The Bible is the basis of Christianity. In the Revival Centres we believe that it is the inspired word of God. But modernism suggests:
• That it has changed over the years
• The events it relates are only stories
• It is vague and not scientific
• You cannot personally prove it to be true.
We will examine these assumptions and to see whether the Bible is just another book or a sound, historically accurate text.
Has the Bible changed with the passing of time?
By using a scientific approach of finding the oldest texts we can compare them to the current English translation of the Bible.
Some of the oldest texts of the Bible were found in 1947 near the Dead Sea in Palestine. Hence, they were called the Dead Sea Scrolls. Further scrolls were recovered from five principal sites in the area up to the 1960s. The scrolls were written by a Jewish sect called the Essenes that flourished in Qumran from the mid-second century BC to AD 68. The majority of the scrolls were written during the first centuries BC and AD. Determining the age of the scrolls was simplified by the discovery of a number of coins and other dated artifacts hidden within the scrolls.
The scrolls contained passages from every book of the Old Testament except Esther. In some cases there were only small passages but in others large tracts were written. For example, in the Psalms scrolls, Psalms 100 to 150 are complete.
A comparison of the various sections from the Dead Sea Scrolls with our current Bible shows agreement.
What of the New Testament? There are many letters and fragments that either are direct sections from the Bible, or are commentaries or letters relating directly to the New Testament gospels or letters. For example, a papyrus manuscript known as Papyrus 28, dated to the second or third century, has a section of John’s gospel chapter 6 and verse 8-12. It is an accurate rendition of what we have today. It is possible to demonstrate that the text of the Bible has not changed over the last twenty centuries even though it has been translated into many languages.
Is the Bible fact or myth?
There are many stories in the Bible that could be examined for historical correctness. One of the earliest is that of Noah and the Ark. As we know, Noah supposedly built a large boat and transported through a flood his family and a number of animals (not two of every kind as tradition states, with some animals the Bible says there were seven). Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth. An Isrealite stamp seal has been found near Megiddo that dates from around the eighth century BC and is inscribed with the statement ‘BELONGING TO SHEM’. So it appears that Shem existed and so, presumably, did his father, Noah.
Another famous story is that of Jericho. In the Bible narrative Joshua and the people of Israel attacked Jericho. They marched once around the city outside the walls each day for six days and then, after walking around it seven times on the seventh day, they shouted, sounded trumpets and the walls fell down. They then entered the city and burnt it.
Kathleen Kenyon (Digging Up Jericho, London, 1957, pp. 175-176) excavated the site extensively and stated: “Over most of the area … excavated on the west side of the mound, the thick layer of burning above the Middle Bronze Age buildings is the highest surviving layer … There is complete agreement between the archaeological finds and the scriptural record.” Also, in this book it states that there were very few metal implements found, which was a surprise. In most archeological digs a number of metal tools can be found particularly if there was a fire as stated in the Bible and shown in the excavations. However, in Joshua 6:24 it states that “… they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord”. Hence the Bible gives the answer to this conundrum, the metal objects were collected beforehand.
Hence, not only did Jericho exist but it also was burnt with fire at the correct time of the Bible narrative and the added fact that the metal implements were removed was also evident.
Even a relatively insignificant story can be validated! Arad was a Canaanite City and was most prosperous from 3150 to 2200 B.C.. Moses, when he was leading the Israelites from Egypt came to Arad and was attacked by the king. Later, Joshua came back and attacked Arad and overcame it (Joshua 12:6-9). The Israelites built a fortified city on the hill overlooking Arad.
Recently a large number of Israelitish religious artifacts have been discovered in the ruins of this fortified area. These religious artifacts were buried when King Hezekiah of Judah decided to centralise all worship back to Jerusalem and ordered the people in other cities to destroy their synagogues. Instead, the people of Arad — who loved to worship God — buried theirs; thus it is in relatively good condition — the best restored one of that time period. The reason King Hezekiah did this was because there was much idol worship occurring in Israel during that time (2 Chronicles 32:12).
Hence Arad existed, the people of Israel attacked it and overcame it at the correct time (presumably when they were led by Joshua), the subsequent fortified city existed, the story of Hezekiah and the destruction of the local synagogues is also true.
There are many such stories that can be validated through archeological findings that verify the Bible stories. These stories are not mere fables but are accurate accounts of what happened.
Is the Bible vague or scientific?
It is only a few years ago that our civilization did not have many of the answers that we now have.
For example, in the book The Family Physician by Cassell, Petter, Salpin & Cox (1872) it states that disease is spread by bad vapours, that the best time to wash yours hands is after eating or even after an operation, and that animals that died from some unknown cause are fine to eat. The book of Leviticus, which was written some 4000 years ago, declares that any vessel where a dead animal falls shall be “unclean” and any earthen vessel will be broken (Leviticus 11:32-33).
If a house has mildew and fungal growth we now know that there are spores which can infest the lungs of the occupants causing illness. The Bible states that a building that had such an infestation, or a piece of clothing that was mildewed, was to be treated in a certain way. First, the building was to be closed and then checked a week later and eventually destroyed with fire if the condition remained (Leviticus 14:35-56). In the absence of fungicides, this would be a wise decision.
