3 Reasons the Bible Accurately Represents History

A long time ago, I re-blogged John Shelby Spong’s article on the three biggest misconceptions about the Bible. This is the first of my promised responses.

Shelby contends that the every Biblical scholar agrees that the Bible does not accurately represent history. I know one who does. She taught my Sunday school class last week. A better known person would be F.F. Bruce. He is quoted as saying:

“The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which no-one dreams of questioning. And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt. It is a curious fact that historians have often been much readier to trust the New Testament than have many theologians.”[1]

I’m not going to quote historians to establish the Bible’s historical accuracy. Rather, I’ll quote their findings.

Firstly, the Bible accurately reflect history because Archeology confirms it.

Lots of archaeological discoveries have confirmed the Bible and I know of none that contradict it. The Ebla tablet, the Nebo-Sarsekim tablet, the Temech Seal and Nehemiah’s wall are just a few examples. There is also the walls of Jericho and the discovery of the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah. Someone summarized it thus,

“I know of no finding in archaeology that’s properly confirmed which is in opposition to the Scriptures. The Bible is the most accurate history textbook the world has ever seen.”[2]

Secondly, the Bible accurately reflects history because non-Christian historical writings agree with it.

Lots of extra-biblical writings confirm historical events in the Bible. Perhaps the most commonly known is the writings which confirm the great flood. Accounts of the flood are found in almost all nations and tribes. Remarkably, the Sumerian king List lists kings who ruled before and after the flood. The Kings before the flood reigned for extremely long periods of time while those after the flood ruled for increasingly shorter periods – the same pattern found in the Bible.

There is also the writings of people  like Josephus, Cornelius Tacitus, Thallus and Celsus which confirm the new testament. A quote from Josephus confirming the existence of both Jesus and his brother James is as follows:

“So [Ananus] assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as lawbreakers, he delivered them over to be stoned.” Antiquities XX 9:1

Josephus also confirms the existence of John the Baptist. Josephus’ writings are regarded very highly by historians.

Thirdly, the Bible accurately reflects history because it demonstrates the characteristics of a good eyewitness account.

The accounts give lots of details about people, places and events which like I pointed out, have been confirmed both in writing and otherwise. Dr Peter Williams has a very interesting talk on the subject

For Brevity’s sake, I have kept this as short as I could. More information and documentation can be found in the following places:

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[1] Bruce, F. F. 1960. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity.

[2] Dr Clifford Wilson, formerly director of the Australian Institute of Archaeology, being interviewed by radio by the Institute for Creation Research (ICR radio transcript No. 0279–1004)

John Shelby Spong Gives us “The 3 Biggest Biblical Misconceptions”

“The Bible interprets life from its particular perspective; it does not record in a factual way the human journey through history” – John Shelby Spong

So, I was surfing the web this morning and ended up on CNN’s religion blog. There I found something interesting. Interesting because even I, a 17 year old college freshman with no background in theology of Biblical history, could poke it full of holes and and it was on CNN but after doing a quick search, I found that no one had written anything on it and the comments on that page make me want to weep.

So, over the next few days, I will be responding to John Shelby’s “3 Biggest Biblical Misconceptions”. First, I recommend that you read it here and maybe take a look at some of the responses. This post will merely outline the article for easy study and reference. My rebuttals will come in the next few days

His post says there are three common misconceptions about the Bible. He does not attempt to justify the idea that these are common, probably because that is fairly obvious, but he does try to justify the idea that they are misconceptions.

Misconception 1: “people assume the Bible accurately reflects history”. According to Shelby, “That is absolutely not so, and every biblical scholar recognizes it”.

Support 1: The stories about Abraham and Moses were circulated orally for hundreds of years before being written down in the Bible. “Can a defining tribal narrative that is passed on orally for 45 generations ever be regarded as history, at least as history is understood today… Do stories of heroic figures not grow, experience magnifying tendencies and become surrounded by interpretive mythology as the years roll by?”

Support 2: The gospels were written decades after Jesus’ death in a language unspoken by any of his disciples and the evolution of the stories can easily be seen.

Misconception 2: that “the Bible is in any literal sense ‘the word of God.'”

Support: The Bible portrays God as immoral and contains immoral commands and actions.

Misconception 3: “that biblical truth is somehow static and thus unchanging”

Support: The prophets Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Malachi, etc introduced new concepts and understandings of God and Worship not previously revealed therefore changing the God of Israel from a bloodthirsty, tribal deity to a loving, universal one.

The above summary is my understanding of Shelby’s claims and tries to stay as true to his words as possible but I did write it on an empty stomach so feel free to correct me. His claims look wrong at first blush and even worse the more you think about them. At least, that’s the way it seems to me. What do you think about it?