Confirming the Reliability of the Bible

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External​​ Evidence​​ Confirming the​​ Reliability of the​​ Bible​​ 

Rick Moffett​​ 


For many years​​ mankind​​ has​​ been​​ asking​​ the question, “Is there any evidence that the Bible is true?”. Some ask out of a sincere desire to know and understand​​ God and His written Word,​​ while​​ others are just looking for reasons not to believe it.​​ God’s​​ Word makes it clear that there is plenty of evidence in His creation alone, but men suppress this​​ truth and are willingly ignorant of it!​​ (Rom. 1:18-20; 2 Pet. 3:3-5)


External evidence alone will never convince someone to place their faith in the God of the Bible. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God as the Holy Spirit opens one’s spiritual eyes to its truth.​​ (Rom. 10:17; Eph. 1:15-19)​​ But external evidence​​ is important. In this article,​​ I ​​ will discuss some of the confirming evidence​​ for the reliability of the Bible,​​ as well as​​ the role it plays in Christian apologetics.​​ However, let me emphasize that external evidence is not the​​ foundation for defending our​​ faith. External evidence doesn’t “speak for itself”, it must be interpreted,​​ and​​ as I said in my last article,​​ our​​ interpretation will always be in line with​​ our​​ presuppositions​​ (things​​ we​​ believe to be true without necessarily having any proof).​​ Let me encourage you to read​​ Is the Bible the Word of God?​​ on this website​​ for a​​ better understanding of this.​​ ​​ 


Historical Accuracy


Have you​​ ever​​ wondered how the people, places,​​ and events of the Bible fit into world history?​​ Furthermore, is there any evidence that these people and places even existed​​ and does it really matter? These are certainly valid questions that,​​ as Christians,​​ we should be able to answer, first to strengthen our​​ own​​ faith and then to​​ remove obstacles for​​ others​​ and demonstrate​​ that the Christian faith is not a blind faith.​​ 


“It must be stressed that historical reliability is unique to Judaism and Christianity. No other religion has any sort of historical basis on which their belief system rests—none of them! Contrary to all other religions, the events recorded in the Bible happened in real time history. The truth of the Christian faith is based upon the actual occurrence of these events that are recorded.”​​ Is It Important That the Bible Is Historically Accurate?;​​ ​​ Don Stewart


A.​​ People in the Bible Verified


So let’s start our examination with the person of Jesus Christ​​ who​​ is without question the central figure in the Bible.​​ If He’s not a real person, there’s no need to proceed any further with​​ the​​ defense of​​ our​​ faith.​​ So how do we know anyone from the past​​ really​​ existed?​​ For example, consider​​ George Washington, the first president of the United States. Is there anyone alive now that knew him? Of course not,​​ we can only read what others​​ wrote about him.​​ And the further back in time we go, the more difficult​​ it becomes to prove​​ a person’s​​ existence.​​ However, if we read from many different sources about a person’s life, the more likely it is that the person was real.​​ Jesus lived on earth from approximately 4​​ BC to​​ AD 29-30, i.e., a long time ago. Of course, much is written of Jesus in the Bible​​ but​​ is he discussed in secular writings? Let’s take a look.​​ 


1.​​ Flavius​​ Josephus​​ (AD​​ 37-101)​​ was​​ a Jewish historian​​ born in Jerusalem just four years after the crucifixion of Jesus.​​ Because of the time and place that he lived, his writings​​ about the Jewish nation​​ are considered​​ authoritative​​ by most.​​ Josephus​​ was commissioned​​ by the Roman emperor Vespasian​​ to write​​ about the Jewish revolt against the Romans which he did in his first work entitled,​​ Jewish War,​​ which included​​ a​​ record of the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of Masada in AD 73. Later he wrote​​ the​​ Antiquities of the Jews,​​ which​​ detailed the history of the Hebrews from the time of creation until the Jewish rebellion against Rome​​ in​​ AD 66-70.​​ 


