18 Apr The Top Ten Attacks Against the Bible’s Historical Reliability — And How to Answer Them
Published April 18, 2020
By Tim M. Sigler, PhD
Many skeptics have challenged that the Scriptures merely provide modern readers with myths and literary fictions from the ancient world. Upon this basis, they deny the Bible’s truth claims and reject the need for personal faith. Often these attacks against the Bible’s historical reliability are published just before major Jewish or Christian holidays. So much for multi-cultural sensitivity!
One front-page story in the Los Angeles Times was titled “Doubting the Story of Exodus.” It featured the modern Conservative rabbi, David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Westwood, California, as he shared his skepticism about the Bible’s historical claims in his pre-Passover sermon. “The truth is that virtually every modern archeologist who has investigated the story of Exodus agrees that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all.”1 What a strange way to say, “Happy Passover!”
Unsurprisingly, Newsweek, notorious for its hypercritical views of evangelical faith, greeted the season with a less than faith-inspiring cover story. “Rethinking the Resurrection” favorably cited German New Testament scholar Gerd Ludemann, who called the historical claims to Jesus’ bodily resurrection “‘an empty formula’ that must be rejected by anyone holding a ‘scientific world view.’” The author of the article readily included the scholar’s opinion that “Jesus’ body ‘rotted away’ in the tomb.”2 Happy Easter!
These attacks against the Bible’s historical value are nothing new, and they won’t be going away anytime soon. We can expect similar seasons’ greetings from the History Channel, the Public Broadcasting System, and other “educational” outlets. But the real problem is that most of these historical claims are aimed at eliminating the more important religious truth claims made in the Scriptures. If the Bible’s historical claims are not true, it would be right to doubt its religious ones. Paul, the first-century rabbi and apostle, cautioned believers at Corinth, “If the Messiah has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, and your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that He raised the Messiah, whom He did not raise,” (1 Corinthians 15:14-15). One could similarly say that if the Exodus did not occur, our Passover-informed faith in the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is in vain. Or, as George Ramsey similarly questioned regarding the biblical account of Joshua’s conquest, “If Jericho be not razed, is our faith in vain?”3 Obviously, the implications for our faith are enormous if we concede to popular detractions from the Bible’s historical reliability.
In this article, we will examine the charges made by the Bible’s detractors and equip you with a “messianic perspective”—to help you give an answer for the hope that is in you. The following list provides us with the top ten most common objections to the Bible’s historicity, popular in academic circles today.
1. The JEPD Theory (or Documentary Hypothesis of the Pentateuch)
Called by various names such as the Documentary Hypothesis, the Graf-Wellhausen Hypothesis, the JEDP Theory, or even simply a composite view of the Pentateuch, adherents claim that the Torah is not a literary unity and Moses did not write it. Rather, it was invented as a propaganda piece during or immediately after the exile by editors (redactors) who needed to convince the exilic Jews to resettle in Judea. Apparently, the creation of a divine promise of land to Abraham, a story of an evil Pharaoh, and a heroic deliverer named Moses would do just the trick to convince these deportees to return to the land of their forefathers. The editors pieced together various strands of oral and written sources to form the so-called Books of Moses. Generally, the theory holds that there were four editorial sources or schools of thought (J = Yahwist, E = Elohist, D = Deuteronomist, and P = the Priestly source) that informed and contributed to the process of forging their independent and competing views into the text we have in our Bibles today.4 The Egypt of the Torah is to be read as the Babylon of the exile. Just as the children of Israel left the bondage of Egypt, so the exilic community needs to flee Babylon and resettle in their Promised Land. Moses as God’s deliverer never really existed, but the story was written to inspire later captives to flee “their Egypt.” See the chart at the end of this article.
2. The Genesis creation account is merely borrowed from ancient Near Eastern myths
The Babylonian creation account, Enuma Elish, and various other ancient cosmologies (stories of world origins) were adapted by the Hebrews to fit their religious views and form the Genesis account. Genesis is just more familiar to the Western world because its stories are preserved in the Bible.5 The Scripture’s creation account outlasted the many others through an evolutionary process of survival of the fittest—though biblical monotheistic faith is no longer so fit for public discourse in the West today.
