Why Is Biblical History Important?
What do I say to people who tell me that this belief concerning Israel's migrations is of no importance to us as Christians?
by Jory Steven Brooks
Today many liberals and agnostics are attacking the Bible as (at best) unreliable, and (at worst) as myths and legends. If this were the case, then nothing we read in Scripture could be believed as true, including the promise of salvation. The attack on the truth of Scripture has continued now for at least two centuries, and has often centered upon the reliability of the Bible's historical account. Yet many of the earlier arguments of the agnostics have been steadily disproven over time. In the early nineteenth century, it was claimed that the biblical record of cities such as Nineveh and Babylon was only mythical storytelling. Then beginning in the 1840's these ancient cities were uncovered by archaeologists, and translation of clay tablets has shed further confirming light on the biblical account. More recently, discovery of a clay shard with the name of King David has silenced those who had cast doubt about the very existence of that ruler.
On my recent trip to the U.K. I spent a few days in London where I roomed at a hostel with an English college professor from Manchester. He was strongly atheistic in his beliefs and told me that "the Bible is not historically accurate, just composed of theology and homiletics." In contrast, reputable scholars such as W. L. Albright, perhaps the greatest mid-east scholar of the twentieth century, after years of research have declared that the Bible is indeed historically accurate and dependable.
One such mid-east scholar who believed strongly in the accuracy of biblical history was George Ernest Wright. In his book, The God Who Acts, (1926), he stated, "In biblical faith everything depends upon whether the central events actually occurred...To assume that it makes no difference whether they are facts or not is simply to destroy the whole basis of the faith" (pp. 126-7). Wright called history "the primary data of faith" and "the chief medium of revelation" (ibid., 127,13).
Another reputable historian and scholar, professor Thomas L. Thompson, in his book The Historicity of the Patriarchal Narratives, (1974) stated, "Recently, however, many Old Testament scholars have been inclined to believe that not only is history central to the message of Israel, but that an acceptance of the historicity of Israel's early traditions, particularly those about the biblical patriarchs, is essential to Christian faith, even, that belief in the resurrection depends directly on the historical facticity [i.e. factualness] of the promise to the patriarchs" (p. 326).
Another great scholar was Roland de Vaux, who asserted that proving the historical reliability of the Bible was paramount, "for if the faith of Israel is not founded in history, such faith is erroneous, and therefore, our faith is also." He believed that to deny the truth of biblical history would ultimately undermine the foundation of faith itself.
Finally, another great mid-east scholar was Bruce Vawter. In his book, A Path Through Genesis, (1965) we read: "If God did not covenant with Israel, neither did the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob raise Jesus from the dead, for there is no fulfillment without a promise" (p. 8).
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