Giving an Answer – Part 12
Can We Trust The Bible?
1 Peter 3:15
1 Peter Lesson #094
June 8, 2017
“Father, we’re grateful that we can come together today, that we can gather in freedom, and that we still have this freedom in this nation to teach Your Word and to proclaim the truth of the gospel.
Father, we pray that You would restrain those who seek to destroy this freedom, that You would also work to raise up young men to desire to teach Your Word, to be pastors, young men and women to be missionaries, to serve You with their lives in taking the gospel either within this nation or abroad.
Father, we have to have a passion for the Word. This is what laid the foundation for this nation. And without that passion for the Word, there will be no transformation of the culture. There will be no individual transformation as we renew our mind unless there is a passion to grow spiritually, a passion to put Your Word above everything else and to come to understand that apart from spiritual growth and spiritual maturity, though we may accomplish a lot in life, we may have a lot in life, that which we take with us at death is that which is produced by the Holy Spirit in our spiritual life—and that will last for eternity.
Father, we pray that You would give us an eternal focus, living today in light of eternity. And we pray that tonight as we continue to study about how to give an answer for the hope that is in us, that You would help us to concentrate and come to understand these things and commit them to our memory and our thinking so that we can be ready, prepared to use them when the opportunity presents itself. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We are still in 1 Peter, in case anybody wonders. But we are continuing to study the implications and applications of 1 Peter 3:15, where we are challenged to always be ready, prepared, to give an answer for the hope that is in us.
I have spent 11 hours in this subseries talking about apologetics. A lot of what we talked about in apologetics has to do with strategy. Strategy is important, as we saw last week as we analyzed God’s Not Dead 1, because strategy is method—it’s how you do what you do.
If you believe that a right thing done in a wrong way is wrong, then you have to understand that there are right ways and wrong ways to give the gospel, right ways and wrong ways to give an answer. So that’s why it’s important to study these different approaches and what the underlying methodology, the underlying strategy, is.
I keep saying this, none of us do this perfectly; we all are in a growth mode. But to the best of our ability we need to understand these strategies and tactics. But we also need to know the weapons.
What I’m going to look at for the next three or four lessons is trying to capture for us the evidence. Because even though one of the strategies is labeled “the evidentialist approach,” that doesn’t mean that the other—with the exception of the fideist approach—doesn’t believe in evidence.
I pointed out, as we did our biblical study going from Genesis into Acts, that again and again God demonstrates through objective evidence what His work is. He doesn’t expect human beings to vacate their mind and just put their mind in neutral and not think. Belief is not putting your brain in neutral and believing that which is impossible. There have been some people and some theologians—liberal theologians—who have defined faith that way. That faith is believing that which is impossible or that which is irrational; and that’s not what faith is it all.
Faith is fundamental to every form of knowledge. That’s why I’ve, over and over again, gone through the fact that in rationalism faith is ultimately in man’s ability to think clearly and to arrive at answers clearly, apart from revelation, and apart from input from God. Empiricism says that man, on his own, independent from any input from God, revelation, that man is able to arrive at ultimate answers on empiricism alone. But there’s a need for revelation. It’s not that thinking is not necessary. It’s that thinking needs to start with the right presuppositions, which is a Creator God Who is completely distinct from His creation and that He has revealed Himself to us.
Now that we have gone through that, I want to look at the basic questions that we often are asked. We should be prepared to at least have a thumbnail answer, something in our mind where we can tick off, in our thinking, four or five things that we could relate to in explaining the gospel to somebody. If somebody says, “Why do you trust the Bible?” A lot of us, when that happens, are put on the spot. It’s like that final exam, and we just freeze. Our mind just sort of seizes up, and we go, “I’ve heard this so many times.”
So, here are the three biggies—the three big questions that people ask.
- How can you really believe the Bible?
Now, they’ll usually raise a lot of secondary questions. “Hasn’t it been translated a lot of different times? Hasn’t it been changed down through the centuries?” They have a lot of questions. I’m not going to go into those, because my goal in doing this is to provide this simple thumbnail sketch that we can easily master and then on that build with additional information as we go along.
But these three basic questions are:
- Can we trust the Bible?
- Who was Jesus?
Was Jesus God? That’s a subset question: Was Jesus God? Some people today asked the question, “Who was Jesus?” because they’ve never heard anything about Jesus. People who live in Brazil have probably heard more than some people in some parts of this country.
I’ll never forget. When I was in the seventh grade—and that was more than just a couple of years ago—my seventh grade English teacher was talking. We were reading—I forget who the author was now—a short story called “the Magi.” And she talked about the birth of Jesus, and she told our class that she had one child in that class—a seventh grader—who said, “Who is Jesus? I’ve never heard of Him.” That was probably 50 years ago.
