How Do We Know the Bible Is True? Part 2

Another evidence that the Bible is true comes from archaeology. Ironically, skeptics for years said the Bible was not true because there was no corroborating evidence for many of the places, people, or events in the Biblical accounts. It is the same absence-of-evidence argument that atheists today use about God’s existence.

During the cross-examination phase of the recent Hitchens/Lane debate about the existence of God, Dr. Lane asked, Would you agree that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence? Mr. Hitchens simply responded, I do not.

But any thinking person can see that absence of evidence has nothing to do with actual existence. The people groups in the Amazon jungle, for example, may have no evidence that computers exist, or the Internet. Obviously their ignorance of computer technology does not cancel its existence. Does their lack of evidence reduce existence to relativity? (Computers and the Internet don’t exist for them.) That reduces “existence” to that which has impact.

If we believe words have meaning and are to true to that meaning, then clearly the absence of evidence has no meaningful bearing on existence.

Here’s how this relates to the Bible. Despite the earlier failure of archaeology to uncover physical evidence to corroborate some Biblical history, more recent finds have reversed that trend. For example, I have a newspaper article written in 2003 that reports about an archaeological find confirming the existence of Simeon, the devout Jew who spoke a blessing while holding the infant Jesus. Until scholars uncovered previously invisible lines of inscription, no extra-Biblical evidence verified that Simeon had ever lived. Now scholars not only realize the monument they were examining marked his tomb, they have a verse of the Bible etched in the stone, directly tying the tomb with the New Testament narrative.

Archaeologist Dr. John McRay (Ph.D. from the University of Chicago) and author of Archaeology and the New Testament, is quoted by Lee Stobel in The Case for Christ as saying this:

The general consensus of both liberal and conservative scholars is that Luke is very accurate as a historian. He’s erudite, he’s eloquent, his Greek approaches classical quality, he writes as an educated man, and archaeological discoveries are showing over and over again that Luke is accurate in what he has to say.
(emphasis mine)

The point is simple. Archaeological finds, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, continue to appear and are being studied. These discoveries verify Biblical accounts. Consequently, it is logical to accept as true the Bible’s record of events not yet corroborated independently.

Published in: on April 15, 2009 at 10:42 am  Comments (8)  
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8 Comments

  1. Again, I’m afraid this doesn’t do much for me. Let me try another analogy.

    1. The Iliad mentions a famous battle between Greeks and Trojans that took place at the city of Troy.

    2. For centuries, people doubted that Troy existed. (True!)

    3. But, beginning in 1871, archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann actually dug up the city of Troy that was previously thought to have been mythical, including treasures described only in the Iliad (viz. the Mask of Agamemnon).

    4. Therefore, “it is logical to accept as true the Iliad’s record of events not yet corroborated independently.”

    Do you see how (4) does not flow from (1) through (3)? That’s because the Iliad, like the Bible, falls under the genre of what we would now call “historical fiction.” There are some valid historical references in each, and then there’s a whole bunch of crazy stuff that it doesn’t seem likely is true. So what we do is believe the stuff that’s confirmed and remain skeptical about the stuff that seems preposterous. That’s what history and archaeology are all about!

    cheers,
    -Andrew

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  2. […] In part 1, Becky argues that internal fulfilled prophecies prove that the Bible is true; in part 2, she suggests that external archaeological corroboration of some Biblical events means that […]

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  3. For years many people doubted that king David really existed.

    Until some years ago an authentic inscription was found in which “The House of David” was mentioned.

    This left the sceptics with egg on their faces.

    Eva Etzioni-Halevy
    Biblical novelist
    Author of THE TRIUMPH OF DEBORAH

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  4. Again, for many years people doubted that Troy existed. Then Schliemann found it; that left the Troy-skeptics with “egg on their faces.”

    That doesn’t make the Iliad true, does it? (Or perhaps you believe that Mighty Poseidon attacks ships at sea; I don’t mean to presume regarding your beliefs.)

    Or here’s how someone put it on my blog:

    Read any Spider-man comic book.

    1. Spider-man lives in New York City.

    2. New York City exists in the real world.

    3. Therefore, Spider-man exists in the real world.

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  5. Andrew, I’m wondering if you’ve ever read the Bible. You’re connecting it to Homer’s work—a person whose identity is a mystery—only shows your bias. Why not compare it to works by extra-biblical writers like Josephus who is an accepted historian?

    Because you don’t believe in the supernatural, of course you consider the historical accounts of miracles as outlandish, but check your presupposition at the door and study the Bible as an historical document. The evidence is extensive. Sure you can poke fun (or your commenter can) at my examples by equating them with Spiderman, but I am giving minimal examples.

    How much evidence do you need, for instance, that Abraham Lincoln lived? Have you studied documents, done research into primary sources? I suspect most people have not. Yet no one doubts he was a historical figure, who did the things we read in the history books.

    The only reason Jesus doesn’t get the same treatment is because of a presupposition. Sorry, Andrew. You disbelieve because you are not a believer.

    Becky

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  6. Becky,

    I don’t think you know enough about me to start leveling claims of “bias.” I came here and specifically identified myself as an atheist and (I think, anyway) behaved rather politely. In any event, I don’t reject the Bible simply because it contains bizarre claims; I reject those claims because there isn’t enough evidence for them.

    You’ve already given an analogy to history; I think that’s sort of what I’m getting at. I’m prepared to accept the historical testimony that George Washington existed. I am not prepared to accept the “cherry tree” story. Do you?

    Anyway, my point is simply that if you don’t already believe in the Bible, your arguments aren’t very convincing. If they’re not aimed at me, then fair enough; I’ll go elsewhere.

    By the way, if you’re interested in atheism and in discussing these sorts of things in a friendly way, feel free to drop by my blog.

    cheers,
    -Andrew

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  7. Andrew,

    The Troy and Spiderman analogies miss the point because it is already established on all hands that the Iliad and Spiderman comic books are works of fiction, whereas that is what is at issue with respect to the scriptures. You cannot make a legitimate criticism by analogy like this until you have already established the parallel in point of genre. To assume, therefore, that these arguments work is to beg the question against the historical intent of the New Testament documents.

    It is certainly true that the verification of one point does not amount to the verification of every point. But when the veracity of a putatively historical document is in doubt, archaeological confirmation is one of the ways that evidence can accumulate on the side of the document’s general reliability. This is done in secular historical research all the time.

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  8. Andrew, apparently by saying you have a bias, I’ve offended you. I am sorry for that. I didn’t realize that word carried such a negative with you. I’ll tell you, I have a bias. I’ve experienced the supernatural, I have communicated with God through the Bible and through prayer, so honestly, I don’t read Scripture with an open mind, in the sense that I’m wondering if it’s true. That issue has been satisfactorily settled for me. If it is not settled for you, and I assumed it was, I misspoke. I’m sorry.

    I was actually trying to make the point that Nathaniel made (much more clearly). My conclusion, then is that if you compare the historical data to a fiction work by an unknown author, you already have made your determination. But as I reflect on this, I realize the analogy wasn’t yours but one you were quoting from your site. Again, if this doesn’t reflect your belief, I’m sorry I assumed it did.

    I notice, however, that you didn’t disagree with my statement that you disbelieve in the supernatural. I suppose this is the point I really want to discuss. If you do not believe in the supernatural, then you don’t believe the Bible can be inspired revelation of a supernatural being. Since this is what the Bible claims about itself, you have already judged it to be in error, not truthful, so any proofs or evidences or arguments I give you will be meaningless.

    Last point here. You said: You’ve already given an analogy to history; I think that’s sort of what I’m getting at. I’m prepared to accept the historical testimony that George Washington existed. I am not prepared to accept the “cherry tree” story. Do you? Why should I doubt the cherry tree story? Because cherry trees don’t exist? A boy couldn’t wield an ax? A boy wouldn’t be that honest? No, none of those. I doubt the story because historians have said it isn’t credible. I trust their word over the oft repeated and believed legend. At some point there has to be this step of trust. Who’s reliable? Who do you believe?

    Becky

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