Judging The Bible


The Bible is an ancient text, a piece of history, before it is a religious document, and it should be studied on that level. The thing is, there are particular “rules” that historians have come up with in order to judge the authenticity and accuracy of an ancient document.

Here are a few:

1) Compare to contemporary writing
2) Determine the date of writing by looking at internal issues

a. Does the writer say when he wrote it
b. Common sense (if there’s a malapropism, for instance)
c. Technical skills (handwriting, for example)

3) Give weight to older documents.

the closer to an event a source is the better. By dating a source we can judge how reliable it is based on whether the person could have been an eye-witness, or talked to an eye-witness, or whether they are receiving stories passed down through a generation or something they read about etc. (“How do Historians determine the accuracy or reliability of a source?”)

4) Archaeology, geography, other records mentioned in the text
5) Read for bias
6) Study author’s goal
7) Comparison of extant copies

Needless to say, the Bible has been put through rigorous examination. Each of the above, and more, have been analyzed. Time and time again, the Bible holds up and even surprises.

Take the archaeology, for example. For years historians had no evidence outside the Bible that a place called Nazareth existed or that a people called the Hittites ever lived. But in the 1920s translation of a number of hieroglyphics gave confirming evidence that Hittites did in fact trade with Egypt and other known nations. Nazareth was “discovered” in 1962 when a reference to the town was uncovered on a marble fragment. Excavation of Nazareth itself took place in the late 1900s, on into this century.

What I find to be surprising is that any number of atheists claim the Bible is nothing but myth or a conspiracy to make people believe something that isn’t true, and yet they have never studied it. Oh, sure, some say they’ve read it; some even claim to know it better than Christians do. But when push comes to shove, it’s obvious they have not put the Bible through the rigorous examination that Bible scholars have.

I guess that’s why I admire men like Josh McDowell and Lee Strobble who once were atheists themselves and who set out to disprove the Bible. Admittedly, McDowell says he went into his analysis with bias. He didn’t believe it was true. Yet, after his study, he reached the opposite conclusion.

He and other Bible scholars give some compelling statements about the reason they have to believe the Bible to be true. Along with the text in this link are a number of short videos that I find fascinating. They say what I believe, what I’ve found in my own meager research, far better than I can.

The point is, anyone who wants to disparage the Bible has to address what these scholars say, or they are only speaking from their own bias.

One other point, I think anyone listening to McDowell will realize he came to faith through his reason. Faith is not blind and it has nothing to do with wishful thinking.

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Published in: on November 14, 2017 at 6:17 pm  Comments (10)  
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  1. I have never thought much about the real parts in the Bible because there are so many unbelievable stories, however I would think the comments below are reasonable from Dr. Joel M. Hoffman Author, Speaker, and Scholar.

    “The interesting point here is not that some of these stories happened and some didn’t (though that’s almost certainly true). The point is that the Bible itself portrays them differently, only presenting some of them as having happened. In other words, sometimes “believing the Bible” means believing that a story in it didn’t happen.”

    “The situation not unlike a modern newspaper, which combines news with opinion, puzzles, comics, etc. The news can be accurate even if the comics are not. The same is true for the different parts of the Bible.”

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    • Steve, the Bible does consist of various genres. The poetry is not intended to be a detailed history. The prophecy is not intended to be a genealogical record, and so forth.

      One of the first things a student of the Bible learns is that context matters. The second thing is, what was the purpose of the human writer and to whom was he writing?

      But all of it is profitable. All of it is efficacious for God’s purpose.

      But the “unbelievable parts?” They all hinge on one simple proposition: does an all powerful God exist? If He does, then the “unbelievable” suddenly becomes believable. After all, all power supersedes anything I have observed, and most of what I can imagine.

      So if you consider as a hypothesis, what if an all powerful God does exist, could He create a world? a solar system? a universe? Well, He’s all powerful, so, sure, why couldn’t He? Not really so unbelievable after all–unless you eliminate God.

      Becky

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      • Hi again Becky, there was a time when gods were responsible for the sun coming up, the volcano eruptions and all the weather conditions long before Jesus came along.

        Of course, science has progressed and can explain why this happens. We have a much better understanding of how the world and universe works and this has a basis on current scientific evidence, knowledge, creditable explanations and logical speculation.

        We are now also understanding a lot more about the world and science has proven that many of the Biblical stories are fictional, therefore to literally believe them all takes a huge amount of faith in fantasy because they are not recognised by science as being remotely possible.

        The God factor, it is easy to use this as an explanation for everything and anything everywhere without applying any reasonable logic.

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      • Steve, there are several problems with what you say—nothing you can avoid. It’s probably not common knowledge among people who don’t believe in God.

        First, we—well, I’ll say, I, though I believe this is true for everyone who believes the Bible—don’t see God as only filling in the gaps. The sun “rises” because of science. The moon waxes and wanes because of nature. But the beginning of creation, that has to be God. No!

