually happened. They could not produce a dead body because there was not one--Jesus rose from the dead, and that fact is attested by historical evidence and eyewitness accounts.

"The theories attempting to give an alternative explanation to the resurrection take more faith to believe than the resurrection itself."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

Myth #7: There are contradictions in the four resurrection accounts.

If the Gospels were placed in four parallel columns, a number of apparent differences would be highlighted. However, these ultimately help confirm the truthfulness of the accounts, rather than refute them. None of the four gospels give all the details. There would be no need for four gospels if they did. And it would appear contrived and suspicious.

Only Matthew records the first appearance to the women. Only Luke records the account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Mark and John record the appearance of Mary Magdalene. Only John records the appearance of the Lord in the upper room when Thomas was absent, and the appearance on the Sea of Galilee.

This is to be expected. No four witnesses would write up the same description of the same event, detail for detail. If they did, there would be obvious collusion.

The main points are agreed upon by every witness. Additional details do not discredit the account, but increase its credibility. The details do not contradict each other, but work together to create a bigger picture.

One apparent contradiction concerns the time the women came to the tomb. Mark's account has the women coming to the tomb at the rising of the sun. John states that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb when it was dark. However, there would have been a walk of quite some distance from Jerusalem or Bethany, and in order to reach the tomb at sunrise, the women would have had to leave while it was still dark.

Another area which appears contradictory concerns the angels at the tomb. Matthew and Mark relate that one angel addressed the women. Luke and John report two angels at the tomb. However, Matthew and Mark do not say that there was only one angel at the tomb, but that one angel spoke to the women.

"Though they report some of the details differently, the Gospels agree in all important points. The accounts are in harmony on the fact that Jesus was dead and buried; that the disciples were not prepared for his death, but were totally confused; that the tomb was empty on Easter morning; that the empty tomb did not convince them that Jesus had risen; that Mary thought the body had been stolen.

"The gospel writers also concur that the disciples had certain experiences which they believed to be appearances of the resurrected Christ. That normative first century Judaism had no concept of a dying and rising Messiah is a historical fact.

"The disciples proclaimed the resurrection story in Jerusalem, in the place where Jesus had been killed and buried. All these facts considered together constitute a powerful argument for the validity of the resurrection story."

Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers

"In these fundamental truths, there are absolutely no contradictions. The so-called variations in the narratives are only the details which were most vividly impressed on one mind or another of the witnesses of our Lord's resurrection, or on the mind of the writers of these four respective Gospels.

"The closest, most critical examination of these narratives throughout the ages never has destroyed and can never destroy their powerful testimony to the truth that Christ did rise from the dead on the third day, and was seen of many.'

Wilbur Smith, The Supernaturalness of Christ

posted: 7/13/2006 7:54 PM EST

Anonymous wrote:

The aforementioned articles of proof can be found at defendingyourfaith.org. This proof is meant to provide you with information that can serve as grounds for why faith is very reasonable for the believer who chooses to follow Christ. Contrary to what many of you may think, these writings are posted not to win a "moral battle", but to win brothers and sisters in Jesus. Of course there is no physical proof of the soul nor the spiritual realm that God exists in. However, if there was, would there be anything called faith? Your works will not please God, but faith will because faith comes to those who seek Him, and if you "seek you shall find." In the end, it is everyone's ow choice to believe and some people will never believe no matter how much proof there is to support our loving Creator and Saviour. All that can be done is the presentation of evidence. God is the one who tugs at your soul although many of you believe this doesnot exist. Many of you may feel that Christianity interrupts your style of living or many of you may have left the faith because you felt God let you down. God always promises to be there for those who believe in Him and try earnestly to live the way Jesus did. He promises to walk with you through hard times, not eliminate them. How then would a person mature? Please take my comments with peace in mind. I'm not trying to start fights, but rather to do my job as a Christian by trying to help the non-believer believe.

Ian said...

That's a large mouthful Annonymous, but no matter what you write, you're not going to change my mind that the bible is just another mythological book about an insane, non-existant god.

When looking at the bible in a historical viewpoint, and comparing it to other mythologies, it's just another one of those holy books that, sooner or later, become outdated. Maybe not today, maybe not tommorow, maybe not for another 5,000 years, but it WILL happen. At the most, a few billion years, because that's when the sun will burn out and turn the earth into a burnt crisp.

Jesus? Most likely a real man with mythological elements added onto his life after his death.

