Introduction

The Bible: Its Uniqueness, Content, and Historical Reliability

What is the Bible?

“This book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners and the happiness of believers.  Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable.  Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy.  It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you.  It is the traveler’s map, the pilgrim’s staff, the pilot’s compass, the soldier’s sword and the Christian’s charter.  Here paradise is restored, heaven opened, and the gates of hell disclosed.  CHRIST is its grand object, our good its design, and the glory of God its end.  It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet.  Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully.  It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure.  It is given to you in life, will be opened in the judgment, and will be remembered forever.  It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.”  (Introduction to Gideon Bible).

What makes the Bible so unique?

It is unique in its continuity:

“The Bible, at first sight, appears to be a collection of literature—mainly Jewish.  If we inquire into the circumstances under which the various Biblical documents were written, we find that they were written at intervals over a space of nearly 1500 years.  The writers wrote in various lands. From Italy in the west to Mesopotamia and possibly Persia in the east.  The writers themselves were a heterogeneous number of people, not only separated from each other by hundreds of years and hundreds of miles , but belonging to the most diverse walks of life.  In their ranks we have kings, herdsmen, soldiers, legislators, fishermen, statesmen, courtiers, priests and prophets, a tentmaking Rabbi and a Gentile physician, not to speak of others of whom we know nothing apart from the writings they left us.  The writings themselves belong to a great variety of literary types.  They include history, law (civil, criminal, ethical, ritual, sanitary), religious poetry, didactic treatises, lyric poetry, parable and allegory, biography, personal correspondence, personal memoirs and diaries, in addition to the distinctively Biblical types of prophecy and apocalyptic.  For all that, the Bible is not simply an anthology; there is a unity which binds the whole together.  An anthology is compiled by an anthologist, but no anthologist compiled the Bible.”  (Evidence, pg. 7).

“The Bible addresses hundreds of controversial subjects, subjects that create opposing opinions when mentioned or discussed.  The biblical writers treated hundreds of hot topics (e.g., marriage, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, adultery, obedience to authority, truth-telling and lying, character development, parenting, the nature and revelation of God).  Yet from Genesis through Revelation these writers addressed them with an amazing degree of harmony.” (Evidence, pg. 6).

“In spite of its diversity, the Bible presents a single unfolding story: God’s redemption of human beings… The ‘Paradise Lost’ of Genesis becomes the ‘Paradise Regained’ of Revelation…  The unifying thread is salvation from sin and condemnation to a life of complete transformation and unending bliss…  The [unifying] character throughout is the one true, living God made known through Jesus Christ.  Consider first the Old Testament: The Law provides the foundation for Christ, the historical books show the preparation for Christ, the poetical books aspire to Christ, and the prophecies display an expectation of Christ.  In the New Testament, the Gospels record the historical manifestation of Christ, the Acts relate the propagation of Christ, the Epistles give the interpretation of Christ, and in Revelation is found the consummation of all things in Christ.  From cover to cover, the Bible is Christocentric.” (Evidence, pg. 6).

Unique in its circulation:

No other book in history even begins to compare with the Bible in terms of its total circulation.  Complete Bibles and New Testaments exceed over 40 million/year, with over 350 million portions/year distributed.  (http://biblesociety.org/index.php?id=21).

Unique in its translation:

“No other book in history has been translated, retranslated, and paraphrased more than the Bible”.  It is currently in over 2400 languages representing more than 90% of the world’s population.  (http://biblesociety.org/index.php?id=22).

Unique in its survival:

“Many have tried to burn it, ban it, and outlaw it from the days of Roman emperors to present-day Communist-dominated countries.  In A.D. 303 the Roman emperor Diocletian issued an edict to stop Christians from worshiping and to destroy their Scriptures…  Twenty five years after Diocletian’s edict the Roman emperor Constantine issued an edict ordering that fifty copies of the Scriptures should be prepared at the government’s expense.”  (Evidence, pg 10).

Diocletian
Diocletian

“The noted French infidel Voltaire, who died in 1778 declared that in one hundred years from his time Christianity  would be swept from existence and passed from history.  Only fifty years after his death, the Geneva Bible Society used Voltaire’s press and house to produce stacks of Bibles.”  (Evidence, pg 10).

