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How Believable Is the “Old Testament”?
In upcoming articles, we’ll address criticisms made by modern critics against the Bible. Some claim that the Bible goes against scientific facts and contains inconsistencies. We’ll examine these claims later. However, we’ll first look at the common accusation that the Bible is nothing more than a collection of fictional stories and myths. Is there any real basis for this criticism? First, we’ll focus on the Old Testament, also known as the Hebrew Scriptures.
The trustworthiness of the Hebrew Old Testament is a topic that scholars and critics have debated for centuries. Some argue that the historical events described in the Old Testament are accurate and reliable, while others question their authenticity and accuracy.
One important factor in determining the reliability of the Old Testament is the process of copying manuscripts over time. While some discrepancies have been found between older and newer copies of the Hebrew Bible, overall, the accuracy and consistency of the text have been maintained through careful copying and preservation.
In addition, many scholars point to archaeological evidence and other historical sources as supporting the accuracy of the Old Testament accounts. However, others argue that the stories and events described in the Old Testament are largely mythical or allegorical rather than literal recounting of historical events.
Imagine an old city being attacked. The enemy forces have crossed the Jordan River and are now camped outside the city walls. However, the way they conduct the battle is strange. For six days, they silently march around the city, accompanied only by priests blowing horns. On the seventh day, they march around the city seven times, and then the priests blow their horns loudly. The army suddenly cries out, and the city walls collapse, leaving the city vulnerable to attack. This account is found in Joshua 6:1-21.
The book of Joshua, the sixth book of the Hebrew Scriptures, tells the story of the fall of Jericho, which happened around 3,500 years ago. However, many higher critics and archaeologists doubt the accuracy of the story. Higher critics use the historical-critical method to study the Bible and question the authorship, source material, and time of composition of each book. They believe that the book of Joshua, along with the previous five books of the Bible, is a collection of legends written many centuries after the events they describe. Archaeologists also suggest that Jericho may not have even existed when the Israelites arrived in Canaan.
The charges made by modern scholars against the historicity of the Bible are significant. However, as you read through the Bible, you will find that its teachings are rooted in real history. The Bible describes how God interacts with actual people, families, and nations, and it provides guidance to a specific historical community. Scholars who question the historical accuracy of the Bible also cast doubt on the credibility of its message. If the Bible is truly the Word of God, then its historical accounts must be accurate and not just myths or legends. So, do these critics have valid reasons for doubting the historical truthfulness of the Bible?
Higher Criticism—How Reliable?
The 18th and 19th centuries saw the rise of higher criticism, which studied the Bible’s authorship, sources, and composition. In the latter half of the 19th century, a German Bible critic named Julius Wellhausen popularized the theory that the first six books of the Bible, including Joshua, were written in the fifth century B.C.E., approximately a thousand years after the events they describe. However, Wellhausen did acknowledge that some material in these books had been written earlier. The 11th edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, published in 1911, explained this theory, stating that Genesis was a post-exilic work composed of a priestly source (P) and earlier non-priestly sources with different language, style, and religious beliefs.
Wellhausen and his followers believed that the historical accounts in the early part of the Hebrew Scriptures were not meant to be taken literally but were instead popular traditions from the past. According to this theory, the earlier accounts were simply a reflection of later events in Israel’s history. For instance, the conflict between Jacob and Esau was not considered to be a real event but rather a representation of the hostility between the nations of Israel and Edom in later times.
In line with this view, these critics believed that Moses was not given a commandment to construct the ark of the covenant and that the tabernacle, which served as the center of Israelite worship in the wilderness, was not a real structure. Additionally, they maintained that the Aaronic priesthood only gained full authority a few years before the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, which they believed happened in the early sixth century B.C.E.
What evidence did the higher critics have to support their theories? They claim that they can divide the text of the early books of the Bible into several different documents. They use a fundamental principle that assumes any verse in the Bible using the Hebrew word for God (’Elo·himʹ) on its own was written by one writer, while any verse referring to God by his name, Jehovah, must have been written by another writer. This assumption suggests that one writer could not have used both terms.