3. The Genesis Flood is an overblown version of other ancient legends
The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic and other flood narratives pre-date Genesis, so the biblical story must have been borrowed from these other ancient Near Eastern flood narratives. Though there are many dissimilarities between such texts and the biblical flood story—such as the very important concept of monotheism and the fact that the flood was God’s judgment on mankind’s sin and rebellion—these are often overlooked in the discussion in order to emphasize parallels and attempt to demonstrate that the Bible is dependent on these older texts for its depiction of the flood.
4. The Patriarchal Narratives are myths
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob never really existed, they were made up by scribes to promote Jewish nationalism during the exile.6 It is now customary in many academic circles to admit to the existence of only historical figures for which we have corroborating evidence from sources outside of the biblical record. If there are not clear references to such figures in extra-biblical texts, their historical existence is unverified and therefore assumed to be part of mythic hero stories. This not only eliminates the patriarchs, but Moses, Joshua, the Judges, Samuel, and even King David. It is not really until the time of Israel’s Divided Monarchy that extra-biblical sources begin to provide us with multiple attestations to the lives of biblical personages. Therefore, their existence is doubted or simply regarded as part of the cultural folklore of the Israelites. Critics consider these Bible heroes as little more than Jewish versions of Paul Bunyan, John Henry, or Superman.
5. Isaiah is not a literary unity to be attributed to the prophet Isaiah
Since Isaiah could not have known in 700 B.C. about the later existence of a king named Cyrus or of his decree to release the Jews from captivity in 539 B.C., the mention of his name in Isaiah 45:1 must reveal the hand of a later writer or editor of the book. Further, the book of Isaiah cannot be a literary unity because the focus on God’s judgment that prevails in chapters 1-39 is so contrary to the message of comfort and restoration beginning in chapter 40. This shift from judgment to promised restoration suggests that the same author who wrote chapters 1-39 could not have written chapters 40-60. Chapters 1-39 are the work of First or Proto-Isaiah, and chapters 40-60 are referred to as Deutero-Isaiah (or Second Isaiah). Distinctions are further drawn in the literary style, historical background and theological concerns of chapters 40-55 and 56-60, this third section is then called Trito-Isaiah (or Third Isaiah). The trend is to differentiate between three editorial groups that each had a part in the multi-author composition that we now call Isaiah.
6. Daniel is not prophecy, it is history made to look like prophecy
The book of Daniel is so detailed in its description of the events of the Maccabean period (c. 168-134 B.C.) that it must have been written at that time. Instead of its claim to have been written by a sixth-century Judean captive turned prophet, the book of Daniel was written in the second century B.C. when anyone could have made up prophetic claims after they happened. The book was invented as propaganda to encourage Jewish resistance against Greek (Hellenistic) persecution.7
7. The Synoptic Problem
As Robert Stern correctly explains, “In reading the four Gospels it is apparent that three of them resemble one another and one does not. A brief time spent in any synopsis of the Gospels will indicate that Matthew, Mark and Luke share a number of striking similarities. The ‘Synoptic Problem’ is the name that has been given to the problem of why the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke look so much alike. Why are they so similar in content, in wording and in the order of events found within them?”8
While these questions are important, legitimate, and even helpful for accurate interpretation, the answers provided by those committed to the historical-critical approach delegitimize the text by suggesting that some parts are historically accurate while others are not. It is hypothesized that the content common to Matthew and Luke which they did not borrow from Mark came from a literary (i.e., written) source that is no longer available to us. That purely hypothetical source has been called “Q” (from the German word Quelle, meaning “source”). Scholars have pieced together all the parts where Matthew and Luke have similar content that differs from Mark and are marketing a new academic book called “Q.” Even if it didn’t exist, now you can buy it!
