External Evidences For The Inspiration of the Bible
There can be no question that the religion of Christianity is based upon the Bible. Christians use the Bible as their guide to moral and virtuous living, church organization, worship, and as their guide to heaven. Thus it is indeed crucial that this book rise above and beyond mere human production. It must be the very words of God.
The Bible makes very bold claims for itself as it does in fact profess to be from the mind of the One True and Living God (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:21; Jeremiah 1:9; Malachi 1:1; et. al.). But simply to claim inspiration does not make it so. Skeptics such as Voltaire and Ingersoll have for centuries attacked the validity and genuineness of the book. The charge is often levied that the Bible believer uses unsound and circular reasoning in their attempts to explain why they adhere to the tenants and commands contained therein. As Geisler and Nix wrote:
The internal evidence of inspiration is mostly subjective in nature. It relates to what the believer sees or senses in his experience with the Bible. With the possible exception of the evidence from the unity of the Bible, the internal evidences are available only inside Christianity…This is where the external evidence plays a crucial role. It provides signposts indicating where the “inside” really is. It is public witness to something very unusual, which serves to draw attention to the voice of God in Scripture. (195)
J. P. Moreland acknowledges that there is a three-fold test to determine whether or not a document is historically reliable (134). First, the bibliographical test seeks to determine how many manuscript copies we have of the document and how far removed they are in time from the
originals. The New Testament has a staggering quantity of manuscript attestation (135). Second, the internal test asks whether the document itself claims to be actual history written by eyewitnesses. The Bible certainly claims this (Luke 1:1-4). Third, the external test asks whether
material external to the document (i.e. archaeology or the writings of early church fathers, etc.) confirms the reliability of the document (134-35). Thus it must be shown that belief in the Bible as the infallible and inerrant Word of God is a rational concept and can be demonstrated via
evidence and proof outside of the Bible. The idea of being rational and logically defending one’s faith is itself a biblical idea (1 Peter 3:15; Acts 17:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1; et. al.).
The thesis of this paper is that one can prove that the Bible is the inspired Word of God by examining and testing what is known as external evidences. The general argument formulated by Thomas B. Warren will here be used to defend the claim of this paper:
1. If it is the case that the Bible possesses property A, property B, property C… property Z (where the total situation involved in having such properties makes it clear that the Bible is beyond mere human production) then the Bible is the word of God.
2. It is the case that the Bible possesses property A, property B, property C… property Z.
3. Therefore, the Bible is the word of God. (qtd. in West 17-18)
In dealing with these external evidences of inspiration, the scope of this paper will be limited to what is commonly referred to as scientific foreknowledge and the relationship between predictive prophecy and archeology. Each of these traits are recognized as being sufficient to
prove that the Bible is, as it claims, the word of God.
While it is conceded that the Bible is not a science textbook, it is maintained that any and all references that are scientific in nature are completely accurate. In fact, this must be the case as our contention is that the Bible is the inspired word of God and it makes the claim that God can not lie (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). Concerning this topic, James Jauncey stated that, “the science of the Bible is mostly in embryonic form. It was not the purpose of the writers to talk about science as such, but only to elaborate to the extent to which it involved any questions on hand. What they did say was accurate” (30). In fact, Jauncey boldly stated, “it can be said here that there is nothing in science which is intrinsically opposed to even the most conservative view of Biblical interpretation” (25).
What makes scientific foreknowledge such a powerful argument for the supernatural origin of the Bible is the fact that mere mortals drawing upon the most advanced science of their ancient times could not have produced such a book as this. Thus the specific argument advanced by Shelly will here be used:
1. If the particular characteristics of the Bible’s treatment of science transcend mere human invention, then the Bible is of divine origin.
2. The particular characteristics of the Bible’s treatment of science do transcend mere human invention.
3. Therefore, the Bible is of divine origin. (What? 41)
When examining these cases of science in the Bible, if one were to isolate one or two by themselves, the event and explanation may appear to be mere coincidence. But upon examination of the whole body of evidence, there can be no other conclusion than that the information
contained therein is the result of supernatural direction.
