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Is the Bible Trustworthy? - Part 1

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This is part 1 in a 19-part study on Tough Issues.

 We are looking at the fourth question and it concerns the trustworthiness of the bible.  The first question was the broadest most general question that relates to the existence of God.  Before that we looked at post modernism. We live in a culture where unlike the pre modern world or the age of enlightenment, rationalism, which lasted for a couple of hundred years, we’ve moved into a stage called post modernism.  People have abandoned the project of some sort of absolute or any way in which we can come up with coherent answers that are not imbedded in social structures and context so that we have now the abandonment of a real grand vision of the world.

The second message looked at the three basic competing worldviews.  There is materialism or naturalism- a transcendental approach.  There is the theistic vision.  We looked into the question of the existence of God followed by the question of why I believe in miracles- particularly focusing on the resurrection.  Then we looked at Christianity and the question that it isn’t a psychological crutch for emotionally weak people.

Tonight I’m going to begin what will take two sessions.  I’m just skimming the surface, boiling it down to the distilled essence.  Anyone of these questions, naturally, you could spend a good deal of more time on- particularly tonight’s question.  This is a huge issue.  This is a fundamental question because obviously everything else hangs on this issue.  If the bible’s not trustworthy then Christianity does not stand on a worthy foundation.  As far as I’m concerned there’s two pinnacles upon which things really rest- the resurrection and the reliability of Scripture.  The resurrection and the reliability of Scripture are integrated as well.  You don’t need to believe in the inspiration of the bible to have a plausible case for the resurrection.  Merely, we need to see that the bible is really primarily historical documents.  You don’t need to believe it is the word of God for that.  However, if the resurrection did take place- that has incredible bearing then on the person and work of Jesus Christ.  It specifically gives Him incredible authority.  He becomes more than an ordinary, historical figure.  In fact, His claims that the bible turns out to be inspired really have credibility because of His resurrection.  You’re not going in a circle.  I’m not saying you need the bible to prove the bible.  I’m saying that if you look at the bible as simply being a reliable, credible, primary resource that leads to a pretty cogent case for the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which in turn gives evidence for His deity. His claims to be authoritative which when He says, in the Old and New Testament, are in fact inspired by the living God, then it gives credibility to that.  That’s the connection we’re going to be looking at.

We’ll be looking at a three-fold response to the question- is the bible trustworthy?  There are a lot of variations of this question as you can imagine.  One of these variations is, isn’t the bible filled with contradictions and errors?  Doesn’t the bible perhaps teach things that are contrary to what science has definitely taught us?  For example, doesn’t the bible teach us that the world is flat or that it’s the center of the universe?  Didn’t the church teach that and wasn’t that based on the bible?  There are all sorts of things like that that we come up with.  How can you be confident the thing that you say is the bible is really an accurate representation of the original materials?  Isn’t it just a translation of a translation?  Remember that game you used to play, the telephone game, where one person would talk to another person and pass it on to another and so forth until at last the last person would say what the original message transmitted was and it came out a far cry from the original.  Even if you tried your very best to make each generation accurate, one thing we know about information is that you never gain information in an information transfer.  You always lose information.  At the best, you maintain equilibrium but you never gain information.  By the way, that has incredible bearing for genetics but that’s another story!  The fact is that you lose information and therefore wouldn’t that be true of the bible?  Isn’t our English bible after all a copy, a translation of a translation and so forth?  How do we know that these people didn’t just make up this stuff?

Some say the bible is mythological.  The position of the Jesus Seminar more or less takes this position.  What you need to know is that here it is fringe scholarship. It’s really way over here and it would give us the impression that this is what credible, mainline New Testament scholars embrace.  Actually it’s not the majority view by any means.  The argument here would be that the gospels as we have them are merely legendary accounts.  Some people become so skeptical that they say we’re not even sure if there really was a Jesus. I’ll be talking about these sorts of things and we’ll be looking at some evidences.  I’m going to be offering a way by which we can compare biblical resources with any other ancient resource and see how they stack up.  How does, for example, the New Testament stack up against say Plato, Aristotle, Herodotus and so forth?  We generally do not have major general skepticism about let’s say Plato writing the Republic.  Nobody really wonders whether those things in fact, Plato wrote.  It’s an interesting thing to observe a double standard.  One standard as it would apply to ancient literature but another when it applies to Scripture.  I’m going to say that that’s an illegitimate double standard.

