What makes the Bible different from other "holy books"? Is it God's inspired word, or the work of clever human beings? Even though millions look to other books and doubt the Bible's relevance, the evidence reveals that the Bible really is different!
Skeptics consider the Bible a collection of myths and legends—yet the evidence points in a different direction!
Is the Bible the inspired word of God? Is there evidence to support this idea? Does the Bible differ in any way from the sacred books of other religions? Is the Bible merely an account of human beings' search for God, or do the Scriptures comprise a unique revelation from God to humanity? How relevant is the Bible to the twenty-first century—and does the Bible provide vital information that is missing from our lives today?
Many educated people assume that science and modern scholarship have thoroughly discredited the Bible and relegated this ancient text to the dustbin of history. Such ideas thrive today because many know little about the Bible and are unaware of discoveries that continue to confirm the historical accuracy of the Scriptures and undermine the arguments of skeptics. Many assume that all religions are equally credible without ever comparing the source books of these religions. As a result, the remarkable uniqueness of the Bible is overlooked and ignored. Before you buy into ideas that the Bible is "just like any other book" you need to examine the evidence for yourself.
The Apostle Paul did not encourage first century Christians to "just believe" in Jesus or merely accept the teachings of Christianity "on faith." Instead, he told his audiences, "Test all things; hold fast what is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The Apostle Peter emphasized the credibility of the Christian message: "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty" (2 Peter 1:16). In a letter to the Hebrews, Paul stressed that religious belief involves evidence, assurance and certainty—not mere blind faith (Hebrews 11:1). In spite of what skeptics may claim, the content of Scripture can be verified by the facts of history and the discoveries of archeology. The Bible also provides answers to the big questions about life that science cannot answer, and it reveals where world events are heading in the years just ahead. You may be surprised at what you can discover when you examine the evidence that the Bible is the inspired word of God.
The Bible claims to be the inspired word of God. The Apostle Paul wrote, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16). The Apostle John stated, "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17, KJV). David wrote in the Psalms, "The entirety of your word is truth" (Psalm 119:160). However, in the last 200 years, the rise of biblical criticism led many scholars to doubt the inspiration of the Scriptures, and to assume that biblical places and people were fictional, not historical. Scholars commonly claimed that there was no evidence outside the Bible to support the existence of biblical people and places. This approach found fertile ground in secular academic circles, and filtered into the media, even though a steady stream of archeological discovery has continued to validate the historical accuracy of the Bible and discredit the claims of biblical skeptics!
As late as 1992, some biblical scholars were confidently asserting, "There are no literary criteria for believing David to be more historical than Joshua, Joshua more historical than Abraham, and Abraham more historical than Adam" (see "House of David Built on Sand," Biblical Archeological Review, July-August 1994, pp.54–55). Yet, just one year later, archeologists digging in upper Galilee discovered an inscription from the ninth century BC describing the "house of David." Jeffrey Sheler, an award-winning journalist who has been a religion writer for U.S. News & World Report, wrote: "The fragmentary reference to David was a historical bombshell. Never before had the familiar name of Judah's ancient warrior king… been found in the records of antiquity outside the pages of the Bible" (Is the Bible True?, Sheler, p. 60).
Critics have also considered the biblical story of David and Goliath a fanciful tale of religious fiction. Yet archeologists digging at Gath (the biblical home of Goliath, mentioned in 1 Samuel 17:4) have recently unearthed a shard of pottery with two names that are remarkably similar to the name Goliath. This is the oldest Philistine inscription ever discovered, and it dates from about 950BC—within 70 years of the biblical narrative—lending historical credence to the scriptural account. Such important discoveries continue to defeat skeptics' arguments!
In similar fashion, some scholars have considered the biblical patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—mythological Hebrew figures who never really existed. Yet the discovery of thousands of cuneiform tablets from the royal archives in the palace of Mari in northern Syria calls such assertions into question. The tablets appear to date from the beginning of the second millennium BC—the approximate time of the patriarchs—and the tablets mention "such names as Abam-ram (Abraham), Jacob-el and Benjamites. Though these do not refer to the biblical people, they at least show that the names were in use" (see When Skeptics Ask, Geisler and Brooks, pp. 186–187).
Scholars skeptical of the Bible have pointed to similarities between the Genesis account of creation and the Babylonian clay tablets that describe the creation of the world by squabbling gods. Those scholars gloss over major differences in the accounts, and suggest that biblical writers borrowed their material from other sources. However, the more than 17,000 clay tablets discovered at Ebla in modern Syria, dating from about 2500BC, show that skeptics' claims are off-base. The Ebla tablets—which predate the Babylonian creation epic by some 600 years—contain "the oldest known creation accounts outside the Bible.… The creation tablet is strikingly close to that of Genesis, speaking of one being who created the heavens, moon, stars and earth. Parallels show that the Bible contains the older, less embellished version… They [the Ebla tablets] destroy the critical belief in the evolution of monotheism from supposed earlier polytheism" (Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Geisler, p. 208).
