Does archaeology prove or disprove the Bible?
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ARCHAEOLOGISTS CONTINUE TO FIND AMAZING PROOF RELATED TO BIBLE
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, a new news item out of Israel’s newspaper, Haretz. Archeologists recently announced they had found a fantastically preserved seal impression that was made by a Biblical governor of Jerusalem. The seal dates from the seventh century, B.C., which puts it during the reign of King Josiah.
DR. REEDER: Historians actually doubt even the existence of Jerusalem during those days and any structure of government that would include a governor. I think it’s two or three different times in the Bible during that particular reign of Josiah that the governor is affirmed and is mentioned.
Now we find that archaeologists have uncovered an artifact that tells us, “Oh, hey, the Bible was accurate again when we said that it wasn’t accurate.” This actually rather new discipline from the late nineteenth century, archaeology, continues to affirm the historicity of the Bible.
Now, let me go ahead and say there are some things that archaeologists are saying that would question the accuracy of the Bible, but what we have found is, over a period of time, the very thing that question the accuracy of the Bible as more things are discovered, all of a sudden, they find out it does affirm the accuracy of the Bible.
For instance, Mary Magdalene, called Magdalene because she was from the area of Magdala, yet there was question as to whether or not there actually was a city like Magdala. Well, not only has archaeology affirmed the reality that there is a city called Magdala, but it has also affirmed the fact that it contained one of the seven synagogues that had been built in Israel. In fact, there are two of them on the Sea of Galilee — one at Capernaum and one at Magdala.
Just recently, when I was there couple of years ago, they have also uncovered the vineyard or the Garden of Naboth, who had his garden stolen by King Ahab and Jezebel. And Tom, there’s others as well.
TOM LAMPRECHT: Indeed. Seals to King Hezekiah, a latrine built to a desecrated pagan shrine and, in 1994, there was an inscribed stone known as a “stele” sound near Tel Dan in northern Israel.
DR. REEDER: That affirmed how Dan, as a tribe, had migrated up north and that had been questioned and now we find out that that is true. I remember the stories about Jesus — “Well, there was no Pontius Pilate. We can’t find any record of a Pontius Pilate in any of the extrabiblical sources, particularly, out of the Roman Empire.”
Except for, all of a sudden, now we have the writings of Josephus and we have the writings of Eusebius and, most of all, is right there at Caesarea-by-the-Sea where the governor’s palace had been built, they uncovered a stone with the name Pontius Pilate on it.
WITNESSES AND EVIDENCE CONFIRMS
Therefore, all of these things continually affirm the historicity of the Bible and historicity of Biblical truth is affirmed in the Scripture with appeals to it. Remember how Luke, when he talks about how had put together the Gospel of Luke and then later the Book of Acts, refers to the fact that he had obtained his data, likely while Paul was in prison in Caesarea-by-the-Sea from “eyewitnesses.”
Likely, he interviewed Mary, herself, who was under the care of the apostle John because of the way he refers to certain things that she says when he refers to Mary in the Biblical accounts. And, beyond that, Tom, you have the apostle Paul, in 1Corinthians 15, affirming the historicity of the resurrection when he says, “Here are the witnesses,” and he starts naming the personal witnesses, and the groups of witnesses and then he says, oh, by the way, there were 500 witnesses to whom Jesus appeared into Galilee. Obviously, at that time, you could have called upon probably all of those 500 witnesses.
You could have stopped Christianity dead in its tracks by just bringing out witnesses opposed to the resurrection that it actually didn’t happen or bringing out the body. They affirmed the historicity of an empty tomb and the historicity of witnesses to the resurrected Christ. The Bible is a book that is rooted in history.
NINETEENTH CENTURY CRITICS BEGAN TO CAST DOUBT
Here’s what many have said, beginning in the nineteenth century: “We think that these guys actually probably believed these things and that they were true. To them, they were true. That doesn’t mean that they were actually true.”
