"A Book of Jewish Fables"?
With the widespread deterioration of interest in and respect for the Bible in the last half century in America, outspoken ridicule of the inspiration of the Bible has become commonplace in universities, the entertainment industry, and beyond. One such dismissal of the credibility of the Bible is seen in the smug exclamation: “The Bible is simply a book of Jewish fables and fairy tales.” Apart from the heartbreaking sadness in the heart of any Christian who hears such a brazen statement, the level of ignorance possessed by the speaker is appalling. After all, the United States of America was founded in the bosom of the Bible and it exerted a profound influence on American culture for nearly two centuries before it came under relentless attack by sinister forces in education, politics, entertainment, and organizations formed to undermine its influence. Nevertheless, the Bible deserves a fair consideration before being subjected to such a cavalier, unstudied dismissal.
Consider the dictionary definition of a “fable”:
Merriam-Webster: “a fictitious narrative or statement: such as (a) a legendary story of supernatural happenings, (b) a narration intended to enforce a useful truth especially one in which animals speak and act like human beings”
Cambridge Dictionary: “a short story that tells a moral truth, often using animals as characters.”
Webster’s New World College Dictionary: “1. a fictitious story meant to teach a moral lesson: the characters are usually talking animals; 2. a myth or legend; 3. a story that is not true; falsehood.”
Collins Dictionary defines “fairy tale” as “a story for children involving magical events and imaginary creatures.”
One cannot help but be reminded of the famed Aesop’s fables or the folktales of Uncle Remus and the Brothers Grimm. However, to suggest that the Bible as a literary entity may be largely characterized as fable betrays either a deep commitment to bias or an abject unacquaintance with the contents of the Bible.1
An incredible array of evidences exists to demonstrate the supernatural origin of the Bible. For example, unlike fable, biblical literature is saturated with references to specific people and places that have been historically authenticated. Time and time again, when skeptics have challenged its historical claims, the Bible has been consistently vindicated. This brief article will provide the reader with a few examples (out of many) of amazing accuracy in each of six categories: history, geography, topography, science, medicine, and prophecy.
At one time, skeptics insisted that the nation of the Hittites, mentioned so frequently in the Old Testament (nearly 60 occurrences of the term, e.g., Genesis 23:10; 26:34; Joshua 1:4), never existed. No known evidence was available to verify their historicity. This circumstance provided fodder for those who dismissed the divine authenticity of the Bible. As Wright explained in his 1884 volume The Empire of the Hittites:
Now, although the Bible is not a mere compendium of history, its veracity is deeply involved in the historic accuracy of its statements; but the Hittites had no place in classic history, and therefore it was supposed by some that the Bible references to them could not be true. There was a strong presumption that an important people could scarcely have dropped completely out of history, but the strong presumption did not warrant the unscientific conclusion that the Bible narrative was untrue. It was just possible that classic history might be defective regarding a people of whom sacred history had much to say…. The arguments against the historic accuracy of the Bible, based on its references to the Hittites, are never likely to appear again in English literature. The increasing light from Egypt and Assyria reveals to us, in broad outline and in incidental detail, a series of facts, with reference to the Hittites, in perfect harmony with the narratives of the Bible.2
It was Hugo Winckler who in 1906 excavated Bogazkale—the ancient capital of the Hittite Empire—an expansive site of over 400 acres.3 Since that time, studies of the ancient Hittites have proliferated. A veritable host of comparable discoveries could be cited that reinforce the same conclusion, including the fact that at least 63 people mentioned in the Old and New Testaments have been verified by actual inscriptional evidence.4 The New Testament writer Luke mentions 32 countries, 54 cities, and 9 Mediterranean islands, most of which have been historically verified. He even alludes to 95 people, 62 of whom are not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture, and 27 of whom were civil or military leaders.5 The Bible has repeatedly demonstrated itself to be historically accurate.
The man who has gone down in history as the “Father of Biblical Geography” is Edward Robinson. He is credited with instigating the first serious and extensive explorations of Palestine in order to verify the Bible’s geographical accuracy.6 He succeeded in identifying nearly 200 biblical sites. Since that time, literally thousands more have been verified. For example, some scholars once considered the account of the Queen of Sheba’s visit to Solomon to be a bit of fictitious romance. However, not only has Sheba been located in southern Arabia, the Sabaean people were known for their trade exploits as reflected in the Queen’s camel caravan of spices, gold, and precious stones (1 Kings 10:2). As a book from antiquity, the Bible stands alone in the extent to which its geographical accuracy has been substantiated.
Topography refers to the layout of land, i.e., the three-dimensional surface configuration of its physical features, including mountains, valleys, plains, elevations, etc. Incredibly, the Bible has shown itself to be topographically accurate. For example, we are informed in Genesis 12:8 that when Abraham moved from Moreh to the mountain east of Bethel, “he pitched his tent with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east.” Any map of Bible lands will confirm this configuration. In Joshua 7:2, “Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth Aven, on the east side of Bethel.” This topographical arrangement is also easily verified. In Acts 8:26, Phillip was commanded to “go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” Not only is Gaza southwesterly from Jerusalem, the elevation literally descends from Jerusalem to Gaza, from approximately 700 meters (2,300 feet) to 35 meters (115 feet). Such examples could be multiplied endlessly. The Bible is topographically accurate.