As is often the case in scientific research, some test cases are stronger than are others. One of the most often cited examples comes from Isaiah 40:22 which states, “It is He that sits above the circle of the earth. . . .” Some will claim that Isaiah “made two points: (1) God is sovereign and; (2) the Earth is a sphere (khug). How could Isaiah have known either, unless God had revealed them both?” (Thompson 229). This would be impressive indeed as Isaiah’s contemporaries contended that the earth was flat and it was not until the fifteenth century that the earth was held to be spherical on a wide or popular level. Yet others claim that there is no scientific foreknowledge to be found in this verse. Commenting on Isaiah 40:22, Jack W. Sears stated that “it is unwise, to put it mildly, to attempt to read into the Scriptures things not intended, just to make them conform to some ‘fact’ or theory of science” (qtd. in West 192). Thus this verse from the prophet, while intriguing, would not appear to be one about which to be dogmatic, though the position grows stronger when further evidence is considered.
Later in Isaiah chapter 40 and verse 31, we read, “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” The obvious import and spiritual truth imparted by the
passage is that strength and aid would be provided to those who fear and follow God. But why is there an illustration about eagles included here? How does such a statement have application in this context? Edward F. Blick suggests:
In addition to the obvious spiritual truth, this Scripture implies a unique quality in the eagle’s wings of being able to fly without becoming weary. That is exactly what we discovered in the wind tunnels of the University of Oklahoma while conducting aerodynamic research on birds during the spring of 1971. The eagle has six slotted feathers at the tip of each wing which curve upward in gliding flight. Our wind tunnel
measurements indicated these upward-curved slotted-tip feathers reduce the size of the vortex emanating from each wing tip. This in turn reduces the drag on the wings, thus allowing the eagle to soar large distances in air currents without the need of beating his wings. Thus 2,700 years after the Scripture in Isaiah was written, science has stumbled onto the same truth. (2-3)
Dr. Blick also sheds some scientific light upon Genesis 17:12 where God is recorded saying to Abraham, “He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations. . . .” It is only within the last one hundred years that medical science has discovered
three important factors. One, circumcision greatly reduces the occurrence of penile cancer in males and cancer of the cervix in their female counterparts. Two, it is now known that vitamin K is a vital blood-clotting element. Further, we now know that this vitamin is not manufactured in the baby’s intestinal tract until sometime between the fifth to seventh day after birth. Third, we know that the element prothrombin is also vital to clotting of the blood. When a baby is born, the amount of prothrombin in his blood is much lower than normal and even dips lower by day three. But by day eight, the prothrombin levels skyrocket to a level ten percent above normal, only to level off by day nine (4). Thus one observes from the concentration of vitamin K and prothrombin that the perfect day to perform a circumcision is the eighth day. This was a fact not widely recognized by the medical community until the 1940s, but was recorded in the Bible nearly four thousand years ago.
God promised Israel, “. . .If you diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the LORD who heals you” (Exodus 15:26). Thus, if they would follow His directives and ordinances they would not fall victim to the plagues and sicknesses that afflicted the ancient Egyptians. Following is a small sample of some of the commands they were given that greatly exceeded the scientific and medical knowledge of the day. First, ancient people had no idea that invisible and deadly microscopic germs could exist on eating and cooking utensils. In light of this, God commanded, “But the earthen vessel in which it is boiled shall be broken. And if it is boiled in a bronze pot, it shall be both scoured and rinsed in water” (Leviticus 6:28). Thus all broken pottery was to be discarded because the cracks could contain harmful germs and metal pots should be disinfected by being scoured and rinsed in water. According to Grant Jeffery, “these instructions certainly saved hundreds of thousands of Jews from infections over the centuries at a time when the rest of the world didn’t even know that germs existed. How could Moses have known of the dangers of infectious germs in cooking and eating utensils thousands of years ago unless God actually inspired him to write these words?” (144).
Second, in passages like Numbers 19:14-17 and Leviticus 15:13, God provided the Israelites with wise and beneficial laws to protect their health including advanced sanitation laws to prevent the spread of infections. It was actually during the twentieth century that doctors finally
realized the immense value of sterilization and cleaning with running water. Before this, either no washing of hands or instruments was done, or at best a bowl of water (which would obviously only trap the germs) was used (Jeffrey 145-47).
Third, in Deuteronomy 23:12-14, Moses instructed the Israelites to bury human waste outside of the camp. Today this seems like an obvious choice, but the common course of action in the time of Moses was to dump waste products in any convenient place. This disturbing and
disgusting practice carried on for centuries. During the Middle Ages, on two different occasions, Europe had a plague ravage the continent and kill more than thirteen million people total. This was the result of Europeans routinely dumping waste products of all kinds out their windows and into the public streets. As decomposition began to take place, a variety of harmful microorganisms began to flourish (Thompson 237).