One question: If the christian bible is the word of God, why do christians have to type out ten billion paragraph articles to defend it when anyone should be able to pick it up, read it, and understand it? I can imagine this fake god of the bible sitting up on his throne...

""As the all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe, I shall write a book for my creation, and I shall call it The Bible. Let's see, what shall I put in it??? Well, I want to be SURE to write about my absolute endorsement of slavery in both the Old and the New Testaments -- slavery is very important to me and I want people buying and selling slaves for thousands of years. And I want to be CERTAIN that the book shows how much I hate women in both the Old and the New Testaments. And I can NOT forget the parts about animal and human sacrifice, because sacrifices are an essential element of every proper religion. I want people slaughtering animals, splattering their blood and then burning the carcasses on a stone altar because the aroma is pleasing to me. And I want to make human sacrifice the centerpiece of my worship. And I CERTAINLY need to include the juicy parts about child massacre in both the Old and the New Testaments. Baby killing is something that I will emphasize throughout this book because it is very important to me."

Explain to me why "god" would order the massacre of children, and why this "god" would kill children.

"And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle." (Exodus 12:29)

"Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill very woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves."
(Moses - Numbers 31:17)

"And the LORD our God delivered him before us; and we smote him, and his sons, and all his people. And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destoyed the men, and the women, and the little ones, of every city we left none to remain:" (Deuteronomy 2:33-34)

"And the LORD said unto me, 'Fear him not: for I will deliver him, and all his people, and his land, into thy hand; and thou shalt do unto him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon'.......And we utterly destroyed them, as we did unto Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children, of every city."
(Deuteronomy 3:2-6)

"This is what the LORD says: Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass ....' And Saul ... utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword."
(1 Samuel 15:3,7-8)

"And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife bare unto David, and it was very sick........ And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died........." (2 Samuel 12:15-18)

"And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them." (2 Kings 2:23-24)

"Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword. Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished...... Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children." (Isaiah 13:15-18)

"Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities....... For I will rise up against them, saith the LORD of hosts....." (Isaiah 14:21-22)

"And I will dash them one against another, even the fathers and the sons together, saith the LORD: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have
mercy, but destroy them." (Jeremiah 13:14)

"The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children: they were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people. The Lord hath accomplished his fury; he hath poured out his fierce anger, and hath kindled a fire in Zion, and it hath devoured the foundations thereof." (Lamentations 4:10-11)

"And the Lord said unto him,....... And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house." (Ezekiel 9:4-6)

"The people of Samaria must bear their guilt, because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open." (Hosea 13:16)

"Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword. Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished." (Isaiah 13:15,16)

"Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children." (Isaiah 13:18)

"Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works." (Jesus - Revelation 2:22-23)

It must be a difficult job as an apologenic. After all, you have to explain why an all-loving, all caring, all-powerful god descends to disgusting levels of cruelty and barbaric behavior. Especially when that behavior is towards children. That must be a difficult job, explaining why we should believe in a god who orders the slaughter of infants. Any answer they come up with will sound dumb or, at worst, idiotic. It's a difficult job to explain...

"...Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones gainst the stones." (Psalms 137:8-9)"

Now tell me anonymous, do you really think an all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God would write that?

Now try explaining this:

"I am the LORD your God, ...... And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat." (Leviticus 26:13,29)

Yuck! Why would God write that?! This is supposed to be God's word to humanity for all eternity?

"And thou shalt eat the fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy
sons and of thy daughters, which the LORD thy God hath given thee,
in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee:.............. And toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates." (Deuteronomy 28:53-57)

Do you think this is eternal wisdom at work here? I think this is the barbaric words of twisted minds.

“Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it.” (Malachi 2:3)

The eternal wisdom of "god" on display for all to see.

And if the bible is the word of an all-powerful, all-knowing God, shouldn't I be amazed at the insights in it? The website whywontgodhealamputees.com has an excellent page about the bible. Take a look for yourself:

Why, when you read the Bible, are you not left in awe? Why doesn't a book written by God leave you with a sense of wonder and amazement?

If you are reading a book written by the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving creator of the universe, wouldn't you expect to be stunned by the brilliance, the clarity and the wisdom of the author? Would you not expect each new page to intoxicate you with its incredible prose and its spectacular insight?

