Truth That Matters

"What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?" - Jesus Christ

The Bible: Divine because no man would compose it even if he could

The Bible claims to be God's message to man. In this article, I justify this claim by showing that humans (or angels/demigods) would not compose the Bible even if they could. This leaves us with the only possibility that God has composed the Bible. We know that man would never write the Bible on his own because of its following features.

Feature # 1: An unflattering message

Mere human wisdom cannot be responsible for the content of the Bible, because no human writer would want to cast humans in such poor light. For example:-
  1. "The human heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" - Jeremiah 17:9
  2. "But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteous deeds are like a menstruation cloth. And we all fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." - Isaiah 64:6
  3. "We were dead in our sins, walking according to Satan's desires and fulfilling our own lusts, deserving nothing but wrath from God (see? how negative, and politically incorrect?!), but God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love for us, made us alive with Jesus Christ" - Ephesians 2:1-5, paraphrased
  4. "Thus says Jehovah, Cursed is the man who trusts in man, and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart departs from Jehovah." - Jeremiah 17:5
  5. Humans are hopelessly wretched and sinful (Romans 3:10-18)
  6. "What is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." - James 4:14
  7. "No one can can by any means redeem his brother [or himself, by implication], nor give to God a ransom for him, for the redemption of their soul is precious...we are saved by grace (God's unmerited favor) through faith, not by our good deeds, lest anyone should boast" - Psalm 49:7-8, Ephesians 2:8-9
Statements such as # 1-6 are absent in other religious books, the writings of atheists, and self-help literature. # 7 contrasts strongly with the teachings of other belief systems:-
  • Islam: Anyone can believe in Allah/Muhammad, do good works, and thus make himself worthy of heaven.
  • Hinduism: People can do good works, and thus escape the cycle of rebirth, and attain a state of bliss.
  • Buddhism: Humans can follow the right path, and thus be liberated.
  • Sikhism: Man can attain salvation by rigorous and disciplined devotion to God.
  • Atheism/Humanism: Man does not need to be "saved". Humans can choose to be good, and do wonderful things for their fellow-humans.
  • Self-help literature: What matters is this life. You can win in this life with your own abilities - we'll show you how.
Thus, all belief systems present a much more optimistic picture of man than the Bible, which stands alone in its proclamation that man is ABSOLUTELY HELPLESS, and completely reliant on God's undeserved kindness for his greatest need. Notice how the Bible downplays human wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:19-20).
 
Thus, the Bible's humbling of man and exaltation of God is consistent with it's claim to being inspired by God; such a message is highly unlikely to come forth from a human mind, and thus is evidence for the divine origin of the Bible.

Feature # 2: Candor in the accounts

Let's use two criteria to check candor in a written record:-

Criterion 1: How open is the record about the faults of its heroes or the heroes of its target audience?
Ask any Assyriologists for any documentation of the faults of kings such as Sargon II, Assurbanipal or Sennacherib – there are none! Nor is there any documentation of any disgrace in the life of an Egyptian Pharaoh (unless he is being slandered by a king from another dynasty).

