The Word of God—It’s Authenticity
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God . . .”—2 Timothy 3:16
There are many ancient books. What is so special about the Bible?
The Bible speaks in a straightforward way that has the stamp of truth. In its account of creation, the Bible passes by obvious opportunities to speculate, and describes with simple precision the order in which life appeared. The fossil record stands today as indisputable proof of the accuracy of the Bible account.
Like the people in a masterful novel, Bible characters come to life as we read. The complexity and good qualities of its bad men come through—and the faults of even its most saintly people are honestly presented.
For the last century, scholars did not believe the Bible account of the destruction of Jericho. But recent discoveries reveal the complete destruction of ancient Jericho at the precise time that Bible chronology records. Even the Bible statement that one small portion of the wall escaped intact is verified by recent archaeological evidence.
Higher critics once ridiculed Luke, the author of the book of Acts, as mistaken when he referred to the Philippian rulers as praetors. According to the “experts,” two “duumuirs” would have ruled that city. But recent archaeological findings revealed that “praetor” was indeed the title they used.
The Accuracy of Luke
The following passage in the Book of Luke, contains more than a dozen references that can be checked for accuracy against secular history:
“In the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitus, and Lysanius was tetrarch of Abilene . . . “—Luke 3:1
Every one of these facts has been verified. This kind of historical accuracy led Sir William Ramsey, the Oxford professor who spent 15 years trying to refute the New Testament, to finally conclude, “Luke is an historian of the first rank. [He] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”
When critical scholars first began questioning the reliability of the Bible text itself, the oldest New Testament manuscripts were copies made almost a thousand years after the original was penned. But in the last hundred years, thousands of older manuscripts have been found. Two complete ancient copies date back to A.D. 325 and 350—less than 250 years after the original writing.
The oldest surviving copy of Homer’s Iliad was made 500 years after the original was penned. Other surviving ancient texts, whose authenticity no one doubts, range from 500 to over 2000 years more recent than their ancient originals. But some recently-discovered copies of New Testament books date back to 125 A.D.—just 25 years after the Bible was completed!
Only ten copies of Julius Caesar have survived from antiquity, seven copies of Plato, 49 copies of Aristotle. Among the major ancient books, the Iliad has by far the most numerous surviving manuscripts, with 643—except for the Bible, which has 24,000!
In addition, scholars have now documented 89,000 quotations of the New Testament by ancient writers. These quotations contain all but eleven verses of the New Testament!
The Old Testament is equally reliable. Higher Critics who questioned the accuracy of the Masoretic Text have had to accept the overwhelming evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls that the Hebrew Bible was flawlessly preserved for two thousand years. The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered since 1948, have verified every book of the old testament except Esther.
Though written by forty writers across 1500 years, the Word of God has one harmonious theme. Its subject matter ranges widely from history to law to poetry to visionary prophecy, to personal letters. But one golden thread unites the entire book: the process by which a single creator-God plans to bring redemption and peace to the world of mankind.
The Dominating Figure
One figure dominates the Bible from beginning to end: Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. We read of Him in the first few pages of the Bible. The human race has been deceived. Paradise is lost. God’s face has turned away from man. But God stirred their hopes with one clear promise: that an offspring of the woman would “bruise the serpent’s head.”
We read of Jesus in the last few pages of the Bible. He is a King, reigning with his bride. He lays hold of the figurative serpent and destroys him so that the nations will no longer be deceived. Paradise is restored. God dwells with man, his face once again can be seen. The nations are healed, and death itself is destroyed. From Genesis to Revelation, Jesus Christ is the glue that binds all the pages of the Bible together.
