In previous lessons we have looked at the concept of revelation both general and special. In one sense revelation involves the self-disclosure of God to man of that which would otherwise remain unknown. As we have employed the terminology in the previous lesson, special revelation includes all ways in which God has revealed himself redemptively to mankind. Additionally, it includes both the event of revelation and its interpretation. Thus, the Bible can be said to be special revelation recorded in a durable form. Inspiration, on the other hand, refers to the process of God’s superintendence of the human author of Scripture whereby the veracity of the recorded message was ensured.
We legitimately refer to the Bible as special revelation, although we recognize that not all the contents of the Bible are directly revealed by God. In so saying we recognize that portions of the Scriptures are historical in nature, and that the human authors at times involved themselves in historical research before they undertook to write their books. Luke informs us, “. . . since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account . . .” Likewise the authors of Kings and Chronicles inform us of the sources which they used in the composition of their works. (These included, the Chrionicles of King David The Book of the kings of Israel and Judah, the writings of Samuel the Seer, Nathan the Prophet, Gad the Seer, Iddo the Seer, Isaiah the Prophet, and the Chronicles of the Seer, among others.) Other portions of Scripture are the direct result of special revelation (e.g. the creation accounts in Genesis. There were no human witnesses to these events, hence if anything were to be known of them it would of necessity have to be revealed.)
To carry this a step further, the description of many events of is that which is open to the historian. However, the interpretation of these events must come from God Himself and thus be special revelation. It is this process of recording the work o God in history and its interpretation which we refer to as inspiration.
This gives God’s special revelation
(1) Immediacy (i.e. it has immediate authority as the Word of God.)
(2) Catholicity (i.e. it has universal authority, not just temporary and local authority.)
(3) Durability (i.e. because it continues in written form it continues throughout time to exercise authority over all who hear it.
Thus it is legitimate to say Sacra Scriptura est Verbum Dei (Holy Scripture is the Word of God)
The Fact of Inspiration
The word “inspire” and its derivatives seem to have come into Middle English from the French, and have been employed form the first (early 14th century) in a considerable number of significations, physical and metaphorical, secular and religious. The derivatives have been multiplied and their application extended during the procession of the years, until they have acquired a very wide and varied use. Underlying all, however is the constant implication of an influence form without, producing in its object movements and effects beyond its native, or at least its ordinary powers. The noun “inspiration,” although already in use in the 14th century, seems not to occur in any but a theological sense until late in the 16th century. The specifically theological sense of all these terms is governed, of course, by their usage in Latin theology; and this rests ultimately n their employment in the Latin Bible. . . In the development of theological nomenclature, however, they have acquired (along with other less frequent applications ) a technical sense with reference to the Biblical writers or the Biblical books. THe Biblical books are called inspired as the Divinely determined products of inspired men; the Biblical writers are call inspired as breathed into by the Holy Spirit, so that the product of their activities transcends human powers and becomes Divinely authoritative. Inspiration is, therefore, usually defined as a supernatural influence exerted on the sacred writers by the Spirit of God, by virtue of which their writings are given Divine trustworthiness. --B.B. Warfield, ISBE, vol. 3, pg. 1453, s.v. “Inspiration.”
(B.A.G. p. 357, “inspired by God” (found only in Scripture in 2 Tim. 3:16) cf. Lampe’s Patristic Lexicon, “divinely inspired.” The term is late and rare, this has given rise to numerous interpretations of the meaning of the term:
- Some suggest that the term has reference to the effect the Scriptures have on their hearers. That reading the Scriptures lifts the hearers to spiritual heights (c.f. Cremer). Or to put it another way, Scripture breathes God’s Spirit.
- Some contend that God inspired His Scripture. (i.e. He breathed into them His Holy Spirit. See previous lecture on C.S. Lewis’ view of Scripture)
- “God Breathed”
Warfield has stridently argued:
—very distinctly does not mean “inspired by God.” This phrase is rather the rendering of the Latin divinitus inspirata. . . The Greek term has, however, nothing to say of inspiring or of inspiration: it speaks only of “spiring” or “spiration.” What it says of Scripture is not that it is “breathed into by God” or is the product of divine “inbreatheing” into the human authors, but that it “breathed out by God” or “God-breathed.” In a word, what is being declared by this fundamental passage is simply that the Scriptures are a divine product, without any indication of how God has operated in producing them. No term could have been chosen, however, which would have more emphatically asserted the divine production of Scripture that that which is here employed. The “breath of God” in Scripture is the symbol of His almighty bower, the bearer of His creative word. “By the word of Jehovah,” we read in a significant parallel of Ps 33:6, “were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” . . . God’s breath is the irresistible outflow of His power. When Paul declares, then, that “every scripture” is a product of the divine breath, “is God-breathed,” he asserts with as much energy as he could employ that Scripture is a product of a specifically divine operation. (Warfield, ISBE 3:1474 s.v. “Inspiration”)
While basically agreeing with Warfield on the sense of “God-breathed,” Goodrick objects to Warfield’s “spired” noting, “This word triggers such unacceptable images as a church building, an inflated tire, and a man holding his breath.” He continues:
Etymology forces itself upon rate words, and theopneustos is a rare word. It combines two stems and an adjective suffix: theo-pneu-stos. The first stem, theo-, means “God,” “god,” or “divine.” The second stem, pneu-, means “breath,” breath,” “Spirit,” or “spirit.” And the suffix,-tos, makes the adjective passive in voice. In almost all combined form starting with -theo, God is the active agent.
When an adjective ending in -tos is recast into a transitive sentence the first stem becomes its subject, the second its verb and the noun modified by the adjective its direct object. For instance , “God-taught’ (1 Thess. 4:9), breaks down into “God”), (“teach”), and - Converting the first stem to subject, the second to verb and the noun modified by the adjective to direct object produces the sentence, “God teaches you.” When you do the same with theopneustos you produce the sentence “God breathes the Scripture” or God breathes out the Scripture or (my preference) “God breathes into the Scripture.” So all Scripture is God-breathed” (NIV) suits the etymology plus the patristic idea as stated by Lampe.