The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) all focus similarly on Jesus’ Galilean ministry, but the content (what is included) and the order (where items are included in the account) is different—thus, the synoptic “problem.” If interpreters conceived of the challenges to understand the similarities and differences within the synoptic gospels as if they were like a difficult math “problem,” that would be acceptable. But if by “problem” they mean that there is some defect with these Gospel accounts—that they are historically inaccurate and unreliable because we cannot figure out who got their story from whom—then that is a different kind of problem.9
8. The Gospel of John is anti-Semitic and different from the Synoptic Gospels
John portrays “the Jews” as the collective enemy of Jesus who willingly accept blame for Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19:15; see also Matt 27:25, “His blood be upon us and upon our children”) and shows Jesus calling Jews “children of the devil” (John 8:44). Of course, the decision to look at John’s Gospel this way entirely overlooks the fact that both Jesus and John were themselves Jewish. The doctrinal disagreements recorded by John were part of a heated in-house debate. And John’s references to “the Jews” are provided for the benefit of Gentile readers in order to help them understand that the good news of the Messiah came from Israel. After all, it is the same Gospel of John that records Jesus saying very boldly to the Samaritan woman, “Salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). But those who would like to dismiss this book’s powerful message with the disgraceful label of anti-Semitism conveniently overlook these points.
As Jewish believer and seminary professor, Robert I. Vasholz, observes, “Moses is the first in a succession of Jewish prophets (including Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea and Amos) who call Israel to task for the profanation of her holy calling. And yet, I am not aware that the Torah or Hebrew Scriptures have ever been labeled ‘anti-Jewish.’ Why? We recognize these struggles as an intra-Jewish religious tension in an attempt to aid Israel toward the goal of her high calling; not as attempts to condemn Israel as the worst people on earth.”10
While John’s Gospel is more thematic and topical rather than chronological—like the Synoptics— these differences are often not accepted simply as an indication of its different purpose or literary style. It is suggested that Jesus, the rabbinic sage, would never have said many of the things found in the fourth Gospel. John invented a new emphasis on miracle stories to authenticate his unique perspective on Jesus’ deity. These differences between John and the Synoptics are emphasized to suggest that since it lacks the same chronological framework seen in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, it is therefore not historically reliable.11
9. The Historical Jesus (the Jesus of history is not the Christ of faith)
The New Testament is a fanciful religious text and cannot be trusted as a reliable source for understanding the life and teachings of the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth. The so-called eyewitness testimonies of Jesus’ resurrection were contrived and falsely reported as apostolic propaganda. Yes, a person named Jesus seems to have existed in the first century, but the New Testament’s descriptions of him depart from any historical kernel of truth and develop his legendary divine-hero-healer status as part of the Christian myth. If an accurate portrait of Jesus of Nazareth is ever to be seen, he must be reconstructed from historically reliable evidence—from archaeology, historical criticism, and a cautious use of New Testament texts. This comprehensively critical approach to the New Testament dismisses key Christological points such as His virgin birth, divine nature, and resurrection all at once.12
10. Paul is the founder of a Hellenized Christianity that changed Jesus’ Jewish gospel message
Growing out of the quest for a truly historical understanding of Jesus, critical scholarship began to rethink the origins of the beliefs of Jesus’ followers. Rather than a direct connection between Jesus and the messianic faith of His disciples, it is claimed that Paul changed Jesus’ Jewish gospel message and, as the Apostle to the Gentiles, founded a new religion that merged Greek (Hellenistic) philosophy with Jewish thought. It is claimed that the “high Christology” of the early believers—which regarded Jesus as the Son of God, equal with the Father, and Himself the creator and sustainer of all things—was introduced by Paul who borrowed such concepts from pagan Greek mythology and philosophy. The New Testament Epistles sound nothing like Jesus and the Gospels, and therefore demonstrate this parting of the ways between a Jewish sect of Jesus-followers and the Gentile Church that Paul founded. Had it not been for Paul, messianic faith in Jesus would have died a quiet death along with other short-lived Jewish sects. Most blasphemously, the critics charge that if Jesus knew what Paul had done with his teachings, he would roll over in his grave!13
Is there an answer for the skeptics?
After wading through such a list of faith-challenging attacks against the historical reliability of the Bible, many believers will feel the need to take a cleansing moment to bathe their minds in the Scriptures, pray, sing, and worship the God of the Bible who is very different from the one portrayed by these scholars and critics. After we’ve collected ourselves, and reminded ourselves of the fact that lies have been told about God and His Word since the beginning of time, our hearts are turned toward the skeptics themselves and those whom their attacks have lead astray. Is there an answer for the skeptics?
