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Could the Archeological Evidence Favoring Belief in the Bible Be Fraudulent?
How do we know whether the archeological and other evidence presented for the truth of the Bible is fake or not?† Basically, we shouldnít worry about such fraud because the main bias among historians and archeologists is towards secular skepticism and agnosticism, not towards traditional Christianity.†
Letís first briefly review a little of the archeological evidence for the Bible.† (Far more details are explained below).† Itís important to realize that most archeologists are liberal skeptics who donít believe in the Bible.† Itís very implausible that such people wouldnít be aware of others planting evidence and wouldnít challenge various fake findsí authenticity that supposedly proved the Bibleís historicity.† Rather instead, such people are chronically challenging everything until basically forced to give in a little.† Furthermore, the people finding such evidence may not be believers at all, although the specific cases would need to be documents.† The case of Sir William Ramsay, noted below, is particularly striking:† He was an atheist who was converted by archeological evidence that he found.† What incentive would he have to fake anything?
Then letís examine the argument based upon fulfilled prophecy and whether it could be history written after the fact.† In order to lay a foundation for this, itís necessary to go through some of the standard arguments first and then later Iíll explain how it would be hard to fake such historical evidence.† The writing style of the book of Daniel is a key example:† It wasnít written like a mid-second-century b.c. document would have been, which higher critics will typically claim in order to escape the implications of its detailed predictions of the future.
It also should be noted that radiocarbon dating isnít very important for dating many of the finds that favor Christianity, especially from the time of Christ.† In order for something to be so dated, it has to be something that lived, such as from a personís or animalís bones.† It isnít useful for anything purely inorganic, such as clay or stone.† Sure, the leather or papyrus of manuscripts could be so dated, but such tests can be checked by others.† It appears that the main way manuscripts are dated is based upon the method and style of copying them, the materials used, the location in which manuscripts are discovered, etc.† The controversial case of Jerichoís walls, described below, shows how various dating methods are often unreliable.
Down below the non-Christian sources from the first century are described.† Itís important to realize that itís rather extraordinary that any record of a native who wasnít a monarch from a backwater region of the Roman Empire would be noticed by leading Roman writers.† Because these records of Jesus refer to him in contemptuous terms, such as that of Tacitus, we have no reason to believe later Christians would have made up such evidence.† The specific case of Josephusí witness is analyzed below.† Thereís good reason to believe that this one was one case in which a somewhat hostile or skeptical witness was later doctored by a Christian scribe to make it positive.† It wasnít just made up by that copyist.†
So letís survey in detail these various issues below.† It will take some time and space to review this issues and to survey the evidence involved.
THE BIBLIOGRAPHICAL TEST APPLIED TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
By the two parts of the bibliographical test, the New Testament is the best attested ancient historical writing.† Some 24,633 known copies (including fragments, lectionaries, etc.) exist, of which 5309 are in Greek.† The Hebrew Old Testament has over 1700 copies† (A more recent estimate is 6,000 copies, including fragments).† By contrast, the document with the next highest number of copies is Homer's Iliad, with 643.† Other writings by prominent ancient historians have far fewer copies:† Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, 8; Herodotus, The Histories, 8; Julius Caesar, Gallic Wars, 10; Livy, History from the Founding of the City, 20; Suetonius, Lives of the Caesars, 8.† Tacitus was perhaps the best Roman historian.† His Annals has at the most 20 surviving manuscript copies, and only 1 (!) copy endured of his minor works.†
The large number of manuscripts is a reason for belief in the New Testament, not disbelief.† Now, a skeptic could cite the 1908-12 Catholic Encyclopedia, which says "the greatest difficulty confronting the editor of the New Testament is the endless variety of the documents at his disposal."† Are these differences good reason for disbelief?† After all, scholars (ideally) would have to sift through all of its ancient manuscripts to figure out what words were originally inspired to be there. †In order to decide what to put into a printed version of the New Testament, they have to reconstruct a single text out of hundreds of manuscript witnesses.† Actually, the higher manuscript evidence mounts, the easier it becomes to catch any errors that occurred by comparing them with one another.† As F.F. Bruce observes:†
Fortunately, if the great number of mss [manuscripts] increases the number of scribal errors, it increases proportionately the means of correcting such errors, so that the margin of doubt left in the process of recovering the exact original wording is not so large as might be feared.† The variant readings about which any doubt remains among textual critics of the New Testament affect no material question of historic fact or of Christian faith and practice.[i]
Having over 5300 Greek manuscripts to work with, detecting scribal errors in the New Testament is more certain when comparing between its manuscripts than for the Caesar's Gallic Wars with its mere 10 copies, long a standard work of Latin teachers to use with beginning students.† The science and art of textual criticism has an embarrassment‑‑of riches‑‑for the New Testament.[ii]
HOW CAN YOU KNOW WHETHER THE
††††††††† NEW TESTAMENT IS A FIRST-CENTURY DOCUMENT?
Is there any evidence for the New Testament being written in the first century?† After all, liberal scholars, atheists, and agnostics normally have said the New Testament was written long after the time Jesus and his disciples (students) lived.† And if the New Testament was written around (say) the year A.D. 150, how could you trust what was in it?† Since Jesus died in the year A.D. 31, a gap of a hundred or more years would mean that all the eyewitnesses would have died by then.† You would be left with believing in stories passed down over three or more generations.† This creates major obstacles to believing in it, as the game "whispering lane" implies.† If you played this game in elementary school, you might remember how the first kid would be told a message by the teacher.† Then the rest of the class would pass the message along from one kid to another.† The final kid to hear it rarely, if ever, correctly got the full, original message.† Does a similar problem confront believers in the New Testament when judging whether it is an accurate record for the life and ministry of Jesus and his disciples?†
SCHOLARS MOVE AWAY FROM A
† SECOND-CENTURY DATE FOR THE NEW TESTAMENT
Recently among scholars a move away from a second-century composition date for the New Testament has developed.† For example, Biblical archeologist William Foxwell Albright remarks:† "In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew [Luke presumably would be an exception‑‑EVS] between the forties and eighties of the first century A.D. (very probably sometime between about A.D. 50 and 75)."† Elsewhere he states:† "Thanks to the Qumran discoveries [meaning, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which first were uncovered in 1947 in the West Bank of Jordan], the New Testament proves to be in fact what it was formerly believed to be:† the teaching of Christ and his immediate followers between cir. 25 and cir. 80 A.D."† Scholar John A.T. Robertson (in Redating the New Testament) maintains that every New Testament book was written before 70 A.D., including even the Gospel of John and Revelation.† He argues that no New Testament book mentions the actual destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by Rome, it must have been all written before that date.† If the New Testament is a product of the first century, composed within one or two generations of Jesus' crucifixion, worries about the possible inaccuracies of oral transmission (people telling each other stories about Jesus between generations) are unjustified.† As scholar Simon Kistemaker writes:†
Normally, the accumulation of folklore among people of primitive culture takes many generations:† it is a gradual process spread over centuries of time.† But in conformity with the thinking of the form critic [a school of higher criticism that studies how oral transmission shaped the present organization of the New Testament], we must conclude that the Gospel stories were produced and collected within little more than one generation.[iii]
††††††††† HOW PEOPLE IN CULTURES MORE DEPENDENT
ON ORAL TRADITION HAVE BETTER MEMORIES
In cultures where the written word and literacy are scarce commodities, where very few people able to read or afford to own any books, they develop much better memories about what they are told, unlike people in America and other Western countries today.† For example, Alex Haley (the author of Roots) was able to travel to Africa, and hear a man in his ancestors' African tribe, whose job was to memorize his people's past, mention his ancestor Kunta Kinte's disappearance.† In the Jewish culture in which Jesus and His disciples moved, the students of a rabbi had to memorize his words.† Hence, Mishna, Aboth, ii, 8 reads:† "A good pupil was like a plastered cistern that loses not a drop."† The present-day Uppsala school of Harald Riesenfeld and Birger Gerhardsson analyzes Jesus' relationship with His disciples in the context of Jewish rabbinical practices of c. 200 A.D.† Jesus, in the role of the authoritative teacher or rabbi, trained his disciples to believe in and remember His teachings.† Because their culture was so strongly oriented towards oral transmission of knowledge, they could memorize amazing amounts of material by today's standards.† This culture's values emphasized the need of disciples to remember their teacher's teachings and deeds accurately, then to pass on this (now) tradition faithfully and as unaltered as possible to new disciples they make in the future.† Paul's language in I Cor. 15:3-8 reflects this ethos, especially in verse 3:† "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures . . ."† Correspondingly, the apostles were seen as having authority due to being eyewitness guardians of the tradition since they knew their Teacher well (cf. the criterion for choosing an apostle listed in Acts 1:21-22; cf. I Cor. 9:1).† Furthermore, the words of Jesus were recorded within a few decades of His death while eyewitnesses, both friendly and hostile, still lived.† These could easily publicly challenge any inaccuracies in circulation.† As scholar Laurence McGinley writes:† "The fact that the whole process took less than thirty years, and that its essential part was accomplished in a decade and a half, finds no parallel in any [oral] tradition to which the Synoptic Gospels [Mark, Luke, and Matthew] have been compared."