I suspect that to one schooled as well as Timothy was in the OT, the new word, theopneustos, would have triggered his recollection of that primeval episode in which God, by breathing into the nostrils of an image molded from inert clay, made it spring into life. Certainly Adam was God-breathed. Furthermore, by this analogy, Timothy might effortlessly conceive that as it was with Adam, so also this theopneustos is used to describe not only the Bible’s vitality but also the Agent he used to bring it into existence. If this is how Timothy understood the inspiration of Scripture s did the writer of Hebrews, who says that the Word of God is zon, (“alive”). The parallel is remarkable, for just like our target text it is an equative sentence with the Bible as subject, an elided copula, and a pair of predicate adjectives, one stating the inspired quality of the Bible and the other its purpose with considerable amount of subordination elaborating on the value: “For the Word of God is alive and effective.” (Heb. 4:12).
The Text: 2 Tim 3:16-17
All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
“all” or “every” Scripture?
can be used collectively or distributively. The question here is how did Paul intend it to be understood? In the immediate context (v. 15) the Scripture is equate with the sacred writings, hence, Paul is here referring collectively to the Scriptures. Therefore all Scripture is in view here.
The verse is without a verb.
It could legitimately be translated “every/all Scripture inspired by God is also profitable.” This is not however, normal Pauline style (cf. 1 Tim 4:4, same author, same grammar). Some who have rejected plenary inspiration have adopted this translation since it seemingly draws a distinction between inspired and non-inspired Scripture. However this sense is not plausible since the previous verse describes the sacred writings which are in this verse described as Scripture. Also, such a distinction was totally foreign to first century Judaism.
Literally, “the writing”
This is a technical term for Scripture as can be seen from Philo, Josephus and the NT itself.
The Point: God is the author of all Scripture. Therefore inspiration is Plenary or full
Other Passages: Gal 3:8, 22; Acts 13:32-35; Gal 3:16; Acts 1:16; 4:25; Heb 3:7; 10:15
N.B. In the context in which it was written this passage is speaking of the inspiration of the OT. The NT was not yet completed, nor was there yet a New Testament canon.
The Process of Inspiration
2 Peter 1:20-21
First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
This is not just the foretelling of an event. Prophecy also involved forthtelling. All Scripture was regarded by the Jews as prophetic, and all scriptural authors were regarded as prophets.
This implies a verbal aspect to the divine communicative process.
This speaks of the origination of the message, Human authors were not involved in the origination of the message but spoke as they were moved by God. They were instruments through whom God spoke,
This indicates that the human authors did not carry the message, but rather they were carried by the Holy Spirit when writing Scripture. God moved them. They were passive in the message, but active in the writing. The Holy Spirit () was the active agent.
Acts 27:14-19 gives an illustration of the process. The boat was driven () by the wind. On board the passengers and crew had relative freedom. They could go below deck, or up on deck, stern or aft, port or starboard, but the wind () determined the course. In this context means to be carried along by the power of another .
Illustration of Inspiration
Note: This is an limited illustration and there it breaks down at several points, however that does not totally invalidate the significant parallels between these two distinct manifestations of the Word.
There is an Identification of God and Scriptures
OT passages in which God is speaker are quoted authoritatively in the NT under the rubric “Scripture said.” Likewise OT passages in which there is no indication that God is the speaker are quoted in the NT under the rubric, “God said.”
Note: This is a representative list. Numerous other Scriptures could cited.
The Extent of Inspiration
It extends to the whole Bible (plenary)
It extends to every word in the autographa (original manuscripts)
Scripture appeals to grammatical number to establish an argument. (the singular as opposed to the plural of seed in Gal 3:16)
Scripture appeals to verb tense to settle an argument. (present as opposed to the past tense: I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As opposed to I was the God. Matt. 22:32)
The New Testament Witness to its Own Inspiration
Peter considers the letters of Paul inspired. (2 Peter 3:15-16)
Paul treats a quotation from the gospel of Luke as inspired citing Luke 10:7 as scripture. (1 Tim. 5:18)
Revelation is adamant about its own inspiration. (Rev 22:18-19 cf. 1:10-11)
Paul (at least) was aware that he was writing with divine authority (Cor. 2:12; 14:37; Gal. 1:11-12; Thess. 2:13).
Problems in Verbal Inspiration
There are about 300 direct references or quotations in the NT from the OT. Combined with clear allusions to the OT material, this material comprises about 10% of the NT text. There is great liberty taken with these citations. For example compare the following:
Acts 28: 25-27
The requirement is not verbal exactitude in citation, but truth without error. (See Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, 43-45) The same truth can be stated in a variety of forms while retaining the full veracity of the original.
The scriptural authors were saturated with the OT concepts so they naturally employed these vocabulary and concepts in expressing the truth of the NT.
A writer may only be giving and interpretation rather than a quotation of a particular passage.
Translations produce variations of expression. The dynamic flexible nature of language makes it impossible to render verbally exact equivalent translations. The OT was written in Hebrew (with a small portion in Aramaic) and the NT was written in Koine Greek. One ought not expect one for one verbal exactitude. We see this same phenomenon today in the plethora of Bible translations all based on the same Hebrew and Greek text of the Bible.
Literary conventions for citation of material were different in the first century than they are in the twentieth. They did not have quote marks and they had never heard of Turabian style.
There are several places in Scripture where the descriptions of the same event given by different authors seem to be at odds with each other. (e.g. the death of Saul, the resurrection of Jesus)
The nature of the Historical Method
- An author records what is important to himself as an historian.
- No one has all the details. Hence the details can vary.
(10 It is reported in 1 Samuel 31 that Saul fell on his sword. It is reported in 2 Samuel 1 that an Amalekite killed Saul at Saul’s request. Several possibilities exist. Among the more likely:
(2) Saul took his own life and the Amalekite came upon his body and invented the story to gain favor with David.
(3) Saul fell on his sword but didn’t die immediately and the Amalekite finished the job.
(4) It should be noted that 1 & 2 Samuel are one book in Hebrew and the two accounts are back to back. It is likely the whole account was well known in Israel when this was composed and no problem was perceived. It is likely that the account of the Amalekite is included to demonstrate David’s character and continuing respect for Saul as the Lord’s anointed, even after Saul’s death. (see point a. above.)