Furthermore, if an event is recorded more than once in a book, it is considered evidence of multiple writers, even though this is common in ancient Semitic literature. Similarly, any change in writing style is taken as a sign of a change in authorship. However, even modern writers often use different styles at different stages in their careers or when addressing different subjects. For instance, the English poet John Milton wrote his epic poem “Paradise Lost” in a different style from his poem “L’Allegro,” and his political tracts were written in yet another style.
Is there any concrete evidence to support these theories? No, there isn’t. A commentator has observed that criticism, even when done to the best of its abilities, is speculative and uncertain. It’s an intellectual exercise that is prone to doubts and guesses, which are inevitable in such exercises. Biblical higher criticism, in particular, is highly speculative and uncertain.
Gleason L. Archer, Jr. points out another flaw in the reasoning of higher criticism. He notes that the problem lies in the fact that “the Wellhausen school” began with the assumption that Israel’s religion was merely a product of human origin, like any other. They didn’t bother to demonstrate this assumption, but rather, they started with it and reasoned from there. In other words, they began with the presupposition that the Bible was only a human creation, and then they worked to support their argument.
The Jewish Encyclopedia identified two additional weaknesses in the Wellhausian theory back in 1909. First, Wellhausen’s arguments rested on two assumptions: (1) that ritual becomes more complex as religion develops, and (2) that older sources necessarily address earlier stages of ritual development. However, the former assumption contradicts the evidence of primitive cultures, and the latter finds no support in the evidence of ritual codes like those found in India.
Can higher criticism be tested to determine the accuracy of its theories? The Jewish Encyclopedia suggests that Wellhausen’s views are primarily based on literal analysis and need to be examined from the standpoint of institutional archaeology. Over time, did archaeological discoveries support Wellhausen’s theories? The New Encyclopædia Britannica states that archaeological criticism has tended to verify the historical accuracy of even the earliest periods of Bible history and discount the theory that the historical records in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) were written much later.
Despite its weaknesses, why is higher criticism so popular among intellectuals today? It’s because it tells them what they want to hear. As one 19th-century scholar explained, the book by Wellhausen was particularly welcomed because it solved the problem of the history of the Old Testament in a manner that aligned with the principle of human evolution. This aligned with his evolutionist beliefs. In fact, the two theories serve a similar purpose. Just as evolution eliminates the need to believe in a Creator, Wellhausen’s higher criticism implies that one does not have to believe that the Bible was divinely inspired.
In the rationalistic 20th century, intellectuals find it more plausible to assume that the Bible is a human creation rather than the word of God. They would rather believe that prophecies were written after their fulfillment than accept them as genuine. They tend to dismiss the Bible accounts of miracles as myths, legends, or folk tales instead of considering that they might be true. However, such a viewpoint is biased and provides no compelling reason to reject the Bible as true. Higher criticism is seriously flawed, and its attempts to discredit the Bible have failed to prove that it is not the Word of God.
Does Archaeology Support the Bible?
Archaeology is a more reliable field of study compared to higher criticism. Archaeologists have used excavations of past civilizations to enhance our understanding of ancient times. Therefore, it’s not unusual that the archaeological record consistently matches the accounts we read in the Bible. In some cases, archaeology has even provided evidence that supports the Bible against its detractors.
An example of archaeology confirming the Bible is found in the book of Daniel. According to the text, the last ruler of Babylon before its fall to the Persians was named Belshazzar. Some critics claimed that Belshazzar never existed since there was no mention of him outside of the Bible. However, during the 19th century, several small cylinders inscribed in cuneiform were found in the ruins of southern Iraq. Among the inscriptions was a prayer for the health of the eldest son of Nabonidus, the king of Babylon. The name of the son was revealed to be Belshazzar, providing evidence that he did indeed exist.
While Belshazzar was referred to as the son of the king in most documents, a cuneiform document known as the “Verse Account of Nabonidus” sheds light on his true position. The document states that Nabonidus entrusted the kingship to Belshazzar and ordered troops under his command. This explains why Belshazzar offered to make Daniel the third ruler in the kingdom during the final banquet in Babylon. Interestingly, a statue found in northern Syria in the 1970s revealed that rulers could be called king despite holding a lesser title. The statue was inscribed in both Assyrian and Aramaic, with the Assyrian inscription calling the man governor of Gozan and the Aramaic inscription calling him king. This suggests that it was not unusual for Belshazzar to be referred to as crown prince in Babylonian inscriptions and king in Aramaic writing.