The first issue is that the Scripture is just not reliable.  It is a flat, out-of-hand rejection saying the bible is just no good at all. It’s not reliable. How could anyone believe it? Some people will get more specific and bring up certain issues. I’ve listed six such problems that generally surface when people are informed enough to ask these questions about inspiration, interpretation, how it relates to science, ethical issues, problems of apparent errors that crept into the text and canonicity. (Canon refers to a rule or a standard) Canonicity relates to how do we know which books were really to be in the bible.  Didn’t the church just kind of arbitrarily decide which books were to be in and which books weren’t to be in there?  That’s an issue that surfaces.  What I want to do first and foremost tonight is to focus instead not on these problems, that will be later, but to focus on the total rejection of the bible as being trustworthy material.

Some teaching that people have picked up along the way usually prompts this first option that the bible isn’t trustworthy. Whether in a university class or wherever there may have been some negative teaching about the bible but rarely have I discovered, although in some cases that can be, is it based upon first-hand exposure and a person’s own diligent study of Scripture.  Normally it’s based upon second, third or fourth-hand information about the bible.  One thing I always do with people when they say the bible is full of contradiction is to invite them to tell me about some of those contradictions. I don’t want to be adversarial here.  They have a vague notion about what those might be.  Now there are I know specific alleged contradictions that surface and people have pointed these things out but at the same time there are cogent and credible answers to these things. It’s not like somebody’s just come up with a new contradiction that nobody’s thought of in 2000 years. I can assure you there’s a wide literature, well-informed, cogent, responsible answers to any of these questions.  While this is a very big question and no one can know all answers to all the issues, there are great resources one can go to and look up any particular concern one might have.

I’m just going to give you a broad-brush approach with this line of reasoning. What I often will do with people is tell them you owe it to yourself at least to have investigated the documents on a first-hand level before you say you will accept it or reject it.  I merely appeal to intellectual credibility.  That is to say integrity particularly because of the claims of Scripture. It’s not like another book. It has shaped Western civilization arguably more than any other book. It’s the sort of thing that really demands we make some informed (that’s the key word-informed) decision about this rather than an uninformed decision based on what other people have told us. The sorts of things that people sometimes think that the bible teaches. I grew up thinking this for example; God helps those who help themselves. I remember someone telling me that this was in the bible and I just figured it must say that. I later found out that it came from second opinions. The bible doesn’t say that God helps those who help themselves although many people probably think it does. Another saying is godliness is next to cleanliness. My dad used this one to get me to take bathes! He’d say the bible teaches it. I later found out I was being manipulated by second-hand information! It’s not in there! Many things that are in Poor Richard’s Almanac, people think that they’re in the bible. These are more aphorisms of Benjamin Franklin’s time. Some people think that the bible says the earth is flat or that it’s the center of the universe. Remember the Galilean controversy with the geocentric versus the heliocentric model where the sun and the planets all orbited around the earth? The church held that idea at the time because they felt like this is where the action is and everything ought to go around us. The bible never says that. That was a doctrine that some people in the church developed ascribing to the Scriptures what it never taught. It’s not an issue with the bible but had to do with the church’s misinterpretation of what Scripture taught.

Another common misconception is that the books of the New Testament were written centuries after the events described in them. It’s a very common notion. It turns out that’s just not the case. The earliest manuscript we have for example the gospel of John is dated within decades. The evidence we have is that the bulk of the New Testament documents were written between 45A.D. and 70A.D. The vast bulk was completed by 70A.D. We’re not dealing with something that was so far removed from the historical materials that myth could’ve developed. There were too many eyewitnesses who would’ve in fact objected to this. It is early material.