However, the Bible is different. It poignantly and honestly records the faults of its heroes. Here are some examples:-
  1. The Bible makes it clear that David was the greatest of the kings of ancient Israel. David is mentioned as the “man after God’s own heart”. But the Bible describes David’s failures in detail. David slept with the wife of one of his soldiers. When she got pregnant, David had him killed and married her. The entire episode, including David’s repentance and God’s punishment is narrated in poignant detail (See 2 Samuel 11:1 onwards).
  2. Noah is a hero in the Old Testament. God found him righteous and asked him to build an ark to survive in when He would send a flood on the earth. Noah's records make part of the Bible (Genesis 6:9). However, after the flood, Noah made the mistake of getting drunk and exposing himself to others. The Bible faithfully records this in Genesis 9:20-27. Thus, the Genesis record was not affected by Noah's personal bias or the distortions of a sycophant.
  3. If the gospel of Mark was the product of a second century fraudster, it wouldn’t contain unsavory details regarding respected church figures like Peter. Mark records how Peter denied Christ thrice (Mark 14:66-72). Mark also records how the Lord Jesus reprimanded his disciples for arguing about which of them is the greatest, and giving them an object lesson in humility using a little child (Mark 9:33 onwards). Similarly, Matthew records how Peter told Jesus that he need not suffer and die. “But Jesus turned and said to Peter, Get behind Me, Satan! You are a snare to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." - Matthew 16:23
  4. The gospel writers also recorded some things about Jesus that can be construed as less than heroic: his not knowing the second coming timing, his struggle at the Garden of Gethsamane, his question to the young man: "Why do you call me good?" and his anguish on the cross [Celsus, in a book dated AD 170 mocks Jesus because of his anguish on the cross - his disciples endured suffering silently.] This proves that the gospel writers were not inventing their Jesus.
Criterion 2: Is the record prepared to criticize its target audience?
Needless to say, a fraudster who wanted to become rich, popular or famous by writing an account would praise his target audience. Now notice how the Bible treats its target audience. Let's look at two examples out of dozens.
  1. Jeremiah, who prophesied to Israel in around 600 BC complains that all his countrymen hate him (because of his unpopular message - Jeremiah 15:10). They were even about to kill him, as we read in Jeremiah 26:7 onwards.
  2. The book of Ezekiel was originally addressed to the people of Israel in the 6th century BC. Due to their idolatry and immorality, God had punished them by allowing Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon (Iraq) to destroy their cities and take them captive. Ezekiel compares Israel to a child born out of wedlock, kicking in her own blood (Ezekiel 16:1 onwards). He goes on to compare her to a harlot who is so desperate that she pays people to sleep with her (Ezekiel 16:24).The image shows Ezekiel's tomb in Kifl, south of Baghdad.
Criterion 3: Does the record mention things that might put off its audience?
A fraudster would avoid such things.
"From women let not evidence be accepted because of the levity and temerity of their sex." – Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 4.8.15.
Given this lack of faith in female witnesses, no fraudster who wants to convince people that a dramatic event happened would use women as witnesses. But this is exactly what the New Testament writers do! According to the gospels, the resurrection of Jesus was first noticed and reported by women. This suggests that the New Testament writers were simply reporting things as they happened without any "axe to grind". 
 
To summarize, the Bible's divine origin is proved by its stark honesty - neither certain individuals, nor the entire audience as a whole is spared in its blunt portrayal of reality. It does not consist of stories made to please people.

Feature # 3: Willingness of the authors to die for what they wrote

If Jesus had some dirty secrets and the apostles knew about it there is no explanation for the change of heart we see in the apostles shortly after Jesus’ resurrection. Those who fled in fear when Jesus was arrested now boldly preached him. According to history, all the apostles (except John) were tortured to death – for the same reason. They all claimed that Jesus had risen and was the only savior. They were told to stop, and they responded by saying, "we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." (Ac 4:20). Dan Brown [the author of the Da Vinci Code] would certainly not hold on to what he has claimed if he was faced with the prospect of being thrown to the lions, whereas Peter was willing to be crucified upside down for claiming that Jesus is lord. No prizes for guessing whose testimony is more reliable! How did the New Testament authors die?

“No man is fool enough to die for what he knows is a lie—an irrefutable fact that adds great weight to the apostles’ testimony.” - Robert G. Ingersoll, American atheist.

Feature # 4: Writing things that you do not understand!

No sane person with human motivation would ever include things that he does not understand in a book he is writing. But this is exactly what the Bible authors did!

Daniel says he did not understand his vision (Daniel 12:8-9). Peter observes that the Old Testament prophets did not fully understand their prophecies (1 Peter 1:10-11). Indeed, passages like Isaiah 53:1-11 and Psalm 22:14-18 would not make sense to the writers and readers until they were fulfilled in the Lord Jesus centuries later. Nor could the author of Zechariah 12:3 have understood how on earth, a tiny city rebuilt on its ruins could ever become a burdensome stone to all people (of course, today, with Jerusalem being the most commonly discussed topic in the United Nations, we know!).

This willingness to write things that one does NOT understand shows that the writers of the Bible were being propelled along by God, exactly as 2 Peter 1:21 says.

