(Investigator 114, 2007 May)

Why Believe the Bible?

Why, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs), should people believe the Bible? Because scientific evidence, including archaeology, is compelling? No.


A faith that depends only on the interpretation of archaeological finds is a shaky one indeed. Proof that the Bible is divinely inspired is found within the Bible itself, and not in archaeology.
(Insight on the Scriptures Volume 1, 1988, p959)

That Eve actually lived and was not a fictional character is testified to by Christ Jesus himself. In being questioned by the Pharisees concerning divorce, Jesus directed attention to the Genesis account with reference to the creation of male and female. (Aid to Bible Understanding 1972, p538)

What follows does not refute the Bible but refutes a line of reasoning commonly used by JWs (and other religious people).

JW Reasons

The JW reasons for believing the Bible, as implied in the above and hundreds of similar quotes, boil down to:

1 You should believe because the Bible says it’s true.

2 You should believe because the JW leaders say the Bible is true.

The JW reasoning is epitomized in their article Should Archaeology Make You Doubt The Bible? (Awake! 1983 July 8, pages 6-11)The article discusses archaeological debate about the Bible story of the Red Sea crossing and says:

Are Christians to believe that major portions of the Bible are just ‘literary masterpieces’ with no relationship to "factual experience"? Or can they rely on the Bible as the inspired Word of God? Should we be swayed by the conflicting theories of archaeologists and scholars? Or should we accept as reliable the testimony of the Bible writers and Jesus Christ himself? (p9)
  The Awake! article then quotes the Apostle Paul that "All Scripture is inspired" and continues:
Why, then, do Jehovah's Witnesses believe the Bible to be inspired? Does their faith depend on archaeological findings? Briefly, the proof for inspiration is found in the Bible itself, not in archaeology. It is one thing to write accurate history; it is another to write accurate history in advance. That is prophecy. The Bible contains hundreds of fulfilled prophecies attesting to its divine authorship. For example, it has been estimated that 332 distinct prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures were fulfilled in Jesus Christ alone.

Another powerful support of the Bible's authenticity is that its testimony is based on accounts supplied by actual eyewitnesses of the events, often the writer himself. This is the case with the Exodus account written by Moses himself.

Do we have any reason to doubt his honesty as a witness? No, not when we also acknowledge that he was divinely inspired to write. (p10)

Therefore, the reasonable Christian will not expect absolute proof from archaeology for everything stated in the Bible, especially in this imperfect system of things. Nevertheless, he knows the time will soon come when it will be possible to check out perfectly so many of the persons and events related in the Bible. How so? "Because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his [Jesus'] voice and come out." (p11)

The above reasoning in Awake! is typical of JW efforts to prove the Bible. Archaeology (and other science) is OK when it supports the Bible. Otherwise people should accept "the reliable testimony…of Jesus" and "eyewitnesses" and "prophecy".

The appeal to the "reliable testimony…of Jesus Christ" assumes without proof that Jesus actually gave the "testimony" we read in the Gospels.

Even if we could prove that there was a Jesus who gave the said testimony, which we can't, we would still need proof that the testimony is correct. Law courts everywhere show that testimony is often false!

If we ignore these objections, consistency requires us to apply the JW reasoning across the board and accept, without proof, everything in every religious book, and indeed every unproved self-testimony of everyone.

If self-testimony without scientific corroboration is sufficient then the Book of Mormon is true because it says it's true, Nazism and its policies were correct because Adolf Hitler said they were, and 2 x 6 = 14 is correct because Sally put that on her arithmetic test as the correct answer.

Thus the main JW reason and logic for accepting the Bible implies that everything is correct that anyone says is correct.

If, however, everything is correct that anyone says is correct, why have JWs published thousands of pages criticising other religions — religions which testify they're correct and therefore must be correct?

332 Prophecies?

What about the so-called "332 distinct prophecies…fulfilled in Jesus"?

No prophecy in the Old Testament names Jesus or gives a date for his birth. Few if any Old Testament prophecies even give cross-references to other Old Testament prophecies so that readers can be sure that the various "prophecies" are about one and the same person.

Most of what apologists call "prophecies" were statements about King David in the Psalms and refer to events in David's life and give no clue that the statements refer to a future individual named Jesus. The Old Testament prophets omit the name and dates needed to identify a particular future person.

What about "testimony…by actual eyewitnesses"? Again, we often cannot prove that what's in the Bible is from "eyewitnesses". Moses, for example, still lacks archaeological corroboration, and many argue that the Pentateuch written in his name was put together centuries after his alleged lifetime.

Even if archaeology finds evidence that Moses existed and confirms he wrote the Pentateuch, it would not necessarily follow that the Pentateuch is entirely accurate.

With little evidence of genuine eyewitnesses, or of reliable testimony or prophecy, the JW statement (quoted above) that ancient people will rise from the dead and confirm the Bible is nonsense because it's a doctrinal claim which assumes the Bible true prior to any proof.

Should we really believe unproved claims provided they're accompanied by a further unproved claim that people will rise from the dead??

The above is typical of most JW Bible apologetics. Archaeology (and other science) is rejected as wrong whenever it conflicts with the Bible and the main reason to believe the Bible is because the Bible says it's true.

If such JW reasoning is valid then we should believe, without proof, anything and everything — Mormonism, Islam, Nazism, superstition, etc — provided alleged eyewitnesses, or people who invent eyewitnesses, claim is true.

The word of the Leaders

Since the JW leaders have not given us good reason to believe the Bible, the acceptance of the Bible comes down to believing the JW leaders when they assert that the Bible is true.

However, before we can accept the word of the JW leaders that the Bible is true we need to check their credibility.

This in turn brings up the failed prophecies of the JW leaders involving 30 dates and thousands of changes to their theology all of which they had claimed is from the Bible!

Their book The Finished Mystery (1917) alone has an estimated 1,300 theological points that JWs today would view as error and apostasy plus false predictions for various dates from 1918 to 1932 — see Investigator Number 85.


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