Historical Accuracy Of The Bible
The Bible is a divinely inspired record of the creation of all things, including man, and of God's dealings with the human race. The Bible is not a history book, just as it is not a book written for people with a scientific turn of mind, or for people with interests in other fields of learning. But it is a fact that whenever God's Word touches incidentally on any of these areas, it is always accurate. Someone has made the observation that the Bible is not only amazing in the accuracy with which it deals with whatever subject it may touch, but it is also an amazing book from the standpoint of what is does not say. Writers of books in years past would parrot the errors held at the time as though they had been proven and then, if they lived long enough, have to blush as they were proven wrong. God's Word.is absolutely dependable in every -statement made and every fact presented. No new editions have ever been printed to remove errors from the Bible that the Holy Spirit made.
Those things that vitally affect the eternal welfare of man are matters of faith. It has never been possible, nor will it ever be as long as this world stands, for men to "prove" there is a God, a devil who is as real as we are, a heaven and a hell, etc. But it is just as true that it is impossible for infidels, rationalists, and atheists to disprove such things. So, to accomplish their goal, these people have had to resort to other lines of attack. Since "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God," they have made the Bible the battle ground. They have tried to cast doubt on the authorship of the books of the Bible, their date of writing, the miracles, and the historical accuracy of the book, to name a few. German rationalists of the late 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries have led in this attack.
We stated a moment ago that the Bible is not a history book, but since it is a record of God's dealings with man, the setting of the events of both the Old and New Testaments had to be included. What coinage and weights and measures were in use at the time? Who was on the thrones of nations about? These, and a host of other things, the Bible deals with incidentally, and these are some of the things that rationalists have denied when proof of their accuracy did not already exist.
This line of attack is a valid one. If the Bible cannot be relied upon when making a statement about some historical matter, then why would a person be inclined to believe a statement about heaven or salvation? This type of argument was used by a fellow named Lorenco Valla to disprove the authenticity of the document "Donation of Constantine." This document was supposed to have been addressed. by Constantine the Great to Pope Sylvester I back in the 4th century. For many years it was used by the Catholic Church to back up its claims for the Papacy. But then in 1440, Valla gave a brilliant demonstration of its spuriousness. He said, "How in the world . . . could anyone speak of Constantinople as one of the partiarchal sees, when it was not yet a partiarchate, nor a see, nor a Christian city, nor even named Constatinople, nor founded nor planned!" And so the Catholics were forced to discontinue using the document. It was not historically accurate!
Have the attacks of the rationalists against the historical accuracy of the Bible had the same effect that Valla's attack on the "Donation of Constantine" had? Far from it! In fact, these attacks have probably been partially responsible for the interest taken in archaeological efforts in areas where-Bible events unfolded. In turn, these diggings into the ruins of such areas have provided the proof of facts previously denied. Julius Wellhausen, a German rationalist, declared that "we can learn nothing from the Pentateuch about the history of patriarchal times, but only about ideas, customs and rituals that came into being many centuries later." He also said that "Abraham is certainly not the name of a person - he is not to be considered a historical person. He might rather be thought of as a free creature of unconscious art" (Christianity Today, Sept. 19, 1980, p. 35). It is interesting that William F. Albright, the author of the above article, said that "Wellhausen never showed any interest in the discoveries of archaeology." It is well that he showed no interest in archaeology (if he wanted to remain in ignorance), because archaeological material (according to Albright) "has been accumulating at an accelerated pace. We know from discoveries all over the Near East how well the Patriarchal narratives fit into the Middle Bronze age, between ca. 1900 and 1500 B.C. The excavations of Mari on the Middle Euphrates since 1933 has yielded many thousands of cuneiform tablets belonging to the then recently settled Northwestern Semites of Abraham's time, whose language and customs were very close to those of the early Hebrews" (History, Archaeology and Christian Humanism, p. 29). In his book, Rivers in the Desert, Nelson Glueck deals with that part of the world that was Abraham's.