        Science has discovered a lot and has enriched our culture and world in many ways. Yes, we understand a lot we didn’t before, but it doesn’t supersede God and His sustaining power. Does the earth rotate so that we experience the sun rising and setting? Yes, we know that now, but that doesn’t change the fact that God made it so and that He sustains it so.

        This has nothing to do with superstition. It’s not a “don’t upset God by breaking a mirror, or you’ll get seven years of bad luck” kind of belief. If you think that’s what Christianity is, someone has fed you a bunch of false ideas.

        Second, “science” has proven nothing about the stories of the Bible. No scientist was present. None ran any experiments or did any observation. Again, such a line of thinking is pure fabrication and you should run from whatever source sold you that bill of goods.

        Third, maybe I said this elsewhere, but as far as the possibility of things you’ve never seen happen, such as rain for 40 days and nights or a fish swallowing a man or any of the other amazing and miraculous events recorded in the Bible—you only have to accept one fact to then see that these things actually could be true. You need only to recognize that an all powerful God exists.

        Since you have no evidence that He does not exist, you also have no evidence that these events did not occur.

        From your last statement, I can see that you have not yet grasped the logic of an all powerful Being doing what ordinarily you would not see happen. If God would want to stop the sun for a day—if there would be a reason for Him to do so—then, yes He could do it. But that doesn’t mean there is no logic. God does not do things that a prankster would do. And Christians do not claim that He did silly things. His acts are purposeful. They fit the context and needs of the time.

        Jesus, for example, raised a boy from the dead. His mother was a widow. Jesus didn’t raise ever person who died, just because He could. That mother needed her son. There was purpose in what Jesus did.

        Just out of curiosity, Steve, have you ever read the Bible? If not, I assume you’re getting your ideas from some source that is pretty inaccurate and out of touch with what the Bible is all about.

        I suggest you do what any good historian would tell you—go to the primary source. If you want to critique Christianity, read and critique the Bible. Don’t just rework what someone else has told you about the Bible. How can you form a fair and accurate assessment of what you have not read?

        Becky

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        • I have been made to read the Bible when I was a child Becky at Sunday School, but these days I look up the parts I want to reference over the quick internet and unlike Christians I am not told what I am supposed to think and say.

          You do not need to be a brain surgeon to read the Bible or find relevant passages, you do however need to take it literally, unless of course you are a Christian and the meaning of the controversial Biblical passages are dictated to the faithful by apologetics to meet a particular ideology.

          I understand this all powerful being as being everywhere, watching everything and everybody and dictating everything that happens to every single person and controlling every single drop of rain that falls, to the sun rising in the morning and the moon at night etc. Believe it or not?

          Your claim “science” has proven nothing about the stories of the Bible.”

          I understand science has proven some claims in the bible, however also has disproven many things such as:
          Archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel that the Israelites were never in Egypt.
          Genetics have presented compelling evidence that the Canaanites who were supposed to have been wiped out by God survived, and that their descendants are thriving in modern Lebanon.
          There is no scientific evidence for a global flood, and despite many expeditions, no evidence of the ark has been found. There are nine known versions of the Mesopotamian flood story, each more or less adapted from an earlier version, the most famous earlier version is called the Epic of Gilgamesh.
          Irrefutable DNA evidence that there were never only two humans alive at any point in time.

          With this in mind, I have to tell you that you get all your information and beliefs from an unreliable source. Not only is your understanding of your Bible different from many other Christians you have been guided by your priests and apologetics. How can any Christian stand with a straight face and say they believe a serpent and donkey had the ability to speak, a man lived inside a whale, people rose from their graves, the sun stood still, and moon stopped? Oh yes, of course God has amazing powers, and this just has to be the explanation. Really?

          Truly Rebecca, if you were not indoctrinated you would be able to realise how silly this stuff sounds. If I were to tell you I had a magic wand that created 10 dollar notes you would not believe me, or if I was to tell you I fell from a tall building and I was saved and gently lowered to the ground by a large hand, you also would not believe me because it does not, cannot and will not happen.

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          • “Archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel that the Israelites were never in Egypt”

            Steve, seriously…try to make sense. One would assume that evidence of people being in Egypt would not be found in Israel LOL.Your statement also belies an immense lack of knowledge of how archaeology happens in the Middle East. The lack of something simply never proves something is not there.

            ” unlike Christians I am not told what I am supposed to think and say.”

            That is a falsehood, Steve. The vast majority of Christian are, in fact, instructed to study scripture and find it’s revealed truth on their own. I personally can refute that based in my own experience as a Christian, and on my own experience as a Bible teach to other students. To substantiate your claim there, you will need to provide some of your much vaunted empirical evidence in relations to every body of believers on the planet. That is a broad, sweeping assertion with no backing whatsoever.