The Tower of Babel is an impressive structure mentioned in the Bible (Gen. 11:1-9). Interestingly, archaeologists have found evidence of several ziggurats or pyramid-like temple-towers around the ruins of ancient Babylon. One such temple, the Etemenanki, was located within Babylon’s walls and boasted a height that was said to rival the heavens. However, one fragment tells of the gods being offended by the building of such a temple, and in response, they caused the tower to fall and made the people speak in different languages.
The water tunnels at the Spring of Gihon were discovered in the Jerusalem area in 1867 by Charles Warren. It was later cleared in 1909-11 and revealed a massive tunnel chiseled through solid rock, leading from Gihon to the Pool of Siloam in the Tyropoeon Valley. An inscription found in the tunnel’s narrow wall reads in early Hebrew script that the quarrymen hewed the rock, and the water flowed from the spring toward the reservoir for 1,200 cubits. This feat of engineering is remarkable for its time (2 Ki. 20:20; 2 Chron. 32:30).
Shishak, the King of Egypt, invaded Judah in 993 B.C.E. after King Rehoboam left the law of Jehovah. Ancient records reveal that Shishak brought 156 manacled Palestinian prisoners to the Egyptian god Amon. Each prisoner represented a city or village, the name of which is shown in hieroglyphics. The Field of Abram was also mentioned in the document, which is the earliest mention of Abraham in Egyptian records. (1 Ki. 14:25-28; 2 Chron. 12:1-12)
The Moabite Stone is an ancient inscription discovered in 1868 by the German missionary F.A. Klein at Dhiban (Dibon). It gives King Mesha’s version of his revolt against Israel and mentions the Field of Abram, Ataroth, Nebo, the Arnon, Aroer, Medeba, Dibon, Bamoth-baal, Beth-baal-meon, Jahaz, Kiriathaim, Bezer, Horonaim, Beth-diblathaim, and Kerioth. This stone supports the historicity of these places and also shows that the divine name Jehovah was commonly used among Jews at the time (Num. 32:34, 38; Josh. 13:9, 17-19; 15:35; 19:18-20, 28; 21:22; Isa. 15:5; Jer. 48:22, 24).
The Nabonidus Chronicle is a clay document that throws light on the history of ancient Babylon. King Nabonidus of Babylon, the father of his coregent Belshazzar, outlived his son, who was killed on the night that troops of Cyrus the Persian took Babylon on October 5, 539 B.C.E. The Nabonidus Chronicle records the fall of Babylon and confirms the day it happened to be October 11, 539 B.C.E. (Julian calendar) or October 5, 539 B.C.E. (Gregorian calendar) (Dan. 5:30-31).
The Lachish Letters are a collection of 21 ostraca discovered in 1935 in the ruins of the fortress city of Lachish. They were apparently letters from remaining Judean troops to Yaosh, a military commander at Lachish, during the period of 609-607 B.C.E. One of these letters mentions Lachish, a city in southern Judah, which was under siege by the Babylonians at the time. The letter describes the dire situation of the city and requests urgent military reinforcements.
Archaeologists have also found evidence of destruction and burning at Lachish, which is consistent with the Babylonian conquest of the city. The Lachish letters provide valuable insight into the daily life and military operations during the final years of the Kingdom of Judah.
Overall, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient manuscripts has greatly enhanced our understanding of the history, culture, and religious beliefs of the people who lived in the ancient Near East.
Other Supporting Evidence
Numerous discoveries in archaeology have shown that the Bible is historically accurate. The Bible tells us that after King Solomon became the ruler of Israel, succeeding his father David, the country experienced a time of great prosperity. The Bible states, “Judah and Israel were many, like the grains of sand that are by the sea for multitude, eating and drinking and rejoicing.” (1 Kings 4:20) This statement is supported by archaeological findings, which reveal that there was a significant increase in the population of Judah during and after the 10th century B.C. This was due to the peace and prosperity brought about by David, which made it possible to construct many new towns.
