The Bible claims to be inspired of God. This is easily seen by anyone who takes the time to examine the text of this ancient book.
The fact that such a claim is made, would not, of course, guarantee the genuineness of the assertion. Many documents feign inspiration (e.g. The Book of Mormon) that are clearly impious frauds!
The question is, therefore, is there sufficient evidence to warrant the conclusion that the Bible is, in fact, a volume of divine origin? There is indeed, and it is to such matters that the reader’s attention is now directed.
The Unity of the Scriptures
Do you think that it seems reasonably possible that forty men, from varying backgrounds, and scattered across more than a thousand years in time, could have designed some sixty-six metal components, which accidentally came together to form a precision machine that revolutionized the world? Impossible! Exactly—from the human vantage point! But that is precisely the kind of thing that happened in the case of the Bible.
The sacred Scriptures were written by some forty different persons, over a span of about 1,600 years. These authors, from a variety of cultural and educational backgrounds, writing in three different languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek), produced a volume of sixty-six books that is characterized by such an amazing unity and beautiful continuity as to be inexplicable on the basis of human origin.
For example, from Genesis to Revelation there is a marvelous unfolding of the general theme of man’s fall from his holy estate, God’s plan for his redemption (as carefully worked out across the centuries), the atoning death of Jesus Christ, and the ultimate victory of the Christian system. No serious student of this matter can fail to be awed by this vast body of consistent evidence that can only argue for an inspired document.
Moreover, there are countless instances of minute agreement between the biblical writers in matters of history, culture, geography, biography, etc., for which there is absolutely no explanation save that there was a divine oversight involved in the production. Those who would explore this point further are encouraged to study J. J. Blunt’s Undesigned Coincidences in the Writings Both of the Old and New Testament (1884) and William Paley’s “Horae Paulinae” in The Works of William Paley (1839).
The Accuracy of the Bible
If the Bible is the verbally inspired word of God, one ought to be able to expect it to be absolutely accurate in the various areas of subject matter upon which it touches.
Works that are strictly human—no matter how scholarly or painstaking the authors—are always characterized by unintentional mistakes which betray fallibility. For example, when the famous Tacitus penned his renowned History and Description of Germany, it was flawed with so many errors that modem scholars are shocked. When the Encyclopedia Brittanica was first published, it contained so many mistakes regarding places in America that the publishers of the New American Cyclopedia issued a special pamphlet exposing the blunders of its rival!
The Bible, though, is always amazingly accurate in its historical and geographical details. For example, biblical evidence indicates that Moses authored the Pentateuch (cf. Exodus 17:14; Mark 12:26). This is confirmed by Josephus (Against Apion, I, 8), and a number of pagan writers—Hecataeus, Manetha, Lysimachus, Eupolemus, Tacitus, Juvenal, and Longinus—all credit Moses with the laws that distinguished the Jews from other nations (cf. George Rawlinson, Historical Evidences of the Truth of the Scripture Records, 1877, p. 254f).
Critics once scoffed at the mention of the Hittites in the biblical narratives (cf. Genesis 23:10; 26:34). Supposedly, they never existed! But the arcaeological discoveries at ancient Boghazkoy (in Turkey) have exploded that criticism and confmned the “authenticity of the ‘background material’ of the Old Testament” (Lehmann 1953, 18).
In the late 1800’s, Sir William Ramsey, a scholar who was skeptical of the authenticity of the book of Acts, set out upon an archaeological expedition in Asia Minor with the declared intention of disproving the historicity and accuracy of Luke’s narrative. After years of research, literally digging up the evidence, Ramsey was forced to conclude that Acts was historically accurate.
In Acts, Luke mentions thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine Mediterranean islands. He also mentions ninety-five persons, sixty-two of which are not named elsewhere in the New Testament. And his references, where checkable, are always correct. This is truly remarkable in view of the fact that the political and territorial situation of his day was in a state of almost constant change. Only inspiration can account for Luke’s precision.
