Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Can we trust anything in the Bible?

As a Christian, anything that confirms the reliability of the Bible gives me a twinge of satisfaction. I’m not sure why, since by belief in it’s reliability is solid. I guess it’s just a kind of “Told you so,” or something childish like that. For example, the following archaeological finds show the historical relevance of some Biblical entries.

John 4:5,6 - Jacob’s well in Nablus
Matthew 8:14 - Peter’s house in Capernaum
Luke 23:33 - Skeletal remains of crucified men in Jerusalem
Acts 21:27-29 - Inscription: Gentile entrance of temple sanctuary
Luke 3:1 - Pilate inscription in Caesarea
John 5:2 - Pool Bethesda in Jerusalem
John 9:7 - Pool of Silam in Jerusalem
Mark 1:21 - Early synagogue in Capernaum
Luke 21:20 - Masada in Southwest Dead Sea
Matthew 2:19 - The Herodium near Bethlehem
Matthew 2:4 - Herod’s winter palace in Jericho
Luke 1:9 - Herod’s temple in Jerusalem
Acts 17:6 - Politarch inscription in Thessalonica
Acts 16:11,12; 17:1 - Egnatian Way in Neapolis, Philippi, Apollonia, and Thessalonica
Acts 18:12 - Gallio inscription in Delphi
1 Corinthians 9:24/26 - Starting gate for races in Isthmia
Acts 16:19 - Marketplace in Philippi
Acts 18:12 - Court in Corinth
1 Corinthians 8:10 - Cult dining rooms in Demeter temples in Corinth
1 Corinthians 10:25 - Meat market inscription in Corinth
Acts 18:4 - Synagogue inscription in Corinth
Romans 16:23 - Erastus inscription in Corinth
Luke 19:43-44; 21:6,20 - Arch of Titus in Rome
1 Peter 2:13 - Golden House of Nero in Rome
Acts 25:10 - Appian Way at Puteoli to Rome
2 Timothy 1:16-17; 2:9; 4:6-8 - Mamertime Prison in Rome
Luke 2:1 - Tomb of Augustus in Rome
Acts 19:35 - Artemis statues in Ephesus
Acts 19:24 - Silversmith shops in Ephesus
Acts 19:29 - Ephesian theatre in Ephesus
Acts 19:27,28 - Artemis temple and altar in Ephesus
Acts 20:13,14 - Fourth-century B.C. walls in Assos
Revelation 2:13 - Zeus altar in Pergamum
Acts 13:6,7 - Sergius Paulus inscription in Antioch in Pisidia
Acts 14:20 - Derbe inscription in Kerti Huyuk
Most recently the reign of Solomon was reconfirmed by archaeology
The existence of Sargon and the Hittites were confirmed by archaeology
The sevenfold lamp-stands use in the temple was confirmed by archaeology
The extent of the Davidic empire was confirmed by archaeology
That Belshazzar existed and ruled over Babylon was confirmed by archaeology.

The existence of Tyre, Nineveh, and dozens of other ancient cities mentioned in the Bible have been confirmed by archaeology.
This is only a bit what was archaeology has confirmed in the New Testament, and while the extent of ancient finds in the Old Testament would take all day for me to document. The fact is, no, repeat NO archaeological discovery has EVER controverted a SINGLE Biblical statement. Of course archaeology does not prove the Bible to be the Word of God (prophecy does that). Nevertheless, archaeology does establish the historicity of innumerable passages and statements of the Old and New Testaments.


Volker The Fiddler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Makarios said...

Oh yes. I'd agree. And I certainly wouldn't use these findings as anything upon which to base my faith. Like I attempted to say, this stuff is just pleasantly amusing.

I would offer however that this stuff has indeed been surprising to critics many of whom truly believed the Bible to be fairy tales and the rest of whom desperately wanted it to be fairy tales.

And I guess that I would disagree, somewhat, in that the accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection are confirmed, to a degree by archaeology although historical scholarship goes much farther in this regard.

