If anyone chooses to do God?s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes
from God or whether I speak on my own.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth
Evidence in Christian Lives
Thus far, we have considered what seems like an overwhelming amount of evidence,
the sum of which makes belief in the Bible as the inspired word of God almost
an intellectual imperative. Believe it or not, despite this fact, we have not
yet gotten down to the evidence that ultimately convinces the majority of those
who commit their life to Christ. It is the experience of the author that the
bottom line cause of faith in the majority derives from one or both of the causes
1. Simply reading the Bible. For many, in just reading the Bible, without carefully
considering logical, intellectual arguments, the fact of its inspiration by
God simply leaps off every page. The ultimate truth of the Bible speaks to the
human heart in a way that for most would be difficult to explain in words. In
this chapter we will step out on a limb and consider some possible reasons that
reading the Bible has this effect.
2. The lives of true disciples. For those fortunate enough to rub elbows with people
who have truly devoted themselves to Christ, the lives of such people is a kind
of evidence that goes beyond logic and intellect. Despite the confusion created
by the great number who take on the name of Christ, but who do not take on the life
demanded by Jesus Christ, there is just something about the life of one who
has devoted his or herself to following Jesus that speaks volumes to those who
are seeking meaning and purpose for their life.
THE BIBLE: THE GREATEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN
Actually, it would be more accurate to say, ?The Bible: The Greatest Books Ever
Written.? The Bible contains sixty-six books. It was written by at least forty
different authors over a time span of at least one thousand four hundred years.
Despite the daunting task of bringing together the writings of dozens of authors,
in three languages, from widely varying cultural, educational and economic backgrounds,
the Bible has a unity of theme and message that seems to defy explanation. Despite
the fervent efforts of many to find contradictions between the various authors,
the Bible holds up very well to all these attacks, when one considers the evidence
The Bible is an amazingly compact composition. Its writers can get more into
one page than most authors can get into five hundred. Although the Bible has
one overriding theme throughout, the relationship between God and man, it manages
at the same time to be the greatest book the world has yet produced on history,
marriage, philosophy?the list could go on seemingly indefinitely. Despite being
about eternal truths?about how to get to a better place?the Bible provides the
most practical possible advice on how to live a happy and successful life right
here on earth.
All these claims taken together may provide at least a partial explanation of
the fact that, for many, in simply reading the Bible for itself, a deep conviction
is developed that it contains the very words of God. We will consider these
claims in some detail.
THE VARIETY OF STYLE, YET THE UNITY OF MESSAGE
Culturally, the authors of the Bible were Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Bedouins
and Greeks. Their occupations varied from priest to farmer, soldier and king,
tax collector, fisherman, prophet, and prime minister. Some, such as Paul, were
extremely well educated. Others were, in the eyes of their contemporaries, ?unschooled,
ordinary men? (Acts 4:13).
The writing styles of the Bible authors vary all over the map. In the pages
of the Bible one can find straightforward historical narrative, along with pithy
proverb. Flipping through its pages, the Bible reveals practical moral teaching
such as that found in James, along with deep and sometimes even difficult to comprehend
theology in Paul. Some Bible authors wax poetical, while others are emotion-laden
Despite all this variety, the Bible, taken as a whole, has an astounding unity
of theme and message: the relationship between God and man. Some have claimed
that the basic message of the Old and the New Testament are radically different.
This charge does not hold up well to careful study. Although the revelation
of the Bible is progressive?certain truths about God are revealed in a fuller
way as one progresses from the earliest to the later writings in the Bible,
the message and theme is the same throughout. Whether one is reading the book of Deuteronomy
or of 1 John one can find such themes as God?s love, his grace, and his judgment
on those who will not acknowledge his sovereignty. In both books, one can see
God?s overwhelming desire for a relationship with man, yet the unbending nature of his
ultimate justice. The story of the Bible from beginning to end is of God?s repeated
efforts to create a people who will love him and whom he can love and bless.
Some have said that the God of the Old Testament was a God of judgment, while
the God of the New Testament is one of love and grace. The easiest way to refute
this claim is to read the Bible. God?s love of man and his judgment on the unrepentant
are found in Genesis, Joshua, Jonah and John. God?s palpable emotional longing for
a people, as well as his hatred of sin and rebellion, are found in Exodus, Ezra,
Ezekiel and Ephesians. Given the wide variety of its writers in language, culture,
and background, how is one to explain the undeniable unity of theme and message throughout
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 1:20,21)
Is it possible that there is a single underlying author of the entire document?
