Thursday, November 22, 2012
How to Determine Whether the Bible Is True
What is the proper method to determine the validity of the Bible?
Over the years I have observed various ways people have tried to use to prove that the Bible - or some other religious standard - is or is not true. Some of these methods are valid and can lead to a proper conviction of truth; others are invalid and lead people to improper conclusions.
The purpose of this study is to compare methods sometimes used to determine whether or not a revelation is from God, and then determine what is the proper approach.
Consider a comparison to determining the validity of a will.
Suppose a relative of yours dies (your rich uncle Joe). A document is presented that claims to be Uncle Joe's last will and testament. Questions are raised (perhaps even in court) whether or not Uncle Joe really intended to authorize this as his last will and testament. What tests or methods should be used to determine the validity of will?
This in effect is the question we are asking about the Bible. The Bible claims to be the official statement of God's last will and testament - a document stating how people may receive a share of the eternal inheritance He offers. What tests or methods should be used to determine whether or not God really intended to authorize this as the official expression of His will?
Could it be that people have used improper methods of answering such questions? Comparing to the validity of the will can help us understand proper vs. improper approaches.
This is an issue of objective reality. There are only two alternatives.
This is not a matter of opinion, personal desire, feeling, or subjective relativity.
Either Uncle Joe really intended to authorize the document as his last will and testament, or else he did not.
There really are no other choices. If he did not intend for it to express his will, then it is not his will. On the other hand, if he did intend for it to express his will, then it is his will. No amount of wishful thinking or personal opinion on the part of other people can change that fact. We can't say, "If you think it is his will, then to you it is his will. But if I think it is not his will, then to me it is not his will. It's all relative and subjective." No, it is either his real will or it is not. There is no middle ground.
Likewise, either God really intended the Bible to be the official statement of His will for man, or else He did not.
There really are no other choices. If He did not intend for it to express His will, then it is not His will. On the other hand, if He did intend for it to express His will, then it is His will. No amount of wishful thinking or personal opinion on the part of other people can change that fact. We can't say, "If you think it is His will, then to you it is His will. But if I think it is not His will, then to me it is not His will. It's all relative and subjective." It is either His real will or it is not. There is no middle ground.
So, consider some methods for determining the validity of such a document.
Part I. Invalid/Inconclusive Methods for Determining Validity
Consider some methods that are often used to reach a conclusion about faith in the Bible (or other proposed religious standards), but they are either irrelevant or at best inconclusive. Some may be completely misleading and invalid. Others may be of some help, but are not the best way and are not convincing of themselves.
Some people say, "I just feel in my heart that this is (or is not) God's word." Some churches tell people to pray for God to tell them if a religious book is true, and wait for God to send a "burning in the bosom."
Uncle Joe's Will
Suppose someone says, "I just feel in my heart that this is really Uncle Joe's will." Does that make it really his will? Does a feeling change the reality of whether or not it is his will? Have your feelings ever been wrong?
The document either really is Uncle Joe's will or it is not. Whether or not I have a "burning in the bosom" or other feeling, changes nothing and proves nothing.
Likewise, human feelings prove nothing about whether or not the Bible (or other standard) is or is not the word of God. The Bible agrees with this concept.
Jeremiah 17:9 - The heart is deceitful above all things and is exceedingly corrupt. Who can know it? How could something so unreliable and changeable as feelings be the basis of faith?
Proverbs 28:26 - He who trusts in his own heart is a fool. Why? Because the urgings of the heart are unreliable and often lead to error!
Emotions are neither good nor bad of themselves. Everyone has them. But they were not given to guide us or to indicate what is good or bad, true or false. They change continually. To believe that we can know right from wrong by feelings is to pervert the purpose of feelings.
[Jeremiah 10:23; Proverbs 14:12; Acts 26:9; Matt. 15:18-20; Prov. 4:23]
Some people accept or reject the Bible (or other standards) on the basis of what is believed by most people they know. If the Bible is generally rejected, especially among their friends, they tend to reject it; or if it is accepted, they accept it.