Voltaire
Voltaire

“The hammers of infidels have been pecking away at this book for ages, but the hammers are worn out, and the anvil still endures.  If this book had not been the book of God, men would have destroyed it long ago.  Emperors and popes, kings and priests, princes and rulers have all tried their hand at it; they die and the book still lives.”  (Evidence, pg 11).

“A thousand times over, the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession formed, the inscription cut on the tombstone, and the committal read.  But somehow the corpse never stays put.  No other book has been so chopped, knived, sifted, scrutinized, and vilified.  What book on philosophy or religion or psychology or belles lettres of classical or modern times has been subject to such a mass attack as the Bible? with such venom and skepticism? with such thoroughness and erudition? upon every chapter, line and tenet?  The Bible is still loved by millions, read by millions, and studied by millions.” (Evidence, pg. 11).

Unique in its teaching:

“It is the only volume ever produced by man, or a group of men, in which is to be found a large body of prophecies relating to individual nations, to Israel, to all the peoples of the earth, to certain cities, and to the coming of One who was to be the Messiah…  Mohammedanism cannot point to any prophecies of the coming of Mohammed uttered hundreds of years before his birth.  Neither can the founders of any cult in this country rightly identify any ancient text specifically foretelling their appearances.”  (Evidence, pg. 12).

“The Bible is not such a book as man would write if he could, or could write if he would.  The Bible deals very frankly with the sins of its characters, even when those sins reflect badly on God’s chosen people, leaders, and the Biblical writers themselves.”  (Evidence, pg. 13).

Unique in its influence:

“If every Bible in any considerable city were destroyed, the Book could be restored in all its essential parts from the quotations on the shelves of the city public library.  There are works, covering almost all the great literary writers, devoted especially to showing how much the Bible has influenced them.”  (Evidence, pg. 14).

“A student of English literature who does not know the Bible does not understand a good deal of what is going on in what he reads: the most conscientious student will be continually misconstruing the implications, even the meaning.”  (World renowned literary critic Northrop Frye).  (Evidence, pg. 15).

“The influence of the Bible and its teaching in the Western world is clear for all who study history.  And the influential role of the West in the course of world events is equally clear.  Civilization has been influenced more by the Judeo-Christian Scriptures than by any other book or series of books in the world.  Indeed, no great moral or religious work in the world exceeds the depth of morality in the principle of Christian love, and none has a more lofty spiritual concept than the biblical view of God.  The Bible presents the highest ideals known to men, ideals that have molded civilization.”  (Evidence, pg 15).

How is the Bible organized?

The Bible is a book of books.  It is divided into two parts: The Old Testament contains 39 books, and the New Testament contains 27 books.

How are the books of the Old Testament organized?  Who wrote them, and when?

The first 5 books are called the Pentateuch or Torah.  They were written down by Moses in the 15th century BC, although he no doubt drew upon earlier sources (see Gen 5:1, 6:9, 10:1, etc…, Num 21:14).

Moses
Moses

The next 12 books are historical in nature.  They were compiled from various sources that were written over the period from 1400 BC to 400 BC, such as royal court records and the words of various prophets (see 2 Sam 1:18, 1 Kings 14:19,29, 1 Chron 29:29, 2 Chron 9:29).  Samuel and various other prophets were likely involved in the compiling process of the earlier books, Ezra and Nehemiah of the later books.

Ezra
Ezra

The next 5 books constitute the wisdom literature of the Old Testament; they are poetic in nature.  Many (but by no means all) of the psalms were written by David (c. 1000 BC).  Solomon wrote the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and most of Proverbs (c. 950 BC).  Job is likely the oldest book in the Bible, dating to the time of the Patriarchs (c. 2000 BC).

David
Michelangelo’s David

Each book of the prophets was written by the prophet for which the book is named (Lamentations was written by Jeremiah following the destruction of Jerusalem).  They range in date from Obadiah (c. 850 BC) to Malachi (c. 450 BC).  The major prophets are distinguished from the minor prophets simply by the length of the books.

Isaiah
The prophet Isaiah

How are the books of the New Testament organized?  Who wrote them, and when?

The 4 Gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  There is strong evidence to believe Luke had written and was distributing copies of his gospel prior to 56 AD, and that Mark was written before this from records he had gathered shortly after the resurrection.