A better question is whether there is any other logical explanation of this
unity. The Old and New Testaments fit together like a hand and a glove. From
the beginning to the end of the Old Testament, one can clearly see God preparing
a people to whom and through whom to send his son, the Messiah. The first Messianic
prophecy is found in Genesis 3:15 while the last is found in Malachi 4:2-5.
The Old Testament is the progressive revelation that the Messiah is coming. The New Testament
is an emphatic statement that he is here. Through the revelation of the Old
Testament, and through the faith of godly men and women such as Abraham and
Sarah, God prepared a people special to himself.
The actual historical events in this process of God preparing a people for himself
(found in the Old Testament) are prophecies of what is revealed in the New Testament.
Captivity and slavery in Egypt is a symbolical (yet at the same time very real)
representation of slavery to sin. The success of Moses in freeing the Israelites from
slavery is an historical prophecy of Jesus freeing his people from bondage to
sin. Even the passing of the people through the waters of the Red Sea is an
historical pre-revelation of baptism into Christ (1 Corinthians 10:2). The forty years
Israel spent wandering in the wilderness is a prophetic prefigure o
f the Christian
life. Each situation is a process of learning to rely on God, not self.
He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which
neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live
on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy
The entry of God?s people into the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua
is an obvious prefigure of God?s spiritual people entering heaven under the
leadership of Jesus (Jeshua or Joshua in Hebrew).
How can the events of history itself be a prophecy? Is there any chance that
the correspondence of the New Testament teachings with the actual Old Testament
historical events is just a lucky accident that the early preachers picked up
on? It stretches the limits of logic and reason to reach any conclusion other than
the obvious one. God had a hand in the events and in the recording of those
events. Dozens of people and events in the Old Testament besides those already
listed could be mentioned as examples of the principle that many things that occurred
in the Old Testament are historical prophecies of New Testament teaching.
THE NUMBER OF AUTHORS, YET THE LACK OF CONTRADICTION
Probably the reader has heard statements such as, ?The Bible is full of contradictions.?
Those who have made such charges vary from the casually uninformed to people
who have actually studied the Bible fairly carefully. If the Bible has bona
?fide contradictions, then that would be a serious charge against the claim that
?all Scripture is inspired by God.?
The point of this section is not so much to refute every possible example of
supposed contradiction. The point is that to the open-minded reader, the lack
of apparent contradiction?the amazing agreement of all the different Bible writers?
is one of the strongest reasons to put faith in the inspiration of the Bible.
By the time we are done explaining a few examples of the supposed contradictions
of the Bible, one will be able to extrapolate to the conclusion that if there
are contradictions in the Bible, they are either very few or very hard to find.
In other words, unless one is purposefully reading the Bible to find supposed
contradictions, a straightforward reading of the Bible will lead to the conclusion
that it is amazingly?one might say miraculously?consistent with itself. Examples of inconsistencies
that critics attempt to point out fall into categories such as:
? Claims that the doctrine which is taught in two different passages is contradictory.
? Identical events described by two different authors have details of fact that
appear to contradict.
? Numbers of objects, people or years in two different passages do not agree.
It will obviously be impossible in this short section to deal with all the possible
examples of supposed contradictions in the Bible, or even to deal with all the
major ones that come up repeatedly. What we will do is to consider a set of
questions that can be used to sort through apparent contradictions that one might
come across. Such a list of helpful questions might include the following:
? Is this a legitimate contradiction? In other words, is there a perfectly reasonable
explanation of the supposed contradiction that can be found simply by reading
the relevant passages in context?
? Is there any chance that a scribal error could explain the apparent discrepancy?
This will be a particularly relevant question if the supposed contradiction
involves numbers from the Old Testament text.
? Is it possible that the two passages, rather than contradicting one another,
actually complement one another? In other words, is it possible that the two
apparently discrepant scriptures, when taken together, actually create a fuller
picture of what God is trying to communicate?
To illustrate what is involved, it will be helpful to consider some fairly typical
examples of what some have called mistakes or contradictions in the Bible. What
will be done is to use examples taken more or less at random directly from various
Web sites that skeptics have set up to support the claim that the Bible is full of
contradictions. Some typical examples of such claimed Bible errors follow.
1. ?Genesis 7:17 says that the flood lasted forty days, but Genesis 8:3 tells
us that it lasted one hundred and fifty days.?
