In spite of the Bible being right about a beginning to the universe, Dawkins and other skeptics still call the Bible a book of fairy tales, belittling its six-day creation account as mythical. But, to make his point, Dawkins oversimplifies the biblical view.
There are actually several different views of how to interpret the time period in Genesis. Some scholars believe the Hebrew word for “day” in Genesis (yom) means a 24-hour period; others, however, point out that yom can refer to an indefinite period of time, such as an age or era.(21)
Physicist Dr. Gerald Schroeder argues that both the Bible and science are right. Schroeder believes that God perceives time differently than we do.
By God’s time frame, the sequence took six days. By our time frame, it took billions of years.(22)
Schroeder points out that Einstein’s theory of relativity proves there is no absolute passage of time; it varies as opposed to being fixed. This principle of “time dilation” is why Atomic clocks on Earth run slightly slower than those on GPS satellites, and why astronauts age at slightly slower rates while traveling in space.
Nearly 2,000 years before Einstein’s theory the Bible indicated that God views time differently than we do when the apostle Peter wrote,
To the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as one day.(23)
Regardless of how long creation took, the more fundamental question is: how was the Bible able to get it right about our one-time beginning millennia before telescopes, when science didn’t have a clue as to our origins?
Origin of Life
The Bible speaks of life as a miraculous gift from God. But since the Enlightenment in the eighteenth century, scientists have looked for a natural, rather than a supernatural, explanation.
Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution dealt with natural selection in living things, not with the origin of life itself. He imagined life began in a slimy pond somewhere when organic chemicals spontaneously came together.
However, a hundred years after Darwin, Francis Crick and James Watson discovered that life is based on an intricately complex coded molecule called DNA. Crick, an agnostic, was so overwhelmed with DNA, that he called it, “almost a miracle.”(24)
What stunned Crick is that DNA operates like a language with its own extremely complex software code. DNA’s intricate intelligence prompted Microsoft founder Bill Gates to say that the software of DNA is “far, far more complex than any software we have ever developed.”(25)
How did such intelligent coding originate? Dr. Stephen C. Meyer observes that coded languages are always derived from an intelligent programmer.
Our experience with information-intensive systems (especially codes and languages) indicates that such systems always come from an intelligent source.(26)
When Antony Flew, the world’s leading atheist for 50 years, realized the intelligence within DNA, he reversed his anti-God belief, shocking the world. Flew admitted,
What I think the DNA material has done is to show that intelligence must have been involved.… It now seems to me that the finding of more than fifty years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design.(27)
Instead of the Bible being outdated by science, scientific evidence has actually confirmed its ancient account of our origins in the following areas:
Oxford professor of mathematics, Dr. John Lennox summarizes the impact of these findings.
The more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”(28)
Continue reading page 4 of 10 of “Is the Bible True?”.
As we weigh the evidence for the Bible, our next question is that of its historical reliability. Biblical critics have attempted to prove the Bible untrue by citing, what they believe, are historical errors.
Although several supposed errors have been alleged by skeptics, two of the most common arguments against the Bible’s historical reliability are:
Skeptics believe the evidence supports their arguments. But are they right?
Did the Old Testament Characters Moses and David Exist?
If Moses and David didn’t exist, a significant portion of the Bible’s history and teaching would be baseless.
Let’s look first at Moses, regarded as the most important person in Jewish history.
But did Moses really exist?
In the late 19th century, the German critic Julius Wellhausen argued that Moses couldn’t have written the Torah, since the art of writing hadn’t yet been developed. Wellhausen reasoned that, if Moses didn’t write the Torah, he must have been mythical. This, coupled with the scarcity of archaeological evidence for Moses, led many skeptical scholars to argue he was mythical.
However, in 1974, archaeologists discovered the Ebla tablets, proving that writing existed well before the time of Moses.(29) In fact, archaeologists found numerous written documents, such as the codified Laws of Hammurabi, dated centuries prior to Moses.(30) Although these discoveries don’t prove Moses existed, they totally undermine Wellhausen’s primary reason for calling him mythical.
Skeptics also doubt Moses’ existence since neither he nor the Jewish exodus from Egypt are specifically cited in ancient Egyptian writings. Yet, there is overwhelming evidence of his existence from several other sources that can’t be denied.
It would be extremely difficult to imagine the origin of the Jewish religion with it laws and traditions apart from Moses. In his classic work, A History of the Jews, Paul Johnson argues that Jewish history centers on Moses being a real person.
The world historian emphatically states,
The contention of Wellhausen and his school that Moses was a later fiction and the Mosaic code a fabrication —a view held by some historians today—is skepticism carried to the point of fanaticism, a vandalizing of the human record. Moses was beyond the power of the human mind to invent. (31)
Skeptics argued that David was mythical because no evidence had ever been discovered confirming his existence.