Uncle Joe's Will
But if most people think it is not Uncle Joe's will, does that make it not his will? Or if they think it is his will, does that make it his will? Does the opinion of people determine reality? Has the majority ever been wrong? The document either really is Uncle Joe's will or it is not. What other people believe, changes nothing and proves nothing.
Likewise, the opinions of people prove nothing about whether or not the Bible (or other standard) is or is not the word of God. The Bible agrees with this concept.
Romans 12:2 - We should not be conformed to the world but be transformed. The standards you and I should follow are not determined by people around us.
2 Corinthians 10:12,18 - We must not measure or compare ourselves among ourselves. What other people believe does not determine the truth about a revelation any more than it does about Uncle Joe's will. We need evidence and facts.
[Matthew 7:13,14; Exodus 23:2; Philippians 2:15; Acts 28:22]
Some people simply accept or reject the Bible (or other standard) on the basis of what other people in their family believe.
Uncle Joes' Will
But if our family generally thinks it is not Uncle Joe's will, does that make it not his will? Or if they think it is his will, does that make it his will? Does family belief determine reality? Has the family ever been wrong? The document either really is Uncle Joe's will or it is not. What the family believes, changes nothing and proves nothing.
Likewise, the beliefs of our family prove nothing about whether or not the Bible (or other standard) is or is not the word of God. The Bible agrees with this concept.
Matthew 10:35-37 - Jesus' teaching often sets family members in opposition to one another. Some agree with His teaching and some don't.
Galatians 1:11-14 - Paul and nearly all other people in the New Testament had to be willing to change from the beliefs of their parents. Why should our family be the standard? If people disagree, someone must be wrong. How do we know our family is right?
So Jesus agrees that the views of family members do not prove teachings to be true.
Uncle Joe's Will
Some people say, "Seeing is believing. I never personally saw Bible miracles or heard Jesus Himself teaching. Why should I follow a book that was written hundreds of years ago?"
But do we have to personally see Uncle Joe sign his will to believe it is really his will? If we did not see it, does that make it not his will? The document either really is Uncle Joe's will or it is not. All of us know that lots of things are true even though we never saw them happen.
Other religious groups say to try their teachings in your life and see if you find them to be "satisfying and meaningful." "Try it and see if you like it."
Does our personal satisfaction with the will change whether or not it is really Uncle Joe's will? If we do not find it satisfying, does that mean it is not his will? Lots of things are true that we do not find personally satisfying.
Likewise, our personal experiences and personal satisfaction prove nothing about whether or not the Bible (or other standard) is the word of God. The Bible agrees with this concept.
John 20:24-31 - Like some folks today, Thomas said he would not believe Jesus had been raised till he personally saw and touched Him. Jesus allowed him to do so, but then pronounced a blessing on those who believe without seeing.
2 Corinthians 5:7 - We walk by faith, not by sight. This does not mean there is no evidence for our faith. It means there is a different kind of evidence. One does not need to personally see events to know they are true.
Hebrews 11:1 - Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Faith is not based on personal experience. It is based on evidence regarding things we have not personally witnessed.
Luke 16:30,31 - If people will not believe the written word, they would not believe if they saw a miracle of resurrection from the dead.
Our courts determine the guilt and punishment of criminals on the testimony of witnesses. Yet none of the people who reach the verdict ever saw the crime.
Everyone believes thousands of things that we never personally saw. Are you convinced who your parents and grandparents are? Do you remember seeing them when you were born? Do you believe the Constitution was written by the founding fathers and George Washington was the first president? Does your personal experience or satisfaction change the reality of these things?
Personal Agreement or Understanding of Contents
Some people try to determine the validity of the Bible by analyzing its teachings and determining whether or not they personally understand and agree with them. I've had people say:
"I can't believe in a God who would send people to hell."
Or, "I can't believe in a God who would allow so much suffering on earth."
Or, "God makes people homosexuals, so how can the Bible be right when it says homosexuality is evil?"
Or, "Much of the New Testament was written by that old woman hater Paul."
So some people set themselves up as the ones to decide what they are willing to accept, then they reject the Bible if it does not agree with their views or if they cannot understand why it says the things it says.