As time passed, Israel and Judah separated into two distinct nations, and Israel went on to conquer the land of Moab. However, Moab, led by King Mesha, rebelled against Israel. In response, Israel joined forces with Judah and the neighboring kingdom of Edom to wage war against Moab. This event is recorded in the Bible at 2 Kings 3:4-27. Interestingly, in 1868, a carved stone slab called a stela was unearthed in Jordan. The stela was inscribed in the Moabite language and contained an account of the conflict written by King Mesha himself.
In the mid-8th century B.C.E., God permitted the Assyrians to destroy the rebellious northern kingdom of Israel. (2 Kings 17:6-18) Archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon was skeptical about the Biblical account of this event, suspecting that it might be exaggerated. However, the archaeological evidence suggests otherwise. Kenyon notes that the destruction of Israelite towns such as Samaria, Hazor, and Megiddo, as well as their complete obliteration, is a factual confirmation of the Biblical record. The archaeological evidence is so vivid that it even surpasses the account given in the Bible.
The Bible also recounts that the Babylonians, under King Nebuchadnezzar, attacked and defeated Jerusalem during the reign of King Jehoiachin. The Babylonian Chronicle, an ancient clay tablet with cuneiform writing, confirms this event. It states that Babylon laid siege to the city of Judah and conquered it on the second day of the month of Addaru. King Jehoiachin was then taken to Babylon as a prisoner. However, according to the Bible, he was later released from prison and given a food allowance. This is supported by documents found in Babylon that record the rations given to “Yaukîn, king of Judah.”
Professor David Noel Freedman has observed that, in most cases, archaeological findings have supported the historical accuracy of the Bible. The timeline of events described in the Bible from the time of the patriarchs to the New Testament era corresponds with the archaeological evidence. However, he also notes that the biblical tradition is not history in the scientific or critical sense, but it is still rooted in history and has been faithfully passed down. Freedman believes that future archaeological discoveries will continue to support this moderate position.
Professor David Noel Freedman also commented on the attempts of higher critics to discredit the Bible, stating that their proposed reconstructions of biblical history have not stood up to the archaeological evidence. For example, Wellhausen’s belief that the patriarchal age was a product of the divided monarchy, and the rejection of the historicity of Moses and the exodus by Noth and his followers, have not been supported by archaeological discoveries as well as the biblical account.
The Fall of Jericho
Although archaeology generally supports the Bible’s historical accuracy, there are instances where the two do not agree. One such instance is the conquest of Jericho as described in the Bible. The book of Joshua reports that the city was the first to be conquered by the Israelites as they entered the land of Canaan. According to the Bible’s timeline, this occurred in the first half of the 15th century B.C.E. The city was burned down and remained uninhabited for many years. However, some archaeological evidence suggests that the city was destroyed in the late 16th century B.C.E., which is earlier than the Bible’s account.
Professor John Garstang excavated the site believed to be Jericho before the second world war. He found that the city was very old and had been destroyed and rebuilt many times. During one of these destructions, the walls fell as if by earthquake and the city was burned down completely. Garstang believed that this destruction took place around 1400 B.C.E., which is close to the date indicated in the Bible for the destruction of Jericho by Joshua.
After World War II, archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon excavated at Jericho and disagreed with the findings of John Garstang. Kenyon concluded that the walls Garstang identified as the ones that had collapsed and burned dated back hundreds of years earlier than he had estimated. She discovered that there was no city at Jericho during the 15th century B.C.E., the time of Joshua’s invasion, but did identify a major destruction of Jericho in the 16th century B.C.E. Kenyon also suggested that there might have been another destruction at the site around 1325 B.C.E. and indicated that if the invasion under Joshua was linked to the destruction of Jericho, this would be the date that archaeology suggests.
Does this imply that the Bible is incorrect? Not necessarily. It is important to bear in mind that while archaeology provides us with a glimpse of the past, it is not always a perfect one. At times, it can be quite ambiguous at first until more evidence comes along. As one expert put it, “Archaeological evidence is, regrettably, incomplete and hence restricted.” This is particularly true of the early periods of Israelite history, where the archaeological evidence is not always conclusive. This is even more evident at Jericho, where the site has been significantly worn away over time.
