Is the Bible True?


#1

I am catholic and recognize the Bible as an essential part of our faith. My questions is really meant to address a popular atheist sentiment that there is no reason to believe the supernatural (or otherwise) claims of the Bible.

I am not sure how to address such claims.


#2

Ill leave the miracle side of things to some of the knowledgeable people here. My area of biblical research is ancient history and chronology, which is an area atheists scorn and undermine. However, in recent years, hard evidence has come to light, and it always supports the Bible’s record of history.

Here are a few examples that skeptics have declared ‘myths & fables,’ but they have all proved to be true:

[LIST]
*]The city of Nineveh was found
*]The Hittite Empire was discovered.
*]King David was not a legend.
*]The chronology of the kings compute.
*]Belshazzar was the last king of Babylon.
*]Pontius Pilate was Governor of Judea AD 26-36
[/LIST]

Skeptics are forced to go beyond David with mealy-mouthed claims that the Bible isn’t a reliable record of history. However, almost every year something is unearthed that ratchets their ‘myths’ back a few more years. The latest archaeological find is that of Joshua’s conquest of Ai in 1404 BC. Boy, does that have them squirming! :o


#3

I once read a true story of an atheist who would not believe in a miracle performed in front of him in Lourdes. Nothing would convince him. Ended up in suicide. One can only pray for such people. I think this world has forgoten to pray despite our Lady’s pleas that we should pray a lot.


#4
  1. Decide whether you should be addressing abstract, speculative ideas or addressing the person asking them.
  2. If the abstract, speculative ideas are currently the more pressing concern (actually pretty unlikely, but conceivably possible), identify the precise nature of the question: what constitutes “reason to believe” something?
  3. Identify such reason with respect to the subject at hand, i.e. the Bible.

Some further points to consider:
a. very few things are actually provable;
b. most “knowledge” is therefore actually inference, i.e., belief;
c. what makes one inference better than another is probability, not proof, i.e., probability is our *reason *for belief;
d. what are the relative probabilities of an omnipotent God existing, of someone being raised from the dead, of the spontaneous and wholly-unprompted alteration of the state of the universe from a coherent coexistence of all matter and energy in one singular space to the vigorous expanding of matter and energy and space, of the spontaneous and wholly-unguided manifestation and subsequent evolution of life, of people other than yourself actually having real consciousness (and not being essentially biological automata), or of anything apart from your own consciousness actually existing (and are the values assigned to such probabilities themselves provable, or are they, too, inferred)?
e. Many of the very best thinkers in the history of the human race have been discussing these questions for the last few thousand years; be patient, and do not expect to have all the answers right now.
f. *Reason *for belief and *cause *for belief are not necessarily the same thing; most people have emotional causes for whatsoever they believe about metaphysics, because the evidence is not sufficient to give very good reason either way.

  1. If the person is the more pressing concern (because people are a lot more important than speculative philosophy), try to help them to express how they feel about these ideas, and why they feel these things (i.e., their cause for belief). If asked, express how you feel about these ideas, and why you feel these things (i.e., your cause for belief). You might just manage to make a friend, and, in so doing, will achieve more of real value than you will by “winning” any number of arguments.

#5

Cyberseeker, it’s a pretty sloppy atheist that bases her or his atheism solely on the supposed historical inaccuracies in the Bible. There has been a lot of evidence that corroborates historical details in the Bible. There are a lot of historical details in the Bible for which we have no or insufficient evidence. There are some events in the Bible which the evidence seems to disprove.

But the original post was about the supernatural claims in the Bible, and it is these that define an atheist.


#6

Without the supernatural, than the bible is just good stories. However, when the supernatural is removed, it doesn’t explain why the Christians were willing to die for their faith. It especially doesn’t explain why the apostles were willing to be tortured and killed. They themselves would have known whether these supernatural miracles actually occurred or not. They were willing to die for what they witnessed. Also without a miracle occurring, how can the conversion of Saul to Paul be explained? The best explanation is the one the he writes himself. Remove the miracles, especially the resurrection, and their willingness to die is just stupid. But from their writings, they are filled with hope and joy and not stupidity nor insanity. Theses are just a few examples but without the miracles, the facts don’t make any sense.


#7

As a reformed atheist, I would add a couple of thoughts to the excellent points made thus far. Some of these apply not only to atheists.

1: To make the argument of inaccuracy, one must assume that the Bible was written as a legal document, and did not use poetry, metaphor, rhetoric, double-entendre, and (shock) even humor.
2: To accept the argument that the Bible must be literally true at every point, according to Kant, it must be universally verifiable and applicable. Thus, one must also argue that, according to numerous computer instructions, there must be an “any” key on the computer keyboard.
3, One must argue that any word found in the Bible did not change over the course of about 5,000 years, whether Hebrew, Koine Greek, Latin, German, English, or any other language.
To do otherwise would be naughty.
4. Apropos of nothing in relation to the foregoing, it gives me great comfort that God chose to use the language of the common people, not that of the Academy, to tell us about his history and plan of salvation.


#8

As an atheists I think I can help clarify a few points about disbelief in the bible. In regards to the post which brings up things in the bible that existed well good for them. Just because the bible has real events in them doesn’t mean all the bible’s stories exist. for example if you were to read a spider-man comic you would see common New York landmarks, real people such as President Obama and real events such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But we would all agree that the inclusion of real places/people/events does not give the more outlandish ideas (such as a Spiderman) and credibility.


#9

I am never sure whether the supernatural is the real reason why the Bible can not be accepted by atheists. Regardless of religion or century or culture or race, people have always accepted the existence of ghosts/spirits. Whether detectable or not by current technologies does not make it unreasonable that people who have experienced them to believe that such things exist.

Even if a miracle were to appear, an atheist can still reject it and attribute that to “unknown causes” or “random events” or “something yet to be understood”. If that is their fallback reason, it is a futile exercise. We have cures that are impossible by medical standards, visions sightings by thousands etc and yet they are not open minded enough to consider the possibility of supernatural event.

It is God’s will to draw them and their will to cooperate. Really not our job.


#10

To be honest your statements here are not too far off the money. If an atheist were to see a “miracle” then they usually do not assume that the cause is supernatural(however I do not speak for all atheists as some probably believe in ghosts or other supernatural things) but were you go wrong is when you assume this is some kind of defense mechanism or closed mindedness, not believing whatever people tell you when something happens isn’t closed mindedness it’s being skeptical.


#11

I don’t think Atheists scorn biblical research/ ancient history at all.
Are you talking about people you know personally?
Because some of the major Agnostics/Atheists in the public eye are historians and professors who have spent their entire career studying this topic with a passion—far from scorn.
When they say that the bible is not a reliable record of history…that is because there are indeed many errors and discrepancies there. Some facts are correct but many are not–which makes it unreliable.
For example…even the date and time of Jesus’s death is different in two different gospels. That would be a major fact in Christianity to get accurate in a record of history about the founder of the religion.
So it’s not always easy to know which facts are correct and which are not: Therefore, unreliable.

.


#12

I think the issue with the supernatural is, IMO:

  1. Many religious/spiritual texts at that time told supernatural stories. It was the writing and storytelling “style” of the time and a way for religious groups to “convince” others about their gospel/leader/movements. There are several texts about prophets or gods who had virgin births and performed miracles and came back to life after they were dead. Do we just believe one of them? All of them? None of them?

  2. Much of the writing in the bible is symbolic to make a point, as we have discovered…as our perception of some of the stories have evolved.
    So then…how do we know if a supernatural story is meant to be literal or not?

  3. The bible doesn’t address what we know today about psychology and how the mind works…that many people will suffer delusions or hallucinations when under duress or when they need comfort…or even just because they have a chemical imbalance. Also, many will believe what they need to believe when it’s not necessarily the truth. This was not common thought 2000 years ago when the biblical events were written down.

  4. There is the question about the “broken telephone”. Meaning, since the bible stories were mainly passed along verbally for a minimum of 30-40 years before, as far as we know, they were written down…a story may have started one way and then been embellished and changed–as stories often are, even in a one-hour time time span.
    So it is difficult to know what the original story really was and if it went from “natural” to “supernatural” in the many exchanges.

As per your question…these are just a few reasons why many Atheists question the “supernatural” anecdotes written down and collected/included in the Judeo/Christian canon (and in* other* religions’ canons as well).

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#13

#14

Re dying for their faith:
Well, yes…this can be explained when we realize that many die for their faiths and beliefs, whether they are true or good or not. You see the terrorists dying for their faith as they fly planes into buildings and kill thousands of people. They truly believe they are doing this for God. You see hundreds of people in a cult drink the Kool-Aid in a mass suicide because they believe. You see people starve themselves to death for a cause.
People will die for something they believe in, thinking it is true, having convinced themselves it is true…when it may not be.

Re the apostles being tortured/killed:
Again…what we seem to know (from the dozens of history books I’ve read and history/religion courses I’ve taken)…is that this information on the apostles’ deaths are for the most part considered “legendary”–we don’t know for a fact how most (or all?) of the apostles died. None of the sources we have are considered reliable by most historians, from what I can see.

Re the conversion of St. Paul:
We see this happening in churches every day. People converting, people being “re-born”, people changing their minds re what they believe to be true. People going back and forth from different religions, changing their minds, believing each time with all their heart that they’ve found The Truth.
Paul’s conversion doesn’t seem to be so different from others’ from the past and present, except he wrote about it and made it be known and talked about it.

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#15

This reminds me of when you show a person fossils or skeletons, they still say there is no evolution or that the world and humans are only 5000 years old.
For some people, they will decide on what they believe and no amount of evidence or proof in front of their face will change that–be they Theists or Atheists.

