One of the comments I hear quite often is, “the Bible isn’t history, it’s moral stories about religious events that teach us about God. It’s not important whether they are historical or not because what’s really important is what they teach us.” The common biblical objections vary somewhat from that statement but they all imply the same idea, the Bible isn’t a historical document and should never be viewed in that light. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible is not only an incredible historical document which modern archeology continues to validate but it records the history of mankind from start to finish and continues to be relevant to every generation. What makes it difficult for many to accept is that woven within the historical narrative are supernatural events which reveal the Divine Creator and claims that the very words you are reading were inspired by God Himself. When you read the Biblical text, those words were breathed into the authors so that they wrote exactly what God intended, while using the distinct personality of each individual author.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
2 Peter 1:21.
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
Recently, a documentary was shown called “IS GENESIS HISTORY?” (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tudQkA06tTM) which provided a basic understanding that the Book of Genesis is a historical narrative that God wished to be recorded for all mankind, to read and understand. Scientist from different disciplines came together to voice their view that the Genesis record was much more inline with the physical evidence we see around us than our secular world cares to believe. The evidence is the same for all, but how that evidence is interpreted leads to far different conclusions. Most within our culture look at the historical narrative of Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, the fall of mankind, Noah and the flood as merely stories that teach moral principles but surely not real historical events.
Recently at work a fellow worker stopped me in the midst of 20 or 30 people and asked in a rather loud voice, “Hey Matt, you don’t really believe in a literal Adam and Eve and Noah and the flood story do you?”… (obviously that question was bouncing around in his brain seeing we hadn’t crossed paths in over 3 years.) Everyone’s ears were fixed on me at that point and I answered, “Sure I do. Those are all historical people and the events that took place really did happen. And if you care to know how I know that, I’ll be happy to explain it.” So….”You really do believe that stuff in Bible??? I think you’re the only person I know who still holds that position.” Later that day we sat down and had a 4 hour conversation concerning the history of the Bible and the identity of Jesus. Today, that conversation still continues.
History is defined as “the branch of knowledge dealing with past events… a continuous, systematic narrative of past events as relating to a particular people, country, period, person.” Needless to say, the Bible certainly falls within that definition so the real question is whether it is factual and reliable in its account of history. At this point I will briefly divide it up between the New Testament and Old Testament. Most historians accept the New Testament as a historical document because of its recent time period and the available documents (some 24,000) and non biblical documents that support it. Few if any contest the historical Jesus who was born in Bethlehem some two thousand years ago. The historical events of His birth, life, ministry, trial and death by crucification are rarely disputed. His claim of being the Messiah, performing miracles, the forgiving of sin, foretelling future events and His resurrection and appearances over 40 days are clearly disputed by those who wish to deny His truth claims. Make no mistake about it, Jesus claimed to be God many times and it was those claims that eventually cost Him His life. He didn’t leave the reader an option of saying Jesus was a prophet, a good man, a moral teacher. His claim to divinity was clearly understood by some Jews during His time of ministry. The Jews believed in one God and Jesus was claiming to be Him as seen in John 10:22-33.
Mentioned throughout the NT are the names of cities, kings, rulers, movements, historical buildings, governments, written documents and all sorts of things historians rely upon to help determine the facts and historicity of documented events. Needless to say, the NT has been weighed in the balance and nothing has been shown that proves the NT to be anything other than a valid historical document which clearly records the narrative of history during that time.
As we look back at the OT we quickly see that the same information continues to pour forth through the OT writings. Cities, rulers, wars, movements, laws, documents and other testable historical markers that can be studied and researched to see if the historical narrative is accurate. Unique to the Bible, old and new, is that it is the work of 40 authors over 1500 years that is internally coherent with no apparent contradictions. No other document in the history of the world can make such a claim and be tested time and time again and still to be found true. Those who authored the text were eye witnesses to many of the accounts and not the product of oral tradition and distant memories. Hostile writings have helped to verify its claims and with every archeological dig we see in the Holy Land more evidence is unearth as to the claims made in the OT. The greatest friend to the OT is archeology where evidence of the Hittites, Canaanites, King David, Baal worship, walls of Jericho, Temple Mount and numerous other discoveries continue to back the historical narrative of the OT. Let’s look at one discovery.
The Hittites were a powerful force from 1750 B.C. until 1200 B.C.. Up until the 19th century nothing was known about them other then what was recorded in the biblical text. They were mentioned in Genesis 15:20 yet scholars questioned their historical existence. Then, in 1876, British scholar A. H. Sayce found some clay inscriptions, in Turkey, that were possibly attributed to the Hittite nation. Ten years later, five temples were found and many more tablets confirming the rights and ceremonies of the Hittite priest of that nation thus confirming the Hittite people. Archeology helped to confirm what Genesis 15:20 wrote about. What you see once you take the time to investigate is that archeology confirms what the Bible purports. As scholar Dr. Fred Wright states, “Now the Bible pictures fits in perfectly with what we know of the Hittite nation from the monuments. As a empire that never conquered the land of Canaan itself, although the Hittite local tribes did settle there at an early date. Nothing discovered by the excavators has discredited the biblical account. Scripture accuracy has once more been proven by the archeologist.”
Let me interject one other unique quality of the Biblical text that no other religion claims. No other religion makes any prophetic claims that have come true. The Bible if full of prophetic statements that can be tested and shown to be true. For a short list follow the link. https://carm.org/why-believe-christianity-over-all-other-religions A unique test of a prophet was that if a prophet said “thus saith the Lord” and foretold of a future event and the event failed to be true the prophet would be stoned for he was a false prophet. (Deuteronomy 18) So it is with the Biblical text. Because the Bible claims to be the infallible Word of God, one false prophecy would invalidate that claim. It’s an all or nothing proposition because God cannot err or lie.
Why is it important for the Bible to be seen as historical? Because God did not call us to believe in myths and stories like fairy tales. Would you put your trust and hope in fairy tales? I sure hope not. 2 Peter 1:16 states “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” Even back then, when the historical events were still fresh in the minds of everyone, the historical narrative was under attack. It hasn’t changed in 2000 years. You see, our faith is founded on fact. It’s not a mindless leap where we disengage our brains so that we can believe the unbelievable. It’s real history.
Throughout the Gospels, we find Jesus confirming many of the accounts in the Old Testament, such as the destruction of Sodom and the death of Lot’s wife (Luke 17:29, 32) the murder of Abel by his brother Cain (Luke 11:51), the calling of Moses (Mark 12:26), and the manna given in the wilderness (John 6:31–51). These were real people and real historical events to Jesus. So next time when someone ask you do you believe in the story of Noah and the flood? Say, “You mean the historical narrative of the global flood? Of course I do”… because the greatest man who walked the earth said in Matthew 24:37…”As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.” He was speaking of a real person and a real event. Take His word on that…God knows what He’s talking about.
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