HOW THE BOOK OF ACTS IMPLIES THE
††††††††† NEW TESTAMENT WAS WRITTEN BEFORE C. 63 A.D.
A very straightforward argument for the date of the New Testament can be derived from the contents of Acts.† The Gospel of Luke and Acts were originally one book, later divided into two.† As a result, Luke was necessarily written a bit earlier than Acts.† In turn, Luke is traditionally seen as having depended upon Mark over and above his own sources, so Mark was necessarily written still earlier.† Furthermore, Matthew is normally seen as having been written after Mark but before Luke.† Hence, if a firm date can be given to Acts, all of the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Luke, and Matthew) had to have been composed still earlier.† There are six good reasons to date Acts as being written by c. 63 A.D.† First, Acts doesn't mention the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., despite much of its action focuses in and around that city.† Only if it was written earlier does the omission of this incredibly disruptive event in the Holy Land make sense.† Since in his Gospel Luke himself relates Jesus' predictions of Jerusalem's destruction in the Mount Olivet Prophecy (chapter 21), it's hard to believe he would overlook its fulfillment if he had written Acts after 70 A.D.† Second, Nero's persecutions of the mid-60's aren't covered.† Luke's general tone towards the Roman government was peaceful and calm, which wouldn't fit if Rome had just launched a major persecution campaign against the church.† (The later book of Revelation has a very different spirit on this score, even if it is in symbolic prophetic code, since the Beast was Rome).† Third, the martyrdoms of James (61 A.D.) as well as Paul and Peter (mid-60s A.D.) aren't mentioned in Acts.† The ancient Jewish historian Josephus (c. 37-100 A.D.) does record the death of James, so this event can be easily dated.† Since these three men are leading figures in the Book of Acts, it would be curious to omit how they died, yet include the martyrdoms of other Christians like Stephen and James the brother of John.† Fourth, the key conflicts and issues raised in the church that it records make sense in the context of a mainly Jewish Messianic Church centered on Jerusalem before 70 A.D.† It describes disputes over circumcision and admitting the gentiles into the church as having God's favor, the division between Palestinian and Hellenistic Jews (Acts 6:1), and the Holy Spirit falling on different ethnic groups (Jews followed by gentiles).† These issues had a much lower priority after 70 A.D. than before.† The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. basically wiped out Jewish Christianity as a strong organized movement.† Fifth, some of the phrases used in Acts are primitive and very early, such as "the Son of man," "the Servant of God" (to refer to Jesus), "the first day of the week," and "the people" (to refer to Jews).† After 70 A.D., these expressions would need explanation, but before then they didn't in the Messianic Jewish Christian community.† Finally, of course, the Jewish revolt against Rome starting in 66 A.D. that led to destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. isn't referred to in Acts despite its ultimately apocalyptic effects on the Jewish Christian community.† Hence, judging from what the author included as important historically, if Acts was written about c. 63 A.D., the Gospel of Luke would be slightly older, and correspondingly Matthew and Mark probably should be dated to the mid-40s to mid-50s A.D.[iv]† Paul's letters have to be older than Acts as well.† This internal evidence points to a first-century date of composition for the New Testament; There's no need to find first-century manuscripts of the New Testament to know it was composed then.
THE NEW TESTAMENT WASN'T SUBJECT
TO A LONG PERIOD OF ORAL TRADITION
Several reasons indicate that the New Testament wasn't subject to a long period of oral tradition, of people retelling each other stories over the generations.† Let's assume the document scholars call "Q" did exist, which they say Matthew and Luke relied upon to write their Gospels.† If "Q" can be dated to around 50 A.D. after Jesus's death in 31 A.D., little time remains in between for distortions to creep in due to failed memory.† Furthermore, the sayings of Jesus found in the Gospels were in an easily memorized, often poetic form in the original Aramaic.† Then, since Paul was taken captive about 58 A.D., how he wrote to the Romans, Corinthians, Thessalonians, and Galatians indicates that he assumed they already had a detailed knowledge of Jesus.† He almost never quotes Jesus' words his letters (besides in I Cor. 11:24-25).† Hence, as James Martin commented:†
As a matter of fact, there was no time for the Gospel story of Jesus to have been produced by legendary accretion.† The growth of legend is always a slow and gradual thing.† But in this instance the story of Jesus was being proclaimed, substantially as the Gospels now record it, simultaneously with the beginning of the Church.†
Using the writing of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484-430 to 420 b.c.) as a test case, A.N. Sherwin-White, a University of Oxford scholar in ancient Roman and Greek history, studied the rate at which legend developed in the ancient world.† Even two generations (c. 60+ years) is not enough to wipe out a solid foundation of historical facts, he argues.† J. Warwick Montgomery remarked that form criticism [a school of higher criticism] fails because "the time interval between the writing of the New Testament documents as we have them and the events of Jesus' life which they record is too brief to allow for communal redaction [editing] by the Church."† Anderson adds, in a statement that higher critics must reckon with:†
What is beyond dispute is that every attempt to date the Gospels late in the first century has now definitely failed, crushed under the weight of convincing evidence.† If the majority of the five hundred witnesses to the resurrection were still alive around AD 55 . . . then our Gospels must have begun to appear when many who had seen and heard the earthly Jesus‑‑including some of the apostles‑‑were still available to confirm or question the traditions.[v]†
Claims that the New Testament wasn't finished by c. 100 A.D. are simply untenable.
IT HAS A SHORTER GAP BETWEEN ITS
† ORIGINAL WRITING AND OLDEST EXTANT COPIES
As shown above, scholars have in recent decades increasingly discredited dates that make the New Testament a second-century document.† As Albright comments:† "We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after about A.D. 80, two full generations before the date[s] between 130 and 150 given by the more radical New Testament critics of today."[vi]† This development makes the time gap between the oldest surviving copies and the first manuscript much smaller for the New Testament than the pagan historical works cited earlier.† The gap between its original copy (autograph) and the oldest still-preserved manuscript is 90 years or less, since most of the New Testament was first written before 70 A.D. and first-century fragments of it have been found.† One fragment of John, dated to 125 A.D., was in the past cited as the earliest copy known of any part of the New Testament.† But in 1972, nine possible fragments of the New Testament were found in a cave by the Dead Sea.† Among these pieces, part of Mark was dated to around 50 A.D., Luke 57 A.D., and Acts from 66 A.D.† Although this continues to be a source of dispute, there's no question the Dead Sea Scrolls document first century Judaism had ideas like early Christianity's.† The earliest major manuscripts‑‑Vaticanus and Sinaiticus‑‑are dated to 325-50 A.D. and 350 A.D. respectively.† By contrast, the time gap is much larger for the pagan works mentioned above.† For Homer, the gap is 500 years (900 b.c. for the original writing, 400 b.c. for the oldest existing copy), Caesar, it's 900-1000 years (c. 100-44 b.c. to 900 A.D.), Herodotus, 1300 years (c. 480-425 b.c. to 900 A.D.) and Thucydides, 1300 years (c. 400 b.c. to 900 A.D.).[vii]† Hence, the New Testament can be objectively judged more reliable than these pagan historical works both by having a much smaller time gap between its first writing and the oldest preserved copies, and in the number of ancient handwritten copies.† While the earliest manuscripts have a different text type from the bulk of later ones that have been preserved, their witness still powerfully testified for the New Testament's accurate preservation since these variations compose only a relatively small part of its text.
