Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
BIBLICAL CRITICISM -- Intellectual Idolatry?
Disbelieving in any God, men with minds swayed by evolutionary thought have attempted to discredit, and virtually destroy Bible testimony. Bible history has come under attack. Bible personages have been called fictitious. Bible events are regarded in circles of "higher critics" as legendary. Bible miracles came soon to be regarded as sheer superstition! Is the Bible mere myth or ancient tradition? What about Bible criticism? Is it honest, reliable?
by HOIM Staff
Just what IS Bible criticism? How does it affect you?
For more than one hundred years, the western world has abounded with highly educated men who have devoted their lives to tearing down and "demythologizing" the Bible. Since the time Darwin shocked the world with his evolutionary theory, Bible scholars and German rationalists have applied his theory to the Bible itself!
According to critics of the Bible, the books of the Bible gradually EVOLVED INTO EXISTENCE, and are the legendary writings of an ancient race of men the Hebrews. Did YEHOVAH God inspire the Bible? Of course not, they tell you. The original God of Israel, Himself, they claim, was merely an ancient tribal deity! He was merely the local mountain "god" of the Sinai region, adopted by wandering Hebrews as they passed through.
An Ancient Drug-Taking Cult?
Notice the amazing words of one extreme Bible critic. John Marco Allegro, a humanist professor and Hebrew language scholar working with the Dead Sea Scrolls, said the roots of Christianity lay in an ancient drug taking cult and the New Testament is "just a cover story" for it. Said Allegro, "Now my views are more critical than ever about the New Testament story." He added, with seeming disdain, "It is no more than a COVER STORY for a vegetation cult, involving the use of drugs of earlier times."
This so-called scholar called Bible priests and prophets the "dope pushers" of their day and compared them with South American drug-using Indians. When the prophets saw visions, they were probably "taking a trip" on LSD or something like it, he said.
Says Allegro, "The Bible is a literary work -- and not a religious or historical work. It's got to be accepted on that basis. If you can lay bare the real purpose behind the Old and New Testament stories, then the whole foundation of the church must be shattered. They'll have to think again. Figures like David and Solomon, Samson and Delilah, are just myths. The very possibility that Jesus ever existed is open to question."
Allegro's views are not generally accepted by the community of Biblical scholars. However, they point up the fact that many so-called "higher critics" and "scholars" have very strong negative opinions about the Biblical record, its history, and contents. Biblical accounts of "miracles" are the worst problem for them. They see many accounts of supernatural interventions by YEHOVAH God, and automatically ascribe them to the realm of mythology and legend -- mere fiction -- because they discount a priori the concept that a God could intervene in human events and change the destiny of nations, as well as individuals.
Scholars Attack the Bible
Another member of the 12-man team analyzing the Dead Sea Scrolls, Dr. James A. Sanders, has taken the opposite tack and said there is no evidence to support Allegro's speculations. Dr. Sanders noted that Allegro cited no evidence for his opinions and said they seem "to reflect his own state of mind rather than anything in antiquity."
But Allegro's bold-faced declarations and suggestions should not simply be ignored. What about modern Bible critics? Can they be relied upon to reveal the TRUTH? Or is much of Biblical criticism based on a lot of human speculation, guesswork, and opinion?
Surprisingly enough, even many modern ministers publicly declare the Bible is not inspired by a Creator God. Harry Emerson Fosdick, a noted American minister, wrote, "We know now that every idea in the Bible started from primitive and childlike origins . . . "(The Modern Use of the Bible, p. 11). He spoke of certain "crudities" in the earlier writings in the Bible and said, "Their lack is a lack of maturity."
Dr. Edgar J. Goodspeed, who translated the Bible into English, said of the first twelve books in the Bible, "It is man's first attempt to organize his knowledge of his past into what we would call an outline of history. Genesis," he wrote, "is a great encyclopedia of Hebrew thought . . ." -- NOT divine revelation from Almighty GOD!
The book of Joshua, he says, "is the legendary story of the conquest of Canaan." The book of Ruth, he believes, "belongs to Israel's fiction, rather than to its history, and should be among its tales and stories" (How to Read the Bible, p. 39, 51).
