Have you ever been disappointed after relying on a weather forecast that went awry? How successful does the compulsive gambler prove to be in predicting the next throw of the dice? How impressive is it to hear that someone is predicting the ups and downs of the Stock Exchange? But do they not also make many mistakes?
Should this matter to you? Can it make any difference to you one way or another?
Perhaps you have had discussions with skeptics who claim that the Bible contradicts itself, that it’s too old to be of any use, that it’s full of mistakes, that the concept of “Chinese Whispers” and the possibility of errors is far too great… But let’s ask a frank question: How much do these skeptics really know about the Bible? When they make these statements, do they back them up with verified facts?
You may have heard of the self-proclaimed seer known as Nostradamus. People often invoke his name when referring to some past event, betraying their admiration for someone they perceive as an accurate soothsayer.
However, of the 946 predictions that have been attributed to Nostradamus, only about 70 are considered to have had some kind of fulfillment. That’s less than a 7-percent success rate. And his predictions are usually so vague that they fail to impress! For example, he is said to have foretold the rise of ‘Michael the marked.’ Some have regarded this to be a reference to Mikhail Gorbachev, the Russian leader who served toward the end of the 20th century. But did he provide any context to help us identify who, or even when, he might have been referring to? Unfortunately Nostradamus also predicted that the world would end at this time!
Clearly, if someone were to take hold of two fistfuls of darts in his cupped hands and hurl them in the general direction of a dart board, some of them are quite likely to land a score. Seven percent is not evidence of any kind of unerring insight.
The Bible on the other hand does not fail to impress on any close examination! Its predictions, or prophecies, are detailed, specific, contextual, long-term, and never miss the mark!
Alexander the Great, King of Macedon
To illustrate the point, take the example of the historical character Alexander the Great:
0 = Subject, e.g. Alexander the Great
1 = Daniel 8:5-8
2 = Daniel 11:3
3 = Daniel 8:21
4 = Daniel 11:4
5 = Daniel 7:6
6 = Revelation 13:2
7 = Daniel 8:22
8 = Ezekiel 26:4, 12
There is much truth in the oft-repeated saying “a picture paints a thousand words.” But a picture on the surface of a well-constructed jigsaw puzzle can provide even more fascination, especially to a puzzle enthusiast. Taking this illustration still further, a three-dimensional puzzle, such as the cube above, would prove to be a challenge indeed! In this case, each piece speaks volumes in terms of meaning, context, relational dependents and dependencies, and isolation.
Accurate Bible knowledge can be illustrated in this way. Each element of Bible truth has at least one specific fit within the overall arrangement. It has perhaps many relationships with other “pieces,” and the very nature of these relationships serves to solidify, or verify, the meaning and the authenticity of that truth, and the accuracy of its precise placement in relation to other truths.
It may be easy to impart facts; it is not so easy to impart understanding.
|The disadvantage of using the above illustration is that, for any reader to fully appreciate its value, a great deal of accurate Bible knowledge must first be acquired. If the cube was a physical, tangible object, with numerous tiny interlocking pieces, the curious observer might well be impressed with its design and construction. But to truly appreciate what the cube illustrates: namely, the beauty of the interlocking truths contained in the Bible, much effort is necessary to have the required understanding of these truths, along with an adequate appreciation of the evidence underlying those truths. It may be easy to impart facts; it is not so easy to impart understanding.|
The chosen example of Alexander the Great, one-time King of Macedonia, demonstrates some of the impressive features of the Bible. Alexander was referred to, directly and indirectly, in several Bible prophecies (predictions) written down hundreds of years before his birth. The scriptures that accompany the above cube illustration describe:
— his rapid rise to power,
— his method of conquering the island city of Tyre,
— his victorious final battle against the Medes and Persians,
— the speed of his many victories,
— the extent of his dominion,
— his premature death in the prime of life,
— the fact that his kingship was, ultimately, not passed on to his offspring,
— the subsequent dividing of his kingdom to his four generals,
— the modern-day remnants of the Grecian power,
— the other former world powers portrayed in the fascinating imagery of the book of Revelation.
This is just one example of prophecies that are detailed, contextual, long-term, and bang on the mark!
Most of the above events occurred just a few years prior to Alexander’s untimely death at the age of 32, in 323 BCE (meaning Before our Common Era), of malaria. However, Bible manuscripts that have been unearthed in recent times and dated to the first century before Christ, along with ancient references to the book of Daniel and other factors, place the book’s writing firmly in the sixth century before Christ… Daniel was writing history in advance, predicting events before they had occurred. However, in the final chapter of his book, he states that he “could not understand” the things he had written. (Daniel 12:8) But such understanding is clear to keen Bible students today.
Putting the Pieces Together
It can be readily seen that, given sufficient time and resources, a model could be built illustrating the entire body of available truth as revealed through the pages of God’s Word. Thus, any scriptural point under discussion will have at least one home within this model, and can be demonstrated to have firm, meaningful links with the interdependent, interrelated points that surround it.
A fitting illustration is the neural network of the human brain. The illustration above depicts the neurons and their many connections. In an adult brain, many neurons connect directly to hundreds, or thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of other neurons. These connections enable the complex thought processes that the brain produces from micro-second to micro-second. This is similar to the description of the interlocking truths in the Bible. There are intrinsic links between most of these truths, and there are parallel or similar discussions found in more than one area of the scriptures. But these discussions are in complete harmony and build a comprehensive argument for that truth.
