Evidence for people and events in Scripture is found in history, archaeology, and science, all of which can lead to fascinating conversations about the Bible and the truth it contains. Of course, it’s not necessary to have this kind of evidence to believe God’s Word, but confirmation of the factual veracity of the Bible can be a great tool for speaking with and convincing nonbelievers of the legitimacy of Scripture. Not only that, but reading about people and stories in the Bible from an outside or objective standpoint can give more depth to our study and understanding of complex topics.
Sometimes, we can get lost in the almost mythological aspect of the Bible. Since Scripture does contain many examples of parable and metaphor, it’s easy to envision much of what’s recorded by the prophets and the chroniclers as distant, almost allegorical material that didn’t really happen to real people like us. Theologically, we believe that the Bible is true and accurate and that it describes things that actually happened, but when we see the figures in Scripture as real human beings with stories of birth, childhood, aspirations, struggles, and even mundane work, the lessons of God’s Word start to feel more applicable to our own lives.
Here are some notable examples of extrabiblical evidence and what they can tell us about the stories in our Bible:
Hezekiah, king of Judah, is mentioned in a historical account preserved by Sennacherib, king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire. Sennacherib describes Hezekiah as “Hezekiah, the Jew,” who “did not submit to my yoke” in Jerusalem when the Assyrians besieged the city. This not only verifies the historical truth of Hezekiah’s reign as king, but also backs up the story of God delivering Jerusalem from the Assyrians after Hezekiah prayed and sought the prophet Isaiah (2 Kings 16:20—20:21; 2 Chronicles 28:27—32:33; Isaiah 36:1—39:8)! The Assyrians were completely dominant at this time, and by all accounts they should have trounced Jerusalem. Sennacherib does not offer an explanation as to why Hezekiah resisted him, but maybe that’s because he was ashamed to admit that heavenly forces repelled him!
Here is one you may not have heard of or remembered. Elishama is mentioned only briefly in Jeremiah 36:12 as a scribe or secretary. In 1986, archeologists found a clay seal from the correct time period identifying “Elishama, servant of the king.” This provides historical proof that Jeremiah’s words were true and that he wrote of real people! If even this small detail can be verified millennia later, we can be that much more confident in the more important truths in what Jeremiah wrote and said.
The Egyptian Rebel
In Acts 21:38, one of the soldiers guarding Paul asks him if he is the Egyptian who started a revolt and led four thousand terrorists out into the wilderness. This Egyptian was indeed a real historical figure, sometimes known as Ha-Mitzri. He is listed in several historical sources as a prominent Jewish figure, described by many of his Jewish contemporaries as a prophet. He assembled his followers atop the Mount of Olives and prepared to assault and reclaim Jerusalem. Some accounts say that he expected to bring down the walls of the city with a miracle, just like Joshua and the walls of Jericho. Roman procurator of Judaea, Antonius Felix, as well as Herod Agrippa II, crushed the rebellion, and the Egyptian fled into the wilderness.
It’s peculiar that the soldier would ask Paul about this, and that it’s included in Acts. If the Egyptian claimed to be a prophet or messiah but was not canonized in Scripture, this is one of many examples of the authors of the Bible correctly identifying false vs. true prophets. The authors of the New Testament could not have known that this Egyptian was not a prophet supported by God, and yet they did not fall into the trap of following him to his doom or even recording his words. The fact that Paul is mistaken for this man, a Jewish false prophet who led a rebellion, is ironic, considering Paul’s lasting legacy as a former zealot who went on to minister to the Gentiles!
Jesus of Nazareth
Of course, let’s not forget the most important person for whom historical evidence exists, Jesus Christ. While atheists can debate His deity and the truth of His message all they want, they can no longer deny His existence as a real person who walked the earth and who did and said the things recorded in the gospels. There is a plethora of evidence from Roman authorities, historians, Jewish scribes, and archeology that all aligns perfectly with what is described in the Bible. Jesus is real, and even skeptics have to admit it. Of course, what makes this all the more important is that we also know for historical fact that He was executed, as were almost all of His close followers. While history and archaeology may not convince nonbelievers of Christ’s supernatural nature, reason dictates that all of these people who claimed to see and experience His miracles were willing to die for Jesus and His message. These were no charlatans, and they had nothing to gain by submitting themselves to death on His behalf. Let’s celebrate their sacrifices as not only apostles, but also as normal men and women like ourselves who had extraordinary faith.
To learn more about the Bible and how we can know that it’s true, check out some of the online Bible studies at the International School of the Word. Consider starting with Basic Theology or Biblical Apologetics. Visit www.ISOW.org today to get started on an affordable online biblical education!
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