John Betten

For Mahmoud

I have faith in God and the lord Jesus the messiah, and in the Bible. But my faith does not come from the Bible, but it comes with the Bible. Judaism-Christianity are historical religions: they are not mainly concerned with teaching how all humanity ought to live and giving a philosophy of good conduct or metaphysical truth. Instead, they are primarily concerned with God’s attempt to lead mankind out of sin and redeem a people for himself in history. When the Scriptures talk about the word of God being given, it is almost always a law for a people to follow as a community, or a prophecy concerning God’s people. There was no Bible in the time of Abraham, or Moses, and only the Torah by the time king David reined. The scripture is critically important, but the most important thing is following God, and trusting in the promises that he has given. I have faith in the Bible because I have faith in God and because of how God has changed my life. God has changed my life, bringing me out of emptiness. He gave my dad joy and peace, and courage to follow Jesus in a Jewish community, where he almost got kicked out of his parents’ house. He has miraculously healed many of my friends and given them words of prophecy to deliver to other believers.

Because I believe in the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, I believe in the Bible. All language is imperfect in that it is never free from ambiguities (it can always be misinterpreted, especially by the common people the books are written for), and all language can only represent a limited human perspective. Also, both the Bible and the Qur’an were written after the deaths of Moses, Jesus, and Muhammed. If you believe in the Bible or the Qur’an, you must first have a great trust in the God which those books talk about. Also, because these are books of language, the most important thing is knowing and fear the Living God. These books make incredible claims, and you could not expect anyone to change their whole life to follow them because of one prophecy which came true or one verse which seems to anticipate a modern scientific fact.

Nonetheless, there are some things which do not prove the validity of the Bible, but contribute towards a trust in it.

Archaeology

Tel Dan Stone: from 850-900 BC, Sinai, tells of King David.

The Meesha Stele (846 BC) :Popularly known as the Moabite Stone, it records the revolt of Meesha, King of Moab, against Israel. This incredible stele mentions Omri, King of Israel, and David of the United Monarchy. It even refers to Yahweh, the unique name of the God of Israel! Together with the testimony from the Tel Dan Stele, we have a powerful external witness that the Bible records the true history of the kings of Israel and their interactions with foreign kings

King Nabonidus of Babylonia left a magnificent cuneiform cylinder (wedge-shaped letters inscribed on

a clay cylinder) mentioning his elder son, Belshazzar by name. Critics of the Bible had claimed for many years that the account in the book of Daniel was wrong; they said Belshazzar was never a king in Babylon and that Nabonidus was not his father.

History

“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.” 115 AD Tacitus The Annals. Tacitus is one of the most respected Roman historians, and is absolutely essential to our understanding of Roman history. He testifies on good account that Jesus, called the Christ (or messiah, an idea from the Jewish scriptures), was put to death by the Roman government. This is a central point of all Christian writings and contradicts the Qur’an.

During the period of time when the Jews were ruled by the Roman empire, the Jewish people had many revolts, big and small. Many of them were associated with the coming of the “Kingdom of God” which is the main focus of the gospels. There were multiple people who claimed to be the Messiah, such as the revolutionary Bar-Kochba. These messiahs were put to death and failed. No one thinks they are the Messiah, and there is no religion formed around them. Why would you boast that your messiah was put to death? Who would want to follow a defeated would-be king? Paul the apostle talks about this: “but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Corinthians 1:23). According to the accounts of Tacitus and many others, Christians continually died for their belief that Jesus died, was buried, was raised up by God (a vindication of Jesus’ righteousness and a promise of the resurrection that will come on the last day, just as the Qur’an predicts). All of our early narrative gospels focus on the resurrection of Jesus, and in the story of the church immediately following the ascension of Jesus, the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples go around preaching that Jesus has been raised from the dead. Peter, Paul, and the other disciples who knew Jesus before he died were martyred on their conviction that Jesus was alive. It is hard to explain the fervor and growth of a church focused from the beginning on the resurrection of Jesus if you think that Jesus never died or stayed dead.

Prophecy

 Edom was overthrown as a nation.

There are many prophecies from around the 6th century that predict the fall of Edom, as Ezekiel 25:13;

Ezekiel 35:4,7 and Isaiah 34:11-13 predicted. Edom was overthrown as a nation over a hundred of years later. The book of Daniel prophecies the end of the Babylonian empire, the rule of the Persians, then the rule of the Greeks, and finally how many years would pass until the exile of Israel would end and the Messiah comes (this prediction points to the time of Jesus). Just like the Qur’an, it’s hard to know with academic certainty when these books were written. But this book points to a few events, like the triumph of the Greeks and the rule of Antiochus the Syrian over Jerusalem, that were most likely written long before the events happen.

Bart Ehrman, the secular agnostic scholar whose video you showed me wrote this: “We know with relative certainty that Jesus predicted that the Temple was soon to be destroyed by God. Predictions of this sort are contextually credible given what we have learned about other prophets in the days of Jesus. Jesus’ own predictions are independently attested in a wide range of sources (cf. Mark 13:1, 14:58; John 2:19; Acts 6:14). Moreover, it is virtually certain that some days before his death Jesus entered the Temple, overturned some of the tables that were set up inside, and generally caused a disturbance. The account is multiply attested (Mark 11 and John 2) and it is consistent with the predictions scattered throughout the tradition about the coming destruction of the Temple

Style

There is a remarkable unity in the books of the Bible, in the kind of God that they portray. The New Testament uses the language, terms, and quotations of the Old testament to explain itself: it is a Jewish book. Also, the Bible is full of accounts of the mistakes of its “heroes”: Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, and Paul are all recorded as making horrible mistakes. This is not the account of religion that tries to promote itself unfairly. It admits its mistakes because it gives honor to the God who forgives and has worked in the Jewish people and the church for thousands of years.