In this area of scientific foreknowledge, many more items could be investigated at length, but just a few more shall be noted. Even though the water cycle (rain, collection, evaporation) was not fully understood until the sixteenth century, the Bible seems to teach just that in passages like Ecclesiastes 1:7; 11:3 and Amos 9:6 (Boyd 58-62). God told Noah to build an ark that measured 300 cubits in length, 50 cubits in width, and 30 cubits in height (Genesis 6:15). This ratio of 30 to 5 to 3 is the perfect set of dimensions for a huge boat built for seaworthiness. The same ratio continues to be used today as it can not be improved upon (Thompson 232-33). The Bible is even in harmony with the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. The First Law states that neither matter nor energy can be created or destroyed. Genesis 2.1 states that “the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.” The Second Law states that as time progresses, things become more disorderly and everything is becoming less available for work. This seems to harmonize with the biblical teaching that the Earth is wearing out in passages such as Hebrews 1:11; Isaiah 51:6; and Psalm 102:26 (Blick 11-16).
From the evidence that has been examined, the premise that “the particular characteristics of the Bible’s treatment of science do transcend mere human invention” has been proven to be true. Therefore our conclusion follows that the Bible is of divine origin.
The second and final part of the study is dedicated to predictive prophecy as found in the Bible and its ability to be confirmed via archeology and history. Similar to that which was stated above, a skeptic would claim that it would be circular and unsound reasoning to claim belief in
fulfilled prophecies simply because the same book notes both the prediction and the fulfillment. Thus one must turn to outside sources, or external evidences, to confirm that the prophecies of the Bible have been legitimately fulfilled.
The Bible itself has placed great emphasis on predictive prophecy as proof of the truthfulness of the things revealed therein. Note the challenge issued to the false prophets and gods of Babylon, “Let them bring them forth and show us what will happen; Let them show the former things, what they were, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare to us things for to come. Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods . . .” (Isaiah 41:22-23). The clear implication is this: only God can accurately predict the future.
According to Shelly, true prophecy must be evaluated in light of three definite criteria. First, the prophecy must deal with nations, people and events that are remote enough in time as to be incapable of guesswork or logical deduction. Second, the prophecy can not be a matter of vague generalizations but must involve minutely detailed predictions. Third, the fulfillment of the prophecy must be clear and unequivocal (“Biblical Prophecy” 30). In other words, for the predictive prophecy to be legitimate there must be sufficient time lapse between prediction and fulfillment, the prediction must be specific, and there must be one hundred percent accurate fulfillment with the impossibility of fraud.
A second specific argument advanced by Shelly will here be used:
1. All predictive prophecies which can be explained solely on the basis of supernatural influence and which were clearly made known before their corresponding fulfillments are evidences (proofs) which verify the claims of the religion involved.
2. All predictive prophecies recorded in the Bible are predictive prophecies which can be explained solely on the basis of supernatural influence and which were made known before their corresponding fulfillments.
3. Therefore, all predictive prophecies recorded in the Bible are evidences (proofs) which verify the claims of the religion involved. (What? 20)
One of the most famous biblical prophecies that can be checked against archeology and history is that of the fall of the city of Tyre. This was a Phoenician city located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea about one hundred miles from Jerusalem and about thirty miles from the Sea of Galilee. It had two superior harbors: one on the mainland, where the major portion of the city was built, and a second on an island located less than one mile from the coast (Petrillo 389). Trevor Major lists seven precise predictive prophecies that were made in Ezekiel 26 and the
corresponding archeological and historical evidence that proves fulfillment:
1. Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon shall destroy the mainland portion of Tyre (Ezekiel 26:7-8). Nebuchadnezzar II laid siege to Tyre for thirteen years beginning in 585-6 BC.
2. Other nations are to participate in the fulfillment of the prophecy (Ezekiel 26:3). Alexander the Great besieged and captured the port in 332 BC, and Ptolemies, Seleucids, Romans, and Muslim Arabs all had their turn at rule.
3. The city is to be flattened, like the top of a rock (Ezekiel 26:4, 14). Alexander used the building materials of the mainland city, and any other rocks and soil in the immediate vicinity, to build a causeway to the island.