This is an example of a supposed contradiction that is very easily eliminated
by simply reading the relevant passages in their context. Genesis 7:17 describe
forty days of rain, while Genesis 8:3 states that the duration of the flood
was one hundred and fifty days. Apparently after the rain stopped, there was
a significant amount of time before the waters receded.
2. ?In addition there is a contradiction regarding the question of whether God
punishes children for the sins of their parents. At (sic) Ezekiel 18:20, the
Lord states: ?The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father?.? However,
at (sic) Exodus 20:5, God says: ??I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting
the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation
of them that hate me.??
This is a more serious example. The explanation would fall under the third category
above. When one reconciles the two quoted passages a more complete understanding
is reached. In Ezekiel 18, one finds the clear and consistent Bible teaching
that when Judgment Day comes, a person will only be held personally responsible
before God for their own actions?not those of their parents or children or of
anyone else. The passage in Exodus 20:5 is discussing God?s treatment of a nation
or a group of people as a whole. It is a consistent teaching in the Bible that
although each individual is responsible to God for his or her own actions, God
will bring punishment or discipline on a nation that turns their back on him.
The punishment anticipated in Exodus 20:5 is of a physical nature, such as warfare
or drought. The eternal destiny of individuals is a separate issue. Israel was
sent into exile because, as a nation, she turned to idolatry. Despite this fact,
some were still faithful to God even during this time and presumably will not
be judged for eternity by God individually for the sins of the whole people.
A more personal application of Exodus 20:5 would involve noting that sin has repercussions
that proceed in this life from generation to generation. For example if a person
has a physically abusive father, he is statistically much more likely to fall
into that same sin. Or at the very least his entire life is affected by the sin
of his father. Divorce, adultery, sexual sins, even pride or cowardice, all can have
this effect, proceeding sometimes even "unto the third and fourth generation,"
though each person is judged eternally by their own personal sin. In any case,
there is no contradiction between the teaching of Exodus 20:5 and Ezekiel 18.
3. ?As to the death of the apostle Judas, Matthew 27:5 states that Judas took
the money that he had obtained by betraying Jesus, threw it down in the temple
and then ?went and hanged himself.? However
, Acts 1:18 reports that Judas used
the money to purchase a field and ?falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst,
and all his bowels gushed out.??
This is an example of a supposed contradiction that is removed by reading the
two relevant passages and simply thinking carefully about how they might be
resolved. What actually happened is that out of remorse, Judas brought the money
given to him to betray Jesus and threw it down at the feet of the elders and chief
priests who had put him up to the betrayal. In the context of Matthew 27, it
is clearly described how the chief priests ?decided to use the money to buy
the potter?s field as a burial place for foreigners? (Matthew 27:7). After returning
the money, it would appear that Judas hanged himself. After only a few hours
in a hot climate, hanging from the rope, his body was extremely bloated. That
would explain why, when he was cut down, ?his body burst open and all his intestines
spilled out.? In summary, Judas returned the money, it was used to buy a field,
he hanged himself, and when his body was cut down it burst open. There is no
These passages are two of many examples that support the claim that the gospel
accounts as well as Acts provide independent parallel records of the same events.
When one allows for the possibility that the two accounts compliment rather
than contradict one another, the meaning is easily worked out. A great number
of the supposed contradictions in the Bible come from different eyewitness accounts
that include correct but different details of the same event. Rather than providing
evidence for mistakes in the Bible, they support the claim that the gospel accounts
are separate but reliable records.
4. ?David took seven hundred (2 Samuel 8:4) or seven thousand (1Chronicles 18:4)
horsemen from Hadadezer. Which is correct??
This is an example of a contradiction that was produced by a scribal error.
In other words, almost certainly in the original 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles,
the numbers agreed. When numbers are copied in Hebrew, it is extremely easy
for an error to occur. Similar to Roman numerals, letters are used to represent
numbers in Hebrew. Some of the letters that represent numbers are very similar,
making copy errors over long periods very likely. A mistake by a factor of ten
(seven hundred versus seven thousand, for example) is even more likely to occur.
As stated in chapter six, the reader of the Old Testament should be cautious
in assuming the numbers found in our text are identical to the original writing.
Bottom line, a copying error is not a Bible contradiction.
5. ?In describing Jesus being led to his execution, John 19:17 states that Jesus
carried his own cross. In contrast, Mark 15:21-23 says that a man called Simon
carried Jesus? cross to the crucifixion site.?
