Is the Bible a trustworthy document? Are the Scriptures I true as written? Or are they full of myths that may have I symbolic value but little if any basis in fact? People have mm been questioning the biblical record almost from its beginnings. Peter, for instance, encountered skepticism as he presented the gospel in the first century His claims about Jesus were nothing but cleverly devised fables, some said—a charge he vehemently denied (2 Pet. 1:16). Today the Bible’s credibility and authority are still attacked. Yet how many of its critics have carefully studied its teaching? How many have even looked at the story of how it came to be written?
The prophetic expression describing the time of Judah’s captivity as “seventy years” (Jer 25:11,12; 29:10) has prompted speculation throughout the history of interpretation.
- The numeric systems of the ancient Near East were predominantly hexagesimal (based upon ascending groups of six), and the maximum number that could be easily calculated was 60,The number 70 may have been used to symbolically represent a numeric value of staggering proportions or perhaps the number of years representing a generation (Ps 90:10; Isa 23:15). The number 70 may have been used in the same way in Jeremiah 25, as in Isaiah’s announcement that Tyre would be desolate for 70 years (Isa 23:15,17), and a similar usage may be reflected in the Black Stone of Esarhaddon, in which Marduk decreed displeasure against Babylon for 70 years.
- The original context of the prophetic word was the fourth year of Jehoiakim of Judah and the first of Nebuchadnezzar (605 B.C.). “Until this very day” (Jer 25:3) Jeremiah anticipated a period of devastation and judgment during which Judah would serve Babylon. Upon the completion of this interval, the prophet expected that divine judgment would be visited upon Babylon (vv. 12-13) and Judah and that Jerusalem would be restored (29:10-14).
King Jehoiakim began to serve the Babylonians by politically consigning Judah as a vassal state in 604 B.C. (2Ki 24:1). Almost 70 years later Babylon was captured by the Persians, bringing about the end of Babylonian sovereignty over Judah and initiating the process of exilic return under Cyrus the Great (539/538 B.C.).
The Jews who had returned from the Babylonian captivity began rebuilding the temple in 536 B.C. Construction was halted, however, because of opposition from local adversaries of Judah. Sixteen years later, on September 21, 520 B.C., work resumed with the encouragement of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (Ezr 4:24; 5:1-2; Hag 1:4-15). The Jews were again challenged, this time by Tattenai, governor of the Persian province of Trans-Euphrates (Ezr 5:3-5). He is described as a local governor under the satrap of Babylon and Trans-Euphrates. Tattenai expressed concern about the rebuilding to the Persian king Darius I. However, after locating a copy of a decree made by Cyrus, Darius ordered Tattenai to fully support the reconstruction and even to provide government funding (6:1—12). The temple was completed on March 12, 515 B.C.
The dating of Daniel is controversial (see also the book introduction). Traditional scholarship holds that the book was composed in the sixth century B.C., concurrent with the historical information it provides. But common arguments for dating Daniel in the second century B.C. are as follows:
- Jesus ben Sirach (Sir 44-50), writing in approximately 180 B.C, cited numerous Old Testament heroes—but not Daniel.
- Belshazzar is called “king” of Babylon in Daniel 5; the actual king was Nabonidus.
- Darius the Mede (ch. 6) is otherwise unknown.
- The stories of Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity and of the fiery furnace read like pious legends—far-fetched miracle stories common in intertestamental Jewish texts.
- Half of Daniel was written in Aramaic, a language Jews spoke during the intertestamental period. Daniel 3 also includes three Greek words—suggesting that the book was written after Greek culture had invaded the Near East.
- But this evidence is not as strong as it appears:
- Ben Sirach also omits mention of other famous Israelites, including Ezra. Also, Sirach may himself have been influenced by Daniel. In Sirach 36:10 he prayed, “Hasten the day, and remember the appointed time”—verbiage resembling Daniel 11:27, 35. It may be that ben Sirach offhandedly cited Daniel, which of course implies that the book already existed in his lifetime.
The book demonstrates familiarity with the history and culture of the seventh and sixth centuries B.C. Daniel rightly portrays the position of Belshazzar, coregent with Nabonidus. He could have appropriately been called “king” (5:1), but in 5:16 Belshazzar offered to make the one who could interpret the writing on the wall “the third highest ruler in the kingdom.” As Belshazzarwas himself the second ruler, this was the highest honor he could confer.
First and Second Peter both claim authorship by Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Pe 1:1; 2 Pe 1:1, 17-18) and “a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed” (1 Pe 5:1).The early church unhesitatingly received 1 Peter as authentic. Some examples:
- Papias (a.o.60- 135) noted that “Mark is mentioned by Peter in his first epistle” (Eusebius, History, 2.15).
- Clement of Rome (A.D. 30-101); The Didache (an anonymous, early-second-century A.D. work dealing with a variety of doctrinal and practical matters of import to the early Christian church); and Polycarp (a.d. 69-156) all quoted from 1 Peter.
- Irenaeus (A.D. 130-200) cited 1 Peter, using the apostle’s name [Against Heresies, 4.9.2; 4.16.5).
- Eusebius summarized the canonical discussion by placing letters in four categories [History, 3.25):
those recognized as genuine by all Christians (e.g., 1 Pe);
those that, though disputed, were still recognized as authentic by the church as a whole and were familiar to most Christians (e.g., 2Pe);
Christian readers are often puzzled when they read a quotation from the Old Testament in the New Testament and then, in looking up the actual Old Testament text, discover that it is somewhat different from the cited quotation. Often, this difference is based on the fact that the Old Testament was translated from the standard version of the Hebrew Bible (the Masoretic text), whereas the New Testament is citing the same passage as it appears in the early Greek translation of the Old Testament known as the Septuagint.
As the early church developed, Gentile believers needed to be taught “sound doctrine” (Tit 2:1). Although Paul and the apostles exclusively used the Old Testament as their canonical Bible, Gentiles also encountered many other Jewish religious texts among the Greek scrolls of the Scriptures. Many Gentile believers no doubt embraced these books as authoritative, and debate over their place in the churches has raged ever since.
The term “Apocrypha” (meaning “hidden away”) refers broadly to a grouping of non-canonical books. However, the collection commonly called the Apocrypha is limited to 14 or 15 documents that were for the most part written during the last two centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. The Apocrypha actually represents only a small portion of the extant noncanonical Jewish literature from this period. Second Esdras 14:45-46 explicitly refers to the large amount of such material known at that time. In this passage a distinction is made between the canonical books of the Hebrew Old Testament—to be published for everyone—and “the seventy books which were written later”—to be reserved for the wise among the people.
Until fairly recently a majority of scholars espoused the Documentary Hypothesis to explain the composition of the Pentateuch, the first five Old Testament books. This theory asserts that these writings were actually based on four books, none still extant, referred to (for ease of identification) as J (Yahwist or Jahwist), E (Elohist), D (Deuteronomist) and P (Priestly Code). The main arguments for this theory are the existence of repetition and apparent contradiction within these five books, as well as the use of different names for God. According to this hypothesis: