Can We Believe the Bible?

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MP3 Audio (41.53 MB)


Can We Believe the Bible?

MP3 Audio (41.53 MB)

The Bible was written over a span of many centuries by several dozen authors living on three continents. Its pages record thousands of details, including people, places, events, customs, dates and geographical features.

While archaeology—the study of the material remains of ancient peoples and cultures—can reveal a great deal, it has its limits. In the lands of the Bible, for example, literally thousands of ancient sites are known that have never been excavated. And of those that have been excavated, it’s typical that only one to five percent of a site has been excavated, even after sometimes decades of study and digging. Thus, much remains buried and undiscovered.

Ancient artifacts such as statues, inscriptions, seals, coins and clay tablets clearly verify the existence of dozens of individuals mentioned in the Bible!

Furthermore, as we might expect, many remains of the ancient world simply haven’t survived. Any material that can decay has decayed (with rare exceptions, such as some remains found in extremely dry desert climates). Because of this, artifacts of fabric, wood, leather, bone, parchment and papyrus are rare. 

Typically, whatever could be reused was reused. And valuables were not left around to be buried under accumulating dust and debris but were kept more safely and passed on to others. Palaces, temples and wealthy homes, where the most significant articles would have been, were kept clean, leaving less to later find. New building in ancient cities was often done on top of previous razed construction, and sometimes this razing removed remains from prior occupation.

It’s also known that many if not most ancient cities and towns of the Middle East were destroyed by fire during earthquakes or warfare. Often invaders looted or deliberately destroyed objects of significance in the areas they conquered.

So the bottom line is that the physical remains we have from biblical times that might testify to the truthfulness of the Bible are relatively rare. Only a fraction of a fraction of ancient remains have been recovered, much less studied and analyzed.

Critics’ distorted views of the Bible

Faced with such scarcity, critics of the Bible jump on absence of evidence to argue that this is evidence of absence—i.e., that because evidence has not yet been found to support parts of the Bible, this is evidence that the events never happened.

Such reasoning, of course, is inherently flawed. Just because evidence hasn’t been found doesn’t mean that evidence doesn’t or never existed. But this doesn’t stop critics such as author and “evangelical atheist” Richard Dawkins from making such comments about the Bible, in this case the Gospels:

“The gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world. All were written long after the death of Jesus . . . Nobody knows who the four evangelists were, but they almost certainly never met Jesus personally. Much of what they wrote was in no sense an honest attempt at history” (The God Delusion, 2006, p. 96).

Similarly, the late atheist Christopher Hitchens wrote regarding the earliest books of the Bible: “Long before modern inquiry and painstaking translation and excavation had helped enlighten us, it was well within the compass of a thinking person to see that the ‘revelation’ at Sinai and the rest of the Pentateuch was an ill-carpentered fiction, bolted into place well after the nonevents that it fails to describe convincingly or even plausibly” (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, 2007,p. 104).

It’s especially interesting that Hitchens states that “excavation” (presumably referring to archaeological digs) has “helped enlighten us”—as though he believes archaeological findings actually support his argument that the Bible is a record of “nonevents,” or things that never happened. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth!

Few are aware that writings of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus and several Roman historians and government officials from the first and second centuries specifically discuss Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, Jesus’ half-brother James, various Jewish and Roman leaders, and the basic beliefs of the early Church of God.

This is quite remarkable if, as Dawkins proposes, “the gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened” and are “in no sense an honest attempt at history.” Does Dawkins propose that these well-attested early historians were also fabricating their accounts?

What does the evidence really say?

Unlike the supposedly “holy” writings of other religions, the Bible is rooted in real history. It discusses real people, real places and real events. And that history can be verified through archaeology as well as independent historical records.

Artifacts such as statues, inscriptions, seals, coins and clay tablets from archives verify the existence of dozens of individuals mentioned in the Bible.

As one who has studied archaeology for many years (and participated in my first archaeological excavation at age 13), I know what archaeology reveals about God’s Word. I’ve also spent days in museums housing the best collections of Bible-related artifacts in the world, traveled repeatedly to the lands of the Bible, visited the excavations of most of the major sites mentioned in Scripture, and met a number of the most notable archaeologists working today.

Again and again I’ve seen evidence that confirms what prolific author Erwin Lutzer states in his work Seven Reasons Why You Can Trust the Bible: “Every month new archaeological discoveries are made . . . Our understanding of biblical life and times increases year by year. And so does our confidence that the Bible is a book rooted in the soil of Middle East history, and its accounts have the marks of credibility. The Bible’s geography, chronology, and its description of the rise and fall of empires all conform to the data of secular history” (1998, p. 74).

