What is authority? Google’s dictionary defines “authority” as “the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.” How does this fit into biblical authority?
During the twentieth century the Bible lost much of its credibility. Secular scientists battered the Bible through attacks on the Creation story in Genesis 1. Other “intellectuals” tried to destroy the Bible’s authority by saying there is no historical evidence to support the biblical account of history. Additional “experts” tried to plant a seed of doubt regarding prophecy in the Bible.
Belief in the Bible is an exercise of faith. Of course it is! However, belief in the Bible can be affirmed and bolstered based on evidence of the Bible’s correctness. After all, if the Bible really is God’s book, it should be accurate when compared to physical evidence. In this way we can test for evidence of the Bible’s authority. Two often used “tests” are historical accuracy and fulfilled prophecy.
Is the Bible a storybook or a reliable record of historical events? This is very important. If the Bible is a storybook consisting of made-up stories, then it is not any better than fiction. But the Bible has proven again and again that it is not fiction. Archeological discoveries continually confirm the historical accuracy of the Bible.
Archaeologists have found hundreds of examples of historical accuracy. Let’s look at a few examples.
(1) The Tel Da Inscription — Archaeologists doubted the existence of King David, the second king of Israel. But in 1993 an inscription was found in Tel Da. The inscription contained the phrase “house of David.” This simple inscription helped confirm the existence of King David.
(2) Moabite Stone — In 1868, archeologists discovered a tablet written in the Moabite language. This tablet described the Moabite account of a battle that took place between Moab and Israel during the ninth century before Christ. This battle is described from the Israelite perspective in II Kings, chapter 3. The Moabite Stone provides extrabiblical evidence for the historical accuracy of the Bible.
(3) Nebi Yunus in Nineveh — The ruins of Nineveh were discovered Austin Henry Layard in 1846 and 1847 AD. One site is known as the Nebi Yunus (translated as “Prophet Jonah”). Both Christians and Muslims believe this is the tomb of the prophet Jonah. For several centuries the Nebi Yunus mound was untouched. It was covered by an Islamic shrine to the prophet Jonah. In 2014 the mosque was destroyed by ISIS. Archaeologists finally were able to examine the site. Recent excavations confirm the dating of the site to the time of the Assyrian Empire.
(4) The House of Omri — This royal house ruled the Northern Kingdom of Israel during the ninth century BC. A reference to “the house of Omri” appears in three ancient inscriptions. First, the Mesha Stele bears a Moabite inscription of “the house of Omri.” It was written about 840 BC by Mesha, ruler of Moab. Second, King Hazael of Damascus wrote on the Tel Dan Stele that he killed the two kings, one from the house of Omri. Third, the Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser names Jehu as a “son of Omri.”
These are only a few examples where archaeology verified the accuracy of the Bible. What about prophecy? How does it affect biblical authority?
The Bible is packed with prophecy. Experts estimate there are more than 1800 prophecies in the Bible. More than 300 of these prophecies were fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Let’s look at a couple of these prophecies.
(1) God’s Promise to Abram — In Genesis 12: 2-3, God gave the following promise to Abraham, the father of the Hebrew nation: “I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. . . . and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (ESV) Jesus Christ fulfilled this prophecy. (see Galatians 3: 8)
(2) Jesus’ Death on the Cross — Psalm 22 contains several prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus on the cross.
- verse 1 — [Jesus said] “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (ESV) (Matthew 27: 46; Mark 15: 34)
- verses 7-8 — “All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads, ‘He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’” (ESV) (Matthew 27: 39-42; Mark 15: 29-32)
- verse 15 — “my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.” (ESV) (Matthew 27: 33-34; Mark 15: 23)
- verse 16-17 — “a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet . . . they stare and gloat over me;” (ESV) (Matthew 27: 39; Mark 15: 16-20)
- verse 18 — “they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” (ESV) (Matthew 27: 35; Mark 15: 24;)
(3) The Place of Jesus’ Birth — Matthew 2 : 3 “And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.” (ESV) (Micah 5: 2)
(4) The Voice Crying in the Wilderness — Matthew 3: 3 “For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” (ESV) (Isaiah 40: 3) (see Matthew 11: 10-11)
There is a difficulty arising from these examples. Skeptics can say, “These are set ups. You either find a passage of Scripture that describes an historical event or you change the event to fit the passage of Scripture.” Can we find an answer to this criticism?
(5) “Jew” As a Byword Among the Nations — We can find several Bible verse as examples of this. Zechariah 8: 13 says, “you have been a byword of cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel.” (ESV) “Byword” is defined as “a notorious and outstanding example or embodiment of something.” (see also Deuteronomy 28:37; Psalm 44: 14; and Joel 2: 17)
So, in other words, Zechariah 8: 13 says the name of Judah and Israel shall be used as a curse word. Does this prophecy match the evidence? Yes. Sadly, many people around the world use the word “Jew” as a curse word. This prophecy came true. No one could “manipulate” this byword into existence.
Even in this age of secularism, science, and skepticism there is evidence of the Bible’s continuing authority. As Billy Graham said, “The Bible has stood the test of time because it is divinely inspired by Almighty God, written in ink that cannot be erased by any man, religion, or belief system.”