But what we find out is the Bible doesn’t know anything about truth in terms of relativity or relativism in terms of truth. True truth is what is truth and that, when it says something happened in history, if it didn’t happen in history, then the Bible is untrustworthy.
However, the Bible, we find out, is trustworthy and that Christianity is not a fabrication of men’s dreams but it is the revelation of Biblical truth in time and history and is verifiable in history as historical events.
NEW EVIDENCE EMERGES EVERY DAY TO PROVE BIBLE TRUE
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, we keep finding these pieces of evidence that verify the Bible is true. Have we ever found any evidence that there are things in the Bible that aren’t true?
DR. REEDER: We have found evidences that seemingly contradict Biblical truth but, as you move along in the study of that archeological pit, they find out, “Oh, wait, wait. It is true.” In other words, they’ll find something that points to the fact that it is true. There have been isolated things that have been picked up and then, as they continue to mature the study, then it always ends up affirming the Biblical account.
Of course, one of the most famous of all of these is the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We had been told many things like that the Book of Isaiah is not actually the Book of Isaiah — it’s three books by a claim of someone who used Isaiah’s name. Now, why did they do that? Well, they made that view of the Book of Isaiah up, not because there was any evidence but the Book of Isaiah contained prophesies. If you’ve got a prophesy, then you’ve got a God because only God can tell you what’s going to happen because prophesy is pre-written history. However, if you’ve got prophesy, then what you need to do is you need to post-date the book so that the guy’s really fabricating the story as a prophetic statement when, in reality, it has already occurred and he’s only reporting something that has occurred.
And then, lo and behold, we find out that, guess what? Dead Sea Scrolls, which pre-date Jesus, all of the Messianic prophesies were already recorded and they found them in the jars. Here are scrolls that pre-date Jesus and that affirm the unity of Isaiah, the actuality of Isaiah and the historicity of the prophecies which means that Jesus is a fulfillment of true prophecy.
WHAT ABOUT PEOPLE WHO DON’T BELIEVE THE BIBLE BUT SEE IT AS A MORAL STORY?
TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, how ought we look at the Bible? You will, on one hand, have a number of people that will look at the Bible and say, “Oh, yes, this is a book of history,” but on the other hand you’ll have a group of people that say, “Well, this is just a book of nice stories. We can’t really believe it, but they have a lot of nice moral parables in them.”
DR. REEDER: Well, first of all, I would say to those people that is utterly ridiculous to take a Bible that tells you that there is a God that you must worship and, if you do not and if you sin against Him, you’re going to come under judgement, and there’s a place called Hell and there’s a place called Heaven, those cannot be good moral encouraging, inspiring stories. They have to be treated as fabrications that manipulate people if they are not true. If they are true, then praise the Lord.
I’m reminded of the story of the people that were riding by a church and the outside sign says, “Slow down. Stop. Destruction ahead,” and one guy got out of his car and went in there and said, “How dare you put that out there, manipulating people according to their fears?” “Well, because we don’t want you to be killed.” “Who are you to tell me…?” And they said, “Well, all we are are the people that the highway patrol called because, one mile down the road, the bridge is out so we used our sign to warn you.”
Well, the signs that believers put out warning of a judgment to come — in that case, we’re dealing with a physical death that awaited you but we give a warning of a spiritual death. The guy viewed that as manipulation until he found out what? That it was true. Therefore, people hear the warning of a judgement to come and see that as manipulation and rightly so if it’s not true but, if it’s true, it is a glorious gift of the grace of God not only to warn you of the judgement to come, but to make a way for you too escape through Jesus Christ.
YOU CAN TRUST THE BIBLE AND GOD’S PROMISE
The Bible is a dependable book. It’s not a history book and it’s not just a book of stories — it is a book of truth revealed through stories. And the greatest story is the greatest story ever told: God loves sinners, not by loving their sin, but by providing His son as a Redeemer so you can be delivered from your sins and that story is the truth. Here’s what Jesus says, “They word is truth.”
Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller