More on the Scientific Accuracy of the Bible

MORE ON THE SCIENTIFIC ACCURACY OF THE BIBLE

by Wayne S. Walker

     "All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place from which the rivers come, there they return again" (Ecclesiastes 1:7). Around 350 B.C. Aristotle theorized that clouds and rain are caused by condensation of water vapor in the atmosphere that resulted by evaporation of water at the surface of the earth. However, he concluded that this was only a localized cycle, where rain replaced the water from the immediate area from which it had been vaporized. Not until the eighteenth century was it observed that clouds can transport rain away from the area in which they were formed. Benjamin Franklin in 1770 was the first to recognize that individual storms move from place to place over the earth’s surface, thus establishing the river to sea to river water cycle that is now universally recognized.

     "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, the earth will grow old like a garment" (Isaiah 51:6). To grow old like a garment is to deteriorate or decay through age. Here the Bible pictures the total universe as deteriorating through age from its original finished state. For centuries scientific observers believed that the universe was ever growing, expanding, and getting bigger. The first indication which science had that the universe was growing old and being used up was the discovery in A.D. 1850 of the Second Law of Thermodynamics or the law of entropy. This states that in any energy transfer or change, although the total amount of energy remains unchanged, the amount of usefulness and availability that the energy possesses is always decreased with a ratio that is constantly increasing and irreversable in flow. Examples are the fact that sun diminishes at the rate of 4,600,000 tons per second in the process of producing radiant energy and the natural process of radioactive disintegration by radioactive materials.

     "And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth…" (Acts 17:26). Until A.D. 1775, there were considered to be five distinct original races based on skin color and perpetuated by the differences in the blood of each. However, in 1900 Karl Landsteiner discovered that all human blood has one common base, plasma. Blood can be divided into four basic types, differeing in amounts of what is carried in the plasma, but studies show that human populations all over the world contain almost equal proportions of the four blood types. It is now know scientifically that all races of men are biologically similar, so that all know variations in mankind are the result of genetic possibilities in the human cell structure.

     Arnold Schnabel, a gospel preacher and former Boeing engineer, wrote, "As evidence of their Divine Guidance the writers of the Bible have included scientific truths in non-scientific terms. Truths that for centuries the skeptics considered as errors because it disagreed with their darkened understanding. Truths that have come to light in recent times only through painstaking and costly research. Truths that without the later development of instruments would have been impossible for us to witness with our own eyes as facts" (Has God Spoken, p. 1). The God who created nature is the God who revealed Himself in the Bible. His revealed word has no scientific inaccuracies in it that would cast any doubt upon its inspiration. (—taken from With All Boldness; October, 1997; Vol. 7, No. 10; p. 21)

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The Scientific Accuracy of the Bible

THE SCIENTIFIC ACCURACY OF THE BIBLE

by Wayne S. Walker

     "And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds" (Acts 7.22). Even though Moses was instructed in the learning of Egypt, his writings do not contain any Egyptian "scientific" theories of that day such as the beginning of the world from a flying egg or the origin of man from the white worms of the Nile. The Bible is not a book of science, but it does mention several facts which fall into the real of what we generally consider science. While we must be careful that we do not make too much of the figurative language of the scriptures, it is interesting to notice that Biblical references to things scientific are not tainted by the erroneous theories common in the times in which they were written.

     "It is He who sits above the circle of the earth…" (Isaiah 40.22). The word translated "circle" can also mean sphere, according to Davidson’s Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon. In nearly every other civilization, unearthed records show that man taught the earth to be flat. Aristotle, in the fourth century B.C., set forth arguments for a spherical earth, but few were convinced. The Greek-Roman "flat-earth" concept became the standard of the world until the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when the voyages of Columbus and especially Magellan finally brought about the general acceptance of the rotundity of the earth. By the end of the seventeenth century, the sextant, telescope, theodolite, planetable, barometer, and accurate pendulum clocks proved beyond doubt that the earth is spherical. Yet, Isaiah said so around 700 B.C.!

