To Us a Child Was Born

We have good reason to be expectant that God will do, and is doing, what He said He would do.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone…. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:2, 6 ESV)

These words that are repeated often at Christmas time were spoken originally by Isaiah, the prophet, hundreds of years before Jesus. “For unto us a child is born….” These words are so ubiquitous in our western culture today that we may miss the significance of them.

At one time, people doubted the dating of Isaiah because it so accurately describes Jesus who was born around 4 BC. Isaiah lived purportedly in the 8th Century BC. Because Isaiah predates Jesus and the span of time from Isaiah to Jesus, an increasingly skeptical world that seriously doubted the predictive nature of those words begin to think that the Isaiah text was written after Jesus, perhaps in the 1st Century after his death.

People no longer doubt when Isaiah wrote those words, however, not since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. One of the most significant discoveries among the Dead Scrolls was the Isaiah Scroll. It has been dated hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, and it is nearly word for word the same as the more recent manuscripts of Isaiah that we had until that time.[1]

Isaiah contains, perhaps, the clearest and most amazing prophecies in the whole OT of the coming of Jesus.[2] For this reason, Isaiah is quoted every Christmas. Particularly the statements stating that the Messiah would come as a child.

At least one aspect of what Isaiah wrote gets lost in wonder of the predictions he spoke. We look back on them now with wonder and amazement that God inspired Isaiah to speak those words so long ago, but when Isaiah spoke them, no one listened. No one believed him.

Continue reading “To Us a Child Was Born”

Archaeology Continues to Confirm Bible Stories

While many people remain skeptical of the Bible, modern archaeological discoveries favor the historicity of the biblical record.

Depositphotos Photography ID: 25083325 Copyright: lucidwaters QUMRAN, ISR – DEC 14

I recently listened to an interview of Dr. Craig Evans, who wrote the book, Jesus and the Remains of His Day: Studies in Jesus and the Evidence of Material Culture. The book is described as a collection of articles demonstrating how archaeological evidence “enlightens our understanding of the life and death of Jesus and the culture in which he lived”. The interview focused on archaeology, generally, and especially on the way archaeology sheds light on the New Testament.

In this piece, I am following up on the more general discussion. When asked if he was aware of any finds that have failed to support the biblical record, Dr. Evans could not think of any. Rather, he commented that archaeological evidence is found every year that confirms the biblical record. Of particular note are the people mentioned in the Bible that archaeology has affirmed.

Continue reading “Archaeology Continues to Confirm Bible Stories”

Remembering Jesus on Good Friday

The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsaa) • Qumran Cave 1 • 1st century BCE • Parchment • H: 22-25, L: 734 cm • Government of Israel • Accession number: HU 95.57/27

These words where written by a man named Isaiah[1], considered a prophet, about 700 BC, before Christ Continue reading “Remembering Jesus on Good Friday”

Christmas Thoughts: What Do the Dead Sea Scrolls Have to Do With Christmas?

When that young Jewish man found a Tanakh, located the Book of Isaiah in it and compared the passage in the Tanahk to the same passage in the “Christian” Old Testament, he was shocked to find that it was virtually identical.

 (c) Can Stock Photo / lucidwaters
(c) Can Stock Photo / lucidwaters

In the first installment of Christmas Thoughts, I left us hanging with a long passage from the Bible. I didn’t give the reference. I wanted the reader to think about it.

If it isn’t familiar to the reader, I wanted the reader to wonder where it might be found.

I have to admit that my inspiration came from a true story. A young Jewish man was presented the same passage and asked to identify where it was found in the Scripture. Like many of us, myself included as a young man, he wasn’t overly familiar with the Scriptures. His knee jerk reaction was that it is from the New Testament somewhere (which he hadn’t read either … but he was Jewish after all).

When he was told where the passage is located in the Bible, he was skeptical – Isaiah 53 … in the Old Testament. His next thought was, “That’s your Bible! I bet it’s not in the Tanuhk!” Continue reading “Christmas Thoughts: What Do the Dead Sea Scrolls Have to Do With Christmas?”

The Bible and the Historical Provenance of Christianity

The Dead Sea Scrolls on display at the caves of Qumran that located on the edge of the Dead Sea in Israel.

Many people say they “do not believe” the Bible. But, what does that mean? The Bible is an ancient document that has been around in the same form for centuries. The Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient manuscripts verify that and reveal that very little (maybe less than 1%) of the substance of the Bible has changed over the centuries.

Some argue over which writings should be included or not included in the canon which we call the Bible, but no one argues that it does not exist and has existed in virtually the same form for over a couple thousand years.

It is an historical record of people and places. Many of those people and places have been cross referenced by other sources. Archaeological finds have also verified many of the people and places in the Bible. People may argue whether every person and place referenced in the text is actual, accurate and factual, but few people seriously argue that it has no historical value.

It is also a collection of stories, poems, songs and sayings. As literature, it is full of imagery, compelling stories and words of wisdom. It has great literary value. The Bible is a collection of writings covering a span of about 1600 years by various authors focusing on particular people in a particular geographical area of the Middle East.

Some of the writings purport to be relatively contemporaneous accounts, and others seem more like historical accounts. Scribes were trained and devoted their lives to the careful transcription of the text from generation to generation. The writings have been collected and preserved by the people who have been passed them down from generation to generation as sacred text.

What is most likely meant when people say they “do not believe the Bible” is that they do not believe the Bible is the “Word of God”. People do not believe it is divinely inspired. Perhaps, the thing that people stumble over the most is the fact that it purports to be just that: a collection of God’s communications with people in history. When people say the do not believe the Bible, they most likely mean they do not believe the Bible can be taken at face value.

Various people have various theories about the Bible. I have even recently heard people say that the Bible was put together by Roman dictators to “control the people” by giving them something to believe in. Really?! There is no scholarly support for that position by the way, but there are other pet theories.

Most scholars agree that there is some “truth” to the Bible. What I mean by that is that there seems little doubt that the collection of writings have been preserved from antiquity in roughly the same form as they are today, through various translations that are pretty amazingly similar, and that the Bible has some historical value, as any ancient text does.

The evidence suggests that all of the Old Testament writings pre-date the first Century. The Dead Sea Scrolls, which pre-date the First Century, include manuscripts from every book in the Old Testament except for Esther. Among the manuscripts found in the Qumran caves that we call the Dead Sea Scrolls, was a complete scroll of the Book of Isaiah dating to at least 200 BC.

In fact, the Bible is the most well-preserved and well-attested of any ancient text. We have more ancient manuscripts of the Bible, by a huge volume, than any other ancient text. It gets even more compelling with the New Testament.

Continue reading “The Bible and the Historical Provenance of Christianity”