The Bible is also scientifically accurate—though it was never intended to function as a science book. While not written in modern scientific jargon, its passing allusions to scientific realities are represented accurately. Note the following listing of but a few scientific facts:
The Laws of Thermodynamics: Genesis 2:1; 2:2; Isaiah 51:6; Psalm 102:26; Hebrews 1:11
The water cycle (condensation-precipitation-evaporation): Ecclesiastes 1:7; 11:3; Amos 9:6
Innumerable stars: Genesis 15:5; Jeremiah 33:22
The parting of light: Job 38:24
Trenches on the ocean floor: Job 38:16
These are but a small sampling of the Bible’s uncanny accuracy in matters of science.
The Bible manifests supernatural acquaintance with modern medical procedures that were far ahead of their time. Ancient civilizations certainly had their notions of medical thinking. But for the most part, their ideas are associated with superstition and ignorance. Not so with the Author of the Law of Moses. Consider just five:
Avoiding communicable disease from dead bodies: Numbers 19:12
The principle of quarantine: Leviticus 13:45-46
Necessity of human waste disposal: Deuteronomy 23:12
Optimum time for circumcision surgery: Leviticus 12:3
Blood as the key to life: Leviticus 17:11-14
The Bible’s divine origin is particularly on display when one examines its predictive prophetic utterances. The general timeframe of the creation of the books of the Bible has been well established. A host of prophecies in the Old Testament can be demonstrated to have been spoken hundreds of years before their fulfillment. Again, here is a listing of only a few:
The fall of Tyre: Ezekiel 26
Zedekiah would not see Babylon: Ezekiel 12:8-13
The destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70: Daniel 9:26
The fall of Babylon: Isaiah 13-14; Jeremiah 50-51; et al.
Babylon would be conquered by a man named Cyrus: Isaiah 44:28; 45:1-7
The rise and fall of Alexander the Great: Daniel 8:5-8
Again, these are only a handful of the incredible number of inspired predictions that riddle the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. The Bible, in fact, contains hundreds of prophecies. Over 300 pertain to the life of Christ on Earth.
A “book of Jewish fables” or “fairy tales”? Such characterizations cannot—and never will be—sustained. No archaeologist’s spade will ever uncover the home of the seven dwarves or the palace of the wicked queen. But King Ahab’s ivory palace has been discovered and excavated (1 Kings 22:39).7 The location of the briar patch into which Brer Bear tossed Brer Rabbit never existed. But Hezekiah’s water tunnel really exists (2 Kings 20:20).8 Rumpelstiltskin, Hansel, and Gretel were not actual historical personages. But the Assyrian King Sargon II, whose historicity was initially questioned since his name occurred nowhere else in ancient literature, was found to have actually lived (Isaiah 20:1).9 Indeed, the Bible surpasses all other books in human history—which is precisely what one would expect if its Author is God. The great tragedy is that so many have dismissed the Bible on the flimsy ground of popular hearsay, depriving themselves of the marvelous self-authentication provided within its pages. Here, indeed, is the Word of God—a message from Deity Himself—announcing His desire that all people be saved in order to be with Him in heaven for all eternity, thereby avoiding the only possible alternative of endless suffering in hell.
1 Some have asserted that Balaam’s talking donkey in Numbers 22:28 is evidence of fable in the Bible. However, see Dave Miller and Jeff Miller (2019), “Does Balaam’s Talking Donkey Prove that the Bible is a Book of Fables?” Apologetics Press, http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=5660.
2 William Wright (1884), The Empire of the Hittites (New York: Scribner & Welford), pp. viii-ix. See also Sir Frederic Kenyon (1940), The Bible and Archaeology (London: George Harrap), pp. 81ff.
3 Joseph Free (1992), Archaeology and Bible History (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, revised edition), p. 108.
4 Jack Lewis (1971), Historical Backgrounds of Bible History (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker), p. 178.
5 Bruce M. Metzger (2003), The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, Content (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press), p. 171.
6 Frederick Bliss (1903), The Development of Palestine Exploration (London: Hodder & Stoughton), pp. 184-223, https://apologetcspress.page.link/The-Development-of-Palestine-Exploration.
7 Director of the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem, John Crowfoot, directed the expedition that excavated the ancient city of Samaria from 1931 to 1935. Ahab reigned during the first half of the 9th century B.C.
8 Hezekiah lived from 715 to 687 B.C. Anticipating a possible siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians, his engineers blocked the Gihon spring’s water outside the city and diverted it to the Pool of Siloam via a channel which they cut through stone beneath the city. An inscription verifying the work was found within the tunnel.
9 It was the French Consul General at Mosul, Paul-Émile Botta, who excavated Sargon’s palace at Khorsabad (Arabic-Dur-Sharrukin) from 1842 to 1844, bringing to light the existence of this Assyrian monarch. Sargon II reigned from 722 to 705 B.C. Cf. Jack Lewis (1999), Archaeology and the Bible (Henderson, TN: Hester Publications), p. 54.