Volker The Fiddler said...

That the Bible, which is as much a historical as a religious-text, contains correct information concerning the regions which the Jews inhabited in antiquity is hardly surprising. However, none of its religious sentiments are proved or in any way confirmed by this fact. Logically, taking the same tack which gives you, Makarios, twinges of satisfaction, one may as well believe in gods Zeus or Athena, because, using the Iliad, archaeologists have found the City of Troy. It would be absurd, however, to do so, and you would doubtless agree.

One thing you haven’t mentioned, Makarios, is that the Bible does seem to contain factual errors in many other cases, particularly in the realm of the sciences other than archaeology. Those we can be fairly confident about include, in no particular order, but are not limited to: There is no evidence of a global flood. The concept of ‘the firmament’ is false. Bats are not birds. The universe is not geocentric. Herod did not order the slaughter of the innocents (neither did anyone else). There is no contemporaneous nor corroborating record of any earthquake in Judea at the time of Jesus’ death. So, I guess in answer to your question, “Can we trust anything in the Bible,” the answer is a fairly confident ‘no’. Of course, it would be blasphemy to require any proof (prophetic, archaeological) of the Bible, as only faith in its message can save.

Volker The Fiddler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Volker The Fiddler said...

Ah, so you would agree, then, that the Bible contains seeming factual errors?

Makarios said...

Yes of course there are “seeming factual errors.” I’m not saying there are actual errors, but yes there are certainly apparent, or seeming errors.

The “Creation” story would be a good example. While I’ve never actually heard any Christian claim that the earth is 6,000 years old (maybe it’s an American thing) those who made such claims now know that’s unlikely for at least two reasons a) Science shows that the universe is 15 billion years old, give or take, and the earth in a form that could sustain life is roughly 400 million, give or take, and b) we now know that genealogies of that time and culture allowed for huge gaps. The phrase, “The father of,” was not, as we once thought just the previous biological father but could very well be a very important person of the same family line who lived many, many, many generations past.

Just the thought of addressing a long line of concerns is making me sigh and it seems like it would be unbearably tedious. Besides, I don’t have all the answers. But if I could, I’d like to use a couple more examples of apparent errors.

First of all, the Bible does NOT teach a geocentric philosophy. That is an erroneous interpretation. The writers of the Bible wrote what they thought they were seeing eg.- rising sun or falling stars - two terms that are in frequent use even today though they are factually inaccurate. Nevertheless, I know that the sun will in fact appear on the horizon tomorrow morning and if I go out tonight I will probably see a beautiful display of fire from what appears to be a star streaking across the sky.

As to a worldwide flood. I don’t know what that means but I do know that a cataclysm of immense proportions took place and it may have covered all of the inhabited world at that time. How else do we explain the “flood stories” that are present in virtually every culture around the world? Now, does that mean things like Mt. Everest was covered by water? No, but then Mt. Everest wasn’t always Mt. Everest was it? We know from fossil evidence high up in the Himalayas that they were once part of the sea floor and that powerful forces caused them to rise to their present state. As you can see, going down this road really resolves nothing and I’m sure that it would be boring for the both of us.

Look, Fiddler, I don’t know your story. If I remember correctly you were once on the Christian road and now you’re not. That’s fine. In fact if we can take Jesus story of the sower and the seed to be accurate, it would be expected that you and 75% of any group of people beginning the Christian journey will drop out before the end. You have your reasons and that’s fine. If those reasons include things in the Bible that you can’t understand that’s fine as well.

For myself, I begin with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and interpret the rest of the Bible through that lense. If you can show me or prove to me that the historical accounts of Jesus are not factual then I’ll share a beer with you and rejoice that my mistaken beliefs have been corrected. Until that happens, I post what I believe to be true and accurate thoughts in the hope that some other person who is struggling with life’s ultimate questions will stumble upon my blog and find food for thought.