Critics – Part 1
You can’t have it both ways. If the Gospel writers were allowed to adapt their message to a particular audience then it can’t be claimed that God literally took their hand and wrote the scriptures. If we allow the Gospel writers to adapt their message, then we had better get ready to accept the fact that Paul interjected his own opinion about so many matters that he was personally opposed to or were culturally dominant at the time he wrote it. God would not have written inconsistencies in His Scriptures unless we want to admit that God has a sense of humor.
Hank Hanegraaff the director of CRI has noted:
“Can anything involving human beings contain the inerrant Word of God”?
The short answer to that question is “yes.” It’s true that humans are fallible vessels that they’re prone to error, but that in no way precludes the inerrancy of the Bible. All Scripture is God breathed. All Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Apostle Paul there puts a very significant premium of the accuracy of all Scripture.
The Apostle Peter does essentially the same thing. He says that prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
The doctrine of inspiration tells us that God did something miraculous in inspiration. He worked through fallible human prophets, He utilized their individual personalities, all to pen what is authoritative, infallible, and sacred as Scripture. In fact we can demonstrate that the Bible is divine as opposed to human in origin. If you look just at archeology, you find what is concealed in the soil, corresponds to what is revealed in the Scriptures, and that with minute precision. I’m talking about people, and places, even particulars. So we know, we have evidence that the Bible corresponds to reality, and therefore it is truth, and a miracle—the miracle of infallible inspiration, the inspiration that comes from the Holy Spirit.
Now we don’t suppose that the disciples walked around with tape recorders, or we’re programmed automatons, but what we do suppose is that the believers who are used by God to pen the Scriptures captured the essential voice of God in the Scripture. Not the exact words they heard. For example, if you look at the Sermon on the Mount, you’ll see that there are various versions of the Sermon on the Mount given by Mark, Matthew, and Luke. And you see that the Sermon on the Mount is given in a different way but is essentially the same, because through their own personalities Matthew and Luke capture the essential voice of Jesus not the exact verbiage that Jesus used, and that’s why there can be differences and yet complete agreement because there’s no difference in the message that is being communicated in either case.
I remember listening to a 90 minute lecture by Francis Schaeffer on the conclusions the great American archaeologist (William F. Albright) who changed his views over the years because of the archaeological evidence. Below is some of that evidence. (You can access some of the evidence that convinced William Ramsey concerning the Book of Luke and Acts here.)
I went and secured a copy of the interview and read it myself. In a 1963 interview with Christianity Today magazine, William F. Albright (1891-1971) stated:
In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties and eighties of the first century A.D. (very probably sometime between about 50 and 75 A.D.)(Christianity Today, VII, 359, January 18, 1963, “Toward a More Conservative View,” interview with William F. Albright.)
. ohn Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon
|Biblical Archaeology, Silencing the critics (Part 1)Significantly, even liberal theologians, secular academics, and critics generally cannot deny that archaeology has confirmed the biblical record at many points. Rationalistic detractors of the Bible can attack it all day long, but they cannot dispute archaeological facts. Consider the weekly PBS series “Mysteries of the Bible.” Despite some shortcomings, such as the theologically liberal experts and non-Christian commentators, this program has offered example after example, week after week, of the archaeological reliability of the Bible.To further illustrate, probably the three greatest American archaeologists of the twentieth century each had their liberal training modified by their archaeological work. W. F. Albright, Nelson Glueck, and George Ernest Wright all “received training in the liberal scholarship of the day, which had resulted from the earlier and continuing critical study of the Bible, predominantly by German scholars.”1 Despite their liberal training, it was archaeological research that bolstered their confidence in the biblical text:Albright said of himself, “I must admit that I tried to be rational and empirical in my approach [but] we all have presuppositions of a philosophical order.” The same statement could be applied as easily to Gleuck and Wright, for all three were deeply imbued with the theological perceptions which infused their work. Albright, the son of a Methodist missionary, came to see that much of German critical thought was established upon a philosophical base that could not be sustained in the light of archaeological discoveries…. Nelson Glueck was Albright’s student. In his own explorations in Trans-Jordan and the Negev and in his excavations, Glueck worked with the Bible in hand. He trusted what he called “the remarkable phenomenon of historical memory in the Bible.” He was the president of the prestigious Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and an ordained Rabbi. Wright went from the faculty of the McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago to a position in the Harvard Divinity School which he retained until his death. He, too, was a student of Albright.2Glueck forthrightly declared, “As a matter of fact, however, it may be clearly stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a single biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact details historical statements in the Bible.”3
