Part 3 - The Bible's poetry books.
The Bible, God’s Word, is completely reliable and accurate.
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
It is a matter of immense comfort to the Bible believer that he or she can be sure that the Bible is reliable – and that it can be shown to be such. Faith, without which we cannot please God, is not a blind credulity arising from wishful thinking, but an evidence-based conviction that God exists, and that the Bible is the way in which He communicates with people. As stated in the three above-mentioned quotations, an understanding of the Bible which arises from daily prayerful reading thereof, grants a sure foundation for life, - a haven and anchor in the stormy seas of life.
That does not mean, however, that the Bible is a simplistic solution to a series of complex problems in this world, but it does supply not only an invaluable perspective for life and a real hope for the future.
Firstly then, there is the evidence of archaeology which confirms the reliability of the Scriptures. Archaeology involves many different disciplines to interpret data, and whilst physical ‘evidence’ from a ‘dig’ may immediately spring to mind, yet there are numismatic, inscriptional, papyrological studies which combine to support the Biblical record. It is remarkable that in the nineteenth century, when German higher critical philosophy poured scorn on the Bible as history, at the same time evidence from the increased activity of archaeologists’ research in the Levant countered that scorn.
Dead Sea Scrolls
Discovered in 1946 in caves near Qumran in the dead sea valley, the Dead Sea Scrolls, were invaluable testimony to the accuracy of the Bible we have in our hands today - to the fact that they have been faithfully transcribed – that is to say, God had preserved those writings throughout generations (Rom.3:1-2) .
Sodom and Gomorrah The Biblical record of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is famous, – ‘the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the LORD (Yahweh) exceedingly’ (Gen.13:13). In the Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) of August 2009, the writer commented, ‘There is plenty of reason to suspect that the Biblical tradition surrounding (Sodom) was more than fanciful legend. ..The Sodom story told in the Bible is likely to represent …a single catastrophic event…nearly 4,000 years ago’. The BAR article suggested from archaeological research that the destruction was caused by a massive Richter 8 earthquake discharging sulphur, bitumen and gas deposits ignited by lightning to create a furnace of destruction. The demolition of that civilisation is mentioned some fourteen times in the Bible, including a description by the Lord Jesus Christ in Luke 17:29 - 30, as a warning to subsequent generations. King David, ancestor of Jesus The Biblical record of David in the books of Samuel and Kings, as being Yahweh’s chosen king of Israel, has often been challenged with allegations that David, if he existed, was only a local minor chieftain. However, in 1993, Avraham Biran found a basalt 9th century BCE stele at Tel Dan in the north of Israel. Included on it, an Aramean king recorded his defeat of Israelite and Judean kings, and significantly referred to the ‘king of the house of David’. Thus, Israel’s enemies confirm, some hundred years after David’s death, that David not only existed but also established a royal dynasty – as the Bible records (2Sam.2:4, 2Sam.5:3). Reliable in detail There is indeed a massive amount of archaeological evidence to establish the reliability of the Bible – some of that evidence supports major Biblical events – other evidence relates to ‘minor’ features, which demonstrate that even in detail the Bible is reliable. An example of this occurs in Genesis 14:14 and relates to Abraham, the patriarch of the nation of Israel. The term ‘trained servants’ in that verse is the plural form of the Hebrew word ‘chanik’, which is unique to the Bible, but is seen in Execration Texts of the late 19th century BCE, where it is used of retainers of Canaanite chieftains. Prof. W.E. Albright, in his book Archaeology of Palestine, makes the point that this is evidence that Genesis 14 was written in the era it portrays. The Evidence of Bible Prophecy Many examples of fulfilled Bible prophecy could be given, whereby the Bible records in advance, events which then were fulfilled hundreds of years and sometimes thousands of years later. The book of the prophet Daniel (6th century BCE) in chapters two and seven foretells of only four world empires and that the Babylonian empire would be followed by the rise of the Medo-Persian Empire (7th century BCE – 4th century BCE), the Greek Empire (8th BCE – 2nd century) and the Roman Empire (1st century BCE – 1453 CE). Thereafter, the known world would be dominated by empires which would only control parts of civilisation. Further, that situation would pertain until the return of Christ with the subsequent establishment of a world-wide kingdom upon the earth (Dan.2:44-45). Whilst the return of Jesus Christ is still awaited, yet those chapters of Daniel’s prophecy have been accurately fulfilled. The Egyptian empire lasted for 3,000 years (that is approximately 100 generations which compares with the six generations of the British Empire) – and Egypt’s eventual fall would have seemed an impossibility at the time, but the Bible prophet Ezekiel (6th century BCE) forecast that Egypt would become ‘a base kingdom. ‘It shall be the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: for I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations’ (Ezek.29:14-15). The reader may wish to consider whether this prophecy has been accurately fulfilled. The Jewish people, faithless and scattered throughout the world However, there are major series of prophecies which have been fulfilled down through the millennia and even before our eyes today – and are easily verifiable in the mind of a reasonable person. These prophecies relate to the Israelite people. The Bible regularly shows the Jewish people in an unfavourable light, often describing them as being a hard-hearted, stiff-necked people who had been unfaithful to Yahweh. That, in itself, is very interesting because one would expect that a book which describes a nation’s history, when written by people of that same nation, would be a very complimentary record. The fact that the Bible is so uncomplimentary about the Israelite people is indeed a testimony to its validity. The book of Deuteronomy written in the second century BCE posits in the 28th chapter that if Israel were disobedient and faithless toward God, He would visit a multitude of curses upon them which would eventually and successfully cause them to return wholeheartedly to Yahweh and to the prophet greater than Moses (Deut.18:15) – that is to say, Jesus. Here are some verses from Deuteronomy chapter 28: 28:37 ‘And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the LORD (Yahweh) shall lead thee’. 28:64 ‘And the LORD (Yahweh) shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone’. It is therefore pertinent to ask whether Jewish people have been described for much of their history, as a proverb – where the name ‘Jew’ is used in a pejorative sense – as a gibe or taunt. Likewise, it is pertinent to ask if the Jewish people have been scattered among all people from one end of the earth to the other. One only needs to search for Jewish names like ‘Cohen’ or ‘Levy’ in a telephone directory in most nations to confirm that this Bible prophecy has been fulfilled! There are approximately 7 million Jews in the USA, in France around 700 thousand, Russia 170 thousand, Chile 10 thousand and even China 3 thousand (- there are number of methods of calculating a Jewish population, so these figures are only an estimate). Even the Lord Jesus Christ repeated this prophecy concerning the dispersion of Jews to all nations (Luke 21:24). There is no possibility that the Jewish people would deliberately bring these ‘curses’ upon themselves and therefore the Jewish people can be described as ‘unwilling witnesses’ to the reliability of the Bible and to the existence of Yahweh. The prophet Isaiah records just that in Isaiah 43:10 – 12. The Jewish people and their regathering to the land The above-mentioned information is sad, but there is a further amazing Bible prophecy which has taken place during the lifetimes of many readers. The present writer only asks that readers view this evidence objectively, rather than an assessment of the information be coloured by a ‘political’ opinion upon the rights or wrongs of one side or another in the current Palestinian/Israeli conflict. The matter under consideration in this article is the reliability of the Bible – on whether or not it is possible to reasonably and logically view the Bible as the Word of the living God. It is not to voice political support for the nation of Israel. Bible prophecy and our times This further evidence relates to prophecy about the Jews and Israel in current times. Firstly, it is helpful to think about the prophecy of the prophet Ezekiel, written more than 2,500 years ago. Ezekiel 37:21–22 reads, ‘And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD (Yahweh); Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all’. It can be seen, in this passage, that the Bible states that the Jewish people, having been scattered through the nations, would be gathered therefrom, and become ONE NATION IN THE LAND! The Jews began returning in some numbers in the latter part of the nineteenth century, but with the pogroms and then the Holocaust, they returned in greater numbers to the land which Yahweh had promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Gen.12:7, 13:14 – 17). Following UN Resolution 181 in 1947 approving a Jewish State and an Arab state in the land of Palestine, the State of Israel was proclaimed on 14th May 1948. Thus, every time we read in the media, news coverage of events in the Levant, we are seeing evidence of the reliability of the Bible. However, the above-mentioned verses contain something more – events which are yet to happen! The prophet is inspired to reveal that the nation of Israel is to have their king and that Israel will no longer be two nations (a nation in the land of Israel and a ‘nation’ scattered throughout the earth), but a united nation in the promised land. There are many places in the Bible which identify that king and one of these is recorded by the New Testament Gospel writer Luke, where he records the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary, the mother of Jesus: Luke 1:32 – 33, ‘He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end’. (In the Bible, the term ‘Jacob’ is used, when describing a people, to denote ethnic Israel). The Bible reader can therefore be certain that as the people of Israel were scattered throughout all nations, are being regathered to the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and are now a nation dwelling in that land, so also it is certain that Jesus Christ will return to establish a kingdom on the earth (Luke 21:27, Acts 1:11, Acts 3:19 – 21, 1Thess.1:10 etc). Whilst this article has only covered some of the words of the prophet Ezekiel concerning the return of the Jewish people to the land from which they went into exile, yet there many books in the Bible which repeat the theme of the restoration of Israel – such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and Zechariah to mention a few. Internal Harmony of the Bible The sixty-six books of the Bible written through forty or so different writers over fifteen hundred years, contain a message which is harmonious – the many writers’ words agreeing with and complementing one another. Such is evidence that those many writers were inspired by one