These remarkable discoveries, when placed alongside dozens of others—like the Merneptah Stela that describes an Egyptian pharaoh from about 1200BC conquering Israel, the Black Obelisk from Nimrud that pictures the Israelite king Jehu bowing before the Assyrian king Shalmaneser II, the inscription near Jerusalem of "Joseph, son of Caiaphas" (Caiaphas was the high priest in Jerusalem at the time of Christ's crucifixion) and the inscribed stone from first century Caesarea that reads "Pontius Pilate, the Prefect of Judea"—all support the conclusion that the Bible writers were recording facts and not fiction (see The Signature of God, Jeffrey, pp. 72–74; Is the Bible True?, Sheler, pp. 110–112).
The manner in which archeology has verified the Bible's historical accuracy has been nothing short of remarkable. Noted archeologist Nelson Glueck has written that "it may be clearly stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a single biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible" (Rivers in the Desert, Glueck, p. 136). Glueck's comments echo the words of another prominent archeologist, William F. Albright, who stated, "There can be no doubt that archeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of Old Testament tradition… The excessive scepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries…has been progressively discredited" (Evidence that Demands a Verdict, McDowell, Vol. 1, p. 65).
Many wonder whether it is reasonable—or even sensible—to put faith and trust in a so-called "word of God" that was written thousands of years ago by multiple authors, then copied by hand from generation to generation. Just how reliable is the Bible? How do we know that mistakes and serious alterations have not occurred? After all, Muslim theologians assert that Jews and Christians have corrupted or misinterpreted the biblical text (see Geisler, pp. 96–99; Newsweek, Feb. 11, 2005, p. 55). On the surface, these seem like logical concerns, but they reflect a widespread lack of understanding of just how carefully the Bible has been preserved over the centuries.
Jesus stated unequivocally about the Scriptures that "one jot or one tittle [the smallest letter or stroke in Hebrew writing] will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" and that "heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away" (Matthew 5:18; 24:35). This is exactly what we would expect if the Bible is the word of God. The Apostle Paul wrote that the Jews were to play a special role in the preservation of the Scriptures: "What advantage then has the Jew… much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God [the Scriptures]" (Romans 3:1–2).
History clearly demonstrates how the Jews have preserved the integrity of the Old Testament. In ancient Israel, scribes were responsible for carefully copying and explaining the Scriptures (see Ezra 7:1–11; Nehemiah 8:1–9). Scribes deeply respected the biblical admonition, "You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you" (Deuteronomy 4:2). Later the Talmudists (100–500AD) followed a minute system of regulations as they transcribed the biblical scrolls. In their effort to transmit an authentic text, no word or letter could be written from memory. Columns of text could only have so many lines. Only black ink could be used. The copyist had to sit in full Jewish attire while at work. Around 500AD, scribes called Masoretes created a standardized text of the Old Testament by adding vowels to words to ensure proper pronunciation. They counted the number of words and letters of every book—and even calculated the middle letter and middle word in each book—to ensure that their copies were accurately transcribed. Old copies and copies with errors were discarded or destroyed (see McDowell, pp. 52–54; Geisler and Brooks, pp. 157–159).
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 demonstrated just how accurately the Jews had been able to preserve the Old Testament text. Before the scrolls were discovered in a cave near the Dead Sea, the oldest copy of the Hebrew text was dated from around 1000AD. The newly discovered scrolls were dated to the first century BC, and contained two nearly complete copies of the book of Isaiah which "proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of the variation consisted of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling" (Geisler and Brooks, pp. 158–159). The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls provided powerful evidence that the text of the Old Testament has not changed in more than 2,000 years!
The reliability of the New Testament is just as certain. As scholars know, "There are earlier and more manuscripts of the New Testament than for any other book from the ancient world" (Geisler, p. 93). These manuscripts reveal that the New Testament "has been transmitted to us with no, or next to no, variation" (McDowell, p. 44). There are more than 24,000 manuscript copies of the New Testament in Greek, Latin and other languages. The earliest New Testament manuscripts date within a few decades of the apostolic writers. By comparison, there are only 643 manuscripts of Homer's Iliad (written around 900BC) and the earliest copy in existence today dates from about 400BC—some 500 years after it was composed. Only 10 to 20 copies of the writings of Julius Caesar, the Roman historian Tacitus and the Greek historian Herodotus exist today—with the oldest copies dating from 1,000 years after the Originals were composed (McDowell, pp. 39–43). Compared to the New Testament, no other document from the ancient world has left such a wealth of material supporting the reliable transmission of its text.