THESE are the words of ministers translators, and Bible scholars! They should not be taken lightly. They are the opinions of the vast, overwhelming majority of Biblical scholars and critics. Why do such people generally believe the Bible is merely a grouping of stories, legends and myths?
There is a REASON!
Most professors and scholars are unwilling to admit the divine inspiration of the Bible because they are BLINDED to the truth! Human nature tends to resist "authority" of any kind. For a human being to admit to the authority of a God, and His divinely inspired Word, they would then be in a very awkward position if they continued to criticize His Word and its contents. If they accepted its divine origin as to contents and inspiration, then they would have to recognize its AUTHORITY over their lives -- they would be obligated to OBEY it! How many men do you know who really want to obey the Ten Commandments? Who deep down really desire to obey ALL the laws and commandments of the God of the Bible?
James Moffatt, an English Bible translator, claimed, "The Old Testament is a collection of religious literature thrown up in the course of this story" -- the story of history of the Hebrew people. Obviously, even though he translated the Scriptures into modern English, he has no belief that they are of divine origin and inspiration.
Moffatt did not believe the Bible to be inspired by YEHOVAH God Almighty. He believed portions of the Bible were badly edited and arranged, so he tried to improve on them. He rearranged entire chapters to suit himself. According to James Moffatt, "Ezekiel was a priest, but the collapse of the temple turned his priestly fervour into theory instead of practice, and predictions run out into a kind of ecclesiastical Utopia." Moffatt claimed that the traditions of national unity and supernatural guidance "are at the heart of the tales and traditions within the first five books of the Bible."
Why do all these men reject the Bible as inspired truth? Why do even many ministers of Churches repudiate the Bible as divine revelation and discount its miracles, including the crossing of the Red Sea and the resurrection of the Messiah?
The State of Bible Criticism Today
Modern scholars themselves have some remarkable things to say about the field of Bible criticism. John Bright, of the Union Theological Seminary, has declared, "'The whole field is in a state of flux. It is moving, certainly, but it is not always easy to say in what direction."
Bright adds, "Sometimes it gives the impression that it is moving in several MUTUALLY CANCELING DIRECTIONS at once. Even upon major points there is often little unanimity to be observed" (Modern Studies of Old Testament Literature, p. 14).
Think of that! Controversy reigns supreme. New theories, says Bright, make their appearance from time to time. He adds, "New light has been thrown on theories of yesteryear so that a "revision of them is required, SO DRASTIC as to amount to virtual abandonment."
In other words, Bible scholars themselves admit that even on "MAJOR POINTS" there is often "LITTLE unanimity" to be observed! They admit that hardly a statement could be made about Bible criticism that would be absolutely provable, absolutely true, acknowledged by the majority of scholars!
Perhaps the most generally accepted statement one could make about the whole field of modern Bible criticism is that it is in a STATE OF FLUX! George E. Mendenhall, another Biblical scholar, however, goes further. He wrote, "The 'fluidity' in this field . . . may with perhaps less courtesy but more accuracy be called CHAOS." Mendenhall confesses that Bible criticism has come to an "IMPASSE" (Biblical History in Transition).
Too often, in far too many theories of Bible criticism "only those facts which FIT THE HYPOTHESIS are taken up and others IGNORED." How did Bible criticism come to such a state? What led to the present modern CHAOS -- the present IMPASSE? Obviously, something is serious wrong with modern Bible criticism! Could it be that the whole approach of most modern critics needs to be examined? What is their general, over-all approach, anyway?
After the rise of the theory of evolution, popularized by Charles Darwin, the evolutionary concept of life on planet earth began to worm its way into many facets of education -- including the field of Biblical criticism. Critics came to believe that ancient Israel developed from a primitive animism or polytheism to monotheism in a period of five or six short centuries. With more accuracy and less candor, therefore, the field of Biblical criticism should be called "Evolution-based criticism."
The simple truth is that theologians and critics long ago concluded that the first books of the Bible could not have been written by Moses -- for writing, they believed, was invented at a later time. Hebrew religion, they taught, gradually evolved. The evolutionary process led to the rising up of Christianity. Therefore, the entire Old Testament, having served its purpose, was at one time discarded, and still is by some critics.