Eternal Spirit. For example, there is the major theme of the promised seed, namely, Jesus Christ, which can be seen throughout the Bible from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation. In Genesis 3:15, we are introduced to Jesus ‘as the seed of the woman, a son who would be born of a woman, but who by implication, who would not be born of the will of the flesh of man (c.f. John 1:13). Genesis 3:15 is as follows: ‘And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel’. In a word, here is a prophecy that the seed of the woman would inflict a fatal blow upon the seed of the serpent, but in so doing, would suffer a serous but non-fatal wound. The outworking of this prophecy occurred when wicked men, the seed of the serpent, crucified Jesus on the stake but were rendered powerless when God raised him from the dead. Through death, Jesus destroyed the devil (Heb.2:14). Genesis 3:15 commences the ‘seed of the woman’ prophetic theme, and contributes to an understanding of why it was necessary for the Lord Jesus to be born of a virgin (Isa.7:14, Luke 1:34 – 35, with God his Father. Salvation was to be the pre-planned work of God, not the work of man. The theme of the promised seed continues in Genesis 12:7 which reads, ‘And the LORD (Yahweh) appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD (Yahweh), who appeared unto him’. Once more, the New Testament elucidates the identification of this seed - in Galatians 3:16, the apostle Paul explains, ‘Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ’. Seed of David The ‘seed of promise’ recurs in the Bible during the era of the kings of Judah and Israel. Yahweh says to king David, in 1 Chronicles 17:9–14, ‘Also I will ordain a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, and they shall dwell in their place, and shall be moved no more; neither shall the children of wickedness waste them any more, as at the beginning, And since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel. Moreover I will subdue all thine enemies. Furthermore I tell thee that the LORD (Yahweh) will build thee an house. And it shall come to pass, when thy days be expired that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build me an house, and I will stablish his throne for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son: and I will not take my mercy away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee: But I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom for ever: and his throne shall be established for evermore’. Yet again, the New Testament Scriptures confirm the identification of the seed of son of David as being the Lord Jesus, and this time in Hebrews 1:5 ‘….I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?’ Indeed, without a comprehension of the Divine promises of the seed of the woman, the seed of Abraham and the seed of David, there cannot be a full understanding of the New Testament Scriptures, which even commence with the words, in Matthew 1:1, ‘The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham’. And will conclude with the Lord Jesus saying in Revelation 22:16, ‘I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star’. Contradictions in the Bible It is often alleged that the Bible contradicts itself – if that were the case, then the Bible is not reliable, but just a compendium of ancient writings and myths. This article does not have space to attempt to show that such allegations are unfounded, but usually a careful examination of the verses being cited as contradictory can be explained by a careful reading of context, and of what is actually said or not said. A single example is given here. 2 Kings 18:5 ‘He (Hezekiah) trusted in the LORD (Yahweh) God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him’. 2 Kings 23:25 ‘And like unto him (Josiah) was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD (Yahweh) with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him’. It may seem initially to be a discord that the description of ‘none being like him before or after’ is applied to both Hezekiah and Josiah. However, a careful reading reveals that Hezekiah was being commended because he trusted in Yahweh, but Josiah was commended because he turned to Yahweh with all his heart and might according to the law of Moses. Ring of the Truth Readers will realise that the following proposal to demonstrate the reliability of the Bible is subjective, and the writer acknowledges that his reasons are somewhat anecdotal. Very many years ago when the writer first began to systematically read the Bible every day, there were two books which made a big impression in his mind. These were the prophecy of Isaiah and the book of Proverbs. The book of Isaiah seemed amazing because it contained prophecy, which was so relevant to modern times, but the book of Proverbs was so relevant to modern life because it revealed, amongst other matters, principles which describe the propensities of human nature and a better way to live. Whilst in the above-mentioned paragraphs on archaeology, Bible prophecy and the harmony of the overall Bible message, evidence has been cited, yet on the subject of ‘the ring of truth’, the writer is not submitting examples for the readers’ attention. However, the writer respectfully suggests that readers might like to read, for example, the book of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, or certain New Testament letters written by the hand of Paul or Peter, and then to ask if the principles contained therein, are not a better way to live now as well as informing those who follow those principles of a glorious future through the gospel of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12).
Part 1 - Introduction and the 5 books of Moses.
Part 2 - The Bible's history books.
Part 5 - Revised Version and its successors - To today, including modern media.
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