IS THE BIBLE THE WORD OF GOD?
by Wayne S. Walker
Every major world religion has its set of sacred writings. Hinduism has the Vedas, written in Sanskrit by the Aryan conquerors who appeared in northern India beginning about 1500 B. C. Buddhism has the Tri-pitaka which consists of the Vinaya (supposed to be the rules promulgated by the Buddha), the Sutras (also called the Nikayas or Agamas, written by early disciples of Buddha), and the Abhidhamma (seven scholastic works from later centuries), written in the ancient Pali language beginning after the death of Gautama Buddha in 480 B. C. Biblical Judaism, of course, had the Old Testament, but modern Judaism is based more on the Talmud, consisting of the Mishna, or oral law, and the Gemara, or commentary on the law, which developed around A. D. 400 to 600. Islam has the Qur’an (or Koran) which claims to have been written down in bits and pieces by scribes from the words of Mohammed and then gathered together after his death in A. D. 632. And Christianity has the Bible, consisting of the Old Testament, revealed to the Jews 1500 to 400 B. C., and the New Testament, revealed to the early church A. D. 40 to 100.
Anyone can claim that anything written by any human being or group of human beings is of divine origin. However, once such a claim is made, that writing must be examined to see if it bears the marks of divine origin or not. Not all the sacred writings of the great world religions claim divine origin. The Muslims do claim that the Qur’an was revealed by God (Allah) to the Prophet Mohammed. And the Bible certainly claims to be a revelation of God to mankind. The writers of the Old Testament claimed that what they spoke and wrote came to them from God. "Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying…" (Ezekiel 6:1). This claim was confirmed by the writers of the New Testament. "For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). The writers of the New Testament also claimed that what they spoke and wrote came to them from God. "If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 14:37). In fact, Paul said of what we call the Bible, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16).
Therefore, the first question is, does the Bible bear the marks of divine origin or not? The answer to this question is yes. There are many lines of evidence that we could examine to demonstrate that this is so. In fact, there are far too many lines to consider them all in one short article, but I would like to call your attention to one of them which I believe is among the strongest forms of evidence, and that is fulfilled prophecy. When the people of Israel were tempted to forsake Jehovah their God and follow idols, God staked His superiority to the idols upon His ability to foresee and foretell the future, a power which the idols did not have. "Thus says the LORD, the king of Israel, and His Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God. ANd who cam proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, let them show these to them. Do not fear, nor be afraid; have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one" (Isaiah 44:6-8).
Thus, God claimed that He alone could see the future and predict it accurately. One of the signs that He gave prophets whom He sent to speak in His name was the ability to foretell the future so that by this power they might confirm that their message was divine. Again, anyone can claim to speak for God. But the Lord told Israel, "When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him" (Deuteronomy 18:22). Therefore, it is not surprising that a book which claims to have originated with God should be filled with examples of specific prophecies of future events which were fulfilled exactly as predicted. We shall look at two otherwise unexplanable cases.
The first comes from the book of Isaiah, who lived and prophesied around 700 B. C. In Isaiah 44:28, in a prophecy about the restoration of Judah after captivity, Isaiah wrote of God, "Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, "You shall be built," and to the temple, "Your foundation shall be laid."’" Then in Isaiah 45:1 the prophet continued, "Thus says the LORD to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held–to subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut." Even a cursory study of ancient middle eastern history will show that in 540 B. C. a great Persian king named Cyrus arose who in 536 B. C. conquered the Chaldean Empire which Nebuchadnezzar had established previously, along with all the territory around it, and allowed all those whom the Assyrians and Babylonians before him had taken captive to go free. This included the Jews, many of whom returned to Palestine as recorded in the Bible (Ezra 1:1-4).
Isaiah lived nearly 200 years before the time of Cyrus, who was not even a gleam in his father’s eye when the prophet made this statement. In fact, Cyrus’s father was probably not even a gleam in his own father’s eye at the time! How could Isaiah now the exact name of the king whom God would raise up to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem some 200 years before the event unless he was being guided by God in his revelation? Modernists deny that Isaiah in 700 B. C. actually prophesied that a man named Cyrus would in 536 B. C. allow the Jews to return, concluding that some later "Deutero-Isaiah" must have gone back and interpolated Cyrus’s name into the writings of the real Isaiah after the fact. However, there is absolutely no evidence of this. Jewish tradition has always held the book of Isaiah to have been written by one author, and this tradition is evidenced in the Dead Sea scrolls which contain one complete and one nearly complete scroll of Isaiah. And these scrolls were copied from manuscripts much older than they. The only reason the modernists have invented this theory is because they do not believe in predictive prophecy or the inspiration of the scriptures.
The second of these prophecies comes from Micah, who lived and worked contemporaneously with Isaiah. In Micah 5:2 he wrote, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting." This is clearly a Messianic prophecy, since it describes one who is "from everlasting." And it prophesies that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah. This refers to a small village formerly known as Ephrath where Rachel died (Genesis 25:16-20). It is called Bethlehem Ephrathah to distinguish it from a larger, better-known Bethlehem in Zebulon (Joshua 19:10-15). The fact that Bethlehem Ephrathah, which was in Judah, was not even mentioned in the division of the land shows how insignificant and unimportant it was considered by men.
Yet, the prophet said that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, and not just any Bethlehem, including the Bethlehem considered more significant and important in Zebulon, but Bethlehem which had been known as Ephrath. And that is exactly where Jesus was born (Matthew 2:1-6). When the wise men came seeking the One who was born King of the Jews, the scribes searched the scriptures and understood from the prophecy of Micah that it would be in Bethlehem. And what is especially interesting about this prophecy is that no person has any control over the place of his birth. Some have alleged that Jesus may have decided that He would consciously try to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. But He could not have consciously chosen the place of His birth–unless He was divine, which is exactly what He is. The place where the Old Testament prophesied that the Messiah would be born is the exact place where He who bore all the evidences that He was the Messiah was born.
There are several conclusions that we can reach from considering this evidence. First, fulfilled prophecies such as these confirm the Bible’s claim to being a revelation to mankind from God. In fact, not one prediction ever made in the Bible has failed to come to pass, except those related to the second coming of Christ, and based on the track record already established we can rest assured that they will indeed come to pass. Second, no other books claimed to be revelations from God or revered as "scriptures" by the religions of the world have such confirmation. Those who believe that they do can set forth their cause right along side of the evidence for the Bible, and the Bible will win every time.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Bible claims to be the exclusive revelation of God to man. The One who gave us the Bible, Jesus Christ the divine Son of God, said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6). Jesus is saying that there is no other way than the way that He Himself gave us. If even one other book can be shown to be a revelation from God, then the Bible is false and cannot be trusted. But if the Bible is a revelation from God, then every other book is a product of man and should not be trusted. Each person has to make a choice whether to accept the evidence for the inspiration of the scripture or reject it. However, the evidence is available and overwhelming so that the honest conclusion is that it is far more reasonable to believe that the Bible came from God than to disbelieve it. "These are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:30-31). (—taken from With All Boldness; February, 2002; Vol. 12, No. 2; pp. 18-19)