Archive for February, 2011

Truth shall spring out of the earth”

Psalm 85: 11a

Archaeology is another brick in the wall of helping us to validate the claims of the Bible. Archaeology itself is not going to convince us that Jesus died and was resurrected but it goes some way to validating the background information we find in the Bible. Again, unless some archaeologist digs up the actual bones of Jesus Christ and manages somehow to prove that this was the case (not quite sure how this would be done) it is very unlikely that archaeology will disprove the claims of the Bible.

The Bible is not written in isolation. Many places, people, and buildings are mentioned. Now, proving that these places or buildings exist or even that certain people exist doesn’t make the other events written about true. Just as proving that the Louvre and Paris exist proves that Robert Langdon in the Da Vinci Code is a real person. However, the writers of the Bible weren’t setting out to entertain but to teach, inform and to report. Some were writing an historical account of what they saw around them, some were writing letters not thinking they would be published. Archaeological evidence helps to give credence to these writings. As F.F. Bruce, professor of biblical studies, says of Luke’s work: “A writer who thus relates his story to the wider context of world history is courting trouble if he is not careful; he affords his critical readers so many opportunities for testing his accuracy. Luke takes this risk, and stands the test admirably”.

For years critics have used, so called, historical facts to try to disporve the credibility of the Bible. Time after time scholars have had to backtrack from earlier statements as additional archaeological evidence has come to light. An example of this was the Hittites, for a long time known only from the biblical record and denided by many historians as having existed. “Until the discovery of the Hittite empire at the beginning of the last century, the ‘Hittites’ mentioned in Genesis 10:15 as descendants of Canaan were unknown … But in 1906 Hugo Winckler began excavating a site known as ancient Hattusha … in what we today call Turkey. As a result a people whose existence was seriously doubted previously is well documented with literally tens of thousands of clay tablets” (Walter Kaiser, The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant? 2001, p. 102).

Again critics used to argue that Jesus could not have lived in Nazareth as it was not in habited during the times mentioned in the Bible. The conventional understanding is that Nazareth was a fairly small community, of no great historical importance, which is why it is not mentioned outside the New Testament. But there is now plenty of archaeological evidence that Nazareth existed before, during and after the time of Christ. And the latest discoveries may completely overturn the idea that it was small and insignificant. Either way, the idea that it did not exist, and therefore that Jesus could not have existed, is out of date, and not supported by contemporary evidence.

Frank Gaebelein, an eminently qualified author and general editor of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, has remarked that “the attitude of suspended judgment toward Bible difficulties … is constantly being vindicated, as archaeology has solved one Biblical problem after another, and as painstaking re-examination of discrepancies has finally led to answers” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 1979, Vol. 1, p. 31).

As eminent archaeologist Nelson Glueck concluded: “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper valuation of Biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries” (Rivers in the Desert: A History of the Negev, 1959, p. 31).

Archaeology will never convince you that God exists. It will also not convince you that Jesus was His son and walked this earth. What it may do though is help us to understand that the Bible has more validity than some would have us believe. It has an historically correct context. It fit’s in with historical evidence and repeated new findings. You would have thought that by now if these were made up accounts by lots of different people that evidence would have come to light of mistakes made in their historical context. The more we dig up from the past the more evidence is found to corroborate Biblical events not the other way around.

I leave you with a table taken from the New International Bible of major Biblical events and archaeological evidence that has been found to back them up.