Perspective (Perspective on an event can alter the way details are reported)
Illustration: 3 blind men and the elephant.
Three blind men came upon an elephant and set about to describe it. The first, feeling the elephant’s trunk said that the elephant is like a snake. The second feeling the tall side of the animal said that the elephant was tall, like a wall. The third, felt the tail and said that the elephant is like a tree with flexible branches. Each one described accurately his experience of the elephant, yet the experiences were so vastly different that someone who had never heard of an elephant would not be able to imagine that these three descriptions fit the same beast. Each . account way true, but partial.
The Bible describes things phenomenologically, i.e. as they appear to the human observer. For example the scripture speaks of the sun rising in the east. This is a phenomenological statement. Scientifically, the sun doesn’t rise at all. The Earth turns on its axis while revolving around the sun. But even the Naval Almanac uses the term sunrise and no one would charge tie Naval Almanac with error.
The Scriptures have been understood throughout history in all cultures because it describes things the way they appear( i.e. phenomenologically). The point is Scripture is not a scientific text book, and it is not written to the standards of 20th century scientific accuracy. But where it does touch on scientific matter, it does not impart misinformation. (See Gerstner, The Foundation of Biblical Authority, p. 24-25); also see Paul Little, Know What You Believe, 21-22)
This is the crux of the problem. If a true contradiction can be demonstrated irrefutably, then the concepts on verbal plenary inspiration and the deduced concept of the inerrancy of the Scripture as they have been understood must fall by the wayside and some other explanation of the Bible’s divine nature must be found.
Most contradictory statements are only superficially contradictory. (e.g. Galatians 6:2, 5 KJV, but cf. The translation of the NASB and the context.
Harmonization with more information
Some contradictory statements are harmonized upon gaining more information. (e.g. the death of Judas as reported by Matthew [27:5] and Luke [Acts 1:16-25] are harmonized through an understanding of the geography.
By way of illustration:
Several years ago I received word that the chaplain of the seminary I attended had died in an automobile accident. Later, I heard that he had died of a heart attack. I was confused, which was it? When more details became available I discovered that he had been driving one icy morning and at a traffic light had had an accident. It was also discovered that concurrently he had suffered a fatal heart attack. It was never determined if the accident caused the heart attack or the heart attack caused the accident.
There are a number of real difficulties in the text which without further information we are unable to answer fully. Dewey Beegle cites about a dozen, mostly dealing with the variant numbers between Kings and Chronicles. Many of these have been answered by Edwin Thiele in his Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings. Some difficulties still remain. We must remember Warfield’s comment here:
. . . it is a first principle of historical science that any solution which affords a possible method of harmonizing any two statements is preferable to the assumption of inaccuracy or error—whether those statements are found in the same of different writers. To act on any other basis, it is clearly acknowledged, is to assume, not prove, error. (Warfield, Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, p. 439)
The Divine and the Human in Scripture
The Divine and the human are not properly conceived of when one element is emphasized so that it excludes the other. (e.g. mechanical inspiration or natural inspiration)
The Divine and the human are not properly conceived of as opposing one another. Over a century ago, William Sanday observed: “The tendency of the last 50 or 100 years of investigation is to make it appear that the human element is larger than had been supposed.” The implication is that the Divine element is smaller.
Kirkpatrick stated: “In the origin of Scripture there has been a large human element, larger than was at one time supposed.”
G.T. Ladd observed: the chief difficulty in the matter of being the determination on the “exact place where the Divine element meets the human and is limited by it. On this theory, every discovery of a human element in Scripture is a disproving of its divinity—ultimately then the entire Bible becomes human and the Divine is eliminated.”
Concursus: The proper conception
Every word is at once both Divine and human. By way of analogy see Philippians 2:12-13. Also Scripture is attributed to both God and man.
(1) The Bible is truly the Word of God, having infallible authority in all that it affirms or enjoins.
(2) The Bible is truly the production of man. It is marked by all the evidence of human authorship as clearly and certainly as any other book ever written by man.
(3) This two-fold authorship extends to every part of Scripture as well as to the general ideas expressed
Dr. Basil Manley
Observations on the
Dual Nature of Scripture
(1) The Bible is divine yet it has come to us in human form.
(2) The commands of the Bible are absolute, yet the historical context of the writings appears to relativize certain elements.
(3) The Bible’s message is clear, yet many passages seem ambiguous.
(4) We are dependent only of the Spirit for instruction, yet scholarship is surely necessary.
(5) The Scriptures seem to presuppose a literal and historical reading, yet we are also confronted by the figurative and nonhistorical (e.g. the parables).
(6) Proper interpretation requires the interpreter’s persona freedom, yet some degree of external, corporate authority seems imperative.
(7) The objectivity of the biblical message is essential, yet our presuppositions seem to inject a degree of subjectivity into the interpretive process.
(Moises Silva, Has the Church Misread the Bible, 37-38)
“When all the facts become known, they will demonstrate that the Bible in its original autographs and correctly interpreted is entirely true and never false in all it affirms, whether relative to doctrine or ethics or the social, physical or life sciences.” (P. D. Feinberg, s.v. “inerrancy, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology
Inerrancy: a theological deduction from inspiration.
Inerrancy: not demonstrable empirically because of:
lack of complete data
Inerrancy & the autographa.
Inerrancy applies to the autographa, not to copies or translations of Scripture. This qualification is made because we realize that errors have crept into the text during the transmission process. It is not an appeal to a “Bible which no one has ever seen or can see.” Such a charge fails to take into account the nature of textual criticism and the very high degree of certainty we possess concerning the original text of Scripture.
Inerrancy relates to hermeneutics.
The theologian must interpret the text properly in order to ascertain the truth of falsity of its assertions. Inerrancy also recognizes the analogy of faith and that apparent contradictions be harmonized if possible.
Inerrancy does not demand scientific precision.
