Fulfilled Prophecy, God’s own proof of the Bible
“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And he has commanded me to build him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all his people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and build the house of the LORD God of Israel (he is God), which is in Jerusalem. And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold, besides freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.” Ezra 1:2-4.
This is the proclamation by Cyrus to release the people of Judah, the Jews from their Babylonian captivity. Now this is history, old stuff, it’s in the history books as well as recorded here in the Bible, in Ezra 2:2-4. You may be thinking, ‘So what? What does this have to do with proving the Bible is God’s inspired Word and not the writings of some nomadic wondering Jews? Let’s establish a few facts. Isaiah was a prophet of God writing from the southern kingdom of Judah during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, established as having lived some 116 years before Cyrus was born. Isaiah penned what follows 116 years before Cyrus was born and 180 years before the event recorded in Ezra 1:2-4 occurred!
“I am the L ORD who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone, who spreads abroad the earth by myself;…who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and he shall perform all my pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ and to the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’” Isaiah 44:24, 28.
One of the greatest proofs that the Bible is indeed the Word of God is the internal evidences of inspiration found in fulfilled prophecy that is now part of the history books. Ezra is one of the historic books of the Bible, and is verifiable in secular history. Isaiah is known to have lived during the reigns stretching from Uzziah to Hezekiah, and was killed by Hezekiah’s evil son, Manasseh. He penned these words around 716BC (Verifiable dates of Isaiah’s life, death of Uzziah, 740BC through time of Sennacherib’s death, 681BC). What does God say about Cyrus, 116 years before he was born, before even his parents were born, when probably his grandparents were children in diapers, if even they were alive? What does God say about himself as well in this prophecy? Turn to Isaiah 45:1-7 and let’s read:
Thus says the LORD to his anointed. To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held---to subdue nations before him and loose the armour of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut [direct reference to the massive double doors, gates to the city of Babylon]: ‘I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places. [Babylon, the city, was an incredible city of wealth and treasures beyond measure. The city itself stretched over 70 square miles inside a wall of massive thickness and height.] That you may know that I, the LORD, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel my elect. I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known me. I am the LORD, and there is no other; There is no God besides me. I will gird you, though you have not known me, that they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is none other; I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity [King James, “evil”]; I, the LORD, do all these things.’” (Isaiah 45:1-7)
God challenges the skeptics
This is one of the most amazing prophecies in the Bible. God through Isaiah predicted the rise of Cyrus as he led the Medo-Persian Empire in its conquest of Babylon. He called Cyrus by name over 116 years before he was born! In great detail, the fall of Babylon was predicted. In verse 4, God said, “I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known me.” How did God get Cyrus’s parents to name him Cyrus? Then how did God allow him to do the unthinkable by conquering the Babylonian Empire? He is God, and he can do anything he pleases. God himself says that he is the one who inspires his holy prophets to “declare the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done…”. Let’s read that passage. God challenges skeptics to see if they can do this. He challenges them, “Can you predict the rise and fall of empires, predicting the future from ancient times. Major prophecies of Jesus first coming are found in Isaiah, Isaiah 53, 54 just to name two, prophecied over 600 years before Jesus Christ’s birth. God challenges mankind, ‘Can you do that?’ in the following verses found in Isaiah. God lays out very plainly the proof of the Bible, his Word, and challenges man to see if they can do the same thing.