Jesus, the Word of God
The Word of God is so preoccupied with Jesus, the Son of God, that it shares its name with him. He is the Word of God personified. The man who spoke of himself as the way, the truth, and the life, also said that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” And the writer of Hebrews made it clear that Jesus was the complete expression of God to man:
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke to us by his servants the prophets, has in these latter times spoken to us by His son.”— Hebrews 1:1,2
Jesus is the Son of God, because he fulfilled hundreds of prophecies of the Bible. The Bible is the Word of God, because Jesus was raised from the dead and proved the Bible true. Let’s look at what the Word of God said about the Messiah:
He would trace his genealogy to the tribe of Judah, and present himself to Israel as the Prince of Peace. (Genesis 49:10)
As Messiah, he would purge the temple—which implies that he appeared before the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. (Malachi 3:1)
He would present himself to Israel 483 years after the command to restore and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and would die 3-1/2 years later. These chronological prophecies were fulfilled precisely on time. (Daniel 9:24)
- He would be the Promised Seed of Abraham who would bless all the families of the Earth. (Genesis 12:1-3)
- He would be the great Prophet of which Moses wrote. (Deuteronomy 18:15)
- He would be the great King who, in the new world, would reign on David’s throne. (Psalm2)
- He would be pierced. (Zechariah 12:10)
- He would be crucified. (Psalm 22:14, 17)
By being hung up on a tree, as despised as a dead snake, he would become the healing agent for the entire world. (Numbers 21:8,9)
The reliable history of the Word of God identifies Jesus of Nazareth as this promised Messiah. He traced his human life back to David, and yet was David’s Lord. In fulfillment of scripture he was born in Bethlehem, fled to Egypt, and settled in Nazareth. Like Moses, he was led into the wilderness, and fasted 40 days before beginning his work.
When asked by John the Baptist’s followers if he was truly the Messiah, he asked them to go tell John of the work he had done: heal the sick, feed the hungry, comfort the brokenhearted, give sight to the blind, preach the gospel to the poor, and raise the dead—all of them works that the Word of God had predicted of the Messiah.
He strikingly fulfilled Bible references to the manna or bread from heaven, the sacrificial lamb, the veil of the temple, the high priest, the blood of atonement, the passover lamb.
He was born at the time of the day of atonement, died at the time of the passover, and was resurrected at the time of the offering of the first-fruits—itself a picture of resurrection.
Yes, Jesus was the Word of God personified. As he stated repeatedly, he came to do the Father’s will, as it was written in the “scroll of the book.” By healing all who came to him, he demonstrated his title as Lord of the Sabbath Day—the great future Day of the Lord that all Jews hoped for.
Jesus, the World’s Savior
He is the Ransom, the savior of the world.
Just as the sin of one man became the cause of hereditary death for all—so the righteousness of one man became the cause of a hereditary blessing—the free gift that in due time will come to all men, justification to life.
Even while dying on the cross, Jesus disregarded his own pain, and focussed his mind on fulfilling the will of God, as expressed in the Bible. He meditated on prophecies about his death, and the glory that would follow it.
He recited aloud the first and last verses of the well-known 22nd Psalm. True to Jesus’ experience, the Psalm described the feelings of the crucified redeemer: his bones were out of joint, the proud and rebellious mocked him, the soldiers drew lots for his clothes. They pierced his hands and feet. Even his one mention of himself while on the cross was uttered, according to John, so that bystanders would recognize he was thirsty and fulfill the last remaining prophecy about his death: that in his thirst, he was given vinegar to drink.
As he breathed his last, he prayed yet again. “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” Immediately, an earthquake shook the land, and the four-inch thick veil of the temple was torn in two.
The human Word of God had died, after fulfilling every detail of the written Word of God concerning him—every detail, except one that God alone could now bring to pass: the resurrection.
The Resurrection of Christ
The resurrection of Christ from the dead is held up as the central fact of the Bible. It is not enough to believe that Jesus was a great teacher. He taught that he was the son of God. He taught that he would be raised from the dead.
Five hundred eye witnesses saw him, not in a momentary vision, but repeatedly and in different circumstances, over a period of five weeks. They had time to cross-examine themselves, question what their senses were telling them. There were skeptical voices, and challenges to their reports. They had opportunities to touch, eat with, and converse with the resurrected Jesus. So convinced were these eye-witnesses of the reality of the resurrection, that their transformed lives transformed the ancient world. And though they often faced a martyr’s death, the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection insisted to the end that Jesus of Nazareth, the Word of God, lives again. The only evidence for entire ancient races is often a few shards of pottery, a few fragments of bone. The identity of entire ancient dynasties is often found in a hieroglyph or a third-hand scrap of history.
By comparison, the evidence that Jesus lived, died on a cross, and was raised from the dead, is compelling, rational, and complete. Professor Thomas Arnold, professor and author ofHistory of Rome, stated:
“I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence than that . . . Christ died, and rose again from the dead.”
Evidence to satisfy the human mind and hope to sustain the human heart: these are the treasures of—The Word of God.