THE CASE HISTORY OF JERICHO'S DATING:† ††††††††† HOW ARCHEOLOGY ISN'T ALWAYS RELIABLE
Not every bit of archeological evidence as presently interpreted by archeologists is in perfect conformity with the Bible.† Some controversies remain, mainly over dating.† Archeological evidence can be interpreted in more than one way in good faith, since it is inevitably fragmentary and hence limited.† As Yohanan Aharoni explained:† "When it comes to historical or historio-geographical interpretation, the archaeologist steps out of the realm of the exact sciences, and he must rely upon value judgements and hypotheses to arrive at a comprehensive historical picture."† Furthermore, he admits that archeologists aren't infallible when assigning dates, although today they are better than they used to be.† For a case history of these kinds of problems, consider the date for the fall of Jericho, the first city Joshua took when Israel invaded the Promised Land.† A straightforward interpretation of I Kings 6:1, which says Solomon began to build the Temple of Jehovah in Jerusalem 480 years after Israel left Egypt, points to the Exodus occurring about the year 1445 b.c.† Since Israel spent forty years wandering in the wilderness in punishment for their sins, they must have taken Jericho about the year 1405 b.c.† Before World War II, professor John Garstang found the city of Jericho had been wiped out and rebuilt numerous times.† For one of these times, the walls fell as if an earthquake destroyed them, and fire totally burned up the city.† He even found that the walls fell outwards, as Joshua 6:20 implies, which is very unusual for ancient cities, whose walls normally fell inwards, towards their buildings.† Garstang believed this event happened around 1400 b.c.‑‑just about the time Joshua invaded Palestine.† But later, following her own excavations, the archeologist Kathleen Kenyon maintained Jericho was destroyed about 1325 b.c., after a much earlier destruction in the sixteenth century.† She believed no inhabited city occupied the site in the fifteenth century.† Was the Bible wrong?† More recently, John J. Brimson re-examined the evidence.† He maintains the destruction Kenyon saw as happening in the sixteenth century could well have occurred in the middle of the fifteenth.† Furthermore, Garstang's earlier investigation found only one piece of Mycenean (early Greek and Cretan) pottery out of over 150,000 shards at the City IV level of Jericho.† Since Mycenean pottery was exported into Palestine soon after 1400 b.c., this level of Jericho had to have been destroyed considerably earlier than approximate 1325 b.c. date Kenyon deduced.† Hence, since the evidence concerning the date of Jericho's fall can easily be interpreted to fit the Bible's dating of it, there's no compelling reason to say it is wrong. (Notice the dispute concerns dating, not whether Jericho existed or the walls fell).† This case demonstrates an important principle about the relationship of archeological evidence and the Bible:† If there are any disagreements, reexamination and reinterpretation of existing evidence or the discovery of new evidence may resolve them.† This is hardly a procedure of blind faith, since archeology in the past has so often has vindicated the Bible while abasing its critics (who still never seem to give up!)[viii]
THE BOOK OF DANIEL VINDICATED ABOUT
† BELSHAZZAR, THE LAST KING OF BABYLON
At one time, skeptics claimed the book of Daniel was wrong to say the last king of Babylon was Belshazzar instead of Nabonidus.† No known ancient source mentioned him besides the Bible.† But thanks to archeological discoveries, piecing the actual truth together proved to be like solving a puzzle step-by-step.† In 1861 on a Babylonian text, the name "Belshazzar" first appeared.† Then in 1882 the Chronicle of Nabonidus appeared.† It stated that Nabonidus lived in Tema while his son stayed in Babylon itself, but failed to name him.† Then in 1884, Belshazzar was said to be the son of Nabonidus on one tablet.† One inscription first read in 1916 had an oath sworn to both, naming both Nabonidus and Belshazzar.† This obviously implied some kind of dual monarchy existed.† Finally, in 1924, on yet another inscription, King Nabonidus declared:† "I entrusted kingship on my son Belshazzar."† The puzzle parts, when put together, show Nabonidus chose to retire (much like Charles V of Austria did in the sixteenth century, or Queen Wilhelmina of Holland in this century) while leaving actual rulership to his son.† This peculiar dual kingship explained why, at his final feast after Daniel interpreted the writing on the wall for him, Belshazzar offered and later gave the Hebrew prophet the position of being "the third ruler in the kingdom" (Dan. 5:16, 29).† Yale professor R.P. Dougherty placed the book of Daniel above other ancient writings, explaining:† "The Scriptural account may be interpreted as excelling because it employs the name Belshazzar, because it attributes royal power to Belshazzar, and because it recognizes that a dual rulership existed in the kingdom."[ix]† This case shows that when the Bible conflicts with other ancient source(s), it's unwise to automatically assume the Bible is wrong, and the ancient pagan sources right.
LIONS IN MESOPOTAMIA AND DOMESTICATED CAMELS:†
†††††††††† THE BIBLE IS RIGHT AFTER ALL
Skeptics also have declared the Bible wrong for portraying camels as being domesticated in the time of Abraham and Isaac (c. 1820 b.c.) in Genesis 24:10.† Werner Keller, in his occasionally skeptical The Bible as History (1964), maintained these "camels" were really donkeys.† More recently, Moshe Dayan, the one-eyed Israeli military leader and archeologist, found evidence that camels "served as a means of transport" in patriarchal times:† "An eighteenth-century BC relief found at Byblos in Phoenicia [modern Lebanon] depicts a kneeling camel."† He also added that:† "Camel riders appear on cylinder seals recently discovered in Mesopotamia belonging to the patriarchal period."† The higher critics also claimed no lions lived in ancient Mesopotamia.† This meant the prophet Nahum's references to them when condemning Assyria and Nineveh were wrong (see Nahum 2:11-12).† It is now known lions were imported from Africa into Assyria.† Kept in captivity until the king had them released, he hunted them down for sport.† After killing them and bringing them back, lions would be offered in the temple as a sacrifice to the gods.[x]† O, how wrong these higher critics proved to be!† Yet how many believed them, thinking their conclusions came from "the assured results of modern science" rather than an anti-God bias?† Hasn't it been shown above that the skeptics have been proven time and time again?† Judging from their poor track record, doesn't this show people should be wary of trusting them the next time they read about someone claiming the Bible isn't historically accurate?† Why be automatically skeptical of the Bible, when the skeptics themselves have been proven wrong so often?† Let's be skeptical of the skeptics in the future!
†††† OTHER CONFIRMATIONS OF BIBLICAL REFERENCES
Consider other cases in which archeological evidence confirmed Biblical references.† After invading Canaan, Joshua built an altar to God on Mount Ebal (Joshua 8:30).† Excavations performed on Mount Ebal during 1982-84 uncovered an ancient altar‑‑quite possibly the one built by Joshua.† The only city Joshua burned during his conquest of the promised land in the north was Hazor (cf. Josh. 11:11).† Only excavations at this site have found this kind of destruction for the time of Joshua's northern campaign.† Joab, the army commander for King David, and Abner, the general for King Saul's son, fought with handpicked men near the Pool of Gibeon (II Sam. 2:13-17).† The actual Pool of Gibeon has been discovered, positively identified by a jar handle inscribed with "Gibeon" found in it.† The prophet Amos condemned the unrighteous for having the great luxury of ivory in their houses as Israel fell into idolatry, crime, and sin.† He especially included the king of Israel in context by implication (Amos 3:15; see also 6:14; I Kings 22:39).† Interestingly, the king's palace is one of the few places within Israel where artifacts made of ivory have been dug up.† Good King Hezekiah of Judah, according to II Kings 20:20, "made a pool and the conduit, and brought water into the city [Jerusalem]."† In order to supply Jerusalem with water during a possible future siege by the Assyrians, Hezekiah bored a tunnel 1,750 feet long through solid rock.† The American traveler Edward Robinson and a missionary, Eli Smith, accidently discovered the tunnel in 1838.† In 1880, a boy noticed an inscription in Hebrew on its wall, which described how the work crews dug the tunnel from each end, meeting in the middle.† Hilkiah, the high priest for King Josiah of Judah, found the book of the law in the temple (II Kings 22:8).† In 1984, in the home of an antique collector in Paris, a ring was found with this inscription: "(Belonging) to Hanan, son (of) Hilkiah, the priest."† Clay seals (bullae) have been uncovered with such Biblical names as Baruch, the scribe for the prophet Jeremiah, Jerahmeel, the king's son, and Gemariah, the son of Shaphan the scribe (Jer. 32:12, 36:12, 26).† Nebuchadnezzar's three assaults against Jerusalem (605 b.c., 598-597 b.c., and 589-586 b.c.) all have evidence from outside the Bible to confirm their occurrence.† Especially striking is the tablet where in his seventh year "the Babylonian king" took "the city of Judah," installed a king of his choice [i.e., Zedekiah for Jehoiachin], and received heavy tribute (II Kings 24:10-18).† On the cylinder that bears his name, King Cyrus of Persia had his own words discovered in Babylon in 1887.† Corresponding to Isaiah 45:13 for the Jews, he proclaims the policy of allowing those captives dragged into exile by Babylon to return home and to let them rebuild their sanctuaries.† Time and again, the Bible's references do check out‑‑so why are so many today so skeptical about it?[xi]
THE ARCHEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE FOR PONTIUS PILATE
††† VERSUS THE ARGUMENT FROM SILENCE
More specifically, consider the case of Pontius Pilate as bearing on the New Testament's trustworthiness.† Some have doubted whether Pontius Pilate even lived, the Roman Empire's Procurator of Judea who had Jesus of Nazareth crucified in 31 A.D. (Matthew 27; John 18-19).† But then in 1961 an archeological expedition from Italy overturned a stone used as a stairway for a Roman theater in ancient Caesarea (in modern Israel).† The Latin inscription on it said (here put in English):† "To the people of Caesarea Tiberium Pontius Pilate Prefect of Judea."† As Michael J. Howard remarks:† "It was a fatal blow to the doubts about Pilate's existence. . . .† For the first time there was contemporary epigraphic [writing in stone] evidence of the life of the man who ordered the crucifixion of Christ.[xii]† This case illustrates a fallacious argument that disbelievers in the Bible use again and again.† They argue from silence, and say that because the Bible records something mentioned nowhere else, it can't be true (or certainly true).† Archeological discoveries have repeatedly refuted their claims after being made, as shown above in the section dealing with the Old Testament.† The New and Old Testaments have shown themselves trustworthy so often in what can be checked, it's proper to infer or extrapolate that the rest of what can't be checked is also reliable.† This is not a procedure of blind faith.
