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Friday, November 14, 2008

Why You Can Trust the Bible

Some people say the Bible is unreliable, and their views have gained wide acceptance. Thus many today dismiss what the Bible says as untrustworthy.

On the other hand, what Jesus Christ said in prayer to God promotes trust: “Your word is truth.” And the Bible itself claims to be inspired by God.—John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16.

What do you think about this? Is there sound basis for trusting the Bible? Or is there really evidence that the Bible is unreliable, that it contradicts itself and is inconsistent?

Does It Contradict Itself?

While some may claim the Bible contradicts itself, has anyone ever shown you an actual example? We have never seen one that could withstand scrutiny. True, there may appear to be discrepancies in certain Bible accounts. But the problem usually is lack of knowledge regarding details and circumstances of the times.

For example, some persons will draw attention to what they consider a discrepancy in the Bible, asking: ‘Where did Cain get his wife?’ The assumption is that Cain and Abel were the only children of Adam and Eve. But the assumption is based on a misunderstanding of what the Bible says. The Bible explains that Adam “became father to sons and daughters.” (Genesis 5:4) Thus Cain married one of his sisters or possibly a niece.

Often critics are just looking for contradictions and so may declare: ‘The Bible writer Matthew says that an army officer came to ask Jesus a favor, while Luke says that representatives were sent to ask. Which one is correct?’ (Matthew 8:5, 6; Luke 7:2, 3) But is this really a contradiction?

When the activity or work of people is credited to the one who is actually responsible for it, a reasonable person does not claim a discrepancy. For example, do you consider a report to be in error that says a mayor built a road even though the actual building of the road was done by his engineers and laborers? Of course not! Similarly, it is not inconsistent for Matthew to say that the army officer made a request of Jesus but, as Luke writes, that such a request was made through certain representatives.

As more details are known, apparent discrepancies in the Bible disappear.

History and Science

The historical accuracy of the Bible was once widely doubted. Critics, for example, questioned the existence of such Bible characters as King Sargon of Assyria, Belshazzar of Babylon, and the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. But recent discoveries have verified one Bible account after another. Thus historian Moshe Pearlman wrote: “Suddenly, sceptics who had doubted the authenticity even of the historical parts of the Old Testament began to revise their views.”

If we are to trust the Bible, it must also be accurate in matters of science. Is it? Not long ago scientists, in contradiction of the Bible, asserted that the universe had no beginning. However, astronomer Robert Jastrow recently pointed to newer information that refutes this, explaining: “Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same.”—Genesis 1:1.

Men have also changed their views relative to the shape of the earth. “Voyages of discovery,” explains The World Book Encyclopedia, “showed that the world was round, not flat as most people had believed.” But the Bible was correct all along! More than 2,000 years before those voyages, the Bible said at Isaiah 40:22: “There is One who is dwelling above the circle of the earth,” or as other translations say, “the globe of the earth” (Douay), “the round earth.” (Moffatt)

Thus the more humans learn, the greater the evidence is that the Bible can be trusted. A former director of the British Museum, Sir Frederic Kenyon, wrote: “The results already achieved confirm what faith would suggest, that the Bible can do nothing but gain from an increase of knowledge.”

Foretelling the Future

But can we really trust the Bible’s forecasts for the future, including its promises of a ‘righteous new heavens and new earth’? (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:3, 4) Well, what has been the Bible’s record of reliability in the past? Time and time again prophecies given even hundreds of years in advance have been fulfilled in exact detail!

For example, the Bible foretold the overthrow of mighty Babylon nearly 200 years before it happened. In fact, the Medes, who became aligned with the Persians, were named as the conquerors. And although Cyrus, the Persian king, had not even been born as yet, the Bible foretold that he would be prominent in the conquest. It said that Babylon’s protecting waters, the river Euphrates, “must be dried up,” and that “the gates [of Babylon] will not be shut.”—Jeremiah 50:38; Isaiah 13:17-19; 44:27–45:1.

These specific details were fulfilled, as the historian Herodotus reported. Further, the Bible foretold that Babylon would eventually become uninhabited ruins. And that is just what happened. Today Babylon is a desolate heap of mounds. (Isaiah 13:20-22; Jeremiah 51:37, 41-43) And the Bible is full of other prophecies that have had dramatic fulfillment.

What then does the Bible foretell concerning the present world’s system of things? It says: “The final age of this world is to be a time of troubles. Men will love nothing but money and self; they will be arrogant, boastful, and abusive; with no respect for parents, no gratitude, no piety, no natural affection . . . They will be men who put pleasure in the place of God, men who preserve the outward form of religion, but are a standing denial of its reality.”—2 Timothy 3:1-5, The New English Bible.

Surely, we are seeing the fulfillment of this now! But the Bible also foretells for “the final age of this world” these things: “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages.” In addition, “there will be great earthquakes, and in one place after another pestilences.”—Matthew 24:7; Luke 21:11.

Indeed, Bible prophecies are undergoing fulfillment today! Well, then, what about yet-to-be-fulfilled promises, such as: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it,” and, “They will have to beat their swords into plowshares . . . , neither will they learn war anymore”?—Psalm 37:29; Isaiah 2:4.

‘That’s just too good to be true,’ some may say. But really, there is no reason for us to doubt anything that our Creator promises. His Word can be trusted! (Titus 1:2) By examining the evidence further, you will become ever more convinced of this.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Bible quotations are from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.