Instead, opening the Bible inevitably creates a feeling of dumbfoundment. Have you ever noticed that? Instead of brilliance, much of the Bible contains nonsense. The topics of the previous several chapters, where we discussed the Bible's advocacy of slavery and animal sacrifice, the Bible's misogyny and so on, are excellent examples. But they are just the tip of the iceberg. You can open the Bible to almost any page and find nonsense instead of wisdom. Here are several examples:

Judges Chapter 4

But Jael, Heber's wife, picked up a tent peg and a hammer and went quietly to him while he lay fast asleep, exhausted. She drove the peg through his temple into the ground, and he died.

Genesis Chapter 19

Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. One day the older daughter said to the younger, "Our father is old, and there is no man around here to lie with us, as is the custom all over the earth. Let's get our father to drink wine and then lie with him and preserve our family line through our father."

Genesis Chapter 38

Then Judah said to Onan, "Lie with your brother's wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to produce offspring for your brother." But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother's wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother. What he did was wicked in the Lord 's sight; so he put him to death also.

Judges Chapter 3

Ehud then approached him [the fat king] while he was sitting alone in the upper room of his summer palace and said, "I have a message from God for you." As the king rose from his seat, Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king's belly. Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out his back. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. Then Ehud went out to the porch; he shut the doors of the upper room behind him and locked them.

Judges Chapter 19

But the men would not listen to him. So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight.

When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, "Get up; let's go." But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.

When he reached home, he took a knife and cut up his concubine, limb by limb, into twelve parts and sent them into all the areas of Israel. Everyone who saw it said, "Such a thing has never been seen or done, not since the day the Israelites came up out of Egypt. Think about it! Consider it! Tell us what to do!"

Joshua Chapter 10

When they had brought these kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, "Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings." So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks.

Joshua said to them, "Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight." Then Joshua struck and killed the kings and hung them on five trees, and they were left hanging on the trees until evening.

1 Samuel Chapter 31

Saul said to his armor-bearer, "Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me." But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it. When the armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he too fell on his sword and died with him.

Numbers Chapter 31

Moses was angry with the officers of the army-the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds-who returned from the battle. "Have you allowed all the women to live?" he asked them. "They were the ones who followed Balaam's advice and were the means of turning the Israelites away from the Lord in what happened at Peor, so that a plague struck the Lord 's people. Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man."

Deuteronomy Chapter 25

If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.


There are two things to notice in these quotes. First, they are all disgusting. Second, they all tell stories about men and women doing things that are utterly and completely irrelevant.

Why do you care about a woman killing a man with a tent peg, or a man cutting up his concubine and mailing her body parts around? Do you care about Moses telling his soldiers, "kill everyone, but save the virgins for yourselves"? If God is going to take the time to write a book that will last for millennia, why fill it with such useless material?

Another problem with the Bible is that it frequently contradicts the Standard Model of God. Here is an example from Leviticus 21:17:

Say to Aaron, None of your descendants throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God. For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, or a hunchback, or a dwarf, or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles; no man of the descendants of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the LORD's offerings by fire; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God. He may eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy and of the holy things, but he shall not come near the veil or approach the altar, because he has a blemish, that he may not profane my sanctuaries; for I am the LORD who sanctify them.

Doesn't it seem odd for an all-loving God to discriminate against people with handicaps and genetic problems?

Here is another example. In the book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 21:18, the Bible says:

If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. They shall say to the elders, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a profligate and a drunkard." Then all the men of his town shall stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.

Doesn't that seem to contradict the sixth commandment, "Thou shalt not kill"? And doesn't it seem just a tad harsh? If we applied this sort of philosophy today (as Christians should, since they proclaim the Bible and the Ten Commandments to be God's infallible word), millions of our teenagers would need to be stoned to death.

Here is another example. On the day Moses comes down from Mount Sinai with the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments, he discovers that the Israelites have created a golden calf. To punish the people, Moses gathers a group of men and takes the following action in the book of Exodus, Chapter 32:

"Then he [Moses] said to them, "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.' " The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died.

So... one minute we have God carving into stone, "Thou shalt not kill." Then the next minute we have God telling each man to strap a sword to his side and lay waste to thousands. Wouldn't you expect the almighty ruler of the universe to be slightly more consistent than this? 3,000 dead people is a lot of commandment breaking.

Some Christians try to find an out for all of this irrelevance and contradiction by saying, "Well, I don't believe the Old Testament. God sent Jesus to cancel it out." But that really is not the case. If God wrote the Bible, then God fully intended for the Bible -- the entire Bible -- to be a timeless book. In Isaiah 40:8 God says, "The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand for ever." In Matthew 5:18 Jesus says, "For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished." When Jesus says "the law" what he is talking about is all of the laws that God lays down in the Old Testament. Those laws include everything that God says about slavery, misogyny, animal sacrifice, stoning teenagers, cutting off hands and all the rest.