Luke
Luke

Mark
Mark

The near universal testimony of the early church was that Matthew’s gospel was the first to be written down, and for this reason it was placed first in the canon; both he and Luke likely made use of the records that had been accumulated by Mark.  Dates for all three synoptic gospels is c. 45-55 a.d.  John was written last (c. 60-90 AD).

The book of Acts gives the history of the early church, especially of its spread to the Gentile world by the apostle Paul.  It was also written by Luke c. 62 AD.

Matthew
Matthew

The 13 Pauline Epistles were written by the apostle Paul c. 49-65 AD.  They are arranged roughly according to length; their chronological order is as follows: Galatians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Romans, Ephesians & Colossians & Philemon, Philippians (these last four are called the Prison Epistles), 1 Timothy & Titus, 2 Timothy (these last three are referred to as the Pastoral Epistles).

Paul
Paul

The author of the book of Hebrews is unknown, though some have attributed it to Paul, Barnabas, or Apollos.  It was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Arch of Titus Destruction of Jerusalem
The Destruction of Jerusalem, From the Arch of Titus

Each of the other General Epistles bears the name of its author.  James is perhaps the earliest of the books in the New Testament (c. 45 AD) and was written by the brother of Jesus.  The 2 epistles of Peter were written c. 65 AD, and the 3 of John c. 90 AD.  Jude was another brother of Jesus; he wrote c. 66-80 AD.

Peter
Peter

The Apocalypse or Revelation was the last book of the New Testament to be written.  It was written by the apostle John near the end of his life c. 95 AD.

John Patmos
The apostle John on Patmos

Who decided what to include in the Bible, and why were these books included in the canon of Scripture, but others omitted?

Because the books we now regard as Scripture were immediately recognized as valuable for instruction they were collected, copied, and circulated to meet the needs of the people of God.  However, with the rise of heretical teachings and the circulation of spurious writings the need for a canon of what was authentic Scripture also arose.

Gospel of Judas

It is important to note though that there was no one person, church, or council that decided what would be included as Scripture, and no definitive process of canonization.  Rather, over a period of time and through the providential circumstances that faced the people of God, the books we now regard as Scripture came to be widely accepted as canonical.  The last book of the Old Testament was written c. 400 BC, and the canon of Old Testament Scripture as we know it today was fully recognized c. 250-150 BC (the earlier books of the OT, such as the Torah, were recognized as canonical much earlier).  The last book of the New Testament was written c. 95 AD, and the canon of New Testament Scripture as we know it today was fully recognized by 367 AD (the gospels and many of Paul’s letters were likewise recognized as canonical much earlier).  Some writings were omitted because they were regarded as counterfeit.  Others were omitted not necessarily because they were regarded as false, but because they did not bear the same divine nature and quality as the books that were included (“if in doubt, throw it out”).  The basic test for inclusion was divine inspiration.  See 2 Tim 3:16, 2 Pet 1:21.

How was it determined if a book was divinely inspired?

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

2) Was the writer confirmed by acts of God?

3) Did the message tell the truth about God?

4) Does it come with the power of God?  Heb 4:12

5) Was it accepted by the people of God?  2 Pet 3:15-16

What is the Apocrypha, and why is it in some Bibles and not others?

Apocrypha

The Apocrypha consists of 15 books appended to the Greek version of the Old Testament Scriptures (the Septuagint or LXX).  They were originally written in Greek, not Hebrew, during the period of time between the Testaments (c. 400 BC to 100 AD).  They were never considered canonical by the Jews, but regarded as instructive in Jewish history and traditions, especially by the many Hellenistic Jews who lived outside of Judea.  They were never considered part of the Christian Scriptures until the Roman Catholic church declared them canonical at the Council of Trent during the Counter Reformation because they gave limited support for some of the doctrines the Reformers were arguing against.  They were originally included in the King James Version of the Bible and are still included in some Protestant Bibles because of their historical value for understanding the time between the two Testaments.

What is the difference between the many different Bible versions?

Because the Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, those who do not understand these languages must read the Bible in a translation.  As anyone who has ever studied a foreign language knows, text in one language generally does not translate word for word into text in another language, and different translators may use different words to communicate the same meaning.  This gives rise to the different translations of the Bible.Hebrew_Deu_8_3
Deuteronomy 8:3 in Hebrew reads very literally, “Not upon the bread to its own will live the man for upon all the going forth of the mouth of YHWH will live the man.”