Eye-opening trip to Greece

Typical of such evidence is what I was privileged to see on a recent trip to Greece. It’s not every day that you come face to face with hard evidence of the authenticity of specific individuals and events mentioned in the pages of the Bible, but I was able to do so a number of times on this trip. 

Evidence of major world figures mentioned in the Bible is to be expected, as in the case of the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus (27 B.C.-A.D. 14), who was emperor when Jesus Christ was born (Luke 2:1-6). I saw beautifully preserved busts of him in several museums, which is no surprise since Greece, like the Holy Land, was part of the Roman Empire during his reign.

Another major figure I saw several busts of is Alexander the Great. While not directly named in the Bible, he was explicitly foretold in Bible prophecy. He was the “notable horn” and “first king” in a vision recorded in Daniel 8 of a goat symbolizing the Greco-Macedonian Empire that, under his leadership, vanquished the Persian Empire and ruled most of the known world of its day (verses 5-7, 21). Alexander is one of several notable figures whose coming and historical role was foretold in the Bible well in advance.

While Bible critics argue that it’s easy to insert such notable figures into a false narrative, as these critics claim biblical writers have done, it’s much harder to argue that a relatively minor government official mentioned in passing in the Bible is part of a fabricated story when an inscription bearing the person’s name is found in the exact right place at the exact right time in history!

One such individual is “Erastus . . . the city’s director of public works” in Corinth, mentioned in passing in Romans 16:23 (New International Version), where the apostle Paul sends the greetings of various Church members in Corinth to fellow Christians in Rome.

In 1929, archaeologists excavating a paved area close to the theater of Corinth discovered a large inscription that reads, “Erastus in return for his aedileship laid [the pavement] at his own expense.” An aedile was one responsible for public buildings, streets, markets and activities—i.e., a “director of public works,” just as described in the biblical reference to him.

The inscription dates to the middle of the first century A.D.—right in the time frame in which Paul wrote his letter to the Romans in which Erastus is mentioned (A.D. 57-58). It appears that the Erastus of the inscription and the Erastus of the letter are one and the same—showing Paul was writing about real people at a real place in real time!

“The judgment seat” of Gallio

But that’s not the only archaeological evidence from Corinth that strongly supports the authenticity of the biblical record. Not far away amid the city’s ancient ruins is the remains of another large public gathering place, an open plaza in front of a large raised stone platform. Most archaeologists identify this platform as a bema, a place where government officials spoke and local magistrates issued their rulings before the public.

Let’s notice what happened to Paul when he was in Corinth, as recorded by Luke in Acts 18:12-18: “When Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews with one accord rose up against Paul and brought him to the judgment seat, saying, ‘This fellow persuades men to worship God contrary to the law.’

“And when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, ‘If it were a matter of wrongdoing or wicked crimes, O Jews, there would be reason why I should bear with you. But if it is a question of words and names and your own law, look to it yourselves; for I do not want to be a judge of such matters.’

“And he drove them from the judgment seat. Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. But Gallio took no notice of these things. So Paul still remained a good while” (emphasis added throughout).

The strategy of Paul’s opponents backfired. Rather than shutting down his teaching and preaching, the ruling proconsul Gallio dismissed their accusations and allowed Paul to continue. Having legal protection, Paul then stayed in Corinth for some time, continuing his teaching and serving the Church members there.

What is interesting about this account is the mention three times of the “judgment seat,” or bema in Greek, meaning a raised platform on which someone stands to make a public speech. Anyone who visits Corinth today can see, in a prominent part of the city ruins, the very structure mentioned here to which Paul was brought!

So the existence of such a structure, one mentioned only in passing, has been verified as being in the very time and place the Bible locates it!

And of course that’s not all. I saw much more physical evidence of the accuracy of the biblical record on this trip—including the Areopagus or Mars Hill in Athens (still identifiable today almost 2,000 years after Paul’s visit there as recorded in Acts 17), the Athenian forum (or “marketplace”) where he taught, and the statues of multitudes of gods and goddesses worshipped by the Athenians and their neighbors to the west, the Corinthians.

It’s both sobering and satisfying to see such incontrovertible evidence of the Bible’s authenticity. It is indeed a genuine account of real persons, real places and real events recorded centuries ago and preserved for us today.

Much, much more evidence supporting the Bible

As enlightening as this trip to Greece was, it was merely scratching the surface of the vast amount of physical evidence supporting the Bible. Considering the limitations of the archaeological record discussed earlier, it’s astounding how much evidence has been found that does support the accuracy of the Bible.