Another misconception is that the English bible is a translation of a translation of a translation and so forth. Actually the English bibles we possess are direct translations from the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. There are no intermediaries. The Douhay-Rheims version, which some Catholics use, was a translation from the Latin Vulgate. Almost all the translations we deal with these days are direct translations from the original languages. It’s important to see that we’re not looking at a lot of generations. We can go back to the texts themselves.

We have a number of arguments. For example, a lot of college courses will teach common sorts of things claiming that the Old Testament is a derivative of Babylonian and Syrian myths and law codes.  Actually when you compare them you discover that while there can be similarities; there is no evidence that the Old Testament is lifted from those materials at all.

Indeed we can see as well, that people would say that the Old Testament is filled with the kind of contradictions that are usually taught when Genesis 1 and 2 are presented to be two separate creation accounts. How many of you have heard that idea? Turns out, I won’t go into detail, that’s not the case at all. The Genesis 1 account focuses on the broad-brush approach of the six days of creation whereas Genesis 2 focuses in on the sixth day and develops that as Semitic style commonly does. You go first of all into the broad picture and then it goes back and says now let me give you some more detail about this particular part. This is very common in Hebrew and Semitic style to do that.

I’m suggesting here that these sorts of arguments usually don’t hold much weight and again it’s good for a person first of all to first-hand read the material themselves. It’s rare for a person who has personally examined them to arrive at these things. There are some who have and I understand that. Generally when they do that, they do not expose themselves to the credible answers that are readily available. They say, see it’s contradictory and that’s that. They never consider the wealth of scholarship that cogently answers these things and have done so for hundreds of years. As a result I may have to straighten out some misimpressions that people have from this material and that’s where I mention again the false impressions people get.

Now I want to go into the documents- documentary evidence. There are three tests; the bibliographic test, the internal test and the external test.

For the bibliographic test I want to talk about three things; the quantity of manuscripts, the quality and the time span of those manuscripts. I have had people who will sometimes just say, I don’t believe the bible. Sometimes I might feel that the simplest question to ask them in response to that is, are you familiar with the message of the bible? Can you tell me what’s your understanding about the basic message of the bible? When they try to share that, rarely will that person have the clarity or understanding of the message. Again, I might say gently and not in a mocking way, you need to understand you treat people with grace and dignity because it’s a reasonable and fair objection. You never want to condescend or have a haughty attitude but you always want to treat each person with respect because frankly it’s good they’re asking these questions. These aren’t threats. These are opportunities for us to think through and reason it through together. There’s nothing wrong with that. I want to affirm a person and say it’s good that you’re asking this question.  It’s better that you should ask this than ignore it. I’d much rather you think this through and we can think through it together. That’s the posture I take.

Furthermore, I want you to understand that when I’m sharing these things with people I never tell people that’s my agenda and I’m going to try to change your thinking. I want to expose not impose. There’s a big difference between exposing and imposing. I’ve had people terrified to meet with me because they think I’m going to come up with some big argument and try to change them. I’ve had situations where somebody, a third party, introduces us because they have some questions and they think I’m going to try to work them over. Immediately I say, relax; I don’t have any agenda to change your mind. I just want to help you think things through and that’s all I do. I can’t change anybody. I can’t even change myself. I just say let’s enjoy ourselves and let’s think it through together. People have the idea that there are two things you can’t talk about without arguing and they are politics and religion. I argue that you can talk about these things in a reasoned discourse without getting all emotional and wrapped up. That’s important to keep in mind, sort of ground rules and being open to that sort of a thing. I think open inquiry is healthy. I encourage a person to think through things. You owe it to yourself to at least be familiar with the basic message of the bible before you decide it’s wrong. If they’re specific about one of these issues, honest intellectual difficulties, then I need to give direct answers. That’s where we go here.

Let’s look first of all at the bibliographic test. The bibliographic test has to do with the manuscripts themselves. This is critical. We’ll be seeing the quantity, the quality and the time span of these manuscripts.

First of all in looking at the biblical documents, how many do we have? The New Testament is extraordinary. The quantity of the Old Testament is not as great and there are reasons why but it’s compensated for by the quality. The reason why the quantity isn’t as great as we might like is because the Jewish scribes would ceremonially bury imperfect and worn manuscripts. They were real rigid about the way they’d be transmitted. When it became a little bit harder to read (the copies were meticulously done as we’ll see visa via the quality) they would bury them. In addition Israel as you know, went through a very turbulent history. You can be confident that a number of manuscripts during its captivity and all the experiences of the Diaspora for example, with the destruction of Jerusalem, the scattering of the Jews among the nations, many manuscripts would have been lost as well.

Also, there’s another factor that’s involved that’s intentional and that has to do with the text type. The Masoretic Jews who lived in the 6th century, about that period, standardized the text so the text we now have is called the Masoretic text. The Masoretes whole passion and livelihood and everything they did were focused around careful transmission of the text of the Old Testament. We have as a result of that standardization by the Jews of the 6th century this text.  Those manuscripts that varied from this in any slight way would be eliminated eventually. However what compensates for the small number or really old manuscripts are such things as the Dead Sea Scrolls. They were recently discovered and also the Septuagint. The Septuagint refers to “the seventy”. It goes back to a legend about there being 70 Jewish scholars who make this translation. We don’t know how many there really were. Around the time of the Alexandrian Library, about 259 B.C., they wanted to have a translation in the Greek language of the Hebrew bible so the Greeks themselves could be exposed to this. The Septuagint kind of became the common bible of the people. In Jesus’ day it would very commonly be the bible that would be used. For example, Paul often quotes from the Septuagint. Others who could not read Hebrew at least could be exposed to this. We have copies of that available. In addition other things are available such as the Samaritan Pentateuch.

By the way there are still some Samaritans around (not many). What is amazing about these Samaritans is that they still speak Aramaic. Who spoke Aramaic? Jesus did. Do you understand that the language of Jesus has been preserved to the present day. There are only about 500 people who speak it. There are people who have gone and lived with the Samaritans and learned Aramaic. The language of Jesus has been preserved. It’s a remarkable thing. It was the common language of the people. Jesus also would’ve spoken Greek, Latin and Hebrew because He knew the Hebrew language as Paul did. It was common in that period of time to know those various languages. When Jesus says Abba, Father, it is an Aramaic word that would be a term of endearment. Daddy would be the equivalent. Marana tha is an Aramaic term for Oh, Lord come used in 1 Corinthians 16:22. Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? which means, “My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?” and is an Aramaic expression. Talitha koum, which means child arise is Aramaic and so forth. However, the gospels were originally written in Greek and there’s a reason for that because that was the common language of that empire. Although it was the Roman Empire by that time they had been so thoroughly Hellenized the common language of the people would be Koine Greek, which means common Greek. That would be the Greek of the New Testament. It was not classical Greek, Ionic, but rather a common Greek that would be the parlance of the average citizen that anyone could understand.

Other documents that we possess as well for example the Targums, which were ancient, praises of the Old Testament as well as the Talmud. There’s the Babylonian Talmud. There’s the Palestinian Talmud. The Talmud consists of the Mishna and the Gemara- the commentaries. What I am suggesting is that there is a lot of supplementary materials that add to the manuscript types.

We can see a number of copies and certainly there are old copies of the Old Testament but when we come to the New Testament, it’s really incredible. In fact it’s without parallel in the ancient world. There are over 5,000 manuscripts in the Greek language. There are another 8,000 manuscripts in Latin. There are another 1,000 in other languages like Coptic, Syriac and so forth. We have an extraordinary number of manuscripts, something on the order of 14,000 plus. In addition to this, there are tens of thousands of quotations of the New Testament by the Early Church Fathers. You could reconstruct the New Testament just by the first couple of centuries by the quotes of the Early Church Fathers. That deals with the quantity of Scripture.