How can we give an answer for our faith in the Bible’s trustworthiness? While careful responses to each of the specific objections outlined above have been offered by believing scholars, the best way to evaluate these claims is to consider the worldview behind each detraction. What underlying presuppositions cause people to read the Bible with an unreceptive bent toward disbelief? When we understand the basic outlook on life, reality, truth, or believability that underlies these criticisms, it is easy to see how such conclusions about the Bible are reached—how A leads to B and therefore C.
What is at the heart of these attacks? Why do the critics want us to accept a historically remixed Jesus as opposed to the Jesus of the Bible? Is it simply an honest scholarly inquiry attempting to discover the true historical facts about Jesus and His teachings? Or, is something more sinister at work behind this quest for archaeological proof and historical accuracy? Could it be that the Bible’s message of an all-powerful God who sits in judgment upon the affairs of men—and to whom all will one day give an account—is simply no longer acceptable to contemporary sensibilities? Perhaps the exclusive claims of Jesus (“No one comes to the Father except through Me”—John 14:6) are no longer welcome in the culturally and religiously diverse public arena of postmodernism. These attacks are not aimed at a better, more historically accurate, understanding of the Bible, but at dismantling the Bible’s worldview.
This is why we cannot simply wait for the next critical pre-holiday “educational” special to level new attacks against the historicity of the Bible and then mount our defense. We need to address the underlying systems that cause such attacks to be so readily received. We need to become more adept at engaging in worldview apologetics—defending biblical faith in a manner that cuts through the individual attacks and asks what causes them? What presuppositions are commonly held within our culture that allow such attacks to gain traction?
A worldview is an all-encompassing approach to answering the big questions of life: why are we here, where is the world going, what should we be doing (or not doing), what is true or false, etc. Our worldview provides a framework or starting point from which we interpret all of life (e.g., history, culture, science, politics, religion, economics, ethics, etc.)—really, everything is interpreted through the lens of our worldview. And whether people are aware of it or not, we all have a worldview.
It is possible to divide up intellectual history into three basic eras: premodern, modern, and postmodern. A brief overview of these eras will allow us to make a few observations about the Bible and history. See the chart at the end of this article.
Premodern Views of Reality
European or Western civilization drew its intellectual history more from the East—the cradle of civilization—than most of us realize. Rather than starting in Athens and Rome, the West has deeper roots further east in intellectual centers such as Babylon, Egypt, Jerusalem, Istanbul (Constantinople). Greek Philosophy, which provided the guiding principles of Western thought, was steeped in polytheistic pagan mythology just as was the East. There were no atheists in ancient times—the concept of life apart from religious belief simply did not fit with their worldviews. Some developed superstitious practices around the belief that non-humans and natural objects have souls (a belief known as animism). Every society worshipped and believed in the divine. As gods of various virtues (love goddesses) or forces (storm gods) were given names, the quantity of gods people believed in had to be reduced to a memorable number.
Even with the spread of the three monotheistic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), many European communities retained local superstitions. As Roman Christianity grew in power, it often produced a mixture of biblical orthodoxy and paganism that kept European populations victims of deceit for centuries. Corruption in the papacy, the building of great cathedrals on the backs of heavily taxed citizens, forced conversions under the Crusaders, the selling of indulgences, and other problematic practices were forced upon a largely illiterate population who did not have the ability to read the Bible for themselves—and certainly not in their own languages. Such problems created a climate in which many were happy to consider the claims of the Protestant Reformers and learn to read the Bible in their mother tongues.
Modernism’s Enlightened Age of Reason
Rationalism lies at the foundation of our modern educational system. We are all affected by the scientific age of reason. After the Italian Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, and the spread of Enlightenment ideals throughout Europe, reason became the foundation of modern society. Educated people could no longer be kept in the dark by those who would manipulate them politically or religiously—they were “enlightened.” No longer would illiterate populations simply believe what they were told by their philosophers, governments, and religious leaders. Many who were victimized by abusive religious powers throughout Europe were prepared to adopt a new approach to truth. The empirical model suggested that knowledge is obtained through the senses. One can only believe the things he can touch, taste, see, etc.
Scientific skepticism provided security against intellectual scam artists who thrived on naive people. Rationalism’s scientific revolution prevailed throughout the West (in Europe and America), and philosophers began to question the notion of religious faith altogether. Perhaps there is no God. If there is no God, prophecies can’t happen. If prophecies don’t happen, then claims to prophecy must be false claims intended to look like prophecy. Of course, this leaves no room for the Bible’s claim of divine inspiration.
