Ravi Zacharias on the historicity of the Bible and its prophetic accuracy; he gives as example the Book of Daniel prophecy concerning Alexander the Great. Daniel 8:1-27 and 11:3-4.
Ravi Zacharias at University of Illinois. (transcribed from video-7 minutes)
Student- Hi Ravi, how you doing?
Ravi- Hey good to see you.
Student: I just wanted to ask you, could you explain in a matter more pragmatic than we’re used to why a person should believe in the word of God as the Bible and why they should basically believe every word it says as opposed to any other ‘holy book’ and why they should give their entire life to Christ.
Ravi- I mean, I know it’s a really rough question, but that’s like saying – define God and give three examples.
Student- Isn’t that just the Trinity?
Ravi- Yeah, well it’s a legitimate question, I’m sorry for responding humorously there, of course it takes a whole lot of time. In my book ‘Can man live without God?’ which was a series of lectures delivered at Harvard, the second part of it, deals with that very thing, so let me start off the best as I can.
First, I believe that truth as a category does exist. Number two it is possible in a majority of claims of philosophical and historical statements to verify the truthfulness of those affirmations. Third, I believe there are existential realities from which I cannot run, which drive me to find the answers to the existential struggles that I live with, not just the philosophical ones.
The philosophical ones are real and I have to deal with them, but so are the existential ones and by the way-existentialism came as a response to the unpaid bills of philosophy. Philosophy has become so cerebral that the passions have been ignored and the existentialism came into being and sort of tossed out the rationalistic way of interpreting things and went purely with the gut level feeling, a la Sartre, and Camus and so on.But I think what we are trying to do is we are trying to find the bridge between the head and the heart. There are numerous ways of doing this and the way you start off with by saying,”You take the Bible as the question. Then, why the Bible and why not any other system of thought?
You start off with the Scriptures and ask your self the question. Here, there are 66 books by nearly 40 different authors, over 1500 years. There are books on history, there are books on philosophical thinking, there are books on theological thinking and systematic thinking. Now, if the Bible made several assertions, one after another that you found out to be false, either historically or philosophically or in the existential realm, you go further and further and if you see that kind of systemic contradiction and failure, then you have reason to believe that I do not really believe this document. It is not in keeping with the way I am seeing history and reality. But when you look at the Scriptures, and by the way, the Bible is a very distinctive piece of literature to any other religion’s piece of scripture. Any Muslim will tell you that his book, the Koran, is word for word perfect. It is a perfect revelation of Allah in the eye of the Muslim They will affirm that again and again. That’s why no translation of the Koran will ever do justice in their estimation of the Koran, it is the perfect expression of Allah himself as dictated to Muhammad, who recited it. Now the Bible as we know it, does not affirm that ‘verbal perfection’. I actually have a great deal of difficulty with verbal perfection. Are we really saying that no one word would have been better than another word in this volume of material? But when you take the Scriptures disclosed over centuries and over 1500 years, 40 different writers, 66 books- and you see the prophetic scheme all the way to the person of Christ.
Let me give you an example of this: The book of Daniel is written in the late 500’s before Christ, and yet when you study the Book of Daniel, you begin to see the specifics of a fantastic prophecy. He talks about a massive empire that will come into being and how that empire will be divided into 4, and that empire will be led by a strident, strong he-goat from the West who’ll be marching several nations under foot, but shall be suddenly cut off and his empire will be divided into 4. Those 4 then emerge into 2, and those 2 blend into 1. When you take the Book of Daniel, written late 500’s BC and put it ‘pro forma’ unto Alexander the Great’ in the 300’s BC, you see the stridency of Alexander.
Suddenly cut off in his 20’s, 4 kingdoms emerge, given to his 4 generals. Those 4 (Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt, the Seleucid Empire in the east, the Kingdom of Pergamon in Asia Minor, and Macedon) come into the 2 two empires and that emerged them into the Roman empire. Centuries before- to be so specific in prophecy. You go to the prophecy of Zechariah , who describes the crucifixion of Christ, ”They shall look upon Him whom they have pierced and weep as a mother weeps for her only sons. You go to the prophecy of Isaiah and see how the Christ is going to suffer. Immediately you see the supernatural.
So, when you take the miraculous element, you take the historical element; you look into the Scriptures and you see there is an authenticity and it all points to one perfect person, the person of Christ.
Bruce Metzger who is a scholar from Princeton, made the comment…he said, “After you take the 20,000 lines of the New Testament, it is safe for any scholar to say there’s at least a 99.6% accuracy. No ancient document, NONE! Has the kind of document support that the Bible has, over 5,000 documents. Even Time magazine in ’88, Richard Ostling made the comment: “One thing we cannot deny the Christians is the documentation that is available throughout the centuries, nothing in literature matches it. Not Homer, not the Gallic Wars of Caesar or whatever.
So when you got this kind of documentation, this kind of accuracy; that kind of person in Jesus Christ, I think you got pretty compelling evidence to see why it is that we need to take Christ very seriously.