In fact, “Much of the credit for this relatively new assessment of the patriarchal tradition must go to the ‘Albright school.’ Albright himself pointed out years ago that apart from ‘a few diehards among older scholars’ there is hardly a single biblical historian who is not at least impressed with the rapid accumulation of data supporting the ‘substantial historicity’ of patriarchal tradition.”4
And, in fact, this is true not just for the patriarchal tradition but the Bible generally. The earlier statement by assyriologist A. H. Sayce continues to hold true today: “Time after time the most positive assertions of a skeptical criticism have been disproved by archaeological discovery, events and personages that were confidently pronounced to be mythical have been shown to be historical, and the older [i.e., biblical] writers have turned out to have been better acquainted with what they were describing than the modern critics who has flouted them.”5
Millar Burrows of Yale points out that, “Archaeology has in many cases refuted the views of modern critics. It has been shown in a number of instances that these views rest on false assumptions and unreal, artificial schemes of historical development….” And, “The excessive skepticism of many liberal theologians stems not from a careful evaluation of the available data, but from an enormous predisposition against the supernatural.”6
Many other examples could be given of how firsthand archaeological work changed the view of a critic. One of the most prominent is that of Sir William Ramsay. Ramsey’s own archaeological findings convinced him of the reliability of the Bible and the truth of what it taught. In his The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament and other books, he shows why he came to conclude that “Luke’s history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness” and that “Luke is a historian of the first rank … In short, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”7
As part of his secular academic duties, Dr. Clifford Wilson was for some years required to research and teach higher critical approaches to the Bible. This gave him a great deal of firsthand exposure and insight to the assumptions and methodologies that go into these approaches. Yet his own archaeological research was found to continually refute such skeptical theories, so much so that he finally concluded, “It is the steady conviction of this writer that the Bible is … the ancient world’s most reliable history textbook….”8
In a personal communication he added the following,
I was not always the “literalist” I am today. I’ve always had a profound respect for the Bible, but accepted that the use of poetic forms meant that the record could often be interpreted symbolically where now I take it literally—though of course there are times when symbolism is clearly utilized. Thus in later Scriptures “Egypt” can be a geographic country or a symbolic term.
That liberalism is especially true in relation to Genesis chapters 1 through 11, often considered allegorical or mythical, where my researches have led me to the conclusion that this is profound writing, meant to be taken literally. There was a real Adam, creation that was contemporaneous for the various life forms as shown in Genesis chapter 1, and a consistent style of history writing—such as the outlines given in Genesis one, then zeroing in on the specifics relating to mankind in Genesis chapter 2; the history of all the early peoples in Genesis chapter 10, then the concentration on Abraham and his descendants from Genesis chapter 11 onwards. Early man, “the birth of the lady of the rib,” long-living man, giants in the earth (animals, birds, and men), the flood, the Tower of Babel—and much more—point to factual, accurate recording of history in these early chapters of Genesis.
Over 40 years have passed since I first became professionally involved in biblical archaeology and my commitment to the Bible as the world’s greatest history book is firmly settled. As Psalm 119:89 states, “Forever O Lord, your word is established in heaven.”
Indeed one of the most valuable contributions of modern archaeology has been its reputation of higher critical views toward scripture. Consider for example the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls.
J. Randall Price (Ph.D., Middle Eastern Studies) currently working on a forthcoming apologetic text on biblical archaeology writes, “Those who expect the [Dead Sea] scrolls to produce a radical revision of the Bible have been disappointed, for these texts have only verified the reliability and stability of the Old Testament as it appears in our modern translations.”9
He further points out how the Daniel fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls should require scholars to abandon a Maccabean date. The same kind of evidence forced scholars to abandon Maccabean dates for Chronicles, Ecclesiastes, and many of the Psalms. But so far, most scholars refuse to do this for Daniel: “Unfortunately, critical scholars have not arrived at a similar conclusion for the Book of Daniel, even though the evidence is identical.”10 In fact, according to Old Testament scholar Gerhard Hasel, a date for Daniel in the sixth or fifth century BC “has more in its favor today from the point of view of language alone than ever before.”11 The Dead Sea Scrolls also provide significant evidence for the unity and single authorship of the Book of Isaiah. Dr. Price concludes, “The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, then, has made a contribution toward confirming the integrity of the biblical text and its own claim to predictive prophecy. Rather than support the recent theories of documentary disunity, the Scrolls have returned scholars to a time when the Bible’s internal witness to its own consistency and veracity was fully accepted by its adherents.”12
(to be continued)
1 Keith N. Scoville, Biblical Archeology in Focus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1978), p. 163.
2 Ibid., p. 163.
3 Norman L. Geisler and Ron Brooks, When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook on Christian Evidences (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1990), p. 179.
