How Reliable is the Bible
“Can the Bible be trusted?” This question is asked daily by atheists, skeptics, agnostics, and a host of other critics of Christianity. Muslims take the question one step further, asserting that the Bible we have today is a corrupt version of the original given by God to mankind, and that only the Qur’an can be trusted as the true revelation.
How accurate is our Bible? Can we trust what is written within its pages? If the Bible is God’s word, how can we know?
I want to build the following argument specifically for Muslims, but the argument will be useful for other situations also with little modification. Here is the argument I will support in the following article.
- If the Qur’an is true then the Bible is false. Conversely, if the Bible is true, then the Qur’an is false.
- A hallmark of divine inspiration is foreknowledge of future events.
- Foreknowledge of future events can be found and proven in the Bible.
- The Qur’an contains no evidence of such foreknowledge.
- Therefore, the Bible is true and the Qur’an is false.
The principle of non-contradiction states that opposites cannot both be true simultaneously in the same sense. A piece of paper cannot be both black and white at the same time. A drinking glass cannot be both full of water and empty at the same time. One or the other can be true, but not both.
The Bible and the Qur’an contradict one another in many ways. The Bible says Jesus was crucified but the Qur’an denies this. The Bible says God chose to lower himself to human status in the person of Jesus but the Qur’an says such a notion is not befitting of God. The Qur’an says no person can atone for the sins of another, yet the Bible says this is precisely what Jesus did. In almost every area of theological significance, the Qur’an contradicts the Bible. Therefore both cannot be true at the same time. If the Qur’an is true, then the Bible is false. If the Bible is true, then the Qur’an is false. To say that both are true violates the principle of non-contradiction.
One of the most compelling evidences for divine inspiration is prophetic foreknowledge of the future. Only God knows the future. Thus, any work that claims to be from God should include evidence for such a claim, and foreknowledge of the future would satisfy the requirement for evidence. What evidence of this sort can be found in either the Bible or the Qur’an?
Although not classified strictly as a book of the prophets, Daniel nonetheless contains evidence of foreknowledge of future events. To set the stage, both Jewish and Christian tradition asserts the book of Daniel was written during the sixth century B.C. during the time of the Babylonian captivity (605 – 535 B.C.). The evidence discussed below will support such a date for its writing. But due to the foreknowledge of the future in Daniel, skeptics have attempted to place the writing of Daniel in the second or first century B.C. and further assert that subsequent Jewish and Christian scholars have simply redacted Daniel back to the sixth century B.C. What is it about Daniel that skeptics find objectionable? We will look at two chapters of the book, chapters 2 and 5.
In Daniel chapter 2, king Nebuchadnezzar has a dream and asks for his magicians to interpret the dream for him (Daniel 2: 1-11) and none is able. Daniel then tells the king what he dreamed about (vs. 31-35) and further explains to the king the meaning of the dream as revealed to him by the God of the Bible (vs. 36-45). Scholars both religious and secular agree the vision is of four significant kingdoms that are historically accurate: The Babylonian (625 – 539 BC) during which Daniel lived, the Medo-Persian (539 – 331 BC) during which Daniel likely lived through the early years, the Greek (331 – 63 BC) and the Roman (63 BC – 476 AD). Since Daniel lived in the sixth century BC, his knowledge of both the Babylonian and Medo-Persian empires is understandable since he likely lived during both kingdoms. But how could a sixth century BC author have known of the coming Greek or Roman empires hundreds years later? This is why critics question whether Daniel was indeed written in the sixth century. How can we know it was?
Daniel chapter 5 talks of King Belshazzar and a vision he has. For centuries, skeptics questioned the authenticity of this man and thought him to mythological, and Daniel to be in error. The Greek historian Herodotus, writing in the fifth century BC, and other historians said the king at that time was named Nabonidus, not Belshazzar. This seemed, for a long time, to be an error in the book of Daniel. Why did Herodotus, writing a mere 100 years later, insist that Nabonidus was king, not Belshazzar?
Daniel 5:5-9 relates a vision King Belshazzar has where a hand appears out of nowhere and writes some inscriptions on a wall. Belshazzar’s wise men attempt to interpret the handwriting to no avail. Then Daniel is summoned. In verse 16, Belshazzar tells Daniel he will be the third most important man in the kingdom if he can interpret the writing. Why number three? If Belshazzar is king and number one, wouldn’t Daniel be number two?
This was all a mystery until the 1870s, when a significant archeological discovery was made in Iraq. Both the Nabonidus Cylinder and the Nabonidus Chronicle, on display in the British Museum, help solve the mystery.
Herodotus the historian was correct; Nabonidus was the king of the Babylonian Empire after the death of Nebuchadnezzar. But according to the Nabonidus Chronicle, he spent the last 10 years of his empire not in Babylon but in the Arabian peninsula in conquests to build the kingdom. While in Arabia, he left his seat of authority to his son Belshazzar. In essence, Nabonidus and Belshazzar were co-regents in the kingdom, and thus Daniel would have been number three. Nabonidus and Belshazzar were numbers one and two respectively!
The Nabonidus Chronicle also confirms that Darius the Mede conquered Babylon in 539 BC while Belshazzar sat in the seat of authority, just as it is written in Daniel 5:30-31.
Herodotus, the historian who wrote only 100 years later, knew nothing of Belshazzar, only of Nabonidus. Why?
Kings write out their conquests for their legacy to be remembered in the future. The Nabonidus Chronicle and Nabonidus Cylinder are examples of such writings. All the conquests that took place during the reign of Nabonidus were attributed to him. Belshazzar had not yet engaged in his own conquests, because his father would have taken the credit. Had Belshazzar waited until the death of Nabonidus and then conquered others, his accounts would have been written in the annals of history. But before that point arrived, Darius conquered Babylon and both Nabonidus and Belshazzar were killed. Belshazzar never had the chance to conquer on his own and have his own history recorded.
But how could Daniel have known this little fact if, as skeptics insist, he wrote the book of Daniel in the second or first century B.C.? Herodotus writing in the fifth century B.C. did not know of Belshazzar’s co-regency with Nabonidus. Daniel did. Daniel had intimate knowledge of historical facts that fit perfectly with a sixth century author, and no other time, otherwise he would not have had this key bit of knowledge that was only confirmed by 1870s archeological digs.
The Bible is amazingly accurate.
And, if Daniel was indeed written in the sixth century B.C., then the visions of the four kingdoms recorded in chapter 2 were indeed divine foreknowledge! How did Daniel know of the Greek and Roman empires of the future? Because the Bible is God’s inspired book.
The Qur’an has nothing to compare with the knowledge of future events found in the Bible. In fact, there is not one example in the Qur’an that rises to the level of specific and accurate knowledge of the future.
And this is only one example among many others in the Bible of knowledge of the future. The Bible is not simply a man made book, nor is it one that has undergone corruption. It is God’s word, inspired by the One true God, creator of the universe. It is a book you can trust.
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