How Do We Know the Bible Is True? Part 1

Saying that the Bible is God’s Word is a lot like saying the United States is one nation. The US is, in fact, fifty separate states that joined the union over a period of 150-plus years. Similarly, the Bible is a collection of sixty-six books, penned by forty human authors over a period of thousands of years.

In many regards, given this scope, it’s a miracle that even one person, let alone centuries of Christians, believes the Bible is true. Clearly there has to be a reason.

For someone who believes in an omniscient, omnipotent, sovereign God, belief in the veracity of the Bible isn’t hard. God chose to reveal Himself, His plan, His purpose, His work. The greatest evidence that the Bible is that revelation is the Bible’s interpretation of itself.

It claims, for example, to be God-breathed, or inspired. Prophets quoted God as if He had dictated to them. Jesus repeated numerous scriptures as if they were authoritative. So the first point is this: if God is true, and if He gave the Bible, then the Bible is true.

Of course, many come to the Bible looking for evidence of God’s existence, not having already believed in Him. How can they know the Bible is true?

There are several evidences. One is fulfilled prophecy. The Bible is full of prophecy, as a Wikipedia article notes. Of course, a school of critics question when the original texts were written, claiming that the prophecies came after the fact. An example of this would be Jesus saying He would be put to death and rise the third day. The gospels containing His prophecies were written decades after the fact, so, the reasoning goes, the men who wrote them simply added the prophecy to enhance Jesus’s stature.

This line of reasoning, even if it were true, which I do not believe, cannot explain the prophecies about the Messiah contained in the Old Testament, which Jesus fulfilled. One Bible scholar says there are over 400 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled in His life and death. Isaiah 53 alone says He would be despised (the Pharisees handed Him over to be killed) and forsaken (His disciples ran away). That he would be scourged (the Roman guards beat Him), pierced (and ran a spear into His side), would not open His mouth to defend Himself (stood before the chief priests, the Sanhedrin, Pilate and Herod without defending Himself), would be numbered with the transgressors (killed between two thieves), but would be with a rich man in His death (buried in a rich man’s tomb).

I’ve heard some argue that Jesus purposefully went about to fulfill these prophecies so He could claim Messiah-ship. But of the ones I listed, only His not opening His mouth to defend Himself was something in His human control.

Another scholar, to illustrate the probability of one man, by happenstance, fulfilling all these prophecies, said it would be like spreading silver dollars a foot high across the state of Texas, and by chance picking up the very one you were looking for.

Those looking closely at the Bible will find that fulfilled prophecy gives evidence that Scripture is what it claims to be. The reasoning goes like this: If the Bible accurately predicted past events throughout the Old and New Testaments, then it is a reliable source of revelation.

So I’ve looked at two evidence, but as you probably figured by the “Part 1” in the title of this post, there’s more. 😀

Links to the other posts in this series:
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

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Published in: on April 14, 2009 at 11:53 am  Comments (7)  
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7 Comments

  1. Becky,

    I don’t mean this sarcastically, but these sorts of “proofs” are not really convincing to nonbelievers. Let me give you an example. At the beginning of Oedipus Rex, Oedipus is told that he is fated to kill his father and marry his mother. And lo and behold, by the end of the play, Oedipus fulfills that prophecy to the letter. Does that mean that Oedipus Rex (and Hamlet, and the movie Star Wars, and any other literary work to employ foreshadowing) is also divinely inspired? No: it means that the author had access to the beginning when writing the end.

    I sincerely don’t mean this to come off the wrong way, but that’s all internally fulfilled Biblical prophecies can ever “prove” — that the last part of the story was written in such a way as to complete the first part of the story.

    take care,
    Andrew

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  2. Hi, Andrew,

    Perhaps you missed these paragraphs in my post:
    This line of reasoning, even if it were true, which I do not believe, cannot explain the prophecies about the Messiah contained in the Old Testament, which Jesus fulfilled. One Bible scholar says there are over 400 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled in His life and death. Isaiah 53 alone says He would be despised (the Pharisees handed Him over to be killed) and forsaken (His disciples ran away). That he would be scourged (the Roman guards beat Him), pierced (and ran a spear into His side), would not open His mouth to defend Himself (stood before the chief priests, the Sanhedrin, Pilate and Herod without defending Himself), would be numbered with the transgressors (killed between two thieves), but would be with a rich man in His death (buried in a rich man’s tomb).

    I’ve heard some argue that Jesus purposefully went about to fulfill these prophecies so He could claim Messiah-ship. But of the ones I listed, only His not opening His mouth to defend Himself was something in His human control.

    Your argument doesn’t fit the Bible because there was not a single human author foreshadowing events he was about to write. There was a Divine author predicting events He knew would take place in the future.

    Becky

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  3. Becky, I honestly don’t understand your response. Let me try again:

    My argument is not that Jesus went on to deliberately do the things in the Bible to fulfill the OT prophecies. That would be kind of silly, as you suggest. My argument is that Jesus is a character in a book, so we shouldn’t be surprised when people wrote stuff about Jesus that matched up against the stuff people wrote earlier in the book.

    This argument is compounded by the fact that — as you no doubt are aware — “Consistent Message” was one of the earliest criteria for canonicity used by people like Athanasius and at the various councils debating which books to include in the Bible and which to leave out.