            “How can any Christian stand with a straight face and say they believe a serpent and donkey had the ability to speak, a man lived inside a whale, people rose from their graves, the sun stood still, and moon stopped? Oh yes, of course God has amazing powers, and this just has to be the explanation. Really?”

            Those thinks are miracles, Steve. By definition a miracle exist outside of the physical laws of the world, meaning they cannot be proven or disproven by those laws.

            So, we are back to your earlier claim that evidence disproves the existence of God. I could concede that every claim you have made is correct, and none of them disprove the existence of God.

            Liked by 1 person

        • Steve, Wally answered a number of your points—better than I could—so there’s no point in me covering the same ground. I am struck by the fact that you haven’t read the Bible. The parts you “were made to read in Sunday School” can hardly count as reading the Bible. Maybe you read parts of the Bible, but it’s highly unlikely that you were ever asked to read the entire Bible And bits and pieces here and there, snatched out of context to use as a proof text? Also, not reading the Bible.

          I think Wally’s suggestion to read the book of John is a good one. The history books are often the easiest to follow. The book of Acts, for example, is basically the history of the start of Christianity. It’s good reading, even if you think the miracles could never have happened.

          The point is, you can’t be a critic of the Bible who carries any credibility if you haven’t even read it.

          OK, so you say you understand the concept of God, though your idea of Him controlling every drop of rain is a mischaracterization of His sovereignty. Think of it like this. You know that rain is a result of condensation and evaporation—the water cycle. I believe that too. But I believe that God created the water cycle and that He can alter the process as He chooses.

          But that’s another subject. Here I’d like to point out that the possibility of an all powerful God therefore means there’s another explanation to some of the things scientists have postulated. That the world is billions and billions of years old, for instance. Since you understand the idea of God, then isn’t it logical to assume He could make a fully developed earth and not one that needed to develop over such a long span of time?

          Furthermore, wouldn’t it be logical to think He could give a blind person back his sight Or feed 5000 people from a few loaves of bread? Or walk on water? I mean, if He is all powerful, how can any of those things seem far fetched? True, we can’t do them (replication), but then we aren’t all powerful.

          So truly your whole argument, Steve, hinges on whether or not God exists, and as Wally has pointed out, you have no evidence that He does not.

          See, Steve, believing that an all powerful being can do things that are beyond the scope of a human’s ability, is not in the least bit silly. If you truly think that, then you have not yet grasped the concept of God, even in the slightest. That’s like saying, I believe in airplanes, but they could never fly.

          Again I’ll say, Steve, “indoctrination” has nothing to do with believing or disbelieving in God. C. S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, T. S. Eliot, and others once identified as atheists, but when they studied the facts, they became Christians. Here’s a video Josh McDowell did telling his story. It’s a little over a half hour, but if you start around the 10 minute mark you can listen for about five minutes and get the point of it. https://youtu.be/xORJALbxuS4

          Enjoy.

          Becky

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Becky. Thought this might interest you, since on of your bigger fans seems to be quoting him as someone with knowledge and authority. Sort of the “some guy who agrees with me” argument.

    Dr. Joel M. Hoffman is not even remotely any sort of Biblical Authority. He got a BA in some unidentified area. He was a visiting MS student in computer technology at the Israel Institute of Technology. He did apparently earn a PhD in Theoretical linguistics from the University of Maryland at College Part. Sadly, none of his education includes Bible History, Textual Criticism, exposition, or even Biblical languages.

    He is merely another Bible rejector with opinions and a way with words.Like most of the militants atheist he has no real training in the thing he is most opposed to.

    Just thought you might find that information useful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Wally. Interesting. Surprisingly, the quote in the previous comment was not far afield, however. All he was saying is that the Bible has more than one genre and they need to be read that way. Can’t disagree with that. In fact, I have a friend who says, the Bible should be understood literarily, not literally. So the places that employ figurative language should be understood as pointing to something other than the literal meaning. For example, when Peter says the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, we don’t take that to mean we should send out lion hunters. The picture, however, tells us something important about the enemy of our souls.

      Is that a big shock to Christians familiar with their Bible? Not at all. But to atheists, this might seem like it’s some unforeseen sneak attack aimed at the heart of our faith. Well, clearly it’s not. Sure, there are likely some who twist Scripture, who mistakenly take the figurative parts literally, but that’s not reflective of Christians as a whole, that’s for sure.

      Anyway, thanks for having my back, Wally.

      Becky

      Liked by 1 person

      • No, the quote itself was actually not totally off base at all, Becky. One has to actually study to get the full implications of all the genres in The Bible for sure. Even then, we probably don’t get it right half of the time! On the other hand, as you have pointed out so well, those differences in styles do nothing to change the truth of it. And glad to help when I can!

        Liked by 1 person


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