We often assume that because people are in America—we talk about Christmas, we have all these things going on—that people have some rudimentary knowledge, and many, many people don’t today. It’s getting less and less.
So all these questions about, “Who was Jesus? Was Jesus God? How do we know that He is Who He claimed to be?” “How do we know that He wasn’t just a good teacher or wasn’t just a revolutionary,” which was a popular approach to Jesus back in the 60s, “or that Jesus wasn’t just another rabbi offering another approach to Judaism?” So that’s a question we need to answer.
- Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
How do we know that He really rose from the dead? How do we know that it wasn’t a swoon? How do we know that it wasn’t something that the disciples just made up about Him? How do we know? So we should be able to answer those questions.
In many lessons I’ve taken a lot of time to go through these in detail, but what I want to do in these short lessons is not say everything there is to say, or a lot that there is to say, about each of these, but just give us four, five, six things in each one that we can use to organize our thinking.
The first question is, “Can we trust the Bible?” We have to recognize that as we approach this, especially if we’re talking to somebody, we have to explain certain things. We are coming at this—not as if the Bible is some neutral piece of historical data. We can’t approach it as if the information is even treated as neutral.
As we saw in our previous studies, people already know God exists. People already know that God is speaking to them. We’re not trying to prove the Bible is true, but we do want to help them understand and tweak that suppression mechanism. So we’re giving that which validates the Bible.
But we want to make sure, when we talk about the Bible and we talk about God, that they understand Who it is that we’re talking about. Christians believe that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, that it is revealed by God through men to the human race and it is recorded and preserved through the centuries.
We start with that assumption. We need to let people know, “We believe the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, revealed by God to men—for the human race—and it’s been recorded and preserved by God down through the centuries.”
So when we talk about this, the God that we are talking about, the Christian God, or you can say the Judeo-Christian God, is the Creator of all things, including all human beings. And when we think about God creating human beings, God is a communicator.
God has thought and reasoned throughout all of eternity. He wants to communicate to this creature, so He has the ability, because He is omnipotent, to create the proper receptor in the creature. He is able to create human beings, to create their ability to communicate and their ability to understand what He communicates to them.
So the Bible is God’s revelation to man. Now when we ask this question, the Bible claims to be God’s revelation of Himself to man, this is either true or false, right? It is either true or false.
We talk to somebody and say, “What do you think about the Bible?” Here are your options: It is either what it claims to be or it is something else. It is either God’s revelation to man or it’s not. True or false?
If it’s false, then it’s not any better than any other book; it’s just another book filled with human opinions. If it’s false, then it’s a fraud. It claims to be something that it’s not, and it’s deceptive; therefore, it should be rejected completely. Is that the evidentiary value that we have in the history of the Bible? No.
If it’s true, then it’s a unique book. That means one-of-a-kind. I constantly hear people saying that “It’s the only unique thing.” No. Unique means only one-of-a-kind. You don’t qualify it; unique doesn’t take an adverb or an adjective.
So it’s a unique book. It’s the only one of its kind, and therefore it should be valued above all things. That’s where we should come to as believers. When we look at the evidence for ourselves, as believers … I’m not talking about in a witnessing situation. Because a lot of Christian evidences really are to confirm and strengthen our faith.
Every Christian, at some time or another, expresses doubts. How do I know? They hear certain things. Today we get a tremendous amount of peer pressure, messages coming from the culture, messages that we hear in movies or television shows, and so people say, “How do we know that’s true?” Of course, the sin nature has a trend to reject the authority of the Scripture, so that’s always there.
So, for the Christian, the more we’re reminded of the uniqueness of the Bible, the more it should strengthen our commitment that, “I should be focusing on this more than anything else in life. This is God’s message to me. God has given me the instructions for how to live within His creation, how to live within a fallen creation, so that I can survive and live a life that glorifies Him.”
We are going to answer this by looking at these four basic topics. We’ll only get three done tonight, I think.
1. The first is that the Bible is a one-of-a-kind book.
When we say, “How can we trust the Bible?” the first line of reasoning is it’s a unique book. It’s one-of-a-kind; there’s no other book like the Bible.
2. Second, think about what the Bible claims for itself. No other book claims quite the same thing for itself as the Bible. Now, there are other books that claim to be from God and revelation from God, but not in quite the same way that the Bible does.
And then we look at two things.
3. The testimony of archaeology.
4. And the testimony of fulfilled prophecy.
What we’ll see when we get there is that they don’t prove the Bible is true, but they help validate the claims that the Bible makes in question number two.
When we approach this we have to be reminded that our starting point is that:
1. The Christian God is the Creator of all things, including human beings, and their ability to communicate and to understand God’s communication to them.
That’s important. The world out there doesn’t think we can hear God, but our presupposition is that God created the human receptor and God can communicate and people can understand.