In 1981, Professor John J. Bimson re-examined the destruction of Jericho and focused on the fiery destruction that occurred in the middle of the 16th century B.C.E., which Kathleen Kenyon had previously identified. Bimson argued that this destruction matched the Bible’s account of Joshua’s destruction of the city and that the overall archaeological evidence of Canaan also supported the Bible’s description of the land at the time of the Israelite invasion. Therefore, Bimson proposed that the current archaeological dating is incorrect and that the destruction actually occurred during Joshua’s lifetime, in the middle of the 15th century B.C.E.
In addition, in the 1990s and early 2000s, Bryant G. Wood (Ph.D.), a biblical archaeologist known for his work on the fall of Jericho, proposed that the destruction of Jericho described in the Bible was a historical event and has argued that the archaeological evidence supports the biblical account. In particular, he has argued that the presence of a collapsed city wall at Jericho is evidence of the city’s destruction by the Israelites during the time of Joshua. He has also proposed that the location of Rahab’s house, which is said to have been built against the city wall, can be identified at the site. Wood has also criticized the views of some scholars who argue that the city was destroyed much earlier than the Bible suggests. He argues that the dating methods these scholars use are unreliable and that the evidence supports the biblical account. Wood has written several articles on the subject, including “The Walls of Jericho” (1999) and “A Didactic Rejoinder” (2000), both of which were published in Biblical Archaeology Review.
On the trustworthiness of the Old Testament, Professor and author Walter C. Kaiser Jr. writes,
What is a modern reader of the Old Testament to do with a book that teaches animal sacrifice, male circumcision, strange dietary codes, and festivals based on an agricultural cycle? Its contents appear to be so ancient and so removed from our day that some dismiss it as “primitive religion.”
Contrary to such a premature judgment, seven affirmations show that the OT is at once relevant and altogether trustworthy.
- In every part of the Old Testament the writers claim the divine origin of their writings. One such inspired utterance comes from the core of the OT: the Ten Commandments. “Stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God” (Ex 31:18; Dt 5:22). More regularly, however, “the Spirit of the Lord spoke through [His prophets], His word was on [their] tongue[s]” (2 Sm 23:2). Indeed, Nathan the prophet knew that he had spoken his own words, which were not the same as the words from divine revelation. When he spoke God’s message, he prefaced it, as did the OT prophets repeatedly, with “This is what the Lord says” (2 Sm 7:5). Even in the wisdom books of the OT, Agur introduced himself as deficient and ignorant. He complained, “I am the least intelligent of men, and I lack man’s ability to understand. I have not gained wisdom, and I have no knowledge of the Holy One” (Pr 30:2–3). How, then, would he know how or what to write about God? He asked the same questions in verse 4. But by verses 5–6 he had the answer: “Every word of God is pure … Don’t add to His words, or He will rebuke you, and you will be proved a liar.” The first part of verse 5 is a quote from Psalm 18:30, while verse 6 is a quote from Deuteronomy 4:2.
- The 39 books of the Old Testament were immediately received as authoritative and canonical (belonging to Scripture). One of the most popular misconceptions is that a group of scholars held a rabbinical council in Jamnia in A.D. 90 to decide which books they would regard as authoritative for composing the OT. But this is incorrect: for (1) the council’s decisions had no binding authority; (2) the discussions at that council were merely about the correct interpretations of the Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs; and (3) the list of books they regarded as canonical were already treated as the same 39 books in our current OT. Instead, the books of the OT were progressively recognized by those closest to the writers of the OT as being indeed revelation from God. Daniel, writing about 75 years after the prophet Jeremiah, regarded his prophecy about the 70-year captivity (Jr 25:11–12) as “the word of the Lord” (Dn 9:2). In fact, he placed the book of Jeremiah among “the books,” that is, in the group of books called the Scriptures.
- The text of the Old Testament books was uniquely preserved when compared with other ancient writings. Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, we were limited to the Greek text of the Septuagint, the Samaritan Pentateuch, and the Hebrew text of the Nash Papyrus dating from around A.D. 1000 for checking on the accuracy of the preservation of the OT text. That has all changed. In the 800 exemplars of OT biblical texts in the Dead Sea Scrolls, we now possess texts from 250 B.C. to A.D. 50. Moreover, the earliest example of an OT text is Numbers 6:24–26 from the mid-seventh century B.C. in the Ketef Hinnom Plaques. So carefully preserved are these texts that when scholars studied the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, only three minor spelling changes (comparable to the difference between spelling “Saviour” and “Savior”) were found in a text that covers about 100 pages in many English translations. That is an outstanding record of preserving the text of the Bible, which represents over a thousand years of copying the text.
