Hayyei Sarah
For the week of: November 6, 1999 / 27 Heshvan 5760
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 23:1 - 25:18
Haftarah: 1 Kings 1:1-31

Is the Bible True?

"I am an alien and a stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead" (Bereshit / Genesis 23:4).

The cover story of the October 25, 1999 issue of U.S.News & World Report is entitled, Is the Bible True? Extraordinary insights from archaeology and history. Journalist Jeffrey Sheller discusses how recent archeological finds have shed light on biblical personalities and events. Some scholars believed that King David, for example, was a mythical creation of the biblical writers until recently.

For some people the historicity of the Bible is based on archeology. It is only when tangible evidence outside of the Bible is found that they accept what the Bible presents.

Of course if the Bible were true, one would expect that there would be all sorts of historical evidence to support it, which there is. But what about those things that as yet don’t have any external evidence? Is it fair to assume that just because we have not yet found mention of a particular person or event outside the pages of the Scriptures that it is not true?

Why is it that we require all this extra-biblical evidence anyway? For centuries people trusted the Bible’s pages. Archeology is an indictment of modern scholarship that brought doubt to the masses. When will we return to assuming the Bible’s accuracy? How much proof do we need?

One of the things that is in favor of the Bible’s accuracy is that it reads as true. This week’s Torah portion, for example, contains the account of Abraham purchasing a burial place for his deceased wife Sarah. We have here a lengthy description of an ancient bargaining procedure.

It is passages like this one that sets the Bible apart from ancient mythology and legend. Even though the Bible contains stories of encounters with God, the biblical writers don’t sensationalize their accounts. Instead they consistently tell it like it is. That is one of the things that makes the supernatural aspects of these writings so powerful. The Bible is a collection of true stories of ordinary people who have encountered an extraordinary God.

Some of you may find any mention of miracles or out-of-the-ordinary happenings too much to swallow. But if this body of literature, which we call the Bible, shows that it is not going out of its way to present fanciful stories as fact, then maybe it is reasonable to seriously consider those things that are outside our own life experiences.

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