In the first post of this series I shared that my goal was to write a series of posts giving evidence of the divine inspiration of the Bible. At Genesis we believe in a view of inspiration called plenary-verbal inspiration. This view basically affirms that human authors were writing, but their human words were literally breathed out by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and that every word penned by the author was from God and therefore divine revelation and authoritative. Plenary-verbal inspiration is a view that speaks about the original manuscripts penned by the original authors of the books of the Bible. And it means that the inspiration is more than just an inspired message. Of course, we believe that the message of the Bible is inspired, but our view is that the very words used by the author were inspired, and therefore the Bible is perfect, sufficient, and without error.
In this post I will share a second line of evidence in the Scriptures that proves the Bible is not just a book about God, but is literally from God. For me, the existence of the prophecies within the text of Scripture leave no doubt about the premise. The nature of Biblical prophecy is so precise and specific, that modern unbelievers have to find very creative ways to deny the supernatural nature of these texts. And it is not just that there are a few of these. Actually, there are hundreds of texts where God is speaking through a human voice and/or pen predicting future events. Sometimes these events are in the immediate future, just a few years out. Other prophecies look at the near future, the next 50-300 or so years of history. Still others look much further into the future, predicting ideas, events, and aspects of the life of the coming Messianic King. These prophecies give a full picture of the life of Christ, all of which Jesus fulfilled. Get this. We basically have a full biography of the birth, life, ministry, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus in the Old Testament, texts written between 400-1500 years before Jesus was born. Finally, there are prophecies that are looking to the end of time, the coming Day of the Lord and the ushering in of the ruling Kingdom of Christ. In all of these, the human author, under the inspiration of God writes very specific details about future events, often including names of people, places, world rulers and empires, and other key details that could not be known to the person writing or speaking in the moment apart from God who is sovereign over these events. These are unlike the vague prophecies and predictions that come from people like Nostradamus or your neighborhood psychic. And in all cases, they were fulfilled just as the text predicted. Here are a few from a plethora of examples.
Isaiah 44:28-45:5 – The prophet Isaiah, writing between 800-700 BC speaks of a man named Cyrus, a conqueror who will have a victorious military conquest. The text tells us that this person’s rise to power was to fulfill the purpose of God that includes the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and laying the foundations of the Temple. A casual reader will think that the text is giving very accurate and vivid description of the rise of Cyrus the Great, ruler of the Persian Empire and conqueror of the Babylonian Empire. If you took a world civilization and history class in college you would learn about Cyrus the Great, AKA Cyrus the Persian as one of the many rulers who at one point ruled over the major world empire of his day. After this conquest, Cyrus gave the Hebrew people freedom to return to their homeland, and funded the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and the beginning of the rebuilding of the Temple. The thing though, is that these events took place beginning in 539 BC, or around 250 years after Isaiah wrote the text. I hope you got that. Isaiah calls Cyrus, a major world leader by name, and gives details of his conquest and rule, and he does this over 200 years before Cyrus is even born. First Century Jewish historian Josephus tells us that Cyrus actually read this text in Isaiah, was amazed at being called by name in a Jewish Scripture, and sent the funds for rebuilding Jerusalem and the Temple in obedience to the text. It is insane to think that a prophet can call Cyrus by name and give a vivid description of his conquest and rule 250 years before he was born without the voice of God.
Micah 5:2-4 – Micah is a contemporary of Isaiah, writing in the 8th Century BC. In this text he predicts that Bethlehem will the the birthplace of Jesus. Micah speaks of Jesus coming forth (later in the text he describes it as a birth), and that Jesus will be the ruler of Israel. Then Micah speaks of the one being born as, “Whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” This term ancient of days is used of God to refer to His eternality. In other words, Micah predicts that a baby will be born in Bethlehem, but this baby has always existed as God. He then goes on to describe this person as a shepherd-king who will rule His people, but shepherd His flock. So much beauty in the text describing Jesus, but Bethlehem. This is not the type of place the people of his day would expect as the birthplace of the Messiah. It is a little shepherding village, not an important town. Of course, if you celebrate Christmas you know the story and have sung the song, O Little Town of Bethlehem. But we must also realize that not only do we have this prophetic word, but God also orchestrated the events that led Mary and Joseph here by using the sinful greed of the most powerful man on earth at this time, Caesar Augustus, who decided to do a census sending all people to the home of their ancestors so he could collect the most possible taxes.
