It is estimated that since it’s first printing over 17 billion (17,000,000,000) copies of the Bible have been distributed. Yet as history’s all time best-seller, perhaps no other book has sparked more controversy or been more debated. In reality the Bible has withstood the unrelenting attacks of critics, philosophers, humanists, skeptics, and every other brand of critic. But not only has it survived these attacks, it has triumphed over them.
The French atheist Voltaire confidently proclaimed that the Bible would be an extinct book within 100 years of his lifetime. Instead, within fifty years of his death, the Geneva Bible Society was using his house and his printing press to publish an avalanche of Bibles! His house later became the Paris headquarters for the British and Foreign Bible Society.
Thomas Pain, who wrote “Age of Reason” vowed to rid society of the Bible. He predicted that within a generation that the Bible would only be found in museums. After a lifetime of seeking to destroy the Bible, Paine’s dying words are a startling testimony of the Bible’s triumph: “I would give words, if I had them, if the ‘Age of Reason’ had never been published. O Lord, help me! Christ, help me! Stay with me! It is hell to be left alone.”
For a long period of time, critics of the Bible dismissed it as nothing more that the creative invention of a skilled novelist. While some of the Biblical citations of people, places, and events have not been substantiated, modern archaeology is giving credence to the historicity and legitimacy of the Biblical text.
For example, on August 9, 2005, The Los Angeles Times reported that while repairing a sewage pipe in the old city of Jerusalem, workers had discovered the biblical Pool of Siloam. According to tradition it was a freshwater reservoir that was a major gathering place for ancient Jews making religious pilgrimages to the city. In the Gospel of John it was the site where Jesus cured a man blind from birth. The Biblical Pool was discovered less than 200 yards from one that had been created around 430 A.D. in an effort to reconstruct Biblical sites.
Princeton Theological Seminary New Testament scholar James Charlesworth admitted that many critics of the Bible said that the Gospel of John was not rooted in history but was purely theological. Therefore they denied the existence of the Pool of Siloam. Unfortunately for the critics and skeptics, the Pool of Siloam was found exactly where John said it was. Those questioning the historicity of John’s Gospel have now been silenced.
Jeffery Sheler, an award-winning journalist at U.S. News & World Report, says that other discoveries like the Pool of Siloam discredit the theory that the Bible, and specifically the Old Testament, is the work of a good historical novelist. According to Sheler, it would be a huge leap of faith for skeptics to believe that a human novelist could have so accurately recorded “the arcane details of the economic and social milieu of distant times and places.”
What does all of this mean? Well for me it means that my trust in the Bible has a reliable foundation rooted in historical accuracy. I'll write more on this issue later, but for now I'll leave you with these words, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8, NIV).
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