      "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" So asks God of Job in Job 38.4. Before 1934, what supports the ground beneath us had always been a subject of interest. The ancients speculated that it was an animal, rock pillars, etc. The theory that had world-wide acceptance in the first third of the twentieth century was that the earth had no foundation but was full of hot molten material and covered with a thin floating crust. However, after 1935, the development of precision chronometers, seismographs, and recording instruments brought about a revolution in our knowledge of the earth’s structure. By 1964, using sensitive seismic instruments that transmit information from the earth’s interior, geologists learned that a bowl is formed for the continental material extending deep into the mantle rock. This mantle rock is now known to for the foundations of our planet.

     "Then the channels of the sea were seen…" (2 Samuel 22.16). The word translated "channel" means crevasse or canyon. The universal ancient opinion was that the ocean floors were flat, sandy beds similar to a desert, only under water. In 1504 Juan de la Costa made the first ocean soundings, but they were in shallow water and did little to dispel this false notion. In 1840 the first true ocean sounding was made. However, the famous Challenger Expedition in 1872-1876 marks the beginning of modern deep-sea exploration and discovered the first underwater trench or canyon at 4500 fathoms. Beginning in 1945, using echo-sounding, first introduced in 1911, the systematic crisscrossing by boats of the ocean has given us our current knowledge. In 1971, for the first time in man’s history, a complete map of the ocean floor was compiled and made available, showing the "channels of the sea."  (—taken from With All Boldness; August, 1997; Vol. 7, No. 8; p. 8)

The Historical and Geographical Accuracy of the Bible

THE HISTORICAL AND GEOGRAPHICAL ACCURACY OF THE BIBLE

by Wayne S. Walker

     In previous articles of this series, various items of a historical and geographical nature were cited as evidence for the accuracy of the Bible–fulfilled prophecies, archaeological findings, and Biblical references to climate, plants, natural resources, topogrphical features, and various customs. It was pointed out that the Bible is not a book of geography or history. Yet, the Bible was written in a geographical and historical setting. If the Bible is truly what it claims to be, a divine revelation of God’s will to mankind, then we would expect it to be accurate in all historical and geographical references. Let us examine a couple more examples to illustrate the Bible’s accuracy.

     When I was living in Dayton, OH, I would normally speak of going up to Toledo because it is north of Dayton and down to Cincinnati because it is south of Dayton. In our map-oriented society we think of north as "up" and "south" as down. However, no matter from which direction one is coming or in which direction one is heading, he is always said to be going up to Jerusalem or down from Jerusalem (Luke 10.30, 19.28; John 2.12-13, 11.54-55; Acts 9.26-30 & 32, 24.1). For example, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were said to go up to Jerusalem while travelling south from Galilee to Jerusalem (Luke 2.39-42). Philip was said to go down from Jerusalem while travelling north to Samaria (Acts 8.1-5).

     Why is this so? It is because Jerusalem is located up in the mountains and is, in fact, one of the highest points in Palestine. Ferrell Jenkins noted one specific description. "Jericho is located at 825 feet below sea level. Jerusalem is about 2500 feet above sea level. Notice the record in Luke 19. Jesus visits Jericho (v. 1); was ‘near Jerusalem’ (v. 11); was ‘ascending to Jerusalem’ (v. 28); ‘approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet’ (v. 29); ‘near the descent of the Mount of Olives’ (v. 37); ‘And when He approached, He saw the city’ (v. 41); the ‘He entered the temple’ (v. 45). This is an accurate description of the topography of this 19 mile journey" (Introduction to Christian Evidences, p. 69).

     Throughout the Bible references are made to a people known as the sons of Heth or Hittities, They were descendants of Ham through Canaan (Genesis 10.6-15). These Hittites were said to be among the people living in the land of Canaan prior to Israel’s reception of it (Genesis 15.12-21, 23.3ff, 25.9, 26.34, etc.). For many years, there were no historical records of such a group, especially in Palestine, and unbelieving critics ridiculed the Bible as inaccurate for mentioning such a fictitious tribe. The Hittites were supposed to be a figment of someone’s imagination. However, to quote Paul Harvey, now hear "the rest of the story."