This is another example where simply reading the relevant passages and considering
how, reasonably, the accounts can be justified will easily solve the supposed
error. In Matthew 27:32, one finds ?as they were going out,? (to Golgotha) ?they
met a man from Cyrene named Simon.? Evidently, Jesus carried the crossbeam part
of the way, while Simon carried it the rest of the way, possibly because Jesus
was unable to continue under the burden. As with example three above, the complete
story is more fully understood when the parallel accounts are compared and justified,
supporting the claim that the gospel accounts are independent but reliable accounts.
6. ?In Genesis 37:36 it says that Joseph was sold into Egypt by Midianites,
while in Genesis 39:1 it says that he was sold by Ishmaelites.?
Would it be a contradiction to say that George Bush is a Texan and at the same
time that he is an American? The Midianites were an Arabic tribe. A common general
name for Arab tribes in ancient times was Ishmaelites, showing that they were
descended from Abraham?s first son, Ishmael.
7. ?Exodus 20:8, ?Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy? contradicts Isaiah
1:13 ?Your? Sabbaths and convocations?I cannot bear???
This is an example of not understanding the meaning of a passage in its context.
Of course, God commanded the Jews to observe the Sabbath. In Isaiah, God is
telling his people that their going through the motions of worship without renouncing
their blatant sin is so hypocritical that their worship disgusts him. To put it in
a modern context, it would be like God saying to one of us: ?You are in such
gross sin?your example is so bad?it would be better for you to stay home than
to put on an act and go to church.? There is no contradiction here.
8. ??Do not answer a fool according to his folly or you will be like him yourself? (Proverbs
26:4) contradicts the verse, ?Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will
be wise in his own eyes.? (Proverbs 26:5)?
At first, this might seem like an obvious contradiction, since the two statements
seem to be direct opposites. However, given that the two verses are found consecutively
in Proverbs, it is very likely that the original writer was well aware of the
dual meaning of the two verses. This would be an example of two scriptures that,
when taken together, produce a fuller understanding. Comparing the two verses,
one can conclude that it is a mistake to get caught up into playing the games
of the fool (v. 4), but it is wise to reveal the emptiness of the thinking of
foolish people (v. 5).
This process could go on almost indefinitely, but the point should already be
made. Those who claim that the Bible is full of contradictions are simply mistaken.
There may be some difficult questions. Even careful study may leave some unanswered
apparent contradictions, but in the final analysis, all or virtually all of
the supposed errors in the Bible are actually errors of the Bible critic himself
who is not doing a good job of analyzing the biblical text.
After carefully considering many dozens of supposed errors in the Bible, and
finding all of them so easily explained, it would be tempting to close the subject.
However, it would be a bad idea for a Bible believer to pronounce the contradiction
issue dead. That would not be intellectually honest. If we are absolutely closed
to even considering the possibility that there is a mistake in the Bible, we
fall into circular reasoning and a form of intellectual dishonesty that may
become obvious to those who ask good, honest questions. However, at some point,
after a person has addressed a great number of questions, finding that all or
virtually all are easily answered, it is reasonable to begin with the presumption
that almost certainly when the question is carefully investigated, it will turn
out that there is in fact no error or contradiction at all.
In conclusion, it is not unusual to hear the Bible attacked because of all of
its supposed contradictions and errors. The charge is far easier to raise than
it is to prove. A careful study in context of the scriptures that are supposed
to contradict and an attempt to understand the full meaning of Biblical passages
will readily answer virtually all these questions. The Bible is the product
of at least forty authors, writing over the course of well over a thousand years,
from widely differing cultures and backgrounds. Yet it remains consistent with
itself to such a degree that the honest student of the Bible will find him or
herself more convinced than ever that it is inspired by God.
THE BIBLE IS THE GREATEST BOOK OF?(fill in the blank)
Remember, we are trying to get at understanding why it is that for many, simply
reading the Bible is evidence enough that it is inspired by God. We have considered
its unity of message and its consistency with itself. We will now move on to
consider the simple fact that the Bible works. The Bible contains a kind of wisdom
that is so far superior to any other written or spoken word, that for many who
read it, no other proof of the inspiration of the Bible is needed.