Greek_Joh_3_16John 3:16 in Greek reads very literally, “Thusly for loved the God the world so that the son the only begotten He gave, in order that all who believe into him not should be destroyed but should have life eternal.

 

Among the English translations of the Bible are:

1) Those which try to retain a more literal rendering of the original text while still making good sense in English (such as the King James Version and the New American Standard Bible);

2) Those which try to render the most easily readable translation by giving a “dynamic equivalence” of the meaning of the original text without so great a concern for being strictly literal (such as the New International Version); and

3) Those (such as the Living Bible, the Message, and the New Century Version) that are not translations at all, but rather paraphrases which are more interpretive than a direct translation.  The attempt of a paraphrase is to make the Bible more understandable, but will necessarily reflect the doctrinal bias of the paraphraser.

Some translations (such as the New World Bible or New American Bible) also reflect a distinct doctrinal bias (Jehovah’s Witness, Catholic) while others (the Revised Standard Version) are distinctly liberal and/or ecumenical.  The best translations (such as the KJV, NASB, and NIV) were done by a large committee to help guard against doctrinal bias.  To understand the basic gist of the Bible the NIV or NET are good choices.  The NET is available free online (net.bible.org) and offers TONS of excellent study notes.  However, for serious Bible study readers will want a more literal translation such as the NASB (now also available in an even more readable updated version).

What about the King James Version?

KJV 1611

The King James Version is an excellent literal translation into old English.  However it is not God’s inspired version for English speaking people as some claim.  It is based upon a relatively small number of late Greek manuscripts from a narrow textual spectrum (the Byzantine texts), whereas our more modern versions are based upon a much larger number of manuscripts not available to the KJV translators that are both earlier and represent a broader textual spectrum (the Alexandrian, Western, and Caesarean, as well as the Byzantine texts).  However, it is important to note that the main drawback to the KJV is its archaic language, some of which is no longer understandable to the modern reader, and not its inferior textual foundation.  For while variations do exist in the different manuscripts and text types, the vast majority involve only minor details such as word order or spelling.  Only in rare instances is the meaning of a passage affected, and there is no major doctrine affected by variant readings.  By applying the same sound principles of hermeneutics and Biblical exegesis to the KJV and NASB the results will be the same.  The Bible has been preserved for us by an abundance of manuscript evidence that enables us to accurately reconstruct the original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, not by an inspired English translation.

How do we know that what we read in the New Testament accurately reflects what was originally written and hasn’t been changed down through the ages?

“The works that made up the Christians’ New Testament were the most frequently copied and widely circulated books of antiquity.  As a result, the fidelity of the New Testament text rests on a multitude of manuscript evidence…  We have close to, if not more than, 25,000 manuscript copies of portions of the New Testament in existence today.  No other document of antiquity even begins to approach such numbers and attestation.  In comparison, Homer’s Iliad is second, with only 643 manuscripts that still survive.  The first complete preserved text of Homer dates from the thirteenth century.” (Evidence, pg. 34).

“Besides number, the manuscripts of the New Testament differ from those of the classical authors…In no case is the interval of time between the composition of the book and the date of the earliest extant manuscripts so short as in that of the New Testament”.  (Evidence, pg. 35).

Portion of John  117-134 ad
A portion from the gospel of John, dating from 117 – 134 a.d., and codex Sinaiticus, dating from 340 a.d.

“The importance of the sheer number of manuscript copies cannot be overstated.  As with other documents of ancient literature, there are not known extant original manuscripts of the Bible.  Fortunately, however, the abundance of manuscript copies makes it possible to reconstruct the original with virtually complete accuracy.” (Evidence, pg. 35).

“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.”  (Evidence, pg. 35).

In addition to the actual texts, we also have over 32,000 direct quotations from the early church fathers prior to 258 a.d., from which almost the entire New Testament could be reconstructed even if we had no actual texts.  There are also numerous and very early translations of the Bible into other languages (Syriac, Latin, Coptic, etc…) that support the accurate transmission of the New Testament texts.

“In an article in the North American Review, a writer made some interesting comparisons between the writings of Shakespeare and the Scriptures, which show that much greater care must have been bestowed upon the Biblical manuscripts than upon other writings, even when there was so much more opportunity of preserving the correct text by means of printed copies than when all the copies had to be made by hand.  He said: ‘It seems strange that the text of Shakespeare, which has been in existence less than two hundred years, should be far more uncertain and corrupt than that of the New Testament, now over eighteen hundred years old, during fifteen of which it existed only in manuscript…  With perhaps a dozen or twenty exceptions, the text of every verse in the New Testament may be said to so far settled by general consent of scholars, that any doubts as to its readings must relate to the interpretation of the words than to any doubts respecting the words themselves.  But in every one of Shakespeare’s thirty-seven plays there are probably a hundred readings still in dispute, a large portion of which materially affects the meaning of the passages in which they occur.’” (Evidence, pgs. 9-10, quoting John Lea, The Greatest Book in the World, 1929.)

How do we know that what we read in the Old Testament accurately reflects what was originally written and hasn’t been changed down through the ages?

The fidelity of the textual transmission of the Old Testament is of a different nature from that of the New Testament.  Whereas the accuracy of the New Testament Scriptures was ensured by the large and widespread number of manuscripts, the accuracy of the Old Testament Scriptures was ensured by the meticulous care given by the Jews in the copying process.“[1] A synagogue roll must be written on the skins of clean animals, [2] prepared for the particular use of the synagogue by a Jew.  [3] These must be fastened together with strings taken from clean animals.  [4] Every skin must contain a certain number of columns, equal throughout the entire codex.  [5] The length of each column must not extend over less than 48 or more than 60 lines; and the breadth must consist of 30 letters.  [6] The whole copy must be first lined; and if three words be written without a line, it is worthless.  [7] The ink should be black, neither red, green, nor any other color, and be prepared according to a definite recipe.  [8] An authentic copy must be the exemplar, from which the transcriber ought not in the least deviate.  [9] No word or letter, not even a yod, must be written from memory, the scribe not having looked at the codex before him… [10] Between every consonant the space of a hair or thread must intervene; [11] between every new parashah, or section, the breadth of nine consonants; [12] between every book, three lines.  [13] The fifth book of Moses must terminate exactly with a line; but the rest need not do so.  [14] Besides this, the copyist must sit in full Jewish dress, [15] wash his whole body, [16] not begin to write the name of God with a pen newly dipped in ink, [17] and should a king address him while writing that name he must take no notice of him…  The rolls in which these regulations are not observed are condemned to be buried in the ground, or burned; or they are banished to the schools, to be used as reading-books”  (Evidence, pg. 74).

Jew Torah

“They numbered the verses, words, and letters of every book.  They calculated the middle word and the middle letter of each.  They enumerated verses which contained all the letters of the alphabet, or a certain number of them.  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 Scriptures which in itself deserves nothing but praise.” (Evidence, pg. 76).

“When a manuscript had been copied with the exactitude prescribed by the Talmud, and had been duly verified, it was accepted as authentic and regarded as being of equal value with any other copy.  If all were equally correct, age gave no advantage to a manuscript; on the contrary age was a positive disadvantage, since a manuscript was liable to become defaced or damaged in the lapse of time.  A damaged or imperfect copy was at once condemned as unfit for use.” (Evidence, pg. 75).

For this reason old manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible (written in Hebrew; the Christians for the most part made use of the Septuagint, a Greek translation) were virtually non-existent, with the oldest dating to c. 1000 AD.  However, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 verified the accuracy and reliability of the Old Testament text.

Qumran Cave
Cave at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered

The Dead Sea Scrolls  date from the 2nd century BC and include more than 800 manuscripts, including most of the Old Testament.  As an example:“Of the 166 words in Isaiah 53 [which gives the most precise prophecy of Christ’s ministry in the Old Testament], there are only seventeen letters in question.  Ten of these letters are simply a matter of spelling, which does not affect the sense.  Four more letters are minor stylistic changes, such as conjunctions.  The remaining three letters comprise the word “light”, which is added in verse 11, and does not affect the meaning greatly.  Furthermore, this word is supported by the LXX and IQ Is (one of the Isaiah scrolls in the Dead Sea caves).  Thus, in one chapter of 166 words, there is only one word (three letters) in question after a thousand years of transmission—and this word does not significantly change the meaning of the passage.” (Evidence, pg. 79).
Isaiah DSS
Isaiah scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls, verified prophesies of Jesus were made prior to His birth.

“In conclusion, we should accord to the Masoretes the highest praise for their meticulous care in preserving so sedulously the consonantal text of the Sopherim which had been entrusted to them…  Because of their faithfulness, we have today a form of the Hebrew text which in all essentials duplicates the recension which was considered authoritative in the days of Christ and the apostles, if not a century earlier.  And this in turn, judging from Qumran evidence, goes back to an authoritative revision of the Old Testament text which was drawn up on the basis of the most reliable manuscripts available for collation from previous centuries.  These bring us very close in all essentials to the original autographs themselves, and furnish us with an authentic record of God’s revelation.  (Evidence, pgs. 81-82).

Is the New Testament historically reliable?

“Whole books are not large enough to contain all the [archaeological] finds that have bolstered confidence in the historical reliability of the Bible.” (Evidence, pg. 61).“Nelson Glueck, the renowned Jewish archaeologist, wrote: “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference.’  He continued his assertion of ‘the almost incredibly accurate historical memory of the Bible, and particularly so when it is fortified by archaeological fact.’” (Evidence, pg. 61).

Pilate inscription 1961
Pilate inscription found in 1961 near Caesarea.

“The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the eighteenth- and nineteenth centuries, certain phases of which still appear periodically, has been progressively discredited.  Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and has brought increased recognition to the value of the Bible as a source of history.” (Evidence, pg. 61).

“Millar Burrows of Yale observes, ‘Archaeology has in many cases refuted the views of modern critics.  It has shown in a number of instances that these views rest on false assumptions and unreal, artificial schemes of historical development…  The excessive skepticism of many liberal theologians stems not from a careful evaluation of the available data, but from an enormous predisposition against the supernatural.’” (Evidence, pgs. 61-62).

Caiaphas Ossuary
Ossuary containing the bones of Caiaphas the high priest.

“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.” (Evidence, pg. 68).

Is the Old Testament historically reliable?

Ancient Beehives 900 bc
Ancient Beehives c. 900 BC discovered in 2007 at Tel Rehov.  First apiary ever discovered verifying that Israel was a land of “milk and honey”.

“In the nineteenth century, the Biblical critic could hold with good reason that there never was a Sargon, that the Hittites either did not exist or were insignificant, that the patriarchal accounts had a late background, that the sevenfold lampstand of the tabernacle was a late concept, that the Davidic Empire was not as extensive as the Bible implied, that Belshazzar never existed, and that a host of other supposed errors and impossibilities existed in the Biblical record.  Archaeological discoveries showed, on the contrary, that Sargon existed and lived in a palatial dwelling some twelve miles north of Nineveh, that the Hittites not only existed but were a significant people, that the background of the patriarchs fits the time indicated in the Bible, that the concept of a sevenfold lamp existed in the Early Iron Age, that a significant city given in the record of David’s Empire lies far to the north, that Belshazzar existed and ruled over Babylon, and that a host of other supposed errors and contradictions are not errors at all.” (Evidence, pg. 93).

Sargon II king of Assyria with Sennacherib
Sargon II (right), king of Assyria (c.. 722 – 705 BC), with the crowned prince, Sennacherib

Hittite rhyton
A Hittite rhyton from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Clay cylinder bearing witness to Belshazzar
Clay Cylinder bearing witness to Belshazzar

“The 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.” (Evidence, pg. 98).

“In every period of the 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.” (Evidence, pg. 98).

The above quotes are taken from The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, by Josh McDowell, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999.  All are from leading scholars in the field of Biblical research.  This book is an excellent resource for further study; it is heavily documented and has a 40 page bibliography.

For further study on the authorship, date, and historical background of each book of the Bible, Talk Thru the Bible by Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, Thomas Nelson Publisher, 1983 is another excellent resource.  It is non-technical, complete, and very user-friendly.

Summary: 

Sir Robert Anderson: “I appeal to all intelligent and fair-minded thinkers.  The only kind of person I wish to ignore is the fool. We all know the sort of morbidly active-brained child who will pull a valuable watch to pieces, and then tell us with a smile that “there was nothing in it but wheels and things.” He has his counterpart in the foreign infidel type of scholar who, albeit as ignorant of man and his needs as a monk, and as ignorant of God and his ways as a monkey, sets himself with a light heart to tear the Bible to pieces” (J. W. McGarvey, “Short Essays in Biblical Criticism,” 1910, pp. 420-424).

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