Authenticity of Scripture: Evidentiary Support
How do we know the Bible is authentic? 2 Corinthians 5:7 tells us faith is involved, but is it blind faith? No, we don’t have to take a blind leap of faith to believe the Bible is the Word of God. In fact, the Bible is the most authentic historical document in existence. There are more evidences confirming the authenticity of scripture than there is to prove Caesar was emperor in Rome, or that Washington crossed the Delaware. Below are a few important external and internal evidences attesting to the authenticity of scripture.
A Divine Revelation is Expected
Reason tells us God would naturally provide such a revelation for His creatures. Man has sinned, is separated from God, and knows no way of returning to Him apart from God giving us a written revelation of Himself. The revelation of God in nature isn’t enough. It reveals He exists (Romans 1:20), but it doesn’t show how we might be reconciled to Him. Without such a written revelation, man is in a helpless and hopeless state (Ephesians 2:11-12). Reason says that if God is a good and loving God, He’d naturally provide such a revelation.
Strong finds this argument in the arrangement for the healing of bruises in plants, for the mending of broken bones in the animal creation and in the provision of remedial agents for the cure of human diseases (Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, page 83). If God provides things like these, which we need, it stands to reason He would provide the most important need – the communication of God to man through written revelation. Though this may not be completely valid in proving the revelation of God, it contributes to that view.
The Miracle of the Bible’s Existence
Arthur W. Pink put it this way, “When we bear in mind that the Bible has been the special object of never ending attack and persecution the wonder of the Bible’s survival is changed into a miracle” (Arthur W. Pink, The Divine Revelation of the Bible: Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology; page 83). For over 2,000 years, mankind’s hatred of the Bible has been persistent, determined and relentless. Every possible effort has been made throughout history to destroy and undermine faith in its inspiration and authority. Innumerable enterprises have been undertaken to consign it to oblivion. Below are a few examples:
- After discovering Christians grounded their faith in scripture, Roman Emperors attempted to destroy the Bible. Diocletian demanded by royal edict, in 303 A.D., that every copy of the Bible be destroyed with fire. He destroyed so many Bibles and killed so many Christians that when they were silent for a time he was convinced he had put an end to both Christianity and the Bible. So much so that he caused a medal to be struck with the inscription, “The Christian religion is destroyed and the worship of the gods restored.” It was only a few years later when Constantine rose to the throne that he declared Christianity a state religion (Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, page 84).
- Voltaire, the noted French infidel, who died in 1778, predicted that within 100 years after his death Christianity and the Bible would be extinct. God must have a great sense of humor. Only twenty five years after his death, the British and Foreign Bible Society was founded, and the very presses Voltaire used to print his atheistic literature were used to print the Bible (Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology; page 85).
“The very fact that the Bible has been so singled out for such relentless persecution causes us to wonder at such a phenomenon” (Arthur W. Pink, The Divine Revelation of the Bible, Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, page 83). Why would the Bible be so singled out above and beyond any other book in history? Is it not because the enemy of our soul knows its power and that it is in fact, an embodiment of divine revelation. There is no other explanation for it being the object of such attacks. It alone has been sought after to be destroyed. The fact that it still exists and copies of it abound reveals the miraculous nature of its existence.
The Influence of the Bible
The Bible has influenced more people than any other book in existence. Its message has changed countless lives. It has changed drunkards and drug addicts into sober responsible citizens, criminals into law abiding citizens (2 Corinthians 5:17), comforts the sad and hurting (Romans 15:4), satisfies the spiritually hungry and thirsty (Matthew 5:6, John 7:37-39), and its promises give hope, courage and strength to those in despair (Romans 15:13, Matthew 5:4). None other has influenced so many great men and women. The testimonies abound of how the Bible and its message has influenced and changed lives. Below are a few:
- William E. Gladstone said, “If I am asked to name the one comfort in sorrow, the sole rule of conduct, the true guide of life, I must point to what in the words of a popular hymn is called “the old, old story” told in an old, old book, which is God’s best and richest gift to mankind.”
- Robert E. Lee, the great southern general said, “The Bible is a book in comparison with which all others, in my eyes, are of minor importance, and which in all my perplexities and distresses has never failed to give me light and strength.”
- Woodrow Wilson said, “The opinion of the Bible bred in me, not only by the teaching of my home when I was a boy, but also by every turn and experience of my life and every step of study is that it is the one supreme source of revelation, the revelation of the meaning of life, the nature of God, and the spiritual nature and needs of man. It is the only guide of life which really leads the spirit in the way of peace and salvation” (Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, page 87).
When I was young I was visiting a church and an evangelist handed out the following poem. It really depicts the influence the Bible has, and how it has touched people’s lives.
Though the cover is worn,
And though places bear traces of tears,
Yet more precious than gold,
Is the Book, worn and old,
That can shatter and scatter my fears.
When I prayerfully look,
In this precious old Book,
Many pleasures and treasures I see,
Many tokens of love,
From the Father above,
Who is nearest and dearest to me.
This old Book is my guide,
Tis a friend on my side,
It lightens and brighten my way,
And each promise I find
soothes and gladdens my mind
As I read it and heed it today.
To this book I will cling,
Of its worth will I sing,
Though great losses and crosses be mine;
For I cannot despair,
Though surrounded by care,
Dr. W. F. Albright, John Hopkins University, said, “There can be no doubt that archeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of Old Testament tradition.” Nelson Glueck, renowned Jewish Archaeologist, said, “No archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference” (Paul E. Little, Know What You Believe, page 25). We do not prove the Bible by archeology. The Holy Spirit confirms within our hearts that the Bible is the Word of God. However, it is encouraging to know and helps to solidify and strengthen our faith that archeology gives validity to the authenticity of scripture. Where there has been doubt, archeology has more often than not confirmed biblical records.
There are ample biblical references that were once doubted which archeology has confirmed as true. The Hittites were once doubted to exist as a people until archeology proved it so. The battle of the kings in Genesis 14 is no longer guarded with suspicion since inscriptions in the valley of the Euphrates shows four kings were real persons. None of the rulers of Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, or Medo-Persia are represented in a manner contrary to history. In apparent conflict, rather than conclude the Bible in error, we must leave it open pending further discoveries since new information has always confirmed scripture rather than disproved it.
The scriptures were sealed and birthed in the miraculous. John ended his account of the life of Christ saying, “Many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). Nicodemus said to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him”(John 3:1-2). It was said of the Apostles, “They went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed” (Mark 16:20).
Throughout both the Old and New Testaments God confirmed His Word through signs and wonders. Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12). What we need is a resurgence of the supernatural confirming “Thus says the Lord.” The writer of Hebrews said, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will (Hebrews 2:3-4)?
The Bible’s Power to Change Lives
The Bible testifies to the power of God to change lives (2 Corinthians 5:17). History also testifies to this, as well as present times. Charles Bradlaugh, at one time one of England’s most outstanding Atheist, challenged a minister to a debate. “The minister said a debate wouldn’t change anyone’s opinion, so I propose that I bring concrete evidence of Christianity, in the form of those whose lives have been redeemed from sin and shame by its influence, and you by Atheism. I will bring one hundred. If you can, bring one hundred also. If you can not bring one hundred then fifty. If you can not bring fifty then bring twenty. If you can not bring twenty, Mr. Bradlaugh, then I will be satisfied if you can bring just one person whose life has been redeemed from sin and shame by the influence of Atheism.” Mr. Bradlaugh withdrew his challenge.
The Unity of Scripture
The unity of scripture is a miracle in itself. The Bible was written over a 1,400-1,600 year time span, it had forty or more different writers (one author – God), and they all varied greatly in their backgrounds. The writers were made up of poets, kings, farmers, fishermen, doctors, philosophers, and statesmen. They not only lived in different times periods but they also lived on three different continents. Yet with all this diversity, they wrote with continuity. They wrote with doctrinal unity, one moral system, one plan of salvation and one major theme – the redemption of mankind. From the fall of man and the loss of paradise in Genesis to paradise being regained in Revelation, the theme is consistent, the redemption of man.
Imagine taking two people today and asking them to write a book. Instead of the diversity we find in scripture, let’s make it easy on them. Let’s pick these two people from the same age bracket, similar backgrounds, race, social status, similar political views and intellectually compatible. Ask them to write on the same topic. You can just imagine that when they finished there would, without a doubt, be varied points of disagreements. On the other hand, in the Bible there is so much diversity and yet it is written with unity and continuity throughout. As such, it could be nothing other than divinely inspired.
This is such an exhaustive topic, we will simply attempt to summarize. There is so much of prophecy in scripture that we see has been fulfilled that it boggles the mind. Most prophecy is so improbable in the natural that only God’s hand in it could bring them to pass. For instance, Israel’s dispersion. They were given the promise land and because of their disobedience they were scattered to the nations. There was no national land for the Jews until 1948 when they were miraculously given their land back and began returning to Israel (this also reveals our nearing the end, see Matthew 24:32-33). If we think about it, how could this have taken place outside of divine intervention.