††††† LUKE'S† RELIABILITY† AS† A† HISTORIAN† PERSUADES
††††††††††††† AN† ATHEIST† TO† BECOME† A† BELIEVER
What archeological evidence is there for the New Testament's reliability generally, and Luke's in particular?† The English archeologist Sir William Ramsay (professor of humanity at Aberdeen University in Scotland, 1886-1911) had been totally skeptical about the accuracy of the New Testament, especially the writings of Luke.† Indeed, he was an atheist, raised by parents who were atheists.† After going to what is now Turkey, and doing a topographical study, he totally changed his mind.† This man, who had studied archeology in order to refute the Bible, instead discovered hundreds of historical facts that confirmed it.† Later, he wrote that Luke "should be placed along with the very greatest of historians."† He had believed, as per nineteenth-century German higher criticism, that Acts was written in the second century.† But he found it must have been written earlier, because it reflected conditions typical of the second half of the first century.† He explained why he changed his mind thus:
I may fairly claim to have entered on this investigation without prejudice in favour of the conclusion which I shall now seek to justify to the reader.† On the contrary, I began with a mind unfavourable to it, for the ingenuity and apparent completeness of the Tubingen [higher critic] theory had at one time quite convinced me.† It did not then lie in my line of life to investigate the subject minutely; but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities and society of Asia Minor.† It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative [of Luke in Acts] showed marvelous truth.† In fact, beginning with a fixed idea that the work was essentially a second century composition, and never relying on its evidence as trustworthy for first century conditions, I gradually came to find it a useful ally in some obscure and difficult investigations.
SPECIFIC EXAMPLES† SHOWING† LUKE WAS RIGHT AFTER ALL
Let's examine some cases where Luke was called wrong, but later vindicated.† For example, Luke was said to imply incorrectly that the cities of Lystra and Derbe were in Lycaonia but Iconium wasn't (Luke 14:6), according to what the Roman politician and orator Cicero (106-43 b.c.) and others had written anciently.† But in 1910, Ramsay found a monument that showed Iconium was in Phyrgia, not Lycaonia‑‑a discovery since corroborated by further evidence.† When Luke said Lysanias was the Tetrarch of Abilene (Luke 3:1), this was said to be erroneous, since the only Lysanias known to ancient historians had died in 36 b.c.† But later an inscription, dated between A.D. 14 and 29, was discovered near Damascus, Syria that said "Freedman of Lysanias the Tetrarch."† The textual critic F.J.A. Fort maintained Luke was wrong to use the Greek word meris to mean "district" when referring to Philippi as part of Macedonia.† Later archeological discoveries have found that Luke was right‑‑this very word meris was employed to describe this district's divisions.† Luke called Publius of Malta the "first man of the island" (Acts 28:7); inscriptions have been found that refer to him as "first man." †Luke wrote of a riot in Ephesus that took place in its theater.† Having room for 25,000 people, this theater has been dug up.† Paul's preaching here provoked a riot because silversmiths feared their trade in objects related to the Temple of Artemis (one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world) would collapse if he was believed.† Correspondingly, one unearthed inscription said the silver statues of Artemis were to be placed in the "theater during a full session of the Ecclesia [assembly]."† Luke once described Paul nearly being killed by a riot provoked by the rumor he had brought a gentile into the Temple (Acts 21:27-31).† Helping confirm this account, archeologists have found inscriptions that read in Latin and Greek:† "No foreigner may enter within the barrier which surrounds the temple and enclosure.† Anyone who is caught doing so will be personally responsible for his ensuing death."[xiii]† Evidence favoring Luke's reliability as a historian, and thus the New Testament's, could be easily extended.
HOW THE BIBLE CAN RATIONALLY BE PROVEN TO BE THE WORD OF GOD
Letís step back and look at the big picture overall:† The Bible has the answers‑‑but how do you know whether these are the right ones?† Suppose you were raised knowing nothing about the Bible, Old Testament or New Testament, like some tribe in the jungles of New Guinea or along the Amazon in Brazil.† One day, a missionary comes along, and drops on you a copy of the Bible.† Suppose it was in your own language and you are literate enough to read it.† How could you judge whether its contents are true?† Suppose a competing religion's missionary left a Quran (Koran) behind.† How could you judge whether that book was reliable?† To be rational in our religious beliefs, instead of just blindly following what our parents believe, we need to apply reason and not just emotion to figuring out what our religious beliefs should be.† Later on in this booklet, evidence for the historical reliability of the Bible is presented.† But first, fulfilled prophecy is presented as the ultimate proof for the Bible's inspiration.† Historical accuracy merely is a necessary condition for inspiration, not a sufficient one.† A book could be perfectly accurate historically, such as one on the life of Abraham Lincoln, yet not be inspired by God or hold any authority over our lives.† Historical accuracy merely keeps the Bible from being ruled out as the Word of God, but by itself doesn't present much of a positive case for its inspiration.† But it's another story to explain how the Bible could predict the future in advance accurately centuries after its prophets died.† Rationally, this requires belief that its authors received supernatural guidance.† Below prophecies that were fulfilled after some part of the Bible was written but before the twentieth century are examined.† Predictions of events yet to happen, such as judgment day, the second coming, the resurrection of the dead, etc. aren't examined here, because they have yet to happen.† Hence, although the Quran may predict repeatedly a day of judgment, that does little to prove God inspired it since that event hasn't happened yet!† So let's explore the evidence that the Bible successfully predicted the future, which leads us to infer that its authors received supernatural help.
PART I:† THE OLD TESTAMENT SUCCESSFULLY
† PREDICTS THE FUTURE:† BABYLON'S FATE
The great Hebrew prophet Isaiah prophesied in the general period c. 740-700 b.c.† Long before the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, destroyed Jerusalem, Judah's capital, in 586 b.c., Isaiah predicted the destruction of the city of Babylon itself.† Note Isaiah 13:19-20:† "And Babylon, the beauty of the kingdoms, the glory of the Chaldeans' pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.† It will never be inhabited or lived in from generation to generation . . ."† This vast city had (if the ancient Greek historian Herodotus is trusted) a 56-mile circumference and 14-mile long sides, with walls 311 feet high and 87 feet wide.† These figures appear exaggerated:† Archeological digs indicate the inner city had double inner walls of twelve and twenty feet wide and double outer walls twenty-four and twenty-six feet wide.† Nevertheless, since sometimes dirt was put into the area between the double walls such that four horses' spans would fit, Herodotus's figures on the width of the walls weren't that far off.† Occupying some 196 square miles (including protected farmland within the outer walls), it was one of the ancient world's greatest cities.† In modern terms, Isaiah's prophesy would be the equivalent of predicting the complete devastation and permanent desolation of New York, London, or Tokyo.† Situated on the Euphrates River in what is now Iraq, Babylon had been a great center of Middle Eastern culture for some 2000 years.† Additionally, predicting the site wouldn't be rebuilt upon again was very bold, since this commonly happened after a city's destruction in the ancient Middle East.† After the Greek geographer and historian Strabo visited the site of Babylon during the reign of the Roman Emperor Augustus (27 b.c.-17 A.D.), he commented jokingly:† "The great city is a great desert."† It hasn't been rebuilt since either!
†††††††††† THE DESTRUCTION OF NINEVEH PREDICTED,
††††††† ONCE THE CAPITAL OF THE ASSYRIAN EMPIRE
Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, was a great city on the Tigris River in what is now Iraq (ancient Mesopotamia).† Willingly burning cities, the Assyrians's cruelty inspired hatred from those they conquered.† Sample punishments they inflicted included skinning people alive, burning children, impaling enemies on stakes, and chopping off hands and heads.† Writing around 627 b.c., the prophet Zephaniah predicted Nineveh's destruction along with the Assyrian Empire's:† "And He [God] will stretch out His hand against the north and destroy Assyria, and He will make Nineveh a desolation" (Zeph. 2:13).† Writing between 661 and 612 b.c., the prophet Nahum predicted Nineveh's destruction (Nahum 2:10; 3:19), with the help of a flood (Nahum 2:6) and fire (Nahum 3:13), during which many of its people would be drunk (Nahum 1:10).† Like Babylon, Nineveh was one of the ancient world's greatest cities.† Its inner wall was 100 feet tall and 50 feet thick, complete with a 150-foot-wide moat.† It boasted a 7-mile circumference.† But all this couldn't save it!† As predicted (Nahum 3:12), the city fell easily, after a mere three-month siege, to the combined forces of the Medes, Scythians, and Babylonians under Nabopolassar in 612 b.c.† Showing this wasn't all mere coincidence, guess work, or hopeful wishing, all of Nahum's specific predictions about how Nineveh would fall were fulfilled.