The issue is, “Is the truth expressed accurate within accepted cultural norms when it was written?” It issue is not 20th century scientific accuracy. This is a point sometimes missed by defenders of inerrancy who try to establish that the Bible conforms to 20th century norms of precision. (see for example; Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible)
Inerrancy: not a biblical term,
Inerrancy is not a biblical term, it is theological. Nonetheless this does not mean that it does not express a biblical truth. (cf. The term Trinity)
Arguments for Inerrancy
Inerrancy is a necessary deduction from the Bible’s teaching concerning its inspiration.
Inerrancy has been the faith of the Church. It is recognized that inerrancy was often assumed rather than explicitly defended. However from its earliest days the Church’s use of Scripture has demonstrated an underlying commitment to inerrancy.
Inerrancy is a capstone rather than a foundational doctrine.
See Warfield, Inspiration and Authority, 210-211.
Inerrancy does not demand a “wooden literal” method of interpretation.
Inerrancy and Authorial Intent
Inerrancy is to be understood in terms of the Author’s intended meaning in the text which is discovered by historical, grammatical, theological interpretation.
Inerrancy and Truth
Inerrancy has to do with truth, simple truth, as opposed to absolute truth. (i.e. the philosophically absolute.)
Inerrancy means having AN ADVANCE COMMITMENT TO RECEIVE AS TRUTH FROM GOD ALL THAT SCRIPTURE IS FOUND ON INSPECTION ACTUALLY TO TEACH. J. I. Packer, “Hermeneutics and Biblical Authority,” Themelios, I (1975) p. 11.
The Legionier Statement on Inerrancy
We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the inspired and inerrant Word of God: We hold the Bible, as originally given through human agents of revelation to be infallible and see this a crucial article of faith with implication for the entire life and practice of all Christian people. With the great fathers of the Christian history we declare our confidence in the total trustworthiness of the Scriptures, urging that any view which impure to them a lesser degree of inerrancy than total, is in conflict with the Bible’s self-testimony in general and with the teaching of Jesus Christ in particular. Out of obedience to the Lord of The Church we submit ourselves unreservedly to his authoritative view of Holy Writ.
Evidence that the Bible is God’s Word
There is much that even a superficial examiner will discover about the Bible that recommends it as the true, timeless revelation of God to man. The Bible succinctly addresses both origins and future events, credibly answering the three greatest questions (whence? whither? and wherefore?). It marshals the full contingent of rhetorical instruments into a single message: poetry, philosophy, pithy proverbs, parables, prophecy, and poignant historical narratives alike speak in a compelling manner. The pathos of the crucifixion account is an event worthy of being the pinnacle of world history, that Omnipotence would submit to death at the hands of his own creation! The resurrection of the founder and the message of salvation by faith apart from human works stand in stark contrast to every other religious system known. But to fully appreciate the weight of the evidence, one must dig deeper than this. There are several lines of reasoning that give testimony to the fact that the Bible is the Word of God. They can be generally grouped into five broad topics, each of which deserves a great deal more attention than is currently given here. For further information, Josh McDowell’s book Evidence That Demands a Verdict is a good resource.
First let us consider the uniqueness of the book. The Bible is unique in preparation, circulation, translation, and preservation. The Bible was written over a period of 1,500 years by a great variety of men who were inspired of God. From the king of Babylon writing in Chaldean to the humble prophet of Samaria; from an educated doctor writing in Greek to the beautiful lyrics composed by a Hebrew shepherd in the field; from a statesman born in ancient Egypt to a fisherman of the Roman era; it is difficult to conceive of a more diverse group! Writing any volume of such length and being in compete harmony would indeed be a wonder, much less dealing with a topic so controversial as religion. No book in the history of the world has been as widely circulated as the scripture. Every year it outsells all of the top best-sellers and it has now been translated into over 1,200 different languages. Despite the hammers of higher criticism and the black-listing of dictators, the anvil of God’s Word survives after the hammers where out. The noted French infidel Voltaire was convinced that he could destroy Christianity and the Bible. At one point, he held up a copy of the Bible in the air and smugly proclaimed, “In 100 years this book will be forgotten and eliminated…” Among the places where Voltaire lived was an estate in Geneva, Switzerland called Les Délices. After Voltaire moved on, the residence was occupied by the Tronchin family. Colonel Henri Tronchin was President of the Evangelical Society of Geneva and Les Délices is reliably reported to have been used as a repository for Bibles, the very book Voltaire had assigned to extinction! Discoveries of hundreds of copies of the ancient texts from a millennium before Christ reveal the remarkable preservation of the message throughout time. The Bible is also unique in message and influence. The Bible unequivocally claims to be the word of God (II Timothy 3:16, II Peter 1:16-21). Either it satisfies that claim or it is not a “good book.” From beginning to end the Bible carries a message of the Messiah, God in the flesh. C.S. Lewis effectively countered the myth of Jesus Christ being merely a “good man.” Christ claimed to be God. So either He was divine, or he was a deceitful impostor, or he was pathetically self-deluded. This has been called the Lord/Liar/Lunatic trilemma. Great men the world over have sought to plummet the message of the scriptures. From common people with no formal education to the brightest minds in the scientific world, most have found intellectual challenge and many have come to know spiritual fulfillment in the message of this unique book.
Secondly, archaeology has independently confirmed the historical accuracy of the scriptures. Not only have many of the locations and traditions that are mentioned in the Bible been confirmed by field workers in the Middle East and researchers that study ancient histories, but specific events cited have often been shown to match in great detail. Associates for Biblical Research has extensively excavated Jericho. Just one of the interesting features about this city is that the walls appear to have fallen outward. While an invading army would typically ram the walls inward upon the debris, the Bible declares that God caused the walls to fall flat so that the Israelites could go straight in. Skeptics once believed that the book of Daniel was in error when it discussed Belshazzar ruling Babylon. The dynasties were revealed on cuneiform tablets excavated from ancient Babylon and Belshazzar did not appear on the list. Yet Unger’s Bible Dictionary tells how a later find revealed that the sovereign, Nabonidus, traveled extensively and in his absence left his son Belshazzar to rule as co-regent. That is why, in seeking to offer the ultimate reward to anyone who could interpret the mysterious message of doom, Belshazzar offered the position of “third in the kingdom” (Daniel 5:7). He could do no more since he was only second himself. Sir William Ramsey is regarded as one of the greatest archaeologists ever to have lived. Skeptical of the authorship and accuracy of the gospels and Acts, Ramsey set out to investigate. Yet he concluded after 30 years of study that “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.” (Ramsey, W.M., The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, 1953, p. 222, as cited in McDowell, 1991, p.71.)
Thirdly there is the evidence of fulfilled prophecy. It is interesting to glance at a concordance and note how many times the scriptures say, “It is written” and harking back to one of the many prophecies. Making predictions in the Old Testament era was no light matter. The test for a prophet was 100% accuracy (Deuteronomy 18:20-22). The penalty for failing the test was death. Yet, in marked contrast to any other religious writings, about 30% of the Bible is prophecy! Let’s just consider two of the many types of prophecies contained in the Bible: those regarding the Messiah and those that apply to Ancient Cities. McDowell presents 61 specific prophecies that were clearly fulfilled in Christ. These include: His birthplace, the flight to Egypt, His ancestry, the slaughter of the innocents, His being preceded by a messenger, the ministry starting in Galilee, His teaching with parables, His entry into Jerusalem on a colt, His betrayal by a friend, the 30 pieces of silver, His death upon a tree, the garments parted and lots cast, the gall and vinegar offered, His side pierced but no bones broken, the darkness over the land, and His burial with the rich, and His resurrection. Even if an impostor sought to pawn himself off as meeting some of these, there are a great many (like the events of one’s birth) beyond his control. In his book Science Speaks, Peter Stoner has calculated the odds of just eight of the most remarkable prophecies coming true in the life of any man in human history as a mind-boggling 1 in 10 17. These are not common predictions that have decent odds of happening. No other religion in the world even makes a pretense that its founder is still alive, yet the prophets predicted the resurrection (Psalm 16:10). Remarkably, the exact timing of the Messiah’s arrival was given in Daniel 9:24-26. Many of the Old Testament prophecies (like Malachi 3:1) demand that the temple be standing when the Messiah came. It was destroyed in A.D. 70 in fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy (Matthew 24:2). Indeed, there was a narrow historical window in which the Messiah could come. For it was determined in Genesis 49:10 that he would be born before Israel lost the governmental scepter (the rabbis lost the right of capital punishment so important to their law in AD 7). That is why they had to appeal to Pilate in John 18:31. But Messiah had to be condemned after the Jews lost that right because it was predicted that he was to die by crucifixion (Psalm 22:16), rather that the Jewish method of stoning.
Biblical prophecies with regard to ancient cities is equally remarkable. Skeptics have suggested that a message of impending doom spoken against an ancient city must come true eventually. Yet the dire predictions in the Bible are very specific such that the details of one city’s prophecies do not fit the next one. The detailed prophecies involving ancient cities include Babylon, Chorazin-Bethsaida-Capernaum, Gaza-Ashkelon, Jerusalem, Moab-Ammon, Nineveh, Petra-Edom, Samaria, Sidon, Thebes-Memphis, Tyre, and others (McDowell, 1991). Contemplate just a few of them:
- Among the several specific predictions with regard to ancient Edom are those in Ezekiel 25:13-14. It claims that Edom’s destruction would leave the land desolate as far as Teman and that Israel would participate in their destruction. In Ezekiel 35:7 the prophet further notes Edom would no longer be a place of merchants and trade. Isaiah 34:14-15 claims it would be the habitation of wild animals. Lastly Jeremiah 49:18 predicts that it would never be inhabited again. This is a daunting series of prophecies, particularly when one considers that Petra, the capital of Edom, was one of the wonders of the ancient world–literally a city carved into a mountain and the Jews were in bondage when the prophecy was made! Yet under the Maccabean era the resurgent Israelites pillaged Edom. In dramatic fulfillment the Edomite empire was finally destroyed right up to the city of Teman. (Only Teman, or Maan was left and survives still today.) When the capital city of Petra was rediscovered (to the chagrin of critics who maintained that the Edomite civilization was mythical), it was found to be a ghost town, inhabited only by eagles, scorpions and other wild creatures.
- By way of contrast, one can consider the prophecies against Moab and Ammon. Though in Ezekiel 25:3-4 the prophet had predicted the fall of these city-states, Jeremiah 48:47 (Moab) and 49:6 (Ammon) predicted that they would rise again. Indeed these cities are in existence and thriving today.
- One is hard-pressed to find superlatives to sufficiently convey the splendor of ancient Babylon. The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia tells of a city covering 196 square miles, surrounded by double walls and a 30-ft. moat. The outer wall was over 300 feet high and wide enough to race 8 chariots abreast! Upon entering one of the one hundred solid brass gates, the visitor would be struck with the majesty of the hanging gardens, massive palaces, exquisite temples, and flowing Euphrates. The prophets foretelling its demise is akin to someone today forecasting the utter desolation of London or New York. But more than that, Isaiah 13:19-22 states that it will be overthrown, never to be inhabited again, except by desert animals. This has indeed come to pass. But interestingly, Jeremiah 51:26 declares that it would not be torn down to be used for construction elsewhere. While the Bedouins avoid the old city of Babylon, archaeological activity has been ongoing since many interesting ruins of the dead city remain.