An experiment

Here is an experiment for you to try. Pick up any handy Bible. Open the book to a random page. Read it. You tell me -- is this a book that amazes you? I am trying this experiment this morning as I write this book. Here are the five random quotes that I came upon:

Leviticus 15:

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Say to the people of Israel, When any man has a discharge from his body, his discharge is unclean. And this is the law of his uncleanness for a discharge: whether his body runs with his discharge, or his body is stopped from discharge, it is uncleanness in him. Every bed on which he who has the discharge lies shall be unclean; and everything on which he sits shall be unclean. And any one who touches his bed shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening. And whoever sits on anything on which he who has the discharge has sat shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening. And whoever touches the body of him who has the discharge shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening. And if he who has the discharge spits on one who is clean, then he shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening. And any saddle on which he who has the discharge rides shall be unclean. And whoever touches anything that was under him shall be unclean until the evening; and he who carries such a thing shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the evening.

Can you imagine every doctor and nurse following God's law?

1 Kings 8:

Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers' houses of the people of Israel, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of the city of David, which is Zion. And all the men of Israel assembled to King Solomon at the feast in the month Eth'anim, which is the seventh month. And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark. And they brought up the ark of the LORD, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the priests and the Levites brought them up. And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered.

Yes, so? How is this at all relevant? Why would God write this?

Psalms 89:

A Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite. I will sing of thy steadfast love, O LORD, for ever; with my mouth I will proclaim thy faithfulness to all generations. For thy steadfast love was established for ever, thy faithfulness is firm as the heavens. Thou hast said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant: 'I will establish your descendants for ever, and build your throne for all generations.'" [Selah] Let the heavens praise thy wonders, O LORD, thy faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones! For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD, a God feared in the council of the holy ones, great and terrible above all that are round about him? O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty as thou art, O LORD, with thy faithfulness round about thee? Thou dost rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, thou stillest them. Thou didst crush Rahab like a carcass, thou didst scatter thy enemies with thy mighty arm.

Again, how is this relevant?

Acts 10:

The next day, as they were on their journey and coming near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. And he became hungry and desired something to eat; but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heaven opened, and something descending, like a great sheet, let down by four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him, "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." But Peter said, "No, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean." And the voice came to him again a second time, "What God has cleansed, you must not call common." This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven. Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision which he had seen might mean, behold, the men that were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood before the gate and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there.

Revelations 12:

And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

Are you amazed by these passages?

Are you inspired by their brilliance and insight? Do they leave you with a sense of wonderment? Do they have any bearing at all on you, or your life? After reading them, do you find the Bible to be a book that you would want to continue reading? Most importantly: Do these passages leave you with the impression that they were written by an all-powerful, all-knowing God? Or was this book written by primitive men? Try the experiment yourself and see what you find. Think about what you are reading in the context of an all-knowing God.

Be honest with yourself. Does the Bible strike you as a book filled with brilliance, or with nonsense?

Think about what you are reading

What do I mean when I say, "think about what you are reading?" Let's use Leviticus 15, from the previous section, as an example.

The passage is discussing "discharge." Why doesn't God in Leviticus 15 say:

"There are 47 different types of abnormal discharges that I have inflicted on the human body when I created it. They are, in order of frequency of occurrence: 1) Discharge from an infected skin lesion, normally caused by some sort of cut or puncture wound. What is happening here is a bacterial infection. First off, whenever you get a cut or puncture wound, you should wash it carefully with an antiseptic solution to kill the bacteria, and then cover the wound with a sterile dressing to keep bacteria out. Also, make sure that your tetanus vaccination is up to date. These steps will prevent 98.7% of all infections. But if the wound does become infected, what you should do is incise and drain the wound. This will be painful, but it is important because if you allow the pus to build up..."

God should know all of this stuff -- according to Christians he is all-knowing. When reading Leviticus 15, any normal human being asks questions like these:
Why didn't God transcribe a useful medical guide into the Bible for these primitive people, rather than transcribing rituals that accomplish nothing?

Why doesn't God explain how to manufacture antiseptic solutions, sterile dressings, tetanus vaccines and antibiotic creams?
Even better, why not explain how to build a Star Trek Tricorder to instantly heal the wound?