“‘Bring forth your strong reasons,’ says the King of Jacob. Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; let them show the former things, what they were, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare the things to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil, that we may be dismayed and see it together. Indeed you are nothing; and your work is nothing…” (Isaiah 41:21b-23) “To whom will you liken me, and make me equal and compare me, that we should be alike? (Isaiah 46:5) “Remember this and show yourselves men; Recall to mind, O you transgressors. Remember the former things of old, for I am God and there is none other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.’ Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes my counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have proposed it; I will also do it.” (Isaiah 46:8-11)
The Bible is full of fulfilled prophecies which can be easily verified in the secular history books, as well as the historic books found in the Bible itself. The date for the life of Isaiah is verifiable. The dates of the fall of Babylon and the start of the Persian Empire are in the history books and verifiable. Many, many other prophecies from the Old Testament, found as far back as the Psalms of David, and even one in Genesis, and others in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi and Zechariah predicted long before the event, the birth of Jesus Christ. For further proofs that the Bible is God’s inspired Word, log onto: http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophecies/1stcoming.htm, and http://www.unityinchrist.com/Daniel/daniel1.htm
[copyright © UNITYINCHRIST.COM 2009]
In defense of the Old Testament Scriptures
(the Tenach, the Hebrew Bible)
“Let’s focus on how we can make a defense of what we Christians call our Old Testament Scriptures against those who have read or who assume that the Old Testament is filled with fairy tales, with incidents that are just a lot of stories based on fancy rather than on fact, stories that got repeated and eventually written down. What basis do we have for saying that the accounts in the Hebrew Bible are any more trustworthy than ancient fiction stories like the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, or any other religions like those giving accounts of Buddha or the Hindu stories about their gods? What historical evidence do we have to show that would tie the Biblical accounts in with outside history, or to show that the stories haven’t changed with their telling over the generations?
Authenticity of the Documents
Well, the first thing we need to look at is the evidence for the authenticity of the documents of the Hebrew Bible. We need to start by determining whether the manuscripts we have today are authentic. That is, are they substantially accurate copies of the originals? Were they accurately transmitted over the years?
Evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls
First: The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls ion 1947 allowed us to compare the manuscripts composing the Hebrew Bible that were a thousand years older than those we had previously possessed, and we learned that the painstaking copying systems used by the Jewish scribes---such as the Talmudists and Massoretes---effectively preserved accuracy. Archaeologist William F. Albright comments that most of the Dead Sea Scrolls “scarcely differ at all from the consonantal text of our Massoretic Bible” (from which our modern English versions are translated). “This fact,” says Albright, “proves conclusively that we must treat the consonantal text of the Hebrew Bible with the utmost respect and that the free emending of difficult passages in which modern critical scholars have indulged, cannot be tolerated any longer.” [William Foxwell Albright, Recent Discoveries in Bible Lands (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1955), p. 136.]…
Textual Evidence: The Criteria
So next, while we’re looking at the textual evidence, let’s consider the consensus of modern scholarship. The evidence for the authenticity of any text is measured by four basic criteria, using the manuscript copies in existence: 1) How early are they (that is, how close in time to the original)? 2) How many are there? 3) How widely scattered are they? Anyone who has ever examined these criteria and compared the documents of the Hebrew Bible with other ancient texts has realized that, in each of these respects, the Hebrew Scriptures are unique among them all for the accuracy of their transmission. William H. Green, professor of Oriental literature at Princeton Seminary and author of a Hebrew grammar text, wrote, “It may safely be said that no other work of antiquity has been so accurately transmitted.” [Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ, Intl., 1977) pp. 59.]
British archaeologist John Romer, of PBS television fame, while not holding a high view of the Bible’s divine inspiration, still admits, “There is no other ancient book in the world which is so perfectly preserved.” [John Romer, Testament, the television documentary series, aired on PBS in January, 1991] His book, Testament, explains some of the extreme measures taken by the scribes to ensure precise accuracy in copying. For example, in the period after the destruction of the temple, “the middle letter of the middle words of every book was noted and numbered so that merely by the mechanical process of counting a quick and accurate check could be made of every manuscript.” [John Romer, Testament (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1988), p. 154.] Exact specifications were given for every copying task, from the spacing of lines and letters to the type of ink to be used. Copies that contained errors were not as likely to be preserved. Romer says that “Jewish law had long decreed that all imperfectly made copies of the sacred books should be burned.” [Ibid.]
So it’s not a stretch to say that the documents in question are unique ion the care with which they’ve been transmitted over time. The next great question is the question about the historical reliability of their content. To give evidence that the events described in the Hebrew Bible actually happened, we have some tremendous corroborating written testimony from outside the Bible. As we work backward through time and historical sources become more and more scarce and less trustworthy, we ought to consider the uniqueness of this body of writings that spans all these periods with a high degree of reliability, based on all the tests we can apply to it.
