When you encounter unbelievers, often you’ll find with a bit of digging that they really have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to Christianity and the Bible. They read a novel like the Da Vinci Code and suddenly they believe themselves to be experts in the Bible and “the true history” of Christianity. They watch a few YouTube videos from viral skeptics and they’re specialists in everything wrong with the Christian faith. I’ve been told some real howlers – for example, the Bible doesn’t have anything true in it at all or that religion has caused every war in history. Even university professors with PhDs will sometimes say outrageous and obviously false things about the faith and about its source in the Word of God. Without doing any real research or honest assessment, they reach conclusions about Christianity based on conjecture. Christianity must be wrong because it simply can’t be right. We call this prejudicial conjecture and it’s all too common. We have to call unbelievers on it.
Another example of this is when you’ll hear people say things like, “it’s highly doubtful that Jesus of Nazareth ever lived. There’s no evidence.” When people say that, first of all, they’ve made a judgment on the testimony found in the Bible and they’ve ruled it out right away. For them, the Bible can’t be taken as a source of historical information. But there’s more, because it also shows they haven’t done any research outside of the Bible. The Roman historian Tacitus refers to Christ in his Annals. The Jewish historian Josephus (who was not a Christian) mentions Jesus in his Antiquities. Consequently, even most secular historians agree there’s sufficient evidence that Jesus walked on this earth as a historical figure.
People have often been premature in making negative judgments about the Bible. I encountered another example of this in 40 Questions About the Text and Canon of the New Testament by Charles L. Quarles and L. Scott Kellum. Kellum writes about alleged contradictions between the Bible and fields like science and history. Secularists hype these up to discredit the Bible. Kellum gives this example:
The secular scholars develop theories and paradigms by interpreting evidence. The interpretation of the evidence (often described as ‘settled science’ or ‘fact’) is, in fact, fully capable of being overturned, sometimes wiping out an alleged contradiction. For example, radical scholars alleged that the reason the Jewish leadership could not refute the resurrection by producing Jesus’s corpse is the ‘fact’ that executed criminals were never buried but left to be eaten by dogs. However, in 1968, the bones of a properly buried crucified man were found in Israel, dating near the first century. As a result, the ‘historical fact’ was overturned and the paradigm emptied of substance. So then, ‘never’ has become ‘rarely’ and has lost its significance. (p.328)
Others have noted the extra-biblical literary evidence refuting this radical claim. Josephus mentions the Jewish custom in The Wars of the Jews 4.5.317:
Nay, they proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their dead bodies without burial, although the Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun.
That fits with the account that we have in the Gospels of what happened with the body of Jesus.
The point here isn’t that we need archaeological or extra-biblical literary evidence in order to trust what the Bible says. Rather, if there is some apparent conflict claimed by “scholars,” we should never panic. In due time, all the Bible’s claims will be vindicated – and sometimes that happens in this world already, sooner rather than later. “For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’” – Romans 10:11. Believe in him and trust his Word.