Thursday, February 9, 2017

Is the Bible the words of God? (Old Testament, Part 2)

A.  Bones will not be broken
David again wrote a specific prophecy concerning Jesus death: “He keeps all his bones, not one of them is broken” (Psalm 34:20).  Then, John records that, when “the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs” (John 19:32-33).  This is unusual given the nature of crucifixion.  Victims needed to push up using their legs to take a breath when on the cross.  When hanging, they were unable to do so effectively.  This repeated pushing up to breath, then slumping back down, continued agonizingly for days sometimes.  To hasten death, the executioners broke the victims’ legs so they would be unable to push up for a breath.  In Jesus’ case, the soldiers recognized that He was already dead, so this was unnecessary, fulfilling a prophecy made ten centuries earlier.

B.  Side will be pierced
The fact that Jesus’ legs were not broken leads to another very specific prophecy.  Zechariah wrote, “they will look on me whom they have pierced” (Zechariah 12:10).  John then recorded that, “one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out” (John 19:34).  John then continues, “And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe” indicating he was an eyewitness of these events (John 19:35).  Zechariah predicted this about 550 years previous and John saw this firsthand.

C.  Darkness over the land
The prophet Amos, around 760 B.C., recorded a prophecy from God which stated, “I will make the sun go down at noon and make the earth dark in broad daylight” (Amos 8:9).  Then, when Jesus died, Matthew recorded that, “from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour” (Matthew 27:45).  Not only is this mentioned by Matthew, an eyewitness, but it was also recorded by Thallus, a Roman historian, writing possibly around 52 A.D.  Unfortunately, Thallus’ work did not survive, but was apparently extant in 221 A.D., when Julius Africanus wrote that, “Thallus, in the third book of his histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the sun”.[1]  This is further confirmation of the events recorded in the Bible.    

D.  Resurrection
David predicted the resurrection of Jesus Christ more than 1,000 years prior to His birth, when he wrote, “For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol (the grave); nor will you allow Your Holy One to undergo decay” (Psalm 16:10).  Then, as the Apostle Paul pointed out, David was obviously not referring to himself, because “David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay; but He whom God raised did not undergo decay” (Acts 10:36-37).  The resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ was predicted in the Old Testament, further demonstrating the Bible is from God.

I.             Archaeology
Many archaeological discoveries made within the past 100 to 200 years validate records written in the Bible over 2,000 years ago.  Space does not permit a listing of all these, but a few will suffice to illustrate that the Bible is a reliable and trustworthy document, based in factual history. 

A.  Hittites
The Hittite civilization was founded around 1,800 B.C., with the two great periods of Hittite power having been around 1,800 B.C. and again about 1,400 to 1,200 B.C.  This people-group then seem to have disappeared around 717 B.C. when Carchemish was conquered by Sargon II and the Hittite people were absorbed by the Assyrian empire.[2]  The NASB version of the Bible  mentions the Hittites 47 times from Genesis through Ezekiel.  Several mentions of these people in the Bible are as follows:

1.    Genesis 23:10–11 - “Now Ephron was sitting among the sons of Heth; and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the sons of Heth; …, saying, ‘No, my lord, hear me; I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it.”
2.    II Samuel 11:3 – “So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?"
3.    Exodus 33:2 – “"I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite.”
This may sound like dry stuff, but here’s the point:  For many centuries, the only record of the Hittite’s existence was in the Bible.  Because no documentation was found of these people in secular historical records, the Biblical accounts were doubted (standard operating procedure for liberal Biblical critics).  Then, beginning in 1871, artifacts and monuments began to surface.  Enough evidence was discovered that, in 1884, William Wright published The Empire of the Hittites and A. H. Sayce published The Hittites – The Story of a Forgotten Empire.  A major breakthrough occurred in 1906-07, when approximately 10,000 clay tablets were found at Boghazkoi, which contained a wealth of information about these people.[3]  When examining records of ancient civilizations, some key points should be kept in mind.  One of the leading experts on the Hittites, Harry A. Hofner, formerly of Yale University, notes that “it is possible to identify at least four distinct ethnic groups in antiquity to whom the name ‘Hittite’ has at some time been applied.”  At least two of these groups, the Hattians and the Nesites, are likely not mentioned in the Bible.[4]  Through extra-Biblical evidence, what the Bible has stated for thousands of years has again been demonstrated to be accurate. 

B.  Cyrus cylinder
The prophet Jeremiah, writing about 605 B.C., predicted the captivity of the Israelites - and the exact length of that captivity - when he stated, “This whole land will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years” (Jeremiah 25:11).  Jeremiah then predicted the return after 70 years of the people back to Israel: “For thus says the LORD, 'When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill my good word to you, to bring you back to this place’” (Jeremiah 29:10).  About a hundred years earlier, around 705 B.C., the prophet Isaiah gave a very specific prophecy stating, “It is I who says of Cyrus, 'He is my shepherd!  And he will perform all my desire and he declares of Jerusalem, 'She will be built,' and of the temple, 'Your foundation will be laid'" (Isaiah 44:28).  Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian invaded Palestine and carried off many captives, including Daniel and his three friends.  In 539 B.C., Babylon fell to Cyrus the Great and four years later, after Cyrus issued a decree permitting the rebuilding of the Jewish temple, the work began in Jerusalem.  This was exactly 70 years after the beginning of the captivity, exactly as the prophecy was stated by Jeremiah.  Ezra 1:2-4 quotes the decree issued by Cyrus allowing the return of the Jews and rebuilding of the temple.  The very fact that he permitted this is unusual and the truth of this was doubted by some scholars.

In 1973, French archaeologists found a large Persian stele (stone slab or pillar bearing an inscription or design and serving as a monument) in a Greek temple at Xanthos, Turkey which contained Aramaic, Greek, and Lycian writing.  This stone containing cuneiform writing is known as the Cyrus Cylinder.  It is a record of King Cyrus crediting his god Marduk with his success.  Some of the writing records the return of captives to their own lands to worship their own gods.  This included the Jews, exactly as was predicted by Jeremiah and Isaiah.  Some of the text of the Cyrus Cylinder is as follows:
“…I returned to [these] sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris, the sanctuaries of which have been in ruins for a long time … I [also] gathered all their [former] inhabitants and returned [to them] their habitations… all the gods … brought into Bablyon … unharmed, in their [former] chapels…”[5]
The Cyrus cylinder, dated from approximately 538-529 B.C., housed in the British Museum, is not only additional archaeological evidence for the historicity of the Bible, but also of the divine nature of the Bible as seen in fulfilled prophecy.

It is not necessary to take a blind leap of faith to believe the Bible is accurate.  Manuscript evidence shows the Bible was reliably copied by scribes over many centuries.  Historical accounts written in the Bible were shown to be accurate centuries later by archaeological and extra-Biblical historical evidence.  Fulfilled prophecies link the Old Testament and the New Testament, demonstrating the veracity of both.  Here’s the big question we all must ask ourselves:  If it is reasonable to believe the Bible is true and inspired by God, what should I do?

[Biblical quotations are from the NASB version.]

[1] Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson, He Walked Among Us (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1993), 35.
[2] Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Volume II (San Bernadino, CA:  Here’s Life Publishers, 1975), 339-340.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid., 341.
[5] Randall Price, The Stones Cry Out (Eugene, OR:  Harvest House Publishers, 1997), 251-252.

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