In his monumental work, Lands of the Bible (1881), J. W. McGarvey included a chapter entitled, “An Argument From The Land And The Book.” Therein he states:
“A fictitious narrative, located in a country with which the writer is not personally familiar, must either avoid local allusions or be found frequently in conflict with the peculiarities of place and of manners and customs. By this conflict the fictitious character of the narrative is exposed” (375).
McGarvey observed that there are hundreds of instances in which the Bible can be checked for accuracy in such matters. For example, are the Scriptures always topographically correct? Are compass references accurate? Is Egypt “down” from Canaan (Genesis 12:10)? Is Antioch of Syria “down” from Jerusalem, even though it lies to the north of the holy city (Acts 15:1)? Is the way from Jerusalem to Gaza “south” of Samaria (Acts 8:26)? McGarvey notes that “in not a single instance of this kind has any of the Bible writers been found at fault” (p. 378).
In concluding his impressive argument, the author asks:
“How could they [the Bible writers] have done what learned and careful men of their own age and of subsequent ages have failed to do, unless they were guided, as they claim to have been, by wisdom from on high?” (p. 386).
The prophet Isaiah based the credibility of his message on the validity of predictive prophecy. To the promoters of idolatry in his day, he issued a challenge:
“Let them bring them forth, and declare unto us what shall happen: declare ye the former things, what they are, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or show us the things to come” (Isaiah 41:22).
He is asking this: “You, who claim to speak revelations in the name of your gods, does subsequent history corroborate your predictions?”
Well, about the Bible? Does it pass the prophecy test?
Exactly what is predictive prophecy? Thomas H. Home declared that it is “a miracle of knowledge, a declaration or representation of something future, beyond the power of human sagacity to discern or to calculate” (1872, 119).
In order for prophecy to be valid, the following criteria must obtain. It must involve:
- Proper timing (i.e., significantly preceding the fulfillment);
- Specific details—not vague generalities or remote possibilities;
- Exact fulfillment—not merely a high degree of probability.
The prophecies of the Bible fit these standards exactly!
Prophecies regarding nations
As God’s plan of redemption was unfolding, numerous prophecies were given regarding the rise, decline, and fall of various nations. For example, Israel’s history is vividly portrayed in Deuteronomy 28:47-68. Study this narrative carefully and compare it with history!
When Israel became deeply involved in idolatry, Isaiah foretold that the Lord would raise up the Assyrians, as the “rod of [His] anger” to punish them (Isaiah 10:5, 6). But after that is accomplished, Jehovah announced that the Assyrians themselves would be destroyed (10:12, 24-25). History reveals that that is exactly what happened (cf. 2 Kings 17:24, 18:13).
When the kingdom of Judah lapsed into a state of spiritual decay, the prophets announced that Babylon would arise to punish them (Jeremiah 25:9-11; Habakkuk 1:5) and indeed, to captivate them for seventy years (Jeremiah 25:11-12). The history of those events is available for all who care to read it (cf. 2 Kings 24, 25; 2 Chronicles 36:21).
But then even mighty Babylon, “the glory of kingdoms,” was to be destroyed by the Medes and Persians (Isaiah 13), and, as every educated school boy knows, that is just what happened (cf. Daniel 5:28).
Numerous other Old Testament examples complement the foregoing.
Prophecies regarding people
In 2 Kings 18:13, we are informed that Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, came up against the fortified cities of Judah and took them (Assyrian records indicate that forty-six cities were captured). It was prophesied, however, that he would not be able to take the city of Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:32-34).
Sennacherib’s forces came to Jerusalem—his annals boast that he shut up Judah’s king, Hezekiah, “like a bird in a cage” (Pritchard 1955, p. 288). But for some unexplained reason the city was never taken! Once during a visit to the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, where a prism recording Sennacherib’s exploits is housed, I was amused at the guide’s bewilderment as to why the king never took Jerusalem. The Bible tells us. God destroyed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night (2 Kings 19:35f)!