Feature # 5: Counter-intuitive nature of Biblical teachings

The Bible's teachings are contrary to those that human teachers would like to convey. A few examples:-

  1. In Genesis 4, a bloody lamb crying out in pain as its throat is slit is an acceptable offering to God. Beautiful fruits and flowers are rejected.
  2. The Lord Jesus said that if we seek to gain/save our life we will lose it and vice versa (Luke 9:24).
  3. The Bible teaches that we obtain life through Jesus Christ who died for us. There is also healing through whipping (Isaiah 53:5), peace through chastisement (Isaiah 53:5), riches through poverty (2 Corinthians 8:9) and exaltation through abasement (Matthew 23:12).
  4. New Testament author Paul comments about The Main Message: "The Jews seek signs (miracles) and the Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks" (1 Corinthians 1:22-23). What could be stranger than the Creator coming down as a man and allowing his creatures to nail him to a cross?
  5. Divine truths are hidden from the wise and revealed to intellectual infants (Luke 10:21). God chooses the weak and foolish of the world to confound the intellectuals (1 Corinthians 1:27).

This counter-intuitive nature is also seen in the Biblical teaching of inspiration or revelation. Why would anyone revere or submit to a book? Here are the reasons suggested by human common sense or intuition

  • The book is a collection of wise old sayings (or a modern refurbishment of such sayings). This claim applies to most Hindu texts, the writings of the Buddha, most self-help books, etc.
  • The book was dictated by God and given to man. This claim applies to the Vedas and the Koran.

But the Bible says something different about itself. Although parts of the Bible consist of mechanical dictation by God (see Leviticus 1:1 for example), other parts are writing done by people - as part of their journal (example: Genesis 5:1), correspondence with others (Acts 1:1), etc. and yet God wrote through them (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21). The Bible is God-breathed, yet the emotion and the personality of the writers come through!

These ideas and teachings - totally different from what humans would think of when left to themselves - point to the divine origin of the Bible. 

Feature # 6: Detail in the Biblical accounts

Let's consider the following aspects of detail:-

The extent of detail: If I was a fraudster trying to cook up a story about Moses and Israel, there's absolutely no need for me to devote several pages to detailed measurements of the tabernacle (In Exodus 25:10 to Exodus 28:43 and Exodus 30:1 to Exodus 30:38, these measurements are mentioned as God’s instructions. Then, in Exodus 36:8 to Exodus 9:43, the same measurements are repeated while narrating the construction!). In Numbers 7, the same details regarding the offerings of the tribal leaders are written 12 times. No fraudster would do that (remember, in those days writing was very laborious – there was no “copy and paste”). The only explanation is that Moses was being absolutely honest and writing exactly as God was guiding him.

The "irrelevance" of the detail: The Old Testament centers around Israel. Yet it contains the records of Esau, one of the ancestors of the Arabs. One of Esau's descendants mentioned is Anah. We read in Genesis 36:24 that Anah found mules in the wilderness when he was grazing the asses of his father. What on earth does a modern (or ancient) Israeli reader care about whether some Arab found some mules in the desert?! There is absolutely no need for a fraudster to include information such as this. But among Esau's community, the recent discovery of mules would be a major windfall, and thus worthy of mention in the community records. Thus, when Genesis 36:9 introduces us to the "records of Esau", we can be sure that the content is indeed what it claims to be.

The "boringness" of the detail: The Bible has long lists of names. If (as skeptics claim), the Bible was written long after the events described took place, why include genealogies? Who cares about people who supposedly lived long ago? Note that Biblical genealogy is not confined to a few prominent men. A lot of "unimportant" people find mention (the first 9 chapters of 1 Chronicles, several chapters in the Pentateuch). Why bother to mention long lists of cities and tribal borders (chapters 10-21 of Joshua), ritual procedures (almost the entire book of Leviticus), demographic data of people who lived 3500 years ago (several chapters of Numbers) and building descriptions (more than a dozen chapters in Exodus, 1 Kings, and Ezekiel)?! A  writer driven by human motivation would not include all these! There is only one logical explanation for all this: God really chose Israel, and the Old Testament was really intended to be a record of their history, and events such as tribal territory allocation happened just the way the Bible says they did.

The outlandishness of the detail: A fraudster will try to sound plausible and non-specific. The surest way for him to give himself away is to make some outlandish, specific prediction that people can test. But Isaiah does just that - he says that a virgin will give birth to the incarnation of God (Isaiah 7:14). Then Micah says this will happen in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)! And Daniel predicts the exact date on which he would present himself to Israel, and that he would be killed after that! No human author would invent such predictions. Similarly, no human author would invent Daniel's description of the Antichrist (see Daniel 7:24-25, etc).