Probably most of our readers know that skeptics long denied that a nation called Hittites ever existed, even though they were mentioned over twenty times in the Old Testament. Archaeologists have dug up thousands of clay tablets with incriptions that attest to the fact that the Old Testament is historically accurate. It was once popular to argue that Belshazzar, king of Babylon, and Nineveh, the capital of Assyria never existed. These have been confirmed by the spade. Moses makes mention of growing grapes and making wine in Egypt. This, in the past has been used as an example of historical inaccuracy, but archaeologists have unearthed Egyptian paintings showing that grapes were grown and wine was made. Those who have wished to discredit the Bible have said that secular history does not mention some forty-seven kings that are listed in the books of Chronicles and Kings, but archaeologists have uncovered evidence that proves these kings were not fictitious. Nelson Glueck, an archaeologist of some renown, says, ". . . it may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of Biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries. They form tessarae in the vast mosaic of the Bible's almost incredible historical memory" (Rivers in the Desert, p. 31). Albright says, "The narratives of the Patriarchs, of Moses and the Exodus, of the conquest of Canaan, of the Judges, the Monarchy, Exile, and Restoration, have all been confirmed and illustrated to an extent that I should have thought impossible forty years ago . . . . There has been a general return to appreciation of the accuracy, both in general sweep and factual detail, of the religious history of Israel" (History, Archaeology and Christian Humanism, pp. 293-294). John Clark says that "archaeology has gone a long way in correcting the false idea that was very popular in the last part of the 19th century and in the first part of this century - that the Bible is not trustworthy in its history. The historical accuracy of the Bible is highly regarded today" (God's Book Is Inspired, p. 11).
What has been said about archaeology confirming Old Testament history, could be repeated about the New Testament. A check of the shelves of the public library will reveal a number of books that deal with archaeological discoveries that confirm the history of the New Testament, but let's hasten to one more point. Had you ever thought about the fact that both the prophecies of the Bible and the miracles therein recorded, are proof of the historical accuracy of God's Word? Was Daniel in Babylon, did Nebuchadnezzar have a dream, did Daniel correctly explain the dream and accurately foretell the establishment of the kingdom of Christ and the time it would occur? Daniel (Dan. 2) correctly described the four world empires and then stated that the Lord's Kingdom would be established during the fourth one. This prophecy was beautifully fulfilled when the church was established during the reign of the Caesars of Rome. Included in all this is both miracle and prophecy, followed by fulfillment and the historical accuracy of the Bible is confirmed.
In Matthew 14, we read of Jesus feeding five thousand men besides the women and children. In chapter 15, He fed four thousand and the women and children were not counted. Would twenty thousand people fed be an exaggeration? Don't you know this was the talk of the whole country? The record of these two events were recorded probably within twenty or thirty years of when they occurred. Do you think the Bible could have been inaccurate in its record of an event of such magnitude with most of the participants still living?
Without doubt, the resurrection of Christ is one of the most astounding miracles recorded in God's Word. Is the account of that great event historically reliable? How could anyone in his right mind deny the accuracy of the account in view of the number of witnesses that were available at the time the account was written? After His resurrection, Jesus remained on earth for forty days! Paul, in his sermon to King Agrippa, pointed out that "this was not done in a corner," and the same point could be made regarding Jesus' resurrection. Literally hundreds of people saw Him, spoke with Him, etc., during that forty day period. Paul, in the first epistle to the Corinthians (chapter 15), bore witness to the resurrection of Christ, listed some of the witnesses, and speaks of the tragic consequences had Christ not been raised. We need to bear in mind that this epistle was written and circulated not more than twentyfive years after the event occurred! If such things as this are declared to be historically inaccurate by rationalists, then no historical document could be regarded as accurate.
In closing this article, we need to say that archaeological discoveries and whatever other proofs of historical accuracy may be presented, do not prove the Bible to be inspired. Other books may be historically accurate and not be inspired. But these proofs of historical accuracy do increase our confidence in the fact that "all scripture is given by the inspiration of God," because they show the Bible innocent of the charge made by its critics that the Bible blunders in history.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 1, pp. 14-16