Assyrian and Babylonian Inscriptions
First, we have a great many Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions that confirm the dealings between their monarchs and the kings of Judah and Israel, such as the Black Obelisk and Sennacherib’s Prism…These inscriptions actually confirm the Biblical accounts of when named Biblical kings like Hezekiah or Jehoiakim or Jehu paid tribute. [See E.W. Faulstich, History, Harmony & the Hebrew Kings (Spencer, Iowa: Chronology Books, 1986), p. 72. Though his purpose is merely to establish proper chronology, in the process Faulstich cites all the Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions that mention their dealings with the Biblical kings of Israel and Judah.]
The Hebrew Bible’s Impartiality
We can also make an argument for these documents’ historical reliability…from their impartiality. While ancient monuments and documents are given to bias and exaggeration for the sake of national propaganda, the Hebrew Scriptures stand out for their consistent, impartial recording of their nations’ defeats as well as their victories, their leaders’ faults as well as their virtues. Archaeologist W.F. Albright wrote that that “no other known people of antiquity can approach the objectivity of the Israelites in such matters, to judge from their literature.” [William Foxwell Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity-Monotheism and the Historical Process, second edition, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1957), pp. 288-289.]
Early Composition of Deuteronomy
We have evidence for the early composition of Deuteronomy. Archaeological investigations at Hattusa (in modern Turkey), ancient capital of the Hittite empire, have yielded unexpected trouble for the radical critics who had almost universally agreed that Deuteronomy was composed in the sixth century B.C. Hittite covenant codes found there provide evidence that the book of Deuteronomy was written in the time of Moses [1446BC-1406BC], not at the end of Judah’s kingdom period. Because these ancient Hittite treaties have clear literary parallels with the book of Deuteronomy, we now know that this form of writing was a natural one to used in communicating to a people living in the second rather than the first millennium B.C. Dr. Clark Pinnock points out that “the similarity of these treaties to the literary structure of Deuteronomy is striking: preamble, historical prologue, stipulations, sanctions dynastic disposition. The comparison indeed compels us to recognize that the origin of Deuteronomy as a unit lies in the second millennium, not the first.” [Clark H. Pinnock, Set Forth Your Case (Chicago: Moody Press, 1967), p. 104.]
Conquest of Canaan
“…Even earlier Egyptian documents (the Armarna Tablets) point to an invasion---a conquest of Canaan---not a social revolution or an economic upheaval from within. In one of many tablets containing a plea for help from Abdi-Hiba, governor of Jerusalem, he writes to Pharaoh Akhnaton [Pharaoh Akhenaton, 1352-1336BC]: “The Habiru plunder all lands of the king. If archers are here this year, then the lands of the king, the lord, will remain; but if the archers are not here, then the lands of the king, my lord, are lost.” [Josh McDowell, A Ready Defense (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, 1990), p. 104.] [This proves the 1446 BC Exodus! See http://www.unityinchrist.com/lamb/exodus1.html.]…We might hope to get to the bottom of the exodus date (and find additional evidence for the authenticity of the whole account) by seeing whether there’s any inscriptional evidence for a pharaoh losing his first-born son, as Exodus 12:29 claims. Amazingly, inscriptions do exist to show that Thutmose IV, successor of Amenhotep II, was neither the first-born son nor the heir apparent. [Ibid] This fits in perfectly with the 1446 date (Amenhotep II reigned 1448-1422BC) [there’s some disagreement with the actual reigning dates, another set has him reigning from 1452 to 1417BC, a few more years at either end, which doesn’t change anything.] However, inscriptions have also been found showing that Merneptah (a pharaoh favored by those holding a later date) also was not succeeded by his first-born son, and that his son died under unusual circumstances. [Henry H. Halley, Halley’s Bible Handbook (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1965), p. 123.] Either way, the Biblical claim finds inscriptional support, though the fit is most perfect for the earlier date (and this is the date that fits the plain meaning of 1st Kings 6:1 and Judges 11:26).
AMENHOTEP II 1452-1417BC Takes throne 6 years before Moses returns from Midian. Is the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Exodus occurs in spring of 1446BC
THUTMOSE IV 1417-1390BC Was not the first-born son of Amenhotep II (Egyptian history doesn’t tell us why, but I think we know why).