For those who attempted to merge their religious commitments with post-Enlightenment rationalism, biblical archaeology—it was hoped—would settle the issue of the Bible’s historical reliability. If archaeology can prove that events occurred as the Bible said they happened, then we can know the Bible is true. But archaeology is not an exact science. The finds must be interpreted. Further, it does not provide a complete record. Many sites have never been excavated, and one cannot predict what the next amazing discovery might be. Despite these scientific limitations of archaeological inquiry, modernism’s historical-critical approach assumes that biblical texts are guilty until proven innocent. It is not that archaeology has disproved the Bible, but that historical texts like the Bible do not deserve our trust until they are deemed worthy by the hard evidence and higher authority of scientific rationalism. Archaeology can never meet the demands of rationalism, and skepticism can always produce more questions than the evidence can answer.
Postmodernism—the World in which We Live
Postmodernism’s social concern for the marginalized voices of the oppressed is a much-appreciated fact of our age. But beneath its gentle and caring exterior lies a fierce political agenda fueled by the theory of deconstruction: marginalized people (minority populations) need to replace societal power structures by questioning authorities and displacing those in positions of power and privilege. Written texts have power, and they too must be deconstructed. If texts such as the Constitution, the writings of Mark Twain, or the Bible are used by the powerful to marginalize the oppressed, then these texts must be questioned and reinterpreted to show their inner incompatibility. These once-powerful, culture-creating texts are dismantled by political activists, writers, educators, religionists, law makers, media personalities and others involved in social criticism who collaborate to move the agenda of deconstruction forward.
Postmodernism has no place for true truth. It is ethically neutral. No one is wrong, unless they claim that others are wrong. Postmodern bumper stickers sum up the prevailing mentality of our day: “I hate intolerant people,” “My karma ran over your dogma,” “Fairies are real,” and “All generalizations are untrue, including this one.” Since the scientific methods of modernists could not answer the unsolvable mysteries of the supernatural world, postmodernism has opened the door to mysticism and neo-paganism: a belief in spiritual energies in nature, feng shui, self-actualizing meditation, time travel, horoscopes, fortune-telling spiritual guides, etc.
Postmodernism appreciates the spiritual and the supernatural, but it cannot appreciate anyone claiming to know the truth about such issues. God is in, but Jesus is clearly out! You can be spiritual, but don’t bother people with the Bible and its claims to infallible truth. This extreme skepticism allows for personal truth, but not absolute truth: “It may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.”
So which one is right?
This comparison of the eras of intellectual history is not intended to suggest that one of them provided the superior choice. Each of them has positive qualities, but none of them has everything right. Rather, they all fall short of providing a biblical worldview—a view that evaluates everything through the lens of what God has revealed in Scripture. A biblical worldview implies that God has spoken truthfully in Scripture. But the skepticism of modernism asks “Who really wrote those biblical texts?” And the uber-skepticism of postmodernism asks, “What propaganda were they trying to get people to believe?”
Ludemann, the critical scholar cited above who claimed that Jesus’ body simply “rotted away” and called the resurrection “‘an empty formula’ that must be rejected by anyone holding a ‘scientific world view’”14 was right about one thing: the issue of the Bible’s possible historicity is determined in advance by a person’s worldview. If we conclude that modernism (with its denial of the supernatural and its demand that scientific proof must precede belief) provides the appropriate lens through which we interpret all of life, then of course the Bible’s historical accounts cannot be true. The Bible’s supernatural events must be reinterpreted to fit the presuppositions of scientific rationalism—which has no room for the divine or the miraculous. And if we take the extreme skepticism of postmodernism as our starting point, the Bible will fail our tests for ethical neutrality and be reduced to a useful human text that can be manipulated to suit our agendas when we deem it expedient to cite it in our attempts to liberate the oppressed.
Should we try to prove the Bible’s historicity?
