Why should I believe the Bible? (pt 5)

“Why should I believe the Bible?” Because the Bible is…

Historical

The Bible reports actual historical events and the manuscripts that we have for the Bible are very reliable. Nothing in ancient literature matches the historical documentation of the Bible. Nothing really comes close.

“Compared with other ancient writings, the Bible has more manuscript evidence to support it than any ten pieces of classical literature combined.”[1]

“The reliability of the New Testament history is overwhelming when compared to that of any other book from the ancient world.”[2]

“The New Testament is easily the best attested ancient writing in terms of the sheer number of documents, the time span between the events and the documents, and the variety of documents available to sustain or contradict it. There is nothing in ancient manuscript evidence to match such textual availability and integrity.”[3]

Here’s a table[4] so you can see a visual representation of the data:

Screen Shot 2017-11-18 at 8.02.20 PM

Therefore, “to be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament.”[5]

The Bible is historically accurate and other historical works collaborate information we see from the Bible. The Jewish historian Josephus wrote this in 93AD:

“About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man [if indeed one ought to call him a man].  For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. [He was the Messiah]. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease.  [He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him.]  And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.”[6]

Tacitcus, also a first-century historian, wrote:

“Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians.

Christ, the founder of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilatus, and a pernicious superstition was checked for the moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judea, the home of the disease, but in the capital itself, where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue.

First, then, the confessed members of the sect were arrested; next, on their disclosures, vast numbers were convicted, not so much on the count of arson as for hatred of the human race.”[7]

Thus we see some of the main details about Jesus are supported by early non-Christian sources. The authors of the New Testament were eyewitnesses of Jesus themselves or interviewed eyewitnesses and so we have accurate historical accounts about Jesus (see e.g. Lk. 1:1-4; 2 Pet. 1:16; 1 Cor. 15:1-8; 1 Jn. 1:1-3).

There are reasons to trust the Bible from an archeological (and even an astronomical[8]) perspective as well. For years many people thought that the Hittites that the Old Testament talks about did not actually exist. However, archaeological research has since revealed that the Hittite civilization did in fact exist. There are many similar examples.

There are also various inscriptions that support things that we see in the Bible. The Pool of Siloam, once doubted, has been found. The James Ossuary seems to support facts about Jesus’ family. The Shroud of Turin, though debated, is potential “hard evidence.” “No book from ancient times has more archaeological confirmation than the Bible.”[9]

The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are attested by various historical accounts. I believe a persuasive argument can be made for the validity of the actual physical resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth (see “A Brief Defense of the Resurrection”). I believe the resurrection of Jesus best explains why the disciples were willing to die for their claim that Jesus was the resurrected Messiah and why the Jews would switch from gathering for worship on the Sabbath (on Saturday) to gathering on the Lord’s Day (Sunday, the day Jesus rose from the dead). I think it best explains why people, including Jews, would worship Jesus. I think it best explains all of it; the church,[10] the New Testament, various parts of the Old Testament.

It seems to me that we should trust the Bible to give us accurate historical accounts as it has time and time again.

____________________

[1] Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands A Verdict, 9.

[2] The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible, 131.

[3] Ravi Zacharias, Can Man Live Without God?, 162.

[4] See Josh McDowell, Evidence the Demands a Verdict, (San Bernadino, CA: Here’s Life, 1972). Homer’s Illiad is the best-attested ancient work after the New Testament.

[5] John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity, 29. “Since scholars accept as generally trustworthy the writings of the ancient classics even though the earliest MSS were written so long after the original writings and the number of extant MSS is in many instances so small, it is clear that the reliability of the text of the N. T. is likewise assured” (J. Harold Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism, 16).

[6] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18.63-64.

[7] Tacitus, Annals 15.44. There are other examples we could look at. A Rabiniac writing says, ““Jesus was hanged on Passover Eve. Forty days previously the herald had cried, ‘He is being led out for stoning, because he has practiced sorcery and led Israel astray and enticed them into apostasy. Whoever has anything to say in his defence, let him come and declare it.’ As nothing was brought forward in his defence, he was hanged on Passover Eve” (Sanhedrin 43).

[8] “Astronomical records show that there were several significant celestial events around the time of Jesus’ birth” (Paul W. Barnett, “Is the New Testament Historically Reliable?” 246 in In Defense of the Bible. See esp. The Great Christ Comet). This is significant because of the “star” (or comet?) that was connected to Jesus the Messiah’s coming.

[9] The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible, 139.

[10] For example, “The creation of so many texts and their survival is remarkable and counter-intuitive. Jesus was a Jew, and anti-Semitism was rife in the Greco-Roman world. He came from Nazareth, a tiny village in Galilee, a remote landlocked principality. He was crucified, a brutal and humiliating form of execution reserved for the lowest orders to deter subversives, troublemakers, and slaves like those who followed Spartacus” (In Defense of the Bible, 228-29).

 

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 9 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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