Daniel 11 – We will be hitting this in the next few months during our sermon series on Daniel. Daniel contains a series of prophetic and apocalyptic visions from God given to Daniel for the Jewish people. In this vision Daniel accurately and with vivid details describes the rise and fall of the Persian Empire, Alexander the Great and the Greek Empire, and the rise of the Seleucids, one of the Greek offshoots. He then gives a clear description of a horrible ruler we know as Antiochus Epiphanes, his conquest of Israel and desecration of the Temple. This man killed thousands of Jews for worship of God and dedication to the Torah. He also sacrificed a pig on the altar in the Temple and claimed it for Zeus. These events led to the Maccabean Revolt, which led to the Jewish Festival of Lights or Hanukkah. Daniel 11 is so specific that many have tried to claim that the text was written after the events described. They had to be, right? Problem with this view is that we know the Hebrews were already reading Daniel as Scripture by this time, as it is included in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. In other words, not possible for a book to be written after certain events, if it had already been translated from Hebrew and Aramaic before those events. Actually, Daniel is writing from the 6th Century, or 500 years before these things happen, which is utterly amazing.
Psalm 22 – A song written from darkness and struggle by King David, and included in the songbook of Israel. The song begins with the words, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” which is quoted by Jesus on the cross. But in the middle of the song David describes a scene where a band of evildoers encircles him, and pierces his hands and feet. Quickly the reader knows that he is drawn into a vivid description of a crucifixion, and not just any death on a cross. We are pulled into Jesus’ death, seeing the moment through the eyes of Jesus, Himself. But this vivid description of crucifixion is written by a person (David) who has never seen a death on a cross, nor will anyone for hundreds of years. Crucifixion as a form of execution was invented by the Persians, perfected as a deterrent by the Romans, but this is at least 500 years after David lived. Again, where did this imagery and vision come from other than the inspiration of God.
Matthew 24 – A passage known as the Olivet Discourse, this is a section of teaching from the lips of Jesus and recorded by Matthew. This takes place during the last week of Jesus’ life, and includes a pronouncement of divine judgment on Israel for rejecting Jesus as their Messiah. Jesus and His disciples are leaving the Temple in Jerusalem and walking to the Mount of Olives. On the way, Jesus makes a bold prediction, that “There will not be left here (in the Temple) one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” Confused, Jesus’ disciples ask him what Jesus meant by the statement about the Temple and what will happen when Jesus returns at the end of time. Not knowing it, they were actually asking two different questions. First, Jesus predicted something about the city of Jerusalem and the Temple itself, specifically a coming destruction. So they were asking what Jesus meant by this, because the implications seemed to them to be impossible. The current Temple had been completed in 516 BC during the period of Ezra and Nehemiah in the Old Testament. But it had gone through a massive renovation started under the reign of Herod the Great. The renovation not only changed the visual image of the Temple from something that was fairly simple to a gold-covered edifice, it also expanded the footprint from a couple acres to around 35. The renovations had been ongoing for a generation, and it was being done by those ruling for Rome with Jewish advisors and labor. So, it was unfathomable to think of any scenario where the Temple would be destroyed and not a single stone left unturned. Second, they wondered about Jesus second coming, his return to rule and reign. At the time, they thought this would be something that would happen quickly, in their lifetime. In fact, they didn’t really believe the message of the cross, yet. Rather, they believed that Jesus would leave Jerusalem and all the madness surrounding Him, and come back in a short period riding a white horse and take the reigns of the Kingdom of God (and the nation of Israel). But Jesus understood that these two events, the Fall of Jerusalem and His Second Coming would be separated by a long period of history. So as He answers two questions, he weaves the answers showing that the way the answer to the first question would go down is actually a prophetic image of the the way the second would happen. In other words, the Fall of Jerusalem becomes a temporal picture of the final judgment coming at the end of the age. While we are still waiting on the Second Coming, the Fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple did happen. About forty years after Jesus gave this prophecy the Jews revolted against Rome. They were met with the resolve of the Roman armies under the general Titus, and in 70 AD they toppled the Jerusalem city walls, rolled through town, and obliterated the Temple, melting down all the gold and taking it back to Rome (the funds from this may have been used to build the Colleseum). So, while we still await the events flowing from Jesus’ disciples second question, we cannot miss that in this passage Jesus clearly describes the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and calls it an act of God’s judgment for their rejection of Christ. And he did this forty years before the event, at a time when the very idea of it seemed impossible to his hearers. Furthermore, Matthew records Jesus’ words, and this book was also penned before 70 AD, so the events still had not happened.
I obviously could keep going, but I hope I have made the point. No way any of these things will show up in the text of Scripture as a result of human intuition and reason. These are evidence of God’s divine inspiration of the text of Scriptures, one of the ways we can literally see His fingerprint on the text. We can know the Bible is God’s Word, and trust that it is true an useful for our lives.