Historicity, as it is commonly understood (complete historical accuracy, chronological order, etc.), is a modern post-enlightenment Western notion that should not be imposed on the Bible—which is an ancient Near Eastern text. Strictly speaking, historicity can only be evaluated when there are multiple attestations to the same event. Historicity is not exactly the same as historical reliability. If the Bible provides the only account of an historical event, this biblical account must be understood in light of the overall framework of history provided by our worldview. The denial of the Bible’s historicity due to its inclusion of the miraculous or of otherwise-unattested accounts is based on one’s predisposition against the Bible’s truth claims—not evidence to the contrary. The Bible refers to real people and events in a manner that truthfully conveys the divine Author’s message. Our reading of the Bible’s historical literature is based upon the presupposition that there is a God, and He has spoken truthfully in Scripture. Those with presuppositions to the contrary must acknowledge the oft-cited dictum: “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” In other words, it is unscientific and irrational to claim that the Bible is historically inaccurate if evidence cannot disprove the Bible’s historical claims—and hard data disproving biblical history is simply not available. If one claims that the Bible is historically unreliable on the basis of their anti-supernatural worldview, this should be admitted.
Where both the Bible and extra-biblical sources provide attestations to the same event, the Bible’s historicity is confirmed. However, we need not wait for archaeologists to recover the next cache of texts that corroborate biblical history before we believe in the Bible’s historical reliability. Where it can be tested, the Bible stands the test. But the larger issue of our willingness to believe that which we cannot prove is determined by our worldview. Evidences can encourage our faith, but they are no replacement for faith. We must admit that we cannot “prove” the historicity of the entire Bible, but we can defend the reasonableness of faith in the Bible as an historical document—especially when compared to other worldview options.
Click here for a chart of the three eras described above, featuring the ideologies prevalent in each.
1 Quoted in Teresa Watanabe, “Doubting the Story of Exodus,” Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2001.
2 Kenneth L. Woodward, “Rethinking the Resurrection,” Newsweek, April 8, 1996; Gerd Ludemann, What Really Happened to Jesus: A Historical Approach to the Resurrection (Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), p. 135.
3 George W. Ramsey, The Quest for the Historical Israel (Atlanta: Knox, 1981), pp. 107-124.
4 For a helpful explanation and critique of these claims, see R. N. Whybray, The Making of the Pentateuch: A Methodological Study (JSOTSup, 53; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1987).
5 The claim that the Bible borrowed various stories from the ancient Near East is part of the larger “Bible versus Babel” debates that began in the early 1900s. Critics like J. Skinner referred to the Genesis creation and flood narratives as “Hebrew legends and their Babylonian originals.” John Skinner, Genesis (ICC; 2d ed.; Edinburgh, 1930), xi.
6 For critiques of the overall historical-critical enterprise (i.e., that the Bible is historically false), see Alan F. Johnson, “The Historical-Critical Method: Egyptian Gold or Pagan Precipice,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 26 (March 1983): 3-15; and Eta Linnemann, Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology? Reflections of a Bultmannian Turned Evangelical (Trans. Robert W. Yarbrough; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990).
7 Sir Robert Anderson, Daniel in the Critics’ Den: A Defense of the Historicity of the Book of Daniel (Reprint of 1909 original; New York: Cosimo, 2007); Josh McDowell, Daniel in the Critics’ Den: Historical Evidence for the Authenticity of the Book of Daniel (Campus Crusade for Christ International, 1979, 1981).
8 Robert H. Stein, “Synoptic Problem,” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1992), p. 784.
9 For a defense of the historicity of these texts, see Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2008); and F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003).
10 For the complete article, see Robert I. Vasholz, “Is the New Testament Anti-Semitic?” Presbyterion 11 (1985): 118-123. See also, Glenn Balfour, “Is John’s Gospel Anti-Semitic?” Tyndale Bulletin 48 (1997): 369-372.
11 See Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel: Issues and Commentary (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1998).
12 See Michael J. Wilkins and J. P. Morgan, eds., Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996). This brief paperback is the best popular treatment available for addressing the many attacks leveled by the Jesus Seminar against the Bible’s testimony to the person and work of Jesus. See also, Gary Habermas, The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ (Joplin, MI: College Press, 1996).
13 For history and analysis of these issues, see John M. G. Barclay, “Jesus and Paul,” Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (Downers Grove, InterVarsity, 1993), pp. 492-503.