† SWITCHING THE NAMES OF THE CITIES
IN THE PROPHECIES WOULD MAKE THEM FALSE
Now let's examine more closely the fate of Babylon and Nineveh, which were by no means fully identical.† Since both cities were capitals of nations that were major enemies of Israel, Israel's prophets easily could have switched the names of these cities.† Then they would have predicted wrongly, if they had not been inspired by God.† Although both cities suffered destruction, Babylon was clearly predicted to never be inhabited again, but this was never prophesied for Nineveh.† Today, the site of Babylon is totally uninhabited.† The Euphrates River, which still flows through the site, has eroded the ruins on its west side, turning them into a swamp.† On its east side, the ruins are mere low hills of debris.† Isaiah predicted wild animals would inhabit the ruins.† No shepherd would remain there, or stay to rest their flocks (Isa. 13:20-22).† As Floyd Hamilton relates, this has literally happened:† "Travelers [to Babylon] report that the city is absolutely uninhabited, even [by] Bedouins [Arab nomads].† There are various superstitions current among the Arabs that prevent them from pitching their tents there, while the character of the soil prevents the growth of vegetation suitable for the pasturage of flocks."† By contrast, even when the nineteenth-century archeologist Austen Henry Layard investigated the site, a small village sat upon the ruins of Nineveh, nowadays near the outskirts of Mosul, Iraq.† Unlike Babylon, the plains around Nineveh's mound are farmed, and animals can graze on it during seasonal rains.† Significantly, the site's largest mound has an Arabic name meaning "many sheep."† Clearly, if Isaiah had condemned Nineveh instead of Babylon, which would have made sense when he wrote since Assyria was much the greater threat to Israel and Judah in the eighth century b.c., his specific predictions about site of its ruins would have been wrong.† The skeptic can't argue that it's easy to predict the destruction of ancient cities, thinking in time all cities eventually will be destroyed.† The Bible also predicts specifically how these cities would cease to exist, so these predictions can't be called mere lucky guesses.† Furthermore, many ancient cities of the Middle East are still inhabited today, such as Damascus, Jerusalem, Sidon, Aleppo, etc.[xiv]† Why was Babylon's fate different, its site now having been desolate for centuries after being a center of Mesopotamian civilization for centuries, a city dwelled in for perhaps over two thousand years?† Because the God of the Bible yet lives, He intervenes in the affairs of men!
†††††††††† THE ANCIENT PHOENICIAN CITY OF TYRE
PROPHESIED TO BECOME "A BARE ROCK"
The seacoast of what is now Lebanon once was the center of the ancient† maritime civilization of the Phoenicians.† Two of their leading cities were Tyre and Sidon.† Colonists sent out from Tyre settled in and established the city of Carthage in what today is Tunisia in north Africa, which later fought (and lost) the three Punic Wars against the Roman Republic in the period 246-146 b.c..† Tyre was most unusual, since one part was built on the mainland opposite the remainder occupying an island about a half mile off the coast.† God through the prophet Ezekiel condemned Tyre, predicting its complete demise:†
Thus says the Lord God, 'Behold, I am against you, O Tyre, and I will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves.† And they will destroy the walls of Tyre and break down her towers; and I will scrape her debris from her and make her a bare rock.† She will be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken . . . and she will become spoil for the nations.' (Ezekiel 26:3-5)
This prophecy initially was fulfilled in several steps.† First, as Ezekiel 26:7-11; 29:18 described in advance, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar besieged the part of Tyre that was on the mainland for some thirteen years (585-573 b.c.).† He was robbed of the fruits of victory:† After his army broke down its walls and occupied it, he found most of the people (and their transportable wealth) had departed for the island city off the coast.† Since Tyre had a strong navy, he couldn't attack it without a fleet.† When Tyre made peace, it only admitted to Babylon's suzerainty (limited overlordship).† Nevertheless, by destroying the mainland part of the city, Nebuchadnezzar fulfilled part of Ezekiel's predictions.
ALEXANDER THE GREAT ATTACKS TYRE,
FULFILLS MORE OF THE PROPHECY AGAINST IT
Significantly, Ezekiel uses "he" to refer to Nebuchadnezzar in verses 8-11, but switches over to a more anonymous "they" for verse 12:† "Also they will make a spoil of your riches and a prey of your merchandise, break down your walls and destroy your pleasant houses, and throw your stones and your timbers and your debris into the water."† Surely this wasn't the normal fate for an ancient city's rubble, since usually when ancient cities were rebuilt, the new buildings were conveniently placed on top of the old ones' remnants.† What could possibly cause anyone to go through this much bother, to throw a city's ruins into the sea?† The main part of the "they" was the next major actor in the drama of Tyre's fate, Alexander the Great (356-323 b.c.).† During his campaign of conquest against Persia, he attacked Tyre (332 b.c.) after it denied him permission to sacrifice to the Tyrian god Heracles.† He insisted on making the offering in the temple dedicated to Heracles on the island off the coast, not the one in the mainland part of Tyre.† (The mainland city had been partially rebuilt after the destruction wrought by Nebuchadnezzar over two centuries earlier).† In a remarkable operation, Alexander besieged the island city by taking the rubble of the old mainland city and throwing it into the Mediterranean to build a causeway out to it.† After building this land bridge, his army intended to place siege engines up against the island city's strong walls, which seemingly jutted up right out of sea.† The siege lasted seven months‑‑once Alexander gained naval supremacy, the city's conquest followed in short order.† He punished Tyre by executing 2,000 of it leading citizens and selling 30,000 of those left alive into slavery.† Ezekiel prophesied that Tyre's walls and towers would be broken down, and that God "will scrape her debris from her and make her a bare rock."† It happened!† In order to build the 200 foot wide causeway into the sea about a half mile, Alexander's army left no visible ruins behind.† Is this all mere coincidence?
IS† THE† PROPHECY† AGAINST† TYRE† TOTALLY† FULFILLED?
Ezekiel 26:14 predicted:† "'And I will make you a bare rock; you will be a place for the spreading of nets.† You will be built no more, for I the Lord have spoken,' declares the Lord God."† Have these predictions been fulfilled?† Clearly, the part concerning the spreading of fishing nets was.† After visiting the site of Tyre in recent years, Nina Nelson noted "Pale turquoise fishing nets were drying on the shore."† The mainland city became a bare rock due to Alexander's actions in building the causeway, but what about the island city off the coast?† Although it never recovered its former great power, it was rebuilt, becoming a major port in the time of Christ during the first century.† But after the Muslim Mamelukes captured it from the Crusaders during the Middle Ages, they completely wiped it out in 1291.† They wished to ensure some future possible counterattack wouldn't recapture its fort and use it against them again.† Today, a small fishing town of about 12,000 sits on the site of ancient Tyre, due to the Metualis reoccupying the island city site in 1766.† The mainland city site remains abandoned, despite it has large natural freshwater springs.† Since the town of Sur occupies part of the island city site today, was Ezekiel wrong?† Remember, the mainland site is indeed "a bare rock," and no city has ever been rebuilt there.† Furthermore, the switch in Ezekiel's language from "he" (Nebuchadnezzar) to "they" (Alexander and the Muslims mainly) to "I" may imply the last part of Tyre's drama will be played out when God directly intervenes during the Second Coming and beyond.† By this understanding, this prophecy isn't totally fulfilled yet.† Even as it is, the town of Sur has no organic and direct tie to ancient Tyre, since hundreds of years lie between Tyre's destruction by the Muslims in the thirteenth century and the resettlers of the eighteen century.† For example, no buildings of old Tyre survived to be used by the present inhabitants of Sur‑‑unlike the case for Jerusalem.† Furthermore, some fishermen must be living nearby to supply the nets to be dried on the rocks of Tyre‑‑they aren't going to sail miles out of their way to do that![xv]† The witness of the mainland site's desolation should be enough to convince skeptics.
THE CITY OF SIDON, TYRE'S RIVAL IN PHOENICIA
Twenty-two miles up the Lebanese coast, Sidon was the mother city of Tyre.† Although mentioned together often in the Bible, Sidon's fate was to be quite different.
Thus says the Lord God, "Behold, I am against you, O Sidon . . . For I shall send pestilence to her and blood to her streets, and the wounded will fall in her midst by the sword upon her on every side; Then they will know that I am the Lord.† (Eze. 28:22-23)
Notice how the prediction prophesies a war torn future for Sidon, but nothing about her total destruction, complete abandonment, or never being inhabited again.† Even today, Sidon remains a Lebanese port of some significance, although the capital of Beirut (to the north) is presently more important.† After rebelling against the Persian Empire in 351 b.c., the city beat off the initial Persian attempts to quell her.† Following betrayal by her king, 40,000 of Sidon's citizens chose to set fire to their own homes and die rather than let the conquering Persians torture them.† Three times it changed hands between the Crusaders and Muslims during the Middle Ages.† Even in modern times, it has been the scene of conflicts between the Druzes and Turks, the Turks and the French.† In 1840, the fleets of France, England, and Turkey bombarded Sidon.† Clearly, blood has been spilled in her streets‑‑but each time after being destroyed or damaged, Sidon was quickly rebuilt.† Even when the city revolted against Assyrian rule in 677 b.c. and got destroyed in retaliation, the Assyrians created a new provincial capital called "Fort Esarhaddon" on or near the site of the old city.† Now, if Ezekiel had switched Tyre's name for Sidon's, wouldn't his prophecies have been proven wrong?[xvi]† Nobody came along to toss Sidon's ruins into the sea!† How did he know so far in advance that Tyre's fate would be so much worse than Sidon's?† How was he able to get the specific details correct?† Both cities' ancient inhabitants worshipped false gods using idols, something which Jehovah, the God of Israel, condemned time and time again through His prophets.† Rationally speaking, is it plausible Ezekiel just blindly guessed correctly the different destinies of these two cities, although both were similarly sinful in his God's sight?
ALEXANDER THE GREAT'S SUCCESSFUL
INVASION OF PERSIA PREDICTED LONG IN ADVANCE
The prophet Daniel, writing during the period 605-536 b.c., predicted Greece would destroy the Persian Empire.† Using a goat to stand for Greece, and a ram to symbolize Persia, he wrote:
While I was observing [in a prophetic vision], behold, a male goat was coming from the west over the surface of the whole earth without touching the ground; and the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes.† And he came up to the ram that had the two horns, which I had seen standing in front of the canal, and rushed at him in his mighty wrath. . . .† So he [the goat] hurled him [the ram] to the ground and trampled on him, and there was none to rescue the ram from his power. . . .† The ram which you saw with two horns represented the kings of Media and Persia.† And the shaggy goat represented the kingdom of Greece, and the large horn that is between his eyes is the first king. (Dan. 8:5-7, 20-21; cf. Dan. 11:2-4).
Over two hundred years after Daniel's death, his inspired predictions came true.† Alexander the Great invaded and conquered Persia during the years 334-330 b.c.
†††† DANIEL PREDICTS THE DIVISION OF ALEXANDER'S EMPIRE
Daniel also foresaw the division of Alexander's empire into four parts, after the Macedonian conqueror's death:
ďThen the male goat magnified himself exceedingly.† But as soon as he was mighty, the large horn was broken; and in its place there came up four conspicuous horns towards the four winds of heaven. . . . the large horn that is between his eyes is the first king.† And the broken horn and the four horns that arose in its place represent four kingdoms which will arise from his nation, although not with his power" (Dan. 8:8, 21-22).†
Following Alexander the Great's sudden and early death, four of his generals divided up his empire.† Ptolemy (Soter) took Egypt and Judea, Lysimachus controlled Asia Minor (modern Turkey), Cassander got Greece and Macedonia, and Seleucus (Nicator) grabbed what is now Iraq and Syria on into Iran. †This prophecy was fulfilled to the letter, since these kingdoms never reached the size or power of Alexander's empire, and Alexander died soon after conquering Persia at age 33.† This was hardly a lucky guess.† Daniel just as easily could have written that the Greek king's empire would be split up into a different number of parts, be defeated by Persia, or that Alexander would reign long.[xvii]
BUT WAS HISTORY MASQUERADING AS PROPHECY?
At this point, skeptics may argue that fulfilled prophecy is merely history in disguise.† To avoid the ominous implications for their spiritual lives that these Hebrew prophets predicted the future accurately, they will postdate their books to some time after the events they predicted happened.† (Of course, this concession admits the Bible isn't myths or fairy tales, but historically accurate in these cases).† This argument suffers from some major objections.† It assumes ahead of the fact (a priori) what it wishes to prove:† Implicitly claiming there is no God and/or that He doesn't intervene in history, it asserts all fulfilled prophecies are actually history pretending to be prophecy.† Therefore, the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel, etc. were written centuries after their putative authors lived.† This reasoning is actually circular, and ignores any contrary archeological or historical evidence raised against it.† For example, because Daniel accurately describes in advance important events in Middle Eastern history down into the second century b.c., many higher critics conclude it had to be written in or finished by that century.† Now about half of Daniel was written in the language of Aramaic.† Since Aramaic changed over the centuries, much like English has since the time of Chaucer or even Shakespeare, documents written in it can be roughly dated.† The skeptics ignore how its style, in vocabulary, structure, and syntax, doesn't fit the second century b.c.† Consider the implications of the Elephantine Papyri of the fifth century b.c.† The structure of their Aramaic more closely matches Daniel than the Aramaic of the Maccabean period of the second century.† As Old Testament scholar Gleason L. Archer comments:† "Hence these chapters [Dan. 2-7] could not have been composed as late as the second century or the third century, but rather‑‑based on purely philological [language structure] grounds‑‑they have to be dated in the fifth or late sixth century . . ."†
WAS EZEKIEL WRITTEN IN THE EARLY SIXTH CENTURY B.C.?
Then consider the book of Ezekiel, which has been frequently cited above.† Did Ezekiel write it and prophesy between about 597 b.c. and 570 b.c.?† To claim someone else wrote this book ignores how, unlike other Biblical books, the personal pronoun "I" is used throughout.† It contains commonly used† catch phrases, such as:† "Then they will know that I am the Lord" (over 50 times), "As I live, says the Lord God" (13 times), "my sabbaths" (12 times), "countries" (24 times), "idols" (around 40 times), and "walking in my statutes" (11 times).† Commonly, higher critics assert authors always keep the same literary style no matter what subject or time they write something.† (If this kind of reasoning was always true, the English poet John Milton (1608-74) couldn't have written the poem "Paradise Lost," the poem "L'Allegro," and his political tracts).† But here this kind of reasoning undermines their own arguments against the unity (single authorship) of Ezekiel.† Although the authenticity of Ezekiel has been attacked for dating events by some year "of king Jehoiachin's captivity," more recently this has become an excellent argument for dating it to early in the sixth century b.c.† During much of the time Ezekiel prophesied Zedekiah was king in Jerusalem.† But the people of Judah considered Zedekiah (the uncle of Jehoiachin) as only a regent for Jehoiachin, who had been taken into captivity earlier by Nebuchadnezzar during an earlier assault on Judah.† The archeological discovery of seal impressions on three jar handles that referred to "Eliakim steward of Jehoiachin" implies that Jehoiachin still had property in Judah despite being in exile.† Ultimately, the only reason to believe Ezekiel didn't write Ezekiel are the assumptions of liberal skeptics who automatically disbelieve any book of the Bible was composed when it said it was:† It would challenge their presuppositions that God doesn't exist and/or doesn't intervene in history.
†††††††††† THE HEBREW PROPHETS' PROPHECIES WERE CLEAR
†††††††††† AND FULFILLED INDEPENDENTLY
The prophecies of the Hebrew prophets outlined above clearly are not ambiguous statements that can be interpreted in myriads of ways.† They avoid (say) the deliberately obscure predictions of astrologers which allow for many widely varying events to "fulfill" them.† Similarly, consider their differences from the ancient Greeks' Oracle at Delphi.† At this shrine to the god Apollo, Croesus, the king of Lydia, asked the "prophetess" whether he should attack Persia, the empire next door.† She replied:† "If Croesus should make war on the Persians, he would destroy a mighty empire."† This prediction encouraged Croesus to attack Persia‑‑and he did indeed destroy a "mighty empire"--his own!† In another case, Athenians argued over how to interpret one prediction by the prophetess at Delphi as the Persian king Xerxes's invading army threatened Greece.† She predicted:† "Yet Zeus the all-seeing grants to Athene's prayer that the wooden wall only shall not fall, but help you and your children."† The Athenians then debated whether the "wooden wall" referred to their navy protecting them or to the thorn-hedge that surrounded the Acropolis where the Parthenon stands today.† Thanks to Themistocles, they opted for the former interpretation.† They went on to win the naval battle of Salamis as a result (480 b.c.)† In contrast, when Isaiah predicts Babylon would be destroyed and not inhabited again forever, no ambiguity exists:† Either Babylon is or isn't destroyed.† Either Babylon is or isn't inhabited again.† Furthermore, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Isaiah were in no position to make sure their prophecies were fulfilled.† The cities and empires listed as destroyed or humbled above were finished off centuries later by non-Jewish nations in most cases, especially Greece, Rome, or the Arabs and Muslims.† The prophecies were not self-fulfilling, but accomplished independently of any actions by the prophets themselves.† The nation of Judah was unable to fulfill these for them.† Since Judah lacked significant military power, it was prey for the great empires of the Middle East except when Yahweh intervened for it.[xviii]
FULFILLED PROPHECY AS GOD'S CHALLENGE TO THE SKEPTIC
Other prophecies could be related to the reader.† Christ's prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem (Luke 21:20-24; Matt. 24:1-2) comes to mind.† The longest single prophecy in the Bible, Daniel 11, is a remarkably detailed summary of centuries of struggles between the Selucid and Ptolemic dynasties after Alexander the Great's conquest of Persia and beyond.† These predictions all confirm God's challenge to the skeptic:
"Present your case," the Lord says.† "Bring forward your strong arguments," the King of Jacob says.† Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; as for the former events, declare what they were, that we may consider them, and know their outcome; or announce to us what is coming.† Declare the things that are going to come afterward, that we may know that you are gods.† (Isaiah 41:21-23)
Compare this to how successful today's supermarket tabloid psychics are.† You will find they are normally wrong.† (Just save a few pages of predictions out of one of these newspapers for a couple of years, and check them out against what actually happens).† Remarkably, a minor nation's seers were routinely correct about the downfall and desolation of much more powerful enemies who worshipped (they believed) false gods.† As McDowell describes:
There were many centers of religious worship in the ancient world:† Memphis-Thebes, Babylon, Nineveh, and Jerusalem were among them.† The pagan deities which men said claimed an equal footing with the One-God, Yahweh, never did last, especially after Jesus Christ.† Yet Yahweh refused to even consider Himself on equal terms with these pagan gods, and even went further by condemning the cities in which these gods flourished.† It is one thing to issue threats, but the point here is to look at history.† Which city out of the above listed has remained?[xix]
To say these specific predictions are all just lucky guesses is a self-deluding rationalization.†
†††††††††† THE PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS OF FULFILLED PROPHECY
The sufficient criterion for the Bible's inspiration is fulfilled prophecy, since attributing successful long-term prophecies to guesswork is preposterous.† This means the Bible's moral standards, such as on sexual morality, can't be lightly dismissed:† The God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, Babylon and Nineveh, is very much alive and well.† When facing what God has done to so many in the past who defied Him by worshipping false gods, we should consider putting our own lives in order.† We Americans shouldn't delude ourselves into thinking we don't worship false gods.† We don't worship Zeus, Apollo, Dagon, Baal, Asarte, Chemosh, Apis, Amon-Re, or Bel, but instead we worship money, power, sex without commitment, and the endless distractions produced by Western materialism and consumerism.† If we don't repent, we'll meet the same fate.† Furthermore, many of the end-time prophecies of the Bible found in the books of Daniel and Revelation could happen in our lifetimes.† These books describe catastrophic disasters, as does Christ's Olivet prophecy (Matt. 24; Luke 21; Mark 13), that make the Second World War look like a firecracker by comparison, such as the great tribulation and the Day of the Lord.† In the light of the above, they should not be scoffed at.† The God who decreed doom in the past to Babylon, Nineveh, and Thebes could well do so today against London, Paris, New York, or Tokyo.† Although Christ warns against setting dates (Matt. 24:36, 42), He said there would be general indications that His Second Coming was near:
Now learn the parable from the fig tree:† when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.† Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.† (Matt. 24:32-34)
Although the world today laughs at the thought of a wrathful God who punishes nations for their sins, the ruins of cities scattered throughout the Middle East bear witness that this is no laughing matter.† The God of the Bible is a God of love (I John 4:16), as shown by His sacrifice by His Son's life for us (I John 3:16).† But this same God hates sin.† He demands that we repent from breaking His holy law (II Peter 3:9; Romans 6:12-16; 8:4).† As the book of Revelation shows, the unrepentant during the Second Coming will meet the same fate as ancient Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt.
EARLY PAGAN REFERENCES TO JESUS † OUTSIDE THE NEW TESTAMENT
What non-Christian sources refer to Jesus soon after his death?† The Roman historian Tacitus's (c. 56-120 A.D.) statement about Jesus leads among the external evidence outside the New Testament for His life.† Showing this couldn't be a pro-Christian monk's inserted interpolation, Tacitus wrote skeptically of Jesus and Christianity:†
Therefore, to scotch the rumour, Nero [(r. 54-68 A.D.), who was blamed for the great fire that broke out in Rome under his rule‑‑EVS] substituted as culprits, and punished with the utmost refinements of cruelty, a class of men, loathed for their vices, whom the crowd styled Christians.† Christus, the found of the name, had undergone the death penalty in the reign of Tiberius, by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate, and the pernicious superstition was checked for a moment, only to break out once more, not merely in Judaea, the home of the disease, but the capital itself, where all things horrible or shameful in the world collect and find a vogue.[xx]
Other early incidental mentions of Jesus and/or the Christians by non-Christian writers have survived.† The Greek writer and satirist, Lucian of Samosata (c. 120-190 A.D.) once wrote of Jesus as:†
the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world. . . .† Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they were all brothers one of another after they have transgressed once for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshipping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws.
The Roman historian and biographer Suetonius (c. 69-after 122 A.D.) remarked: "As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [the Emperor Claudius, in 50 A.D.‑‑cf. Acts 18:2, where Luke mentions this event independently] expelled them from Rome."† Obviously inaccurate, this statement appears to place Christ personally in Rome, instead of saying teaching about Christ had agitated the Jews into rioting.† Still, it does mention Christ's existence.† Pliny the Younger, the governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor (112 A.D.), wrote to the Emperor Trajan about how to treat the Christians.† He had been putting many to death.† He asked whether if all of them should be or just certain ones.† He says of them:
They affirmed, however, that the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery, never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up.
Some other ancient writers, such as Thallus, Phlegon, and Mara Bar-Serapion also wrote of Christ, but their references are preserved only as fragments in the writings of Christians, making their testimony more problematic as independent evidence.[xxi]
† JOSEPHUS AS INDEPENDENT TESTIMONY
FOR THE NEW TESTAMENT AND JESUS' LIFE
The ancient Jewish historian Josephus (c. 37-100 A.D.) mentioned Jesus twice.† Providing independent support for the New Testament's account, Josephus also described John the Baptist, his ministry, and his execution by Herod.[xxii]† Once he briefly alludes to Jesus in a noncommittal or even hostile manner.† This supports its authenticity since a committed Christian is an unlikely candidate to write such an interpolation about his Savior.† Ananus, the high priest, "convened the judges of the Sanhedrin and brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others.† He accused them of having transgressed the law and delivered them up to be stoned."[xxiii]† Being a Jew, Josephus correspondingly and significantly is aware that "Christ" was a title, not a surname originally.† Christians increasingly treated it as the latter as a standard practice.† More problematic is this famous passage:
About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man.† For he was one who wrought surprising feats 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.† When Pilate, upon hearing him accused by men of the highest standing amongst us, had condemned him to be crucified, those who had come to love him did not give up their affection for him.† On the third day he appeared to them restored to life, for the prophets of God had prophesied these and countless other marvelous things about him.† And the tribe of Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.
††††††††† WHY JOSEPHUS' TESTIMONY HAS SOME VALIDITY
Clearly, Josephus could not have written all of the longer passage, or else he would have been a Christian, since he calls Jesus the Messiah and believes in His resurrection.† On the other hand, it shouldn't be seen as an interpolation created whole cloth, since favorable evidence exists for its (partial) authenticity as well.† Since all the handwritten manuscript copies of Josephus contain it, there is good textual evidence for it.† Eusebius (c. 260-339 A.D.), the Catholic Church historian, cited it as well.† As for internal evidence, consider that Josephus called Jesus a "wise man."† A committed Christian would not say something so limited, since Jesus is his God and Savior, but it is like what Josephus said of Solomon and Daniel.† Calling His miracles "surprising feats" or "astonishing deeds" isn't how a Christian would usually describe Jesus' miracles, but Josephus uses the same language to describe Elisha's miracles.† Labeling Christians a "tribe" is never done in early Christian literature, but it fits Josephus's tendency to use this term for the Jews and other national and communal groups.† This passage blames Pontius Pilate heavily for the crucifixion, which certainly swam against the prevailing anti-Semitic Christian tides of the second and third centuries.† Since Catholic Church father Origen (c. 185-254? A.D.) said that Josephus denied Jesus as the Messiah, he couldn't have known it in this form.† Hence, this passage curiously combines Josephus's literary style with some unknown Christian scribe's adulteration of it.† Instead of tossing it out completely, conjecturally reconstructing an original text is more justifiable.† Consider F.F. Bruce's stab at this, which assumes Josephus displayed a hostile tone towards Christianity:
Now there arose about this time a source of further trouble in one Jesus, a wise man who performed surprising works, a teacher of men who gladly welcome strange things.† He led away many Jews, and also many of the Gentiles.† He was the so-called Christ.† When Pilate, acting on information supplied by the chief men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had attached themselves to him at first did not cease to cause trouble, and the tribe of Christians, which has taken this name from him, is not extinct even today.[xxiv]
Even with the self-evident Christian changes to this passage removed, it still attests that Jesus did miracles, that some called Him the Messiah, that Pontius Pilate executed Him, and that His teachings began a religious movement.† So more can be known about Jesus outside the New Testament than just His bare existence and crucifixion.† Some independent testimony for His life appears in non-Christian sources within a century and a half of his death.†
So I hope that this evidence has been helpful to you.† Please notice that much more can be written on these subjects.† I have just scratched the surface above, even if many standard arguments are repeated above.† Furthermore, God expects His people to have some level of faith, but itís not a blind faith.† Evidence exists, but not enough to overcome all skeptical doubts.† After all, we could run all sorts of arguments to doubt the existence of Julius Caesar if we wished.†
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[i].Josh McDowell, More than a Carpenter (Wheaton, IL:† Tyndale House Publishers, 1986), pp. 47-59; McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, vol. 1, pp. 39-43; F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents:† Are They Reliable?, fifth ed. (Downers Grove, IL:† InterVarsity Press, 1960), pp. 19-20.
