Can you trust what you read in the Bible? Were you taught that it is an outdated and inaccurate set of stories and myths? The truth is that you can prove, for yourself, that the Bible is accurate and true—and that it reveals not only history and prophecy but a practical and vital Way of life!
King Solomon wrote, "Of making many books there is no end" (Ecclesiastes 12:12). But there is one book more important than any other.
You probably have a copy of the world's best-selling book in your home. You may even own several copies. As the Wall Street Journal commented, "It's an astonishing fact that year after year, the Bible is the best-selling book in America—even though 90 percent of households already have at least one copy. The text doesn't vary, except in translation. The tremendous sales volume, an estimated 25 million copies sold each year, is largely driven by innovations in design, color, style and the ultimate niche marketing" ("Prophet Sharing: The Good Book Is the Best Seller," December 23, 2008).
Yes, our Western world has long revered the Bible. But, what is the Bible? Is it really the revelation of the Creator God to human beings on planet Earth? Can you really prove that the Bible is divinely inspired—and historically and prophetically accurate? Yes, you can!
A recent Barna Research Group report indicated that while 58 percent of Americans age 64 and older believe the Bible is totally accurate in its teachings, just 30 percent of those age 19 to 25 share this view ("New Research Explores How Different Generations View and Use the Bible," October 19, 2009). But what is the truth of the matter?
In our discussion of Bible integrity and inspiration, we will see just how accurate the Bible is. You need to prove the Bible. Many just base their religious beliefs on upbringing, hearsay, peer pressure, rumors and false tradition. They do not take the time to study into the matter for themselves and prove the truth. Yes, what is sufficient proof for one person may not be for another. But if you are willing to make the effort to prove the matter for yourself, you will find the truth! In fact, the Bible itself challenges us in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, "Test all things; hold fast what is good." Or, as the King James Version states it, "Prove all things." This article will briefly examine four proofs of the Bible!
Time and time again, skeptics and critics have alleged that major nations and individuals featured in the Bible never existed! But they have been embarrassed by evidence proving them wrong.
Is the Bible accurate? Not long ago, I was talking to a salesman who, in the course of our conversation, said, in effect, "Well, you can't trust the Bible." I took a few moments to share with him evidence to the contrary—particularly the accurate preservation of the scriptural texts. Some people, to appear intelligent and enlightened, just go along with spurious criticisms. Back in the 18th century, critics even questioned the existence of the Assyrian Empire and the existence of the ancient city-state of Nineveh mentioned in the Bible. The skeptics were proven to be very wrong!
We see an example of this in the life of famous British archaeologist Austen Henry Layard. In The Luck of Nineveh, author Arnold Brackman reminds us, "In 1817, when Austen Henry Layard was born, there was no tangible proof that Nineveh, the seat of the Assyrian Empire, which reputedly had endured longer than any empire before or since, ever existed. For that matter, there was no evidence that there ever was an Assyrian empire" (Foreword, p. vii).
Layard was working in an environment that ridiculed the biblical accounts. As Brackman wrote, "In the Old and New Testaments Nineveh is mentioned twenty times, and in the Old Testament there are 132 references to Assyria… An increasing number of skeptics, however, their religious faith diluted by the spectacular scientific breakthrough accompanying the first stirring of the Industrial Revolution, sneered at tales about Nineveh and treated it as a legend that belonged to an age of fables. For them, there had never been a Nineveh any more than there had ever been a Troy" (pp. 12–13).
Despite attacks from critics, Layard eventually discovered Nineveh. Artifacts in the British Museum in London, the Louvre in Paris, the Oriental Institute Museum in Chicago and other museums, give overwhelming evidence of the historicity of this ancient empire as described in the Bible.
Archaeology has confirmed hundreds of other historical references in the Bible. Just to mention a few: The Israel Stele, a stone slab discovered in 1896 at Thebes in Egypt, is the oldest evidence of ancient Israel outside of the Bible, and records the military triumph of Pharaoh Merenptah of the 13th century bc. It states, "Israel is devastated, having no seed, Syria is widowed because of Egypt." (Treasures From Bible Times, by Alan Millard, 1985, p. 100).
