Faith, Facts, and Grocery Lists
Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence. —John Adams, 1770
Christianity rests on facts. And because the record of Christianity relies on the accounts of facts set forth in the Bible, that Book is continually at the heart of debates and arguments over the validity and meaning of our faith. I thought about that, and about John Adams, when I read recently about a study regarding archaeological discoveries in the area of ancient Judah.
The discovery was a treasure trove of military inscriptions written in Hebrew, dating to 600 BC, a mere 14 years before Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and the first Temple. The dating is significant because skeptics have claimed that literacy then was too low to have supported the reading and writing skills necessary to produce the Bible.
However, the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the official, scientific journal of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that these ancient inscriptions, penned by low-level Hebrew soldiers ordering delivery of wine, bread dough, and other provisions, were highly literate. In fact, Professor Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University, an outspoken doubter of traditional beliefs about ancient Israel, had to admit, “They wrote well, with hardly any mistakes.”
Every trial lawyer knows that documents written closer to the date of events are generally more trustworthy than later documents. The PNAS report verifies that reading and writing skills were high enough even among the average population during the first-Temple period to authenticate the literary content of the Old Testament.
This is one more piece of evidence authenticating the antiquity and reliability of God’s Word. The Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest existing copies of the Old Testament, show the same thing. In my copy of The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, the scriptural text from Isaiah, for example, is virtually identical to the version I regularly read in my personal Bible.
Although factuality is merely one aspect of our faith, it is an essential one. The apostle Paul wrote that if Christ had not been truly and factually resurrected, then “our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty,” making the early church “false witnesses,” with the result that “we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Cor. 15:14–15, 19). But because the Gospel accounts of Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the grave are accurate and true, we know our hope and faith are built on solid rock.
During one of my trips to Israel with my wife, Janet, I picked up a little book by a scientist, Dr. Roy Turkington, originally titled Arise, Walk Through The Land and retitled Bible Guide to the Land of Jesus. In the back, it lists alphabetically the places and people mentioned in the Bible that can readily be traced to geographical sites you can visit in Israel today. Under “A” alone, there are 88 entries.
The rocks, hills, valleys, and ancient ruins in Israel—indeed, the ground itself—cry out that the testimony of the Bible’s authors is true. Perhaps C. S. Lewis said it best in his book Mere Christianity: “If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not….We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.”