On similar trips to Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey (the “Asia” of the Bible) and Italy, as well as in museums around the world, I’ve been privileged to see scores of biblical sites, proof of the existence of dozens of biblical figures, and a number of specific structures, customs and practices mentioned in the Bible. Some of the more compelling finds include:

• A stone slab inscribed with “Pontius Pilate, prefect of Judea” and mentioning the Roman Emperor Tiberias dating to the first half of the first century, found in 1961 at Caesarea Maritima on the coast of Israel (where the ruling Roman procurators lived at the time of the Gospels). Of course, this is the same Pontius Pilate who, as recorded in the Gospels, condemned Jesus Christ to be crucified.

• An ornate stone box dating to the first century and bearing the name “Joseph, son of Caiaphas,” discovered in a priestly tomb near Jerusalem in 1990. This same individual, a high priest, played a major role in the conspiracy of the Jerusalem religious leadership to have Jesus executed by crucifixion.

• The skeleton of a man crucified in the first century found in a Jerusalem tomb in 1968. Still piercing the man’s heel bone was a large iron nail that had bent and couldn’t be removed after death. The remains were proof that crucifixion was practiced as described in the Gospels almost 2,000 years earlier.

Interested readers can search for “Bible and Archaeology” on our website at and find a great deal more, including a biblical book-by-book description of significant archaeological finds relating to the Bible. Another good source is the recently published Zondervan Handbook of Biblical Archaeology: A Book by Book Guide to Archaeological Discoveries Related to the Bible (November 2017), which details a great many Scripture-related artifacts.

God’s Word stands sure

In light of so much clear evidence, it’s unfathomable that so many continue to deny the clear evidence—yet they do. This is partly explained by Romans 8:7: “The mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so” (Christian Standard Bible). People don’t want to acknowledge the truthfulness of the Bible because to do so carries with it an obligation to live by what it says!

In spite of the fallible opinions, excuses and rationalizations of men, God’s Word stands sure. As Isaiah 40:8 tells us, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”

Today’s cultural battle over the Bible was well summed up decades ago by noted author and professor Bernard Ramm: “A thousand times over, the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession formed, the inscription cut on the tombstone, and the committal read. But somehow the corpse never stays put.

“No other book has been so chopped, sliced, sifted, scrutinized and vilified. What book on philosophy or religion or psychology . . . of classical or modern times has been subject to such a mass attack as the Bible? With such venom and skepticism? With such thoroughness and erudition? Upon every chapter, line and tenet? The Bible is still loved by millions and studied by millions” (Protestant Christian Evidences, 1957, pp. 232-33).

We at Beyond Today encourage you to continue loving and studying the priceless Word of God. We’re glad to be with you on this journey, and glad to help guide you along the way!



Biblical Buildings and Structures Discovered by Archaeologists

Archaeologist Bryant Wood, research director of Associates for Biblical Research and editor of the archaeology magazine Bible and Spade, lists a number of manmade structures mentioned in the Bible that have been identified and excavated. Following are some of the most interesting:

• The pool of Gibeon where the forces of David and Ishbosheth fought during the struggle for the kingship of Israel (2 Samuel 2:12-32).

• The royal palace at Samaria where the kings of Israel lived (1 Kings 20:43; 1 Kings 21:1-2; 1 Kings 22:39; 2 Kings 1:2; 2 Kings 15:25).

• The water tunnel beneath Jerusalem dug by King Hezekiah to provide water during the Assyrian siege (2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:30).

• The royal palace in Babylon where King Belshazzar held the feast and Daniel interpreted the handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5).

• The royal palace in Susa where Esther was queen of the Persian king Xerxes (Esther 1:2; Esther 2:3; Esther 2:5; Esther 2:9; Esther 2:16).

• The royal gate at Susa where Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, sat (Esther 2:19; Esther 2:21; Esther 3:2-3; Esther 4:2; Esther 5:9; Esther 5:13; Esther 6:10-12).

• The foundation of the synagogue at Capernaum where Jesus performed miracles and taught (Mark 1:21-28; John 6:25-59).

• The house of Peter at Capernaum where Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law and others (Matthew 8:14-16).

• Jacob’s well where Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman (John 4).

• The Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a crippled man (John 5:1-14).

• The Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, where Jesus healed a blind man (John 9:1-4).

• The tribunal at Corinth where the apostle Paul was tried (Acts 18:12-17).

• The theater at Ephesus where the riot of silversmiths occurred (Acts 19:29).

• Herod’s palace at Caesarea where Paul was kept under guard (Acts 23:33-35).

(“Have Any Man-Made Structures Mentioned in the Bible Been Unearthed by Archaeologists?”, 1996).

In addition to these, recent excavations in Jerusalem have tentatively identified parts of the following structures:

• David’s palace, which he had built in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:11).

