Common Objections to Christianity

How is the Bible Different from Other Scriptures?

Teaching t07090

Introduction

In a religiously pluralistic culture, the Bible no longer commands a dominant market share of respect. This objection demands a response!

One of the most often asked questions is "Why should I regard the Bible as God's Word? What about all of the other ‘scriptures?’" EXAMPLES: Hinduism (Rig Vedas; Upanishads); Buddhism (Pali Canon; Sutras; Tibetian Book of the Dead); Confucianism (Analects of Confucius); Islam (Quran); Ba’hai (Writings of Baha’u’llah); Mormonism (Book of Mormon).

In fact, most people have a negative bias against the Bible, and a positive bias toward other "scriptures." If you appeal to the Bible, you’re likely to hear, "Everyone knows the Bible is full of errors and contradictions." But if you refer to other "scriptures," you will probably be viewed as enlightened.

This is a very ironic situation, because there is far more evidence to believe that the Bible is true than any other "scripture." I want to examine three lines of this evidence . . .

QUALIFY: My purpose is not to bash other scriptures. They have great value as literary and cultural artifacts, and they each contain elements of truth and beauty. The issue we are pursuing this morning is: Do they deserve to be called God’s Word?"

It claims to be God’s revealed Word.

EXAMPLES of God claiming to speak in the Bible (see Jer. 26:2; 2 Pet. 1:21). Certainly, this claim does not in itself validate the Bible. But it does make it one of very few "scriptures" that even make this claim. Most people assume that all "scriptures" make this claim, but this is far from the case. One of the best kept secrets is the fact that very few "scriptures" even claim to be God’s revealed Word.

The "scriptures" of Hinduism and Buddhism never claim to be a revelation from God for the obvious reason that the eastern god is not a Person who speaks. Rather, they claim only to be human speculation.

Likewise, the sacred Chinese books claim no supernatural inspiration or authority, Confucianism being less a religion than a venerable moral tradition.

In fact, only the Bible and those religions rooted in the Bible (including Islam and the Christian sects, like Mormonism) claim to have books that are actual revelation from God.

When we compare the Bible with, say, the Koran or the Book of Mormon, we find some very important differences.

It interfaces accurately with science and history.

Why is this so important? Because the nature of spiritual truth claims is that they cannot be directly verified. How can we directly verify whether God is personal or impersonal? What the afterlife is like? Whether salvation is by works or by grace? If all we have to go on is the assertion of the "scriptures," there would be no way to decide. This is why Christians’ circular reasoning ("The Bible is trustworthy because it is God’s Word") is unhelpful at best and discrediting at worst.

But if that same text made factual assertions about areas we could test—like, say, scientific or historical matters—then we could indirectly test their spiritual truth claims. If they interface inaccurately in these areas we can test, why should we trust them in the areas we can’t test? On the other hand, if they do interface accurately in these testable areas, we have a basis for taking them seriously in their spiritual truth claims.

Non-Christian scholars realized this linkage. That’s why they expended so much effort on discrediting the Bible’s assertions about science and history. Doug showed that there is no contradiction between the Bible and scientific facts on week #2. What about history? Isn’t the Bible full of undeniable historical errors? Although it was once confidently assumed that archeology would prove the historical inaccuracy of the Bible, this is far from the case. While we cannot say that archeology proves the authority of the Bible, it is fair to say that archeological evidence has provided external confirmation of hundreds of biblical statements.

OLD TESTAMENT

Scholars considered the Genesis account of Abraham (including Sodom and Gomorrah) to be mythological or ahistorical. Ur was excavated and shown to be a flourishing city around 2000 BC. The Ebla Tablets include some of the kings mentioned in Gen. 14. Tell Mardikh tablets mention Sodom and Gomorrah.

Scholars said Moses could not have written the Pentateuch because the art of writing was virtually unknown in Israel prior to David's time (1000 BC). The Ras Shamra Tablets date from 1400 BC. Ebla takes this back to Abraham's time (2100 BC). Both show that writing was well-advanced by this time.

