4. The Bible: Why We Can Trust It (part 2)

Eyewitness Reports

A second reason why we can trust the Bible is that it contains eyewitness reports. These happenings did not occur in a hidden corner, away from witnesses. They took place in public, and all Israel was aware of them. When the facts of the New Testament were recorded, the whole if Israel would have stood up in protest against them had they been forgeries. But, on the contrary, the apostles repeatedly challenged the people to question the many eyewitnesses. In his defense before King Agrippa, Paul said:

“. . . what I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26).

Shortly after the crucifixion, Peter said to a great multitude of Jews:

“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. This Man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him” (Acts 2:22-24).

The Jews never denied the execution of Jesus by crucifixion. They denied only His Messiahship and resurrection. This challenging talk was given seven weeks after the crucifixion, in front of thousands of Jews. Would 3000 people have expressed their faith in Jesus on that day, if the crucifixion had not taken place? A little later Peter and the other apostles were put into prison for their teaching. While being interrogated by the Council of the Jews, the Sanhedrin, they replied:

“Thank God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead : whom you had killed by hanging Him on a tree. God exalted Him to His own right hand as Prince and Saviour that He might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him” (Acts 5:30-32).

Paul likewise referred to a double security: it is “in accordance with the Scriptures” (reference to prophecy in the Taurat) and confirmed by many witnesses, most of whom were still alive at that time to be questioned. This was mentioned in a letter to people in Greece, for in Israel there would have been little need to mention it:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles” (1 Corinthians 15:3-7).

This is supported by the apostle Peter some time later, when he emphasized the eyewitness report. But he added that fulfilled prophecy is even “more certain”. A witness, even many witnesses, may lie. But in fulfilled prophecy there can be no flaw!

“We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain. And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:16-21).

You may also read 1 John 1:1-4.

Historians Confirm the Gospel

We wish to mention a third reason why we know that the Bible is true. Old historical annals and records hardly ever deal with anything other than wars, heroes and contemporary leaders. Consequently, it can hardly be expected that occurrences in such remote places as Galilee and Judea would merit mention. And if they did, we could expect that the events of war and the deeds of kings and generals would be the main features. Even so, we find references that support the Biblical record. Cornelius Tacitus (54-117 AD) was the greatest historian of the Roman Empire. (AD = After Christ.) He wrote,

“The name Christian comes from Christ, who was executed in the reign of Tiberius by the Procurator Pontius Pilate; and the pernicious superstition, suppressed for a while, broke out afresh and spread not only through Judea, the source of the malady, but even throughout Rome itself, where everything vile comes and is feted.”

It is clear that Tacitus had no sympathy for Christianity. His evidence is, therefore, all the more valuable.

Josephus, a Jewish general who survived the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD and became a Roman historian for Israel, wrote in 93 AD:

“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ (Messiah /Al masih). And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him, are not extinct at this day” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18 Chapter 3:3 in The works of Flavius Josephus translated by William Whiston, Milner and Sowerby, London, p. 392).

Because of all these evidences, no honest investigator can question the truth and authority of the Bible.

Was the Bible Corrupted?

It is sometimes said that the Jews and Christians have corrupted their Scriptures. It is true that the Qur'an speaks of certain Jews in Arabia who tried to hide the truth from Muhammad (Sura 2:75-79, 146, 159-160). Some of them also made up their own “scriptures” and sold it for gain (Sura 2:79). But the Qur'an does not once lay that charge to the Christians. If these allegations were true, it would mean that the Jews and the Christians, who were irreconcilable enemies (Sura 2:113), had conspired together to corrupt the Holy Scriptures. And even if this impossibility happened in Arabia, what about all the other thousands of copies of the Holy Scriptures that had already been circulated and translated all over the world? How could they all be corrupted? And surely the Jews who became Muslims would only be too glad to reveal the original versions? Today's translations of the Bible are based on manuscripts of the Old Testament and New Testament that are at least two centuries older than the Qur'an. If the Bible was corrupted, it must have been done before that time. No one who believes the Qur'an can accept that, because the Qur'an would not tell Muslims to believe in it if it was corrupted (Sura 42:14-15; 29:46; 10:94). The Qur'an testifies to the incorruptibility of the Bible.

“The Word of thy Lord doth find its fulfillment in truth and in justice. None can change His words for He is the one who heareth and knoweth all” (Sura 6:115).

The Final Proof

But we do not need the Qur'an to tell us to believe in the Bible. Anyone who reads the Bible itself with unprejudiced mind will be convinced of its truth. It is by reading the Bible prayerfully that the Holy Spirit, who inspired the writers, will convince you about the truth of the Bible and that it really is God's Word to you. Read it with an open mind, and allow God to help you to find the truth.

Test Yourself No 4.

Answer the following questions for yourself. Compare your answers to those found here.

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