What claims do Bible writers make about the accuracy of their history? Did they write myths and legends or historical events? Did they record eyewitness testimony? How important is this history to our evidence for God, Jesus, and the Bible? Is Bible history essential to our understanding of our purpose in life and salvation from sin?
Everyone is interested in good stories. As soon as someone says, “Let me tell you a story,” people tend to listen.
History is a record of stories about real events involving real people.
Such stories are especially useful in teaching. Stories help people identify with the event, learn lessons, and remember the ideas presented. So the Bible often teaches by history.
More than one-half of the content of Scripture is inspired history.
The Old Testament books of Genesis through Esther are primarily historical. In my Bible, the Old Testament contains 1107 total pages of which 575 pages are history (52%). *
The New Testament books of Matthew through Acts are primarily historical. In my Bible, the New Testament contains 315 total pages of which 182 pages are history (58%). *
Some people think doctrine is important but not Bible history. If so, why is over half the Bible devoted to history?
(* These books do contain some laws and doctrine, but other books of prophecy and doctrine also contain some history.)
The purpose of this study is to emphasize the importance of Bible history.
Consider reasons why Christians should value Bible history and should always trust and defend the accuracy of Bible history.
Misuse of History.
People Hold Various Views of the Bible Records of History.
Some say the Bible writers spoke lies.
They say Bible writers falsely claimed to record a message from God knowing it was not true. If so, they were false teachers whose record should be rejected.
Most modern scholars, even modernists, generally reject this view. To call Bible writers liars would be too “intolerant” and too hard to convince other people to believe.
Others say the writers were lunatics (totally out of touch with reality).
They say Bible writers really thought their message was from God, but it wasn’t. If so, they were crazy or completely out of touch with reality.
Again, modern scholars generally reject this view as being too “intolerant” and extreme.
Modernists and postmodernists say Bible writers were honest but mistaken.
* Some say the writers recorded legends that had been handed down for years. So the writers thought they were writing truth but really recorded myths.
* Others say the writers did not really try to be historically accurate. They wrote to teach religious ideas but did not care whether or not the events they recorded were historically accurate.
The only other alternative is that the writers were truthful and accurate.
If the previous views are false, then we must accept the Bible as historically accurate. This in turn means we must accept its claim to be the absolute standard of religious truth.
In this study we consider why it matters how we view the accuracy of Scripture in history.
Religious Error Often Ignores or Contradicts Accurate History.
Isaiah 41:21-23 – God challenges the idols, not just to predict the future, but also to “show the former things, what they were, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them.”
False teachers cannot predict the future, but why challenge them regarding the past? False teachers often misunderstand or pervert the past to defend their religious claims.
Evolution and Humanism
Evolution teaches a false view about the origin of the earth and all living things. False beliefs about history are inherently tied to false beliefs about God, creation, and the nature of people.
Mormonism and Islam
Joseph Smith claimed the Book of Mormon records the history of the original inhabitants of America. For years the Mormon Church spent thousands of dollars supporting Thomas Stewart Ferguson to find archaeological confirmation for the Book of Mormon. But he concluded:
“…I must agree with Dee Green, who has told us that to date there is no Book-of-Mormon geography.” And again, “… you can’t set the Book of Mormon geography down anywhere – because it is fictional and will never meet the requirements of the dirt archaeology.”
(Quoted from “Testing the Book of Mormon,” www.utlm.org)
Marx and the Cancel Culture Movement
“Keep people from their history, and they are easily controlled.” – Karl Marx (www.azquotes.com/author/9564-Karl_Marx)
The Cancel Culture Movement seeks to remove memorials and rewrite American history to destroy existing society and replace it with an entirely different system (preferably Marxist).
Modernism and postmodern deconstruction (revisionism)
Modernism says the Bible contains errors in history, geography, and science. Then it denies Bible miracles and prophecies, and finally it denies Bible doctrines.
Postmodernism says there is no absolute right or wrong in any area. Reality is whatever you believe it to be. So, the original meaning of the Constitution or the Bible is unimportant. Each person should interpret history according to whatever it means to them.
These views undermine the authority of Bible doctrine. If Bible history can be wrong, then Bible doctrine can be wrong. Further, the evidence for Bible doctrine is based on Bible events: miracles, fulfilled prophecy, and resurrection. If the record of these events is not reliable, then each person is free to reject any Bible doctrine. Bible doctrine and Bible history go hand-in-hand.
Bible Claims about Its History.