Uncle Joe's Will
But if we don't agree with what we find in Uncle Joe's will or can't understand why he said it, does that make it not his will? Is a thing true only if we understand and agree with it? Has anything ever been true that we did not understand how it works or that we did not agree that is the way we thought it should be? Is Uncle Joe required to do what I want him to do with his possessions?
The document either really is Uncle Joe's will or it is not. If it is his will, he has the right to say what he wants to do. He doesn't have to please us. Whether or not we like or understand why he said the things he said, changes nothing and proves nothing.
Likewise, what we understand and what we agree with prove nothing about whether or not the Bible (or other standard) is or is not the word of God. The Bible agrees with this concept.
Isaiah 55:8,9 - God's thoughts and ways are completely different from ours. The fact that we approve a thing or understand why God said it proves nothing at all in determining whether or not a message is really from Him.
Proverbs 14:12 - There is a way that seems right to man, but the end is death. People like to think we are smart, but we are often mistaken. And in spiritual issues, we simply don't know what is best.
Luke 16:15 - What is highly esteemed by men is an abomination to God. So it is not only possible but absolutely certain that there are things about God's will that we will not understand why He has decreed it and will wish He had said things differently. But that is to be expected if He is God and we are His creatures. Our wisdom is infinitely inferior to His.
Job 38:1-6; 40:1-9; 42:1-6 - Like many today, Job criticized God for allowing him to suffer. God never did explain to Job why He allowed him to suffer, but He did confront Job for setting himself up to criticize God. In order to understand why God's ways are always best, we would have to be as smart as God!
1 Corinthians 1:18-23 [2:5] - Human wisdom often leads men to reject God's wisdom. When a person sets out to decide whether or not he believes in the Bible by analyzing its teachings and deciding whether or not he understands everything and thinks everything in it makes sense according to his human wisdom, he has set himself up as the judge of God. He says, in effect, "If I don't understand or don't agree, then it can't be right." Think about the egotism of that approach! In effect, we view ourselves as greater than God.
If God exists, then He is a whole lot smarter than every one of us. And we may as well accept the fact that there will be lots of things He says that we are not smart enough to understand why He said it. And if He is God, there is no reason why He has to please us, so why should we expect to agree with everything He does?
Reality has nothing whatever to do with what I like or understand. There are lots of things in this world that I don't understand or wish were different. But that doesn't change the fact that they are what they are.
This approach starts on entirely the wrong end of the matter. First, I must consider the objective evidence whether or not the will is really authorized by Uncle Joe. If so, I must accept it, whether or not I like or understand it. And likewise, I must start by considering the objective evidence whether or not the Bible is really the word of God. If so, I must accept it, whether or not I like or understand why He says what He says.
[Jeremiah 10:23; Proverbs 3:5,6; Matthew 15:9,13,14
Some people actually say we must never use the Bible as evidence for itself. They insist that only evidence outside the Bible can be considered. Others may acknowledge that internal evidence is important, maybe even most important, but their approach implies that outside evidence is more convincing or that the evidence inside the Bible alone is not good enough.
The Example of the Will
Who can imagine that anyone would attempt to determine if a document really is Uncle Joe's will, without examining the document itself? When any legal expert or historian is trying to determine the authenticity of a document, the first thing and the main thing he does is to examine the document. To say the decision must be made without considering evidence in the document itself is irrational to the point of absurdity.
In some cases someone may find some collateral evidence that may be helpful. For example, the will may say that a certain item should be given to a certain person, such as "my car should go to my brother Bill." If someone once heard Uncle Joe say that he intended to give his car to Bill, that would help confirm the will.
But it would be absurd to think that the will must be subjected to independent confirmation in order to be accepted as valid, let alone to think that only evidence from outside the will could be considered. The fact is that a will can be - and almost always is - validated entirely on evidence within the will itself. While helpful external evidence may sometimes be available, it is often not available and is definitely not necessary.
The Application to the Bible
We do have evidence outside the Bible that can help support its claims.
Archaeology, secular history, geography, and even science provide information that confirms various Bible statements. Such information can be helpful and interesting; we should appreciate it.
