The accuracy of the Bible by scholars
Robert D. Wilson, Ph.D., February 4, 1856–October 11, 1930, was an American linguist and Biblical Scholar who was fluent in 45 ancient languages and dialects and had memorized the entire Old Testament in Hebrew. Dr. Wilson was able to recite, from memory, every word of the Hebrew scriptures without missing a syllable.1
Dr. Wilson demonstrated that the secular accounts of 29 ancient kings from 10 different nations were inaccurate. At the same time, He also firmly established that the names of these kings, as they are recorded in the Old Testament scriptures, matched the artifacts of Archeology empirically.2
Today, those who have criticized the Bible for being inaccurate have eaten their own words. The secular record has been proven inaccurate by discoveries of modern archeology, while the Biblical descriptions of archeological artifacts have been proven true.3
Previous claims that certain references in the Bible, such as the depiction of King David, Pontius Pilate, and the ancient Hittites—once claimed by critics of the Old Testament as myths, have been proven by archeological discoveries to be absolutely accurate.
Professor Wilson wrote:
“I have come to the conviction that no man knows enough to attack the veracity of the Old Testament. Every time when anyone has been able to get together enough documentary ‘proofs’ to undertake an investigation, the biblical facts in the original text have victoriously met the test”4
Today, no credible scholar disputes the accuracy of Biblical accounts of ancient cities, cultures, or people. They are beyond dispute and without impeachment.
Nelson Glueck is considered one of the world’s greatest Archeologists. His work in the discovery of over 1,500 ancient sites led him to the firm conclusion that every reference in the Old Testament scriptures; which refers to an ancient city, civilization, or people, were entirely accurate in every regard.
In the words of Dr. Nelson Glueck:
“It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a single biblical reference. Scores of archeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or in exact detail historical statements in the Bible.”5
The evidence presented to us by the archeological record of ancient history demands a conclusion that the Bible is perfect in all its descriptions of the historical events it reports. Dr. Wilson describes the record of Biblical precision, which accurately describes names, cities, and events of history, as a marvel unequalled by any other literature of antiquity.
“That the Hebrew writers should have transliterated these names with such accuracy and conformity to philological principles is a wonderful proof of their thorough care and scholarship and of their access to the original sources. That the names should have been transmitted to us through so many copyings and so many centuries in so complete a state of preservation is a phenomenon unequaled in the history of literature.”6
Those who purport to be “experts” or scholarly authorities regarding the inaccuracies allegedly found in the Bible should go back to school and learn the important study of Paleography and the ancient languages in which the Bible was written.7
“Before a man has the right to speak about the history, the language, and the paleography of the Old Testament, the Christian church has the right to demand that such a man should establish his ability to do so.” —R.D. Wilson
In regards to the New Testament and the facts that it reports to us in its narrative: Sir William Ramsey, world famous historian and renowned archeologist, describes the statements of the New Testament regarding the geographical and historical references it makes, as existing without a single error.
“I began with a mind unfavorable to (the accuracy of the New Testament) but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.”8
Dr. Ramsey believed, at the onset, that the accounts which are described in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were inaccurate. Over 100 years ago, he undertook an expedition to Asia to try and refute the New Testament, only to become so overwhelmed by the evidence that he became a follower of Jesus Christ.
“Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians.”9
Archeological accuracy points to literary accuracy
Since Luke’s description of cities, names, places, and customs are perfect in their historical accuracy, it is certain that the accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are also accurate and reliable.
The fact that Luke has been confirmed as a scholarly historian of specific details regarding the history of the first century, it is certain that he also recorded for us, with the same precision, the specific events which transpired concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Luke’s integrity as a historical scholar demands that we accept, with confidence, his testimony of Jesus’ resurrection, which is the foundation of the entire Christian church.
One of the criticism’s of Luke’s account of Jesus’ life is found in his description of the census that he says was ordered by Caesar Agustus.