Israel

Herod’s temple Jerusalem Lk 1:9
Herod’s winter palace Jericho Mt 2:4
The Herodium
(possible site of Herod’s tomb)
Near Bethlehem Mt 2:19
Masada Southwest of Dead Sea cf. Lk 21:20
Early synagogue Capernaum Mk 1:21
Pool of Siloam Jerusalem Jn 9:7
Pool of Bethesda Jerusalem Jn 5:2
Pilate inscription Caesarea Lk 3:1
Inscription:
Gentile entrance of temple sanctuary
Jerusalem Ac 21:27-29
Skeletal remains of crucified man Jerusalem Lk 23:33
Peter’s house Capernaum Mt 8:14
Jacob’s well Nablus Jn 4:5-6

Asia Minor

Derbe inscription Kerti Huyuk Ac 14:20
Sergius Paulus inscription Antioch in Pisidia Ac 13:6-7
Zeus altar (Satan’s throne?) Pergamum Rev 2:13
Fourth century BC walls Assos Ac 20:13-14
Artemis temple and altar Ephesus Ac 19:27-28
Ephesian theatre Ephesus Ac 19:29
Silversmith shops Ephesus Ac 19:24
Artemis statues Ephesus Ac 19:35

Greece

Erastus inscription Corinth Ro 16:23
Synagogue inscription Corinth Ac 18:4
Meat market inscription Corinth 1 Co 10:25
Cult dining rooms
(in Asklepius and Demeter temples)
Corinth 1 Co 8:10
Court (bema) Corinth Ac 18:12
Marketplace (bema) Philippi Ac 16:19
Starting gate for races Isthmia 1 Co 9:24, 26
Gallio inscription Delphi Ac 18:12
Egnatian Way Kavalla (Neapolis), Philippi, Apollonia, Thessalonica Cf Ac 16:11-12,17:1
Politarch inscription Thessalonica Ac 17:6

Italy

Tomb of Augustus Rome Lk 2:1
Mamertime Prison Rome 2 Ti 1:16-17, 2:9,4:6-8
Appian Way Puteoli to Rome Ac 28:13-16
Golden House of Nero Rome Cf Ac 25:10; 1 Pe 2:13
Arch of Titus Rome Cf Lk 19:43-44,21:6, 20
Advertisements

What if…Jeep has it right?

Posted: February 17, 2011 by Haelie in What About..., What If...

“Jeep – The things we make, make us.”

Is there any truth to that?

Consider:

All who make idols are nothing,
and the things they treasure are worthless.
Those who would speak up for them are blind;
they are ignorant, to their own shame.
Who shapes a god and casts an idol,
which can profit nothing?
People who do that will be put to shame;
such craftsmen are only human beings.
Let them all come together and take their stand;
they will be brought down to terror and shame.

Isaiah 44:9-11

“Present your case,” says the LORD.
“Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob’s King.
“Tell us, you idols,
what is going to happen.
Tell us what the former things were,
so that we may consider them
and know their final outcome.
Or declare to us the things to come,
tell us what the future holds,
so we may know that you are gods.
Do something, whether good or bad,
so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear.
But you are less than nothing
and your works are utterly worthless;
whoever chooses you is detestable.

Isaiah 41:21-24

In case you are thinking, as many of us do, that idol worship is the farthest from anything you would ever do…know this.  Idols are not just things.  Idols can be jobs/careers, people (even good people – pastors, mentors, family, children), financial stability, reputation/image, and so much more.

According to my recent Bible Study Fellowship notes on Isaiah 44, “anything—career, education, friends, health and physical fitness, even family—that consumes the fire of our devotion in the place of God, becomes an idol.”

So, now, could you possibly be idolizing something or someone in your life?

I know I do at times.  As a matter of fact, right now, as the mother of a five-year-old son, I find myself idolizing the idea of a time in the future when my son will be more focused on his classwork and less easily distracted.  (Haha!  I know you’re laughing right now…)  Seriously, though, we can be idol worshipers—consumed with devotion to something and/or someone other than God—and not even realize it.

And what does God have to say about all of this…other than what we have already read above?

For this is what the LORD says—
he who created the heavens,
he is God;
he who fashioned and made the earth,
he founded it;
he did not create it to be empty,
but formed it to be inhabited—
he says:
“I am the LORD,
and there is no other.
I have not spoken in secret,
from somewhere in a land of darkness;
I have not said to Jacob’s descendants,
‘Seek me in vain.’
I, the LORD, speak the truth;
I declare what is right.

