Why should anyone believe what the Bible says? What makes it any different from other religious texts? Why should I accept its authority over my life, and why should I trust it when it purports to tell me about God? Non-Christians often ask these important questions and many more like them. In a time where such answers are increasingly important, Christians must be able to give answers.
The apostle Paul indicates that Scripture is inspired, or “God-breathed” (theopneustos; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). If God indeed spoke long ago “at many times and in many ways” as well as through his own Son (Heb. 1:1-2), then he must have left some evidence by which we could distinguish his Word from the work of uninspired writers. The question that moderns may ask is, “What proof do we have that this book is, in fact, the divinely inspired word of God?” This is not an unreasonable request. If Christians are taking the gospel into all the world (Matt. 29:19-20), they should be able to field questions from non-believers (1 Pet. 3:15-17).
The Unity of the Bible
One of the most intriguing aspects of biblical inspiration is the unity of Scripture. Authored by about 40 authors in three languages over a period of more than a millennium, the Bible maintains a consistent message. Adding the fact that its authors came from all walks of life from shepherds and fishermen to kings and scholars, we should expect significant disagreement among their writings. Yet we find that the Bible displays remarkably consistency at a time when no one else cared about such a thing. Pagan myths often featured radically different stories about the gods, with some of them flatly contradicting the others. Yet in this jumble of religious ideas, the biblical writers maintained a singular focus.
The Fulfillment of Biblical Prophecy
Biblical prophecy has served as a powerful ally in defending the inspiration of the Bible. Hebrews prophets issued warnings that would come true hundreds of years later. Ezekiel prophesied the destruction of Tyre, noting that many nations would attack it (Ezek. 26:3-6). Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon did siege the city, as Ezekiel predicted. Cyrus the Great conquered it less than a century later. Its end would come at the hand of Alexander the Great, who would scrape the city down to bare rock just as biblical prophecy foretold (v. 4).
The prophet Daniel announced a succession of kingdoms matching the rise of the great empires of ancient history (Dan. 2; 7; 8). His message is so accurate that skeptics have long claimed that it could only be an example of prophecy ex eventu (“after the fact”). That is, someone living in the first or second century BC authored this material and successfully passed it off as the work of Daniel himself. Although this view remains popular among critical scholars, it is disproved by the fact that the book has an almost total absence of Greek loanwords and influences. Further, Jewish scholars before the time of Christ accepted it when they rejected other works as inspired that did not bear the signs of being authentically ancient (such as apocryphal writings).
Prophecies concerning Jesus also demonstrate the Bible’s inspiration. This is especially true of his being born of a virgin (Is. 7:14) born in the city of Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2). He was rejected by men (Is. 53:3), a fact we see in both the departure of many of his followers and the murderous hostility of his countrymen. He enters Jerusalem a week before his crucifixion in the manner predicted centuries before (Zech. 9:9). Other prophecies seem to describe the conditions of his execution (Ps. 22:16-18; cf. John 19:23-24) as well as individual tortures he suffered during his trial (Is. 52:14; cf. Matt. 26:67) and after his death (Zech. 12:10; cf. John 19:34).
The Mosaic Law and Modern Medicine
In their classic book None of These Diseases, medical doctors S. I. McMillen and David Stern demonstrate how various passages in the Bible closely resemble modern practices. They include things such as refusing to eat the meat of a discovered animal whose cause of death is unknown (Lev. 22:8), practices for returning to ritual purity after touching a dead body (Num. 19; cf. Lev. 5:2-3), and circumcision of males on the eighth day when the blood-clotting agent vitamin K peaks (Gen. 17:12; Lev. 12:3). The Bible prescribes quarantine if someone has contracted an infectious disease (Lev. 13:46) and promotes basic sanitation (Deut. 23:12-13). The law’s food restrictions tended to provide a healthier diet overall.
Skeptics might argue that sections of the Mosaic law that accord with modern medical practices might have some other explanation. Perhaps the Israelites borrowed these practices from neighboring cultures or had some natural reason for including them in their legislation. Could it have been a matter of coincidence? None of these explanations work. Practices in the Mosaic law directly contradicted the established medical theory of physicians in Egypt and other nations. There appears to be no theological or religious motivation for these requirements. The wealth of instances are too numerous to be coincidental. There is no reason why that legislation should be there —unless God authored it for a specific purpose.
Many critics claim that the Bible’s inspiration should be obvious. They often make absurd demands of Christians to prove the Bible’s inspiration. Does the Bible include advanced medical or technological information encoded in its pages? Perhaps we can demonstrate the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations who worship the same God? These requests are all unreasonable, as the Bible was not written to answer these concerns.
The Bible continues to stand the test of time. It serves as a source of encouragement, hope, and wisdom to people in every age. While it bears some resemblance to other ancient works produced in similar cultural environments, it also bears distinguishing marks which set it apart as the inspired Word of God.
Dewayne is a minister at the New York Ave. Church of Christ in Arlington, TX. He serves as a staff writer for Apologetics Press and the Apologia Institute, and as a professional associate for the Associates for Biblical Research.