The Historical Witness Of The Bible
Most people who attack belief in God consider Bible as a major enemy even though most of them do not acknowledge it. An examination of their writings, however, will betray this. You may examine any substantial rationalistic or atheistic periodical and discover that a good number of articles attack some aspect or other of Bible and the Christian faith. Interestingly, this same book provides the best historical refutation of atheism.
A central theme of Bible is that God moves in history. He controls it, and He directs it according to a certain plan. Glimpses of His plan and time-table are given in prophecies — predictions that can be analyzed using the well-known mathematics of probability.
WHAT IS PROPHECY
Prophecy is a prediction about future. Since we live in a world dominated by predictions (climate forecast, economic forecasts, population predictions, etc.), you may not be impressed very much when I mention predictions in Bible. Further, you might argue, “don’t the astrologers, the quacks, and even soothsayers make predictions. After all, who does not know at least the name of Nostradamus !” True, they all make some sort of predictions but predictions recorded in the Bible belong to an entirely different category as demonstrated below :
Predictions can be of five types and one must understand the difference :
2–Cleverly Vague Predictions
3–Prediction Based Upon Common Sense And Intuition
4–Predictions Based Upon Laws Of Nature
5–Predictions Based Upon Accurate Knowledge Of Future
Random predictions can be made by anyone, and their fulfillment will follow the laws governing randomness. They can be analyzed easily. Very few of these predictions come true and nobody takes them seriously.
Cleverly vague predictions are usually made by road-side astrologers and quacks. They know enough of human nature to understand common problems and miseries. They then put their predictions/statements in such vaguely phrased but cleverly designed statements that the listener is captivated by them. The astrological columns in newspapers and magazines are full of these — forecasts that say that you will have a “good” day in spite of difficulties, that you will “profit” in business in spite of struggles, and that your friends will appreciate you even though a few will criticize. These statements are designed so cunningly that they apply to all situations — whether you had a good day or a bad one ! No intelligent person takes them seriously.
Predictions based upon common sense and intuition are widespread. Parents ask the children not to play in sun or in rain. When a toddler wobbles, parents instinctively grab him lest he fall. Teachers repeatedly exhort the weaker students to work harder. Businessmen buy and stock things when they expect costs to rise. All these predictions and predictive behavior depends upon common sense observations and intuition. There is nothing super-human about them.
Predictions based upon the laws of nature help scientists to forecast many events. If only few laws are involved, the prediction is easy and accurate. If many laws are involved, their mutual interaction gives rise to many possibilities and prediction becomes difficult. Weather forecast is a scientific prediction, but since thousands upon thousands of factors affect the climate, science and mathematics cannot handle them easily at this time. In future when such tools are available, weather forecast will become more accurate. But none will consider that a supernatural feat because those predictions depend upon laws of science.
Predictions based upon accurate, supernatural, knowledge of future is a different category altogether. This kind of prediction does not depend upon common sense, intuition, or laws of science. It does not depend upon cleverly contrived vague statements. Rather, this category contains accurate predictions about future events that come only from a definite knowledge of future. Biblical prophecies come in this category, and any inquirer can verify it to himself.
Many people have claimed to predict future accurately, but a careful analysis of their predictions will show that there is nothing special with them. They combine their careful observations and insights with a shrewd use of language — their predictions are so general that it will fit into any situation. Further, they are so vague that you can stretch them to mean anything.
Look into any prediction (whether it is done by Nostradamus or the next door astrologer), and you will find statements like :
“In a land of rivers in east,
Shall rise a mighty lady.
All shall know her feats,
Only to be deposed by enemies”.
The prediction is so vague that it can be applied to any country in east that has rivers, or any country that has rivers in east. A lady rising to any position in business, politics, education, or government can be called a mighty lady. If she is mighty, others will surely know her by her achievements — whatsoever they might be. All powerful and well-known people will have some enemies, and if anyone succeeds even a little to oppose her, then the last line is also fulfilled. The prophecy is so general that it will fit any well-known lady in any country with rivers. Further, the statements are so vague that they can be stretched to mean anything. Further, since women constitute fifty per cent of the population, and since many of them rise to positions of prominence, it is easy to find a woman to fit almost all these predictions. There is nothing special in it.
Biblical prophecies are not like this. They are made up of specific statements, so that they will fit only definite situations. Further, they are so clear cut that one cannot stretch them to mean many things. This kind of definite predictions can be made only by having a definite knowledge of future.