- The story of ancient Tyre is given in Unger’s Bible Dictionary: “an ancient Phoenician city, located on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea… It once consisted of two parts–a rocky coast defense of great strength on the mainland, and a city upon a small but well-protected island about half a mile from the shore.” A merchant nation, the mariners of Tyre traveled the known world, making their home a successful trade port with a great, walled city on the mainland and a wealthy enclave on the island. In Ezekiel 26 the prophet details the destruction that will befall Tyre. Let us note the specificity: (1) vs 3 claims that multiple nations would be involved; (2) vs 4 tells that the walls and towers were to be broken down; (3) vs 4 states that the dirt was to be scraped off the area revealing the underlying rock and (4) All the debris of the city was to be dumped in the water; (5) vs 7-11 tell that Nebuchanezzar would break into the city; (6) vs 14 predicts that it would become a place of fishermen spreading their nets and (7) that the site would never be rebuilt. Nebuchanezzar attempted to subdue proud Tyre but because the inhabitants of this seacoast city all abandoned Tyre proper to escape to the large island fortress off the coast, he never looted its treasury or conquered its royalty. Nevertheless, Nebuchanezzar’s siege and destruction of the seacoast city was praised and actually rewarded by God (Ezekiel 29:18-20). His destruction of the mainland portion of Tyre certainly fulfills verses 7-11 which apply to him. The dramatic fulfillment of the prophesied judgment was not completed in Nebuchanezzar since the inhabitants outlasted him on their Alcatraz-like island. When Alexander the Great came through to conquer Tyre, the citizens tried the same trick…evacuating for the island fortress. Alexander took a cue from the failure of Nebuchanezzar. He took ALL of the debris from the city of Tyre (literally scraping it bare), built a causeway out to the island, and proceeded to demolish it, selling the surviving inhabitants into slavery. Attempts were made to rebuild Tyre and it was again destroyed. The modern city called Tyre was NOT constructed on the ancient mainland site. In fact the ancient plot is largely barren rock (somewhere inland from the modern construction), and has quite literally been used by local fishermen to lay out their nets! “If Ezekiel had looked at Tyre in his day and had made these seven predictions in human wisdom, these estimates mean that there would have been only one chance in 75,000,000 of their all coming true. They all came true in the minutest detail.” (Stoner, Peter, Science Speaks, 1963, p. 80.)
A most remarkable Old Testament prophecy has been fulfilled in the modern era. In keeping with the warning of Leviticus 26:33 and Deuteronomy 28:64 the children of Israel were scattered and tormented. From the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, to their banishment from Rome, to the pogroms of eastern Europe, to the holocaust; the Jewish people have suffered greatly. But Ezekiel 36:33-35 and 38:8 makes it very clear that the Jews were to return out of the other nations, rebuild their wasted cities, and recultivate their land (See also Jeremiah 16:14-15). It would seem highly unlikely that the Jews would remain distinct as a people, having no country and every motivation to intermarry and escape the stigma. Yet this Biblical prophecy has been completely fulfilled in recent history. From a population of only 20,000 identifiable Palestinian Jews in 1900, the modern reemergence of the Israeli nation has swelled that number to 6 million Jews. No other nation has been similarly reborn. Small wonder when the rationalist king Frederick the Great demanded of the court chaplain an unanswerable proof of the Bible’s authenticity, the answer was given: “the Jew, your majesty!”
As a prophet Himself, Jesus Christ made numerous predictions. For example, Jesus made a remarkable prediction concerning the destruction of Herod’s Temple, one of the wonders of the ancient world. As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Luke 21:6). It would seem superfluous that an invading army would go to the trouble of moving all the foundation boulders. But when the Romans burned the Temple during their AD 70 conquest of Jerusalem, all the wealth of gold melted and ran down between the giant stones. Thus all the stones were overturned to get at the gold. In Matthew 24:3 the disciples posed a question about the timing of the end of the world, Armageddon, and the new kingdom. Jesus predicted in vs 14: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” He later would command them to go “into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). That was a command it would seem impossible for a motley group of followers of an itinerant preacher in the obscure nation to do. How could they go through all the world spreading His teachings and getting people to believe the incredible story of his death and resurrection? Yet they have done just that. Interestingly, even the advent of the modern skeptical era with a worldview based upon uniformitarianism was foretold in the scriptures (see II Peter 3:3-7). In Isaiah 41:23 the prophet lays out a challenge: “Show me the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods.” The God of the Bible has dramatically met that challenge!
Fourthly, there is the fact that the Bible is scientifically accurate. One must always be cautious against using circular reasoning such that scientific theories are enlightened by the scripture and then those theories are used to show that the scriptures are reliable. But quite aside from the evidence for controversial theories like special creation, or the co-existence of men and dinosaurs; there are a number of rather startling statements in the Bible which appear to be far more advanced than the scientific knowledge at the time of writing. Moreover, there has never been an irreconcilable discrepancy between scientific facts or laws and the scriptures.
- Jeremiah 33:22 claims that the stars of the heaven are innumerable. Hippocrates, before the invention of the telescope charted and numbered 1,022 stars. Kepler later recounted and revised the number. Today scientists agree with Jeremiah. There are billions just in our galaxy! It is interesting that the Bible makes the number of stars roughly equivalent to the number of grains of sand on the seashore (Genesis 22:17; Hebrews 11:12). Carl Sagan also compared these two, leaning towards the number of stars being greater. Amazingly, the latest estimates of the gross number of sand grains are comparable to the modern estimated number of stars in the universe!
- Judges 5:20 mentions “the stars in their courses.” While it was once believed that the stars were fixed, today we know that they too move in a predictable way.
- Job 38:19 is accurate in the way it characterizes light. Note that darkness is in a place but light is in a way. It travels a path.
- Job 38:24 indicates the light of the sun (by heating) makes the wind.
- In Genesis 1:1 and Hebrews 1:10-12 the Bible is unequivocal that the universe had a beginning. When the Bible was written many people believed the universe was eternal. Starting with the studies of Albert Einstein in the early 1900’s and continuing still today, science has confirmed the biblical view that the universe had a beginning.
- Moreover, the universe is expanding (Job 9:8; Isaiah 42:5; Jeremiah 51:15; Zechariah 12:1). Repeatedly God declares that He stretches out the heavens. During the early 20th century, most scientists (including Einstein) believed the universe was static. Others believed it oscillated and would eventually collapsed due to gravity. Then in 1929, astronomer Edwin Hubble showed that distant galaxies were receding from the earth. This discovery revolutionized the field of astronomy. Einstein admitted his mistake, and today most astronomers agree with what the Creator told us millennia ago – the universe is expanding!
- Job 36:27 asks how the rain drops stay small (discrete even in a strong wind)? One of the key reasons is found in Psalm 135:5-7 and again in Jeremiah 51:16. Because of the electrical charges in the clouds, the rain drops repel each other as they fall. This is why electrical static during a rain or snow storm can be so disruptive of electronic transmissions.