Let’s deal with the quality of manuscripts. In terms of quality nothing in ancient literature compares to the Old Testament. It is unparalleled. There are reasons why this is so. The reverential attitude of the Jewish scribes was phenomenal. The caution was such that every detail in the scribal process was meticulously done. They would look at the document and then write a word. They would not trust their memory for any long phrases. They would use a certain position, a certain pen, certain materials, the leather documents, and the scrolls that they would create. They would actually try to minimize even the slightest error. They would count all the letters and words and lines in the Hebrew after doing the manuscript. They would also find the middle letter of the Pentateuch and also the middle letter of the Old Testament and if they didn’t correspond exactly, they’d pitch the whole manuscript. Would you like to spend 3 or 4 years of your life creating this thing just to discover that when another scribe checks it out, it turns out that you made a blunder because of one or two errors? You can see the kind of care it was done with faithfully and meticulously so the quality of these manuscripts would hardly diminish. We have a check here because our oldest copy of the Masoretic text dates from somewhere around 895 A.D. That’s not so good but then we got the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was interesting to do comparisons with the translations and they date back to about 200 B.C. to about 68 A.D.  That’s when they were finally buried. That brings us back 1000 years earlier. When these were discovered in 1947 (this is a pretty recent discovery of ancient manuscripts) immediately the question was, how do they compare? This pushes us back 1000 years! It turns out the comparison is astounding. It affirms the incredible reliability. You can compare an Isaiah scroll with the Masoretic text and it’s just a few changes in spelling. The text itself has tremendous integrity. It is an awesome thing to possess. You can go for example to the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem and see these scrolls and you can see the workmanship of those scrolls and the care with which these were produced. The quality of the Old Testament is virtually unparalleled and unsurpassed in ancient literature.

 Whereas with the New Testament, while the quality is good it’s not as great but still the quality is extraordinary compared to other materials that we possess. What I mean by the quality in the New Testament again is the number of variant readings. How does the text actually shape up? It turns out the New Testament quality is very good indeed. If you compare the materials it’s about 99.5% consistent. There’s about ½ of a percent where you have some variant readings. We have a science called textual criticism. It is a technique by which we compare text types. There are four basic text types that are used. They are the Western, Alexandrian, the Sysarian and I forget the other for the moment but you have these types that exist. You can compare this text type and see how they compare. You can see those variations, which best explain the others. That reading which best explains the other readings is the one to be preferred. There’s a whole technique by which we can do this and discover those things.

They used to have a scriptorium. That would be like me being up here and you’re the scribes and I would read the New Testament for example the letter of John and you would write. It was a way of making mass copies. They didn’t have printing presses so the most efficient thing they would have would be to have about 30 scribes- one reading and the others writing. You could imagine certain errors of the ear could pop up for example, in the Greek the difference between “your” and “our” is real, real similar- “humon” and” hemon”. If you’re not really catching on or it’s not pronounced as well, you could have variant readings as we do in fact have between “us” and “you”. For example in I John 1, we have, “we write these things so that your joy may be made complete.” The variation is, “we write these things so that our joy may be complete.” Not a big deal if you look at the text- its one letter. It’s an error of the ear. There are also errors of the eye- typography was a common thing. Have you ever done this where you’re writing a sentence and it has “the” and as you continue to write you repeat “the” on the next line? Your grammar checkers will immediately catch those deals. They didn’t have that in those days. Generally though, the manuscripts are very good indeed. In fact so good that you can pretty confidently with this trivial percentage, reconstruct with a high degree of confidence the text itself. These are called critical texts that evaluate those readings. Even in the worst case scenarios I want you to understand that the worse differences that we possess do not have any serious consequence. Furthermore, no variant readings are significant enough to call into question any doctrines of the New Testament. It’s important that you know that. The biggest variation I know of is the end of Mark’s gospel-verses 9-20- some have it and some don’t.

