Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Most of us believe what's in the newspaper. After all, no critical scholars hold seminars to debunk the New York Times. Though they're slow to attack a venerable newspaper, critics are quick to debunk the Bible. Let's ask the question, just how reliable is it? Today, we'll take a look. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, no one questions secular records of ancient history, but many take potshots at the Bible's history whenever they can.
Why is this? As a matter of fact, Dave, I would say that not only has the Bible taken many potshots as you put it, but in addition to that, it has been dissected, it has been vilified, it has been held up to ridicule. And yet through all these years, the Bible remains. It is a hammer.
It is also an anvil. And even though people have tried to destroy it, they have been unable to do so. The Bible is a very unique book. I've written a book entitled Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible because I want everyone to know that there are good reasons to believe that when we hold the Bible in our hands, we are holding the Word of God. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Here's what you do.
Go to rtwoffer.com, rtwoffer.com, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Of course, I'll be giving you this contact info again at the end of the message. For now, I want you to listen and to regain great confidence that the Bible is the Word of God. Folks, as all of us know, the Bible is a historical book.
It's an historical book. No matter where you pick it up, you read about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Jesus Christ, the journeys of the Apostle Paul, all of that is found in the Scriptures. In fact, it would be true to say that there are actually hundreds of events, thousands of events, that are presented in the Bible as being a sober history. The Bible is intended to be believed. But the question that we have to ask today is, how accurate is this history?
How accurate is it? Well, of course, it depends whom you ask. Time Magazine says that a man by Dr. John Van Setters of the University of North Carolina declared when speaking to the Society of Biblical Literature, Time says he spoke with pope-like confidence. He said that none of the Old Testament was written before 587 BC.
There was no Moses, no crossing of the sea, no revelation on Mount Sinai. Time Magazine goes on to make its own comments. Years of searching for evidence have convinced all but the most conservative that Abraham and the rest of the patriarchs were inventions of biblical authors.
Now let me ask you a question. When you read a statement like that, is there something within your heart that seems to just quiver a little bit? Are you beginning to think that maybe at the end of the day, no matter what Peter promised us in 2 Peter, maybe we have believed fables? Is your faith just slightly shaken that perhaps the patriarchs were inventions of biblical writers?
No Moses, no crossing of the sea, no Sinai, and he speaks with pope-like confidence. That should shake you. Or should it?
Should it? Folks, before we give up the faith, let us at least understand the presuppositions upon which statements like that are repeatedly made and anxiously quoted. First of all, the first presupposition is that none of the Bible can be accepted as authoritative unless it is verified by outside sources.
Since there's no mention of the Exodus in Egyptian literature, we cannot accept the biblical story of the Exodus. If there is no reference to Abraham in extra biblical literature in some monument or some clay tablet, well then we assume that Abraham did not exist. As a matter of fact, until many years ago, there were those who said that David did not exist. He also was a creation of biblical writers. But lo and behold, in recent years, two references to David have been found in archaeological finds and now, oh bless your soul, it is okay, you can believe there was a David.
Aren't you encouraged? So that's the first presupposition. That unless we can find Moses who chiseled his initials into Mount Sinai, the event didn't happen. There's a second presupposition and that is of course that no miracles can be admitted or believed.
That is a more firmly held presupposition. None. It's now kosher to believe in David but after believing in David, you most assuredly do not believe that he spoke under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. You do not believe that God came to him out of heaven and said, David, I am going to make a covenant with you. Nothing like that. Surely there was no avenging angel on the threshing floor of Arona, the Jebusite.
Nothing like that is admitted. In fact, in the same article in Time magazine, someone says this regarding Christ. They believe that Christ did not exist because it says no first century inscription mentions him. Now mind you he is mentioned in first century literature. Josephus in his book The Antiquities of the Jews refers to Christ's resurrection, says that he was put to death and appeared to the disciples later three days afterwards but that would not be admitted because many people say well he couldn't have written that because he was a Jew and no Jew would refer to the resurrection of Christ. And there is no inscription that mentions him. There is no object or building that has survived which has a special link to him and therefore it is believed that Christ did not exist.
Wow. You can now understand that if the skeptics have their Bible, we could call it the grasshopper pocket version of the Bible. Once you've stripped away everything that can't be confirmed by archaeological sources, once you have said that there can be no miracles, once you are absolutely convinced that the Bible must be treated as a purely human book and must be stripped of everything divine, why indeed you have a Bible that is very, very small.
We of course look at things differently, don't we? If you were with us last time you know that I mentioned that the Bible has 1,500 references either directly or indirectly to its divine authorship and you know that this is part of a series of messages. There was an introductory message and then last week's message and today we come to the second reason why I believe the Bible is God's word and that is the historical reason, the historical reason. But you see because of the fact that we believe that the Bible is divinely inspired and we must either accept the whole thing as inspired or reject it all as an awesome unbelievable forgery, we have to make one decision or another as I pointed out last week. We therefore have believed in the scriptures even before archaeology has been able to vindicate any of it. We were convinced that the Bible was the word of God. We're convinced that the exodus happened even if no reference to it is found and by the way, no extra charge, what makes us think that a proud nation like Egypt would have recorded a defeat for archaeologists to find?
