Jesus pointed out that the writings of Moses and the prophets offer ample proof of the truth of the scriptures and their divine inspiration and are readily available for true and sincere seekers. Isaiah pointed out that the scriptures are both rational and reasonable, though the content is spiritual in nature. Critics of the Bible seem to fall into one of two categories: either they are not motivated to look into what is written, or they are not in a condition spiritually where they are able to receive the truths therein. This article is an open challenge to all critics of the Bible to examine the scriptures with an open mind and an open heart. Test the scriptures and the evidence and see if you can answer even just one of the following questions:
1) Present one piece of archaeological evidence which disproves the history recorded in the Bible.
2) Present one prophecy in the Bible which has not come to pass as predicted.
3) Present one person in history, other than Jesus Christ, who has fulfilled the “vague” prophecies of the Messiah.
4) Present one papyrus or parchment ancient manuscript more reliable than those of the New Testament.
It may be difficult for you to know where to begin because many Bible critics have never actually read the Bible, so I can help you to become familiar with some of the main issues.
1) The Bible records specific historical accounts which may be verified with archaeology. For example, according to the Bible (Joshua 6-7), the walls of the city of Jericho fell miraculously, the city was then burned by the Israelites and no food or spoils of war were to be taken as per God's commands. The fallen walls, the charred remains and the neglected spoils of war were all found in archaeological digs.
Much of the history recorded in scriptures is contained in the first five books known as the “Torah” in Hebrew. One of the main historical events critics focus on is the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to the land of Canaan. According to the scriptures, God miraculously divided the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to pass through. If you want to scrutinize the latest archaeological evidence regarding this account, I recommended that you check out the documentary film “The Exodus Revealed” or book “The Exodus Case” (Revised Edition) by publisher Scandinavia and Dr. Lennart Moller, which present archaeological evidence of Hebrew dwellings in the land of Goshen in Egypt and evidence of coral encrusted forms, similar to chariot wheels and axles, on an otherwise flat area of the Red Sea floor. They also present compelling evidence that the biblical Mt. Sinai is located in Saudi Arabia, not Egypt. Soon to be released film “The Exodus Conspiracy” deals with the evidence presently being kept from public observation.
2) Nostradamus is known for his fairly vague prophecies, and some are proposing that the Mayans predicted the present era would end some time in the year 2012 A.D. But more specific than these prophecies, a biblical prophet, Daniel predicted the day when Messiah would come to Jerusalem as king, hundreds of years in advance of the event. Would you consider that a specific prophecy? Check the following prophecy for yourself:
Daniel's Prophecy of Messiah's Coming
Daniel 9:25 (NKJV) states "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks...”
Daniel was shown by God a remarkable prophetic time clock that would be set off by a unique event, the command by a ruler to restore and rebuild Jerusalem. Nehemiah 2:1-8 records the giving of this command about one hundred years later by King Artaxerxes “in the month Nisan, in the 20th year of Artaxerxes' the king.”
It wasn’t until 1877 that Sir Robert Anderson, Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard for many years, explained in detail the fulfillment of this prophecy, using data from the British Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England. This observatory is known for introducing Greenwich Mean Time, the time standard for the world. Anderson knew that the ancient calendar was based on lunar cycles. Artaxerxes I reigned 465 – 424 B.C., and the 20th year of his reign, and the month of Nisan, could be determined based on astronomical records. The first of Nisan would have been a new moon and astronomer G. B. Airy, of the Royal Observatory, calculated the new moon to have occurred March 14, 445 B.C. And so this was the date Anderson used to mark the beginning of the prophetic time clock.
Though the command by the king specifically says the “month of Nisan” not the “1st of Nisan,” if a specific date was not recorded in history, it is likely that an important official decree would be linked to the new moon. It is also traditional to assume that if Hebrew scripture writers didn't mention an exact date, then it would be attributed to the first of the month. Some theorists have offered that the new moon may not have been visible for 24 hours and that the command may have been made one or two days later. That's a possibility, but, compared to almost 500 years, one or two days is a minimal factor of adjustment.
Daniels prophecy speaks of “seven weeks.” In scriptural prophecy a week always refers to seven years. When you calculate Daniel’s prediction for the coming of Messiah, using seven years as a “week,” (7x7) plus (62x7), you end up with 483 years. In his book, “The Coming Prince,” in Chapter 10, Anderson outlined the calculations he used in determining the leap years, the B.C./A.D. transition, and the Hebrew 360 day calendar, etc. The sum he arrived at was a total of 173,880 days, and this corresponds with April 6, 32 A.D.
To what location was Messiah's “coming” predicted? The prophecy centers on the rebuilding of Jerusalem and this location is directly related to the text of “Messiah,” the “Prince” and ruler described elsewhere in scripture. The prophet Zechariah predicted the coming of Messiah as follows: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, O Daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; he is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey..." (Zechariah 9:9). In the context of the Old Testament, the place of Messiah's triumphal entry can be no other place than Jerusalem.