But the fact remains that the majority of Bible statements have not and never will be confirmed by outside sources. And even if they could be confirmed, all they would prove is that the Bible is accurate in those areas. It could never conclusively prove that the Bible is inspired by God. And most important, that kind of evidence is simply not necessary to establish the validity of the Bible any more than it is for confirming Uncle Joe's will.
The Bible plainly teaches that it contains evidence within itself to confirm that it is from God sufficient for the honest person to believe and be saved.
Romans 10:17 - Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Do we believe that? If so, we must accept that the Bible itself is all the evidence we need to establish faith.
John 20:30,31 - Bible writers wrote the evidence sufficient to convince us to believe that Jesus is the Christ, so we can have life in His name. Do we believe that? If so, then we must believe that the Scriptures are sufficient to convince the honest person to believe and have eternal life. What more is needed?
2 Timothy 3:16,17 - Scripture claims to be inspired by God and says that it is sufficient to provide us to every good work. Is it a good work to believe that the Bible is inspired? Is it a good work to demonstrate to others that the Bible is inspired? If so, then the Bible should be adequate to provide what we need.
Luke 16:30,31 - If people will not accept the written word, they would not believe if they saw a miracle of resurrection from the dead. It is that simple.
Evidence outside the Bible may be helpful, but it is not necessary. The fact is that the evidence in Scripture itself is sufficient to convince any honest person to believe. If one will not be convinced by the evidence in the Scripture, no amount of evidence would really convince him, not even if he personally saw someone raised from the dead.
And those of us who claim to believe the Bible need to learn to trust the evidence it gives.
[Note John 17:20; Acts 9:22; 17:2,3; 15:7.]
Part II. Proper Tests of Validity
There are at least three tests to determine the validity of a will: (1) its claim, (2) unique internal authentication, and (3) testimony of witnesses.
The claim made by the document should be obvious. Either a document claims to be a person's last will and testament or else it does not. That is fairly easy to determine.
Likewise, if the Bible nowhere claimed to be the will of God, no one would believe that it is. However, it repeatedly claims to be God's inspired word.
2 Timothy 3:16 - All Scripture is inspired by God.
2 Peter 1:20,21 - Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
Bible writers repeatedly used phrases such as "Thus saith the Lord." There can be no doubt that the Bible claims to state God's will. The question is whether or not those claims are valid.
That leaves two important considerations:
[1 Corinthians 14:37; 2:10-13; Ephesians 3:3-5; John 16:13; Matthew 10:19,20; Galatians 1:8-12; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Luke 10:16]
Unique Internal Authentication
The Principle of Unique Identification
In important documents, authors include evidence that demonstrates who authorized it.
Examples of unique authentication
Kings and nobles often had unique seals, such as a unique signet ring, they could use to make an impression on a document (such as in wax). Because it was unique, its very presence demonstrated the document to be authentic.
A similar method today is a computer password. Because the user knows the password that no one else is supposed to know, this authorizes him to access private information, etc.
Unique authentication for a will
The most common authentication for a will is the signature of the testator. The testator affirms that he is of sound mind and this is his last will and testament, then signs his name. His signature gives official legal proof that he has authorized the document.
The laws of some states provide: "a handwritten will may not have to be witnessed." A person's handwriting is unique like a fingerprint. By comparing the handwriting in the will to other samples of a person's handwriting, people can validate that the testator really wrote the will.
Information only the testator could know
More rarely, a will can be validated because it contains information that only the testator would know. Suppose he gives the secret combination to a safe. Since no one but the testator could know this information, its presence in the will authenticates that the testator wrote it.
In these ways a will can be authenticated entirely by evidence found within the document.
Fulfilled Prophecy as Unique Authentication for the Bible
Obviously God did not just sign His name to the Bible, since we would have no way to know if it really was His signature. But God did something even better. He authenticated the Bible by empowering the men who recorded it to know information and do works that they could know and do only if He was giving them the message. One of these proofs is fulfilled prophecy.
The purpose of fulfilled prophecy
Isaiah 42:8,9; 41:21-23; 46:8-11 - God often claimed that His ability to predict the future proves that He is the true God, in contrast to idols. Man alone cannot know the future (Proverbs 27:1; James 4:14). So, if the men who wrote the Bible could accurately predict the future, this would confirm their claims that they were writing a message from God. [Isaiah 44:6-8,24-28]
Deuteronomy 18:21,22 - When a man professes to speak for God, if his predictions of the future do not come true, we can know that God did not speak through Him.