• Solomon’s fortifications for the city of Jerusalem (1 Kings 11:27).

• The defensive wall constructed under Nehemiah after the Jewish exiles’ return from Babylon (Nehemiah 3:1-32; Nehemiah 4:1-6).



Does Archaeology Confirm the Existence of Specific People Mentioned in the Bible?

On virtually every page of the Bible you will find the name of a person or place. Since the Bible claims to be real history, its credibility rests on its historical accuracy. If the people, places and events mentioned in the Bible are part of factual accounts, we should expect to find evidence to support those accounts. So what does the evidence show? Do archaeology and history confirm the Bible?

As archaeologists have excavated the ancient lands of the Bible, they have uncovered inscriptions and other evidence that prove the existence of dozens of persons mentioned in the Bible. Historians poring over ancient records have found still more.

Among biblical figures whose existence has been attested by archaeology or other preserved ancient records are the following:

Old Testament

Adramelech, prince of Assyria
Ahab, king of Israel  
Ahaz (Jehoahaz), king of Judah
Ahaziah, king of Israel
Apries, pharaoh of Egypt
Artaxerxes I, king of Persia
Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria   
Azaliah, scribe
Azariah, grandfather of Ezra
Baruch, scribe of the prophet Jeremiah
Balaam, Moabite prophet
Belshazzar, coregent of Babylon
Benhadad, king of Aram
Cyrus II, king of Persia
Darius I, king of Persia
David, king of Israel
Esarhaddon, king of Assyria
Evil-merodach, king of Babylon
Gedaliah, governor of Judah
Gemariah, scribe
Geshem, Nabatean dignitary
Hazael, king of Aram
Hezekiah, king of Judah
Hilkiah, high priest
Hophra (Apries), pharaoh of Egypt
Hoshea, king of Israel
Jehoash, king of Israel
Jehoiachin, king of Judah
Jehoram, king of Israel
Jehu, king of Israel
Jehucal (Jucal), court official
Jerahmeel, prince of Judah
Jezebel, wife of Ahab, king of Israel
Johanan, grandson of the high priest Eliashib
Josiah, king of Judah
Jotham, king of Judah
Manasseh, king of Judah
Menahem, king of Israel
Merodach-baladan, king of Babylon
Mesha, king of Moab
Meshullam, father of Azaliah the scribe
Nebo-Sarsekim, Babylonian official
Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon
Nebuzaradan, Babylonian official
Necho II, pharaoh of Egypt
Nergal-sharezer, king of Babylon
Neriah, father of Baruch the scribe
Omri, king of Israel
Pekah, king of Israel
Rezin, king of Aram
Sanballat, governor of Samaria
Sargon II, king of Assyria
Sennacherib, king of Assyria
Seraiah, court official of Zedekiah
Shalmaneser III, king of Assyria
Shalmaneser V, king of Assyria
Shaphan, father of Gemariah the scribe
Sharezer, son of Sennacherib
Shebna, royal steward of Hezekiah
Shelemiah, father of Jehucal (Jucal)
Shishak, pharaoh of Egypt
Taharqa, pharaoh of Egypt
Tiglath-Pileser III, king of Assyria
Uzziah, king of Judah
Taharqa (Tirhakah), pharaoh of Egypt
Xerxes I, king of Persia
Zedekiah, king of Judah

New Testament

Annas, high priest
Antonius Felix, procurator of Judea
Aretas IV, king of the Nabateans
Augustus Caesar, emperor of Rome
Caiaphas, high priest
Claudius Caesar, emperor of Rome
Erastus, public official in Corinth
Gallio, proconsul of Achaia
Herod the Great, king of Judea
Herod Antipas, tetrach of Galilee and Perea
Herod Agrippa I, king of Judea
Herod Agrippa II, king of Judea
Herod Archelaus, tetrarch of Judea
James, half-brother of Jesus
Jesus Christ
John the Baptist
Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea
Porcius Festus, procurator of Judea
Quirinius, governor of Syria
Sergius Paulus, proconsul of Cyprus
Tiberius Caesar, emperor of Rome

Some critics have argued that the biblical books were written much later and that such names were added to make the accounts merely appear authentic. Others have suggested that people important to stories of later times were surreptitiously inserted into earlier accounts. How, then, can they explain biblical figures whose existence has been proven by archaeological finds placing them in the exact times and locations in which they are described in the Bible? And, as seen from this list, this has happened dozens of times with persons ranging from kings to court officials to commoners!

Again and again as archaeologists have excavated the lands of the Bible, the evidence they’ve uncovered has verified that the Bible is a truly authentic and accurate ancient record.

(Adapted from our free study guide Is the Bible True?)