Of course such a belief makes Christianity itself merely one stage of the evolutionary process. Today, with the advent of the "God is dead" theology, and trends in modern secularism, historical "Christianity" as we have known it is also in danger of passing away! Perhaps this is not such a bad thing, however, when we stop to consider how modern "Christianity" itself has treated the contents of the Bible! Oftentimes, so-called "Christian" ministers are among the most dangerous misinterpreters and abusers of the Holy Scriptures!
At any rate, after the coming of Charles Darwin and his Origin of Species, the evolutionary philosophy came to dominate the Western world and all education. Thus, the evolutionary concept even became the backbone of Biblical criticism. Biblical records were rejected as unreliable. Biblical history came to be regarded as myth. Biblical miracles were called superstition and legend.
In this calculated way Satan the devil managed to have the entire Word of YEHOVAH God thrown into QUESTION! The world began to doubt the existence of a literal God, real angels, demons, and of course, the literal existence of the devil himself! Satan duped the whole Western world into embracing a fable -- the fable of evolution -- in place of the existence of a Creator God. And since the existence of YEHOVAH God was no longer admitted as truth, it became easy to dismiss the Bible records as mere human inventions and human folklore! The plot to undermine the Bible was hatched in the febrile brain of the devil, and it has worked!
Today, just as the Word of YEHOVAH God states, the WHOLE WORLD has been totally deceived!
Archaeology and Biblical Criticism
Critics of the Bible don't generally like to admit it, but the greatest danger to the fanciful theories of Biblical critics is the spade of the archaeologist!
Since the first excavation in the Middle East in 1842 at Nineveh, a huge mass of texts and materials from archaeological digs has been gathered confirming the history of the Bible. More such evidence is coming to light every day.
Excavations have uncovered the ancient capital of the Hittites and confirmed their business practices as alluded to in the Bible (Gen. 23:17). Ten thousand texts from the Hurrian city of Nuzu in Mesopotamia have confirmed the Bible description of the period of the patriarchs and the customs of that time.
For instance, in Nuzu a childless couple could adopt a servant who would then inherit their goods. If a child was later born, the adopted heir would be set aside. This is reminiscent of the case of Abraham and his servant Eliezer (Gen. 15:2-4). Further, barren wives in Nuzu were under the obligation to have a handmaid produce a son by their husbands. How similar to the case of Sarah and Hagar (Gen. 16:1-3). The firstborn at Nuzu were permitted to transfer their birthright, also, as in the case of Jacob and Esau (Gen. 25:29-34).
The Bible records that Joseph's brothers sold him as a slave into Egypt. An Egyptian papyrus dated during the time of Joseph (around 1740 B. C.) lists the names of almost a hundred slaves from one household -- about half called "Asiatics" or Semites! Here is proof that what happened to Joseph was a fairly common occurrence in those days.
Increasingly, as the decades roll by, more and more archaeological evidence is found confirming Biblical statements, history, and settings. The name of king David has been found at Tel-Dan on an ancient inscription. Twice! The name of Caiaphas, the high priest who had Yeshua the Messiah condemned to death, has been found on ancient ossuaries. In fact, the tomb of his priestly family has been found in Jerusalem!
But will Biblical critics admit the proof? Will they accept the evidence? In most cases, unbelievers continue in their unbelief, and skeptics continue in the scoffing and skepticism. As the old adage says, "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still." Having their minds poisoned by evolutionary teaching and philosophy, most critics and scholars still cannot see and will not admit the divine origin and inspiration of the Holy Scriptures! As another old saying declares: "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink!"
Most Bible critics agree with Bertrand Russell who wrote in 1944, "The early history of the Israelites cannot be confirmed from any source outside the Old Testament, and it is impossible to know at what point it ceases to be purely legendary" (Ancient Israel, p. 6). However, their skepticism is becoming a moot point as more and more archaeological evidence is brought out of the ground, confirming the existence of places, individuals, cities, and battles, recorded in the Scriptures!
The "Documentary Hypothesis"
Most scholars and critics have believed that there were four different documents (represented by J, E, P, and D) which were later compiled by editors into the five books of Moses. This theory might be knocked around a bit, but critics generally are unwilling to completely depart from it. Bible scholars and critics claim that four different schools, the Jahvists, Elohists, Deuteronomists, and Priests, were responsible for editing and writing the five books generally ascribed to "Moses," by Jewish tradition.
The Jews themselves, of course, and Jewish rabbis, have no doubt that MOSES was the author of the Pentateuch! But the "documentary hypothesis" denies this fact. Why is this? Critics have believed that writing was "unknown" in the days of Moses, the middle of the second millennium before the time of the Messiah! Therefore, according to their arguments, Moses simply could not have written the first five books of the Bible.
This argument, however, falls flat on its ugly face when we analyze the facts of historical research in the Middle East. Was writing really "unknown" among the Hebrews during the time of Moses?
Contrary to the commonly accepted idea among Bible critics a few decades ago that writing was unknown in the early days of Old Testament history, many records and documents have been found in archaeological excavations throughout the region of the Middle East and prove writing was known from the earliest times.
Berosus, the Chaldean historian, related the tradition that Zisuthrus (the Babylonian Noah) buried the sacred writings before the Flood on tablets of clay.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, as well as other Babylonian and Egyptian documents from early times, PROVE that written records and traditions existed LONG BEFORE MOSES!
Says Halley's Bible Handbook: "Until recent years it was commonly believed that Writing was unknown in the early days of Old Testament history. This was one of the bases of the modern critical theory that some of the Old Testament books were written long after the events they describe thus embodying only Oral Tradition. But now the spade of the archaeologist has revealed that WRITTEN records of important events were made from the dawn of history" (p. 44).
Halley points out that both Arabs and Jews have a tradition that Enoch, one of the patriarchs who lived before the Flood, invented writing.
An ancient king of Assyria, archaeological documents show, said he loved to read the writings of the age before the Flood. This Assyrian king, whose name was Assurbanipal, founded the great library at ancient Nineveh, and wrote of the "inscriptions of the time before the Flood" (see Halley's Bible Handbook, p. 44).
Therefore, the main support of the documentary theory, that writing was unknown in the time of Moses, has already crumbled to dust before the searching light of archaeological knowledge!
The Greek Poet Homer
A hundred years ago a critic of Homer declared, "We may safely say that no scholar will again find himself able to embrace the unitarian hypothesis." It became heresy to believe Homer wrote the epic poems ascribed to him by the Greeks.
Then along came Heinrich Schliemann who began excavating at Troy in 1870. Further excavations were undertaken between 1932-38. Archaeological finds and the archaeologists' picks and shovels PROVED that Homer did write the Iliad and Odyssey, after all! Archaeologists uncovered even the bronze breastplates mentioned by Homer!
In the field of classical criticism, critics have been forced to confess the errors of past generations. Homer has been vindicated. But when it comes to vindicating the BIBLE, hardly a voice can be heard among the critics! Why?
Scholars will exonerate a pagan poet such as Homer. But they would be the last to confess the Old Testament is historical, and ACCURATE!
Is there an unholy, unprofessional bias and prejudice against the Biblical record, on the part of its critics and human scholars?
The truth of the matter is, artificial criteria have been imposed upon the Bible which have NOT been imposed on classical literature such as the words of Homer. Very little research has been done in the literary evaluation and analysis of ancient Egyptian or Babylonian texts and records to help understand more about the language used in the early records of the Bible. Biblical critics have approached the study of the Bible with a totally NEGATIVE ATTITUDE! No wonder, then, most of their conclusions have been negative as well, and they are today mired in a quagmire of confusion and chaos!
Scholars now admit that if the criteria applied in the past to the Bible were applied to other classical literature, multiple authorships would have to be theorized for literature which is CLEARLY one man's work!
Unfortunately, many scholars tend to reject a part of the Bible record for the sole reason that they have not found corroborative evidence in classical literature, history, or other non-Biblical, secular documents.