Jeremiah 28:9 - When a prophet's predictions come true, this shows that the Lord sent him.
John 13:19; 14:29 - Jesus said He predicted future events so that, when the predictions came true, people would believe in Him. But the same would be true of other prophets. If they could predict the future infallibly in detail, this would confirm their claim that they were recording the will of God. [John 16:4]
[See also John 16:13; Numbers 16:28-30; 1 Kings 16:27,28; Isaiah 44:24-45:1.]
Notice a few of the hundreds of predictions made by Bible writers, often made many years or even centuries before their fulfillment.
Prophecies concerning the nation of Israel
Genesis 26:3,4; 28:13,14; 22:17; 12:7 - God promised that Abraham's descendants would become a great nation and would receive the land of Canaan. This was fulfilled in the nation of Israel. [Exodus 1:7; Joshua 21:43-45; Numbers 1:45,46; Joshua 23:14; 1 Kings 8:56; cf. Genesis 26:4; 12:2; 15:5; 18:18; 32:12.]
Deuteronomy 28:15-64; 30:1-5 - Moses warned that, if Israel disobeyed God, they would be taken captive to foreign lands. This was fulfilled when the Northern tribes were taken captive by Assyria in 722 BC (2 Kings 17:1-18,23), then Judah was taken captive by Babylon (2 Chronicles 36:11-21; 2 Kings 25:8-21). [Deut. 28:36,37,41,64; 1 Kings 14:15,16; Isaiah 39:3-7]
Deuteronomy 30:1-5 - However, they would not be completely consumed but would return from captivity. Jeremiah prophesied the exact length of the captivity to be 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11,12; 29:10-14). [Jeremiah 4:27; 5:18; 30:10,11; 46:28; Isaiah 10:20-22]
Isaiah 44:24-45:7 - Isaiah predicted by name a king named Cyrus, who would allow God's people to return and rebuild Jerusalem. This was predicted over a hundred years before Cyrus was born! This was fulfilled when Cyrus, king of Persia, authorized the return of the Jews and the rebuilding of the temple - 2 Chronicles 36:21-23; Ezra 1:1-3 [Ezra 9:6-9].
Prophecies concerning other nations/cities
Tyre would be completed destroyed and thrown into the sea - Ezekiel 26:3-14. The site of ancient Tyre can be visited, showing the fulfillment of the prophecy.
Sidon would suffer attack and defeat, but permanent destruction was not predicted - Ezekiel 28:22,23. The city of Sidon still exists even today.
Nineveh would be destroyed and become a desolate wilderness - Zephaniah 2:13-15 (cf. book of Nahum). Its ruins still remain and can be visited, demonstrating its complete desolation.
Babylon would be destroyed and never inhabited from generation to generation - Isaiah 13:17-21 (cf. Jeremiah 50,51). Again, the ruins of the city remain and can be visited. It is completely uninhabited as God predicted.
Note Jeremiah 30:10,11; 46:28 - God would make a full end of the nations where the Jews were driven (Assyria and Babylon), but would not make a full end of the Jews. Today, Jews are found around the world. Their capital city of Jerusalem still stands. But who today claims to be an Assyrian or Babylonian? Who dwells in the capital cities of the Assyrians or Babylonians?
The ability of Bible writers to know these facts centuries before they occurred is God's signature demonstrating the Bible to be His last will and testament.
Prophecies concerning Jesus
Many prophecies predicted the coming of the Messiah to rule God's people.
* Birth in Bethlehem - Micah 5:2 - Jesus' birthplace - Matthew 2:1-6
* Birth to a virgin - Isaiah 7:14 - A virgin would conceive and give birth to a Son. An angel explained to Joseph and Mary that she had conceived Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit though she was a virgin - Matthew 1:18-25 (cf. Luke 1:26-38).
* A prophet like Moses - Deuteronomy 18:18,19. Acts 3:20-23 (7:37) - Peter claimed Jesus fulfilled Moses' prediction of a prophet like himself.