The writings of Josephus are the most complete source of Jewish history that has survived​​ essentially​​ intact.​​ In addition to Jesus,​​ Josephus​​ mentions​​ many​​ people who​​ are​​ also​​ referenced​​ in the Bible,​​ including​​ John the Baptist, David, Solomon, the high priest Annas​​ (AD 6 - AD 15),​​ and his son-in-law Caiaphas who also became the high priest of Rome (AD 18 - AD 36), Pontius Pilate,​​ Herod the Great,​​ the Pharisees and Sadducees, and more.​​ 


It was in Josephus’s discussion of Pontius Pilate​​ in Antiquities 18:63 where he alludes to Jesus as the Messiah and later, to​​ his crucifixion.​​ 


In Antiquities 20:200 Josephus​​ briefly gives reference to James, the brother of Jesus -​​ 

“...,​​ he would have the proper opportunity. Convening the judges of the Sanhedrin, he brought before them the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, whose name was James, and certain others.”​​ 


Some critics have suspected Christian interpolation in the excerpt from​​ Antiquities​​ 18:63,​​ however,​​ the​​ Antiquities 20:200​​ passage has been accepted by the vast majority of contemporary scholars as entirely genuine.​​ The preponderance of the evidence indicates that Josephus did indeed mention Jesus in these​​ two​​ Antiquities​​ passages.​​ Furthermore, both references are consistent with the New Testament depictions of Jesus.​​ 


2.​​ Pliny the Younger​​ was the governor​​ in the Roman province​​ of Bithynia in Northern Turkey in AD 112. He makes a reference to Christ in his correspondence to the Emperor Trajan as follows -

“ they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang an anthem to Christ as God, and bound themselves by a solemn oath not to commit any wicked deed, ...”​​ The New Testament Documents: Are​​ They Reliable?;​​ F.F. Bruce; 1968


​​ 3.​​ Cornelius Tacitus,​​ a Roman historian,​​ and governor of Asia Minor in AD 112​​ is quoted​​ in his final work​​ as follows -​​ 

“Christus, from whom they got their name, had been executed by sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate, when Tiberius was emperor;​​ ...”,;​​ Annals, book 15, chapter 44;​​ AD 116


In addition to these three secular sources,​​ the writings of Roman historians​​ Suetonius​​ (AD 69-140)​​ and​​ Phlegon​​ (AD 80-140), Greek satirist​​ Lucian Samosata​​ (AD 115-200), and the Syrian philosopher​​ Mara Bar-Serapion​​ (AD 70) all referenced Jesus. ​​ 


“These passages, along with other non-biblical, non-Christian references to Jesus in secular first-century sources​​ ...​​ prove conclusively that any denial of Jesus' historicity is maundering sensationalism by the uninformed and/or the dishonest.”​​ Paul L. Maier, Emeritus Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History, Western Michigan University


Other People in the Bible Verified


There are many of the Old Testament Kings, government officials, priests, etc. whose existence has been verified. For a partial list of these please visit​​ here.​​ 


B.​​ Places in the Bible Verified​​ 


“The geography of Bible lands and visible remains of antiquity were gradually recorded until today more than 25,000 sites within this region dating to Old Testament times,​​ ...​​ have been located.”​​ Donald J. Wiseman, the director of the British Museum and a specialist in the field of archaeology


Here are just a few of the many​​ biblical cities​​ that​​ have been verified​​ -


1.​​ Arad​​ -​​ This​​ Canaanite city​​ is located​​ about 20 miles east-northeast of Beersheba. This ancient city was excavated from 1962-1984.​​ 

Mentioned in scripture -​​ Numbers 21:1, 33:40; Joshua 12:14; Judges 1:16.​​ 


2.​​ Gezer​​ -​​ This​​ Canaanite city​​ was​​ first discovered in 1870 and was first excavated from 1902 - 1905 and has been excavated numerous times since. Many significant artifacts have been found including a Gezer Calendar describing the annual cycle of agricultural activities, Philistine pottery, Egyptian imports, and Persian silver pieces.​​ The History of Excavations at Tel Gezer;​​ Henry Curtis Pelgrift; 2016