- Ezekiel 5:5, 38:12 claims that Jerusalem is the center of the earth. ICR commissioned a computer analysis of the earth’s land-masses and discovered that the geographic center is in Palestine, near the holy city.
- Psalm 103:12 The Psalmist seeks to describe how far away God has removed the sins of those who have been forgiven. Interestingly, one can go west or east forever, unlike north and south.
- Hebrews 1:11-12 describes the wearing down of the creation in language that nicely mirrors the second law of thermodynamics and II Peter 3:12 describes the heavens one day passing away in a fire that causes the elements to melt in fervent heat (a pretty accurate description of nuclear meltdown).
- Ecclesiastes 1:4-6 describes the whirling motion of the winds and the movement of storm fronts long before the advent of modern meteorology. Unlike other ancient wisdom narratives, like The Book of Enoch 33:3-4, that claim the wind comes from a heavenly portal, this Biblical passage explains that the winds circle back to their starting point.
- Many ancient cultures believed that there was one heaven, like a hard dome over the Earth. The stars were planted in it like overhead lights and the clouds moved along the face of it. This whole heavenly sphere would then rotate around the Earth. But Genesis 1:1 states that God created the heavens (plural) and Deuteronomy 10:14 talks about multiple heavens: “Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord‘s…” The Bible accurately separates the first heaven (our atmosphere where the birds fly and the clouds form) from the second heaven where the cosmic bodies are: “Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host” (Nehemiah 8:6). Moreover, II Corinthians 12:2-4 mentions a third heaven as being “paradise,” the dwelling place of God.
- Ecclesiastes 1:7 says, “All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.” Such a correct view of the hydrologic cycle eluded ancient civilizations up until a few centuries ago. Only in recent times have scholars appreciated the remarkable significance of the clear, scientifically-accurate description of water found in the Bible’s section of wisdom literature. For example, Job 36:27-28 states, “He draws up the drops of water, which distil as rain to the streams; the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind” (Job 36:27-29).
- Job 37:16 also gives significant meteorological information, including the balancing of the vapors in the clouds. Job 36:27 adds that the quantity of the rain is proportional to the amount of vapor aloft.
- Job 26:7 The ancients Greeks believed that the world was held up by Atlas. Other civilizations held similar ideas. The Bible made an unusual claim: God did not hang the world on anything.
- Psalm 8:8 discusses the “paths of the seas.” The story is told that when the man we call “the Father of Oceanography,” Matthew Fontaine Maury, read Psalm 8 the aforementioned phrase stuck in his mind. He later sought to confirm the idea and eventually wrote The Physical Geography of the Sea in1855. It was the first textbook on modern oceanography. The state of Virginia erected a memorial to him that cites this passage.
- Isaiah 40:22 Some have claimed that the Bible supports the “flat earth theory.” But this passage declares that God sits upon the “circle of the earth.” (See also the mention in Proverbs 8:27 of a compass or a circle about the original earth.)
- Job 38:13-14 conveys the idea of the earth rotating on its axis: “the earth…is turned as clay to the seal.”
- In Luke 17:34-36 the worldwide event of Christ’s return is being discussed. The scientifically significant fact is that these verses allude to the different time zones around the globe long before the earth’s rotation was understood by scientists. Note that when Christ comes, some will be enjoying nighttime sleep while others are grinding in preparation for the day’s baking (typically morning) and others are working in the field (typically afternoon).
- One of the directors of Standard Oil Company read in Exodus 2:3 how Moses was placed in an ark “daubed with slime and pitch.” He sent the company geologist Charles Whitshott to determine if there was still oil in that region. The discovery of oil led to Standard having very successful well operations in Egypt. (Tan, Paul L.,Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, p. 191.)
- The practice of medical bleeding as a treatment (often with leeches) was common until the middle of the 19th century. Historians believe that George Washington’s bleeding caused his death. (Thayer, William R., George Washington, 1922, p. 240) Ironically, by his bedside was a Bible that stated in Leviticus 17:11 “For the life of the flesh is in the blood.” Today we know that all nutrients are carried by blood (oxygen, hormones, vitamins, proteins glucose, antibodies, and even heat). It is rightly called “the river of life.” (Marieb, Elaine N., Hoehn, Katja, Human Anatomy & Physiology, 2015.)
Linguists have determined that all the earth’s peoples must have originally shared a common language. That is precisely what the Bible declares in Genesis 11:1.
- The concept of embodied in the laws of thermodynamics: the constant of the universe’s mass/energy and the universal tendency towards decay and disorder are clearly articulated in Ecclesiastes 3:14 and Romans 8:21-22.
- Ancient cultures believed that the moon was the same size as the sun. For example, the Book of Enoch 77:3 declares their dimensions to be equal. They appear similar because the moon is so much closer to the Earth. But Genesis 1:16 stated it correctly. The Sun is approximately 400 times larger than the Moon.
- Sometimes skeptics scoff at the verses that describe the motion of the sun, like Psalm 19:6 “His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.” But there is nothing wrong with talking about motion from a frame of reference like the Earth. Still today we talk about the sun rising and setting. But in more recent years we have discovered that the sun is not fixed and actually does have a circuit. Indeed, our whole solar system orbits the center of the galaxy, traveling at about 230 km/second, requiring over 200 million years to complete one orbit.
- Jonah wrote that there are mountains on the bottom of the ocean floor (Jonah 2:5-6). Only in the last century have we discovered that there are towering mountains and deep troughs in the sea.
- In Job 38:16 God challenged Job to find the “springs of the sea.” But the ocean is so deep that almost all the ocean floor is in total darkness and the water pressure becomes enormous. It would have been impossible for Job to have explored the “springs of the sea.” Until recently, it was thought that oceans were fed only by rivers and rain. Yet in the 1970s, with the help of deep diving research submarines that were constructed to withstand the pressure, oceanographers discovered springs on the ocean floor!