This is a tragic mistake, and horribly short-sighted. A leading archaeologist pointed out thirty years ago that only TWO PERCENT of the known sites in Palestine have been excavated. Most of the record is still buried in the ground. Increasingly, as this evidence comes to light, it supports, confirms, and corroborates the historicity and accuracy of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments!
The sad truth is, many scholars reveal unscholarly bias when they make negative pronouncements about Biblical history simply because classical history is SILENT on the subject! This fault has been all too common in the past, and still lingers in the attitudes of many archaeologists and Bible critics, today!
Even when positive archaeological support is discovered from some excavation supporting the Biblical record, it seems, some critics shake their heads with mystification and maintain that they are still not convinced! In other words, some critics demand only a scrap of circumstantial evidence when it comes to denying the Bible, but when it comes to finding archaeological corroborative evidence, they demand MOUNTAINS of proof!
Of course, by its very nature, archaeological evidence is hard to come by. Usually it is fragmentary, discovered by fortuitous circumstance, and may have only a slight bearing on the matter.
To give you an example, critics have pounced on the gospel of John. claiming it was not authentic. The gospel uses the word didaskalos for "teacher." Critics claimed this was a second century word not used in the time of Yeshua. Who was right? The author of John's gospel, or the higher critics?
The Hebrew scholar Dr. E. L. Skenik made a careful study of ossuaries (burial urns) dating before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. He found the word didaskalos inscribed on one of the burial urns he unearthed! As usual, the "critics" had jumped the gun -- they were in confusion and error! They didn't know what they were talking about!
Other critics have claimed the proper names used in the Gospel of John were not names currently used during the time of Yeshua. But, again, burial urns uncovered by archaeologists dated to the time of the Messiah have refuted the claims of the Bible skeptics. Names such as Miriam, Martha, Elizabeth, Salome, Johanna, etc., have been found on such ossuaries!
Time and time again, the evidence of archaeology from recent discoveries has proven the Biblical record to be correct!
But what about the New Testament Scriptures? Are they also inspired?
A Look at the New Testament
Some critics charge that the New Testament writings cannot be inspired because of what they call "contradictions" in the text. On close examination, however, many of their so-called "contradictions" are not contradictions at all. Matthew, Mark and Luke reported the life of the Messiah as they either witnessed it, or based on sources which they deemed accurate and trustworthy. Some of the minor differences in the accounts of the words of Yeshua may be due to the fact that the gospel writers were writing the "gist" of what Yeshua said -- a summary of sorts -- and did not intend to give every word he spoke in every parable or discourse. Also, Yeshua may have repeated some of his parables or stories several different times, and altering them a little each time, depending on the audience. Ministers often do the same thing, today, when they give the "same sermon" to different congregations, making little alterations each time.
However, the trustworthiness of the gospels and epistles of the New Testament should be deemed very high, as the agreement between the many Greek copies is extremely high. Most differences are relatively minor, such as spellings of words, punctuation, variants in names, etc.
Says Graham Stanton in Gospel Truth? New Light on Jesus and the Gospels, "There is no shortage of manuscripts of the Gospels: their sheer numbers is something of an embarrassment" (p. 47). Unlike other ancient writings, such as the works of Josephus, or the Jewish philosopher Philo, or the Greek historian Herodotus, of which there are limited manuscripts that have come down to us, the plethora of New Testament writings is testimony to how highly they were regarded in early times by the Church.
Stanton points out that the discovery of fragments of papyri containing portions of the Gospels which pre-date the great fourth-century uncial manuscripts, "even though they are fragmentary, they confirm the general reliability of the great fourth-century uncials which contain the full text of the Gospels" (p. 48).
Eusebius, the church historian who lived in the fourth century, quotes Papias concerning the Gospel of Mark, generally considered as the first of the accounts of the life of the Messiah to have been written. We read in his Church History:
"And this is what the Elder said, 'Mark, who became Peter's interpreter, wrote accurately, but not in order, as many of the thing said and done by the Lord as he had noted. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterwards, as I said, he followed Peter who adapted his teaching to the needs (of his hearers) but not as a complete work of the Lord's sayings. So Mark made no mistake in writing some things just as he had noted them. For he was careful of one thing, to leave nothing he had heard out and to say nothing falsely" (Eusebius' Church History, 3:39:15).