* Both priest and king - Psalms 110:1-4; Zechariah 6:12,13 - No king under the Law of Moses could fulfill this prophecy, because priests and kings came from different tribes. But Jesus is spiritual King and priest now that Moses' Law is removed - Acts 2:32-36; Hebrews 7:17; 8:1.
* Rejection and death - Psalm 118:22,23; Isaiah 53:1-12; Zechariah 13:7. Old Testament prophets and Jesus Himself all repeatedly predicted that the Jews would reject Him and deliver Him to be killed - John 2:19-22; Matthew 16:21,22; 20:18,19; Mark 14:27-31; John 13:21-30. This occurred in the crucifixion - Acts 4:10,11; Luke 22:37; Acts 8:32-35; Matt. 26:31 [Cf. Psalm 22:6-8 to Matt. 27:41-43; cf. Isa. 6:1-3,9f to Matt. 13:10-15; Acts 28:23-27; John 1:11; 12:37-41.]
* Details of the crucifixion - Psalms 22:16-18 - His hands and feet would be pierced (cf. Zechariah 12:10) and men would divide and cast lots for His garments. Psalms 34:20 - None of His bones would be broken. All this occurred in the crucifixion - John 19:18,23,24,31-37.
* Death for the guilt of others - Isaiah 53:4-12 - He would die, although He was innocent. Throughout his trials Jesus was declared to be innocent by all who ought to know: Pilate (Luke 23:4,14,22; Matthew 27:24), Herod (Luke 23:15), the centurion who crucified Him (Luke 23:47), Judas, who betrayed Him (Matt. 27:4), and the thief crucified with Him (Luke 23:41). Jesus died as a sacrifice for the sins of others - 1 Peter 2:21-25; Matthew 20:28; 26:28; 2 Corinthians 5:21.
* Resurrection - Psalms 16:10 - David prophesied that his soul would not stay in Sheol (abode of departed spirits) nor would his flesh decay. Acts 2:24-32; 13:34-37 - Peter explained that, speaking as a prophet, David predicted the resurrection of the Christ from the dead.
These Old Testament prophecies were recorded, collected, copied, and even translated into Greek hundreds of years before Jesus' birth. The Dead Sea scrolls include portions of all these books dated long before Jesus' birth.
By including in these books information that no one else could possibly have known ahead of time, God deliberately and repeatedly placed His signature on the Scriptures.
Miracles and the Resurrection as Unique Authentication for the Bible
The purpose of miracles
Like fulfilled prophecy, miracles by their very nature cannot occur by natural law or human ability. They happen only by the supernatural power of God. But God empowered Jesus and Bible prophets to do them for the express purpose of identifying their message as being His will.
Old Testament prophets
Exodus 14:30,31 - The crossing of the Red Sea convinced people to believe God and Moses.
Joshua 3:7-17 - Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground so people would know that God was with Joshua as He had been with Moses (v7).
1 Kings 18:36-39 - Elijah called down fire from heaven so people would know that He spoke by God's authority.
[Exodus 4:1-9; Num. 16:28-35; chap. 17; 1 Kings 17:24; 2 Kings 1]
New Testament prophets
Mark 16:20 - When Jesus sent apostles to preach (vv 14,15), He worked with them, confirming the word by the signs He gave them (vv 17,18).
Acts 14:3 - God bore witness to the message preached by Paul and Barnabas, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.
2 Corinthians 12:11,12 - Signs, wonders, and miracles would confirm one was an apostle.
Hebrews 2:3,4 - God bore witness to the message of salvation by signs, wonders, etc.
Miracles are recorded throughout the Bible, especially in Jesus' life and the book of Acts. From among the many miracles recorded, we will focus on the most important miracle of all:
The purposes of Jesus' resurrection
1 Corinthians 15:14-19 - The resurrection is absolutely fundamental to the gospel claims regarding Jesus. If He is not raised, our faith is vain. The resurrection proves Jesus is:
The Christ, the Son of God - John 20:24-31; Romans 1:4
Lord and Christ - Acts 2:32-36; Acts 17:3; Romans 14:9; Ephesians 1:20-23
The Savior who forgives sins - Acts 13:30-39; Luke 24:46,47
The Judge of all mankind - Acts 17:30,31
The Bible repeatedly records information that only God could have known and works in the lives of Bible writers that could only have occurred by the power of God. Like the signature in a will, fulfilled prophecy and miracles are God's "signature," God's seal of approval deliberately included the Bible to prove to any honest person that this really is His last will and testament.