“Gather together and come;
assemble, you fugitives from the nations.
Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood,
who pray to gods that cannot save.
Declare what is to be, present it—
let them take counsel together.
Who foretold this long ago,
who declared it from the distant past?
Was it not I, the LORD?
And there is no God apart from me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
there is none but me.

“Turn to me and be saved,
all you ends of the earth;
for I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn,
my mouth has uttered in all integrity
a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
by me every tongue will swear.
They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone
are deliverance and strength.’”
All who have raged against him
will come to him and be put to shame.
But all the descendants of Israel
will find deliverance in the LORD
and will make their boast in him.

Isaiah 45:18-25

This is what God the LORD says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
“I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. “I am the LORD; that is my name!
I will not yield my glory to another
or my praise to idols.
See, the former things have taken place,
and new things I declare;
before they spring into being
I announce them to you.”

Isaiah 42:5-9

So, again, I think Jeep may have this one right as well.  They have another slogan:

“Jeep – There’s only one.”

But, of course, Jeep is not The Only One to which I am referring.

Many people are happy with their lives. They may like to change one or two things but on the whole they are content with their lot. They have their routines and they like them it gives them security and structure to their lives. They know they are not perfect but they’ve never killed anyone and anyway they like their little forays into the world of doing wrong. It can be exciting, freeing and helps them to fit in to a world where, let’s face it, nobody is perfect. We’re not talking major crimes here just the odd time of drinking a little too much, the late night puff of weed, the bit of bitchiness at the school gate or flirting just a little too much at the office party – you know the kind of thing. These things can be fun, no-one gets hurt and they add a little bit of vitality to life. Why should they change? In fact they don’t want to change? However, if they became a Christian they would have to change!! Become all straight laced and high and mighty! They would have to change the things in their lives that they like doing and that is just not going to happen!! They may believe there is a God; they may even believe in Jesus and what he taught; they may even go to church once in a blue moon; but diving headlong into this thing they call Christianity? No! Too much would have to change.

 

But now let’s look at the other end of the spectrum. Many people are unhappy with their lives. Life has not been good to them. Perhaps that late night puff of weed developed into a full blown addiction and not just to weed but to much harder drugs. Perhaps in the struggle to make ends meet they felt like they had no option but to turn to crime. They might be trapped by all sorts of other addictions that have such a grip on their lives that the idea of change just can’t be comprehended. Their lives started on a slippery slope and the downward spiral has taken them to a place of seemingly no return. It seems to them that it would be impossible to change and become a Christian. They simply wouldn’t be able to. It would take too much and they don’t even have anything. Again too much would have to change and this time it’s not that they don;t want to it’s just that they don’t believe that they can!

 

Now, of course, none of this applies to us, because our lives are perfect! We are all sorted – we never do anything wrong – we have no addictions – we are happy all the time – our lives need no extra excitement – we are the all singing all dancing perfect person. We come from a perfect family and we have a perfect family. In fact we have no need whatsoever to change because we have it all! It’s about now that I wake up, the dream is over, the bubble has burst and I come well and truly back to reality!! When it comes to being perfect we are all in the same boat!! Some of us might like think that we’re in the first class cabins and some of us may feel we’ve stowed away and don’t even deserve to be there – but let’s face it when the boat goes down we’re all in the water. When it come to being perfect we are all a long way off. Whether someone has been a Christian for 70 years or one day – whether they’re from middle class respectability or gang culture – whether they have a criminal record as long as your arm or none whatsoever they all need to change. We all need to change.

 

Now, nobody likes change. It is seen as unsettling, awkward, a hassle, difficult, uncomfortable, abnormal, you name it, it never seems good. Change is big business. People are paid big bucks to “manage” change. However, let’s not blow “change” out of proportion. We change and adapt every hour we’re awake. It really is no big deal. When we first fell in love did we focus on the changes that we may have had to make? When we got rid of our old banger and bought a brand new car did we constantly bemoan the fact that lots of things were different? When we moved out of the slum and into a house did the change seem bad then? How we look at change depends on how we cope with change. Do we look at all the negatives or do we focus on the positives? When we go on holiday do we look at the hassle of packing, the nervousness of getting a plane, the uncomfortableness of the first night in a new bed, the pain of having to put on suntan lotion, the removal of sand from between our toes after a swim in the sea etc. etc. No we look at all the wonderful aspects of the holiday – the fresh air, time with family, the sun on our skin, the beauty around us, the wonderful food, the cultural spectaculars, the rest if gives us, the places of interest, the break from work and the list could go on and on. When it comes to Christianity the benefits far outweigh the changes that need to be made. More than that – in Christ we have the greatest manager of change that there ever has been. Why? Because Jesus loves you just the way you are! You don’t have to change to merit his love. It is 100% unconditional! Even though we might detest God, hold things against Him, curse Him – he still loves us! Now, that doesn’t mean that he wants us to stay that way. He wants the best for us – just as we want the best for our children, family, friends. Do we want those who we love to do things that hurt us, no! Do we stop loving them until they stop doing things that hurt us, no! The same is true with God. I love this phrase that holds a lot of truth – “There is nothing that we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing that we can do that can make God love us less.” God’s love for us is constant – never changing – unconditional. He accepts us exactly as we are.

 

When you start a relationship with someone they love you for who you are. In many ways there is no need for you to change your ways, your habits or your activities. However, in time the likelihood is that you will want to change. You will find out more about each other, what each other likes and dislikes. You will want to spend more time with each other – so you’ll willingly give up that Monday evening art class to spend the time with each other. You may discover that your smoking sets off their asthma and will see that as a great incentive to give up. All the freedoms you enjoyed as a single person suddenly don’t seem so important any more and you’ll gladly give them up. The same is true with becoming a Christian. God will not force you to change in any way at all. However, it is likely that you will find, as you get to know Him more, that you will want to change. You will see some things in your life as more important and some things as less. Jesus will only help you change your life for the better, on your terms, at your pace, on your say so. Let’s face it there aren’t many people who give up smoking and wish they hadn’t or kicked an addiction and long to go back to it. All change with Christianity is change for the good – no pressure – no arm twisting – and also no regrets.

 

Change doesn’t have to be bad, daunting and difficult. If it is managed well it can be freeing, liberating, exhilarating, life enhancing, fulfilling and affirming. Don’t let anyone look down on you because they think they’re in first class and you’re in cattle class – remind them we’re all in the same boat and that Jesus loves us all, just the way we are!! Then gently remind them that Jesus doesn’t necessarily want them to remain that way!!

 

Let me tell you two mini stories. The first concerns my Great Uncle Neville (Whall) who people used to call Nunkie. He died well before I was born but two stories have been passed down to me about him. Both concern his great passion in life, cycling. The first tells that he was the president some cycling organisation and used to cycle all over the UK and Europe. As part of this role he went on to jointly found the Youth Hostel Association. The second tells of him cycling in the grounds of Windsor Great Park and meeting King George VI. There is a photo somewhere of my Great Uncle explaining to the King how the gears on his bike work.

 

Now the second story concerns me at school. I was never too keen on education, as my results and school reports will attest to. One of my favourite comments found in one of my old school reports states that “Nathan has decided that this subject is superfluous to his requirements”! If something interested me I would work hard and do well, if it did not then no amount of cajoling would make me do any work for it.

