The Bible: is it guilty until proven innocent?
Challenge the doubt default!
Published: 23 January 2018 (GMT+10)
Originally published in a CMI newsletter, April 2017
Skeptics often demand absolute proof that a specific person, place, or event in Scripture is historical. If extrabiblical corroboration cannot be produced, the skeptic proclaims that the Bible is not a reliable historical source and, therefore, is not trustworthy. This rampant skepticism happens for a variety of reasons. Education and the media consistently present the Bible as inaccurate, and of course, from birth the human heart’s default position is rebellion against God’s truth.
It’s understandable that a skeptic takes this approach to Scripture. But a dismayingly-large number of Christians unwittingly go along with this sort of hermeneutic. All our writing staff answer many questions from people claiming that a certain ‘unproved’ detail in Scripture is even threatening their faith in Christ. This is absolutely unnecessary. Consider the following:
- The Bible is unquestionably the most-authenticated book in history
People have always questioned the accuracy of the Bible. Archaeologists have challenged many biblical details, only to later uncover proof that the Bible’s historical record was accurate.1 The late Dr Clifford Wilson wrote:
“I well remember one of the world’s leading archaeologists at Gezer rebuking a younger archaeologist who was ‘rubbishing’ the Bible. He just quietly said, ‘Well, if I were you, I wouldn’t rubbish the Bible.’ When the younger archaeologist asked ‘Why?’, he replied, ‘Well, it just has a habit of proving to be right after all.’ And that’s where I stand.”2
The Bible itself constitutes evidence for the history it depicts
When someone asks, “Is there any evidence that this biblical event actually happened?”, it is absolutely valid to reply, “Yes—the Bible accurately depicts it.” Considering its extraordinary, demonstrated accuracy in historical reporting the default position should be trust. Skepticism over one or two events that lack corroborating evidence is actually the irrational stance.
- There is no physical evidence for most ancient history
Time erases physical evidence for historical events. Statues, inscriptions and manuscripts degrade over the centuries. Cities are ruined, ransacked and buried. It would be impossible to dig up more than a tiny fraction of the artifacts buried under Jerusalem alone. Because so much physical evidence has been lost, it’s unreasonable to demand corroborating evidence for every event the Bible records.
The skeptics are the ones with a track record for being wrong
Most years around Easter and Christmas, some new ‘proof’ is put forward that the Bible is not accurate. Inevitably they are revealed to be poor forgeries, like the lead codices3 or the ‘gospel of Jesus’ wife’.4 And they are usually debunked in a matter of days or weeks as real experts weigh in, but the refutation is never reported in the media with the same sensational fanfare as the ‘discovery’. But skeptics consistently fall for the hype. Could it be that the skepticism, and not Christianity, makes someone overly credulous when it comes to claimed evidence that supports their position?
The Bible is not simply a reliable historical document—it is the inerrant Word of God
The previous points may make it seem like the Bible is only a reliable historical document, but if our argument stops there, we don’t go far enough, because the Bible is much more than that. It is the Word of God and so is true by definition.
As we have pointed out many times, when Jesus taught during His earthly ministry, He cited the Hebrew Scriptures as completely authoritative. If He had wanted to correct ‘mistakes’ or even point out unreliable transmission or errors of that nature, He had ample opportunity to do so. But in every case, ‘The Scriptures say’ was the end of the discussion—God’s Word was and is self-evidently true.
The evidence is on our side
So, the next time that a skeptical friend questions the Bible’s accuracy, challenge their ‘doubt default’ with the case for the overwhelming evidence for the Bible’s complete truthfulness in all that it teaches. For example, you could cite some archaeological evidence like the discovery of the Hittites (who skeptics said never existed, contrary to the Bible). Or from the wealth of scientific evidence that undermines the atheist’s credulity in his own position, like the physical evidence of soft tissue or DNA finds in dinosaur bones. Remember also the evidence of carbon-14, not only in dinosaur bones, but in coal, fossils and even diamonds showing they cannot be billions of years old, as claimed.
Challenge the ‘doubt default’ position
Obviously, we need tools to do this—so we can be informed. This is where CMI stands in the gap researching, writing and making available to you and the church at large the incredible abundance of scientific, historical and biblical evidence. It is your direct financial support that allows our team to produce these resources to challenge the doubters and hopefully change hearts and lives in the process.
References and notes
- See Halley, K., Archaeology supports the Bible, creation.com/archaeology-supports-bible, 28 January 2017. Return to text.
- Archaeologist confirms creation and the Bible: Interview with archaeologist Dr Clifford Wilson … by Dr Carl Wieland, Creation 14(4):46–50, 1992; creation.com/clifford-wilson. Return to text.
- Cosner, L., The lead codices—this year’s ‘Gospel of Judas’?, creation.com/lead-codices, 17 April 2011. Return to text.
- Cosner, L., Did Jesus have a wife?, creation.com/gospel-jesus-wife, 7 July 2016. Return to text.
'Luke': Jesus was born during the governorship of Quirinius in Syria, during the census of 6 AD. 'Matthew': Jesus was born during the kingship of Herod the Great, who died in 4 BCE. This is not a problem for many Christians unless you insist on Biblical inerrancy, why paint yourselves into this corner?
Luke says this was the 'first' census under Quirinius, which indicates that his readers would know of more than one and would need to be able to distinguish them.
Luke elsewhere shows that he is a first-rate historian. And given the number of times people have doubted the Bible, only for Scripture to be proved accurate, it is more than reasonable to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt when it speaks about a historical event that has no current extant evidence available to us today.
Why paint ourselves into a corner with inerrancy? Because you get in a far bigger mess once you throw it out. If the Bible can be wrong about historical details, it can be wrong about moral and spiritual details. Why be so quick to give up inerrancy when no one has been able to prove a Bible error?