4 Eugene H. Merrill, Professor of Old Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary, “Ebla and Biblical Historical Inerrancy” in Roy B. Zuck (Genesis ed.), Vital Apologetic Issues: Examining Reasons and Revelation in Biblical Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1995), p. 180.
5 A. H. Sayce, Monument Facts and Higher Critical Fancies (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1904), p. 23, Cited in Josh McDowell, More Evidence That Demands a Verdict (Arrowhead Springs, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1975), p. 53.
6 As cited in Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Arrowhead Springs, CA: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1972) p. 66.
7 William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Bookhouse, 1959), p. 91; cf. William M. Ramsay, Luke the Physician, pp. 177-79, 222 from F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1971), pp. 90-91.
8 Clifford Wilson, Rocks, Relics and Biblical Reliability (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan/Richardson, TX: Probe, 1977), p. 126
9 J. Randall Price, Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1996), p. 146.
10 Ibid., p. 159.
11 Ibid., p. 163.
Dr. James Bjornstad
Mrs. Lorri MacGregor
Mr. Marvin Cowan
Dr. John Ankerberg
Dr. John Weldon
I went to see the movie “The Conspirator” the other night and I really enjoyed it. Since then I have been digging up facts about the trial and the people involved in the trial.
It has been 150 yrs since the start of the Civil War.
Here is a portion of the article by Claudia Puig of USA Today, “The Conspirator brings history to life,“:
Though it grabbed national headlines in its day, the story of the lone woman charged with conspiracy in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln has seldom been covered in history classes.
Mary Surratt is played with a coiled intensity by Robin Wright Penn. In 1865 Surratt ran the Washington, D.C., boardinghouse where the plot to kill Lincoln was believed to have been devised. Her son John (Johnny Simmons) was allegedly one of the co-conspirators. But after Lincoln’s death, John Surratt disappeared. Officials put Mary on trial in some part because John could not be found. That she’s a woman refusing to submit information in a male-dominated society added fuel to their fire.
We see glimpses of Lincoln’s shooting, but the film focuses on the aftermath and Surratt’s trial. While the evidence implies that Surratt might have been innocent, she steadfastly refused to do what was necessary to save herself from conviction.
* * * out of four
Stars: Robin Wright Penn, James McAvoy, Tom Wilkinson, Evan Rachel Wood, Kevin Kline
Director: Robert Redford
Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Rating: PG-13 for some violent content
Running time: 2 hours, 2 minutes
This stymied her conflicted lawyer, Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy, who does a fine job in a complex role). A Yankee, he is pressed into defending the Confederate-sympathizing Surratt by his superior Reverdy Johnson (an excellent Southern-accented Tom Wilkinson). Aiken’s distaste for her is written all over his face. And his dislike just makes her all the more tight-lipped. Over time, however, Aiken comes to question the credibility of government officials and believe in his client’s innocence. McAvoy’s intelligent, nuanced portrayal is the film’s biggest asset.
Redford methodically presents the injustices piled on Surratt and suggests what might have prompted her stoicism. But James D. Solomon’s script is often flat, perhaps in a misguided effort to be stately.
While some courtroom scenes feel inert, there’s a contemplative and literary quality to the film that’s appealing. And the exploration of the government’s rush to judgment is an earnest one.
The film’s deeper questions, about the bonds of family ties, justice and the nature of patriotism, are definitely worth probing.
The Conspirator reminds us of something all too easy to forget: The more profound our understanding of history, the more fully we can make sense of current and future events
Name: The Conspirator
Release date: April 15, 2011
Director(s): Robert Redford
Cast: James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Justin Long, Evan Rachel Wood, Tom Wilkinson, Alexis Bledel, Kevin Kline, Jonathan Groff and Norman Reedus
Washington, D.C. The four condemned conspirators, Mary Surratt and three others, on the scaffold as General John F. Hartranft reads the death warrant to them. Guards are on the wall, and onlookers are at the bottom left of the photograph.
Image courtesy of Library of Congress.
Modifications © Jone Lewis 2001.
Topics: women in the Civil War, Mary Surratt, assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, execution, hanging, first woman to be executed by the United States