A suppurating sore we know, through an understanding of bacteria, can be the result of an infection and must be treated carefully. The nature of the sore is important in the diagnosis because it could be anything from a pimple to a major disease such as leprosy. In Leviticus 15, the Bible goes into great detail about how to treat the person, their clothing, and their possessions, which are accurate by modern standards.
For many years there was much argument about whether the world was flat or spherical. Only relatively recently was this settled and in the last few decades there are pictures to prove it!
Isaiah the prophet wrote: “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers” (Isaiah 40:22). Many people in past times believed that the world was held up by giant elephants or gods, yet the Bible states: “He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing” (Job 26:7).
Astronauts have observed that the earth is a relatively small sphere resting on nothing. From space they recognised how insignificant man really is in the universal scheme of things (the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers).
To say the Bible is unscientific is to be uninformed. The Bible makes many statements that are amazingly accurate considering the time it was written and the frame of reference of the writers. From 2000BC to 1000BC the world was viewed as being relatively small and flat. The best physicians believed that pork fat would stop leprosy, that rats and flies were good omens and brought good luck if they died in your drinking water. It was commonly believed that boring a hole through the skull stopped headaches. To help ‘cure’ any disease they bled the patient either with leeches or by cutting, and this practice was carried out from 2000BC to 1850AD.
Biblical methods are in line with current thinking when antibiotics are not available. Not bad, when you consider that the ‘health’ sections were written approximately 4000 years ago!
Can you prove the Bible?
We all have read the horoscopes where they say that today you will have both good and bad fortune and to take care — most days are like that. Other ‘prophecy’ books need a giant twist of the mind to apply them to any event. As a result many believe that the Bible is vague and indirect.
However, there are many specific cases in the Bible where an event was predicted and often exactly when it would occur. One example concerns the city of Tyre.
In 600BC Tyre was the centre of the trading routes in the area. It was situated north of modern Israel and in Phoenicia (Lebanon) on the coast. From 1000BC the Phoenicians had a sea link from Britain through to Africa. They were the first recorded people to use the stars for location of position and navigation. In fact, they ‘patented’ the process and others who used it had to pay the Phoenicians a fee. They had a god named Melkart to whom they regularly sacrificed humans.
God said through one of the prophets “Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against thee, O Tyrus, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea causeth his waves to come up” (Ezekiel 26:3). Ezekiel gave a number of prophecies about Tyre. They are exact and specific:
• Nebuchadnezzar will destroy the city
• There will be many nations against Tyre
• The stones, timber and dust of the city shall be laid in the water
• It will be made like the top of a rock
• It will be a place for the spreading of nets
• It will never be rebuilt.
Soon after this prophecy was made, Nebuchadnezzar and his troops began a siege of Tyre that lasted for 13 years. When they finally battered their way through the walls they found that the city had been deserted. The people had previously collected all the treasure, and travelled by boat to an island about 1 km off the coast. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the city and so the first of the prophecies was carried out.
About two hundred years later, young Alexander the Great led his Macedonian troops into Phoenicia thus fulfilling the second prophecy that many nations will be against Tyre. The islanders had prepared strong defences — a network of underwater walls — so skillfully contrived that the rise and fall of the tide couldn’t choke them with sand. One look at these rugged barriers was enough for Alexander. He saw at once that if he approached by sea, his invasion craft would surely be smashed to bits. So he devised a different and more spectacular plan of attack. He decided to take all the remnants of the buildings of the old city and cast them into the sea to produce a bridge or causeway. That way his army could march into the new town. So all the stones and timber were placed in the sea between the island and the mainland, but there was still a gap in the bridge. So Alexander the Great decided to scrape the dust from the town and use that to finish the causeway.There was just enough and Alexander and his troops invaded the city. The third prophecy was fulfilled.
The original city of Tyre was left completely barren. There were no buildings, no rubble, not even the dust was left. The area was left as a bare rock. Thus the fourth prophecy was fulfilled.
Today, and for more than 2000 years the area that was Tyre has remained desolate. Only fisherman spread their nets to dry on the bald rocks (the fulfillment of the fifth prophecy).
A major requirement to build a town or city is a fresh water supply. The area of Tyre has an abundant water supply from the Ras el Ain Springs. The causeway built by Alexander the Great has now silted up and formed a headland and this has resulted in a perfect, calm harbour. So why would an area that has a perfect location, a quiet harbour, plentiful water and good soil only a short distance from where the city of Tyre stood, remain uninhabited for more than two thousand years? It is because God said that this would happen!
The prophecies were specific and they came true exactly as God foretold.
The Bible really is ‘The Book that Time Forgot’. It is accurate in all respects. It passes scientific scrutiny, it is historically accurate, and it prophesies many events that have occurred precisely as predicted and right on time.
What is more exciting and relevant is that it can be proven personally. God can, and does, give individual proof to anyone who approaches Him and asks. God himself said “… and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).
God promises the Holy Spirit to anyone who asks. “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:38-39). Jesus said “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:13). The Bible states clearly that the proof of receiving the Holy Spirit is that you will speak in a new language (scientific term: Glossalalia) “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God” (Acts 10:44-46).
The Bible is true. The prophecies are correct. The statements are scientific. The promises to the individual are exciting and real! Do what God says and see for yourself.
(This article originally appeared in the Voice of Revival – December 2001.)
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