The Believable Bible
The word “fiction” means “something made up in a person’s mind.” If you woke up one morning and told your parents that you just spent the night in Neverland with Peter Pan running from Captain Hook, then you would be telling a fictional story. (You may have dreamed that you were in a place called Neverland, but Neverland is not a real place and Peter Pan and Captain Hook are not real, historical people.)
Fictional stories can be fun to make up and enjoyable to read and listen to. Millions of people have been entertained by made-up people and events in imagined places such Narnia, Hogwarts, and the Emerald City of Oz (among thousands of other imaginary places).
Many people question the Bible and wonder if it is merely a work of fiction—full of made-up people, places, and things. They wonder if the Bible is believable or unbelievable. Is it more of a fairytale, or is it real history?
The Bible writers themselves went to great lengths to inform their readers that they were not making their stories up. They were not in the entertainment business. Their intention was not to invent stories to amuse people and to become rich and famous. On the contrary, the penmen of the Bible frequently testified to the truthfulness of their teachings, and were often persecuted because of what they taught.
Three of the most prominent spokesmen and writers of the New Testament were Paul, Peter, and John. They continually faced the wrath of both Jews and Gentiles because of what they taught. For their New Testament teachings, they were arrested and imprisoned multiple times. They were beaten (Acts 5:40-42; 2 Corinthians 11:23-25). Paul was once stoned with rocks so badly that his violent attackers thought he was dead (Acts 14:19). The apostles obviously would not have endured such continual suffering for telling fairytales. No, they suffered for teaching and writing about real people and places, and eternally important things, which made many people very mad. Peter wrote: “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). John wrote: “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you…and these things we write to you” (1 John 1:3-4). Paul declared that his teachings were “words of truth and reason,” not made-up fiction (Acts 26:25).
Not only did the often-persecuted Bible writers contend that they were writing truth, a close examination of their writings reveals a straightforward reality expected from actual, historical works.
From the beginning to the end of the Bible, the penmen of Scripture repeatedly testified that Jesus was a real person. He was “born of a woman” (Galatians 4:4; Genesis 3:15). He had an extensive genealogy full of real people, including ancestors such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Rahab, Ruth, and David. Jesus was born in the real town of Bethlehem of Judea, which was located near the real city of Jerusalem.
King David captured the city of Jerusalem and made it the capital of Israel in about 1,000 B.C. Following David, 20 kings of Judah reigned in Jerusalem (which also became known as “the City of David”). One of these rulers was King Hezekiah, who, in about 700 B.C., had his engineers and workers dig a tunnel through solid rock under the city—from the Gihon spring “to the west side of the City of David” (2 Chronicles 32:30). Rather than serve as water for Judah’s enemies (the Assyrians—2 Chronicles 32:4), the “tunnel…brought water into the city” of Jerusalem (2 Kings 20:20). Thus, Judah had a steady supply of water inside the city, even when the evil Assyrians were outside the walls laying siege.
Why all this discussion about a tunnel? Was it really just a made-up, mythical waterway? Actually, in the 1800s, this 1,750-foot-long tunnel was discovered. Sure enough, it is located directly under the City of David, just as the Bible writers had written thousands of years ago. The tunnel goes from northeast to southwest, about 100 feet below ground, bringing water “to the west side” of the old city of Jerusalem, just as 2 Chronicles 32:30 says. Today, visitors to Jerusalem can walk the dark, wet, narrow, 2,700-year-old, underground waterway.
Speaking of water, the greatest body of water that the New Testament Gospel writers repeatedly refer to is the Sea of Galilee. This 13-mile-long by 8-mile-wide body of water is also known by other names, including the Sea of Tiberias (named after the second Emperor of Rome) and the Lake of Gennesaret. (There was a town by the name of Gennesaret on the northwestern side of the lake.)
It was in the real region of Galilee, near this real body of water, that Jesus grew up in the real town of Nazareth. Then, when He began His public ministry at about the age of 30 (Luke 3:23), Jesus spent most of His time in the cities around the Sea of Galilee. There were no “Narnias” and “Neverlands” with mythical creatures in the biblical accounts of Jesus’ life, but real people and places.
The region of Galilee was ruled by a real person—the son of Herod the Great, known as “Herod the tetrarch” (Matthew 14:1). Real towns in Galilee include:
- Cana (in which Jesus performed His first miracle)
- Nain (in which Jesus raised the son of a widow from the dead)
- Bethsaida (where the apostles Peter, Andrew, and Philip were from)
- Magdala (where Mary Magdalene was from)
- And Gennesaret (where Jesus and His apostles once anchored their boat prior to Jesus healing many people)
Though Jesus had no permanent home once leaving Nazareth and beginning His ministry, “He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea” (Matthew 4:13). Capernaum became “his own city” (Matthew 9:1; Mark 2:1), which likely means that it became the “hub” of His ministry. He worked there…and from there He went “everywhere” (throughout Galilee).
Though Peter and Andrew had grown up in Bethsaida (John 1:44), by the time Jesus began His ministry they lived in Capernaum (Mark 1:21-31). Their house likely became “the house” (Mark 2:1) in which Jesus spent a lot of time and did some wonderful works, including healing Peter’s mother-in-law and a paralytic (Mark 2:1-12).
Capernaum is where Jesus healed a centurion’s servant. It is where He healed many of demon possession. And it is where He taught amazing truths, including in the synagogue.
According to Mark 1:21-22, Jesus “went into Capernaum” and “entered the synagogue and taught. And they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Amazingly, the black, basalt-rock foundation of the first-century Capernaum synagogue is still in existence today. Indeed, it was a real place, in a real town, in which Jesus once really worked wonders and taught eternally important truths.
The truths of Jesus and the Bible writers are the most analyzed and scrutinized statements in world history. The Bible has been “put to the test” more than any other book on the planet. And, far from being found to be a fabled fairytale of mythical people, places, and events, the Bible is the most historically documented and factually accurate book ever written. Truly, as the psalmist said to God, “The entirety of Your word is truth” (Psalm 119:160).
REPRODUCTION & DISCLAIMERS: We are happy to grant permission for this article to be reproduced in part or in its entirety, as long as our stipulations are observed.