In addition to the multitude of available manuscripts, early Christian writers quoted the New Testament so extensively that almost the entire text could be reconstructed from other sources. Though skeptics assert that the gospels were written centuries after the apostles, the earliest fragment of John's gospel dates from about 130AD—roughly 30 years after John's death—supporting the traditional view that John wrote his gospel towards the end of the first century (see McDowell, pp. 39–47). Also, "there is no evidence from the first two Christian centuries that the gospels ever circulated without the names of the authors attached" (Sheler, p. 33). As one scholar has observed, "If we compare the present state of the New Testament text with that of any other ancient writing, we must… declare it marvelously correct" (McDowell, p. 45). Another prominent scholar stated: "It cannot be too strongly asserted that in substance the text of the Bible is certain: Especially is this the case with the New Testament…This can be said of no other ancient book in the world" (ibid.).
The Bible contains one unique feature that sets it apart from any other book, and provides the strongest evidence of its inspiration. It contains prophecies that accurately predict the future. Scholars have determined that the Bible contains more than 1,800 predictions—some that are very specific—and that about 27 percent of the Bible is prophecy. This stands in stark contrast to other ancient works. "Not in the entire gamut of Greek and Latin literature… can we find any real specific prophecy of a great historic event to come in the distant future, nor any prophecy of a Savior to arise in the human race" (McDowell, p. 22). Rather, "unlike any other book, the Bible offers a multitude of specific predictions—some hundreds of years in advance—that have been literally fulfilled or else point to a definite future time when they will come true" (Geisler, p. 609).
The ability to predict the future accurately and consistently is simply not a human trait. Yet Bible prophecies predict the rise and fall of prominent individuals, nations and empires with amazing accuracy and in remarkable detail. The Bible contains nearly 200 fulfilled prophecies about the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). He would sojourn in Egypt (Hosea 11:1). His birth would cause a massacre of children (Jeremiah 31:15). He would live in Galilee (Isaiah 9:1–2). He would enter Jerusalem on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9). He would die with transgressors and be buried in the tomb of a rich man (Isaiah 53:9, 12). He would be resurrected after three days (Matthew 12:40; Hosea 6:2; Jonah 1:17).
Hundreds of Bible prophecies accurately foretold specific details of Jesus Christ's life, centuries before He lived. These prophecies' fulfillment demonstrates that God is in charge of human history. In Scripture, God Himself challenges His critics to predict the future and bring it to pass: "Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods… indeed you are nothing…For I am God, and there is no other… Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure" (Isaiah 41:21–24; 46:8–10). How do Bible prophecies compare to mankind's predictions? A study of 25 top-rated psychics revealed that 92 percent of their predictions were totally wrong, while the remaining 8 percent could be explained by chance or general knowledge of circumstances (Geisler, p. 615).
Bible prophecy reveals the significance of today's world events, and how they will lead up to Jesus Christ's return to this earth. No other book does this, and in such detail. The first years of the 21st century have seen the resurgence of militant religion around the world, the rise of international terrorism, devastating earthquakes and global climate changes that have spawned famines, floods, hurricanes, and disease epidemics threatening the future of life on this planet. The Bible has long predicted that these same events will be part of an end-time scenario that will precede Jesus Christ's return to this earth (see Matthew 24; Revelation 6). The Scriptures also predict the end-time appearance of a revived European superpower with links to the Roman Empire, and a powerful religious figure of global stature (see Daniel 2; 7; Revelation 13; 17; 18). At this time, Scripture predicts, the United States and British-descended nations will decline as major world powers (for more on this topic, request our free booklet The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy). Though skeptics may scoff, these events prophesied in the pages of the Bible are coming to pass today. Just read the news! The Bible can be trusted!
In our modern world, millions have no real sense of purpose, and feel that their lives have no particular meaning. As one writer recently commented, "secular western culture… doesn't provide a 'grand narrative' to participate in" (New Scientist, October 8, 2005, p. 45). The Bible, however, reveals the reason for human existence. It reveals the ultimate purpose of human life, and explains that human beings are made in God's image, living today to build godly character so that they can become part of God's spiritual family and reign with Jesus Christ when He establishes the Kingdom of God on this earth. Very few today understand this aspect of the gospel, as the early church corrupted and discarded this vital and basic truth. But this truth is found, plainly, in the pages of your Bible!
As we have seen, there is a wealth of historical and archeological evidence attesting to the reliability of the Scriptures. There is the remarkable and unparalleled phenomenon of fulfilled biblical prophecy. So why do educated scholars continue to doubt and criticize the Bible? A Yale archeologist probably summed it up best when he said, "The excessive skepticism of many liberal theologians stems not from a careful evaluation of the available data, but from a predisposition against the supernatural" (McDowell, p. 66).
Such skepticism—such philosophical prejudice against the very idea of God—has permeated schools and the media to the point where God's existence is widely doubted, and millions consider the Bible "just another book." However, you will not be confused or misled if you are willing to examine the evidence for yourself. The evidence proves that you can believe the Bible!