If any of these persons tries to make definite predictions, you will find them making a lot of serious mistakes. For example, pick up any astrological magazines published in our country. Most of them predicted a great future for Mrs. Indira Gandhi the same month in which she was assassinated. The same magazines predicted bright future for Mr. Rajiv Gandhi in the month in which he was assassinated.
A prophecy is a prophecy only if everything comes true as predicted. If the prediction turns out to be false even in a single claim, then it comes from fallible minds and not from God. This is the test prescribed by Bible itself. And we notice that Bible turns out to be fully reliable when tested against this standard.
SOME BIBLICAL PROPHECIES
A few examples will be presented out of the thousands of specific prophecies found in the Bible. Fuller details can be obtained from any book on prophecy or from Evidence That Demands A Verdict written by Josh McDowell (Here’s Life Publishers, California, 1979, Revised Edition. This is a resource book, and we pick up these examples from it).
Many prophecies are recorded about Palestine, of which two are found in Leviticus 26:31-33 and Ezekiel 36:33-35. The first of these was made around 1500 BC, and the second one was made around 600 BC. Together, they contain at least seven predictions :
2-Desolation will come over the sanctuaries
3-Desolation will come over the land
4-Palestine will be inhabited by enemies
5-People of Israel will disperse
6-Jews will be persecuted
7-Palestine will become reinhabited by Jews, cities will revive and the land will be farmed.
All of these prophecies were fulfilled in the first century and after that, and the interested reader can investigate it using information available in secular history. Based on probability mathematics even the most conservative estimate gives only one chance in twenty-thousand, which is negligible. Yet it came to pass exactly as it was predicted.
Of the numerous prophecies recorded about Babylon, we will refer only to three found in Isaiah 13:19-22, 14:23, and Jeremiah 51:26,43. The Isaiah prophecy came before 700 BC, and the Jeremiah prophecy came around 600 Bc. Together they predict the following eight events :
1-Babylon will become like Sodom and Gomorrah
2-It shall never be inhabited again
3-Arabs will not place their tents there
4-Sheepfolds will not be there
5-Desert creatures will infest the ruins
6-Stones will not be removed for other construction projects
7-The ancient city will not be frequently visited
8-It shall be covered with swamps of water
Babylon was a large and prosperous place, very strong financially and in military security. Yet all these predictions were fulfilled, without a single exception, as history and archaeology inform us. Conservative estimate puts the probability of fulfillment as less than one in 5,000,000,000 ! Yet it was fulfilled exactly as prophesied, indicating that Bible is no ordinary book.
Similar prophecies can be cited about Tyre, Samaria, Gaza and Ashkelon, Jericho, Jerusalem, Moab, Ammon, Edom, and many other cities and nations. We will not go into details because of space limitation. However, we have already pointed the path for investigation to the person interested further enquiry.
Bible claims to be a witness to the way God has moved in history. As we have pointed out earlier, the tools of investigation available to mankind do not allow anyone to test God in a laboratory, but other methods of investigation are surely available and you are encouraged to pursue it. Truth is not afraid of investigation, and you are encouraged to verify these things to yourself.
Here is a suggestion that you are invited to investigate : if Bible is what it claims to be, then the history recorded in it should be accurate and without mistakes. This historical content is quite substantial — covering over 4000 years of history that took place in scores of countries. Plenty of archaeological and historical material is available to investigate it. See what the result is.
Before you do that let me tell you what you are going to discover ! You will notice that unlike any other book of antiquity, the history recorded in the Bible has never been refuted by facts of historical research. Further, wherever historical investigations could unearth artifacts and documents related to biblical history, they have only confirmed biblical statements. This is unique, and it points to the hand of God behind this book — a compelling testimony to the existence of God.
Investigation is the best method to find truth, and truth is not afraid of searching questions. The historical witness of Bible is a compelling evidence to believe in God. You are invited to search it and come to your own conclusion.
Other Lessons in Does God Exist
- Does God Exist, Free Course, Lesson 1
- Does God Exist, Free Course, Lesson 2
- Does God Exist, Free Course, Lesson 3
- Does God Exist, Free Course, Lesson 4
- Does God Exist, Free Course, Lesson 5
- Does God Exist, Free Course, Lesson 6
- Does God Exist, Free Course, Lesson 8
- Does God Exist, Free Course, Lesson 9
- Does God Exist Free Course -- Appendix
- Does God Exist, Free Course, Final Exam