Mentioned in scripture -​​ Joshua 10:33, and many other places in the Bible.​​ 


3.​​ Hazor​​ -​​ A​​ Canaanite city first excavated in 1990. Since that time there has been an annual excavation in the months of June-July. In ancient times this city occupied a strategic location on the route connecting Egypt and Babylon. Its final destruction occurred by the Assyrians in 732 BC.​​ (2 Kings 15:29)​​ The History of Hazor - The Selz Foundation Hazor Excavations

Mentioned in scripture -​​ Throughout the book of Joshua as well as many other places in the Bible.​​ 


4.​​ Jericho​​ -​​ located in Canaan (aka “The Promised Land”). This was the first city the Israelites encountered after crossing the Jordan River. It is the site of one of the most famous miracles God performed as he demolished the wall that surrounded that fortified city.​​ You can read about this in Joshua chapter six.​​ 

Excavations occurred at Jericho from 1930-36, 1952-58, and 1997. These excavations​​ determined​​ that​​ there was a city wall that collapsed​​ at the time​​ the city was destroyed.​​ They also revealed​​ evidence of a fire that caused massive destruction. Kathleen Kenyon who conducted the 1950’s excavation wrote in her report -​​ 

“The destruction was complete. Walls and floors were blackened or reddened by fire, and every room was filled with fallen bricks, timbers, and household utensils; in most rooms the fallen debris was heavily burnt.”

The Bible mentions that Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute, had her house built against the city wall​​ surrounding Jericho​​ and that the Lord would show her favor for her help.​​ (Joshua 2:14-15)​​ The excavations revealed that there were houses built on the wall​​ on​​ the north side of the city​​ and​​ that​​ they​​ were miraculously spared.​​ ​​ Read more​​ here.​​ 

Mentioned in scripture -​​ Num. 22:1; Deut. 32:49; throughout the book of Joshua as well as​​ many other places in the Bible.​​ 


5.​​ Megiddo​​ - located in the Jezreel Valley and described​​ in the Bible as one of the strongest Canaanite cities. Excavations began in 1902. Other excavations occurred from 1925-1939 and 1960-1971. Many fascinating​​ structures​​ have been found at this site including a series of temples,​​ several​​ large buildings​​ believed to have been a royal stable,​​ and an impressive waterworks system.​​ Eretz the Magazine of Israel​​ -​​ Massively Excavated Tells: Tel Megiddo;​​ Ertz Staff;​​ 2015

Mentioned in scripture -​​ Joshua 12:21, as well as many other places in the Bible.​​ 


C. Things​​ of​​ the Bible​​ Verified


1.​​ Dead Sea Scrolls​​ 


The Dead Sea Scrolls are ancient manuscripts that were​​ accidentally discovered​​ in 1947 when​​ a​​ rock thrown​​ into​​ a cave​​ by a​​ young shepherd​​ boy​​ hit​​ and shattered​​ some​​ old clay jars.​​ As it turns out, these jars contained seven scrolls. From 1947-1956 there were eleven caves discovered in the Judean Desert in the Qumran region​​ near the western shore of the Dead Sea​​ containing​​ over​​ 900 manuscripts.​​ These​​ manuscripts​​ written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek​​ were found primarily in two separate formats​​ -​​ as scrolls and as fragments of previous scrolls and texts.​​ 


Over 200 of the manuscripts are​​ referred to as “biblical​​ scrolls”.​​ These scrolls​​ are​​ either​​ partial or complete copies of every book​​ in the Hebrew Bible​​ except the book of Esther.​​ Two of the​​ most prominent​​ and​​ best-preserved Bible​​ scrolls​​ are the “Great Isaiah Scroll”​​ (containing almost the entire text of Isaiah)​​ and the “Great Psalms Scroll”.​​ Other​​ scrolls​​ included​​ various​​ religious writings​​ as well as​​ the earliest existing commentary on the Book of Habakkuk.