14 Cited in Woodward above.
Dr. Tim Sigler serves as Provost and Dean and Professor of Hebrew and Biblical Studies at Shepherds Theological Seminary. Prior to STS, Dr. Sigler served with distinction at the Moody Bible Institute for 18 years. With his Jewish background, he maintains an active international presence writing and lecturing as the Israel Scholar-in-Residence with CJF Ministries and hosting study tours throughout the biblical world.
“ … the historical books of the Old Testament are as accurate historical documents as any that we have from antiquity and are in fact more accurate than many of the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, or Greek histories. These Biblical records can be and are used as are other ancient documents in archaeological work.”What are the major contradictions in the Bible? ›
- The Sabbath Day. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” — Exodus 20:8. ...
- The Permanence of Earth. “… the earth abideth for ever.” — Ecclesiastes 1:4. ...
- Seeing God. ...
- Human Sacrifice. ...
- The Power of God. ...
- Personal Injury. ...
- Circumcision. ...
In his 1670 Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, Baruch Spinoza considered the Bible to be "a book rich in contradictions". In the 18th century, Thomas Paine in The Age of Reason compiled many of the Bible's self-contradictions. And in 1860, William Henry Burr produced a list of 144 self-contradictions in the Bible.What is the reliability of the Bible? ›
The Bible has the most surviving copies of any ancient document to put its text to the test for variants, or for corruption. There are around 24,000 manuscripts from all over the ancient world, some as early as the second century.How do we know Bible is true? ›
Evidence for the Bible
We have copies of the manuscripts and throughout history these copies show that the Bible has been transmitted accurately. Despite common skeptical claims that the Bible has often been changed through the centuries, the physical evidence tells another story.
Virtually unchanged (99.5% accuracy rate) over the centuries, the New Testament can be deemed reliable and accurate.How do you explain Bible contradictions? ›
Bible Contradictions Explained: 4 Reasons the Gospels DisagreeHow many books were removed from the Bible? ›
Although the 19 books contained within this text were included in the Holy Bible for thousands of years, they were removed a little over 200 years ago. Its now time to reclaim these treasured scriptures and get further insight into God's word.How old is the Earth according to the Bible? ›
Concerning the age of the Earth, the Bible's genealogical records combined with the Genesis 1 account of creation are used to estimate an age for the Earth and universe of about 6000 years, with a bit of uncertainty on the completeness of the genealogical records, allowing for a few thousand years more.What does the Bible say about tattoos? ›
But in the ancient Middle East, the writers of the Hebrew Bible forbade tattooing. Per Leviticus 19:28, “You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, or incise any marks on yourselves.” Historically, scholars have often understood this as a warning against pagan practices of mourning.
From Rome, the Christ's Nativity celebration spread to other Christian churches to the west and east, and soon most Christians were celebrating Christ's birth on December 25.How many original manuscripts of the Bible are still in existence? ›
The New Testament has been preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work of literature, with over 5,800 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts catalogued, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages including Syriac, Slavic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Coptic and Armenian.How accurate is the New Testament? ›
A quantitative study on the stability of the New Testament compared early manuscripts to later manuscripts, up to the Middle Ages, with the Byzantine manuscripts, and concluded that the text had more than 90% stability over this time period.Which Bible is the true Bible? ›
The New American Standard Bible is a literal translation from the original texts, well suited to study because of its accurate rendering of the source texts.Where is the original Bible kept? ›
They are the Codex Vaticanus, which is held at the Vatican, and the Codex Sinaiticus, most of which is held at the British Library in London. "They're both fourth century," said Evans.How do we know God exists? ›
As mentioned earlier, evidence for God's existence is widely available through creation, conscience, rationality and human experience.What is the oldest archaeological evidence of the Bible? ›
Ketef Hinnom scrolls – Probably the oldest surviving texts currently known from the Hebrew Bible – priestly blessing dated to 600 BC. Text from the Book of Numbers in the Old Testament. Described as "one of most significant discoveries ever made" for biblical studies.What percentage of the Bible is story? ›
Approximately 43% of the Bible is made up of narrative, from historical narrative to parables.Do we still have the original Bible? ›
We now have some 50 fragmentary New Testament manuscripts written on papyrus that date from the second and third centuries – including the valuable Papyrus 45 (fourfold Gospel and Acts), and Papyrus 46 (a collection of Pauline letters).How do we know the Bible is infallible? ›
The Bible is infallible if and only if it makes no false or misleading statements on any matter of faith and practice." In this sense it is seen as distinct from biblical inerrancy.
