Evidence for Divine Origin
The position of this author is that the Bible is the Word of God. This position is based on the numerous claims of Scripture that it is of divine origin, that it claims both in general and specific terms to be from God. There is much riding on that claim. What it boils down to is this: Either the Bible is of human origin or it really is from God as it claims. Can we test for both? Can we examine the Bible for evidence that it is nothing but a book concocted by ancient scribes? Can we also test for evidence that supports the claim that this book would not and could not have been written by mere human agency and that it has the stamp of divine agency in both its origin and transmission? The answer to both questions is yes. That is where I will direct my next efforts.
One piece of evidence that the Bible is not of human origin is that the Bibles claims are universally offensive to human nature. I have used this argument before in other threads and I think it holds up. This is not rooted in opinion, but is what we intuitively observe. It is self-evident in everyday life. Christianity is not the widest accepted religion it is much smaller than many other world religions. While it is the majority religion in the US, it is by far NOT the majority worldwide. One only needs to examine real life. There are far more shows on the History Channel, A & E, PBS and other channels of similar ilk that consistently shed doubt on the biblical accounts. You won't find them running stories on why Buddha did not really exist, or challenging the philosophy of the Shinto or Hindus. More than any other religion, Christianity is mocked and made fun of in sitcoms and other shows on TV. Christians are regularly portrayed as weak minded imbeciles and stooges.. Can you imagine the public outrage if Hinduism or Islam was portrayed in the same light? I also don't see anyone in the secular world spending a lot of time looking for "contradictions" in Buddhist writings or looking for ways to discredit the Koran. The religious skeptics generally speaking, while they purport to reject all religions equally have singled out the Bible/Christianity for special condemnation and spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to poke holes in our faith and in our Scriptures.
The majority of humanity rejects the claims of the Bible. That is fact beyond dispute. The claims the Bible makes are unique to any other religious manuscript. They strike at human pride because the Bible says, contrary to other religions, you are not basically good, you are sinner and without Christ you have no hope for eternal life. Man is hopeless and helpless with God. The Bible's message is very clear, and those reject Christ are sliding down a greased pole straight into hell. It doesn't matter if they believe or don't believe God exists. It doesn't matter if they believe Hell exists. The Bible teaches the hopeless and bankrupt condition of all mankind and offers the only remedy, Jesus. That message, when it is not watered down, is rejected by the majority of those who hear it, and they don't need to know about contradictions in the Bible or any other clever arguments. The uniqueness of the Bible makes it the object of scorn all on its own.
I am not offering the fact that man's offended ego is enough evidence to support God's hand in authoring the Bible. I am saying that the fact that it is universally offensive to human nature and contains a moral code that man generally speaking has rejected and refuses to live up to simply argues for the Bible not having its origin in human nature.
Self Deprecating Information
Aside from the evidence already provided, namely that human intellect and pride are offended at the morality of God, and the disparaging way the Bible pictures mankind, another point to look at is that the Bible, unlike its contemporaries, does not exalt its heroes to God like status.
Unlike the Pharaohs and Caesars, who were treated as "god on earth" by their subjects, the Bible does not exalt the kings of Israel to such status. In Egypt, the hieroglyphics only tell us about Egypt's victories, never their defeats. If we want to learn about the battles Egypt lost, we have to turn to Egypts enemies. The Pharaohs were considered gods in human form, and so their failures are simply omitted by Egyptian records.
In the Bible we get the good, the bad and the ugly. The kings of Israel are seen for what they were. Some were great, and some not so great. Even Israel's greatest King, King David is exposed as a murderer and an adulterer. Unlike the contemporary cultures around it, the Bible does not hide the flaws and moral failings, defeats in battle and so forth of the most revered biblical characters. Even with Moses, Abraham, Solomon, Elijah, Peter, Paul, etc. the Bible does not attempt to raise them two feet off the ground. It shows them as fully human with warts and all. Had the Bible simply been the product of Middle Eastern mindset, it would more resemble its contemporaries.
Even in the New Testament, the disciples of Jesus are shown in a very unflattering manner. They are depicted as selfish, slow-minded, cowardly, unbelieving, stubborn, faithless, disloyal, unreliable, arrogant, one of them was a thief, and Peter James and John are impulsive, quick tempered, and brazenly presumptuous. Following are some specific instances where the disciples, Paul and even Jesus own family are shown in a less than flattering light.
- The disciples argue about who would be the greatest in heaven. (Matt. 18:1-6)
- Peter does not have enough faith to walk on the water with Jesus (John 6:16-21)
- James and John want privileged positions for themselves (Mark 10:35-42)
- When Jesus is arrested all disciples flee and hide (Mark 14:43-50)
- Jesus family opposed His ministry during much of His life (Mark 3:31-34, John 7:5)
- Paul considers John Mark unreliable after he deserts him on Cyprus (Acts 15:36-41)
- Paul goes to Jerusalem in spite of the Holy Spirit urging him not to (Acts 21:4,10-14)\
- Jesus was born of a virgin (Matt. and Luke)
Now the last one about the virgin birth requires a little more in depth treatment. The world of Jesus day was a mans world. Even though the Bible is far more complimentary to women than its contemporaries, the Jewish men of that day still saw women as inferior. Women were not even considered reliable witnesses in court. Why do you suppose Paul, omits the female witnesses to the resurrection in his list of witnesses to whom Jesus appeared after His resurrection (I Cor. 15:3-8)?