[ii].This may be implicitly building upon average people's skepticism of ancient texts, ignoring the reality that textual criticism has its scientific aspects.† Textual criticism is also used in analyzing documents that aren't sacred in origin.† See C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock:† Essays on Theology and Ethics, ed., Walter Hooper (Grand Rapids, MI:† William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970), p. 95.
[iii].William Foxwell Albright, Christianity Today, Jan. 18, 1963; William Foxwell Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity (Baltimore:† John Hopkins Press, 1946), p. 23; John A. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (London:† SCM Press, 1976), all as cited in McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, pp. 62-63; R.T. France, The Evidence for Jesus (Downers Grove, IL:† InterVarsity Press, 1986), pp. 119-20; Simon Kistemaker, The Gospels in Current Study (Grand Rapids, MI:† Baker Book House, 1972), pp. 48 and/or 49, as cited by Josh McDowell, More Evidence that Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino, CA:† Here's Life Publishers, 1981), p. 210.
[iv].J.P. Moreland, Scaling the Secular City:† A Defense of Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI:† Baker Book House, 1987), pp. 152-54.
[v].Laurence J. McGinley, Form Criticism of the Synoptic Healing Narratives (Woodstock, MD:† Woodstock College Press, 1944), p. 25; James Martin, The Reliability of the Gospels (London:† Hodder and Stoughton, 1959), p. 103-104; John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity (Downers Grove, IL:† Inter-Varsity Press, 1964, p. 37, all as cited by McDowell, More Evidence, pp. 211-13; Moreland, Scaling the Secular City, pp. 142-44, 156; Norman Anderson, Jesus Christ:† The Witness of History (Leicester, England:† Inter-Varsity Press, 1985), p. 31.
[vi].William F. Albright, Recent Discoveries in Bible Lands (New York:† Funk and Wagnalls, 1955), p. 136, as cited by McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, vol. 1, pp. 62-63.
[vii].See Robert A. Morey, The New Atheism and the Erosion of Freedom (Minneapolis:† Bethany House Publishers, 1986), p. 112.† He cites in turn David Estrada and William White Jr., The First New Testament (Nashville:† Thomas Nelson, 1978).† James C. VanderKam sounds a skeptical note in The Dead Sea Scrolls After Forty Years (Washington, DC:† Biblical Archeology Society, 1991), p. 35; McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, vol. 1, pp. 42-43.†
[viii].The Bible:† God's Word or Man's? (New York:† Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, 1989), pp. 49-53; Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pp. 191, 195-96; John Garstang, The Foundations of Bible History; Joshua, Judges (London:† Constable, 1931), p. 146, the last as noted in McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, vol. 1, p. 69.
[ix].Raymond Philip Dougherty, Nabonidus and Belshazzar (1929), p. 200 as cited in Life‑‑How Did It Get Here?, p. 211; Berg, Treasures in the Sand, p. 205.
[x].Life‑‑How Did It Get Here?, pp. 210-11; Berg, Treasures in the Sand, pp. 192, 205.
[xi].Berg, Treasures in the Sand, pp. 131-33, 142, 157, 181, 195-200, 205-7; Lockyer, ed., Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, p. 992.
[xii].Michael J. Howard, "Unearthing Pontius Pilate," Baltimore Sun, March 24, 1980, pp. B1, B2; as found in Life‑‑How Did It Get Here?, pp. 211-12.
[xiii].McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, vol. 1, pp. 70-73; D. James Kennedy, Why I Believe (1980), p. 28, as cited by Mario Seiglie, "How to Understand the Bible," Good News, Sept./Oct. 1997, p. E2; see also Morey, New Atheism, p. 128.
[xiv].Floyd E. Hamilton, The Basis of the Christian Faith (New York:† George H. Doran Co., 1927), p. 310, as cited in Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino, CA:† Here's Life Publishers, 1979), vol. 1, pp. 296-309; John A. Bloom, "Truth Via Prophecy," in John Warwick Montgomery, ed., Evidence for Faith:† Deciding the God Question (Dallas:† Probe Books, 1991), pp. 184-86; Orley Berg, Treasures in the Sand (Boise, ID:† Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1993), p. 203.
[xv].Herman L. Hoeh, "A New Look at Ezekiel's Prophecy on Tyre," The Authority of the Bible (Pasadena, CA:† Worldwide Church of God, 1980), pp. 8-10; McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, vol. 1, pp. 272-80; Bloom, "Truth Via Prophecy," Montgomery, ed., Evidence for Faith, pp. 181-83; Aid to Bible Understanding (New York:† Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1971), p. 1622.
[xvi].McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, vol. 1, pp. 280-81; Bloom, "Truth Via Prophecy," Montgomery, ed., Evidence for Faith, p. 183; Geoffrey W. Bromiley, gen. ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBN) (Grand Rapids, MI:† William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), vol. 4, p. 501.
[xvii].Herbert W. Armstrong, The Middle East in Prophecy (Pasadena, CA:† Worldwide Church of God, 1972), pp. 2-3.
[xviii].Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI:† Zondervan Publishing House, 1982), p. 283; Berg, Treasures in the Sand, p. 210; McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, vol. 1, pp. 270-72; Lockyer, ed., Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, p. 368; Herodotus, The Histories, trans. Aubrey de Selincourt (London:† Penguin Books, 1954), pp. 488-89; Bloom, "Truth Via Prophecy," Montgomery, ed., Evidence for Faith, pp. 176-77; The Bible:† God's Word or Man's? (New York:† Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1989), pp. 40-41.
[xx].Annals, Loeb edition, 15, 44; as cited in McDowell and Wilson, He Walked Among Us, p. 49.† They make a detailed defense of the authenticity of this statement, including a reasonable argument that Tacitus based his statement on public records, not just hearsay from Christians in Rome.† Both Justin Martyr and Tertullian challenged readers to look up such records about certain details of Jesus' life.† (See pp. 48-51).
[xxi].Lucian, The Passing Peregrinus; Suetonius, Life of Claudius, 25, 4; Pliny the Younger, Epistles, X, 96, all as cited in McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, vol. 1, pp. 82-85.
[xxii].See Antiquities, book 18, chapter 5, section 2, cited in McDowell and Wilson, He Walked Among Us, pp. 37-38.
[xxiii].Antiquities, book 20, chapter 9, section 1; as cited in McDowell and Wilson, He Walked Among Us, pp. 38-39.† Interestingly, in Evidence that Demands a Verdict, vol. 1, p. 83, McDowell cites a more skeptical translation of Josephus in this passage:† "the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James."† The Greek reads "ho legomenos Christos," which Josephus at least once elsewhere uses in a dismissive tone, such as when he refers to Alexandria as Apion's alleged birthplace.† Although the New Testament uses it non-skeptically in Matt. 1:16, it's necessary to determine how Josephus uses this term, not how the New Testament does to judge what Josephus meant.† By this rendering, it's completely impossible that it was a Christian scribe's fabricated interpolation.† Even the less skeptical version is still a very weak affirmation for a Christian scribe bent on perverting Josephus into a supporter of Christianity.† See France, Evidence for Jesus, p. 27, 171 (fn. 12).
[xxiv].France, Evidence for Jesus, pp. 29-31; McDowell and Wilson, He Walked Among Us, pp. 41-45.† An Arabic text of this same passage of Josephus has been found in a tenth century manuscript.† This may contain something closer to the original, assuming a Muslim scribe hadn't toned down the doctored up "Christianized" version!