I Enoch was at first accepted in the Christian Church but later excluded from the biblical canon. Its survival is due to the fascination of marginal and heretical Christian groups, such as the Manichaeans, with its syncretic blending of Iranian, Greek, Chaldean, and Egyptian elements.Why was the book of Enoch removed? ›
The Book of Enoch was considered as scripture in the Epistle of Barnabas (4:3) and by many of the early Church Fathers, such as Athenagoras, Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus and Tertullian, who wrote c. 200 that the Book of Enoch had been rejected by the Jews because it contained prophecies pertaining to Christ.What are the forbidden books of the Bible called? ›
The Confession provided the rationale for the exclusion: 'The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture, and therefore are of no authority in the church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings' (1.3).Who came first dinosaurs or Adam and Eve? ›
Dinny's new owners, pointing to the Book of Genesis, contend that most dinosaurs arrived on Earth the same day as Adam and Eve, some 6,000 years ago, and later marched two by two onto Noah's Ark.How old was the Earth when Jesus was born? ›
In accordance with Theophilus' calculations, the world was from 5600 to 5700 year old. Among other dates, a younger age of 5228 years at the beginning of Christ's public life was derived by Eusebius of Caesarea, yielding about 5199 years for the Nativity.How old is the Earth really? › What does the Bible say about dinosaurs? ›
According to the Bible, dinosaurs must have been created by God on the sixth day of creation. Genesis 1:24 says, “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.”Is piercing your ears a sin? ›
Most people on the side against body piercing use Leviticus as an argument that body piercing is a sin. Some interpret it to mean you should never mark your body, while others see it as not marking your body as a form of mourning, as many of the Canaanites did at the time the Israelites were entering the land.What part of the Bible says no tattoos? ›
The Bible warns against tattoos in Leviticus 19:28 (Amplified) which says, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord.”What was Jesus last name? ›
What was Jesus's Real Name? - YouTube
Jesus' name in Hebrew was “Yeshua” which translates to English as Joshua.Was Jesus born in June or July? ›
University of Cambridge Professor Colin Humphreys has argued in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society that a comet in the early 5 BC was likely the "Star of Bethlehem", putting Jesus' birth in or near April, 5 BC.What religion has the oldest Bible? ›
The Rigveda, a scripture of Hinduism, is dated 1500 BCE. It is one of the oldest known complete religious texts that has survived into the modern age.What is the original Bible called? ›
The Old Testament is the first section of the Bible, covering the creation of Earth through Noah and the flood, Moses and more, finishing with the Jews being expelled to Babylon. The Bible's Old Testament is very similar to the Hebrew Bible, which has origins in the ancient religion of Judaism.What is the oldest manuscript in the world? ›
The Pseudo-Apuleius Herbarius, 6–7th century
This is its oldest manuscript still in existence, one replete with fanciful botanical illustrations, and housed at the Leiden University library in Holland.
The resurrection makes the most sense of history. This is one of the greatest reasons to believe the Gospel writings. Their central claim is that Jesus rose from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus is a historical event that explains the history around this time better than anything else.Are there contradictions in the New Testament? ›
Examples of New Testament Contradictions. In the New Testament, there are contradictions between the genealogies of Jesus given in the first chapter of Matthew and the third chapter of Luke.Is the Bible a primary historical source? ›
While the Bible is not a scholarly source, it would be considered a primary source (primary sources and scholarly sources are two different things) if the topic is religion. It is not a primary source for historical research or most other subject areas.How do we know the Old Testament is reliable? ›
We have evidence from comparing newer and older copies of the Old Testament in Hebrew and Aramaic, that the copying was extremely accurate. Scribes counted not only words, but characters in the documents they were copying, and if the numbers did not match, they would go back and recheck their work.Why is the Bible not a primary source? ›
Parts of the Bible are primary sources of information as they purport to be written by the authors themselves. Other portions of the Bible are recordings of the memories of others who related in the information to the author and are thus not primary sources.
The books of the Bible were initially written and copied by hand on papyrus scrolls.Can we say that the Bible is a primary or secondary source? ›
But for some scholars, translators, our English Bible is a secondary source because the primary is the Bible in the original languages (Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic).