The third question in our Tough Questions blog series gets down to crux of the matter: How do we know the Bible is actually true?
Sometimes the implication behind this question is that the Bible is either:
- mythological like many other ancient documents,
- just another religious text and no more true or false than any of those texts,
- or that it’s just a book invented by men to further their agenda and false belief-system.
Regardless of the motive behind the question, I think it’s important for all of us to consider these facts about the Bible:
- It’s the only religious text claiming to be from God Himself. See 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21.
- The Bible was written over a span of 1500 years by 40 different authors from all walks of life (kings, peasants, fishermen, farmers, etc.). It was written in different times and places, including three different continents, and in three different languages, making the chance of a collusion theory impossible. Despite this vast diversity of human authorship as inspired by God, the Bible tells an all-encompassing and unfolding story of God redeeming fallen mankind out of His great love for them through the sacrifice of Himself. Even Moses was quick to recognize God as the covenant maker and giver of the Law rather than himself (Deuteronomy 5:1-5, 22). And consistently throughout the first five books that are attributed to Moses’ authorship, we see God speaking to the people through Moses.
- It is the only religious text that reveals the love of Creator God for His creation and His desire for a relationship with His people. All other religion’s texts require its followers to earn God’s approval. Because of its divine nature, the Bible alone can truly give human beings purpose, instruction on living, and assurance for the life beyond this one.
- No other book even comes close to the Bible. It is the world’s all-time best-seller. But more importantly is its influence on the world. People from different time periods, cultures, languages, socio-economic statuses, walks of life, and so on have read it and share the same testimony of changed lives through a personal relationship with God through Jesus.
- God’s Word has survived in spite of many who have tried to discredit and destroy it. First written on papyrus, it was copied and re-copied by human hands over an extended amount of time. In spite of this lengthy process and countless copyists, there is an abundance of evidence to prove its accuracy.
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”
Because the validity of the Bible is such an important and over-arching question, it comes with a whole host of smaller questions, which will be addressed below.
But first, if you’ve missed the first two posts in the series, you can catch them at these links:
OTHER POSTS IN THE TOUGH QUESTIONS BLOG SERIES:
In order to fully answer this third question of how to know the Bible is actually true, we will look at the following:
- historical and archaeological proof
- geological proof
- the proof of fulfilled prophecy
- scientific accuracy
- common criticisms against the Bible
Though I am by no means including all the evidence available for the accuracy of the Bible in this post, the vast amount of material requires splitting the post into two parts. Part 2 will post next week.
How Do You Know the Bible is Actually True?
QUESTION 1: Is the Bible Historically/Archaeologically Accurate?
The answer is overwhelmingly yes! And the data in the Bible is historically attestable.
According to icr.org: “The Bible has become a significant source book for secular archaeology, helping to identify such ancient figures as Sargon (Isaiah 20:1); Sennacherib (Isaiah 37:37); Horam of Gazer (Joshua 10:33); Hazar (Joshua 15:27); and the nation of the Hittites (Genesis 15:20). The biblical record, unlike other ‘scriptures,’ is historically set, opening itself up for testing and verification.”
Two of the greatest 20th-century archaeologists, William F. Albright and Nelson Glueck, both lauded the Bible (even though they were non-Christian and secular in their training and personal beliefs) as being the single most accurate source document from history. Over and over again, the Bible has been found to be accurate in its places, dates, and records of events. No other ‘religious’ document comes even close.”
The 19th-century critics used to deny the historicity of the Hittites, the Horites, the Edomites, and various other peoples, nations, and cities mentioned in the Bible. Those critics have long been silenced by the archaeologist’s spade, and few critics dare to question the geographical and ethnological reliability of the Bible.”
The names of over 40 different kings of various countries mentioned in the Bible have all been found in contemporary documents and inscriptions outside of the Old Testament, and are always consistent with the times and places associated with them in the Bible. Nothing exists in ancient literature that has been even remotely as well-confirmed in accuracy as has the Bible.”