AMENHOTEP III 1390-1352BC
AKHENATON 1352-1336BC Canaanites in Jerusalem call for this Pharaoh to send help, as Israelites are attacking the land of Canaan.
How about if we go all the way back and look for archaeological evidence from Abraham’s time? Well, of course the higher critics once assumed that Abraham and the locations associated with him were merely allegories, but 20th century excavations have changed these assumptions so that The Encyclopedia Britannica says: “Abraham and the other patriarchs have sometimes been considered to be personifications of clans or even figures of myth. This opinion has been proved erroneous….there can be no doubt that Abraham existed.”
Abraham’s Home Towns
Let’s start by looking at Abraham’s home towns. Ur the city of Abraham’s early residence (Genesis 11:2), once presumed not to exist, has been located and excavated. [Keller, pp. 31-40]. A highly sophisticated, literate, luxuriously housed people lived there all the way back to 2800 B.C. [Ibid. pp. 41-45] The mound covering ancient Haran, another city where Abraham lived (Genesis 11:31), has also been excavated and found to have been occupied as early as about 2000 B.C. [Frederick Owen, “Archaeological Supplement,” The New Chain Reference Bible, 4th edition, compiled and ed. by Frank Charles Thompson (Indianapolis: B.B. Kirkbride Bible Co., 1964), p. 336.] Although the two cities are separated by 600 miles, archaeological evidence links them together in religious association, for both were worshippers of the moon god. More evidence of association between the two cities during these early periods is provided by an ancient document containing the city name of “Ur” in the vicinity of Haran. [Schoville, . 246.]
Names of Abraham and Relatives
What about evidence for the names coming from that time period? Stone tablets containing the names of Abraham, his brother Haran, and his grandson Esau were discovered more recently in Ebla in northern Syria, [Ibid.] where investigations are still ongoing today. Dating from before 2000 B.C., these tablets prove that each of these names did not come from traditions invented many centuries later, as scholars have claimed. Those names are clear. There are others which are less sure that scholars are still deciphering, and more Biblical names may come to light in the next few years when philologists make more progress in translating the thousands of inscriptions from the mostly Eastern Semitic language of Ebla to the better known Western Semitic (Hebrew). Some of these tablets, dating from before 2300 B.C. (at the height of Ebla’s power), prove that writing was used almost a thousand years before the time of Moses. This is a sharp contradiction to the teachings of Documentary Hypothesis proponents who taught that writing had not yet been invented by Moses’ time.
Sodom, Gomorrah, and the other “Cities of the Plain”
How about Sodom and Gomorrah, and the other “cities of the plain”? The Ebla tablets even contain the names of these places once thought to be completely mythical: Sodom and Gomorrah, along with the other five named “cities of the plain” referred to in the Bible. The tablets matter-of-factly refer to these cities along with Damascus and other trading partners. [Keller, pp. 94-95.]
In fact, whole nations associated with Abraham in the Bible have been recovered from oblivion. The Hittites, once considered to be an invention of Hebrew storytellers, are now known from archaeological evidence to have had a major empire in the second millennium B.C. Because references to the Hittites were once found only in the Bible, critics regarded these references to the Hittites historically worthless. [Merrill, p. 103.] Knowledge of the Hittites was revolutionized when 10,000 clay tablets were discovered at Boghazkoy, Turkey. We now know this empire had two great periods of power, first in the eighteenth century B.C., and then again from about 1400-1200 B.C. [C.W. Ceram, The Secret of the Hittites---The Discovery of an Ancient Empire. trans. By Richard and Clara Winston (New York: Dorset Press. 1990), pp. 64, 149-150.] Famed science writer Isaac Asimov, having studied the evidence, noted that at first glance the Bible gives the impression that the Hittites were a minor people, merely one of many tribes of Canaanites. But he goes on to point out that this makes perfect sense with Abraham, who lived long before the Old Kingdom of the Hittite Empire, and then leaves Canaan for a long period while the Hebrews were in Egypt [1700s B.C. to 1400s B.C.] during the Hittites New Kingdom. Having missed both periods of Hittite power, we should expect that the Bible narrative would not describe the Hittites as possessing a great empire; indeed, it would be anachronistic to do so by the time the Hebrews were in Canaan. [Isaac Asimov, Asimov’s Guide to the Bible, vol. 1 (New York: Avon, 1968), pp. 77-78.] Actually, the Hittites, who could be found in no other ancient literature, were mentioned 47 times in the Old