Time span is significant. In the Old Testament we saw how the time span was compressed because of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It pushed it back to 200 B.C. Also we have copies of the Septuagint that did go farther back than the Masoretic text. In the New Testament the time span is exceptional. There are manuscripts that were written on papyrus. They didn’t have a codex- a codex is a book form. So we have a book form in the idea of taking these leaves and binding them together. This was not known in the ancient world. The idea here would then be that you’d write them on papyrus and on both sides, to make it efficient. These would be used and then recorded and kept so the ancient library of Alexandria would’ve been filled with these rolls. It’s hard to figure how they could find stuff the way they did that. How did they do multiplication using Roman numerals? I’ll let you figure how hard that is. It’s not a trivial thing to multiply. The discovery of the number zero was fabulous along with the decimal point. There have been great improvements. They created the codex in about 200 A.D.

The earliest discoveries of the New Testament are these papyrus rolls. They were done in columns. The earliest ones were unsealed manuscripts. They didn’t have word breaks or punctuation which made it hard to read those things. There were no verses either. That’s how it was done in those texts. We have some fragments of John’s gospel, John Ryland’s fragment, papyrus 52, dated between 117 A.D. and 138 A.D. John’s gospel was written around 90 A.D. There’s nothing like it in the ancient world going back that close to the original manuscript. The Brodmore papyri are dated from 175 A.D. to 225 A.D. The Chester Batey papyri of these gospels go back to the year 250 A.D. These are in London at the library there. The time span for most of the New Testament is less than 200 years after the originals would’ve been written. We have complete New Testaments that date within a few hundred years of the original. But the individual books, remember it wasn’t one writer but many writers and they were collected and transmitted gradually. We have an unparalleled situation.

What I find very helpful to do is compare it with a chart like this one. Homer is written somewhere around 850-750 B.C. The earliest copy- this isn’t a bad time span- is from around 400 B.C.  Horiatis, Plato and so forth are more typical of the earliest medieval manuscripts around 900 A.D. and you’re dealing with about 1300 years after the originals. It’s common to find over 1000 years time span. I define time span as that number of years between the original document and our earliest known manuscript. When dealing with the New Testament, we’re dealing with less than 100 years. For the gospel of John, we’re dealing with just a few years. Homer is unusual because frankly, at the time almost everyone knew the Iliad and the Odyssey. These materials as you can see though have very, very long time spans and very few copies and many times the accuracy of these is not favorable-tremendous textual corruptions that have taken place in these materials.

What I’m suggesting here, the bottom line, is this, if we look at these tests here we see something unique to the New Testament that we do not find in other materials and yet a double standard is applied. The double standard is this- people will often throw out the New Testament but maintain these other materials. The reason for it is because of an anti-supernatural bias that’s often associated with this material.

The other two tests which relate to the bibliographic are the internal and the external tests.

The internal test has to do with the question- what did these documents claim for themselves? This might appear to be circular reasoning but really what we’re saying is this-we’re simply allowing these people to say-are they claiming to be second, third or fourth-hand or are they claiming to be primary accounts? This is not a trivial issue. People who were eyewitnesses of the events they recorded wrote the book of the bible. They claim this and they gave a lot of detail that can be checked out- names of cities, rivers, individual, dates and all kinds of things that can be compared with external evidence materials.   The internal claim for example in John 19:35, “And the person who saw it has testified (and his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth), so that you also may believe.”- Referring to himself as the writer. John wrote this in his first epistle, I John 1:1-2, “This is what we proclaim to you, what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and our hands have touched (concerning the word of life- and the life was revealed, and we have seen and testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father was revealed to us).” John’s referring to things we communicate to you. We can communicate that message to you. We cannot communicate what it was like to see Jesus and hold Him but we can communicate the living message to you. We’re not claiming to be secondary materials. We have a direct account. For example Luke in Acts all of a sudden shifts from “they” to “we” in Acts 6 and suddenly it becomes first-hand documentation because he was with Paul on many of his excursions and so forth. It’s primary material and Luke was a fine historian contrary to some 19th century speculations that have subsequently been refuted. Luke was an incredible accurate historian- more and more archeological and external evidences have supported this.

Peter himself said, “We have not followed cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We were eyewitnesses of this majesty.” These are the kinds of claims that are being made. These independent, eyewitness accounts in the New Testament about Christ’s life, death and resurrection. These were written by people who were intimately acquainted with Him and who traveled with Him. These were people as well and their epistles reveal integrity and complete commitment to the truth. Furthermore these are men who suffered persecution and martyrdom for the very things they wrote. This was not something trivial or secondary. They suffered for their faith.