- The historical chronology found in the histories of the kings of Israel and Judah is completely verified and trustworthy. If chronology is the backbone of history, then it was necessary for someone to untangle the dates and systems of correlation between the kings of northern Israel and Judah if any confidence, much less sense, was to come out of these scores of numbers in the books of Kings and Chronicles. But that is what Edwin Thiele did as his doctoral dissertation for the University of Chicago. He first established as an absolute date (on our Julian calendar) June 15, 763 B.C., from the astronomical citations on the Assyrian Eponym, or Man of the Year, lists. These annual lists also made allusions to several of the Hebrew kings, thereby providing excellent synchronisms. From there he was able to show how some 500 numbers (all except one, which was later solved) were easily reconciled and totally trustworthy in every detail.
- Archaeology has helped to show that the culture, persons, and events of the Old Testament are trustworthy. Archaeology has done much to further the cause of showing the reliability of the OT. Where there were alleged missing persons mentioned in the OT, but not known from external sources, such as King Sargon in Isaiah 20:1, or Governor Sanballat of Samaria (Neh 2:10), or kings David, Ahab, Jehu, and Hezekiah, Menahem, and even a prophet, Balaam, in each case spectacular finds have vindicated the claims of the OT. In like manner, where the OT claimed there were peoples such as the Hittites or the Horites, later finds vindicated the presence of these as well as other allegedly missing peoples. A similar list of allegedly missing places could be gathered, such as the land of Ophir or the sites along the Transjordanian route of the wilderness wanderings. But once again archaeology has given great help. This is not to say that all of those people and places alleged to have been created by the OT have been fully identified. For example, we still cannot find external validation for Darius the Mede (Dn 5:31). But the success of archaeology in the twentieth century alone is startling in its extent and in the depth of its influence.
- The present literary form of the books comes to us from ancient times and in the final shape in which we presently possess them. No section of the OT has received more critical dissecting than the first five books of Moses, the Pentateuch. It was alleged that the books did not come by divine inspiration to Moses around 1400 B.C. but rather came from the hands of at least four main compilers (called J, E, D, and P) ranging from the eighth century B.C., with the final hand and the final re-editing coming in 400 B.C.! At the heart of this theory was the book of Deuteronomy, which critical scholars claimed was first written in 621 B.C., when King Josiah found the Book of the Law. But Deuteronomy exhibits the literary format that is unique to the middle of the second millennium B.C. Hittite suzerainty treaties (c. 1200–1400 B.C.), the same six sections of those treaties being found in the book of Deuteronomy. Had Deuteronomy been compiled in the first millennium (621 B.C.), as the critics claim, it would resemble instead the Assyrian treaties that had by that time deleted two of the six sections. Thus, according to the literary forms and criteria of the critics themselves, the key book in the disputed first five books must be placed in the days when Moses lived (i.e., around 1400 B.C.).
- The writers of the Old Testament were aware that they were writing not only for their generation but also for those who would come later. The most convenient way to demonstrate this is to go to 1 Peter 1:12, where Peter stated, “It was revealed to [the prophets of the OT] that they were not serving themselves but you [people of Peter’s generation and us].”—Walter C. Kaiser Jr., “Is the Old Testament Trustworthy?,” in The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith, ed. Ted Cabal et al. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 345–347.
THE TRUSTWORTHINESS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
Many prominent Old Testament scholars who have written extensively on the reliability and trustworthiness of the Old Testament. He argues that the Old Testament can be trusted for several reasons:
The Old Testament is historically accurate: They have pointed out that the Old Testament contains many accurate historical details that have been confirmed by archaeology and other historical records. For example, the existence of important cities, rulers, and events described in the Old Testament has been confirmed by outside sources. This suggests that the Old Testament is not simply a work of fiction but is based on real events and people.
