Historicity of the Bible

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The historicity and reliability of Christianity

Readings: 2 Peter 1:16-2:10

Psalm 19

Prayer – end of Ps 19.

Looking at the first reading, I would like to contrast two sets of people that Peter draws to our attention here:

In 1:16 he talks about himself and his fellows:

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.

Peter is here claiming that the accounts of events that we read about in the Bible are not cleverly made up stories, but instead, are historically verifiable facts.

In 2:3 he talks of other teachers:

In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.

The idea that the Bible is historically verifiable fact is not a popular concept in our world, there are many who spend enormous energy telling us that the Bible is just fairy tales.  As Peter says, there are many who “will bring the way of truth into disrepute” (end vs 2).

It is interesting in this context, to see that Peter immediately refers to various accounts in the book of Genesis that are widely considered to be allegories, myths or stories:

Verses 4 to 9:

4For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell,[1] putting them into gloomy dungeons[2] to be held for judgment; 5if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8(for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)-- 9if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment

Now let me ask you, what’s your reaction to the events that Peter refers to?

1. Did God actually send a flood on the ancient world which covered the whole world, and in which he spared Noah and seven others and no-one else?

2. Did God actually burn Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes and rescue Lot?

3. Is there actually a Day of Judgement waiting for those who are described as “the unrighteous”?

If these things are true, if they ARE historical events, as Peter obviously considers them to be (3:4-7), then this will have a profound affect on us, a profound affect on the way we live our lives, and a profound affect on the way we talk to those around us.

However, if they are NOT true, then the Bible is unreliable as a source of information about the realities of past history, and then cannot be considered to be a reliable source of information about how to live your life now and cannot be considered to be a reliable source of information about what is going to happen in the future.

Within our churches today there are numerous people who will deny that these past events took place as described in the Bible, and many deny that the Day of Judgement is a real event that will take place at a future time yet to be revealed.

Paul also had these people in mind when he wrote the first chapter of the book of Romans:

Romans 1:16-25

16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,[3] just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."[4]
 18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen.

Are you ashamed of the gospel?  When discussion comes round to things eternal, do you cringe and hope they won’t turn to you, or do speak up in full confidence of the reliability of the Bible and all that it says and with reasonable confidence in your ability to defend it?

Paul was convinced of it’s truth, and the truth and power of the Gospel. It changed his life, and through him, the lives of many around him.

Paul also is convinced in the fact of the creation of the world by God, and that it is obvious to anyone who honestly looks at the world that there is a creator. 

Paul says, and I agree with him, that if we look at what has been made then we can come to no other conclusion than that God made the world through a direct and special creation.

As Psalm 19:1-4 says:

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
3 There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard. [1]
4 Their voice [2] goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

So God is clearly seen in his creation, and he is revealed to everyone on the earth by his creation.

However both Paul and Peter warn us of people who will make up stories, people who will claim to be wise but are actually fools, people who will deny the truth of our Creator God, who will try to tell us that he is just a figment of our imagination, who will try to tell us that this world came about by some other means.

Peter and Paul are in agreement that these people face the certain judgement that is to come.

But how does that affect us to day in our scientific and post modern era, far from the world of Peter and Paul?

Personally I consider that the Bible is just as relevant, and just as defendable as it was in Peter and Paul’s day.  And that is from the first chapter of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation.

What I intend to do now is to briefly touch on a number of areas that come up that relate to the historicity and dependability of the Bible. 

My aim is also to make you think about how to defend your faith, and maybe encourage you to go about ensuring that you have the answers you need to defend it.  There will be a bookstall available over morning tea where you might like to take or buy some things that may help in this regard and I will mention a few books as we go along.

Some of what I say may well be new, some may be old hat, all of it is going to be necessarily brief, some you may find difficult to come to terms with because it is so different to what our society says, but I hope it might be useful to you.

What we are told by the world concerning the Bible and it’s contents

-         no creation – evolution

-         no 6 days - long ages

-         no fall and death is not the penalty for sin – death has always been here

-         genealogies - contain gaps and are figurative

-         ages of people - wildly inflated

-         Noah’s flood – local only

-         Babel - confusion of languages and dispersion - didn’t happen

-         [red sea crossing - didn’t happen]

-         [virgin birth - didn’t happen]

-         who is Jesus – not God, only a good man

-         resurrection - didn’t happen

-         judgement to come – won’t happen

-         Christianity is no different to any other religion – yet another belief system, out of touch with reality, based on blind faith

Why does it matter?

-         affects our confidence in the Bible and God, way live lifes, willingness to be different, our desire to be holy

-         affects our confidence in witnessing

-         affects our effectiveness in witnessing

-         affects out attitude to the Christian’s role in society and politics

What can we do about it?

-         Find out whether it is the world that is correct, or the Bible

-         get armed with answers

-         get better understanding of worldviews

-         get to work telling people

-         get bold – take it to them

!! What answers are there?