In this article we can only scratch the surface on this point, but you can research the matter yourself in countless Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias, atlases and handbooks, as well as reputable journals such as Biblical Archaeology Review. Again and again you will find confirmation of the Bible account.
U.S. News & World Report some time ago featured a powerful cover article titled, "Is the Bible True? Extraordinary insights from archaeology and history." A team of archaeologists was digging in the ancient ruins of the city of Dan in upper Galilee. Avraham Biran led the team. They discovered a basalt stone monument from the 9th century bc. The stele, or monument, commemorated "a military victory of the king of Damascus over two ancient enemies. One foe the fragment identified as the 'king of Israel.' The other was 'the House of David'" (October 25, 1999, pp. 12–13).
Why should this be so significant? Note the next sentence. "The reference to David was a historical bombshell" (ibid.) Of course, for those who have already proved to themselves the accuracy and veracity of the Bible, this was not a "bombshell"—but just additional confirmation of what they had already proved!
Continuing with the article, "Never before had the familiar name of Judah's ancient warrior king, a central figure of the Hebrew Bible and, according to Christian Scripture, an ancestor of Jesus, been found in the records of antiquity outside the pages of the Bible." Also: "Skeptics had long seized upon that fact to argue that David was a mere legend, invented by Hebrew scribes during or shortly after Israel's Babylonian exile, roughly 500 years before the birth of Christ. Now, at last, there was material evidence: an inscription written not by Hebrew scribes but by an enemy of the Israelites a little more than a century after David's presumptive lifetime" (ibid.).
Will you remain skeptical in spite of the evidence? Remember the warning of the Apostle Paul, regarding the proof of God's existence: "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20). I encourage you to be courageous enough to examine the evidence—to read the Bible yourself. You can prove the veracity of the Bible!
Critics have been embarrassed by their plainly biased allegations when archaeology and history have proved them wrong. Notice these comments by famous archaeologists as quoted in our free booklet, The Bible: Fact or Fiction?: "The manner in which archaeology has verified the historical accuracy of the Bible has been nothing short of remarkable! As noted archaeologist Nelson Glueck has written, 'it may be clearly stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a single biblical reference. Scores of archaeological 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 archaeologist, William F. Albright, who stated, 'There can be no doubt that archaeology has confirmed the substantial historicity of Old Testament tradition… The excessive skepticism shown toward the Bible by important historical schools of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries… has been progressively discredited'" (pp. 24–25).
Yes, the skeptics and the critics have been "progressively discredited." You can prove the Bible's inspiration and accuracy!
Another way you can prove the Bible is that its Author—the Creator God—reveals prophecies, and He fulfills prophecies. He declares the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9–10).
The Bible reveals hundreds of prophecies. In fact, one fourth of your Bible is prophecy. More than 200 Old Testament passages were fulfilled by Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Hundreds more give detailed information about end-time prophetic events—many of which have already occurred or are beginning to come to pass—especially regarding the growth of a European power that will become a final "Roman Empire" exerting influence around the globe. Regular readers of Tomorrow's World have read many of our detailed discussions on modern-day fulfillments of prophecy, so here we will highlight one example of ancient prophecy fulfilled as God predicted it would be.
Babylon was the greatest empire of its time, and Bible prophecy predicted that this great power would punish other nations as a judgment from God. Then, Babylon itself was to be judged for its sinfulness.
More than 100 years before the overthrow of this great empire, the prophet Isaiah named the individual who would be responsible for Babylon's fall. King Cyrus of Persia lived almost two centuries after Isaiah, yet was prophesied by name in Isaiah 44! Isaiah even prophesied how Cyrus would enter Babylon to conquer it: "Thus says the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held; to subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors [or two-leaved gates—KJV], so that the gates will not be shut: 'I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel'" (Isaiah 45:1–3). What a powerful prophecy!
And it came to pass. For those who are Bible skeptics, note that the Greek historian Herodotus, ca. 440bc, also wrote of the siege of Babylon in The Histories (1:191–192), confirming the biblical account! Yes, both secular and biblical authorities confirm that Cyrus did what Isaiah had prophesied!