Can we determine the date Jesus entered Jerusalem? According to Luke’s Gospel (3:21-23), Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist at 30 years of age. The year is defined in Luke 3.1, as “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,” who was crowned Emperor on August 19, 14A.D. And so, the year from August 19, 28A.D. to August 19, 29A.D. was Tiberius' fifteenth year. It is generally believed that Jesus was baptized in the fall season. His public ministry was a total of 3½ years and he was crucified in the spring of 32A.D. on the eve of Passover. The first spring full moon, known as the Paschal (Passover) Moon, of 32 A.D. was March 29 at approximately 11 pm. Jerusalem time, according to U.S Naval Observatory data. But the question again is “When exactly did the rabbis see and determine the full moon?” If they chose March 29th, then preparations for Passover would have begun a week after that date and the actual Passover feast would have been 14 days after it (Exodus 12:6). According to tradition, the sacrificial lambs would have been brought for inspection around the same time that Jesus was presenting Himself as Messiah. This would have been the first “Palm Sunday,” the day when Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, April 6, 32 A.D.
As Jesus rode into the holy city, the crowds exclaimed "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Luke 19:38). Though the religious elite were incensed, Jesus did not quiet the crowds. In fact, this was the first time Jesus publicly acknowledged his title as the Messiah. Previously he had revealed this only to his disciples (Matthew 16:13-20). He had often told people not to reveal he was the Messiah publicly until the timing was right, and this was, apparently, the appointed day.
Before He entered the city, Jesus looked out over Jerusalem and “wept over it” saying, "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” “..because you did not know the time of your visitation." (Luke 19: 41b 42b, 44b). Why was this particular “day” especially important? Why should they have known the “time” of his arrival? Because these things had been prophesied of in detail (and the Rabbis should have known how the ancient calenders operated)! Many did acknowledge Jesus as the true Messiah, but the religious/political leaders, who basically controlled the Jewish society, felt threatened by him, hated him, and were more concerned about how to kill him than how to interpret prophecy. In general, the literal interpretation of prophecy was not en-vogue with the rabbis of Jesus’ day. Some later critics have been so stunned by Daniel’s prophecy that they have claimed it must have been written after Jesus' life. But the book was included in the Septuagint Bible translation in 285 BC, so this is not a possibility.
3) A line you often hear is that the prophecies are “vague” and can apply to anyone at anytime. Let's look at a few more regarding the person of the Messiah and see how vague they are. Isaiah 53 prophetically describes a man who is to be “despised and rejected” and whose life will be a sacrifice for sin: “and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” This is not written in a legal sense but in a spiritual sense. This cannot be a vague metaphor of the Jews because, though they have suffered, they have not born the sins of others or justified anyone spiritually. This man, however, would do just that: “By His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.” And who, after being an “offering for sin” is able to “see his seed” and “prolong his days?” The answer is Jesus Christ, who brought new spiritual life to those who are able to receive him and his Holy Spirit.
The Messiah’s mission is described in Daniel 9.26: “Messiah” is to be “cut off, but not for himself.” Here, Isaiah 53 uses the example of a “lamb to the slaughter.” The Jewish priests of the temple would have rejected a lamb with a defect or a blemish, as the lambs were inspected for the purpose of spiritual atonement. So, apparently, this “lamb,” that would be an offering, was without blemish, i.e. sinless. This is the testimony of the twelve disciples who lived with Jesus for three and a half years, ten of which would die brutally as martyrs, history records, because they would not deny that this man was the sinless Messiah. If this is a “vague” prophecy, please name one other person in history who proposed he or she would become a sacrifice to atone for sin, as Jesus claimed. Name one other person in history who claimed personal authority to forgive sin. I won't even get into the other many specific prophecies related to Messiah. You can scrutinize them yourself if you are a sincere seeker of truth.
4) One of the most common misunderstandings today is that the text of the New Testament is not reliable. What “rational criteria” are used to determine if an ancient text is reliable? There are two main factors: the number of corroborating ancient copies and their proximity time-wise to the ancient original penned text. How does the New Testament stack up against the writings of figures such as Herodotus, the “Father of History,” or Roman magistrate Pliny the Younger? How about philosophers Aristotle and Plato? Compare for yourself:
Homer (Iliad) - wrote in 900 B.C., nearest copy 400 B.C., 500 year break, 643 copies
Herodotus - wrote in 480 - 425 B.C., nearest copy 900 A.D., 1, 300 year break, 8 copies
Plato – wrote in 427-347 B.C., nearest copy 900 A.D., 1200 year break, 7 copies
Aristotle – wrote in 384 - 322 B.C., nearest copy 1,100 A.D., 1,400 year break, 5 copies
Pliny – wrote in 61 - 113 A.D., nearest copy 850 A.D., 750 year break, 7 copies
New Testament – written 50-100 A.D., nearest copy 130 A.D., less than 100 year break, 5600 copies (Greek)
Comparing the New Testament text with the other known ancient documents, it's easy to see there is nothing close to the NT, in terms of proximity and the number of copied manuscripts. When you include the Syriac, Latin, Coptic, and Aramaic languages, in addition to the Greek, the number of manuscripts skyrockets to over 24,000. The internal consistency of the New Testament is determined to be about 99.5% textually pure, compared with the second place text of the Iliad, which is considered to be 95% textually pure. People who say the New Testament is not reliable text, simply don't know what they are talking about. You may not agree with the content of the text, and the miracles described, but that is an entirely different matter. Jesus said that those who would not believe Moses and the prophecies would not believe miracles either, and, as usual, he was right on the money (Luke 16.27-31).
If you are willing to receive the truths of scripture, and Jesus himself, who offers you today “the things that make for your peace,” then why not take a step of faith and receive him as your Savior and Lord? Though the Bible is true and provable, spiritual life, nevertheless is based on faith. Please consider forwarding this article to any Bible critics you know of. I pray that God will bring revelation as the text is read.