Bible Study: Is the Bible Really History?
Modern Biblical scholarship has often challenged the historicity of Scriptures. This, in turn, affects the way in which the Bible is treated in education - especially public education. While history is an accepted subject for study, the Bible is considered other than history, and not fit for study as actual history. Sometimes teachers even ridicule students who accept the Bible as history.
Many people who think that they are experts have begun to say that the Bible doesn't report history in a way we should consider it "real" history today. As a result, not only public education, but also many in the church reject the Bible as responsible history. There are pockets of resistance where the Scriptures are really studies, and if you belong in a church where you really study, praise God.
But in many places the study of Scripture has given way to the manipulation of Scripture. People forget about the history, the heroes, the events that many have studied as children. Instead, they begin to read a verse here, a verse there, trying to find the "true," the "spiritual" meaning of the Bible.
There is a connection between much of the modern church's rejection of the Bible as history and the ridicule of Bible-believing students by some public educators. Those who are hostile to Christianity are often heard to say, "You believe what the Bible says about creation? Even the churches don't believe that!" So, let's ask Scripture itself whether it is history.
The Bible never uses the word "history", according to Young's Analytical Concordance (for the King James Version), and Strong's Exhaustive Concordance (for the New American Standard Bible). The word may be absent, but the concept is not. The Bible uses words such as "record", "chronicle", and "account" instead. They mean to indicate the same thing as we mean by "history".
Check the following references. For each passage, which word is used to indicate an historical account or accounting? Does the usage in the text demand or suggest that the Bible is reporting history? Check: NEHEMIAH 7:5; HABAKKUK 2:2; ESTHER 6:1 (look for the definition of the word "chronicle"); 1 CHRONICLES 29:29; 1 KINGS 9:15; 1 CHRONICLES 27:24. Notice, for example, that in NEHEMIAH 7:5 the idea of the enrolling is discussed, and the rest of the chapter is the actual record. Look for the clues in the context around the verses.
The following passages refer to records, citing them: 1 CHRONICLES 4:22; 2 CHRONICLES 33:18. Does the wording suggest that the record here, in Scripture, is accurate and historical, or something else? Now check NUMBERS 33:2; 1 CHRONICLES 4:41; 1 CHRONICLES 24:6; ESTHER 9:20. These speak of events being recorded. Does that mean history being recorded?
More than 30 verses use the familiar phrase "of old" (as in "men of old") to speak about events reported in the Bible. The obvious understanding in these texts is that the things, people, and events "of old" of which they speak, were actual, factual events in history (See PSALM 78:2; ISAIAH 45:21). Some of these quotes are in the promises God spoke through the prophets, and some in New Testament quotes of our Lord Jesus. Clearly then, God thought His Word was trustworthy history. Among the thirty-something passages, HEBREWS 11:2 is listed. HEBREWS 11 is the history chapter of Hebrews. Quickly read through HEBREWS 11, and you decide - did the writer understand Scripture as sound history?
The same Scriptural evidence can be drawn from the New Testament. Read the next citations, and consider: does the writer intend to write history? Does the text lead you to expect history? MARK 1:1; is this history? LUKE 1:1-4; what does Luke say his aim is? JOHN 20:30-31; does this indicate that John intended to report "real history"? Read ACTS 1:1-3; ACTS 28:30-31; ROMANS 1:2.
Clearly God intended to communicate history - real events, real people. No one would argue that God intended to give us much more than mere history, but that He meant to give us history is clear from the text. We cannot understand the Gospel without this understanding of the Bible as history per se. If Scriptures were not expressly historical, how would we know if Christ were really prophesied, if Jesus was really the Son of God, or if He really died for us - and that death held real meaning and hope for us? Discuss that question: without reliable history, what would we really know?
The Psalmist says,
"Thy Word is truth." If this same Word reports events, can it be truth and not be history at the same time? Can God's Word lie to us? If the Scriptures are God's Word (and they are!!), can our perfect God err - even in matters of history?
Biblical archaeology must rest upon the assumption that the Bible is really history. From your study, does that seem to be a fair assumption? Close with a prayer, thanking God for the reliable witness to His saving acts, His grace and love, and sing "O God, Our Help In Ages Past."
by r.d.f. and p.a.b.
Source: 'Bible-Science Newsletter', November 1987