- Much of the Old Testament Levitical law is comprised of health-related restrictions involving diet, cleansing, and quarantine. The book None of These Diseases by McMillen and Stern demonstrates the healthfulness of following that advice (especially in an agrarian society in the Middle East). Human medicine did not realize this until thousands of years after it was written! For example, the Bible cautions against consuming fat (Leviticus 7:23). Only in recent decades has the medical community determined that fat clogs arteries and contributes to heart disease. In Leviticus 11 the Scripture commanded Jews to avoid sea creatures which do not have fins or scales. We now know that bottom-feeders (those with no scales or fins) tend to consume waste and are more likely to carry disease. Then the Bible warns against eating birds of prey. Scientists now recognize that those birds which eat carrion (putrefying flesh), often spread disease. The Bible prohibited the Israelites from eating swine (Deuteronomy 14:8). Not so long ago, science learned that eating undercooked pork causes an infection of parasites called trichinosis. When dealing with diseases, the instruction was that clothes and body should be washed under running water (Leviticus 15:13). For centuries people naively washed in standing water. Today we recognize the need to wash away germs with fresh water.
- The Bible declares that life begins at conception (Jeremiah 1:5) and God declares that He knew each of us before we were born (Psalm 139:13-15). In Exodus 21:22-23, the biblical penalty for killing an unborn child was death. Today, it is an irrefutable biological fact that the fertilized egg is truly an entire human being. Nothing will be added to the first cell except nutrition and oxygen.
- The Bible commanded circumcision of baby Jewish boys on the eighth day. (See Genesis 17:12; Leviticus 12:3; Luke 1:59). Medical science has discovered that the blood clotting chemical prothrombin peaks in a newborn on the eighth day. It is also a peak point for the human immune system. This is therefore the safest day to circumcise a baby. How could Moses have known this?
- Wise pest-control procedures are given in Leviticus 25:1-24. Modern farmers are still plagued by multiplying insects. Yet God gave a sure-fire remedy to control these pests centuries ago. Moses commanded Israel to set aside one year in seven when no crops were raised. Insects winter in the stalks of last year’s harvest, hatch in the spring, and are perpetuated by laying eggs in the new crop. If the crop is denied one year in seven, the pests are controlled. And this promoted soil conservation.
- Long before the theory of plate tectonics provided a mechanism for continental drift and before the German climatologist Alfred Wegener proposed an original supercontinent he called Pangea, the idea that the continents had drifted apart had been suggested by a creationist, Antonio Snider. He was struck by the statement in Genesis 1:9-10 about God’s gathering together the seas into one place and thought that there may have been only a single landmass. Noticing the close fit of the coastlines of western Africa and eastern South America, he proposed that a supercontinent underwent horizontal separation to form the existing continents catastrophically during the Flood.
- When Noah was instructed to build the huge barge that would preserve his family and two of each kind of land creature, the Lord specified for him the perfect dimensions for a stable water vessel (Genesis 6:15). Ship builders today are well aware that the ideal dimension for ship stability is to have the length about six times that of the width. Dr. Werner Gitt demonstrated that the ark had the ideal dimensions to optimize both stability and economy of material. Yet God gave Noah these ideal dimensions over 4,500 years ago.
- We note in Acts 7:22 that “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians…” Yet the errant “scientific” practices of Egypt are absent in the first five books of the Bible, written by Moses approximately 1491-1451 B.C. The Torah is famous for its advanced knowledge about diet, hygiene, quarantine and sanitation. It far surpasses medical knowledge possessed by the Egyptians and other ancient societies of that day (even including the Romans and Minoans).In fact, it far exceeded certain medical standards practiced as recently as the early 1900’s in modern society.
Other verses could be cited. Just recently articles have been published claiming that the human rib is the only bone that has been shown to grow back. Is it merely a coincidence that this is the bone God took from Adam? A strong case has even been made that it is no accident that science has flourished to unprecedented levels in an era of Christian philosophy. Great classical scientists sought to seek God’s thoughts after Him. The Biblical view gives reason to expect orderliness, laws, and repeatability that are the foundation for the scientific method.
The fifth area of evidence is the demonstration of changed lives. That is, there is power in the Christian experience, power in the Christian story, and power in the Christian’s departure. If the Bible only impacted a relative few in a single culture, one might be skeptical of its claims. But the message of salvation and reconciliation to the Creator has dramatically changed women and men of all ages and races throughout history. The message of the scripture is the highest of drama: the eternal omnipotent God pursuing the wayward creation to the extent of a humble birth and cruel, ignominious death. It is at once exquisitely mind-boggling and yet so simple that a child can understand and be affected by it. Millions of people from around the world can personalize the testimony of John Newton, the profane slave-trader turned Christian: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found–was blind, but now I see!” A number of books have compiled death bead accounts, giving the stories of both saved and unsaved people passing from this earth as told in the words of eye-witnesses. One such book is Voices from the Edge of Eternity by John Meyers. The impact grows as one perceives the remarkable similarity in so many of the accounts. Christians see great brightness, give lucid accounts of observing loved ones and leave their bodies with great hope and comfort. But heart-rending accounts of the passing of many unsaved souls are also given. It recounts the details of the great French skeptic Voltaire’s passing from this life in the most awful of circumstance, crying out in darkness, hopelessness and despair. Even his nurse repeatedly said that for all the wealth of Europe, she would not see another infidel die! Hebrews 10:31 states, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
If the Bible gives evidence of being the word of God and it is reliable when it speaks historically, prophetically, etc.; than it is also likely to be trustworthy when it speaks theologically and gives the simple plan of salvation as follows…
- You are a sinner. (Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”)
- The penalty for sin is eternal death, separation from God. (Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”)
- Christ died as a substitute, paying your penalty (Romans 5:8 “But God showed His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”)
- If you repent and call upon Jesus to save you, He promises you eternal life as a free gift. (Romans 10:13 “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”)
The Bible is very clear in making an exclusive claim on the path to God. “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life; but he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him”. (John 3:36) “Jesus said unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). To read more from this wonderful book in the Bible, download the Gospel of John. If you would like more information about God’s simple plan of salvation or how to live in a way pleasing to your Creator, Contact Genesis Park.