Various testing methods of these​​ manuscripts have​​ dated the oldest Bible scroll at about 250 BC and the latest one at AD 68​​ making them​​ 1,000 years older than what had previously been considered the oldest manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible.


The​​ Dead Sea Scrolls​​ have been on​​ display​​ since 1965 at​​ the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.


Significance of the Dead Sea Scrolls


a.​​ They provide confidence in the reliability of our English Bibles.​​ 

There was significant continuity between biblical texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls and the medieval Old Testament manuscripts. There were some differences, but​​ they​​ amounted to only about one percent of the writings.​​ This​​ noteworthy​​ continuity between the biblical texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls and the medieval Old Testament manuscripts testifies to a scribal tradition that was committed to the preservation of the Scripture, and to a God who​​ surely directed​​ the process.


b.​​ They help us to better understand the Jewish world in which Jesus lived.​​ 

Understanding the Jewish culture is of great value in giving insight and meaning into the New Testament writings.​​ 


2.​​ The Tel Dan​​ Stela​​ (900–850 BC)


Note -​​ 

A​​ tel​​ is a small hill that contains multiple layers representing human occupancy in a town or city built one on top of another over many centuries. ​​ 

In the context of archaeology, an​​ inscription​​ is a short text inscribed on stone, clay, copper plates, temple walls, etc. that records an event or the dedication of an object.​​ 

A​​ stela​​ (also spelled stele; plural stelae)​​ is an upright stone slab usually inscribed and used as a monument commemorating an important event or achievement.​​ 


The Tel Dan Inscription was found in 1993 at Tel Dan. The inscription is written in Old Aramaic. The largest fragment was found in 1993 and a smaller piece later in 1995. Only 13 lines of the inscription were preserved. They were translated by Joseph Naveh and Avraham Biran as follows -​​ 


(1) [. . .] and cut [. . .]

(2) [. . .] my father went up against him in war at [. . .]

(3) And my father lay down and he went to his fathers. Now the king of

(4) Israel had gone formerly into the land of my father. But, then, as for me, Hadad made me king.

(5) And Hadad went before me, and I departed from the seven [. . .

(6) . . . ] my kingdom and I killed [seve]nty kings who harnessed [thousands of

(7) char]iots and thousands of horsemen. [I killed Jeho]ram son of [Ahab]

(8) King of Israel, and I killed [Ahaz]iahu son of [Jehoram]

(9) king of the house of David [authors​​ emphasis]. And I made [their towns into ruins​​ 

and turned]

Tel Dan Stele

(10) their land into [. . .]

(11) other [. . .]

(12) over Israel [. . .]

(13) siege upon [. . .]


You can find more information​​ 

about this inscription​​ here.​​ 


©2011 Zev Radovan,


3.​​ The Meesha Stela​​ (846 BC)


Discovered​​ in​​ AD 1868, this stela which is also​​ known as the Moabite Stone​​ was erected by​​ Meesha, King of Moab​​ at Dibon, likely in the third quarter of the ninth century BC.​​ The inscription on the stone tells of his​​ revolt against Israel.​​ Compare​​ the inscription​​ with​​ 2 Kings 3:4-5.​​ Of significance, this​​ stele mentions Omri, King of Israel, David of the United Monarchy, and​​ Yahweh, the unique name of the God of Israel!​​ 

Again, we have another significant​​ external witness​​ that the Bible records the true history of the kings of Israel and their interactions with foreign kings.​​ Click here to read​​ the inscription​​ on the​​ stone.​​ Photo from Musée du Louvre, Paris, France



4.​​ The Nabonidus Cylinder (550 BC)