In my first post in early May, I mentioned that if you have a big question or issue that you would like me to respond to, please let me know. This week’s post is in response to a question, an excellent one, from one of the regular readers of this blog.
Let me begin with the assurance from Scripture itself, in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The word “God-breathed” means “inspired.” In other words, although ~40 different men wrote the Bible, they did so under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I don’t know if you have ever read the Bible from cover to cover, but it is profound how unified and coherent it is. In the third chapter of Genesis, the first promise of a deliverer is given; we don’t find out until the first book of the New Testament that His name is Jesus. In Revelation, we find out more details about His second coming and the glorious future He has promised to those who love Him. It’s no wonder that in the second-to-last verse of the Bible, John (the author of Revelation) writes, “Come, Lord Jesus.” I have often thought and said those very words as I see our society, and the world as a whole, falling apart.
One of the main reasons that I came to believe the inspiration of the Bible early in my Christian walk was prophecies that were fulfilled. I still remember the first time I read Psalm 22, particularly the first 18 verses. King David wrote this psalm ~1000 years before Jesus was born, and it includes details of crucifixion that are jaw-dropping; this barbaric method of execution was not invented until 600-700 years after this psalm was written. Another chapter of prophecy that is jaw-dropping in its meticulous accuracy is Daniel 11, which was written 200-400 years before the events described. The first four verses give us a brief account of the breakup of the Greek empire; the “mighty king” mentioned in verse 3 is Alexander the Great. Verses 5-35 give remarkable details about battles between various kings of the South (Egypt) and the North (Syria), including the infamous Antiochus Epiphanes. If you have never read this chapter with the help of a good commentary, I recommend that you do so; it is absolutely stunning.
Another area of evidence for the inspiration of the Bible is various archaeological findings. For example, prior to 1928, Isaiah 20:1 had been challenged by critics of the Bible because Isaiah mentions an Assyrian king named “Sargon.” However, Sargon’s palace was discovered and excavated beginning in that year, confirming that Isaiah was right. Another example of this type is “Sanballat,” who was the governor of Samaria and an enemy of the Jews after they returned to the land of Israel from exile. Sanballat is mentioned in Nehemiah 4:1 and 6:1. Critics had said that Sanballat was the governor much later than the time that Nehemiah lived. However, we now know that several Sanballats from that time are known, so Nehemiah’s mention of Sanballat is historically accurate. Regarding archaeological findings, probably none is greater than the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were excavated in 1947. These scrolls have portions of every Old Testament book except Esther, and they were written approximately 1000 years before previous Bible manuscripts that we had. Comparisons of the Dead Sea Scrolls with these much-later Bible manuscripts give us a very high degree of agreement, again giving us confidence in the accuracy of the Bible.
Earlier, I mentioned the coherence of the Bible. Critics love to find what they consider “inconsistencies.” For example, much has been made about differences in details between the four Gospels, which had four different human authors. However, when you examine these differences, you find that the different accounts of the same events supplement each other rather than contradicting them. For example, after the resurrection of Jesus, Matthew tells us that Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” went to the tomb; Mark adds another woman, Salome, for a total of three; Luke mentions “the women” who went to the tomb and then a few verses later mentions several women, including Mary Magdalene, who told the disciples what they had found. John mentions only Mary Magdalene. Critics, of course, regard these accounts as “inconsistent,” but notice that Mary Magdalene is mentioned by all four Gospel writers. The fact that John chooses to focus on Mary Magdalene is not inconsistent, especially when you read a few verses later about Jesus’ appearing to her; this was also after the disciples had left the tomb. Putting it all together, here is the probable chronology: a few of the women went to the tomb and didn’t find the body of Jesus; they returned to the men and told them; Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves and then returned home; Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb, and Jesus appeared to her there.
In summary, the coherence of the Bible, the remarkable fulfillment of very specific prophecies in it, and various archaeological findings give us assurance that, indeed, the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Critics will always jump on supposed inconsistencies in Scripture, but careful examination and comparison will reveal a richness of detail in different accounts of the same events that is not immediately apparent.