 

Both of these stories are, to the best of my knowledge and memory permitting, true. However, there is a difference in their reliability. The first story has been handed down to me. Facts may have been embellished or forgotten. In fact I’ve had to check with my dad some of the information before putting it down on paper. If someone wanted to find out the accuracy of the story they would have great difficulty. I’m sure that in the archives of the Youth Hostelling Association there may be a mention of it’s founders but my Uncle might not have wanted to push his name to the forefront. He may be mentioned, he may not. I’m sure King George VI didn’t drive back to Windsor Castle and write an account of meeting my Uncle. I don’t even know if he got my Uncle’s name. It would be an account that is very hard to prove or disprove. However, with the second story things would be slightly easier. If someone wanted to prove or disprove this story their task would be fairly simple. For a start they could be shown my report cards. They could interview my teachers and fellow class mates. They could interrogate me, my parents and family. It would soon become obvious whether this story was true or not.

 

So what on earth have these two stories got to do with the reliability of the gospels. Well, hopefully I can explain. For hundreds of years it was thought that the gospels were written by people in the 2nd Century. They were accounts that had been passed down through families or churches or groups of people. They were thought to be very much second hand accounts just like the story of my Great Uncle. It was thought that when they were written down the people that had been involved in the events were long since dead. You couldn’t have gone to them to verify the facts. You couldn’t have proved or disproved what was being written. However outrageous it seemed there was no proof to be had, no-one to argue against it. However, later research suggests that the gospels were all very likely written before the year A.D.70. So it also seems likely that they were first hand accounts of what happened. Many of the first people to read these accounts would have known the people involved. They could have checked out if the stories were true. The writers wouldn’t have been able to pull the wool over the eyes of people that had been around at the time. If I had written a famous book claiming to be an “A star” student people would soon step forward to tell the world that I was not. If the Bible were written within the lifetime of the events it would soon have become obvious if they were no more than lies or exaggerations. People would not have been prepared to suffer and die for what others were calling blatant lies. The whole idea of Christianity would have been extinguished before it even got started. There are no accounts of people calling into question the reliability of the Gospel account.

 

Backing up the Bible.

 

The Gospels as historical texts don’t stand alone. Events that take place within the Gospels are mentioned by Flavius Josephus a Jewish historian who wrote around A.D. 37 – A.D. 100; Tacitus a Roman Historian who wrote around A.D. 55 – A.D. 117; Thallus who wrote around A.D. 55; Pliny the younger who was governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor and also in the Talmud.

 

If you take the view that the writers of the new testament set out to deceive, to write lies and to create this new Religion called Christianity you have to ask three questions…

1.  What was their Motive? The writers gained neither fame or fortune from their writings – their writing did not push themselves to the forefront. In fact it bought them nothing but persecution. Why would they set out to try and deceive?

 

2. Why would they write the way they did? There are two major things that don’t add up unless the only motive of writing these accounts was to portray a true and accurate picture of the actual events that took place. Firstly, why would they write it in such an embarrassing way. The Gospels are written in a way that portrays the disciples as people who always got things wrong. Why would they write about Peter denying Christ; why would they include that the disciples we often afraid and got things wrong; that so many deserted him on the cross, that they misunderstood; said the wrong things. Secondly, why would they include stuff that was so difficult to explain or even seeming at odds with their beliefs. For example why would they make up that Jesus got baptised? At first sight this would seem to show that Jesus was not perfect as a perfect man would have no need to be baptised. These sort of things would clearly cast doubt on what they were trying to get across and would have been left out had they been trying to deceive.

 

3. Would they really have carried the lie through until death? It might have been fun for a while to try and deceive people. They used their great minds to create something spectacular. But, let’s face it would they really have gotten so wrapped up in their lies and deceit that they would all be willing to die for some fabrication? If it were just one of them you could imagine that he was overtaken by his web of lies and could, perhaps, not tell reality from the lie, but all of the writers, all of the disciples, all of the martyrs? It just doesn’t make sense.


All of this doesn’t add up to prove that the Bible is true but I do hope that along with other blogs in the series “What If the Bible is Valid” it will go to show that the Bible has a lot more validity than many people would have to believe. It is not just a book that can be discounted or that you have to belief with blind faith. If you put all the pieces together you will hopefully see that the Bible is a factual document that is worth looking into.