Truth and Error in Two Recent Secular Reports about Jesus and the Bible...

Two Recent Claims about Jesus and the Bible: One Hopelessly Inaccurate and Sensationalist, the Other Well-Researched

The Shape of Nebuchadnezzar's Rebuilt Tower?

M ost depictions of the tower of Babel show a shape which could not have lasted long with a long tower with rounded shape and approximately consistent width, but a mud brick tower of such a shape and height could not have lasted for very long; whether the original tower was this shape or not we do not know but when Nebuchadnezzar II set out to rebuild this tower, better building knowledge was available to him and it appears that he rebuilt on a ziggurat-type shape.

The recent TV feature also claimed that many of the Hebrews whom the Babylonians took into capitivity (from 586BC) were put to work in rebuilding the tower. The Bible is silent on this part but that does not mean that this never happened.

We would not have known about Nebuchadnezzar's attempts at rebuilding the tower at all but for a stone tablet which claims that he did. We also know that however the reconstruction took place it too appears to have perished because only the foundation now remains.

T here have been a mixed bag of reports and claims about Jesus and the Bible appearing in the secular press (and TV), in the last few weeks and months. I am looking at just two of these, one very bad, one good.

1. Jesus - "Unknown to Historians" ?

First of all, there was a sensationalist type of claim appearing in the Daily Mail a number of weeks ago claiming that "Jesus is unknown to historians." Many of us smiled at this and wondered at the lack of research of the writer, since we know that this is simply untrue. As James Nienhuis has written:

"As the written Gospels were being circulated in the decades after Jesus' incarnation, it is obvious that many people who witnessed the works, words, and crucifixion of Jesus were then still alive, and indicatively, none of them objected to the accuracy of the circulating Gospels. And the Roman historians Suetonius and Tacitus confirm the historicity of Christ and the faith that He fostered, as does the Hebrew Talmud which confirms that Jesus did in fact perform miracles.

The Roman historian Thallus recorded that the sun did go dark at mid-day during the time of the Crucifixion as the Bible also describes. Thallus said that the darkness was due to a solar eclipse, however, the Passover (when Christ was crucified) always occurred during full moons (when solar eclipses cannot happen). And the Bible describes three hours of mid-day darkness, whereas, solar eclipses last merely a few minutes, therefore, the pagan Thallus accurately recorded the mid-day darkening, but not the mechanism for the darkening. (The mechanism for the sky's darkening at the Crucifixion remains a mystery)." (source: ).

Moreover, there is even more than this:

The scholarly consensus is that Tacitus' reference to the execution of Jesus by Pontius Pilate is both authentic, and of historical value as an independent Roman source. Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd - among others - state that it is "firmly established" and that the testimony of Tacitus provides a non-Christian confirmation of the crucifixion of Jesus.

Now, what of the great historian Josephus? Let us look:

There are two References to Jesus.

"Josephus' writings cover a number of figures familiar to Bible readers. He discusses John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, Pontius Pilate, the Sadducees, the Sanhedrin, the High Priests, and the Pharisees. As for Jesus, there are two references to him in Antiquities. I will recount them in the order in which they appear.

First, in a section in Book 18 dealing with various actions of Pilate, the extant texts refer to Jesus and his ministry. This passage is known as the Testimonium Flavianum...

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day.
Jewish Antiquities 18.3.3.

Second, in Book 20 there is what could be called a passing reference to Jesus in a paragraph describing the murder of Jesus' brother, James, at the hands of Ananus, the High Priest.

But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as lawbreakers, he delivered them over to be stoned.
Jewish Antiquities 20.9.1

So is it seriously suggested that the historians are silent on Jesus? They most certainly are not! Josephus is recognised as a great historian, as are the Roman historians Tacitus and Suetonius. If one wishes to write a sensationalist article one should research - research - research! Apparently this does not apply to tabloid newspapers.

2. The Tower of Babel - No Longer Just a Story!

Atheists and sceptics had quite often laughed at the story of the tower of Babel in Genesis. It was seen as just some rather silly tale which the Jews had got hold of but which no educated person would take seriously - no longer!

The Tower of Babel incident occurred somewhere around 4,200 years ago, 100 years after the Flood but before Abraham was born. This was before ancient Egypt, Greece, and other early civilizations. These places could not have begun until after people left Babel to establish these other civilizations.

The very foundations of the tower of Babel have now been discovered due to the wonder of modern aerial photography. One's thanks here must go to a TV documentary which was televised on Channel 5 - Select on Sunday, September 8th, 2019 here in the UK. The programme was called, 'The Real Tower of Babel,' and unlike the sort of things one might have seen previously, the assembled experts were pretty much convinced the ancient tower was a reality and that it's site had now been located. Unusual that the several assembled experts (no Christian connections as far as one could tell), were very respectful to the Bible. A brief YouTube video is helpful. It is here:

At long last there are indications that researchers into the world of antiquity are looking at biblical stories again. Their attitude seems to be: 'we have looked into other stories of antiquity and found them to be based on the truth, so why should the accounts in Genesis be any different?' This is refreshing indeed.

The only error in this programme was to state (or, to strongly infer), that the builder of the tower was Nebuchadnezzar; it was built much earlier than that. The confusion comes in because Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar was the man who set out to rebuild the ruined tower (which was located in his kingdom), and he is depicted on this newly discovered tablet which this TV documentary discusses. So it seems that in the great Babylonian kingdom, Nebuchadnezzar claimed (in his vanity) that the tower was his; the truth appears to be that he set about rebuilding the much earlier ruined tower. The tower - it seems - was based upon a ziggurat-type structure. The TV show had much interesting discussion of this subject in a (very rare) attitude of being prepared to believe what the Bible states.

So here we have two stories and claims regarding Jesus and the Bible (the first completely in error because apparently no serious research was carried out, the second, regarding the tower of Babel, using meticulous research, substantially backing up the Old Testament account).

Robin A. Brace. September 10th, 2019.