Even better, why didn't God design the human immune system to prevent all infections in the first place and eliminate the discharges completely? Why would God intentionally inflict human beings with all of these different types of abnormal discharges?

Extending on these ideas, why doesn't God use the Bible to explain metallurgy, chemistry, biology, physics, manufacturing, mathematics, medicine, engineering, etc. to these primitive people so they can dramatically accelerate their development?

Why, in other words, is the Bible so useless? Why does the author of the Bible, who is supposed to be God, who is supposed to be all-knowing, know so little? Why is the knowledge of the author limited to the knowledge of the primitive men who wrote the book? If you think about what you are reading in the Bible in the context of an all-knowing God who supposedly wrote it, none of it makes any sense. But if you think about the Bible as being a book written by primitive men like you would find in the remote regions of Afghanistan today, it makes complete sense.

After reading the Bible passages in this section, what is your common sense telling you about the Bible? Do these passages from the Bible match up with your view of what an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful being would write down in his book? Does it make sense to you that a book created by an all-knowing God would contain so much nonsense? Are you left agape as you read the Bible, or are you dumbfounded by its utter stupidity?

Weigh the evidence. Does it seem more likely that the Bible was written by God, or by a bunch of primitive men?"

The bible may be brilliant to you anonymous, but to others like me, it's just another book, just like the egyptian book of the dead, the torah, the koran, and all the other holy books of history.

You listed a website about defending your faith. Now I will post a website titled "Debunking the arguments of evangelical christians" (http://www.geocities.com/wwu777us/Debunking_Christian_Arguments.htm). That helped me see how the bible is not for me at all.

I will finish this off with an interesting thought. How many people does God kill, or order to be killed in the bible? According to the website I listed above, the answer is:

2,417,889 + ? people killed by God and his followers under his orders PLUS an unknown amount which probably number into the millions, including the whole world at the time of Noah, and over 60 whole cities!

Wow. That sure is a bloodthirsty god. If you wish to try and win converts over to this God...well, you may not have a lot of luck.

No matter how hard people try, I am convinced that we cannot prove, or disprove, that the bible is true. Both sides have good arguments, but I personally side with those who do not believe the bible is the word of God. Looking at it from a historical, common-sense view, it's just another book.

Maybe the holy spirit has guided me in seeing that the bible is a historical book and is not meant to be taken as an eternal guidebook for all mankind.

Ian said...

Whoops. Here's the link to the website:

Link

Ian said...

Oh, and here's the page from whywontgodhealamputees.com

Why won't God heal amputees?

Anonymous said...

Josh McDowell has been discredited time and time again.

Bible Discernment said...

For more info on Bible Versions go to www.biblediscernment.com

.:webmaster:. said...

Oh yeah! A Ruckmanite! A KJVer!

Welcome brother!

I too swallowed that nonsensical, anti-intellectual fish. Fortunately it eventually passed through my bowels and out into the sewer. Perhaps you'll be as lucky.

slingshot said...

Anonymous 07/15/06:

I really didn't bother reading your long post. I don't believe in christianity for many reasons. One is the christian hell. I will never believe that anybody will burn forever. To be a christian, one must believe that anybody who does not "accept Jesus" will burn in hell forever or be cast into the lake of fire at the "final judgement." Either way, they will burn forever. I don't believe that. Christ may have existed, there may be a God, but I will never believe in christianity. The doctrine of salvation by grace is absurd to me. It is sumply ridivulous to believe that one is "saved" for having "accepted Jesus," and it is vague as to exactly what it means to "accept Jesus." On the one hand, one is "saved" for having "accepted Jesus," on the other hand one must then obey certain rules for which there seems to be no purpose, such as praying in Jesus name, or "repenting of sin," or "obeying the commandments," or any of the other things which the bible instructs us to do. If a christian is "saved," what is "backsliding?" Either a christian is "saved" or they're not! Some denominations of christianity teach that one may "lose ones salvation!" Why?