Scripture often emphasizes the importance of learning from the past.
Deuteronomy 32:7 – “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you.”
Bible Teachers Often Reminded People about the History of God’s Works.
People should remember God’s blessings and avoid repeating past errors.
Deuteronomy 4:9 – Receiving the law at Sinai, Moses warned the people not to forget what they had seen but remember it all their lives and teach it to their children and grandchildren.
Joshua 24:2-6 – Joshua reminded Israel that God gave Abraham great promises which He fulfilled when He brought them out of Egypt into Canaan.
Jeremiah 44:9; Zechariah 1:4 – Prophets often warned the people not to repeat the rebellious conduct of previous generations.
Reminding people of Bible history was a fundamental part of the teaching of the prophets.
(Deuteronomy 9:7; 2 Chronicles 30:7,8; Psalms 78:8)
God Ordained Memorials to Help the People Remember the Past.
Exodus 13:3-10 – Moses said to keep the Passover every year. “Remember this day in which you went out of Egypt … for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out of this place.”
Exodus 20:8 – “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” The Sabbath reminded the people of God’s works of creation and delivering them from slavery in Egypt.
Joshua 4:4-7 – God instructed Israel to set up a pillar of stones when “the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.”
1 Corinthians 11:23-25 – The Lord’s Supper is a New Testament memorial in which we remember the sacrifice of Jesus to save us from our sins.
Scripture Emphasizes the Importance of Eyewitnesses and Testimony.
Jesus and Bible writers claimed history could be established by plural witnesses.
Deuteronomy 19:15 – Guilt or innocence of a crime was determined by the testimony of two or more witnesses.
John 8:17 – Jesus recognized this principle and used it as evidence for His claims.
(Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:28)
Apostles and Bible writers repeatedly claimed to give eyewitness testimony.
Luke 1:1-4 – Luke wrote what was told him by eyewitnesses so we could know that these things are “certain” (verse 4), not myth. As a historian, his reputation is well established.
Acts 1:21,22 – Apostles had to be eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection (verse 8)
John 21:24 – John wrote his personal testimony and testified that it was true.
2 Peter 1:16-18 – Peter testified that, rather than following fables about Jesus, the apostles were eyewitnesses of His majesty. He testified specifically of the Transfiguration.
(1 Corinthians 15:1-8; John 15:27; 19:35; Luke 24:48; Acts 2:32; 3:15; 4:33; 5:32; 10:39,41; 13:31; 22:15; 26:16; 1 John 1:1-3; 4:14)
Bible Writers Rebuked the Error of False Testimony
Proverbs 6:19 – God hates a false witness who speaks lies.
Matthew 7:15 – Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
1 John 4:1 – Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Bible writers demanded proper testimony and rebuked false testimony. If their own record of Bible history is false, then they condemned themselves. When people say the writers did not intend to speak accurate history, they show ignorance of what the writers themselves said.
(Exodus 20:16; 23:1; Psalms 119:128; Proverbs 14:5; 19:5.9; Matthew 15:19; Romans 13:9; 1 Corinthians 15:15; 2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Peter 2:1)
Bible History as Evidence for God, Jesus, and the Bible
Bible history is essential to our evidence that God is true and the Bible is His revelation.
Bible History Confirms that God Exists and that Jehovah Is the One True God.
Isaiah 46:8-10 – God called on Israel to “remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me…” He calls on the people to serve as His witnesses because they had observed His great works. (Isaiah 41:21,22; Isaiah 43:9-12)
John 20:31 – These [signs] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. The purpose of miracles is to give evidence to confirm that the God of the Bible is the one true God and Jesus is the Son of God.
Romans 1:4 – Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power … by the resurrection.
Bible history gives evidence for the existence of God. It also describes God’s character as always good and merciful; holy and just, condemning evil and rewarding good; all-knowing and all-powerful, worthy of praise and worship; faithful to His promises, etc.
Bible History Gives Evidence that the Bible Is the Word of God
Luke 1:1-4 – Luke recorded the testimony of eyewitnesses so we might know the certainty of the things in which we are instructed in Scripture. (Acts 1:1-3)
2 Peter 1:12-16,21 – Knowing he would soon die, Peter gave a written record to remind us of the things he had seen. Such testimony confirms that the record is not myth but was inspired by the Holy Spirit.
John 5:46,47 – Those who do not believe Moses’ writings will not believe Jesus’ word.