Matthew and Luke, however, contain about 230 sayings of Yeshua which are not recorded in the book of Mark. Where did these sayings come from? The traditional view of course is that Matthew himself was a disciple of the Messiah, and so his writings could well be from his own memory of the events. Luke, however, admits he was not an original follower of the Messiah, but reported on his life based on the many authorities and leaders who told him the events he recorded.
Strangely, for over a century the sayings of Yeshua not found in Mark's gospel have been referred to by the term "Q." In 1861 the German scholar H. J. Holzmann claimed that Matthew and Luke used two main sources for their gospel accounts -- the gospel of Mark, and a collection of the saying of Yeshua, which came to be called Quelle (source). In 1890 this was abbreviated to "Q" for short.
The "Q" hypothesis has been the basis for nearly all serious study of the origin of the gospel accounts since that time. Scholars today argue over which words quoted in the gospels really were uttered by Yeshua, and which were added later as if they were his words, based on traditions in the Church. Such arguments seem singularly nonsensical, however, since all the arguments of all the unbelieving men in the world cannot invalidate Scripture. The early Church accepted all the gospels as being written by the apostles. Nothing that was not written during the first century, and by one of apostolic rank in the Church, was ever accepted as "Scripture."
In a letter written in 96 A.D. to the church in Corinth, Clement, who was then bishop of Rome, wrote that both "Scripture" and "the words of the Lord Jesus" were of equal value (see I Clement 13:1; 46:2, 7). In the epistle of Barnabas, also written before the end of the first century, the author quotes the phrase "many are called but few are chosen" from Matthew 22:14, and introduces the quotation with the remark, "as it stands written," showing he used the New Testament gospels as "Scripture."
Most important, however, the apostle Peter, in his second epistle, refers to the writings of the apostle Paul -- who was certainly the most controversial apostle of the early church -- as being in the category of "Scripture." He declared, "Paul, also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the OTHER SCRIPTURES, unto their own destruction" (II Pet. 3:15-16).
History tells us that the main lines of the New Testament canon were settled by A.D. 200. The decision of which books belonged in the New Testament was based on the criteria that the document in question had to have been written in the first century, it had to have the imprimatur of an apostle or disciple of the Lord Yeshua the Messiah, and it had to have been in general circulation among the churches.
The first list of these accepted books, that has come down to us, was written up in 367 A.D., and exactly corresponds to our present day New Testament!
The Authenticity of Yeshua the Messiah
What about Yeshua the Messiah, himself? Did he really live? Did he perform miracles? Was he resurrected, as the New Testament writers so plainly acknowledge?
Bible critics have in the past even denied the very existence of the Messiah, claiming he was also a myth. However, we have solid evidence for the existence of the Messiah, even apart from the New Testament witness.
The Roman historian Tacitus who was born about A.D. 56 in his Annals tells us about the outbreak of the great fire of Rome in A.D. 64. He tells us of the Christians who were accused of starting the fire --
"They got their name from Christ, who was executed by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. The pernicious superstition, suppressed for the moment, broke out again, not only throughout Judaea, the birthplace of the plague, but also in the city of Rome" (Annals, 15:44).
Tacitus was a close friend of Pliny the Younger, governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor in A.D. 111-113. In about A.D. 111, Pliny wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan, in which he passed on information he had learned about the sect called "Christians." He wrote:
"They meet on a certain fixed day before sunrise and sing an antiphonal hymn to Christ as a god, and bind themselves with an oath: not to commit any crime, but to abstain from all acts of theft, robbery and adultery, and from breaches of trust" (Letter, 10:96).
Suetonius, writing about 120 A.D., may also refer to Christians, in his work on the life of the Emperor Claudius. Declared Suetonius, "He [Claudius] expelled the Jews from Rome because of the riots they were causing at the instigation of Chrestus." The term "Chrestus" could well have been a variant spelling of "Christus." We know there were riots instigated among the Jews of the Roman Empire, when they rejected the teachings of the apostle Paul and others about the Messiah (see Acts 13:40-46; 14:19; 17:5-9; 18:12-17).
Even the Jewish historian Josephus, who write his Antiquities of the Jews shortly after the Jewish-Roman war of 70 A.D., acknowledged the Messiah. Josephus, who was certainly no Christian, wrote a passage describing Yeshua the Messiah, which has caused no small controversy among scholars and historians alike. According to the church historian Eusebius, who quotes Josephus in full, he wrote:
"About this time lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to refer to him as a man. For he was one who did surprising deeds, a teacher of those who delight in accepting the unusual. He brought trouble to many Jews, and also many from the Greek world. He was the Messiah -- Christ. On the accusation of our leading men Pilate condemned him to the cross, but those who had loved him from the first did not cease to do so. For on the third day he appeared to them again alive, just as the divine prophets had spoken about these and countless other marvelous things about him. And to this day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out" (Antiquities, XVIII, 63-64).
Even his enemies wrote of him in various Jewish writings of the rabbis of the following centuries. The Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds, completed about A.D. 350 and A.D. 500 respectively, are commentaries or supplements to the Jewish Mishnah, the written version of the Oral laws handed down by the Jews, which was finished about A.D. 200.
Two passages in the Talmud discuss the existence of Yeshua the Messiah, but from a hostile, pejorative point of view. We read in the Talmud of an old tradition, or baraitha, which said:
"On the eve of Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, 'He is going forth to be stoned, because he has practiced sorcery and enticed and led Israel astray. Anyone who can say anything in his favor, let him come forward and plead on his behalf.' But since nothing was brought forward in his favour, he was hanged on the eve of Passover. Ulla retorted: 'Do you suppose that he was one for whom a defense could be made? Was he not a deceiver, concerning whom Scripture says (Deuteronomy 13:8), 'Neither shalt thou spare neither shalt thou conceal him?' With Yeshu, however, it was different, for he was connected with the government" (Sanh. 43a).
In another place, the Talmud also states:
"One day he (R. Joshua) was reciting the Shema when Jesus came before him. He intended to receive him and made a sign to him. He (Jesus) thinking it was to repel him, went, put up a brick and worshipped it. 'Repent,' said he (R. Joshua) to him. He replied, 'I have thus learned from thee: He who sins and causes others to sin is not afforded the means of repentance.' And a Master has said, 'Jesus the Nazarene practiced magic and led Israel astray'" (Sanh. 107b).
The exact meaning of this second passage from the Talmud is a matter of dispute and is difficult to interpret. The reference to Yeshua the Nazarene as one who "practiced magic and led Israel astray," however, is plain and clear.
Interestingly, all of these non-Christian witnesses, from Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Josephus, and the Talmud, refer to the violent death of Yeshua the Messiah. When all the evidence is put together, there is no reason at all to question the existence of the central figure of the New Testament, nor the authenticity of the New Testament documents of the Bible.
In the final analysis, however, the Bible is its own greatest witness. Simply reading it carefully, patiently, and open-mindedly, one cannot but marvel at its store of wisdom, its incredibly wise and just laws, its moral superiority, and moral elevation of its contents.
The New Testament, also, containing the laws and commandments and philosophy taught by Yeshua the Messiah, the one "greater than Moses" who was prophesied to come, is overwhelming in its incredible moral tone, ethical superiority, and unity. One only has to read it, with an open mind and heart, to be moved by its amazing veracity and story, as told by the original "four witnesses" who wrote the four gospels, and the further elucidations and epistles of Paul, James, Peter, John, and Jude. The scope and unity is breathtaking. Each speaks with a unity of purpose and mind. There is no contradiction in their teachings, doctines, or faith. They each speak as if they were "one" in heart and mind.
Yeshua taught that "love" is the foundation of the law (Matt. 22:37-40). The first commandment is to love YEHOVAH God; the second, to love our neighbor. This ethical code actually goes back to the Old Testament itself! In the book of Deuteronomy we read the "Shema," the command to love the LORD our God (Deut. 6:4-6), as well as elsewhere. In the book of Leviticus we read of the commandment to "love our neighbor" (Lev. 19:18).