The materials were written approximately in the years 47 A.D. to 70 A.D. There was not enough time for myths to develop. There is great stress as we said on accurate, historical details, which brings me to the external test.

Externally, the bible is verifiable, we say, because it’s locked into history. It’s space and time. It’s not long ago and far away but rather very specific and imbedded in history. We can see here that archeological evidence consistently affirms the reliability of both the Old and New Testament accounts. I do not claim that archeology proves the bible but I say that it provides corroborative support for the claims that are found in the accounts. We could spend a great deal of time discussing that but I want you to note a couple of things.

Turn to Jeremiah and you’ll see a couple of examples of chronological indications that we find scattered throughout Scripture that lock it into time and space. Jeremiah 1:1-3,

‘The following is a record of what Jeremiah son of Hilkiah prophesied. He was one of the priests who lived at Anathoth in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin. The LORD began to speak to him in the thirteenth year that Josiah son of Amon ruled over Judah. The LORD also spoke to him when Jehoiakim son of Josiah ruled over Judah, and he continued to speak to him until the fifth month of the eleventh year that Zedekiah son of Josiah ruled over Judah.” That’s a time lock and you know what we’re dealing with here. Another example and interesting lock into time and space is Ezekiel 1: 1-2, “In the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, while I was among the exiles at the Kebar River, the heavens opened and I saw a divine vision. (On the fifth day of the month- it was the fifth year of King Jehoiachin’s exile-)”. We know the day and that it was sometime in the afternoon on July 31, 592 B.C. We’re getting locked into time and space. This isn’t ambiguous stuff!

Another example from the New Testament is Luke 3:1-2, he gives the classical six fold reference (six references), “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the work of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.” This is very specific material that we’re dealing with. We know about these people. We have ancient Documents that describe these individuals. I’m suggesting here that we have an extraordinary amount of reference from extra-biblical material.

People ask if Jesus was mentioned outside of the bible. The answer is yes. Josephus for example mentions a number of things that are related to the New Testament. Flavius and Josephus also made a number of specific references to John the Baptist, Jesus Christ and James in the antiquities of the Jews. Josephus gives background details about the Herods, about the Sadducees, about the Pharisees, the high priests like Annas and Caiaphas and the roman emperors that are mentioned in the gospels. We also have other secular references that mention Jesus. An early one that we have is a letter by an imprisoned Syrian named Amarabarrah Serapian, which is a letter to his son which compares the deaths of Socrates, Pythagarus and Christ. You have other writers like Sutonius, Cornelius Tasticus, Livy, Pliny and the Greek satirist, Lucien who have mentioned Jesus in all these sources.  Another major source is the Talmud itself, which mentions Jesus. The fact is you have lots of external extra-biblical resources. There are whole books, which describe this in greater detail.

As for the Old and New Testaments, their details are open to archeological investigation. There are very many claims, which are mentioned that are verifiable. There was a particular explosion that took place around the turn of the century of archeological information. The interesting thing is the 19th century higher critical schools of thought came up with all these theories about the origin of Israel’s religion and about the documentary hypothesis and incredibly, although long refuted by archeological evidences is still finding their way into the seminaries. They’re still being taught. It’s astounding. It’s like the evolution of the horse. How many of you remember that as a kid? The Eohippus and the Mesohippus and so forth- a smaller one to a bigger one- it’s bunk. It’s been thrown out 80 or 90 years ago. It’s nonsense. It’s incredible the stuff that I recall learning that turned up to be all bunk! We were taught the moth turned darker as it evolved from a lighter one to a darker one. It turns out there was a lighter and darker one to begin with. It was not a matter of mutation.  Sometimes they continue to teach this stuff!

The external confirmation in Scripture is remarkable. There are a lot of details given about rivers, mountains, cities, dates, kings, events, battles and so forth that can be checked out.

Related Topics: Inerrancy