“Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.” Acts 2:29
I love it when archaeologists dig the Bible out of the ground. I’m cautious not to over-promote ancient artifacts, particularly when they have hazy trails through the antiquities market, but there are lots of recent archaeological discoveries in Israel that precisely fit the text in the Bible. Since the excavation of the steps of the Pool of Siloam by Ir David Foundation archaeologists in 2004, digs in the City of David have produced an impressive, rapidly growing catalog of artifacts and discoveries. Critics continue to debate the interpretation of these findings, but the preponderance of evidence is piling up rapidly.
The video below highlights recent finds in the City of David. You may be amazed to learn just how strongly the archaeology matches the text in the Bible, and the text in extra-biblical sources, such as the writings of Josephus. The video describes:
A Phoenician capital that prominent archaeologist Eilat Mazar suspected must have rolled downhill from King David’s palace. She started searching for the palace uphill from the capital’s resting place, and unearthed what many archaeologists agree are the remains of King David’s palace. 2 Samuel 5:11 states that King David’s palace was built by (Phoenician) King Hiram of Tyre. What kind of capitals would Phoenician craftsmen put on the palace columns? Makes sense to me.
Jebusite pottery from the Iron Age, right where it is supposed to be in the stratigraphy. David captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5).
Two seals (bullae) that were found 30 feet apart containing the exact names of two officials, who in the same sentence of the Bible were part of a plot to kill Jeremiah (400 years after David and right where they should be in the layers of the excavation).
A cistern that could be the muddy cistern recorded in Jeremiah 38:1-13, into which those officials threw Jeremiah.
An underground tunnel leaving the temple area, where according to Josephus, the Roman 10th legion blocked escaping Jews headed to Masada in 70 CE, then opened the tunnel and butchered them. Archaeologists found a sword in its scabbard from the Roman 10th legion in that tunnel, along with pottery that had food caked on it—indicating the last 2,000 fleeing Jews were indeed hiding or stuck in the tunnel for some period of time. These artifacts match accounts in Josephus’ Jewish Wars.
Jesus carried up to a pinnacle of the Temple, by James Tissot, a watercolor between 1886 and 1894. Was Jesus taken up to a pinnacle on the Temple prior to being taken up to a high mountain and shown the kingdoms of the world, or is the order reversed? Does the chronology really matter?
The sermon this past week was on the Temptations of Jesus. I noticed that in comparing Matthew’s version with Luke’s version that there is an apparent discrepancy in the chronology. I asked my small group what they thought of the discrepancy: “Does this impact how you view the Bible?”
You probably know the story: Early in Jesus’ public ministry, He spends forty days in the wilderness and after being exceedingly hungry, He was tempted by the devil. Mark simply records the basics (Mark 1:12-13). But Matthew and Luke spell out the order of events of the three temptations. Both Matthew (Matthew 4:1-11) and Luke (Luke 4:1-13) start with the first temptation suggesting that Jesus turn the stones to bread. However, the order of the next two temptations between Matthew and Luke are reversed. Matthew’s second temptation is where the devil takes Jesus up to the pinnacle of the temple, urging Him to throw Himself down and trust the angels to catch Him, and the third temptation is where Jesus is taken to a very high place, challenging him to worship the devil in exchange for sharing power. Luke, on the other hand, switches the chronology, putting the “pinnacle of the temple” last, prior to being taken up to a high mountain and shown the kingdoms of the world. Continue reading
What Scriptures were most influential to the writers of the Bible? Who cited whom? Which writers were most schooled in Scripture? Which Gospel writer referred the most to other Scriptures? How big a role did Revelation play in their thinking and teaching? How about Genesis and Job? How are the parts of the Bible connected? Which books appear to have been written at the same time?
“Jesus and New Testament writers amply illustrate their belief in the full and complete inspiration of the Old Testament by quoting from every part of the Scriptures as authoritative, including some of its most disputed teachings. The creation of Adam and Eve (Matt. 19:4–6), the destruction of the world by a flood, the miracle of Jonah and the great fish (Matt. 12:39–40), and many other incidents are quoted authoritatively by Jesus. No part of Sacred Writ claims less than full and complete authority. Biblical inspiration is plenary.” Geisler, Norman L.; Nix, William E. From God To Us Revised and Expanded: How We Got Our Bible. Moody Publishers.
Scripture contains some amazing context clues that point to its trustworthiness. For example, consider the Apostle Paul’s words in his letter to the Corinthians:
To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife. To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.
1 Corinthians 7:10-12 (ESV)
Paul makes a point of stating that verse 10 is from the Lord. But in the very next statement (verse 12) Paul writes, “I just want to add my thoughts here.” He makes it completely clear that these are not God’s words verbatim. This does not imply that Paul’s words should be deprecated or discredited in any way—quite the opposite. Paul was careful to differentiate that which was directly from God and that which was from Paul. Not exactly the approach of someone who is making things up or playing loose with the facts, is it?
This is not a post about divorce. Divorce has to be considered in the context of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, and Paul’s words here and elsewhere have to be read in context. But what is particularly exciting is the nature of Scripture that is revealed in these verses. Continue reading
Is Christianity reasonable? As absurd as this question might seem, there are major religions founded on the premise that faith does not have to be reasonable. Fortunately, Christianity is not one of them.
How would you go about convincing someone that the Christian faith is reasonable? (Okay, this is a trick question—it’s not really our job to convince anyone, but it is our job to think.)
But it is incumbent upon all Christians—not just big-name apologists, theologians, and pastors—to think. As Tim Keller says in the following message, “You cannot be a Christian without using your brain to its uttermost.”
Jesus says (in Matthew 6) if you want to have faith, “Think, consider, deduce.” Why does thinking lead to faith? The Bible tells us that if you don’t let your thinking take you all the way to Jesus Christ it will end in despair. Martin Luther’s thinking led him to see there is a God. Then his thinking led him further to see that God must be a personal God. Then he thought, “If there is a personal God, I want to please him.” But Luther couldn’t obey even the Golden Rule, and wondered how he could please God. The Bible tells us there is only one way: Jesus Christ.
Tim Keller, paraphrased from Faith is Reason clip on YouTube
Oftentimes apologetics can be an uppercut. And it can be an intellectual salve. Great apologists are convincing debaters, loaded with sound arguments to defend their position, and truth be told most of us wish we could dial up their arguments in our normal conversations. But there is an inherent danger in all the eloquence and logic of good apologetics—we can lose sight of the object of apologetics.