4. It is to become a place for the spreading of nets (Ezekiel 26:5, 14). The waters around Tyre were renowned in ancient times for their fishing. This was all the fame the city could claim after its complete decimation by Alexander.
5. Its stones and timbers are to be laid in the sea (Ezekiel 26:12). As noted in number 3 above, the building of the causeway came from the remains of the mainland city.
6. Other cities are to fear greatly at the fall of Tyre (Ezekiel 26:15-18). Many fortified cities in the region capitulated to Alexander after they saw the genius and relative ease with which he captured Tyre.
7. The city will not be inhabited or rebuilt (Ezekiel 26:20-21). Alexander sold almost all of Tyre’s inhabitants into slavery, and the city forever lost its importance on the world stage. (95)
Peter Stoner and Robert Newman calculated the mathematical probabilities for these seven predictions. The chance that all seven would prove to be correct is 1 in 75,000,000 (79). Considering the divine judgment upon Tyre and the accuracy of Ezekiel’s prophecy, this is a historical event that can be explained solely on the basis of supernatural influence.
Other examples will here only be quickly mentioned. At the time that Babylon was considered to be the world’s richest and greatest city, Isaiah prophesied that it would become desolate (Isaiah 13:17-22). As predicted, the Medes under the leadership of Cyrus conquered the city in
539 BC (Free 203). Further, Isaiah predicted more than one hundred and fifty years before his birth that Cyrus would be the king of Persia (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1). Approximately one fifty years after the preaching of Jonah, Zephaniah 2:13-15 records the prediction that Nineveh will be
destroyed for their great wickedness. As predicted, the combined forces of the Babylonians and the Medes came against Nineveh in 612 BC and completely destroyed it (Free 187).
The remaining focus will be centered upon Jesus Christ. The Old Testament is replete with what is known as messianic prophecies and the New Testament appears to record their fulfillment. For example, it was said that the Messiah would be born of a woman (Genesis 3:15;
Galatians 4:4), of the seed of Abraham (Genesis 22:18; Luke 3.34), of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10; Hebrews 7:14), of the royal lineage of David (2 Samuel 7:12; Luke 1.32), in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2.1), to the virgin Mary (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:22). We further see from study of the Bible that the Messiah would have a forerunner to announce His arrival (Isaiah 40:3; Matthew 3:1-3), that He would appear during the days of Roman rule (Daniel 2:44; Luke 2:41), while Judah still possessed her own king (Genesis 49:10; Matthew 2:22). All of this is simply the tip of the proverbial iceberg as some Bible scholars estimate that there are well over three hundred prophecies in the Old Testament about Christ (McCord 332). But how much of this information can be verified via archeology and history? There have been many who have questioned whether or not the man Jesus ever actually existed (Barnett 16). This is a most vital question and concept because if Christ was not real, then all Christians are wasting their time and actually should be pitied by other men (1 Corinthians 15:19).
There are many ancient sources that confirm the existence of the man Jesus Christ. For example, an individual by the name of Tacitus (AD 55-120) who was considered to be a fine historian wrote of the events surrounding the AD 64 fire in Rome. According to Gary Habermas, we learn several important facts from the record of Tacitus. One, Christians were named for their founder, Christus (from the Latin). Two, this Christus was put to death by the Roman procurator Pontius Pilatus. Three, these events took place during the reign of emperor Tiberius (AD 14-37).
Four, the death of Christus ended the “superstition” for a short time. Five, the “superstition” broke out once again, especially in Judaea, where the teaching had its origin. Six, the followers of Christus took his doctrine to Rome. Seven, when the fire destroyed a large part of the city, Nero (54-68) placed the blame on the Christians who lived in Rome. Eight, this group was hated for their abominations. Nine, they were arrested and convicted for “hatred of mankind.” Ten, the Christians were also mocked, tortured, nailed to crosses, and burned to death. Eleven, because of the cruel treatment they received, many had compassion on the Christians which led Tacitus to conclude that such punishments were not for the public good but were simply to “glut one man’s cruelty” (189). Thus from this one historian, we have the Gospel accounts of Jesus being confirmed as well as the beginning of the New Testament church as recorded in the book of Acts.
