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March 22, 2016

The Credibility of the Bible, Part I

Post by Brittany Tedesco

Man handing a woman a Bible.

In recalling the last 40 years of gospel outreach in South Asia, a native ministry leader wrote, "Enemies of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ beat us, abused us, called us names, demonized the name of Christ, chased us by stoning, demolished our evangelism van, snatched Bibles and gospel tracts from our hands and tore them up, and injured students."

Despite all of these things, the leader and his Bible school students continue to share God's Word. In fact, they distributed Bibles in the 266 villages they reached in 2015. Why? Because they know the Word of God is living and active, and it changes people.

A native ministry leader in Iraq told us that he can't keep Bibles in stock. People are hungry for Scripture. And, in the absence of sufficient numbers of gospel workers to evangelize the lost—he estimates that there is only one missionary per 2 million people in the Middle East—God's Word is doing the job of drawing people to Christ.

Within the first six months of 2015, due to gifts from our supporters, an indigenous ministry in Ukraine distributed 15,000 Bibles and more than 22,000 New Testaments in the warzone of East Ukraine. The demand for God's Word has dramatically risen since the conflict began.

Throughout Christian Aid Mission's history, Bibles have always remained at or near the top of the list of needs most given to by our supporters.

Christians understand well the power that Scripture carries. We've experienced it in our own lives. The Holy Spirit testifies to the truth of God's Word in our hearts.

Ukrainians holding Bibles.

But what about someone who doesn't yet have the Spirit inside of them? What about someone who questions the veracity of the Scriptures? What do we say to them?

It's easy to quote 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is inspired by God." Or 1 Peter 1:25, "The Word of the Lord endures forever." Or 2 Peter 1:20-21, "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God."

But telling someone that the Bible is the very Word of God just because it claims to be is circular reasoning.

I'll be the first to admit that, at the end of the day, the decision to follow Christ is a moral decision more than it is an intellectual one—but that doesn't mean we have to leave our intellects at the door in making such a decision.

In his Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, apologist J.P. Moreland writes, "In Scripture, faith involves placing trust in what you have reason to believe is true. Faith is not a blind, irrational leap into the dark. So faith and reason cooperate on a biblical view of faith. They are not intrinsically hostile."

Hooded figure looking at Bibles.

Yes, the Bible contains multiple statements about its own truthfulness, but there's a wealth of evidence beyond this handful of verses to prove its validity—and not only its validity, but its preeminence above other so-called holy books that some claim share an equal platform with God's Word.

As Chuck Missler put it in his fascinating book, Learn the Bible in 24 Hours, "The Bible is the only book that hangs its entire credibility on its ability to write history in advance, without error."

There's no shortage of prophesies in the Bible. "Of the entire Bible's 31,124 verses, 8,352 contain predictive material, or 27 percent of the whole," stated theology professor, J. Barton Payne.

"Approximately 2,500 prophecies appear in the pages of the Bible," states astrophysicist, Dr. Hugh Ross, "about 2,000 of which already have been fulfilled to the letter—no errors." The remaining prophecies provide us with a picture of what is yet to come.

Throughout the years, archaeologists have uncovered plenty of evidence to support various events recorded in Scripture. Let's take a look at just one of them.

A century and a half before King Cyrus of Persia was born, the prophet Isaiah predicted that a conqueror named Cyrus would destroy Babylon—a seemingly unconquerable kingdom at the time—and would decide to let the Jewish exiles living there go free without any payment.

As Dr. Ross points out, "Isaiah made this prophecy 150 years before Cyrus was born, 180 years before Cyrus performed any of these feats (and he did, eventually, perform all of them), and 80 years before the Jews were taken into exile."

Clay cylinder from ancient Babylon.

The "Cyrus cylinder", Prioryman - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19669413

In 1879, "Archaeologists found a nine-inch-long clay cylinder from ancient Babylon, dating to 539 BC, telling of King Cyrus of Persia's conquest of Babylon and his critical decree to let Babylonian captives return to their lands and restore their temples," writes David Limbaugh in his book, Jesus on Trial.

More than 300 of the Bible's prophecies were made about Jesus Christ—by men who lived centuries before Him—and Christ fulfilled all of them.

And these prophecies aren't just generalities regarding His birth, life, death, and resurrection. We're talking about prophecies involving specific details of these events. For instance, the prophet Micah, who lived in the eighth century BC, predicted that Jesus would be born in the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). The prophet Isaiah, a contemporary of Micah's, predicted that Jesus would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), that He would begin his ministry in Galilee (9:1), and that His hands and feet would be pierced (Isaiah 53:5).

Person reading Bible.

In the Psalms, some of which were written by King David who lived 1,000 years before Christ was born, we find nearly a third of the prophecies made about Jesus, including details such as that He would be offered vinegar mixed with gall while on the cross (Psalm 69:21), that His clothes would be divided among the soldiers at His crucifixion (Psalm 22:17-18), that He would be falsely accused (Psalm 27:12), and so many more.

The prophet Zechariah, who lived 500 hundred years prior to the birth of Christ, predicted that He would be betrayed by a man for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13). But it gets even more specific than that—the silver would go to purchase a potter's field after it was thrown into the temple. We read in Matthew 27, that Judas threw 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests in the temple after realizing the gravity of his betrayal, and they used the money to purchase a potter's field.

Okay. Seems impressive. But do we really know when these prophecies were made? How can we be sure they weren't written after the time of Christ so they aligned with what actually happened?

Tune in next week for Part II to learn the answer!

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