It was further foretold that the Assyrian king would return to his own land and there fall by the sword (2 Kings 19:7). Some twenty years later, he was assassinated by his own sons, who smote him with the sword, while he was worshipping in his pagan temple (Isaiah 37:37-38).
Or what of the good king Josiah? His work was foretold (and he was called by name) more than three hundred years before it was fulfilled (cf. 1 Kings 13:2). The ministry of king Cyrus of Persia (he being called by name) was prophesied more than a century and a half before the monarch was born (cf. Isaiah 44:28; 45:1).
It is on account of such remarkable prophecies as these that liberal critics want to re-date the books of the Bible centuries after the time of their composition!
Prophecies concening the Messiah
Sidney Collett declares that of the approximately eight hundred prophecies in the Old Testament, no less than three hundred and thirty-three center in the person of Jesus Christ (1989, p. 192.). The panorama of prophecy regarding the Son of God is nothing short of miraculous and is a demanding evidence for Bible inspiration.
For example, there are prophecies about:
He would be born of woman (Genesis 3:15; Galatians 4:4); of the seed of Abraham (Genesis 22:18; Luke 3:34); of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10; Hebrews 7:14); of the royal lineage of David (2 Samuel 7:12; Luke 1:32); and, to the virgin Mary (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22).
The Time of His Coming
Christ was to appear during the days of the Roman reign (Daniel 2:44; Luke 2:1); while Judah still possessed her own king (Genesis 49:10; Matthew 2:22). He would be killed some four hundred and ninety years after the command to restore Jerusalem at the end of the Babylonian captivity [457 B.C.], i.e., in A.D. 30 (Daniel 9:24f).
For additional documentation and discussion of this material, see Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks.
Jesus was to be both human and divine; though born, He was eternal (Micah 5:2; John 1:1, 14); though a man, He was Jehovah’s “fellow” (Zechariah 13:7; John 10:30; Philippians 2:6). He was to be gentle and compassionate in His dealing with people (Isaiah 42:1-4; Matthew 12:15-21). He would be perfectly submissive to His heavenly Father (Psalm 40:8; Isaiah 53:11; John 8:29; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22).
His Betrayal, Death, Resurrection
It was foretold that the Lord would be betrayed by a friend (Psalm 41:9) for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12). He was (John 13:18; Matthew 26:15). He would be spit upon and beaten (Isaiah 50:6) and in death His hands and feet would be pierced (Psalm 22:16). This is precisely what happened (Matthew 27:30; Luke 24:39). Though He would be killed, yet, amazingly, His flesh would not experience corruption, but He would be raised from the grave (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:22f).
These are but a sampling of the more than three hundred prophecies relating to Jesus Christ.
In his interesting book, Science Speaks, mathematician Peter W. Stoner selected just eight of the Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ and estimated that the odds of these being accidentally fulfilled are approximately 1 in 1017 (that is one followed by seventeen zeros). He then illustrated this in the following fashion.
“Suppose we take 1017 silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, allover the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one?” (1963, pp 106-107).
The prophetic evidence for the divine origin of the Bible is absolutely amazing.
T. H. Home was quite correct when he wrote:
“The book which contains these predictions is stamped with the seal of heaven: a rich vein of evidence runs through the volume of the Old Testament; the Bible is true; infidelity is confounded for ever; and we may address its patrons in the language of Saint Paul, ‘Behold, ye despisers, and wonder and perish!’” (op cit., I. p. 126).
If the Bible is the inspired Word of God—and clearly the evidence indicates that it is—then surely intelligent men and women will want to give their attention to it. It is only by means of this medium that God communicates His will to humanity in this age.
Let us therefore explore the rich pages of the Sacred Volume. Let us be impressed with its fascinating record of divine history. Let us awed with the grave responsibilities that are set forth in the Holy Book. May we submit to the authority of this Word from God.
Then, and only then, can we have the hope of embracing the thrilling promises that are conveyed upon the inspired pages of this ancient document.
May God grant us the strength to study, obey, proclaim, and defend His Holy Word.