2. The second presupposition that we have is that the Bible assumes God’s existence and claims that it preserves and expresses God’s communication to humankind. The Bible assumes this existence. All throughout the Bible, the presupposition of every verse, every statement, is this comes from God and is directed to man.
3. The third presupposition is that, as such, the Bible is internally consistent with its claims to be the revelation from God and no evidence has ever surfaced which contradicts that claim.
There’s never been any evidence that disproves anything in the Bible. Now there are people who will raise certain things. They will say, “Well, there’s a contradiction here; this verse doesn’t make sense in light of that verse.” They will say, “Well, we never heard of these people before, so they must not have existed; therefore, the Bible is wrong.”
Down through the ages, the problem with all of those objections is that they are based on not having enough evidence, enough understanding. So, either through archaeology or through the discovery of word studies, word meanings, putting together passages, we discover that there are not contradictions, that there aren’t problems. So the Bible has never been demonstrated by anybody to have these flaws that they claim it to have.
What we recognize is that when we look at the Bible, it is a unique Book, a one-of-a-kind Book. As we look at this, there are eight things. Some of these you can string together in one statement, but I’ve broken them down a little bit. But it’s helpful to remember this.
Now you’ve heard me say a lot of this several times, but I’m breaking it down so that we get it. What makes it unique?
Well, the first thing that makes it unique is that it was written over a period of 1,600 years, possibly longer. 1,600 years would start with Moses and go through Revelation—the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John—the last Book of the New Testament written about AD 95.
Job was written, I believe, before Moses wrote the Pentateuch. In fact, Job could have been written as early as 1900 BC, so this may cover a broader period of time, But for the sake of a summary, the Bible is written over a period of 1,600 years.
Second, it was written by over 40 authors who came from a wide variety of backgrounds and education.
So you have these books that are written over 1,600 years by over 40 different authors.
- Moses was trained from birth to be the Pharaoh of Egypt, so he had one of the greatest educations—if not the greatest education—available at that time in history.
- Later, one of the most famous kings of Israel is David. King David is usually known to a lot of people because of the story of David killing Goliath. David was a shepherd. As a young man he became a warrior. And he eventually became the king of Israel. He was also a musician and a poet—a very different background from Moses.
- Amos was a herdsman and a fig picker. He’s one of the prophets in the minor prophets.
- Then, when you get into the New Testament, Peter and John were commercial fishermen.
- And Paul was a trained rabbi.
There are many, many others who came from different backgrounds, different educational levels, and yet God wrote the Bible through these men over a period of 1,600 years.
So the Bible is written over a period of 1,600 years, perhaps longer. It’s written by over 40 different men who came from all walks of life.
3. The Bible is not just one Book; it is 66 Books. The word “Bible” comes from the Latin word biblia, the Greek word BIBLIOS, which means a book. And it’s not just one Book; it is 66 different Books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament.
4. Despite it having 40 different authors and being 66 different Books, the Bible presents one unified theme with no contradictions. No contradictions—even in the sub themes—even though it’s written over such a long period of time on three different continents. Some was written in Africa, some written in Asia, some written in Europe—three different continents—in three different languages—Hebrew, Aramaic (parts of the Old Testament were written in Aramaic), and Greek by over 40 men from widely different backgrounds, stations in life, education, and culture. Moses wrote in the Sinai desert; Daniel and Ezekiel wrote in Babylon. And Daniel wrote as Prime Minister of Babylon. Paul wrote in Greece and Italy as well as in what we now call Turkey, which at that time was Asia Minor.
The Bible has a unified theme. You can’t take 40 people who all believe the same thing. You can’t take 40 graduates of the most consistently conservative seminary and have them write on 10 different themes and have them agree on everything in the Bible.
You couldn’t take a classroom of students at Dallas Seminary in 1960 and have everybody in the class write an exegetical paper on a certain passage and have every one of them agree. But here we have over 40 authors who write on some of the most controversial issues known to man. They write about the origin of the universe. They write about the nature of man in the image of God and then fallen in sin. They write about marriage and family, government, capital punishment, moral absolutes, sexuality, the existence of God, salvation and sin and eternal punishment, and they all agree on all of those topics.
5. Furthermore, the Bible is written in a variety of styles and genres.
By “styles” I mean that Peter has one style, Paul has another style. Ezra had another style. Isaiah writes in his own personal style, and he’s different from Ezekiel. Everybody writes in their own individual personal style. And they wrote in different genres. Some wrote in poetry; some wrote in instructional or didactic material; some is written in epistles; some is written as prophecy, some a parable. So you have all these different types of literature and in different styles, but they all exhibit the same message and are in agreement.
6. It has a unified focus on salvation, that salvation is always by grace through faith. Salvation is anticipated in the Old Testament, and it is looked back on in the New Testament.
The Old Testament anticipated the coming of a Savior; God promised and predicted a Savior Who would pay the penalty for sin and provide eternal salvation. In the New Testament we learn that the promised Savior enters into human history as Jesus of Nazareth, dies on the Cross for all sin, and salvation is by belief that Jesus is the Savior Who died for the sins of the world. It’s a unified message.
So you have 1,600 years. You have over 40 writers who come from different educational backgrounds, who are on different continents, who write in different countries, who have completely different cultural frameworks because of where they are from, and yet they write a consistent message and they all agree on the primary issue, which is God’s plan for salvation.
7. The Bible is unique in its preservation. It’s remarkable!
What you get from liberals and from critics is, “How in the world can the Bible be what it was originally written to be?” We have evidence that we can go to. We’ll talk about some things in archaeology later, but part of archaeology is the discovery of ancient manuscripts. It’s remarkable what we discover about the New Testament.
- Over 5,600 Greek manuscripts have been discovered of the New Testament.
Over 5,600 Greek manuscripts have been preserved, and many of those are dated within 50–150 years of their original writing. According to the Bible, Jesus was crucified around AD 33. And the close of the Canon, the last Book that was written in the New Testament is the Revelation of Jesus to John; that’s written about AD 95.
- The oldest scrap that we have that has been preserved is a papyrus that is dated to 120, and it’s from a section in the Gospel of John.
120—that’s within 35 years, and it was found in Egypt. Now, if you know where the Apostle John was when he wrote John, you know that he was up in what is now Turkey. He was up in Ephesus in Asia. He is a long way from Egypt. So for this fragment to have been found in Egypt means that that was a written, copied, transmitted and found its way in those 35 years down to Egypt where it was kept and preserved.
That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time. In fact, liberals used to say, “Everything in the New Testament was written after 150 or 200, three or four generations later.” I’ve had people raise that question to me. They’ll say, “How do you know? How can we tell?” Well, if we didn’t have any of those 5,600 Greek manuscripts,
- We have over 19,000 translations into other languages—ancient translations into Syriac, Latin, Coptic—that’s ancient Egyptian, and Aramaic.
19,000 translations plus 5,600 Greek manuscripts—that’s over 24,000 ancient documents. Nothing in the ancient world, no manuscript, no writing that has survived to the present has anything close to that. In fact, many of them, at the most, only have 100 copies that are preserved; and many of those copies are 600 to a thousand years after the original writing. I’ll give you some examples in just a minute.
- Then we have over 86,000 quotations by pastors and Bible teachers in sermons, in letters, and in what’s called lectionaries.
Every Sunday morning when they would read a passage of Scripture, they would copy it down onto a piece of papyrus or velum or parchment or something, and then they would read that. That’s the weekly reading of Scripture from the pulpit. That was a lectionary.
So we have 86,000 of those! We have so many quotations from sermons and letters and lectionary that we could almost reconstruct the entire New Testament even if we didn’t have any of the ancient manuscripts.
There’s no room for doubt, there’s no room to say, “Well, we can’t be sure that’s what Paul wrote. We can’t be sure it was written.” Because many of these were written by people like, for example, Clement of Rome, who lived in the second half of the first century. He wrote between AD 70 and 90. This is contemporary with the life of the last apostles.
So we have a vast amount of information in comparison. You can go to a lot of different works, such as Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands a Verdict. You can Google it. You can find huge charts that people have put up indicating when an ancient writing was written and what the oldest extent copy is and how many copies we have of that. For example, Plato lived around 400 B.C. I think he died around 348 BC. The oldest copy we have of Plato is from AD 900. That’s 1,300 years after he wrote it. The oldest New Testament copy we have is 35 years from the time it was written. It’s amazing.
The oldest copy of Plato we have is 1,300 years after he wrote it, and how many copies do you think we have? We have seven. How many copies do we have of the Greek New Testament? 5,600! Over 5,600!
I was doing research on this today. I went back to some old notes; it’s been updated since then. Because the last time I did this, which was about 10, 11, 12 years ago from my notes, it was over 5,200 manuscripts. And then I found an article that was written in 2012 that said it was over 5,600, like 5,680 manuscripts. So I just put over 5,600, because now it’s probably getting close to 6,000.
Julius Caesar died in 44 BC. The oldest copy we have of his Gallic Wars dates from AD 900, which is a thousand years later, and we have 10 copies.
Aristotle died in 322 BC. The oldest copy of Aristotle that we have dates from AD 1100. That’s 1,400 years later. It’s 2017 now; 1,400 years ago was in the 600s; that’s the difference in time. Think about that. Between the time Aristotle wrote and the time of the oldest copy that we have. And we have 49 copies of Aristotle.
So, in terms of the New Testament, there is no doubt in terms of its preservation. In the Old Testament it’s even more remarkable. We’ll talk about the Dead Sea Scrolls a little bit later. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered down in an area called Qumran, where at the time of Christ there was a sect that lived there, a very religious Jewish sect. There is a lot of debate as to who they were. Most people think they were the Essenes. And when it appeared that the Romans were going to overrun Judea, they rolled up all their scrolls and everything, put them into clay pots, and hid them in caves. There they stayed until they were discovered around 1947 to 1948. At the same time that Israel is fighting her war for independence, those scrolls began to surface.
The fascinating thing about them is that at the time they were discovered, the oldest extent manuscripts we had of the Hebrew Old Testament were from about AD 900 to 950. So that’s 900 years after Christ. But with the Dead Sea Scrolls, we found manuscripts that were preserved that had been written or copied 100 to 200 years before Christ.
There is a thousand-year difference between the copies of the Masoretic Text, which is the main text of the Old Testament, and these Qumran documents. What they discovered was that there were very, very few differences. Most of the differences were stylistic—spelling, a word was left out here, a word was left out or added there—but it was almost pristine.
In fact, Miller Burroughs, who was a professor of Old Testament at Yale University and was a scroll expert in the early 50s, originally thought that there were 10 acceptable differences between the Dead Sea Isaiah Scroll and the Masoretic Text where he would prefer the reading of the Dead Sea Scroll over the reading of the Masoretic Text. What’s interesting is 10 years later, after further study, he said he wouldn’t accept any of the differences found in Qumran, that the Masoretic text was a superior reading. So that just shows us that the text didn’t change any; it was remarkably preserved by the scribes down through the centuries. So we can be sure that what we have is what was written.
8. The eighth thing that makes the Bible unique is that it doesn’t present its characters as flawless humans, as great heroes who don’t make mistakes. They are described with all of their sins and all of their flaws.
Noah’s sin of drunkenness is fully described. The sins and failures of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are blatantly obvious. The descriptions of the spirituality of the Jews, their idolatry, their child sacrifice, their rebellion against God through generation after generation is described in horrible detail throughout the Old Testament.
David, the great hero of Israel and great king and forerunner of the Messianic King, committed adultery with Bathsheba, conspired to have her husband killed when it was discovered that she was pregnant. And then he covered it up, covered up the whole thing, but God exposed it.
The Gospels make clear that the disciples, the men that Jesus gathered around Him, had many failures and flaws and were dense in terms of understanding spiritual truth and had many failures. Also, the horrible spiritual lives of Christians in the early church are described. The Bible doesn’t cover it up; it is openly and transparently honest.
Such that we can conclude with Lewis Sperry Chafer, who founded Dallas Theological Seminary, “The Bible is not such a book as man would write if he could, or could write if he would.”
Sometimes when you’re talking to people, they say, “Well, I just don’t agree with the Bible.” “Really? Where? Can you point it out to me? Have you read the Bible all the way through?” Every now and then you may catch somebody who’s said, “Yeah, I’ve read it all the way through,” and then you may think, “What am I going to say now?” What you say now is, “Did you understand it?”
There was a man who helped form this church—two men. One of them was a client of the other one and went to him one day to talk about finances, and the man he was going to for advice noticed that he had a Bible in his briefcase. And he said, “What are you doing with that Bible?” He said, “My mother wants me to read it, so I’m reading it.”
“Do you understand it?”
“Here, take a couple these booklets and read them and see what you think.”
A year went by and he came in again. He said, “You still reading your Bible?”
He said, “Yeah.” He said, “I read those books you gave me, I started going to that church, and I’ve learned a lot about the Bible. I had no idea what the Bible was teaching.” Of course, eventually both of those men were foundational to starting West Houston Bible Church. It’s just asking questions. Don’t try to give them all the answers; just ask the questions and see where it goes.
We’ve looked at the first issue.
1. The Bible is a one-of-a-kind book. No other book is like the Bible.
That’s where we start. “Why do you believe the Bible is true?”
Well, it is a fascinating Book. There’s no other book like it. When you compare it to the religious books—the Bhagavad-Gita, the Book of Mormon, the Quran, other religious books—they’re written at one time. Most of them are written by one person.
Joseph Smith allegedly translates the Book of Mormon, but all at one time. Mohammed allegedly translates the Quran, but it’s all given at one time. In fact, he never wrote anything down. It didn’t get written down until after he died; his people remembered what he had said. But it’s all one person.
But in the Bible you have 1,600 years, 40 different writers all in agreement with one another. It is unique, one-of-a-kind.
But what does the Bible claim about itself? Now let’s look at what the Bible says. That doesn’t mean that this is a circular argument. The Bible says it’s the Word of God; therefore it must be the Word of God because the Bible says it’s the Word of God. If a book is going to claim to be the Word of God, then it’s going to bear internal witness, consistency within itself. I’ve already talked about that.