     "A German expedition working at Sinjirli (ancient Samal), in Syria (1889-91), discovered many Hittite sculptures….John Garstang subsequently excavated another Hittite site nearby (1908-11). Much of the material found during these excavations was clearly Hittite in origin and bore witness to the fact that a Hittite kingdom once had its center there. Carchemish on the Euphrates was excavated by Sir Leonard Woolley and T. E. Lawrence for the Britisn Museum (1911-14). Inscriptions in Hieroglyphic Hittite were discovered along with many seals, pieces of jewelry, and other small objects" (Charles F. Pfeiffer in Baker’s Bible Atlas, p. 269). It is now know that Hittite peoples were spread all throughout the Middle Eastern region.

     Again, we must remember that the accuracy of the Bible by itself does not establish inspiration nor the fact that the Bible is a special, divine revelation of the mind of God. However, the remarkable accuracy of the Bible in the areas of history and geography is a strong, corroborating argument for the accuracy of the Bible in all other matters. It lends its weight to the claim of the scriptures to be inspired of God (2 Timothy 3.16-17). (—taken from With All Boldness; July, 1997; Vol. 7, No. 7; p. 22)

Manners and Customs of Palestine

MANNERS AND CUSTOMS OF PALESTINE

by Wayne S. Walker

     The Bible, while not written as a book of history, does claim to deal with actual history. In the course of discussing historical events, Bible writers often make reference to manners and customs of the people who were part of those historical times. Writers of historical fiction often do research to find out about the manners and customs of the people who lived in the times of which they are writing. Yet, in spite of their best efforts, errors occasionally occur in such human works. If similar errors occur in the Bible, then it can be shown to be of human origin. However, if there are no such errors, this accuracy would bolster its claim to be a divine revelation of God.

     The Bible often makes reference to sheep and shepherds since shepherding was one of the most common occupations of Palestine in Bible times. Jesus used the picture of a shepherd separating his sheep from his goats to illustrate the separation of the righteous from the wicked at the final judgment (Matthew 25.32-33). It was reported that there were shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night near Bethlehem when Jesus was born (Luke 2.8). Jesus also used the shepherd and the sheep to illustrate the relationship between Himself and His followers (John 10.1-5). Those who visit Palestine even today report that one can still see the separation of sheep and goats on sale days, that shepherds still lie out at night with their sheep in the summer in the hills around Bethlehem, and that the scene of sheep hearing the voice of their own shepherd and following him alone is still seen repeatedly throughout the Middle East.

     It is recorded that Jesus was buried in a tomb that was hewn out of a solid rock in front of which was rolled a large stone (Matthew 27.59-60, Mark 16.1-4). Now, what if it could be proven beyond doubt that no such tombs were in use in Jerusalem at that time? It would cast doubt on the integrity of the Bible writers. However, four such first-century tombs are known in Jerusalem, including the Herodian family tomb and the Tomb of the Kings where the rolling stone is still in place! In fact, Henry Halley reported that Christian Gordon in 1881 found at the west foot of "Skull Hill" a garden. Under five feet of rubbish, he located a tomb from Roman times, cut in a wall of solid rock, with a trench in front where a stone had been rolled for a door (Bible Handbook, pp. 551-552).

     Jesus told a parable in which He said, "…There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower…" (Matthew 21.33). According to Ferrell Jenkins, "The Israel Guide, p. 218 says: ‘The name Gath designates a winepress cut in the rock, such as are found in plenty in areas where vineyards were extensive.’ The wine press was cut in the rock. The grapes were placed in the vat and then crushed. I have seen several of these" (The Book and the Land, p. 4). McGarvey also reported seeing many such vineyards with towers of ancient appearance (Lands of the Bible, p. 59-60). Thus, Biblical references to manners and customs of Palestine are completely consistent with all the information that is known about "everyday life in Bible times." (—taken from With All Boldness; May, 1997; Vol. 7, No. 5; p. 5)

The Land and the Book

THE LAND AND THE BOOK

by Wayne S. Walker

     "Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is across from Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land of Gilead as far as Dan" (Deuteronomy 34.1). The Bible is not designed as a textbook on either geography or history but as a revelation of God’s will for mankind. However, God’s will was revealed in a historical and geographical setting. When Moses went up on Mt. Nebo, he was able to see what the land was like. Hence, the Bible does claim to present facts in describing geographical and historical information.