The evidence for God, Jesus, and the Bible is based on miracles, fulfilled prophecy, and the resurrection. But those are historical events. If they occurred, we should believe. But if the record is not accurate history, we have no reason to believe. This is why unbelievers seek to disprove Bible history and why those who seek to know the truth must never compromise Bible history.
(Mark 16:20; John 5:36; Acts 2:22; 14:3; 2 Corinthians 12:11,12; Hebrews 2:3,4; 1 Kings 17:16-24; 18:36-39; Exodus 4:1-9; 7:3-5; 14:30,31; Hebrews 13:8; 2 Peter 3:3-7)
Bible History and the Nature of People
The present is based on the past. Roots give us understanding of who we are.
“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see.” – Winston Churchill (www.azquotes.com/author/2886-Winston_Churchill)
“If we don't know our own history, then we simply will have to endure all of the same mistakes, all of the same sacrifices, all of the same absurdities over again – times ten.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (www.azquotes.com/author/13869-Aleksandr_Solzhenitsyn)
Romans 15:4 – The things written in the past were written for our learning.
Bible History Tells the Beginning of Earth and the Human Race.
Hebrews 11:3 – By faith we understand the worlds were framed by the Word of God.
Genesis 1:26,27 – God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness ….” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him...
The Bible gives the only eyewitness account of the origin of the universe and of man. Three living Individuals were present at the creation: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (John 1:1-3; Genesis 1:2). They testify repeatedly in Scripture about what happened.
Egotistical men claim they can tell us how the earth and living things began millions of years ago when neither they nor anyone they know could possibly have been there. Yet they deny the only record given by the Ones who were there and made it happen!
People everywhere wonder, “Where did we come from?” Yet the Bible repeatedly answers the question. Our society is confused and troubled because many people deny Bible history.
Bible History Records the Basic Nature and Needs of People.
History reveals that all people sin, rebel against God, and need forgiveness.
Romans 3:10-18,23 – History shows that all men commit sin.
Acts 7 – Stephen summarized the history of the Jews showing they had opposed the prophets including Jesus. Yet aren’t many people still the same today? (Acts 13)
1 Corinthians 10:1-12 records examples in which God’s people fell away. These are written for our learning (verses 6,11). “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (verse 12).
History records the lives of faithful servants to encourage us to imitate them.
Hebrews 11 – An entire chapter reminds us of various Old Testament events that teach the importance of obedient faith.
James 5:10,11 – The example of the prophets and Job encourage us to endure patiently.
Bible history shows people are basically the same as always. God wants us to benefit from these fundamental truths. To do so, we must know and believe Bible history.
(Matthew 5:10-12; Isaiah 51:1,2)
Bible History and Our Salvation
Salvation Is Based on Facts of History
1 Corinthians 15:1-8 – The gospel is based on Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Those are historical events.
Verses 12-19 – If those events did not occur, then the apostles who testified are false witnesses and our faith is vain.
Contrary to false religions, the gospel is true because it is based on historic events.
Those Who Seek Salvation Must Know and Believe Those Facts.
Romans 10:9,10 – To be saved, one must believe that God raised Jesus from the dead.
John 20:27-29 – Thomas doubted the resurrection till he saw for himself (verses 24-26). Jesus appeared to Thomas and said, “Do not be unbelieving (‘faithless’ – KJV) but believing.” Those who doubt Jesus’ resurrection are “faithless.” They are “unbelievers.”
We can know God exists, the Bible is true, and we can be saved from sin through Jesus only if we know Bible history and recognize it as true historical records.
Some people attempt to divorce Bible doctrine from Bible history, saying Bible doctrine should stand on its own merit without needing historical background. But the effect and real intent are to eliminate the evidence that demonstrates the doctrine to be true. They seek to leave each person free to accept or reject Bible doctrine based on human wisdom.
The effect of belittling or ignoring Bible history is to destroy the authority behind Bible teaching. If Bible history is true, then Bible doctrine is revealed from the all-powerful, all-wise Creator. And as created beings, we must accept Scripture as the revealed will of God.
Bible history and Bible doctrine go hand-in-hand. They support and substantiate one another. To undermine Bible history is to undermine Bible doctrine. This is exactly the goal that loose thinkers seek to accomplish. And it is exactly why true believers must defend Bible history.
We must never doubt or reject Bible history. Instead, our goal should be to understand the true meaning of what God inspired men to write. Then we must seek to obey all that God has instructed us to believe and practice.
Do you respect the teaching of Bible history and have you obeyed God’s plan for your life?
(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 2021; www.gospelway.com