But it’s also going to be able to be validated by external evidence. That doesn’t mean the external evidence proves the Bible—it corroborates it. For example, if you read the Book of Mormon, it talks about numerous geographical locations, but you can’t find those geographical locations anywhere on the planet. It claims that certain things happened at certain places, but you can go to those places and you can dig till you get to the center of the earth and you’ll never find anything that even remotely resembles what was claimed to have happened there.
In contrast, with the Bible, you can go to Jericho. And you can dig down and you can see the walls and you can see the layers and the stratification of the different cities that were built there. And you can see the burn layer, which occurred at the time of Joshua. Some of you have been with me to see that.
You can go to Shiloh where you can see the area where the tabernacle would have been set up. It’s interesting because it’s the only flat area around, and it’s just a little bit larger than the dimensions of the tabernacle. So when that area was excavated, they found all sorts of artifacts related to the tabernacle.
You can, of course, go to the center of Jerusalem, Old City of Jerusalem, and what do you discover there? You discover the Temple Mount. By the way, if you haven’t realized it, this week is the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. This is the week that is the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War. And it’s been great this week; AIPAC has had a special series that people could listen to—interviews with historians and foreign policy experts.
Today they had an hour interview that I listened to; it was with one of the soldiers who was the second Israeli to go onto the Temple Mount and who was initially told to raise an Israeli flag over the Temple Mount, over the Dome of the Rock. About 10 minutes later, Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan showed up and said, “Take it down. We’re not going to cause that much disruption.” Then he eventually turned the Temple Mount back over to—even though Israel controls it, it is under the immediate administration of the Arab administrative group called the Wakf.
But you can go there, and there are excavations that have taken place there and around the Temple Mount that come up with evidence. You can see the Old City of David. So all of this substantiates, it corroborates. It’s not proving, but it corroborates.
So what is a Bible say about itself?
1. The Bible claims to be the objective communication of God to man in a way that no other book does: over 900 times it claims to communicate God’s specific words. It uses phrases like: “God said” 46 times; “God spoke” 12 times; “the Lord said” 233 times; “the Lord spoke” 133 times; “says the Lord” or “thus says the Lord” over 500 times. Over 900 times it specifically claims that it is recording precisely the very words of God.
You have some passages, like Exodus 34:10, which says, “Then God said.” Isaiah 1:18, “ ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, …” In the New Testament, in Hebrews 1:1 and 1:2, we read “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers …” Then in verse two, “in these last days has spoken …” The claim of the Bible is that God has spoken directly to man in an objective way, not some sort of internal, subjective, “I just feel like God is telling me to do something.” But at times, if you were there with a digital recorder, like on Mount Sinai, you could have recorded the very voice of God.
I’ve got six things here showing what the Bible claims about itself.
1. The first is that it claims to be the objective communication of God to man.
2. The Bible claims to be a unique, inspired revelation from God.
Uniquely inspired. Verses like 2 Timothy 3:16. All Scripture is inspired by God. Literally, in the Greek, it says it’s breathed out by God. God exhales it and it goes into the minds of the writers of Scripture.
2 Peter 1:20–21 says that “… no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.” What that means is they are not coming up with it on their own. The prophets did not originate the message; the last phrase—they were moved by the Holy Spirit as they spoke from God.
Zechariah 7:12 is another fascinating verse. “And they made their hearts like flint [that’s talking about the Jews who have hardened their hearts toward God] so that they could not hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets.” Clear mention of two Persons of the Trinity there: the Lord of hosts Who sent by His Spirit through the prophets. That is what Peter is talking about, that these prophets were moved by God the Holy Spirit. So the Bible claims to be the objective revelation of God. It claims to be breathed out, or inspired, by God.
That inspiration extends down to the minute details of Scripture. It’s not just the ideas. Because ideas are shaped by words; you change the words, you change the message. So it extends down to the very words, the grammar, and the details of the words.
Matthew 5:18, Jesus says, “… until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter [that’s a yod in the Hebrew which looks like an apostrophe] or stroke.” That’s called a tittle in the old King James, and that’s just a part of a word. For example, look at the Y here at the end of “truly”; if you took that little piece, that little tail hanging down, that would be a tittle. If you took that away, then you would be left with the “v”. So that little part of the letter is important. Even to that detail the Word of God is inspired.
Matthew 22:31, Jesus said, “But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God …” He is saying the Old Testament was spoken by God!
In verse 32 He refers to what was said in the Old Testament, where God spoke and said, “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” God didn’t say, though Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had been dead for almost 2,000 years, “I was their God.” The “am,” the present tense, indicates continued existence—that they’re still alive. He’s using this to show that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.
Then in Galatians 3:16, Paul says, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham [in the Old Testament] and to his seed [a word that refers to descendants]. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ ” [plural, but to “seed,” the singular, meaning “one,” that is, Christ]. It’s the singular of the noun that is important, Paul is saying, and that points us to Jesus.
1. The Bible claims to be the objective communication of God to man.
2. The Bible claims to be the uniquely inspired revelation of God to man.
3. That inspiration extends down to the minutiae, the minute details, of the grammar and the words.
4. Thus, the Bible makes a claim to be absolute truth. It’s not merely empirical truth from human observation; it’s not rational truth developed by the human mind; but it is a truth that is revealed from God that is the standard by which all other truth is evaluated.
Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” God is able to bring about that which He has declared.
In John 17:17 Jesus, praying to God, said, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” There He is saying that God’s Word is absolute truth.
5. As absolute Truth the Bible has eternal value. You can look at numerous passages on this. For example, Isaiah 40:8 says that the Word of God stands forever. In Matthew 24:35 Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away.” They have an eternal value. In Matthew 5:17 Jesus said, “I did not come to abolish [the Law and the Prophets], but to fulfill [them].”
6. As Absolute Truth, Scripture is the source of our guidance and direction.
When we look at these passages, what we see is that the Word of God is objectively revealed to us, that it is God Who inspires, or breathes out, through the writers of Scripture. These are remarkable claims. This isn’t from man. It is from God! And the inspiration extends down to the minutest details.
As we look at this claim of the Bible to be Absolute Truth, we ought to see it confirmed in real life—in history, in the artifacts that we find.
We have the testimony of archaeology.
Remember that archaeology doesn’t prove or disprove anything. Archaeology simply tells us what is buried in the earth, what has been found, what has been discovered that’s been left over, the remains of previous peoples and previous civilizations. But it can either corroborate or it can discredit certain claims, so we have to look at this.
Now this is one of the great quotes from Nelson Glueck, an American scholar. He was the president of the Hebrew University, and he was an American rabbi and archaeologist. He lived from 1900 to 1971, and he was responsible for many archaeological discoveries in Israel. He was not a conservative. He was not a Bible believer. In fact, he made many statements where he didn’t think that faith was based on history, faith was based on evidence; he separated faith from fact, faith from history, and faith from science.
He said, “All that I have ever said is that in all of my archaeological investigation I have never found one artifact of antiquity that contradicts any statement of the Word of God.” That is a profound statement. This is not a conservative fundamentalist who is speaking. And this kind of statement can be found time and time again from archaeologists who work in the ancient world.
We can’t prove the Bible in the sense of proving something in the laboratory. But if the Bible makes certain claims and certain statements that are grounded in history and geography, that can be validated through archaeological discovery.
This follows a principal in Scripture that Jesus stated in John 3:12. He said, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” In other words, “If I talk to you about the things that you can validate through empiricism and rationalism and you don’t believe that, you’ll never believe Me when I talk about the things you can’t see, the things that must be taken by faith on the basis of revelation.”
So Jesus makes it clear that when we look at the Scripture and we look at archaeology, we’re validating some of the things that can be validated through empiricism. But it doesn’t prove that which it points to, which is the eternal spiritual truth.
Archaeology is not an exact science; it’s an inexact science. It is limited in what it can prove. It can simply show the remains of what was there. So if there’s no remains of something, it doesn’t mean it didn’t exist; it just means there’s no remains left of something that happened.
People try to find Jesus’ grave. Well, Jesus rose from the grave. That means you’re not going to find His body in a grave; it’s not there. That doesn’t mean He didn’t rise from the dead; it validates the fact that He rose from the dead.
I want to mention five archaeological discoveries that have undercut liberal assaults against the Bible. The background to this is that in the early 19th century there were two liberal German scholars, Julius Wellhausen and Karl Heinrich Graf. Usually this is referred to as the Wellhausen theory or the Graf-Wellhausen theory. And they set forth the theory that was called the documentary hypothesis.
They said, “Moses could not have possibly written the Pentateuch, the Torah. It had to have been written much, much, much later.” Because, see, they are evolutionists. They were liberal German theologians.
But see, that’s a redundancy, because all German theologians—just about—in the 19th century were liberal. That means they didn’t believe the Bible was what it claimed to be. “It can’t possibly be what it claimed to be; therefore, it had to have been written some other way.”
One of the things that they put forth, because there hadn’t been a lot of archaeological discoveries at that point, was, “Moses couldn’t have written the Pentateuch because nobody at that time could write. They were pretty primitive.” And that was long before many, many discoveries.
I remember being taught that as fact by someone who ended up being one of my favorite history professors in college; I was taught that in 1970. I went back and had an encounter with that professor almost 20 years later. We had a lively discussion about all of the fraudulent reasons supporting the documentary hypothesis, and he refused to believe any of them. He was still teaching it as truth.
Some of you know Paul Shockley, who is a pastor in the Houston area. He used to be at Pine Valley, an assistant pastor over there. Paul had the same professor in the early 90s and said he was still teaching the documentary hypothesis as fact. Just because you have the facts doesn’t mean anybody is going to believe you, because they are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness.