I think many Agnostics/Atheists are open to what some call “supernatural” events. But that still doesn’t mean someone’s “God” did it, that’s the point. It doesn’t make sense that, just because we can’t explain something, it means one of any gods was/is responsible.

If Atheists are expected to be open-minded that some events might be supernatural, I think Theists should also be open to the idea that there may be logical explanations for events that we don’t know the answer to yet, but will soon.

After all…think of what the biblical writers could not explain back then–the movements of the planets, the sun, the shape of the earth, the weather, illnesses, stars, psychology…hundreds of things we know the answers to and for today.

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#16

Do you recall where/when you read this story? I’d like to try and find it.

I’ve actually had many Theists say to me that if it was ever proven a God does not exist, they would have no reason to live.

Many people don’t want to know the truth if it means they have to change what they think and believe–this can be true for people of varied beliefs and faiths.

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#17

If pursuit of knowledge is to be without artificial limits, why should it stop at the natural or the unknown? All I am saying, the restriction is self-imposed and limits the scope of knowledge prematurely. That is how a lot of current knowledge came about, they did not let current technology/knowledge limit their exploration. The earth is flat, man can not fly, go to the moon, live under water, and so on. That can’t be done wasn’t in the vocabulary of those inquisitive. It is not surprising that God would play peek-a-boo with us. Hints of Him but just far enough to titillate the curiosity of those eager to seek Him. And if we seek Him hard enough, we will find Him. If one doesn’t seek Him at all, unlikely he will make his presence known to those.


#18

The issue here is that there is no proof of the supernatural. Make no mistake I am willing to allow the supernatural as an explanation provided you can prove there is a supernatural. For example while I do not believe in ghosts my friends and I often visit supposedly haunted places to look for ghosts(we are soon headed to the devil’s chair where Satan is supposed to make a deal with anyone who sits in his throne) the issue is in every single one of the “haunted places” there has been no trace of a ghost or spooky thing. So by all means if you can prove to me that the supernatural exists then I will certainly allow it to be a possible answer to a question. But until the supernatural is proven to be real it should not be used to answer questions that we can find the answer to.


#19

The Sacred Scriptures, are defined and authorised by Christ’s Church which teaches that: “Since therefore all that the inspired authors or sacred writers affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture firmly, faithfully, and without error teach the truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures.” Dei Verbum, Vatican II, #11].

When the Gospels were written, as Fr William G Most points out, many people who had seen and heard Jesus himself would have been alive at that time. And Quadratus, an early apologist writing about 123 A.D., tells us that in his day there were still persons around who had been cured or raised from the dead by Jesus – prime witnesses.

The Gospel writers had the opportunity to get the facts. And we know that they would be careful and honest, for their own eternity depended on facts, not on fancy. As St. Paul told the Corinthians, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is vain” (1, 15:17).

Essentially we know things that the original spectators could easily observe and accurately report:
Fact 1: There was a man called Jesus.
Fact 2: He claimed to be a messenger sent from God.
Fact 3: He did enough to prove that He was such a messenger.
Fact 4: Crowds followed Jesus and He had an inner circle to whom he spoke much more.
Fact 5: He commissioned His followers to continue His teaching and founded His Church.
Fact 6: Jesus affirmed that God would protect that teaching.

The writings of these facts – the Gospels – are comparable with other ancient documents from writers such as Caesar, Tacitus, Thucydides and others, they are all reliable as history.

Historically, they prove that the messenger sent from God worked many miracles to support His mission and teaching to the extent of forgiving sins. God as Truth cannot provide such power to prove falsehood, so the claims of Jesus are true, culminating in the fact of His resurrection from the dead.

So from the reliability of the Gospels as history, we now know that:

  1. An infallible Church was founded by the Son of God
  2. That infallible Church teaches that the Bible, as She has given us, is the inspired Word of God.

#20

But the problem is that YOU have not found the proof. Others who have experienced the supernatural, already decided that it is sufficient for them, notwithstanding that they were not able to capture the proof for public viewing.

For things immaterial in nature, it is never the physical proof that is required for one to believe in God, spirits, demons etc. It is the experience. For people like you, perhaps it is just not your time and place that permit you to have that kind of experience. If you don’t believe it, perhaps you just won’t be given the chance to encounter it.

But certain people have been fortuitous to encounter them. Marian apparitions (the official ones) do have plenty of eye witnesses. Simply grouping these under mass hallucinations or similar is a lazy way to not explain anything. Instead of searching for haunted houses, perhaps looking for miracle stories may be another way to intellectually challenge the mind as to what is possible, probable or miraculous. I won’t recommend investigating exorcism or black magic practices or similar as the risk level is too high. But you can read Fr Amorth, Vatican Exorcist " An exorcist tells his story" to get a feel of such knowledge.


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