There are other Roman sources as well as Jewish sources that can be consulted to confirm the existence of Christ and thus His fulfillment of prophecy. Among them are Pliney who wrote his letters from Bithynia around AD 112, Suetonius who wrote from Rome around AD 49, the
Jewish prayer known as the Benediction Twelve, Rabbi Eliezer, and Josephus (Barnett 17-28; Strobel 73-109). All of these writings preserved in history confirm the story of Jesus and His loyal followers. In reference to biblical prophecy and those who lived before the fulfillment of the predictions, Henry Morris wrote, “From our perspective today, we can see them more clearly since they have already been fulfilled, providing strong evidence of the divine inspiration of the Bible. We today, therefore, have less excuse for ignoring God’s Word than they did and so must
be judged more severely if we do so” (52).
It is clear from our investigation that the Bible contains certain properties where the total situation involved in having such properties makes it clear that the Bible is beyond mere human production. Specifically it has been demonstrated that the particular characteristics of the Bible’s
treatment of science do transcend mere human invention and all predictive prophecies recorded in the Bible are predictive prophecies which can be explained solely on the basis of supernatural influence and which were made known before their corresponding fulfillments. Therefore, the Bible must be what it claims to be, which is the inspired word of God.
Barnett, Paul. Is the New Testament Reliable? Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1986.
Blick, Edward F. Correlation of the Bible and Science. Hollywood: Haven of Rest, 1976.
Boyd, Robert T. Boyd’s Handbook of Practical Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1997.
Bromling, Brad T. “Prophetic Precision.” Reason & Revelation. 14.12 (1994): 96.
Bruce, F.F. Are the New Testament Documents Reliable? Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954.
Burrows, Millar. What Mean These Stones? New Haven: American Schools of Oriental Research, 1941.
Charlesworth, James H. and Walter P. Weaver. What has Archaeology to do with Faith? Philadelphia: Trinity, 1992.
Free, Joseph P. and Howard F. Vos. Archeology and Bible History. rev. ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.
Geisler, Norman L. and William E. Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible. rev. ed. Chicago: Moody, 1986.
Habermas, Gary R. The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ. Joplin, MO: College Press, 1996.
Jauncey, James H. Science Returns to God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1961.
Jeffrey, Grant R. The Signature of God. Toronto: Frontier Research, 1996.
Lewis, Jack P. Archaeology and the Bible. Abilene: Biblical Research, 1975.
Major, Trevor. “The Fall of Tyre.” Reason & Revelation. 16.12 (1996): 93-95.
Manly Jr., Basil. The Bible Doctrine of Inspiration. rev. ed. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1995.
McCord, Hugo. “Internal Evidences of the Bible’s Inspiration.” The Holy Scriptures: 1979 Ft. Worth Lectures. ed. William Winkler. Ft. Worth: Winkler, 1979.
McGarvey, J.W. Evidences of Christianity. Cincinnati: Standard, 1886.
Moreland, J. P. Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987.
Morris, Henry. Defending the Faith. Green Forest: Master, 1999.
Muncaster, Ralph O. Can Archaeology Prove the New Testament? Eugene: Harvest House, 2000.
Petrillo, Dennis. Ezekiel: Truth for Today Commentary. Searcy: Resource, 2004.
Rice, John R. Our God-Breathed Book – The Bible. Murfreesboro: Sword of the Lord, 1969.
Shelly, Rubel. “Biblical Prophecy as an Evidence of Inspiration.” The Spiritual Sword. 1.2 (1970): 29-32.
- - -. What Shall We Do With The Bible? Jonesboro: National Christian Press, 1975.
Smith, Gerald B. “Testing the Doctrine of Inspiration.” The Biblical World. 36.3 (1910): 152-65.
Smith, J.M. Powis. “Why I Believe in the Bible.” The Biblical World. 54.6 (1920): 568-70.
Stoner, Peter W. and Robert C. Newman. Science Speaks. Chicago: Moody, 1976.
Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998.
Tacitus. The Annals. 109 <http://classics.mit.edu/Tacitus/annals.11.xv.html>
Thompson, Bert. Rock-Solid Faith: How to Build It. Montgomery: Apologetics Press, 2000.
Varghese, Roy Abraham. ed. The Intellectuals Speak Out About God. Chicago: Gateway, 1984.
- - -. The Wonder of the World. Fountain Hills: Tyr, 2003.
West, W. B., Bill Flatt and Thomas B. Warren. eds. The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible: 1971 Bible
Lectureship of Harding Graduate School of Religion. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1971.
Witmer, John A. “The Biblical Evidence for the Verbal-Plenary Inspiration of the Bible.” Bibliotheca sacra. 121