Non biblical resources for proof

(Jessica Coaker) #1

Hi everyone,
I have a friends who says she can’t believe the bible for many reasons. One of them is that the church she grew up in made it clear that the only source of proof was the Bible itself. I don’t know if that is actually true, but that is certainly how she was made to feel. She is willing to concede that Jesus was a person in history.

I don’t doubt that there’s substantial evidence that a legendary man named Jesus existed. I just think he became a legend through storytelling and numerous manuscripts written by known and some unknown authors. I don’t think he was a hybrid man and god mix though. I think his words that hold the most truth are sentiments held by almost every faith. I don’t think Jesus needs to be a god in order for his words to be significant.
I see the Bible as a historical and historical fiction mix that has dates and events and people who all really existed/ happened. After reading about how Christianity used “mythical tactics” to attract pagans who believed in stories of larger than life gods with magical powers. It made sense to me that this is the fictional part that was used to build up interest in their potential followers.

The bombings in Sri Lanka made me think about how there’s so many things in all religions that people are made to feel vilified if they question. There’s always some militant faction causing pain and chaos in the name of god. Why is validating other religions a threat to some but ok for others? Don’t all religious texts have a mixture of fact and folklore?
Growing up in an Evangelical church, it was made clear to me that the Bible was it’s own reference in terms of legitimacy. I just can’t accept that any one thing can both claim to be the one and only truth and stand unchallenged.
If I felt I had the ultimate truth then I’d want science to verify it.

So, I can find non-biblical sources that talk about Jesus, but I have no idea where to go for proof for other things in the Bible. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I will probably posting more questions, but I think this one is very important and I myself wonder why people only use the Bible’s scriptures to prove Biblical claims. Is there anything else I can point to? An online resource of scientific proof or other written proof? Thanks Y’all!

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(SeanO) #2

@Jessica_Coaker There is archaeological evidence for many things in the Bible. In fact, a man named William Ramsay once set out to prove the Bible false and ended up becoming a Christian because the locations he thought were made up actually existed. Below I’ve provided some resources I hope are helpful :slight_smile:

You might consider having your friend take a look at some of Tim Keller’s talks / books.

Here are a few things to keep in mind regarding the Bible.

  • the belief that the scientific method is the only path to knowledge is itself part of a mythic worldview - even modern people who hold to evolution and the scientific method accept their own form of mythology. So it is incorrect to label religions as containing metanarrative / myth and then dismiss the metanarrative of naturalism.
  • the Bible is one of the best attested ancient documents in existence - we have over 25,000 manuscripts to verify its contents
  • ultimately we are Christ-ones - Christians - and we trust the OT because we trust in Christ, who also spoke of the veracity of the events of the Old Testament

William Mitchell Ramsay

Ramsay was an archaeologist who set out to prove the Bible wrong by showing that the locations discussed in Acts were not accurate and, low and behold, they were!

William Ramsay was known for his careful attention to New Testament events, particularly the Book of Acts and Pauline Epistles. When he first went to Asia Minor, many of the cities mentioned in Acts had no known location and almost nothing was known of their detailed history or politics. The Acts of the Apostles was the only record and Ramsay, skeptical, fully expected his own research to prove the author of Acts hopelessly inaccurate since no man could possibly know the details of Asia Minor more than a hundred years after the event—this is, when Acts was then supposed to have been written. He therefore set out to put the writer of Acts on trial. He devoted his life to unearthing the ancient cities and documents of Asia Minor. After a lifetime of study, however, he concluded: ‘Further study … showed that the book could bear the most minute scrutiny as an authority for the facts of the Aegean world, and that it was written with such judgment, skill, art and perception of truth as to be a model of historical statement’ ( The Bearing of Recent Discovery , p. 85).

William Mitchell Ramsay is perhaps one of the most fascinating biblical scholars from the turn of the twentieth century, and his writings are full of knowledge and insight that can only come from one who has extensively experienced firsthand the archaeology and people of Asia Minor. For decades, Ramsay immersed himself in the culture of what is now Greece and Turkey, as he set out first to disprove the Bible as factual and then, to his amazement, to show how the New Testament has proved itself to be historically infallible based on his findings.

Bible as the True Myth

Trustworthiness Biblical Manuscripts

The fact is that there are indeed copyist errors on the biblical documents and they account for many alleged contradictions. Remember, it is the autographs (original writings) that are inspired and inerrant, not the copies. The copies we have now are copies of inspired documents. The copies are not themselves “inspired;” that is, they have no guarantee of being 100% textually pure. Does this then mean that we can’t trust the Bible? Not at all. The copies are so accurate that all of the biblical documents are 98.5% textually pure. The 1.5% that is in question is mainly nothing more than spelling errors and occasional word omissions like the words “the,” “but,” etc. This reduces any serious textual issues to a fraction of the 1.5%. Nevertheless, nothing affects doctrinal truths. In fact, nothing in ancient history even comes close to the accuracy of the New Testament documents.

https://carm.org/inerrancy-and-inspiration-bible

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(Jessica Coaker) #3

Thank you soooo much! This is amazing. I can’t wait to dig into it myself! Thank you again!

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(SeanO) #4

@Jessica_Coaker Sure thing! Praying that you would grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus as you study and that the Spirit would give you wisdom as you discuss with your friend.

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(Keldon Scott) #5

Those were such good resources to refer Jessica to @SeanO. @Jessica_Coaker you are already digging in. God bless your endeavors. Ask and you will receive . . . :slight_smile:

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(Jimmy Sellers) #6

@Jessica_Coaker
Great question, good answer.
Here is another book to add to your list.

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(Carson Weitnauer) #7

Hi @Jessica_Coaker,

Another approach to take here, depending on the nature of your friendship, the context of the conversation, and so on, is to express curiosity.

For instance:

That’s a really interesting thesis about Jesus! One idea I have is that any theory about history needs to be supported by evidence. Just as you thought it was disappointing that your church asked you to believe the Bible because the Bible said so, we equally don’t want to believe the Bible is legendary as a matter of faith. Rather, whatever position we hold about the founding of Christianity should be based on evidence. What is the historical evidence that Jesus became a legend through storytelling and numerous manuscripts written by known and unknown authors? What research have you done into the historical details behind the founding of the early church? I know your own church said there wasn’t anything available, which is disappointing, but I think there is a lot of historical information available to us as we form our conclusions.

Or, similarly,

You say that if you had the ultimate truth, you’d want science to verify it. I also want there to be an integration between what I believe from history, sociology, etc. with science. I think there is a unified view of truth available. As the astronomer Johannes Kepler put it, our study of the world is “merely thinking God’s thoughts after him.” If there’s an omniscient God who created, oversees, and is involved in our world, there’s reason to think that all truth joins up together. As Proverbs 25:2 says, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.” It seems to me that God has designed this world to cultivate our curiosity and cooperation in understanding the world he has made. We share and agree on this desire for unified truth.

But if religions are just fables, then we need to rethink everything that’s been handed to us by religion. Why think there is any ultimate truth? Why think that science could validate it? Why think that our brains, subject as they’ve been to the evolutionary pressure to survive, are any good at knowing truth in the first place? Much less able to discover our ‘true’ purpose for existing, or the difference between right and wrong - which is probably just a social fiction that we buy into for the sake of relatively more successful group survival?

So the question I ponder is, which is more likely: my brain probably can’t access the truth in a reliable way, but then I can’t even believe that is true, so maybe my brain can access truth, but as I think about things, it seems that it can’t access the truth, so… it seems like an impossible circle. Or, given that we are having this interesting discussion about truth, history, science, and morality, it does seem that our brains are pretty good but imperfect at finding truth. What could account for this? What if we are made in the image of an all-knowing God, but fallen and imperfect, and in need of redemption?

I hope these conversational topic points are of some relevance to your conversation. Of course they would need to be expressed in your own voice and in the natural rhythms of the discussion with ample listening to your friend’s perspective. I look forward to hearing more from you.

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(Oryn Yong) #8

@Jessica_Coaker One aspect people often forget about the Bible is that, even though it’s inspired, it’s also historical. And if it’s historical, then it’s consistent with other extra-Biblical evidences such as other non-Christian historians, archeology, geography, cosmology, etc.
If the Bible is shown to be actually historical, that gives the cumulative evidence more weight. However, the Bible in itself is quite consistent. A single story unites all the books.
One archeological resource that I’ve come across is the documentary by Tim Mahoney titled “Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus” and “Patterns of Evidence: The Moses Controversy”