    Does that make sense?

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  4. […] Fiction, Becky LuElla Miller has two posts up on “How Do We Know The Bible Is True?” In part 1, Becky argues that internal fulfilled prophecies prove that the Bible is true; in part 2, she […]

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  5. Hi, Andrew

    Hopefully this can clear up some of these points. You wrote: “…but that’s all internally fulfilled Biblical prophecies can ever “prove” — that the last part of the story was written in such a way as to complete the first part of the story.”

    I’ll grant you for the sake of argument this point: if all the fulfilled Biblical prophecies were about Jesus, and none of the facts about Jesus’ life could be corroborated by extrabiblical historical accounts, then one explanation could be that the Bible’s accounts of Jesus could indeed be historical fiction written purely to fulfill those previous predictions. (It’s hard to grant this for other internal reasons. See below*)

    But the Biblical prophecies that Becky mentioned are just a handful of the sum. There are hundreds of prophecies that accurately predict something they couldn’t have known hundreds of years before the events occurred. These predictions come from OT manuscripts dated accurately hundreds of years before the events occurred. We know the events occurred because of history and archeology, not just the Bible’s say so.

    Here are some examples:

    +The prophet Isaiah foretold that a conqueror named Cyrus would destroy seemingly impregnable Babylon and subdue Egypt along with most of the rest of the known world. This same man, said Isaiah, would decide to let the Jewish exiles in his territory go free without any payment of ransom (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1; and 45:13). Isaiah made this prophecy 150 years before Cyrus was born, 180 years before Cyrus performed any of these feats (and he did, eventually, perform them all), and 80 years before the Jews were taken into exile.

    (Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 10 to the 15th.)

    ++The exact location and construction sequence of Jerusalem’s nine suburbs was predicted by Jeremiah about 2600 years ago. He referred to the time of this building project as “the last days,” that is, the time period of Israel’s second rebirth as a nation in the land of Palestine (Jeremiah 31:38-40). This rebirth became history in 1948, and the construction of the nine suburbs has gone forward precisely in the locations and in the sequence predicted.

    (Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 10 to the 18th.)

    For much more on fulfilled Prophecy, see:
    http://www.reasons.org/fulfilled-prophecy-evidence-reliability-bible

    So, Andrew, I appreciate your intellectual honesty, and your intelligent inferrences. However, you were dealing with insufficient information. Hopefully, this will be some food for thought.

    *Your point comparing the Illiad to the NT account of Jesus’ life, calling both historical fiction, really doesn’t hold. The Illiad was authored by Homer. The Jesus accounts by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The question is, how did the reading audience of each treat the material? Those who read the Illiad, read it as fiction. Those who read Jesus’ account went out and changed the world because of it. Clearly the earliest readers of Scripture did not believe it was fiction. Many gave their lives for it. No one gave their life for the Illiad.

    In addition, the life of Jesus cannot be fiction because much of it is corroborated by extrabiblical soures: Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Lucian, etc. See: http://www.lewrockwell.com/barnwell/barnwell57.html

    The prophet Moses foretold (with some additions by Jeremiah and Jesus) that the ancient Jewish nation would be conquered twice and that the people would be carried off as slaves each time, first by the Babylonians (for a period of 70 years), and then by a fourth world kingdom (which we know as Rome). The second conqueror, Moses said, would take the Jews captive to Egypt in ships, selling them or giving them away as slaves to all parts of the world. Both of these predictions were fulfilled to the letter, the first in 607 B.C. and the second in 70 A.D. God’s spokesmen said, further, that the Jews would remain scattered throughout the entire world for many generations, but without becoming assimilated by the peoples or of other nations, and that the Jews would one day return to the land of Palestine to re-establish for a second time their nation (Deuteronomy 29; Isaiah 11:11-13; Jeremiah 25:11; Hosea 3:4-5 and Luke 21:23-24).

    This prophetic statement sweeps across 3500 years of history to its complete fulfillment—in our lifetime.

    (Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 10 to the 20th.)

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  6. My argument is that Jesus is a character in a book, so we shouldn’t be surprised when people wrote stuff about Jesus that matched up against the stuff people wrote earlier in the book.

    But He’s not, Andrew. The things that happened to Him—the beating, the crucifixion, the spear into His side—were not done outside the public eye. There were people who observed these things. It amazes me that people who readily accept as history facts about, say, Alexander the Great, question the historicity of Jesus when there is so much more reason to believe in the written record of Jesus than of Alexander.

    But that’s the historical argument I have yet to write up in a post.

    Becky

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  7. Wayne, sorry I didn’t realize when I read your post in my inbox that it was being held for moderation. (Because of the links I suspect.)

    Anyway, I appreciate your comments about prophecy. You’ve illustrated that the particular ones I named from Isaiah 53 are only a drop in the world-wide flood of Biblical statements fulfilled throughout time.

    Those who disbelieve in prophecy can poke at each one, giving reasons for doubting their authenticity (because of dating or legend or authorship or …), but it is this incredible number that must be explained away that is compelling evidence.

    How can so much error or fabrication purporting to be truth be so influential for centuries? Either the people of earlier eras were incredibly stupid and/or gullible, or they believed the Bible was true because they found the evidence for its veracity to be convincing.

    Becky

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