Yeshua the Messiah explained how to put this code into action in our lives, by the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-36). He also taught, "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets" (Matt. 7:12). Too often, today, we hear this code reversed: Smart alecs wise crack, "Do your neighbor before he does you," meaning to hurt, rob, steal, and "get" your neighbor, before he has a chance to do the same to you.
Yeshua the Messiah, in expounding on the Old Testament laws and commandments, established and amplified the only moral and ethical guidelines by which a society can live, prosper, and continue to grow and function -- the way of "love of neighbor" and "peace." In rejecting that way of life, the world has chosen the way of suffering and death.
The whole Bible, both Old and New Testaments together, is a most remarkable document. Despite what the critics have said in their attempt to ridicule, besmirch, and befoul the Scriptures, they stand unassailed, incorruptible, uncontaminated, pure, like burnished gold and polished diamonds.
Just as Solomon wrote, "Every word of God is pure" (Prov. 30:5). As David wrote, "Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it" (Psalm 119:140). David also wrote of the awesome purity of the word of YEHOVAH God thus, saying: "The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver is tried in the furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever" (Psalm 12:6-7).
David also noted, "Thy word is true from the beginning" (Psalm 119:160).
The Verdict Is In -- The Bible Is Right!
Is the Bible mere mythology? Ancient legendary stories? Fictitious folklore?
The truth is, already archaeology confirms the historical account of the conquest of Canaan by Joshua and the Israelites at the middle of the second millennium before the Messiah. Although Bible critics have used Jericho as a major point in their attempt to destroy and demythologize the Bible, new evidence unearthed, and old evidence re-examined, of the Jericho archaeological digs have proved that the Bible account is true, after all. The archaeological ruins of the city of Jericho contain tell-tale evidence of an earthquake and burning such as described in the book of Joshua, showing the conquest of that city was not mere "myth" or "legend" after all! Our article, The Battle of Jericho -- Fact or Fiction? gives the fascinating data on this subject.
New excavations at the ancient city of Hazor in the north of Israel have revealed a massive burned layer which may well be attributable to the destruction of that city by the ancient Israelites under Joshua, just as the Bible describes.
More and more, the archaeologists' spades are uncovering more evidence to substantiate the Biblical record, its history, and its reliability. What will be next? Will they soon discover some of the bones of the giants who existed when Israel invaded Canaan -- the Nephilim and Rephaim? Will they one day discover the huge bed frame of king Og?
Recently, new evidence of massive flooding in Palestine was uncovered by archaeological probes in Yemen, southern Arabia. The archaeologist who is responsible thinks it may well be evidence of Noah's Flood.
The truth is, the preposterous theories of the critics and "scholars" of the last century have been exploded by new evidence, all pointing in the direction of Biblical accuracy and reliability. Time and time again, it is the critics who wind up with "egg" all over their faces. And it will continue to happen, so long as they maintain their insistence that the Bible is untrustworthy, unreliable, and mere "myth."
Paul wrote, concerning the critics and skeptics who deny the truth and reliability of Scripture: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. . . So they are without excuse . . . they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:18-22).
Beware of Bible "critics" and their useless theories, godless opinions, and skepticism. Beware of those who continue to find fault with the Scriptures, who deny the historical words of the Messiah as contained in the New Testament, and the reliability of Old Testament history. They are fools! They are without excuse!
The truth is, it requires FAR GREATER FAITH to swallow the claims of skeptics than it takes to believe the simple, honest, truthful Word of YEHOVAH God which is corroborated and confirmed by the spade of archaeology!
Biblical history is accurate! You can bank on it! YEHOVAH's people have no need whatsoever to stand in awe of the claims of Bible critics. The fact that critics have resorted to a double standard when it comes to the Bible should be obvious to all. As Yeshua himself said: "The Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35).
As YEHOVAH God Himself inspired the apostle Paul to write in His Word, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (II Tim. 3:16-17). Thank YEHOVAH God for the reliability and integrity of His Word!
Hope of Israel Ministries -- Taking the Lead in the Search for Truth!
Hope of Israel Ministries
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