Can we assume that a God who is able to inspire the Bible text can also ensure that it has been faithfully preserved and transmitted to us in the 21st century? Again, we can look at the claim of the Bible—in this case a promise by Jesus Christ. He stated: "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (Matthew 5:18). The jot (Hebrew yud) to which Jesus referred is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet—and the tittle is a tiny mark or projection associated with Hebrew letters. Christ was clearly stating that not only would the words of the Old Testament be faithfully preserved, but the letters as well.
Jesus stated, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away" (Luke 21:33). This is one of several promises and claims of the Bible itself, that the words of God and the revelation of God will be faithfully preserved.
As one specific example, let us consider: has the book of Isaiah been preserved faithfully? In 1947, two ancient copies of the book of Isaiah were discovered as part of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumran Cave 1. These were dated a thousand years earlier than any previously known manuscripts of Isaiah. Had the words of Isaiah been preserved faithfully? Indeed, "they proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling… [these variations] do not affect the message of revelation in the slightest" (A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, by Gleason L. Archer, 1974, p. 25).
According to the Apostle Paul, God gave the Jewish community the responsibility of preserving the Old Testament. Speaking of the Jews, Paul writes that, "to them were committed the oracles of God" (Romans 3:2). Or, as the NIV translates it, "they have been entrusted with the very words of God." Indeed, history shows that scribes called Masoretes faithfully copied by hand the text of Scripture. The official Hebrew text is called the Masoretic text. These scribes were so meticulous that they counted all of the letters and all of the words in a given book to make sure there were no variations, even in individual letters of the text.
The text of the New Testament, written in the Greek language, was preserved in the Greek-speaking world. The King James Version of 1611 was primarily translated from the Hebrew Masoretic text and the Greek Received Text, also known as the Textus Receptus. Thousands of manuscripts testify to the accuracy of the New Testament. Again, as in the case of the Isaiah scroll, variations in the Greek manuscripts are minor and do not affect its message or fundamental teachings.
Do errors creep into the translations? Yes, some errors in Latin or English translations—such as the spurious addition of 1 John 5:7 hundreds of years after the Apostles—are well-known and easily identified. Thankfully, as we have so many authentic manuscripts to identify potential corruptions in the text, we can have absolute confidence in the claims of the Bible.
This final proof is based more on one's personal interaction and experience with the Bible. Jesus said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4). Where did Jesus get this statement? He was quoting from the Old Testament, from a passage showing God's desire that the ancient Israelites learn a deep spiritual lesson during their exodus from Egypt. Moses had spoken to the Israelites, saying, "So He [God] humbled you, allowed you to hunger… that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 8:3).
This last proof, unlike the others, relies on faith and action. The first three proofs were external in nature. But this proof requires an internal commitment to read the Bible and to test and practice its principles, precepts, and laws. Remember, "Test all things; hold fast what is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Yes, test the Bible by putting its instructions into practice. "Prove all things." You can begin by practicing the precepts Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7). Test each of the Ten Commandments by applying them in your life. Jesus said, "If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17).
Once you begin to practice the principles of the Bible, you will begin to have understanding you never had before. We read, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments" (Psalm 111:10).
Genuine Christianity is not a one-day-a-week religion. It is a way of life. In the book of Acts, early Christians were described as practicing "the Way." Notice that when the Apostle Paul was defending himself in Caesarea against the charges of his fellow Jews, he told the governor, named Felix, "But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets" (Acts 24:14).
Many people in our day are not willing to practice the Way, and to discover its truth for themselves—but those who are will prove for themselves that it brings joy and fulfillment to the degree that we let Christ live in us and guide us to follow His instructions and the inspired principles of Scripture.
You need to prove the Bible. The Bible answers the mysteries of life. It gives us the principles for successful and abundant living. The Bible is God's instruction book to all humanity. It gives us hope for the future, and the way to eternal salvation. May God bless you as you seek its instruction, revelation, and truth!