The same could be said of Jesus himself. When he spoke, the crowds were immediately
struck by the fact that he was in a league all by himself, with all the competing
wise men of his age very far in the rear. ?When Jesus had finished saying these
things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who
had authority, and not as their teachers of the law? (Matthew 7:28,29). People
were as amazed at Jesus? teaching as they were at his miracles. ?Coming to his
home town, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed.
?Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?? they asked? (Matthew
13:54). The crowd had direct experience with both the amazing teaching and the
miracles. They were equally impressed at both. It should not surprise us, then,
that Bible readers who only have direct experience with the amazing teachings
of Jesus (ie. do not personally experience his miracles) are often convinced
of the inspiration of the Bible from that alone. Modern readers of the Bible
cannot hear the tone of authority in Jesus? voice. We rely on eyewitnesses who
marveled and were amazed at his air of authority. Mark 1:27 gives additional
insight into this effect. ?The people were all so amazed that they asked each
other, ?What is this? A new teaching?and with authority!?? For many, the inherent
authority of the Bible speaks for itself. Many of his enemies tried to trip
up Jesus with trick questions. After one of his astoundingly simple yet profound
answers to one of these trick questions, ?Then Jesus said to them, ?Give to Caesar
what is Caesar?s and to God what is God?s,?? there was a natural and spontaneous
response: ?And they were amazed at him? (Mark 12:27).
The undeniable wisdom of Jesus is reflected in the Word of God?the Bible. For
example, although the Bible is not primarily a book on human relationships,
it is by far and away the number one book ever produced by man on both the principles
and the practice of great human relationships. Similarly, philosophy is not the chief
subject of the Bible, yet, despite the impressive work of Aristotle, Descartes,
Spinoza, Hume, Kant and Nietzsche, the Bible is the world?s most profound work
Clearly, the claims above are subjective, but this author has found them to
stand up to the test of both practice and careful study. The readers, of course,
must test the claims for themselves. The list of ?bests? for the Bible can continue
for some time.
? The Bible was not written in order to impress the Pulitzer committee, yet
it is an amazing and profound example of literature. The Psalms can hold their
own against Shakespeare. If one of the basic principles of effective writing
is to say as much as possible in as little space as possible, the Bible holds the
record in that area. It never ceases to amaze how the Bible has such density
of meaning on so many levels. What other book can be read multiple times without
seeming to even begin to exhaust what is there? It speaks equally to the simple
and to the profound intellect.
? We have already spent an entire chapter proving that the Bible, though not
principally a history book, is easily the best historical record of the ancient
? Hundreds of books on marriage have been written. To the extent that they expound
on the Bible?s teaching on relationships in general, and on marriage in particular,
they are effective.
? Even in the area of economics and business, Proverbs provides the simplest,
most down-to-earth and wisest advice of all. Practice complete honesty, treat
your employees with respect, beware of get-rich-quick schemes, but seek to build
wealth gradually. It is not the wealth you have, but what you do with it that
counts. Do not count on wealth for ultimate happiness. All these principles
are found in Proverbs, stated in the simplest yet the most profound way. They
? If only world leaders would follow Solomon?s (as well as Jesus?) advice on
? It is the personal opinion of the author that in addition to their educational
theory classes, every prospective teacher ought to spend a considerable amount
of time contemplating Jesus? style of teaching if they want to learn how to
? Psychologists and counselors would do well to spend more time studying the
Bible if they want to be as helpful to people as possible. It seems that every
time one reads a popular book on psychology and finds a concept that rings true,
the same concept can be found in the Bible if one is willing to look for it.
The list could continue. No wonder, then, that so many people, when they read
the Bible, accept it ?not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word
of God? (1 Thessalonians 2:13).
This brings us to the other principle cause of faith in Jesus Christ, besides
simply reading the Bible. The other principle reason for people to arrive at
faith in Jesus is their exposure to the changed lives of true followers of Christ.
The author can personally attest to the effectiveness of this sort of testimony.
My own personal experiences, as well as my exposure to the laws of nature as
a scientist, caused me to believe in a creator. My rather limited exposure to
the Bible caused me to accept that it was, at the very least, an amazing book
that spoke to my deepest self. However, it was when I was exposed to a fellowship
of committed disciples?to their lifestyle and love for one another?that was
when the key was turned and the door was opened for me. Being a scientist, I
would like to think that it had everything to do with logical, empirical evidence.
Absolutely, these were a factor, but the fact is that it was exposure to a deep
sort of love for one another amongst true disciples that had the greatest impact
in causing me to commit to becoming a disciple of Jesus.