Testament, and Asimov does point out that the Bible implies the one-time importance of the Hittites by stating that they were the sons of Heth, Canaan’s second-born, a major division of people after Noah. Thus Asimov, the skeptic, acknowledged the corroborating evidence for the Bible’s correct placement of events, within the time periods (even including the Hebrews’ stay in Egypt), as well as its accurate description of this very early people. One Hittite document recovered from Boghazkoy gives excellent evidence that Abraham must have dealt with these ancient Hittites, as Genesis claims, and that the story could not have been invented in Israel many centuries later. When Abraham wanted to buy a cave from the Hittites in order to bury his wife Sarah, the Hittites said, basically, “If you want to buy the cave, you have to buy the whole field surrounding it” (in Genesis chapter 23). This puzzling obligation is now shown from Hittite tablets to have been a common practice in their ancient real estate transactions. [Henry Thomas Frank, Archaeology and Faith (Nashville: Abington Press, 1971), p. 74.] The Horites, also associated with Abraham, provide a similar example of a great empire (now known from archaeology) which for several thousand years had only the Bible to give evidence for its existence. [John Patterson, “The Old Testament World,” The Bible and History, ed. by William Barclay (Nashville & New York: Abington Press, 1968), pp. 32-34.]
Argument from Missing Myth Characteristics
Then there’s the fact that the Hebrew Scriptures, except in those apocalyptic and other non-historical passages, lack the characteristic of myth. The Hebrew Scriptures are loaded with personal names, place names, and customs that can be checked for that time period (and we’ll see that when we look another time more specifically at archaeology). There is more verifiable, historical data in Genesis chapter 10 alone than in all of the Koran [William Foxwell Albright, Recent Discoveries in Bible Lands (New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1955, pp. 70-71.] And for those of you who are noticing how old my references are in this info-report, again, I’m just pointing out things here that have either stood the test of time or whose data make no difference. The Koran and the Bible haven’t been revised since Albright made that statement.
Another characteristic we notice that’s very un-myth-like: the characters are presented as regular folks, not mighty heroes. Even the old patriarchal figures of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph are presented with practical motives, human frailties, and complex human traits that are very unlike the fantastic, mythical characters of other ancient literature (and this is true all the way from Genesis 12 to Genesis 50).
Accurate Guidebook for the Archaeologist
And here’s a critical thing to notice: A myth is of little value as a guidebook to the archaeologist. Serious archaeologists don’t set out on digs to discover historical ruins from Mount Olympus, the island of the Sirens, or the lost continent of Atlantis. They do, however, set out on digs to recover what they can of the historical record from Biblical cities. Archaeologist Nelson Glueck gives an example of how he has used the Bible as his guidebook to find a city on the shore of the Red Sea mentioned in 1 Kings but nowhere else. He wrote: “The whereabouts of Solomon’s long-lost port city of Ezion-geber was for centuries an unfathomable mystery, because no one paid attention to the Biblical statement that it was located ‘beside Eloth, on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom’ (1 Kings 9:26; 10:22). And that is exactly where we found it….” [Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert---A History of the Negev (New York: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1959), p. 31.]
Ready for more proof?
Now that the veracity of the Bible is better established in your own mind, you may find it easier to believe the very proofs the Bible gives on its own of its authenticity as the very written Word of God. And what might that proof be? You’ve already read one in the first three pages of this article, about Cyrus king of Persia. The Bible is full of prophecies which can be easily verified in the secular history books, as well as the historic books found in the Bible itself. The date for the life of Isaiah is verifiable. The dates of the fall of Babylon and the start of the Persian Empire are in the history books and verifiable. Many, many other prophecies from the Old Testament, found as far back as the Psalms of David, and even one in Genesis, and others in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi and Zechariah predicted long before the event, the birth of Jesus Christ. For further proofs that the Bible is God’s inspired Word, and that God is real, log onto: http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophecies/1stcoming.htm and http://www.unityinchrist.com/Daniel/daniel1.htm