Lesson #6 - Is the Bible Accurate?

Bible student

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."

2 Timothy 3:16-17

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In the past two lessons we studied “internal” evidence, evidence from within the Bible itself that the Bible is the word of God. From examining 1) the Bible’s unity and 2) its fulfilled prophecy, we have seen that men could not have authored the Bible without Divine help. God must have guided the hands of those who penned it. Therefore, internal evidence supplies the basis of trust that the Bible is from God. If the Bible’s content does not convince us, then nothing else will.

But, in addition, we also have evidence that supports our confidence in the Bible. This supporting evidence can be called “external” evidence because it is evidence from outside the Bible. If God is the author of the Bible, then two things must be true: 1) The content of the Bible is accurate when compared to known facts, 2) The content of the Bible we have in our hands now is the same as what was originally written. External evidence can confirm these two points.

An example of supporting evidence from outside the Bible is archaeology. Archaeology is “the study of things that are old” made from what ancient people have left behind. In this lesson, we will see that archaeologists have dug up and continue to dig up evidence that confirms the accuracy of the Bible.

Archaeology’s Support of the Accuracy of the Old Testament

The Ebla Tablets- Beginning in 1964, two professors from the University of Rome, Dr. Paelo Matthiae and Dr. Giovanni Petinato, worked to excavate a site known as Tell Mardikh in northern Syria. They discovered a kingdom known as Ebla, which had a population of 260,000 people in 2300 B.C. There are three things con-firmed about the Bible by this finding:

  1. Moses could have written the Law. Some had argued that Moses could not have written the first five books of the Old Testament because no one in the world was writing anything at the time the Bible says that he lived (around 1400 B.C.). However, the Ebla tablets show that men were writing nearly 1000 years before Moses.
  2. Men had the ability to create complex law codes. Critics of the Bible also alleged that the system of law recorded by Moses was too complex to have been written by people of his day. The Ebla tablets, however, contain a very elaborate legal code, similar in many respects to what is found in the book of Deuteronomy.
  3. The five cities of the Plain that God destroyed really did exist. The Ebla tablets confirm that Genesis 14 is historically accurate. For years prior to this discovery, unbelievers considered the “five cities of the Plain” (Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar) mentioned in Genesis 14 to be legendary. Yet, the Ebla tablets refer to all five cities, with one tablet even listing them in the same order as Genesis 14:2.

The Hittites- Until 1906, the Hittites, who are mentioned over 40 times in the Old Testament, were unknown outside of the Bible. Skeptics laughed…until 1906 when Hugo Winckler dug up the Hittite capital near Ankara, Turkey. Today, enough information has been found about the Hittites to fill thick books. Students can even obtain a graduate degree in Hittite civilization from the University of Pennsylvania.

Jericho- John Garstang, while excavating Jericho in 1930-36, was startled to find “the walls fell outwards so completely that the attackers would be able to clamber up and over the ruins into the city.” Why was he so surprised? The walls of cities fall inward when a city is attacked, not outward. The Bible gives this explanation in Joshua 6:20- “the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city every man straight ahead, and they took the city.” Truly, the hand of God was involved as archaeology confirms!

Shishak’s Invasion- A triumphal relief painted on a wall in the temple of Aman at Karnak, Egypt shows treasures being taken by Shishak, an Egyptian king, from Reheboam, king of Judah, as 1 Kings 14:25-26 records. Other Egyptian records say that Shishak died the next year and his son, Osorkon, gave 383 tons of gold and silver to the gods in the first three years of his reign. This makes Solomon’s wealth believable, which many had doubted in the past.

Archaeology’s Support of the Accuracy of the New Testament

In 1881, Sir William Ramsey took the book of Acts as a guide and set out to follow Paul’s journeys, conducting excavations along the way. He did this to prove that Luke, the author of Acts, was incorrect in his history. Ramsey took the popular view of his time that Acts was a legend, not history- written not close to the time of the events, but in the late 2nd century. He was confident that he could show Acts and the entire New Testament to be unreliable.

After 15 years of investigation, in 1896, Ramsey published a large book, St. Paul, the Traveller and Roman Citizen. The skeptics were furious because Ramsey had become a believer! What convinced Ramsey to believe was that his excavations showed Luke to be accurate, even in small details. Here are a few examples:

Rulers were known by different names in different cities and regions in the Roman Empire. Yet Luke always wrote down the appropriate Greek term for their locality, such as “praetor” in Philippi (16:22), “politarch” in Thessalonica (17:6), “proconsul” in Corinth (18:12), and “first man of the island” on Malta (28:7). Concerning the proconsul in Corinth, Ramsey even located a reference to Gallio, the man who was named by Luke! He found an inscription that read, Lucius Junius Gallio, my friend and the proconsul of Achaia.

Geographical references made by Luke were also proven correct by Ramsey’s archaeological finds. Iconium had been thought to be a city of the region of Lycaonia. However, Ramsey found a monument which showed that it was a city in the region of Phrygia as Luke had said (14:1,6). Philippi was described by Luke as “first of the district” (16:12). Critics argued that the word “district” (Greek: meris) was not the correct term to describe the region where Philippi was the capital city. However, Ramsey found proof that Luke used the correct term.

A final example of Luke’s historical accuracy is the theater in Ephesus that Luke said the city rushed into (19:28-32). Ramsey not only found the theater, but found it capable of holding 25,000 people.

Ramsey summed up his years of research as follows, “I may fairly claim to have entered on this investigation without prejudice in favor of the conclusion which I shall now seek to justify to the reader. On the contrary, I began with a mind unfavorable to it…Luke is a historian of the first rank…this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.

These are but a few of the numerous examples of archaeological finds that show both the Old and New Testaments to be reliable. Every statement that the Bible makes about people and places has not been confirmed by the archaeologist’s spade. However, enough has been dug up to gives us confidence that what is yet unconfirmed is accurate.

Archaeology, as well as other fields of learning, has not revealed any mistakes in the Bible or any contradictions with known facts. Demonstrating the Bible to be accurate does not prove it is inspired, but it does “leave the door open” that it could be what it claims to be- the word of God!

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Name of ruler in Corinth.
City that had a large theater.
Name of ruler in Philippi.
Name of ruler in Thessalonica.
The way walls normally fall when attacked by an enemy.
City that was in Phrygia.
Location of Ebla kingdom.
Discovered the Hittites.
An internal evidence of Bible.
A people skeptics did not think existed until 1906.
The First Man of the Island ruled here.
Civilization that establishes that writing and complex law codes existed before Moses.
Traced Paul’s journeys as an unbeliever, but became a believer.
One of the five cities of the Plain once thought to be legendary.
The way the walls of Jericho fell when it was taken by Israel.
Egyptian king who took treasures from Rehoboam.
Study of old things that gives supporting evidence to the Bible.
This Egyptian king’s wealth makes Solomon’s wealth believable.
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