The Bible's Historical Accuracy

by Robert G. Witty

The Bible: Fact or Fiction

The Bible: Fact or Fiction? - Part 3 of 10

Editor's note: In his book, The Bible: Fact or Fiction, Dr. Witty first acknowledges that neither a believer's testimony nor scientific evidences can fully satisfy a skeptic's questions as to the claims of the Bible. Instead, he proposes a series of tests by which a doubter who is willing to set aside his biases, and judge the Bible as he would judge other books, can be convinced it is the Word of God. In this installment the author elaborates on the Historical Accuracy Test.

Any book that claims to be a credible record of historical events must be accurate concerning subject matter, times, customs, places, and persons. The Bible record has faced and continues to face multiple tests of its historical accuracy made by skeptics and archaeologists. Nevertheless, the Bible has earned a unique record of historical accuracy unrivaled among religious books-and therefore its teaching about religion deserves acceptance.

In the nineteenth century, skeptics and archaeologists accused the Bible of fictitious statements when it made mention of the Hittites, because no non-biblical evidence was then known for such a nation. But after 1906 the digs made at Hattushash-which proved to be the capital city of the Hittite nation-revealed that the Hittites had existed as a powerful nation. Indeed, one Egyptian tablet actually recorded a fierce battle with the Hittites at Kadesh on the Orontes River.

Similarly, scholars had condemned the historical accuracy of Bible statements concerning Belshazzar. But in 1853 archaeologists found an inscription in Ur that confirmed that Belshazzar reigned with his father, Nabonides.

Archeology has continued to confirm biblical records. The scholarly Dr. J. O. Kinnaman said: "Of the hundreds of thousands of artifacts found by the archaeologists, not one has ever been discovered that contradicts or denies one word, phrase, clause, or sentence of the Bible, but always confirms and verifies the fact of the Bible record."

Dr. Nelson Glueck, considered the outstanding Jewish archeologist of the twentieth century, in his book Rivers in the Desert, said: "…No archeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible."

Harry Thomas Frank, who has written an excellent summation of the historical accuracy of the Bible in Discovering the Biblical World, had this to say: "Archaeological recovery of ancient life has tended at point after point to show with what faithfulness the biblical writers recorded contemporary events. This indicates that the Bible as a primary historical document is a trustworthy guide…."

The more that the honest inquirer considers the stretch of history covered by the biblical record and the diversity of authors who wrote the Bible, the more amazing is this record of biblical historical accuracy.

Let us now consider just a fraction of the examples of biblical confirmation by archaeology, First, the record of events:

• The walls of the Temple of Amun confirm Pharaoh Shishak's attack on Israel, recorded in 1 Kings 14:25-26.

• The Mesha Inscription confirms Moab's revolt against Israel, recorded in 2 Kings 3:4-27.

• The palace walls of Sargon II confirm the defeat of Ashdod, as recorded in Isaiah 20:1.

• The Babylon Ration Records confirm the captivity of Jehoia-chin as recorded in 2 Kings 24:15-16; 25:27-30.

• Freedom for Jewish captives by Cyrus the Great (substantiating Ezra 1:1-4) is confirmed by the Cyrus Cylinder.

Consider also how archaeology has confirmed places mentioned in the Bible:

• The Temple of Baal in Shechem.

• The pools of Gibeon and of Heshbon and of Samaria.

• The water tunnel beneath Jerusalem dug by King Hezekiah.

• King Belshazzar's royal palace in Babylon.

• The royal palace of Susa.

• The foundation of the synagogue in Capernaum.

Consider a few of the persons that archaeology has confirmed so that the Bible and archaeological findings walk in harmony: Jehu, Hazael, Sargon II, Esarhaddon, Merodach-Baladan, Darius I, Herod Agrippa I, Pilate, and Caiaphas.

An additional argument for the accuracy of the Bible is what it does not contain. Here is one clear example: Concerning the Exodus period, Alan Millard, writing in the July/August, 2000, issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, said: "…the lack of Aramaic, Persian or Greek vocabulary and grammar in Exodus suggests that the text is earlier than the Babylonian Exile (sixth century B.C.). As I further point out, historical details in Exodus indicate that it accurately preserves information from the times it describes: the Late Bronze Age, or about a thousand years earlier than the oldest surviving manuscripts of Exodus (mid-third century B.C.)."

In 1969 Dr. W. A. Criswell affirmed without fear of contradiction, "There has been no shred of archaeological evidence yet discovered that contradicts the Word of God." And there are still no contradictions! In fact, in a U.S. News & World Report (Oct. 25, 1999) article titled "Is the Bible True?" Jeffery L. Sheler, author of a book by the same title, stated, "Before the discovery of the ‘House of David' inscription at Dan in 1993, it had become fashionable in some academic circles to dismiss the David stories as an invention…. But as Tel Aviv University archeologist Israel Finkelstein admits, ‘Biblical nihilism collapsed overnight with the discovery of the David inscription."'

Fair judgment requires a reasonable explanation for the unique accuracy of the Bible's record of human history. This unique historical accuracy gives the Bible a unique validity.

Dr. Witty founded the Luther Rice Seminary and served as its president for twenty years. In addition to a radio and internet ministry, he is presently a semi-retired Bible teacher, church consultant, and writer. The Bible: Fact or Fiction? was published in 2001 by CLC Publications, Fort Washington, PA 19034.