In the late 20th century you had three great discoveries. Mari here on the Euphrates River just about 10 miles inside Syria from Iraq. You had Nuzi, over here in Iraq. And then you had Ebla, which was discovered in 1975. I started seminary in 1976, and everybody was talking about this. Old Testament introduction class—in every class they made some reference to what had just been discovered at Ebla.
These locations demonstrated that at the time of Moses writing was quite old. Mari, which was discovered in 1933, dated 2500 BC, a thousand years before Moses. And they had a sophisticated writing. They had numerous cuneiform artifacts that were discovered.
Nuzi was on the Tigris. It dated from about the same time as Moses, and there was writing discovered there.
But the huge find was at Ebla in northwest Syria. They discover tens of thousands—a huge, enormous library—and it dated 2500–2600 BC, a thousand years before Moses. So that just put a lie to that whole idea that Moses was so primitive and nobody could write at that point.
Also, after they had discovered that, in the late 19th century there was the Black Stele which contained the Code of Hammurabi that dated to 1700 BC, 300 years before Moses. They said, “At the time of Moses they couldn’t have a sophisticated law code like he wrote.” But here, Hammurabi had a sophisticated law code that was very similar to the Law of Moses and that predated Moses.
There have been many people who doubt the existence of King David. “Oh, that’s just a mythical, legendary figure in Israel’s history.”
But in 1993, up at Tel Dan, they discovered an inscription which refers to the House of David. So there is inscriptional evidence of the existence of the House of David. That just shattered the liberal archaeologists.
At Megiddo. Some of you have been with me to Megiddo, which was one of the chariot cities of Solomon where he had his stables. Yigael Yadin, who was also part of the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls, had excavated there.
He went to Hazor, which was another one of Solomon’s chariot cities. When they discovered where the wall was, he went out. He had an inspiration one day and he said, “I bet their gates are just like the gates at Megiddo.” So he went to where he thought the gates were. And they drew an outline of where the walls for the gates would be, and then he told the men, “Dig here.” They dug down, and he had drawn exactly where the walls were. The diggers were amazed that he had done that.
We’ve discovered the remains of Capernaum, where Jesus lived, where Peter lived.
The second-century synagogue, built on a first-century synagogue, where Jesus would have read the Scripture.
We found the remains of the house where Peter lived. This is believed to be so on the basis of graffiti that was found there that would date back to the early second century. People were already, at that time, making pilgrimages to Israel and to Capernaum, where Jesus had lived, and going to what was known to have been the house of Peter. It was a church. Each of those walls there show how it was enlarged over the years the church was there.
This is an older picture. Those of us who have been in the last 20 years know that there’s now a Roman Catholic Church that is suspended above it, and so you don’t really see that clear of a picture.
We’ve discovered the ossuary, the bone box, which contains the remains of Caiaphas, Joseph Caiaphas, the high priest that condemned Jesus to death. Joseph Caiaphas is buried in that box, the remains of him.
Plus, we found an inscription at Caesarea by the Sea that talks about Pontius Pilate. His name is carved into the rock, so that substantiates his existence, which was doubted by some. “Well, these names are just made up. These people didn’t really exist.”
Then, in 1968, they discovered the remains of a heel bone with a nail through it. This is in the Israel Museum, showing how they crucified people. Often it was thought that the feet were put on top of each other and a nail driven through the two feet.
But it would’ve been something like this on the right, or possibly on the left, where you have the post and the feet are put on each side of the post and then the heel bone is nailed into the post. So this gives us another view of how crucifixion was conducted at that time.
All of this doesn’t prove the Bible is true. It doesn’t say anything about God, or redemption, or justification—anything like that. But what it shows is the historical, geographical references in the Bible are validated through what has been discovered through archaeology, historical writings, and validates our trust in the Scripture.
Next time I want to come back and look at the fourth area, which is the testimony of fulfilled prophecy. We will talk about two things.
- The fulfilled prophecy, apart from prophecy related to Christ.
- Then we will get to the second issue, which is, “Who was Jesus?” Then we will talk about prophecy related to the Messiah.
So that gives you some basic things to talk about: The uniqueness of the Bible, what the Bible claims about itself, and that those claims are validated through archaeology as well as through fulfilled prophecy. This is the evidence. It’s how we use it that’s important.
But we all need to be aware of this evidence. It strengthens the faith of believers. And it also helps unbelievers to understand what really happened. Because many of them just don’t have a clue what the Bible talks about or what these evidences are; they are just repeating something they’ve heard somebody say.
“Father, thank You for the opportunity to study these things this evening. Help us to learn this material, to capture it, summarize it in our own soul, so that as we talk to people about our Lord, Who died for us, that You can use this information as we encourage people with the truth of Scripture, that Your Word is dependable and faithful because it is Your Word. And we pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”