     If the Bible were merely a book of fictitious stories, we might expect to find errors throughout. One of the best places to trip up a writer is in his description of the geographical and historical context in which the events about which he is writing are said to have taken place. If the Bible is not accurate in its geographical and historical descriptions, then how can we be sure that it is correct in spiritual matters? Therefore, a study of the land and the book is helpful in confirming our faith in it as God’s word.

     In Joshua 2.15-16, Rahab of Jericho hid the two spies and then told them to go to the mountain. East of Jericho was the Jordan valley where the camp of the Israelites was located. The soldiers from Jericho would most likely have looked for them in that direction. But two and a half miles west of Jericho, in the opposite direction, a mountain suddenly rises where they could hide unsuspected. If there were no mountain near Jericho, we would assume that the writer was making things up. But there is!

     According to Joshua 3.14-17, the Israelites are said to have crossed over Jordan at the time of its overflowing, which occurs in late spring. Yet, this is also referred to as the time of harvest, which we usually associate with the fall. The Jordan is the lowest river on earth, and because of its physical location the harvest is almost complete just shortly after the spring rains when the river is still out of its banks. However, at Bethlehem and Hebron in higher regions the wheat is just beginning to come up. Only a person who was familiar with the facts would know this.

     Matthew 8.38-32 tell us that Jesus came to the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee and near Gadara cast demons out of two men. The demons went into a herd of swine who rushed down a steep bank into the sea. J. W. McGarvey wrote of this exact spot in his Lands of the Bible: "But while there are steep places all along the eastern shore of the lake, they stand back half a mile or more from the water’s edge everywhere except at one point….Here the high hills come close to the shore and descend by ‘a steep place’ to within 40 feet of the water’s edge. No stranger or foreigner could have written such narrations as these" (pp. 382-383).

     We have examined just three illustrations of how the various descriptions in the Book are confirmed, often in minute detail, by the actual lay of the land in which the events described are said to have taken place. This helps to increase our faith in the Bible as truthful in all that it says, and hence as being what it claims to be–God’s revelation to man. "I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches" (Psalm 119.14). (—taken from With All Boldness; April, 1996; Vol. 6, No. 4; p. 20; and November, 1996; Vol. 6, No. 11; p. 18)

Natural Resources and the Bible

NATURAL RESOURCES AND THE BIBLE

by Wayne S. Walker

     "He cuts out channels in the rocks, and His eye sees every precious thing" (Job 28.10). When God created the earth, He placed within it various kinds of natural resources, such as rocks and minerals, to be used for the good of mankind. Certain kinds of resources are more common to particular areas of the world than others. The Bible makes reference to several of these. If the Bible speaks inaccurately, we can reasonably conclude that it is the work of mere men. However, if it speaks completely accurately, its claim to be inspired is bolstered.

     Genesis 14 reports the battle of the four kings of Mesopotamia against the kings of the five cities of the plain, including Sodom and Gomorrah, which took place in the Valley of Siddim near what became the Salt (or Dead) Sea (vs. 1-3). Verse 10 says, "Now the Valley of Siddim was full of asphalt pits…" (KJV has the word "slime"). Josephus (Wars, IV, 8:4) reported that as early as the time of Abraham, asphalt seepages were known in this area and said that it was used for caulking ships and in a great many medicines (cf. Genesis 6.14, 11.3; Exodus 2.3).

     Moses, preparing the people to enter Canaan, called it, "A land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing; a land whose stones are iron and out of whose hills you can dig copper" (Deuteronomy 8.9). This would include the whole territory originally intended for Israel and over which David and Solomon eventually ruled, not just the land in which they actually settled. Ferrell Jenkins ("Solomon’s Copper Mines," Truth Magazine, Jan. 29, 1970) reported that copper has been found in the Negev (the "South" of Palestine) and is currently being minded at Timna in the Eilat District of the nation of Israel. Further evidence of copper smeling to the time of Solomon has been found in the Negev (1 Kings 7:45-46).