Testimony of Witnesses
Even if the testator signs his will, someone may question the signature's authenticity. How do we know someone did not forge Uncle Joe's name? This is the role of witnesses.
Most states require that a will be validated by at least two credible witnesses. The witnesses sign their names testifying that they personally observed the testator sign his name and affirm that this is his last will and testament. This combination of signatures then become legally binding evidence - accepted as valid in court - that the will is authentic. This is true even if the testator and all the witnesses have died. Written signatures are sufficient validation.
Likewise, when we claim that miracles validate the Bible as God's will, some people ask how we know those miracles really occurred. We can't see those miracles, so how can this be valid evidence today? The answer is eyewitness testimony. Just as a will contains in itself eyewitness testimony that validates the signature of the testator, so the Bible contains within itself eyewitness testimony that validates the miracles as God's signature on His will.
The Bible repeatedly acknowledges the value of a plurality of witnesses to validate historical events: John 8:17; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:28; Deuteronomy 19:15. Here are a few of the many eyewitnesses to Bible miracles.
Eyewitness to Miracles in General
Exodus 14:15-18,21-23,26-29 - Moses recorded first-hand testimony of God's plagues on Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and many other miracles in the wilderness and at Mt. Sinai.
Joshua 24:5-7 - Joshua's testimony confirmed the crossing of the Red Sea and other miracles of God during Moses' life. [5:12; 2:10; 4:23]
Joshua 3:7-17; chap. 4; 6:1-20 - He also wrote eyewitness accounts that Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground and that God caused the fall of the walls of Jericho.
Matthew 9:9; 10:1-8; 14:33 - Matthew and other apostles personally accompanied Jesus for three years. His written record serves as personal eyewitness testimony to miracles done by Jesus and by other apostles.
Luke 1:1-4 - Luke wrote histories of the life of Christ and of the early church (Acts 1:1-3). Luke himself was not an eyewitness or Jesus' life, but as an historian he recorded the eyewitness testimony of those who did see the miracles of Jesus and Peter and other apostles. As an historian, his reputation is well established.
He did personally witness and record many of Paul's miracles (note his use of "we" and see Acts 13:6-12; 14:8-20; 16:16-19; 19:11-17; 20:9-12; 28:2-10).
John 20:30,31; 21:24 - Like Matthew, John was an apostle who accompanied Jesus for three years. He recorded eyewitness testimony of Jesus' signs so we can believe.
1 John 1:1-3 - He bore witness about what he and others heard, saw with their eyes, and handled with their hands.
2 Peter 1:16-18 - Like Matthew and John, Peter was also one of the original apostles. He claimed he (and others) were eyewitnesses who heard the voice of God at the Transfiguration.
2 Corinthians 12:11,12 - Paul claimed that his apostleship was confirmed by signs, wonders, and miracles done in the presence of the people to whom he wrote. Surely they would have known that he did these miracles. Further, Luke confirmed his claim to do miracles and to be an eyewitness (Acts 13:6-12; 14:8-20; 16:16-19; 19:11-17; 20:9-12; 28:2-10).
Witnesses Who Testify of the Resurrection
The appearances of Jesus
Acts 1:3 - Jesus presented Himself alive by many infallible proofs for a period of forty days. Here is a list of the eyewitnesses whose saw Jesus alive as recorded in Scripture.
Mary Magdalene - John 20:11-18; Mark 16:9-11 - She saw Jesus and spoke to Him.
Other women - Matthew 28:9,10; Mark 16:1ff. They saw, touched, and heard Him.
Two disciples on the road to Emmaus - Luke 24:13-35; Mark 16:12,13. They saw Him, talked with him, and listened to Him for a prolonged period.
Peter - Luke 24:34 (1 Cor. 15:5) - Paul and other apostles claim Jesus appeared to Simon.