It is absurd to me to believe that we are all born destined for hell because Adam and Eve ate a piece of fruit and because we are born into a "fallen state," where we are drawn to the "pleasures of the flesh" and "driven by the hunger in our bellies" and so we commit such deeds as killing, stealing, lying, and having sex without marriage, and for these things God will cast us into hell when we die. For four thousand years everybody went to hell, apparently, until Jesus arrived to save us by dying a horrible death which for some awful reason God wants in exchange for those "sins" we commit. Now, everybody who "accepts jesus," which again, is vague as to its exact meaning, will go to heaven instead. Finally, one day God gets pissed off that everybody doesn't "accept Jesus" and sends Jesus down to cast into the lake of fire all the non-believers. What nonsense. Nobody will burn forever. That's horseshit. If you want to believe it, go ahead. I don't believe it.

slingshot said...

Hey, anonymous, how do you explain Matthew 23:13? Here, Christ is quoted as having said, "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in."

This Christ said before the death and alleged resurrection. He is admitting to some "way" into heaven which the scribes and Pharisees have some knowledge of or control over. In the final line of said passage, he is making reference to entry into heaven in the present tense by saying "for ye neither go in yourselves" which is connected to the previous sentence by the word "for!" How do you explain this? How do you correlate this with the christian doctrine of salvation where one is "saved" for having "accepted Jesus?"

Christianity is nonsense.

slingshot said...

Another problem with christianity. The christian church is divided into over fifteen hundred denominations over the same book! I left for that reason as well, since one cannot say for certain which denomination holds the absolute truth! The problem apparently, is the bible, and christians won't admit it. Christians are being dishonest with themselves and I cannot do so. I say there is no greater deception than self-deception. The one common doctrine they share is the doctrine of salvation by grace, and I don't believe that because of the christian hell. I've left christianity, and I won't be returning. I'd rather be honest with myself.

slingshot said...

I also don't believe that buddha is a "false teacher," which one must believe in order to be a christian. From what I've studied of the, the teachings of Buddha are quite remarkable, in my opinion. He taught that the divine is something that we may experience in this life. He taught compassion for all living things. He taught virtue. Christianity makes assholes out of people.

slingshot said...

In my last post, I wrote, "from what I've studied of the," which should read "from what I've studied of them." In my first post, I wrote "sumply ridivulous" which should say "simply ridiculous."

slingshot said...

The death on the cross is meaningless, really. One must "accept Jesus" in order to be "saved," even though the death of Christ was supposed to have been the sacrifice for the sins of the entire world, according to first John 2:2. What does it matter if Christ paid the price for our sins, if we continue to commit them, and if said sacrifice does not allow us into heaven? Are we "pure" in
Gods eyes for the death and resurrection? What for? We're still "damned" to eternal torment, if we don't "accept Jesus!" The death and resurrection are meaningless.

If one "accepts Jesus" and one is "saved," then how does one explain the following passages attributed to Christ in the gospels?

Luke 6:20: "Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kindgom of God."

Luke 6:24-26: "But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep."

Why any of this? If one simply "accepts Jesus," and one is "saved," what is the meaning of these passages? Why would those who "laugh now" "mourn and weep" later? There is no mention whatsoever of "accepting Jesus" here! Christ himself defies the doctrine of salvation by grace throughout the gospels.


That's just for starters. Any christians out there care to debate the gospels?

slingshot said...

Slingshot 1, christianity 0...

Anonymous said...

Having stumbled on to your site, I have just one question; if you have rejected Christianity and the Bible, what do you believe? You seem adamant against Christianity, but do not say what you believe.

Jim Arvo said...

Anonymous: "...what do you believe? You seem adamant against Christianity, but do not say what you believe."

That's a bit like asking "If you haven't been to the Great Wall of China, then where have you been?" Answer: "Lots and lots of places. Care to be more specific?"

Perhaps you think that everybody has some kind of "religion", whether they wish to call it that or not. Or maybe you think that non-Christians really don't have anything at all to "believe". Or maybe you think that scientific theories, such as evolution, are "believed" in the same manner that religions are; through "faith". I'm guessing that some such misconception lies behind your question, but I'll let you clarify before jumping to any conclusions.

So, care to be more specific?

Warnepiece said...

Yes, another one "Stumbled" onto the site!
Webmaster, you're gonna have to get that second step fixed so these fundie trolls quit trippin' into here!
To answer their question for the 2 millionth, 8 hundred 77 thousand, 4 hundred and ninety fifth time about what you beleive if you don't beleive christianity or the bible. Fundie, I make it simple...

....I believe.....

...I'll have another beer!

Thanks for the reminder!

south2003 said...

I'll wait for the specifics.

"Webmaster, you're gonna have to get that second step fixed so these fundie trolls quit trippin' into here!"

Quit trippin is more like it...LMAO.

Beer anyone?