     The Philistines, who lived along the coastal region of Canaan, had iron instruments (Joshua 17:16-18). The Israelites, who lived in the hill country, did not (1 Samuel 13.19-20). Iron ore does not exist in the Negev and Galilee. However, Henry H. Halley (Bible Handbook, p. 170) reported that excavations have revealed many iron relics of 1100 B.C. in Philistia but none in the hill country of Palestine until 1000 B.C. Apparently, it was only when the power of the Philistines was broken by Saul and David that the iron-smelting formula became public property and the metal came to be widely used in Israel (2 Samuel 12.29-31).

     Bronze (KJV brass) is an alloy of copper and tin. Hiram made vessels for the house of the Lord "of burnished bronze" and had them "cast in clay molds, between Succoth and Zaretan" (1 Kings 7:45-46). Succoth and Zaretan are on the east of the Jordan River. According to Everyday Life in Bible Times (p. 36), James B. Pritchard, of the University of Pennsylvania, excavated Tell es-Saidiyeh, thought to be Biblical Zaretan, in 1963, and bronze vessels were found there.

     Again, these facts do not prove the Bible inspired. However, they do lend weight to its credibility. It is not a book of complete myths or fairy tales, but accurately describes where natural resources are found. If it always speaks the truth in such a mundane matter as natural resources, then we may more reasonably conclude that it speaks the truth when it claims to be the word of God. "Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law" (Psalm 119.18). (—taken from With All Boldness; March, 1996; Vol 6, No. 3; p. 18; and January, 1997; Vol. 7, No. 1; p. 10)

Plants and Trees of the Bible

PLANTS AND TREES OF THE BIBLE

by Wayne S. Walker

     "Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth;’ and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. So the evening and the morning were the third day" (Genesis 1.11-13).

     In his well-known Lands of the Bible, J. W. McGarvey in the second part, "The Topography of Palestine," chapter 9, "An Argument from the Agreement of the Land and the Book," made the following observation: "In regard to the trees of a country a writer may so inform himself as to speak with accuracy when formally naming the trees which grow there; but if he locates a narrative in a country with which he is not personally familiar, in his incidental or unstudied allusions to trees he is very likely to betray himself by unconsciously substituting the trees of his own country. Yet nothing of this kind is found among all the Bible writers" (p. 378).

     Jericho is called "the city of palm trees." In Deuteronomy 34.3 Moses saw "the South, and the plain of the Valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar" (cf. 2 Chronicles 28.15). Palm trees do not grow generally in much of Palestine because it is hilly. However, Jericho is an oasis in a desert region that is of much lower elevation, and palm trees still grow exactly where a Bible writer said that they grow.

     The sycamore is a type of fig tree that grows only in the lower elevations, such as the Jordan valley around the Dead Sea or the coastal regions, in contrast to the cedars which were much more abundant in the higher elevations, such as around Jerusalem (1 Kings 10.26-27). Zaccheus climbed a sycamore tree (Luke 19.1-4). This was at Jericho, which is located in the lower elevations. Suppose the writer had located the story at Jerusalem, where there are no sycamore trees!

     Jesus said that the mustard seed "becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches" (Matthew 13.31-32). The common field mustard with which most of us are familiar is a fairly small plant. However, in Palestine the mustard does indeed become a tree-like shrub. Dr. William Thompson in his work The Land and the Book wrote: "I have seen this plant on the rich plain of Akkar [Acre] as tall as the horse and his rider" (p. 414). Only someone familiar with this fact would have spoken or written such a statement.

     Finally, the Bible pictures oak or terebinth trees as growing in certain places (e.g., 2 Samuel 18.6-10). McGarvey again said: "Absalom is represented as being caught by the head in the ‘thick boughs of a great oak,’ though in almost every other country the boughs of a great oak are either too high nor not thick enough for a man’s head to be caught in them" (pp. 378-379). However, just such kinds of trees are reported to be quite common east of Jerusalem where the battle between the armies of David and Absalom fought. So Bible writers are accurate in their placement of plants and trees. This is as it should be in a book which claims to be inspired by God.  (—taken from With All Boldness; Feb., 1996; Vol. 6, No. 2; p. 6; and Dec., 1996; Vol. 6, No. 12; p. 14)