The Old Testament is internally consistent: The Old Testament is a remarkably consistent book, despite being written by many different authors over 1,000 years. This consistency is evidence that the Old Testament is the product of a single divine author who inspired various writers.
The Old Testament is prophetically accurate: Many of the prophecies in the Old Testament have been fulfilled in ways that could not have been predicted by chance. For example, the prophecies about the Babylonian captivity and the coming of the Messiah have been fulfilled in precise detail.
The Old Testament is confirmed by the New Testament: The New Testament writers, including Jesus himself, confirm the authority and reliability of the Old Testament. The New Testament quotes the Old Testament extensively and treats it as authoritative is evidence that the Old Testament can be trusted.
The Bible Is Genuine History
This shows that archaeologists may have differing opinions and viewpoints. As a result, some may disagree with the Bible while others may agree with it. However, many scholars are beginning to recognize the historical accuracy of the Bible, even if not every detail is supported. One such scholar is William Foxwell Albright, who stated that there has been a renewed appreciation for the accuracy of the religious history of Israel found in the Bible. In his view, the Bible can be treated as a genuine document of religious history from start to finish.
The Bible is known for its precise historical details, setting events in specific times and dates, unlike ancient myths and legends. The accuracy of many biblical events is supported by inscriptions from the same period. When there is a discrepancy between the Bible and an inscription, it can often be explained by ancient rulers’ reluctance to record their defeats and a tendency to exaggerate their triumphs.
The ancient inscriptions that have been found often serve as propaganda rather than historical accounts. On the other hand, the Bible writers show a remarkable honesty by revealing both the strengths and weaknesses of their heroes, including Moses, Aaron, and David. They also expose the shortcomings of their entire nation. This honesty makes the Hebrew Scriptures trustworthy and gives credibility to the words of Jesus, who affirmed, “Your word is truth” when he prayed to God. (John 17:17, ASV)
Albright went on to say that despite any archaeological or historical controversies, the content of the Bible is exceptional, surpassing all other religious literature before or after it. Its message is straightforward and universally relevant to people of all nations and generations. Ultimately, it is this profound message that reveals the Bible’s divine inspiration, which will be further explored in other posts on this blog.
I would argue that the Old Testament can be trusted as a reliable and authoritative source of information about God, history, and human nature. The evidence of the Old Testament’s accuracy and consistency and its confirmation by the New Testament is strong evidence for its trustworthiness.
1. Biblical Archaeology website (https://biblearchaeology.org/research/conquest-of-canaan/3625-the-walls-of-jericho), retrieved Sunday, March 11, 2023.
2. Encyclopædia Britannica, 1911, Vol. xi.
3. The Inspiration & Accuracy of the Holy Scriptures, pp. 262, 263; An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, by S. R. Driver, 1898.
4. Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard Elliott Friedman, 1987.
5. Encyclopædia Judaica, 1971.
6. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, by Gleason L. Archer, Jr., 1974.
7. The Inspiration & Accuracy of the Holy Scriptures.
8. Ancient Near Eastern Texts, edited by James B. Pritchard, 1969.
9. Biblical Archaeology Review, May/June 1985.
10. Archaeology of the Bible: Book by Book, by Gaalyah Cornfeld, 1976.
11. The Bible and Recent Archaeology, by Kathleen M. Kenyon, 1978.
12. Archaeology of the Bible: Book by Book, p. 177.
13. The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith, ed. Ted Cabal et al, 2007.
14. The Bible in Modern Scholarship, edited by J. Philip Hyatt, 1956.
15. The Story of Jericho, by John Garstang, 1948.
16. The Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1980, Part 2, pp. 749, 750; Archaeological Discoveries in the Holy Land, 1967.
17. Biblical Archaeology Review, January/February 1988.
18. The Land of the Bible—A Historical Geography, by Yohanan Aharoni, 1979.
19. The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable & Relevant?, 2001.
20. The World of the Old Testament, edited by James I. Packer, Merrill C. Tenney, and William White, Jr., 1982.
21. Redating the Exodus and Conquest, by John J. Bimson, 1981; Biblical Archaeology Review, September/October 1987.
22. History, Archaeology, and Christian Humanism, by William Foxwell Albright, 1964.
23. On the Reliability of the Old Testament (K. A. Kitchen), 2006.