Why You Can Trust the Bible Pt. 2
Last week we began considering external evidence that supports the truth claims of the Bible. Before we jump into part two, here’s some perspective on how to receive people who come to the Scriptures with doubt—honest doubt, not mocking or scoffing.
Whether real or perceived, the church and her leaders suffer from a poor reputation when it comes to dealing with doubt. So as a pastor who has wrestled with this issue before, I want to reflect the posture of Jesus who welcomed “doubting Thomas” in John 20. He said “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
Jesus was not scolding or rebuking Thomas. He was inviting him to consider personal evidence for a resurrection. That encounter—Thomas’ doubt and Jesus’ accommodation—led to one of the greatest confessions of the deity of Christ in the entire New Testament. Thomas declared, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus responded, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” That’s us: those who have not seen. What about us?
The invitation still stands. We’re not going to find a whale carcass washed up on the Mediterranean beach with the words “Jonah was here” carved into the rib cage, and we’re unlikely to find Noah’s Ark on the location of Mount Ararat or the two original stone tablets with the Ten Commandments on them. But we can still address our doubts.
My hope is for people who secretly question the historical accuracy or divine origin of the Bible to find some answers. Rebecca McLaughlin wrote a book for teenagers called Ten Questions Every Teen Should ask and Answer about Christianity. I was thrilled to find Question # five in her list: How can you believe the Bible is true?
She doesn’t scold or shame people for seeking evidence—and neither should we. If we ever find ourselves wanting people to stop asking questions and just take our word as truth, we’re probably in a cult. The truth demands scrutiny and can withstand it. But error demands tolerance and is put-off by questions. No shame or guilt for asking.
Last week we started with personal experience. The Bible has led to the transformation of millions of people—many of them who did not grow up in a Christian home that taught them a biblical worldview or brought them to church.
A second supporting proof of the Bible’s truth is the world-wide impact Christianity has exuded. After all, what led to the abolition of slavery and women’s equality? Who founded hospitals, orphanages, homeless shelters, the first charity organizations, disaster relief, and education for all? That’s right. Christians.
In fact, The first universities we refer to as Ivy League schools (Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Oxford, etc.) began as seminaries for training clergy. If you look up their original seals, they make no effort to hide the foundation of their efforts. The Bible is featured with verses in Latin on nearly every single original Ivy League school seal.
A third supporting proof is the study of Archeology. That is, digging up and analyzing ancient artifacts. Psalm 85 says, the truth shall spring out of the earth. It’s true.
World renown Archeologist Nelson Glueck said: “It may be clearly stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a single biblical reference…I have excavated for thirty years with a Bible in one hand and a trowel in the other, and in matters of historical perspective I have never found the Bible to be in error.”
When archeologists excavated the ancient city of Nineveh in modern Iraq, they found the library of King Ashurbanipal of Assyria who reigned in the 600’s BC. It housed a multitude of clay tablets, seven of them known as the “Creation Epic: Enuma Elish.”
Although the Assyrian Creation narrative has a pagan ring to it and is filled with polytheism (the belief in many gods), it presents creation in six days, with God resting on the seventh. The epic parallels Scripture in that the creation begins with chaos being ordered, light shining into the darkness, then the sun, moon, and stars put in place, and finally the culmination of creation: the making of man. Interesting parallels.
They also found “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” a Babylonian flood story. It features a heroic figure called upon by the gods to build an ark, where his family and all kinds of creatures would be preserved. In the end, he sends out a dove and a raven as a test.
Many critics will claim that the Babylonian writings predate the Bible and that the authors of the Bible borrowed from them. But Archaeologists have unearthed 33 such flood stories from varying cultures, only two that do not parallel the biblical story of Noah in Genesis. Those discoveries cover 6 of the 7 continents. Antartica gets a pass because it’s hard to dig into frozen ice. But there is an Eskimo flood story. I checked.
The Creation stories abound on 6 of the 7 continents too. One secular writer admitted, “Many of these myth stories have surprising similarities even when they’re separated geographically from Asia to North America.” Truth does spring out of the earth!
In an ancient monument found from Ur of the Chaldees, a figure named King Ur-Nammu builds a tower reaching into the heavens. Sound familiar? A clay tablet was excavated that tells how the gods were highly offended and in a single night they destroyed what had been built. The tablet describes how people were scattered abroad and their speech made strange as an act of judgment.
It’s hard to ignore those discoveries and shrug off the Bible as a myth. A skeptic would argue that the author of Genesis took those ancient stories and put a Hebrew spin on them. It’s possible, but it is much more likely that the true story as revealed by God to Moses in Genesis shares a commonality with these ancient legends because they were all rooted in the truth. The Babylonians distorted them to fit their polytheistic religion.
Other history-validating discoveries abound. They found the location of Jericho. The cities walls had collapsed, a massive fire had swept through the city and everything had been abandoned—just like the Bible says (Josh. 6). Jars of scorched rice were discovered that confirmed the city was invaded during harvest time (Josh. 3).
The existence of the Hittites—a group that played a prominent role in the Old Testament history—was doubted by critics until 1906, when excavations uncovered 5 Hittite temples, a fortified citadel, several massive sculptures, and multiple detailed writings.
Skeptic historians doubted there was ever a “united kingdom” of Israel, under one monarch. They claim David and Solomon were village chieftains and ruled over small tribes. They also claim Israel was illiterate and unorganized. However, a discovery and inscription at Tel Dan makes reference, by the enemies of the children of Israel, to the Davidic dynasty and “House of David.” So much for fables.
The Merneptah Stele of Egypt proves the Israelites were a bona fide people group living in Canaan during the reign of Pharaoh Merneptah (son of Ramesses II). But we already knew that from the book of Exodus.
The discovery of Sennacherib’s Prism details the invasion of Jerusalem by the Assyrian King, Sennacherib, around 701 BC—just like the Bible says. In that prism he boasts of conquering 46 fortified cities of Judah and plundering them (Isaiah 36). He talks of “Shutting up Hezekiah in Jerusalem, his royal city, like a caged bird.” But apparently he never conquered the city. Why not? Isaiah 37 tells us why:
Thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria: He shall not come into this city or shoot an arrow there or come before it with a shield or cast up a siege mound against it. By the way that he came, by the same he shall return, and he shall not come into this city, declares the Lord. For I will defend this city to save it, for my own sake and for the sake of my servant David.” And the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and returned home and lived at Nineveh. —Isaiah 37:33–37
The Chaldean historian Berosus writes, “When Sennacherib was returning from his Egyptian war to Jerusalem, he found his army under Rabshakeh his general in danger, for God had sent a pestilential distemper upon his army; and on the very night of the siege, a hundred fourscore and five thousand, with their captains and generals, were destroyed.”
It’s amazing when archeology corroborates the history we find in Scripture. It’s a divine kindness that God throws doubters like us a bone every now and then.
We’ll cover the final external evidence next week. I hope this proved helpful!