Nations like that never did so we should not be surprised that there's no reference to the exodus in secular literature. But we believed in the exodus anyway. We believed in David long before archaeologists came along and said, guess what? It's now okay to believe in him because we found him in two inscriptions. We even believed in the story of Jonah and the big fish long before a zoologist measured the gullet of a whale and told us that it was now okay to believe. As a matter of fact, we even believe that a donkey spoke to Balaam. We believe that a donkey spoke to Balaam long before speeches, silly speeches given by biblical scholars made us realize that the phenomenon does happen in recent history.
Am I going too fast for some of you? I want you to know today that the Bible expects us to believe its history and as we shall point out in a few moments, wherever it has touched history, wherever there has been archaeological finds, almost always it has confirmed exactly what the Bible says. I want you to take your Bibles and turn to the second chapter of Mark just for a moment to show you how that we cannot separate the Bible's history from the Bible's theology. Now I mention that because there are many folks who tell us that the Bible can have errors in historical matters but it still can be theologically reliable and I need to point out to you that that is absurdity because the history and the theology is so interwoven that many historical events are theological events. Jesus in the second chapter performed a miracle and you'll notice he says to the paralytic in Mark chapter 2 verse 5, my son, your sins are forgiven. But there were some of the scribes sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, why does this man speak that way?
He is blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God alone? And immediately Jesus perceiving in his spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves said to them, why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is it easier to say to the paralytic, your sins are forgiven or to say, arise and take up your palette and walk? Now notice this, but in order that you may know that the son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins, he said to the paralytic, I say to you, rise, take up your palette and go home. What Jesus is saying is this, let me ask you first of all the question that he asked these people, what is it easier to say, thy sins be forgiven thee or to take up your palette and go home?
Now the answer might not be what you think it is. Actually it is much easier to say, thy sins be forgiven thee because you can say it, talk is cheap. You can say the words but you can't prove that it's happened because when someone's sins are forgiven, you can't see them leave the person with a video camera.
That belongs to the realm of what philosophers call the metaphysical world. But to say to someone who is a cripple, rise, take up your palette and go home. Now that's something else because that's a miracle that can be verified.
Other people can watch and they can find out whether or not this man who is a cripple is actually able to walk. That is something you see that has empirical verification connected with it. Now here's Christ's point. Christ is saying that when I tell this man, take up your palette and go home, when I say those words and you see that miracle, that gives you also reason to believe that when I say thy sins are forgiven thee that I have a right to make a statement like that. Now my point and I don't want you to miss it is simply that the historical aspects of the Bible, its events if you please, are so closely tied in to the theological aspects that we cannot rip them into. And the Bible is a whole piece of cloth. It is either entirely true or entirely fallacious, filled with errors, and unbelievable. Now many people don't realize that that's what Jesus also meant I think in John 3 when he said to the man by the name of Nicodemus he said, you know, if I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how then are you going to believe the heavenly? And what Jesus is saying is because of the fact that what I tell you about the things of this earth are true, you can also believe that the things that I tell you about heavenly things are true. And that's why I say to you that the historicity of the Bible, the integrity of the text, of the original manuscripts, and the fact that it is historically reliable, that becomes the basis for its spiritual input and its theological statements. Now today's message is a little different from most and it's been a very, very difficult message to prepare. Difficult because I was tempted when I sat down to think about this message to begin to rehearse all of the archaeological data that has come in in the last 50 years regarding the Bible to show how incredibly often it authenticates the scriptures.
But that would take too long. Huge books have been written about it. Some of you subscribe to the Biblical Archaeological Review and you know that every issue is chock full of new discoveries. But I want to simply today ask the question, what role does archaeology really play? What role do inscriptions and clay tablets and even the Dead Sea Scrolls, for example, what role do they all play in helping us to understand the truthfulness of the Bible?
Well the answer is this. First of all, obviously archaeology and these various studies cannot prove the entire scriptures. We've already established that. There may never be an inscription with Abraham's name, Isaac or Jacob.
There most assuredly may never be a reference to the Exodus in Egyptian literature. But secondly, let us remember that these studies are not an exact science. They are not an exact science. As they continue to work, archaeologists frequently revise their conclusions and we must be very careful because certainly we would like to say that archaeology confirms the Bible as it has in many instances. There are also many instances, at least a few, in which it seems to contradict the scriptures. And we must go very carefully recognizing that if all the facts were in, indeed, it would not contradict the scriptures.
1968, I was studying in Israel and there was a group, part of our group, that was doing an archaeological study in Ai. You remember the story of Ai where Joshua fought that battle and lost because a man had hidden something in his tent? Achan had hidden that which God had forbidden. And the students came back to Jerusalem one evening and they said, you know, we want to rewrite the book of Joshua. I thought, how undeniably arrogant that you would have more knowledge regarding what happened just because you spent six weeks in a hot tent doing some digging than the ancient biblical writers who are eyewitnesses staggers the imagination. Well, another archaeologist came to Jerusalem and said, you know, he thought that the students were even digging in the wrong place, that they were on the wrong city. So it isn't an exact science. It isn't exact. But I will say that as the evidence begins to grow, one liberal theory of the Bible after another has had to capitulate over and over again because the more we know, the more favorable it is to the biblical text.
I want to spend a moment answering a question that I am frequently asked. People ask me this question, they say, what about some of the accounts of creation that occur in sources that are not in the Bible? For example, archaeologists in the city of Nineveh, there was a library in the city of Nineveh, thousands of clay tablets, and it was the library of Ashurbanipal.
I used to teach biblical history and the students used to always be able to remember that name by saying Ashurbanipal, Ashurbanipal. And in that find, they discovered that there are traces of an account of creation 100 lines long. And it is believed that this account is 400 years older than Moses. The account goes back to about the year 1800 and when we think of Moses, we're thinking of about 1400 B.C. And the similarities are striking.
They cannot be accounted for just simply by chance. For example, this account speaks of a time when there was just the earth and it was waste and void. There is similarity in the order of creation.
There is a favoring of the number seven. There seem to be seven days of creation. But I want you to know that despite those similarities, there are many differences, namely that the account, the Babylonian account, is filled with polytheism. It's got female gods and male gods and the god Marduk is the one who is telling all the rest what to do.
There are all kinds of, what shall we say, somewhat off-color stories regarding of what these gods are doing. How do we account for that if it's older than the Bible? Well, the answer, my friend, is not that Moses got it from these polytheists, cleaned it up and decided to write it as Genesis chapter one and two go. No, I don't think that that's the answer. If he did, he most assuredly would have had to be inspired by God to know how to clean up this account and make it theologically accurate. But it is unlikely that that happened because usually when you have one account dependent on another, the second account always embellishes the first, never simplifies it.
Here's a better explanation. I believe that long before Moses, God revealed himself to the human race. I can't believe that century after century would go on without a revelation from the Almighty. And so God revealed himself to these people. He explained the days of creation.
He perhaps even gave them other information about himself during those periods of time. And as a result of that, you have this tradition of the creation story which was not accurately recorded. It went along by word of mouth for a while and then it was written down but it became contaminated with all kinds of pagan ideas. And so here's the story floating out there before the time of Moses. In a sense, it verifies the fact that God has revealed the creation story because these stories would not have happened simply on their own. There are flood stories in almost every civilization. That only makes sense because you have the flood, you have Noah, you have his sons. As they begin to spread out and nations begin to build, of course they begin to, they continue to tell the story of the flood and the experience that was had. But of course those stories are corrupt with all kinds of pagan ideas as well. And when you read the Bible, you can see its simplicity, you can see its accuracy. There is evidence that indeed there was a worldwide flood.
In fact, there's much that a worldwide flood can explain that no other phenomenon can explain that has been uncovered by archaeologists and scientists. So there are stories of the Tower of Babylon that have seeped into society and oftentimes are found in other cultures as well. Again, understandable.
Understandable. What I'd like to do today for just a few moments, and as you know, as I mentioned, if you're visiting today, this is a bit of an unusual message, is to give you only two instances of where archaeology has helped us confirm the Scriptures, one from the Old Testament and one from the New. I want you to take your Bibles for a moment and just turn to the book of Deuteronomy chapter 27. Deuteronomy chapter 27. You'll notice the text tells us there that God spoke to Joshua. No wonder critics would say that this book, this book of Deuteronomy, is a fabrication because almost on every page God is speaking, the word of the Lord came to Moses and he said, and once you discount all that and say that that's impossible, why then indeed you get to that slim Bible that we talked about earlier. Well, my friend, you're certainly going to have to listen to Running to Win next time to find out those other instances in which archaeology has confirmed the Bible. I remember studying in Israel way back in 1968 and a Jewish archaeologist came to us one evening to speak to us as a group and he said these words, wherever we dig, if the Bible says that there is a place there, we find it. We indeed have in our hands a remarkable book.
I've written a book entitled Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible, not just because of its history, because of its prophecy and other reasons. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Now I need to emphasize that we make these resources available to you to help you in your Christian walk. What you can do is go to rtwoffer.com. I'm going to be giving you that contact info again, rtwoffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. From my heart to yours today, I want to thank the many of you who pray for us. Those of you who support this ministry because of you, Running to Win is now in 20 different countries in four different languages. Once again, if you want to connect with us, ask for a copy of Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible.
Go to rtwoffer.com or call us right now at 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Running to Win comes to you from the Moody Church in Chicago to help you understand God's Word as the roadmap for your race of life. Next time, you'll hear more evidence that history in the Bible is written just like it happened. Thanks for listening. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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