Here’s more evidence for your consideration (NOTE: all Bible references link to the indicated passage on BibleGateway.com):
- In the past, there wasn’t any historical or archaeological proof for the people groups listed in Genesis 15:19-21. So for years, some doubted the accuracy of the list. But in the past several years, there have been significant archaeological finds that strengthen the likelihood that all ten of the listed nations did indeed exist in the time of Abraham and Moses.
The Biblical account of the Exodus reveals that straw was used to produce the bricks that built up much of ancient Egypt (Exodus 5:7). Archaeological finds support this fact. In addition, the 13th century B.C. Ipuwer Papyrus describes conditions in Egypt remarkably similar to the Bible’s account of the Exodus plagues found in Exodus 7-11. The papyrus document by the Egyptian scribe Ipuwer had this to say:
- The plague was throughout the land (compare Exodus 7:21).
- The river turned to blood (compare Exodus 7:20-21).
- Wailing occurred throughout the land (compare Exodus 12:30).
- Fire mingled with hail (compare Exodus 9:23-25).
- Trees and herbs were destroyed (compare Exodus 9:25 and 10:15).
- Darkness covered the land (compare Exodus 10:22).
- Death was widespread (compare Exodus 12:29-30).
- Animals wept and cattle moaned (compare Exodus 9:3).
- Cattle were left to stray in the field (compare Exodus 9:21)
At one time no record could be found of a Babylonian king by the name of Belshazzar, as mentioned in Daniel 5. But ancient cuneiform tablets have been discovered that mention Belshazzar as the son and co-regent of Nabonidus. In the events of Daniel 5, Daniel is brought in to decipher the handwriting on the wall, giving the perfect “eye witness” evidence of Belshazzar’s existence.
- There’s an inscription on a Roman theater that reads: “Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judea.” (See John 18:28-40.) This lends proof to the validity of New Testament events, in particular the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.
- In northern Israel exists an inscription that mentions King David. It’s the oldest reference to David outside the Bible.
- Places mentioned in the Bible, such as Capernaum, though once lost, have been re-discovered through archaeological efforts.
The Ebla Archive (discovered in northern Syria in the 1970s) lends viable proof to the existence of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.). There are several clay tablets involved in this discovery, with personal and place names that completely line up with the Biblical record.
- Without doubt, the greatest archaeological discovery that supports the veracity of the Bible are the Dead Sea Scrolls. To read a marvelous description of this discovery, check out this article: https://christiananswers.net/q-abr/abr-a023.html.
As mentioned in last week’s post, there are a number of Babylonian accounts of the great flood. The Sumerian King List mentions several Sumerian kings with lengthy life spans, corroborating the long pre-flood life spans of humans as described in Genesis. Sumerian tablets also confirm the truth of the tower of Babel event as recorded in Genesis 11:1-9.
- Pharaoh Shishak’s campaign into Israel (1 Kings 14:25-26) is written on the walls of a temple in Thebes, Egypt.
- Moab’s revolt against Israel in 2 Kings 1-3 is found also on the Mesha inscription.
- King Sennacherib of Assyria’s campaign into Judah (2 Kings 18:13-16) is also recorded on the Taylor Prism.
- The fall of Ninevah as predicted by the prophets Nahum and Zephaniah are written on the tablet of Nabopolasar.
- The fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, is also found in the Babylonian Chronicles.
- Several Biblical structures have been excavated, including the palace of Jericho, the temple of Baal in Shechem, the pool of Gibeon, the royal palace at Samaria where kings of Israel lived, the water tunnel under Jerusalem built by King Hezekiah, the royal palace in Susa where Esther was the queen of Persia, the synagogue at Capernaum where Jesus healed a man with an unclean spirit, Jacob’s well where Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman, the pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed a crippled man, the pool of Siloam where Jesus healed a blind man, Herod’s palace at Caesarea where Paul was kept under guard, and much more.