Scholars said the Law of Moses could not have been developed earlier than 5th century BC. But Hittite Suzerainty treaties (15th century BC) bear remarkable similarity to the form of Mosaic Covenant. Also, Hammurabi (1700 BC), Lipit-Ishtar (1860 BC), Eshnunna (1950 BC) refute this claim.

Many scholars disputed the historicity of David. But the Tablet of Tel Dan, excavated in 1993, confirms the biblical record. This tablet commemorates the victory of the "house of David" by his 9th century BC descendent Asa over Baashaas, as recorded in 1 Kings 15:16.

This is why the renowned Jewish archeologist Nelson Glueck says, "It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical passage. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible."

NEW TESTAMENT

19th century critics, like Sir William Ramsay, claimed that Luke was a terrible historian. But excavations have proven otherwise.

For example, they scoffed at his references to Lysanius as tetrarch of Abilene (Lk. 3:1) because the only Lysanius known from ancient sources was executed in 36 BC—60 years before Luke’s reference. But two Greek inscriptions from Abila, northwest of Damascus, now prove there was a "Lysanius the tetrarch" between the years AD 14 and 29.

Likewise, they rejected Luke’s claim that Sergius Paulus was proconsul of Cyprus in the late 40’s AD (Acts 13:7). But excavations in Cyprus revealed at least one inscription (cornerstone of government building??) attributed to Sergius Paulus as proconsul.

Thus, Ramsay, who began his excavations to prove Luke to be untrustworthy, concluded after years of study that "Luke's history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness . . ." and "Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy . . . this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians."

Archeological works have also explained apparent contradictions in the New Testament. Scholars have long cited Lk. 18:35 and Mk. 10:46 as one such contradiction that proved that one of the biblical authors was mistaken. Excavations have since revealed that there were actually two Jericho’s at this time, the original Jericho (to which the Jewish Mark would have referred) and the new Roman Jericho (to which the Greek Luke would have referred).

This is why John W. Montgomery says, "Careful comparison of the New Testament with inscriptions and other early independent evidence has confirmed their primary claims . . . Competent historical scholarship must regard the New Testament documents as coming from the first century and as reflecting primary-source testimony about the person and claims of Jesus."

When we look at other "scriptures," we find they do not interface with history at all, or they interface inaccurately.

The eastern "scriptures" have no interest in history, because this is the world of illusion from which we are to be delivered. Ancient polytheistic religions likewise had no interest in history. Their gods acted only in myths, removed as far as possible from real history.

The Koran is almost entirely assertions of Allah. It has very little historical interface, and what there is contains clear inaccuracies.

Sura 26:55-60 says that the Israelites under Pharaoh were but "a scanty band" (in contrast to the multitude mentioned in Ex. 1:9) and that in leaving Egypt they forsook "their gardens and fountains and splendid dwellings" (in contrast to their slavery and hardship mentioned Ex. 1:11-14). This renders the whole motive for Israel’s deliverance obscure.

Sura 5:119 reflects Muhammad’s gross misunderstanding of the Trinity—that it is composed of the Father, Jesus and Mary.

The Book of Mormon makes many historical references, but it too is full of historical anachronisms and geographical inaccuracies.

1 Nephi 2:5-8 states that the river Laman emptied into the Red Sea. But there has never been any river that emptied into the Red Sea, either in historic or prehistoric times.

Alma 46:15 states that believers were called "Christians" back in 73 BC—fully seven decades before Jesus was even born!

It provides a unique means of authenticating its claim.

While the above point shows why we shouldn’t take seriously other "scriptures’" truth claims, it doesn’t provide compelling evidence that the Bible itself is divinely inspired. Since the Bible makes such a claim for itself, might we not expect it to produce some unique way of authenticating its claim?

The Bible actually anticipates our need for such unique authentication and provides its own means of authentication via the phenomenon of fulfilled prophecy.

Consider what God told the Israelites as they entered into a religiously pluralistic culture (read Deut. 18:20-22). There were lots of gods, lots of prophets, lots of "scriptures." How were they to know which one was true? His answer was that his spokesmen would couple their spiritual teaching with short-term, detailed predictions, and that they would be willing to pay with their lives if their predictions were wrong. The true God alone could know the future with perfect accuracy, so only those who made such predictions spoke for him.

So the Old Testament prophets were vindicated by their short-term predictions. This is one reason why their many long-term predictions were recorded—predictions of historical events and (supremely) the coming of Messiah. The time factor is important, because in this way a solid record of evidence could be laid down and others could have access to that evidence.

Ezekiel predicted the destruction of Tyre, including many unique details, several centuries in advance (refer to Ezek. 26 tape).

The Old Testament prophets made hundreds of predictions about the coming Messiah, most of which were beyond anyone’s power to deliberately fulfill, or beyond anyone’s desire to fulfill unless they were the Messiah.

Time (Dan. 9:24,25) - Over 500 years earlier, his death was predicted to the year. Refer to Faith Makes Sense for full treatment.

Birthplace (Micah 5:2) - Of course, Jesus had no control over this.

Response of Jews (Isa. 53) - So detailed that prior to the Dead Sea Scrolls, many though it was a Christian forgery.

Mode of Execution (Ps. 22:1-18) - This was predicted several centuries before crucifixion was invented!

It was this kind of evidence to which the apostles referred when they proclaimed that Jesus' death and resurrection was "according to the scriptures" (Lk. 24:44-48; Acts 3:18,24; 17:2,3; 1 Cor. 15:3-5). They were claiming to have the one true message about God, but they were also providing unique evidence for that claim. They were saying, "Don’t believe our message just because we say so. Check out the predictions, and then check out what happened."

What about other "scriptures?"

In the vast majority, there is no prophecy at all, or any comparably unique means of self-authentication. Muhummad acknowledged that the biblical prophets were confirmed by miraculous signs (Surahs 3:184; 17:103; 23:45)—including prophecy, but when he was asked for similar confirmation that his message was from God, he refused (Surahs 2:118; 4:153; 6:8,9,37) and regarded the request as impious.

The predictions of other so-called prophets are unworthy of being comparison to the biblical prophets.

They usually lack context and the syntax is so general that any specific interpretation (and therefore, any verification) is impossible. EXAMPLES:

NOSTRADAMUS (Century II Q 34, about 1555): "The senseless ire of the furious combat will cause steel to be flashed at the table by brothers: To part them death, wound, and curiously, The proud will come to harm France." One author claims this was a prediction of the Camp David peace agreement in 1978. The "table" refers to the bargaining table, the "proud duel" refers to international terrorism, and the "harm" to France refers to the result of de-stabilization in the Near East since the assassination of Sadat.

BAHA’U’LLAH (Gleanings, p. 142): 'In the days to come, ye will, verily, behold things of which ye have never heard before. Thus hath it been decreed in the Tablets of God, and none can comprehend it except them whose sight is sharp. In like manner, the moment the word expressing My attribute "The Omniscient" issueth forth from My mouth, every created thing will, according to its capacity and limitations, be invested with the power to unfold the knowledge of the most marvelous sciences, and will be empowered to manifest them in the course of time at the bidding of Him Who is the Almighty, the All-Knowing.' This is so general that it has no verification value.

Their predictions are specific, but demonstrably wrong. Andre Kole has estimated a 92% failure rate among such "prophets." For example, the day after Jean Dixon predicted that Jacquie Kennedy would never remarry, she was wed to Aristotle Onassis!

Conclusion: So What?

So God has gone to great lengths to show you that he has a message for you. He did this because he loves you, and because he wants you to understand his purpose for your life.

So another line of evidence is experiencing the impact of his message on your life. If you expose yourself to God’s Word with an open heart, it will convict and draw you to him.

So start learning and responding to his message!

Start reading the gospel of John, praying that God will help you understand who Jesus is how to receive the gift of new life that he offers you.

Continue with us after this series as we start studying a book of the Bible.