Luke 2:1-3 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
Because no archeological discovery had ever previously verified that such a census took place, Luke was regarded in past history as having embellished this story. A later discovery regarding the taxes of the kingdom of the Roman government revealed that the tax payers were enrolled every 14 years by the use of a census. Archeology has uncovered facts which verify that Caesar Agustus did conduct the precise census described, during the period of time Luke specified—near the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.10
Further, an inscription discovered in Antioch describes Quirinius in 7 B.C., who was the governor of Syria, on two occasions—7 B.C. and 6 A.D.—a fact that is confirmed by the Jewish historian Josephus.11
An archeological discovery in Egypt, uncovered a Papyrus which specifically describes the details of this census spoken of by Luke, under Caesar Agustus:
“Because of the approaching census it is necessary that all those residing for any cause away from their homes should at once prepare to return to their own governments in order that they may complete the family registration of the enrollment and that the tilled lands may retain those belonging to them.”12
In his book, Archeological Confirmation of the New Testament,” Dr. F. F. Bruce describes a problem that was present in Luke’s description of the Tetrarch of Abilene in Luke 3:1.
Luke 3:1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene…
Previously, there was no record of anyone called “Lysanius” as the tetrarch of Abilene during the time that Luke specified that he was there. In recent history, an archeological discovery made in Damascus, Syria, describes a person called “Freedman of Lysanias the Tetrarch.” Scholars date this inscription at between 14 A.D and 29 A.D.13 This is the same period of time in which Luke had written of Lysanias.
An interesting discovery in 1910, by Sir William Ramsey, debunked the secular record of Cicero of the Romans who described Iconium as being in Lycaonia. Luke describes Lystra and Derbe as being in Lycaonia.
Acts 14:6 they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region.
The secular record has been erroneously held as more reliable and accurate than the Biblical record in past history. This continues to be a common error that is made today. The facts bearing witness—the Bible is always right in matters of history and the secular record is consistently wrong. This truth has been confirmed by archeological discoveries over the entire course of human history—all over the world.
Other noted scholars such as Dr. Adrian Nicholas Sherwin-White, a British historian and scholar—regarding Ancient Rome, wrote his doctoral thesis on the treatment of the New Testament from the point of view of Roman law and society.
Dr. Sherwin-White said this regarding the work of Dr. Ramsey’s conclusions on the book of Acts:
“Any attempt to reject its (the New Testament’s) basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.”14
Dr. Sherwin-White examined the records of Rome and concluded that their own history proved the narrative of the New Testament scriptures regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.15
1 1.This includes all the Biblical and cognate languages, i.e., Hebrew, Aramaic, the Sumerian/Babylonian dialects, Phoenician, Assyrian, Ethiopic, the various Egyptian and Persian dialects.
2.Nelson Glueck: Biblical Archaeologist and President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Jonathan M. Brown, Laurence Kutler, Hebrew Union College Press, 2006
2 “A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament,” by R. D. Wilson, “Is Higher Criticism Scholarly,” and “Which Bible,” by David Otis Fuller, who studied under Dr. Wilson at Princeton Theological Seminary.
3 An interesting discovery in 1910 by Sir William Ramsey, debunked the secular record of Cicero of the Romans who described Iconium as being in Lycaonia. Luke describes Lystra and Derbe as being in Lycaonia. Acts 14:6 they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region.
4 Quoted in R. Pache, The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture
5 Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, 1960, pageg 31
6 “A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament,” by R. D. Wilson
7 Paleography is the study of ancient writing systems and the deciphering and dating of historical manuscripts
8 William M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, 1982, page 8
9 William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, 1915, page 222
10 1.John Elder, “Prophets, Idols and Diggers.” Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960. Pages 159, 160
2.Joseph Free,. “Archaeology and Bible History.” Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, 1969, Page 285
11 Elder, John. Prophets, Idols and Diggers. Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960, Page 160
12 1.Elder, John. Prophets, Idols and Diggers. Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960, Pages 159, 160
2.Free, Joseph. Archaeology and Bible History. Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, 1969, page 285
13 F. F. Bruce, “Archaeological Confirmation of the New Testament.” Revelation and the Bible. Edited by Carl Henry. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969. Page 321
14 Adrian Nicholas Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, 1963, page 189
15 Tacitus’ characterization of “Christian abominations” may have been based on the rumors in Rome that during the Eucharist rituals Christians ate the body and drank the blood of their God, interpreting the symbolic ritual as cannibalism by Christians. References: Ancient Rome by William E. Dunstan 2010 ISBN 0-7425-6833-4 page 293 and An introduction to the New Testament and the origins of Christianity by Delbert Royce Burkett 2002 ISBN 0-521-00720-8 page 485