Women were required to keep their mouth, hair and legs covered. The mouth was covered to keep the woman from speaking something that would embarrass her husband. The legs were covered to keep her from possibly seducing another man and loose hair that went uncovered was the sign of a loose and promiscuous woman.
So in light of that a virgin birth is not something that would be well received in that culture. A girl who was pregnant out of wedlock was considered an insult to the honor of her family. It was against this cultural backdrop that the virgin birth is presented by both Luke and Matthew and Matthew being a Jewish man, this would in his mind present a real problem and open up a flood gate of controversy about Jesus being born out of wedlock. Yet, Matthew records it faithfully. It shows that Matthew was committed to an uncompromising dedication to the truth without altering it.
Matthew tells us that Joseph was a righteous man and did not want to put her away publicly. It would have meant Marys death. In the light of public humiliation and apparent marital infidelity Joseph loved Mary and decided to put her away privately. What that meant was that Joseph would appear to the public to be accepting responsibility for Marys pregnancy. Had he put her away publicly, it would have meant that Joseph would have distanced himself from her sin and would have retained his honor. Yet, Joseph, even though he knew he was not the father, chose to stain his own honor (which was a very, very, very big deal in those days) in order to save Marys life. Personal honor was worth more than all of the gold and silver in the world in that culture and for Joseph to sacrifice his honor to protect Mary shows just how much he loved her. Remember how they went to Bethlehem to partake in the census? They could not find a place to sleep. This was Josephs hometown. This is where was born and where his parents and family would still have been residing, he would have had friends and relatives living there most likely. So why could they not find a place for the night??? Because of perceived marital infidelity or immorality, because as a devout Jewish family, Josephs own family did what any good Jewish family would do. They shunned Joseph and Mary. Josephs love for Mary is really amazing, I think. In spite of the deprecatory treatment of the story, Josephs sterling character still shines through.
Were the Bible a document of human origin, we would expect it to reflect the conventional practice of hiding the flaws of its heroes and even manufacturing grandiose claims that have no basis in historical reality. No such dishonest tactics are afforded the biblical characters. Their lives are not whitewashed and their mistakes and shortcomings are not hidden. Since we are talking about ancient conventional thinking, it should be noted that the Bible stands unique in terms of how the ancient world handled the issue of God.
God vs. The gods
The ancient Israelites were the first to introduce monotheism to the world. Until that time, the world had been polytheistic. Every culture or nation had its own collection of gods for every thing you could imagine. There were hundreds of gods and each culture would borrow and incorporate gods from their neighbors adding to a seemingly endless list of deities to keep track of.
Until the Koran came around in 7th century AD, the Bible was the only monotheistic religious manuscript in the Middle East. The Bible was birthed in a culture surrounded by Pantheism. The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Hittites, Phoenicians, Philistines, Assyrians, et al., were believers in many Gods. The notion of ONE God was completely unique to that part of the world.
Furthermore, the gods of the other cultures like the Greeks and Romans for example, were fraught with limitations, character flaws, and in some cases need man's help when things got to difficult. Many of the gods possessed the same traits as human beings.
The God of the Bible revealed Himself as radically different, bearing no resemblance to the gods of the nations that surrounded Israel. For example:
- God of the Bible is omnipresent/gods of the pagans were limited to being in one place at a time.
- God of the Bible is non-corporeal/gods of the pagans had physical bodies.
- God of the Bible is not plagued with human character flaws/gods of the pagans are envious, petty, dishonest, sexually immoral, etc.
- God of the Bible is omniscient/gods of the pagans do not carry that capability.
- God of the Bible is omnipotent/gods of the pagans require at times, human assistance.
- God of the Bible offers forgiveness, redemption and expresses His everlasting love for mankind/gods of pagans do not love mankind, and in fact, tend to resent humans.
In the near future I will cover more in depth, Gods self-revelation in Scripture and deal more with how He compares with other gods of the ancient world.
The Bible vs. Conventional Wisdom/Knowledge of the Ancient World
One can also examine the prevailing wisdom of the ancient world and compare that with we have in the bible.
- Life is in the blood (Lev. 17:1114) The ancients believed that evil spirits resided in blood.
- Do not eat animal blood (Lev. 17:12, 14). In ancient times, raw animal blood was used as a beverage.
- Avoiding bacterial contamination (Lev. 15:1933). No such instructions in the surrounding cultures.
- Prohibition against eating animals that died of natural causes. (Lev. 17:15) No such restrictions in the ancient world
- Quarantine of disease. (Lev. 1315). No quarantine or isolation of disease in the ancient world.
- Do not eat pork (Lev. 11, Deut. 14). No such food restrictions in the ancient world.
These are just a few of the places where the Bible parts ways with the prevailing ancient wisdom of it contemporaries.
There is more evidence to come. Next, we will be dealing in part with God's self-revealtion of Himself AND we will deal with the reliability of the human authors.