Can a Sensible Man Believe the Bible? – N.B. Hardeman

N.B. Hardeman

Enemies of God’s Word would be glad to see this question made prominent in all newspapers, magazines and periodicals, because of what they think it implies. Why not put it: “Can an honest, sensible man reject the Bible?” Such is my query now, and I submit this article with the hope of strengthening the faith of those who read it. For twenty centuries the enemies of the Bible have filed every objection possible—nothing new has been presented for generations—and, yet, the Bible proves itself adamant to all attacks. Many a hammer has been beaten to frazzles on the anvil of God’s truth.

An objection has been raised to the effect that during the time Jesus is supposed to have lived practically nothing is said about Him in the secular press or by the historian. The fact that but little is said is perfectly natural and altogether human.

Nothing new in the way of objections to the Bible has been presented for generations. At that time the world was engaged in military affairs, and only heroes and heroines on the field of battle received publicity. Worldly glory and deeds of valor occupy the pages of publications. The weapons used by Christ and His disciples were not carnal. He had no great armies clad in brilliant uniforms to unfurl His banner. There was no great political power of men of wealth to shout His praise. He lived in a despised town and belonged to the common people. Why waste ink and space in telling about the carpenter’s son?

But, there were a few references made by some of His enemies, and, while not intended, these but confirm what the Bible says.

The story of Christ as told by His apostles was corroborated by unbelieving historians. Among the Jews, Josephus is the outstanding historian. He was born four years after Jesus was put to death. He was seven years old when James was beheaded, and he lived until the end of the first century. At the age of nineteen years, he took his stand with the Pharisees, the leading denomination of his day. As a historian he could have said but little about Jesus and His teaching without uprooting his own sect. He tells of the war between Herod the Tetrarch and his father-in-law Aretas, and of the intrigue between Herod and Herodias. Herod was defeated in the war, and says: “But some of the Jews were of the opinion that God had suffered Herod’s whole army to be destroyed as a just punishment on him for the death of John, called the Baptist.” He also says, “Herod had killed John who was a just man and had called upon the Jews to be baptized and practice virtue.

The details of the above mentioned war are not given in the Bible, but Matthew, Mark and Luke tell of John the Baptist’s rebuking Herod for taking his brother’s wife. Thus, between the historian of opposite faith and writers of the New Testament there is perfect harmony.

Caius Cornelius Tacitus was a heathen writer of the first century. He rose in the realm of Rome to become consul in the year 97. His reliability and superior style are recognized by the fact that some of his texts are used in many of our colleges to this day. He hated the Christians of his time because they would not worship his idol gods. But, in writing the story of affairs, the following is a summary of what he says regarding Christ and His disciples:

  1. Christ was the founder of a sect of Christians.

  2. Christ was put to death as a criminal.

  3. He was executed by Pontius Pilate.

  4. Tiberius was Emperor of Rome—hence,

  5. Jesus was born in the reign of Augustus.

  6. This “pernicious superstition” was checked for a time by the death its founder.

  7. This “pernicious superstition” broke out again and spread not only over Judea but reached the city of Rome.

  8. Christians were persecuted in Rome as early as 64.

  9. Vast numbers were discovered and condemned because they were accused of burning the city and because of their hatred for mankind.

  10. They were hated as the off scourging of the earth and the filth of things.

  11. They were destroyed to gratify the cruelty of one man.

Pliny, the younger, was another great Roman writer and was made Proconsul of Bithynia from 106 to 108. Upon entering this district to assume office he found a great persecution being waged by the Government. He continued it for a while and finally wrote a letter to the Emperor Trajan at Rome to know what to do about the matter.

From the letter he wrote the following facts were stated:

  1. Many Christians of every age and rank and of both sexes were then in Bithynia.

  2. Their teaching and influence were such that heathen temples were most deserted and the victims for sacrifices could hardly find a purchaser.

  3. None who were really Christians could, by any means, be compelled to make supplication to the image of Caesar, or the statue of the gods.

  4. After the most searching inquiry, including torture to force confessions, he had found no vice among them.

  5. They suffered for the name of being Christians without any charge of crime.

  6. They were accustomed, on stated days, to hold two meetings; one, for singing “in concert” hymns to Christ, and for making vows to live righteously; and the other, for eating a “harmless meal.”

  7. Those who were Roman citizens were sent to Rome for trial.

This testimony comes from writers who lived in the first century of the Christian Era. They were all enemies of our Lord, but they wrote as historians an accurate account of things then going on. Scholars and infidels have never questioned the authenticity of their statements about secular affairs. I must insist that but for prejudice and downright hatred of Christianity they would be forced to accept the Bible, seeing its statements are so perfectly corroborated by those who lived with the apostles and early disciples and knew whereof they spoke. Were the whole New Testament blotted out, the world could get a pretty fine idea of its teachings and influence upon the hearts and lives of men from these and other historians who, though enemies of the cross of Christ, in giving the story of their day, confirm the words of inspiration given.

But for prejudice and downright hatred, the Bible would be accepted. The period covered by New Testament history was characterized by frequent and complicated changes in the political affairs of Judea and of the countries around it. None of these is accurately described in the New Testament, and, yet, it contains many allusions to each in an incidental way. Josephus gives a detailed account of all. This fact affords a most excellent opportunity to test the accuracy of sacred writers. Agreements can be accounted for on no ground except perfect information on both sides. The New Testament reader who has no other source of information is left in great confusion. In the history of Matthew and Luke we read of “Herod the King.” In Matthew 2, we find that Herod the King dies, yet, in chapter 14, Herod the King beheads James. In these statements not a word of explanation appears. In Matthew 2, Archelaus is king of Judea, and in Matthew 27, Pilate is governor of the same region. In Acts 12, Herod is king of Judea, and in Acts 23, Felix is its governor. No explanation is made, and, yet, by consulting Josephus, all is in harmony with the facts of history. The Herod under whom Jesus was born died and was succeeded by his son Herod as ruler of a part of his father’s dominion with the title of both king and tetrarch. The Herod who beheaded James was a grandson of the first, and was made king by Claudius Caesar. Herod the tetrarch was deposed by the Romans and procurators were sent to rule in his stead.

After these, the government of Palestine was again changed, and Herod who beheaded James was made king over all the land. Upon his death three years later, governors were again appointed, of whom Felix was one. Thus, it appears that the Bible is absolutely accurate in all these matters pertaining to political changes so frequently made.

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