The place where detail occurs: Some things appear in places that appear inappropriate. As an example, in Leviticus 23 we have the list of feasts with their prescribed rituals. Just after the mention of feast of the 50th day (Pentecost) we have a curious instruction: the Israelis were to avoid scraping their fields clean during harvest. They were to leave some of the grain behind so that the poor and landless foreigners in the land could pick them up (Leviticus 23:22). Surely, such an instruction belonged to the section on civil law? Why mention it here?! But the diligent Bible student will at once notice that the feasts correspond to historical events. This instruction fits in perfectly well when we realize what these historical events are and what their significance is. Of course, Moses would not know all this when he was writing! So the only explanation for such a diversion on his part is that he was writing exactly how God wanted him to write!

To summarize, the extent of detail in the Bible, its nature and its location strongly suggest that the writers were authentic, honestly writing what they saw and heard.

Feature # 7: Asymmetry in authorship

If the apostles had vested interests:-

  1. They would have managed to share the limelight equally OR
  2. Those who got a lesser share of the limelight would complain against those who got a greater share.

Out of Jesus' 12 disciples, Matthew wrote one book of the New Testament, John wrote five, Peter wrote two, and the other nine wrote none; the remaining nineteen (more than two-thirds!) were written by outsiders. As far as we know, all the writers were male and Jewish (except perhaps for Luke); yet no one complained against anyone. The writer to the Hebrews did not even bother to identify himself explicitly. What we see is unequal limelight with total harmony and good will. This strongly suggests that each disciple honestly wrote what he believed God wanted him to write.

Feature # 8: The missionary zeal of the writers

Authors of a book usually make some efforts to promote it, but the New Testament authors are unique: they did not promote their writings specifically, but they promoted Jesus Christ - the person who was the subject of their writings. In their zeal to do so they traveled incredible distances, preaching the message of Jesus Christ and helping establish churches:-
  1. Paul gives us a hint (Romans 15:19, 24) that he traveled from Jerusalem to Illyricum (the Italy-Germany border) and Spain. Luke accompanied him in many of his journeys. Paul also went to Arabia (that is, probably, Jordan), Rome, and probably, Britain.
  2. Peter spent some time in Iraq (1 Peter 5:13). He then traveled to Rome, Britain and France.
  3. John settled in Ephesus (in Turkey). From there, his preaching trips took him to areas in Russia and Iran bordering Turkey. He also visited Rome.
  4. Matthew went to Arabia, Greece and Persia (Iran). There is also a possibility that he may have visited Ethiopia.
  5. Mark traveled with Paul and Barnabas to Turkey. He also went to Alexandria (Egypt).
Those who were not given the privilege of sharing the New Testament authorship were no less:-
  1. Andrew went to Greece, Turkey, Persia and Scythia (Ukraine/south Russia).
  2. James the son of Zebedee, who was killed early (Acts 12:1) in Jerusalem, may have made a trip to Spain before that.
  3. Philip went to Scythia (Ukraine/south Russia), and possibly even to France.
  4. Jude Thaddeus went to Armenia, southern Russia and Persia.
  5. Simon the Zealot/Canaanite went to Egypt, Libya and Britain.
  6. Matthias went to Armenia and Arabia or Ethiopia.
  7. Barnabas traveled to Turkey, Rome and Cyprus.
  8. Lazarus went to Cyprus and France.
  9. Bartholomew went to Turkey and Armenia/Azerbaijan.
  10. Thomas went to Iraq, Iran and South India. He may have even visited North India or Pakistan, and died near the East Coast of India.
These apostles were not political leaders or military campaigners. Their travels did not bring for them any personal gain. Why would they travel such huge distances to claim to be eye-witnesses to something false? The only logical explanation for their travels is that the events recorded in the New Testament really took place; the reporters were real eye-witnesses, and they felt duty bound to tell the news to every possible person. For documentation supporting the above data, refer to What Happened to the Twelve Apostles? William McBirnie, Living Books/Tyndale House Publishers, Colorado Springs, USA (1973).

Feature # 9: Apparent Contradictions

The Bible has multiple accounts of the same events. These accounts often have superficial differences that skeptics pounce upon and use as fodder for the long lists of Biblical contradictions that you can find on the internet.