            Limited by time, but there are lots of resources…wet appetite

-         What is science?

o       Functional experimental science

§         Genetically modified canola oil plants

o       Science is about the study of things that happen in the here and now.  Things that are repeatable and continuously observable. 

o       Scientists are quite right in saying that they have never observed a resurrection, however, that doesn’t mean it is impossible. Black swan!

o       Ask a lawyer or a historian about the possibility of a resurrection occurring, people who are trained in looking into the truth of past events, and you might get a completely different result.

o       In this case there is no other reasonable explanation as to what happened it a bit less than 2 thousand years ago.  One has to conclude that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead.  This is an historical event, but not scientifically verifiable – you can’t repeat it or observe it happening now

o       The creation of the world is in the same category

-         no creation – evolution

o       Charles Darwin

o       natural selection / survival of the fittest – within species only

o       no evidence / no mechanism for evolution – new characteristics

o       mutations no good –

o       sickle cell anaemia

o       other mechanisms:

§         Golden Staph Aureus vancomycin resistance – gene transfer from gut bacteria in same patient – no new information

o       irreducible complexity

§         photosynthesis needs 17 complex sophisticated enzymes to occur, these do not perform any other function, and for many of them, if they are not in exactly the right spot, at the right time, the cell will die because the chemical produced at that stage is toxic and will kill the cell.

§         Peacock tail feather

o       bad science, see:

§         species dying out - reduction in number of species

§         reduction in genetic diversity within species

§         mutational load makes organisms less fit to survive

§         devolution not evolution

o        new species cannot happen Evolution Theory in Crisis

-         no 6 days – long ages

o       limiting Gods power

o       type of literature

o       days in Hebrew language

§         how used

§         “In my father’s day it took 5 days to cross the desert only driving during the day”

o       Charles Lyell “principles of geology”

§         Didn’t like Genesis and flood

§         Assumptions “ present is the key to the past”

§         Doesn’t work (as see later) – geology, fossils

o       problems with dating systems

§         oldest tree 4500yo, oldest huon pine ~3500yo, coral 3700yo OK

§         C14

§         Other methods

§         Examples of problems

§         At Horton Quarries at Edge Hill near the village of Ratley in England:

The fossil wood in the top three metres of the Marlstone Rock Bed near Banbury, England, has been 14C ‘dated’ at 23,000–23,500 years BP. However, based on evolutionary and uniformitarian assumptions, the ammonite and belemnite index fossils in this rock ‘date’ it at about 189 million years. Obviously, both ‘dates’ can’t be right!

same Mägenwil (Switzerland).

Hawkesbury Sandstone slab cut from the quarry face at Bundanoon

Lava and wood from Rangitoto volcano near Auckland NZ – wood correctly dated as about 200 years, lava 1000 times out!

Diamond from pre-cambrian (600 million BP) rock C14 dated as 38,000yo!

§         Something is mighty wrong with these dating systems! C14 Reliable

-         genealogies - contain gaps and are figurative

o       only because of assumed long ages

o       people only around for a few thousand years – what were they doing during all that time?

-         ages of people - wildly inflated

o       only a problem because we don’t see it now

o       problems with mutational load

o       tail off immediately after flood, so little evidence, and if it was there would they recognise it anyway?

-         global flood – local only

o       why rainbow and promise if otherwise

o       how did all the fossils get there?

o       Global flood only answer to fossils and geology (pre Lyell OK)

-         Babel - confusion of languages and dispersion - didn’t happen

o       No language evolutionary tree found

o       People spread over all the earth

o       Insignificant genetic differences between people

o       Can only be explained by small groups of people being split off recently

-         [red sea crossing - didn’t happen

o       Limiting God’s power – if God is creator, simple one offs can easily happen]

-         [virgin birth - didn’t happen

o       Limiting God’s power – if God is creator, simple one offs can easily happen]

-         Jesus – not God, only a good man

o       Extreme claims! “I and the Father are one”, “No one comes to the Father except by me”

o       Legend

o       Liar – greatest con artist vs resurrection

o       Lunatic – sanest man vs resurrection

o       Lord

-         resurrection - didn’t happen

o       ask – what evidence can you give me that show historically verifiable event?

o       Limiting God’s power – if God is creator, simple one offs can easily happen

o       Refer earlier – role of science vs historians and lawyers

o       Evidence good

§         Body what happened to it? –Jewish authorities

§         Disciples’ changed lives            Josh McDowell

-         judgement to come – won’t happen

o       If the Bible is authoritative and reliable in everything else

o       If Jesus was exactly what was foretold

o       Then if the Bible tells us judgement will, then it WILL happen!!

o       We and everyone around us, WILL have to face our creator and give an answer for how we have lived our lives

-         Christianity is no different to any other religion –based on blind faith

o       Christianity is the only religion that makes sense of the world

o       Christianity is the only religion that is based on verifiable fact

o       Christianity is the only true religion            If I were God…

!! Where can we get further information?

-         Talk to people

-         Books

o       Church book stall

§         Books specifically for Christians, though some OK for non

§         offers to run – see David

o       AIG and Koorong books – web and physical

-         Magazines – Creation, SaltShakers

-         web sites –,,

What will happen if we have confidence in the Bible?

-         We are going to be more willing to get involved in our society and it’s politics, because we know that the Bible has the answers

-         More and bolder evangelism

-         Evangelism more effective

-         When a topic comes up, you can defend your faith as Peter tells us in 1 Peter

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

So, to take a line from the Boy Scouts “Be Prepared”

Available for more questions over coffee.

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