- The wall of Jericho fell in such a way as to corroborate the Biblical account found in Joshua 6, including a section of wall that remained standing. This lines up perfectly with how Rahab and her family were spared for assisting Joshua and his men.
- The remains of the Old Testament cities of Sodom and Gomorrah have been found south of the Dead Sea.
- For many decades the story of Balaam and his talking donkey were viewed with skepticism. Then in 1967, archaeologists found a piece of Aramaic text with this inscription: “Warnings from the Book of Balaam the son of Beor. He was a seer of the gods.” This goes right along with what the Bible tells us about Balaam. See Numbers 22 and Joshua 24:9.
- The discovery of Philistine temples from the time period of Samson support the fact that they were built with two central pillars, which is how they are described in the Bible in Judges 16:29-30.
- There is much, much archaeological and historical evidence to support the Biblical record. So much that there’s just not room to list it all. But if you want even more historical proof, consider the human language issue as described in this video:
QUESTION 2: Is There Geological Evidence to Support the Bible’s Accuracy?
Yes! Just one quick example (since the first question answer was so long)!
In the 19th century, the layers of various types of rock were believed to have been created over millions of years. But modern-day testing has revealed that these layers formed quickly, which is completely in line with the Biblical account of the great flood.
QUESTION 3: Have Prophecies In The Bible Really Come True?
The test of any prophecy’s validity has always been found in whether or not that prophecy is fulfilled. And to me, this is the greatest proof of the Bible’s truth.
Consider how difficult it is to predict what will happen tomorrow, much less hundreds of years in the future. Then consider that of all the fulfilled prophecies, none of them have ever been proved false. Not even one of the Old Testament prophecies has been left unfulfilled, even if that fulfillment took an unexpected form.
And, yes, it’s a fact that there are Biblical prophecies still unfulfilled. (Take the book of Revelation for example.) But because God has brought about so many Biblical prophecies, we can be assured that the prophecies of Revelation will also come to pass in His perfect timing!
Here’s just a smattering of all the Biblical prophecy that has come to pass:
- In Genesis 15:13-14, the LORD told Abraham that his descendants, the Hebrew people, would be foreigners, enslaved and oppressed, for 400 years, but would be delivered.
- Isaiah 44:28 mentions Cyrus, the first ruler of the Persian Empire, as the one who would order the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. This verse was written before Cyrus was born and before the temple was destroyed. Two hundred years later, Cyrus sent the Jews back to Jerusalem to build the temple (Ezra 1:1-4).
- The prophet Daniel predicted future empires (Medo-Persian, Greek & Roman), both in the interpreting of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and his own dream. Daniel 9:24-27 records the 70 weeks prophecy, which predicted the year Jesus would begin His earthly ministry.
- Peter Stoner, former Professor Emeritus of Science at Westmont College conservatively calculated the probability of one person fulfilling only eight of the major Messianic prophecies. The odds were 1:100 trillion. In a separate calculation, he used 48 prophecies. The probability of them being fulfilled by one person was 1:10 to the 157th power. (That’s 10 with 157 zeros behind it!) There’s no way Jesus could have fulfilled all of the prophecies concerning the Messiah by chance! Here are just a few of the Messianic prophecies Jesus fulfilled (you’ll notice the original prophecy reference as well as the reference that shows the prophecy came true):
- Virgin Birth – See Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; and Luke 1:34-35.
- A Nazarene – See Isaiah 9:1-2 and Matthew 2:22-23; 4:15.
- Babies killed by Herod – See Jeremiah 31:15 and Matthew 2:16-18.
- Good news for Jews and Gentiles – See Isaiah 42:1-3, 6 and Matthew 12:18-21.
- The Messiah’s rejection by the Jews – See Psalm 118:22 and 1 Peter 2:7.
- Miracles performed – See Isaiah 35:1-6; 61:1-2; Matthew 9:35; and Luke 4:16-21. (There are many more miraculous accounts whose references aren’t listed here.)