However, in 1993 archaeologists discovered a ninth-century b.c. stone slab with the inscriptions “King of Israel” and “King of the House of David.” Scholars believe this “Tel Dan inscription” provides solid evidence of David’s existence.(32) Furthermore, two archaeologists believe they have recently unearthed David’s palace and storehouse, dated to his time.(33)
Johnson notes that the biblical skepticism of 17th-19th century German critics is continually eroding under the spade of the archaeologist.
The process whereby the Hebrews first settled in ancient Palestine, sojourned in Egypt, and then conquered Canaan has been brought bit by bit over the past half century into the lighted circle which is now illuminated, if still only dimly, by archaeology. Some events of the books of Exodus and Joshua, once dismissed by biblical critics as entirely imaginary, have now been confirmed by the work of such scholars as G. E. Wright on ancient Schechem, Kathleen Kenyon at Jericho, J. L. Starkey at Lachish, Yigael Yadin at Hazor, James Pritchard at Gibeon, to mention only five outstanding cases.
…it is now possible to see much of the historical writing contained in the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles as constituting the finest and most dependable history in all the ancient world, on a level with the best work of the Greeks, such as Thucydides.(34)
These recent discoveries have built a much more compelling case for the Old Testament’s historical reliability. (For more on the reliability of the Old Testament, see http://bibleandarchaeology.blogspot.com/.)
Continue reading page 5 of 10 of”Is the Bible True?”.
When it comes to the New Testament, German critics argued that all New Testament books were written in the 2nd or 3rd centuries, much too late to have been eyewitness accounts. Their skeptical view convinced some scholars that the Gospels weren’t written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
However, ancient New Testament manuscripts discovered in the 20th century prove that its books were written much earlier than skeptical scholars believed. Let’s look at two of these manuscript discoveries.
Based on these dates, it’s probable that numerous copies of Mark and John were in circulation within a few decades of Jesus’ death and resurrection—while many eyewitnesses were alive. The discovery of p52 proves that John’s Gospel was written much earlier than skeptics thought. Princeton scholar Bruce Metzger explains the significance of this partial manuscript.
Just as Robinson Crusoe, seeing but a single footprint in the sand, concluded that another human being, with two feet, was present on the island with him, so P52 proves the existence and use of the Fourth Gospel during the first half of the second century…far removed from its traditional place of composition.(37)
These two early fragments were copied from the originals Mark and John had written 20-45 years earlier. Most other ancient historical manuscripts of nonbiblical have time gaps from 400 to 1,400 years. Aristotle’s Poetics was written about 343 b.c., yet the earliest copy is dated a.d. 1100, with only five copies in existence. That’s a time gap of 1,443 years between the original and the existing copy—and yet no historian challenges Aristotle’s writings.(38)
So how many New Testament copies are in existence today? Textual scholars have recovered nearly 24,000 in all languages, over 5,600 in the original Greek.(39) This greatly exceeds the number of manuscripts for all other ancient historical writings.
It’s understandable why critical scholar John A. T. Robinson made the following statement about the New Testament.
The wealth of manuscripts, and above all the narrow interval of time between the writing and the earliest extant copies, make it by far the best attested text of any ancient writing in the world.(40)
Robinson concluded that all New Testament books were originally penned between a.d. 40 and 65.(41) Archaeologist William Albright assigned a slightly later date, “probably between about 50 A.D. and 75 A.D.”(42)
Given these early dates, Mark and John could have vividly recalled Jesus’ warmth and compassion, his miraculous healings, the dead he brought back to life, his profound words, his death on the cross, and their jubilation when he appeared to them alive three days later.
But the Gospels weren’t the first written accounts of Jesus. Paul’s letters, written 10-22 years after Christ, relate the traditional accounts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection passed on to him by Peter and the other apostles.
The early manuscript evidence led biblical critics to redirect their attack on the New Testament from its dating to denying the existence of key people and places, including Jesus himself.
If Jesus didn’t exist, then Christianity would be founded upon a myth. However, evidence for the existence of Jesus is overwhelming—far greater than for many ancient historical figures such as Alexander the Great.(43) (For evidence of Jesus’ existence see http://y-jesus.com/wwrj/1-jesus-real-person/.)
Skeptics have also argued that Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth didn’t exist during his lifetime. Their point is that if Nazareth is bogus, then Jesus must also be bogus. In The Myth of Nazareth Rene Salm writes,
The proof is now at hand that “Jesus of Nazareth,” a long-standing icon of Western civilization, is bogus. Celebrate, freethinkers. Christianity as we know it may be finally coming to an end!(44)
But in 2009 the Israel Antiquities Authority announced an archaeological find proving that Nazareth did exist in the first century. Archaeologist Stephen Pfann provided some details: “It…shows us what the walls and floors were like inside Nazareth in the first century.”(45)
Continue reading page 6 of 10 “Is the Bible True?”.