One of the favorites of the skeptics is the resurrection accounts. Mark tells us that the women saw one angel (Mark 16:5) at the tomb. Luke reports that the women saw two angels (Luke 24:4) at the tomb. Contradiction? In an English Bible, the crucial difference is a single letter "r". Mark's group had bought their anointing spices (Mark 16:1), while Luke's group had brought spices that they had prepared (Luke 24:1). Thus, Mark and Luke are describing two different groups of women, and so there is no contradiction.

Two points emerge:-

  1. It is unlikely that fraudsters would bother to write multiple accounts of the same event.   
  2. If at all fraudsters wrote multiple accounts, they would be particular to make sure that there are no appearances of any contradiction because they would be desperate to convince people that what they are writing is true.

Thus, this feature of the Bible - apparent contradictions that get resolved on scrutiny - is proof of the authenticity of the Bible.

Feature # 10: Easy falsifiability

A proposition is said to be falsifiable if a genuine attempt can be made to disprove it. Any true statement about the real world is falsifiable. Most religious books contain a large number of statements, some of which are falsifiable. For example, the Koran mentions Mecca and the Hindu scriptures mention Ayodhya. Thus, someone can try to disprove these books by proving that Mecca or Ayodhya does not exist and never existed. To the credit of these books, both these cities exist. The Bible however, is unique in the dramatic, "easy" falsifiability that it contains. Consider the following claims of the Bible:-

  1. The city of Tyre (in Lebanon) will never be rebuilt (Ezekiel 26:13-14)
  2. Egypt will stop being a great nation after 500 BC (Ezekiel 29:15)
  3. The Jews will never lose their identity as an ethnic group and will be reinstated as a nation (Jeremiah 30:11)
  4. Jerusalem will be trampled by non-Jews until the era of the Gentiles be fulfilled (Luke 21:24)

All these claims (except the last) were made before 500 BC. The last claim was made by Jesus Christ in AD 32.

Thus, the Author of the Bible is really placing Himself on the line. You can prove Him wrong by:-

  1. Rebuilding the ancient city of Tyre
  2. Making Egypt a superpower
  3. Obliterating Jewish identity or killing all the Jews
  4. Giving Israel full sovereignty over Jerusalem but keeping Israel subject to international law and the UN.

It is almost as if the Bible's Author is saying, "Come on, prove me wrong if you can. I'll make it easy for you!". No human author would provide such ready falsifiability. Rather, the Bible has been written by God. He has perfect knowledge and control of world history, and that is why He can afford to make such statements.

Feature # 11: Death penalty for mistakes

The bulk of the Old Testament was written by prophets among God's earthly people, the nation of Israel. Prophets had to prove themselves by making predictions. The rules were simple. If one prediction of yours goes wrong, you get stoned to death. The reason for such a harsh rule was also very simple: If you were being guided by the Creator of the universe, there's no way you could go wrong. On the other hand, if you go wrong, it shows you were not being guided by God - you're an impostor; you deserve to die. See Deuteronomy 18:20-22. Needless to say, human authors writing according to their own knowledge would never agree to such terms. The very fact that the Bible was written under such conditions is a testimony to its divine authorship.

Feature # 12: Unusual emphasis

Have you ever read four different biographies of the same person in which every writer
  • almost completely ignores 90% of the life of their subject. 
  • does not give any description of their subject's physical appearance
  • devotes a disproportionate amount of space (almost 50%) to his death and the surrounding events?
This is exactly what Jesus' biographers in the Bible have done. The gospel writers do not put into Jesus' mouth any thing about the hot controversies in the early church (Jews v/s Gentiles, the issue of circumcision, etc.). None of the apostles taught in parables. But the gospel writers mention Jesus' parables. There would have been no need to do so had he not really taught in parables.
 
A writer driven by human motivation would cater to human curiosity (example: do babies grow up in heaven?) but the Bible does not. 
 
This unusual emphasis and unusual omission show that the writers of the Bible were not operating for a human agenda. Rather, they were writing as guided by God.

Conclusion

The above features show that the Bible is not a product of human motives, and thus, the Bible is not a human product. Only God would choose to write a book like this.

Further reading:

  • Greenleaf, Simon. 1965. Testimony of the Evangelists. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House
  • Linton, Irwing H 1943. A Lawyer Examines the Bible. Boston, MA: W. A. Wilde Co.