All the apostles - Luke 24:36-43 - Jesus appeared to them on several occasions. They saw, heard, touched, spoke, and ate with Him for a period of forty days. [Mark 16:14-16; Matt. 28:16,17; Luke 24:44-51; John 20:19-23; 21:1-25; Acts 1:3-8 (note Jesus' prophecy); 10:39,41; 13:31; 1 Cor. 15:5,7]
Thomas with the apostles - John 20:24-29 - Thomas was skeptical till He saw, heard, and touched Jesus.
James and over 500 brethren at once - 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 - Paul's summary list of Jesus' appearances adds James and an appearance to over 500 at one time, most of whom were still alive when Paul wrote. This means other people could speak to them and confirm Paul's claim.
Note especially the testimony of Saul of Tarsus
Acts 9:1-9; 22:4-15; 26:9-18; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:8,9. Saul was an enemy of the gospel and a persecutor of the church. He had no possible motive to claim that Jesus had appeared to him if it were not true. (See 1 Timothy 1:12-15; Acts 8:1-3; 9:1,2; 22:4,5; 26:9-11; 1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13; Philippians 3:6.)
At noon on an open highway in the presence of other men, a light brighter than the noon sun appeared (9:3; 22:6; 26:13). Jesus spoke and identified Himself to be Jesus (9:3-6; 22:7,8).
Acts 9:4-6; 22:7,8,10; 26:14-18 - Saul heard and spoke to Jesus.
Acts 26:16 - Jesus said He appeared to Saul make him a witness of what he had seen.
Acts 9:17; 22:14,15 - Ananias confirmed Jesus "appeared" to Saul and God had chosen Saul to see Jesus and hear His voice, so he could be a witness of what he had seen and heard.
Saul was struck blind till Ananias came and restored his sight (9:8,9,18; 22:11-13). This miracle confirmed to Saul, Ananias, and others that Saul had really seen Jesus.
1 Corinthians 15:3-9; 9:1 - Paul lists himself with other people who saw Jesus alive again.
The Honesty and Integrity of the Witnesses
The apostles immediately and repeatedly preached that they were eyewitnesses of these events - Acts 1:22; 2:32; 3:15; 4:33; 10:39-41; 13:30-32; 22:14,15; 26:16; 1 Cor. 15:3-8,15. This began, not hundreds of years later as some claim, but less than 50 days after the resurrection.
All the apostles were persecuted and most gave their lives for this testimony, but none ever withdrew it, denied it, or retracted it.
How can anyone doubt or deny the integrity of the witnesses to the Bible? Men throughout the Old and New Testaments suffered and died for their testimony. That is the supreme proof that they really believed the truth of their testimony.
I own a copy of my mother's will. She can no longer testify that it is her will, yet no honest person would ever seriously doubt that it really is her will. It is proved valid by evidence within the will itself: it contains her own signature in her own handwriting, and it contains the signatures of three witnesses who testify that they saw her sign this as her will. Even if those witnesses were dead, the evidence of their testimony would stand in any court of law.
I also have a copy of the will of Almighty God. God will not personally testify today that this is His will, but the evidence is far stronger and more conclusive than the evidence for my mother's will. There is evidence outside this will that helps confirm it, but the real conclusive evidence is found in the will itself. It contains repeated examples of fulfilled prophecies and miracles God did through the men who recorded the will - acts that could only have occurred by God's own hand. This constitutes God's signature on His will. Then the will also contains the written record of numerous eyewitnesses testifying that they personally saw these miracles happen. The fact these witnesses are dead does not in any way invalidate their written testimony.
The evidence for the validity of the Bible is just as reasonable, just as clear, and far more substantial than the evidence for any human will. In his will, God offers you an inheritance of eternal life. Considering the evidence, why would you turn down that offer? Do you have the honesty to acknowledge the validity of God's will? Do you have the courage to accept its terms, meet its conditions, and receive the eternal inheritance God offers you?
To see further evidence that the Bible and the gospel of Jesus are the true revelation of religion, see our article on that subject on our Bible Instruction web site at www.gospelway.com/instruct/.
(C) Copyright 2012, David E. Pratte
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