Consider the prophecies concerning Jesus. There were over 300 prophecies concerning Jesus’ first coming. There were twenty nine prophecies fulfilled about Him in one twenty-four hour period surrounding His death. These prophecies were spoken by different people in five different centuries (1,000 to 500 B.C.). They dealt with the place, time, and manner of His birth and death, people’s reaction (mocking and spitting), piercing of His side, and death. Coincidental? Not likely. Fulfillment of these would have to be deliberate and beyond human control. There may have been some in history who might have fulfilled one or maybe two but not all of them.
In His book, Science Speaks, Peter Stoner applied the science of probability to eight prophecies concerning Jesus and the probability of all 8 prophecies being fulfilled accidentally in the life of one person. That probability is one in ten to the seventeenth power or 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. To try to comprehend a number like that, Stoner used the following illustration:
Cover the entire state of Texas two feet deep in silver dollars. Mark one silver dollar and drop it from an airplane flying somewhere over Texas. Stir the silver dollars thoroughly over the entire state. Then blindfold someone and let them travel anywhere in the state they wanted, stopping only once, at a spot of their choice to dig into the silver dollars and pick out the marked one. The chance of a person being able to pick the marked dollar in one try is the same chance as one man fulfilling only eight Messianic prophecies. Stoner concluded, “The fulfillment of these eight prophecies alone proves that God inspired the writing of those prophecies to a definiteness which lacks only one chance in ten to the seventeenth power of being absolute.” Another good read is Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell.
The Bible was Written by Eyewitnesses
The scriptures were written by eyewitnesses. Luke tells us, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word” (Luke 1:1-2). “To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). John wrote, “What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you” (1 John 1:3). Peter said, “We did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (1 Peter 1:16).
Our entire judicial system is predicated on the premise of eyewitnesses. This gives great credibility to the authenticity of scripture. To think the apostles lied and just made everything up is a stretch beyond belief. Imagine if they had been lying and made a pact with each other saying they would all testify they had seen Jesus alive after His death. They swore to one another that none would back down from their story. Under normal circumstances we possibly could believe this as plausible. However, each apostle died for their witness to the resurrection of Christ, with the exception of John.
History tells us he was boiled in oil alive, then banished to the isle of Patmos for his testimony. One or two of them might hold out to the death but seeing their fellow apostles tortured and killed would have surely caused the others to say, “Forget this.” One of them would have given in if it had been something they made up, but no, they all stuck with their story. Why? Because they had witnessed Jesus alive post resurrection and knew it to be true. It was a message worth dying for. As a result, we can trust what they said to be true.
Character of the Bible
When we write a resume we attempt to highlight and embellish our strengths, emphasize the positive and down play our weaknesses. The Bible does the opposite. It told things the way they actually were, never shading the truth to cover up for the sins and imperfections of it’s most prominent characters. It tells of all the violent acts, David’s sin with Bathsheba, Moses killing an Egyptian, Peter’s denial of Jesus, Paul and Barnabas’ dissension and so on. If a movie were produced of the Bible much of it would be an R rating at the very least.
Claims of the Bible
Since the Bible was attested to by many external evidences, is truthful in its character, and written by eyewitnesses, we can trust what it says about itself. The Bible claims to be the very Word of God, the embodiment of divine revelation. In the Old Testament we see statements similar to this throughout, “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying” (Exodus 14:1, Exodus 14:15, Exodus 14:26, Exodus 16:4, Exodus 25:1, Leviticus 1:1, Leviticus 4:1, Leviticus 11:1, Numbers 4:1, Numbers 13:1, Deuteronomy 32:48). Moses was commanded to write what God told him in a book (Exodus 17:14, Exodus 34:27) and we are told he did (Exodus 24:4, Exodus 34:28, Numbers 33:2, Deuteronomy 31:9, Deuteronomy 31:22, Deuteronomy 31:24).
The Prophets speak thus, “The Lord hath spoken” (Isaiah 1:2), “Then said the Lord unto Isaiah” (Isaiah 7:3), “Thus saith the Lord” (Isaiah 43:1), “The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord saying” (Jeremiah 11:1), “The word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel” (Ezekiel 1:3), “The word of the Lord that came unto Hosea” (Hosea 1:1), “The word of the Lord that came to Joel” (Joel 1:1). Statements like these occur approximately 3,800 times in the Old Testament. Thus, the Old Testament claims to be the very Word of God.
The New Testament also claims to be the Word of God. It claims to have been “confirmed unto us by them that heard him” (Hebrews 2:3). “If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment” (1 Corinthians 14:37). “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). We have in scripture an embodiment of divine revelation, the very Word of God. Also read Galatians 1:8, 2 Timothy 3:16, 1 John 5:9-10, 2 Peter 1:20-21, 2 Peter 3:2, 2 Peter 3:15-16.