- Opposition – See Zechariah 13:7; Matthew 26:31, 56; and Mark 14:27, 49-50.
- Betrayal – See Zechariah 11:12-13 and Matthew 27:7-10.
- Silent before His accusers – See Isaiah 53:7 and Matthew 27:12-14.
- Forsaken – See Psalm 22:1 and Matthew 27:46.
- Mocked – See Psalm 22:7 and Matthew 27:31.
- Pierced – See Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10; and John 19:34.
- Clothing divided among His executioners – See Psalm 22:18 and Matthew 27:35.
- Died with thieves – See Isaiah 53:12; Matthew 27:38; and Luke 23:33.
- Offered sour wine – See Psalm 69:21 and Matthew 27:34.
- Buried in a rich man’s tomb – See Isaiah 53:9 and Matthew 27:57-60.
- Rose from the dead (which, by the way, was testified to by many eye witnesses) – See Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 53:10-12; Mark 16:6; and Acts 2:31.
Jesus Himself was prophetic in much of what is recorded in the books of the Gospel. To me, one of the most compelling prophecies made by Jesus is in how the world would treat His disciples. Consider the following words spoken by Jesus.
“You will be hated by everyone because of My name. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.” -Matthew 10:22
“If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.” -John 15:18-21
Persecution of and hatred towards Christians happens because we belong to Him. Consider the lives of innocent children beheaded by ISIS simply because their parents refused to deny Jesus. Think about folks who are denied jobs or promotions or who lose their jobs for taking a stand for Christ. Think about business owners and public officials who have been maligned and mistreated because of their faith.
If that isn’t prophecy fulfilled then I don’t know what is.
Bible critics are quick to say that fulfilled prophecy is actually just a case of the prophecy being written after the event had already happened. This isn’t founded in fact, but rather is based on their unwillingness to consider the truth because of their anti-supernatural bias.
Prophecy is real because God is real and speaks to His people. How sad that some are so stubborn, blinded, and deceived that they can’t accept what God says about His Word:
“I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done.”
How Do You Know The Bible Is Actually True? – Wrap-Up
My motive in writing this series was to help believers answer the tough questions of those who don’t believe and to hopefully reach those who doubt with the truth.
But a side benefit in my life has been a strengthening of my faith.
After all the work I’ve done on this post alone, you will never be able to convince me that the Bible isn’t 100% true!
In next week’s post we’ll look at the scientific accuracy of the Bible as well as common criticisms against God’s Word.
I want to finish out with this point: It’s okay to ask questions, and this is especially true about the Bible. As mentioned above, God’s Word has been held up to more scrutiny than any other book in the history of the world. And guess what? It remains standing!!!
For those reading this post who legitimately want to study and find the truth, I highly encourage you to do the following:
- Study archaeological findings alongside the Bible.
- Compare the Bible with scientific fact, careful not to mix in scientific theory.
- Study how fulfilled Biblical prophecies line up with the Bible itself and also with history.
- See if there are plausible explanations to supposed contradictions in the Bible.
- Most importantly, try it out. Though the Christian lifestyle is very much one of faith, our Creator God is gracious and loving and willing to meet you where you are.
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.
RESOURCES TO CHECK OUT:
(Note: Inclusion of these resources in no way means that I concur with their theological beliefs. They are simply included here for others to peruse in their search for truth.)
- The Institute for Creation Research (website)
- Reasons To Believe (directed to those who are analytical, logical, and scientific; website)
- Christian Answers (website)
- Answers in Genesis (website)
- Got Questions? (website)
- Tough Questions Answered (website)
- Evidences of the Bible (website)
- Associates for Biblical Research (website)
- Biblical Archaeology Society (website)
- GodandScience.org (website)
- Archaeology Proves Bible History Accurate (article)
- How Do We Know The Bible Is True? (blog series from Focus on the Family)
- Scientific Accuracy (article)
- Biblical Archaeology: Factual Evidence to Support the Historicity of the Bible (article)
- The Canonization of Scripture (article)