A good example of this “complete harmony” is a comparison of the man-made teaching of Hellfire with the Bible’s teachings. For centuries many people have been repulsed by the Bible because they hold onto the false idea that Hellfire is a Biblical teaching. They are not the only ones who are repulsed. The Bible explains that God was incensed by the ancient ritualistic practise of burning people to the false gods Molech and Baal. The burning (torture) of even wicked people was something that ‘never came up into his heart,’ nor even ‘entered his thoughts,’ especially as he is many times described as a God of love. He is also described as “very tender in affection and merciful.” (Jeremiah 7:31, 19:5; Leviticus 18:21; 1 John 4:8; James 5:11) You may also search hard but you will not find the teaching of Hellfire in the Bible. (Note that the passage at Luke 16:19-31 is an illustration, using symbols, of the attitude of the false religious teachers of Jesus’ day and does not describe a literal fire.) Additionally, the Bible consistently teaches that the dead are just that, dead. In the natural order of things after death, humans do not possess any life in any form physical, ethereal, or otherwise. — Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 3:19, 20; 9:5; Psalm 146:4.
The Domino Effect
This, therefore, is the way I approach most of the biblical studies that constitute a major part of my spare time. To me, “the truth” can also be likened to a set of dominoes that are stacked edge-wise, spaced apart, and in line, like this accompanying illustration. If one falls, they all fall. The “truths” that the 3D puzzle consists of are similarly subject to hypothetical “destruction” by the absence of a “gem of truth” that is closely related to it, and perhaps a dependent of it. For instance, take the biblical example of the miracles of Jesus. Many of the miracles recorded in the Bible were attested to by more than one Bible writer. Did they really occur? If one were to contend that they were an “untruth,” then so many other pieces of the puzzle would be affected, which in turn would affect still other pieces. The Bible writers stated that what they wrote was “trustworthy” (Revelation 21:5) and “reliable” (Proverbs 22:21). These pieces, then, (these verses) would fall too. This would also affect Bible prophecies (its predictions of future events as in the example above). How could they be reliable if the very “truth” of what the Bible writers claimed, proved to be a fabrication?
And what of the exceptionally high moral and spiritual virtues that these Bible writers engendered in their readers? If these same writers were actually charlatans, whose words were confirmed to be unreliable, even fictitious, then the high spiritual values that they promoted and championed, would in reality be a sham, in fact one huge con. Whilst apparently waxing eloquent on such supreme morality on the one hand, they would be fabricating lies and inventing stories of fantastic myth and legend on the other… A truly puzzling enigma!
A Thorny Problem for Skeptics
But there is another “piece” of this section of our virtual puzzle that would suddenly have no place: The contemporary enemies of Jesus strained every sinew and muscle to discredit him, at considerable cost to themselves. Every opportunity to criticize him, to destroy his reputation, was taken with relish. Yet they supported the observations of Jesus’ followers that he did, in fact, perform miracles. Their opinions of how he performed these works were somewhat different, stating that he did these things using some form of trickery; nevertheless, by such statements, they were casting their indirect support into the bedrock of history, for future historians to muse over.
How do we remove this piece? Remember, if one domino falls, they all fall. This presents a thorny problem for “skeptics” of the Bible, some of whom I have encountered in my travels. For, if we presume that any one piece of this puzzle is to be thrown away, discarded as a non-entity, or discredited in some way, then what occurs when the domino effect tries to kick over a piece that is scientifically immutable; i.e. a verified fact that sits firmly in the foundation of truth and reality? Such immutable points (7 of which form the first of my principles at the start of this article) remain uncontested. One example is the shape of the earth. Scientists say it is almost an oblate spheroid, slightly flattened at the poles; but, for our purposes, it is a sphere.
Many ancient philosophers and thinkers believed the earth to be flat (some may still do); some believed it rested on the backs of enormous elephants that in turn stood on the back of a great turtle! (Certain men of science, such as Eratosthenes, a Greek mathetician of the third century before Christ, made calculations that determined that the earth was anything but flat; however, the general populous continued to believe the prevailing erroneous ideas.) By distinct contrast, the Bible speaks of the “circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40:22), using a Hebrew word (CHUGH) that can also mean “sphere.” Also, Job 26:7 says poetically: “He stretches out the northern sky over empty space, suspending the earth upon nothing.” How did the Bible writers know? Did they guess? Examples of the accuracy of the Bible, when it touches on science, are replete. These are not “pieces of the puzzle” that can be easily thrown away!
What of the verified historical characters and events that the Bible describes? Do we throw these away as well? If so, we must then throw away the related historical events, and other contextual material, along with successive facts that are woven into the fabric of our reality today.
Additionally, if we are to “throw away” the many Bible prophecies, as referred to above, then what happens when we encounter long-term prophecies (detailed predictions) that stretch from the past into the present? We are not only aware of the recent historical events that corroborate these prophecies, but we can see by observing current events the fulfillment of these prophecies first hand.
Do we “throw away” the evidence from our own senses? This brings to mind the words of Edward B. Pusey (one-time Regius Professor of Hebrew, Oxford, England) who once said:
“Nothing is impossible for unbelief to believe,
except what God reveals!”
There is nothing in the Bible that has ever been overturned by true science or even by common sense and logic! (For a discussion of the teachings of Creationists, which are at odds with the Bible, see some of the questions covered in A Scientific Challenge to Darwin.) There are, however, plenty of examples of modern medicine, physiology, botany, linguistics, archaeology, and other sciences, adding very firm support to what the Bible says.
The interlocking pieces of our proverbial cube, then, are more firmly in place than the physical forces that bind together each and every atom in the universe!