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 appears again and is called “the King” and “the Tetrarch.” In Acts 12, 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.
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. They came as follows: Coponius, Marcus Ambivius, Annius Rufus, Valerius Gratus, Pontius Pilate.
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 matter pertaining to political changes so frequently made.
In Luke 2:1-7; 3: 1, 2; Acts 25:31, we find that Augustus Caesar issued a decree that all the world should be enrolled. When John begins his ministry, it is the fifteenth year of Tiberias Caesar, yet many years after Paul makes his appeal to Augustus. Here is apparent contradiction and confusion. Unless one has made a study of the political affairs of that land, it is impossible to get through this tangled network of allusions. But, as already stated, the name “Herod” was attached to both son and grandson of him who was king at the birth of Jesus. The government was first a kingdom; then it was divided into four parts or tetrarchies; then placed under procurators; then changed into a kingdom; and at last back under governors.
The Augustus who appears in Luke as if dead and alive again was none other than Nero who bore the title of Caesar Augustus Nero, and by his flatterers he was styled Augustus.
No other record of that decree, other than Luke’s, could be found and infidels boasted that no such a decree ever went forth. Their conclusion was that Luke or someone else forged it. More than 1900 years went by with none other found, but, in the Memphis Commercial Appeal of December 18, 1927, Mr. William T. Ellis has an article declaring that on the walls of an unearthed building in Angora, Asia Minor, the original decree has been found, and Luke has been corroborated in full. Let me say that all discoveries during the passing of the years have served to confirm the Word of God and render its statement credible.
Thanks be to those who are spending million in the field of archaeology. Many times their object may be to find something contrary to the Bible, but every time the result is the exact reverse. God is the author of that sacred volume and its statements are absolutely reliable and wholly dependable.
The New Testament was written when Palestine was under the Greeks and Romans. Jewish coins went out of use when these nations gained control and others took their places. In the New Testament no mention of this change is made, and yet there are many allusions to the coins then in use. The shekel, the one most common among the Jews and the one found in the Old Testament, is not even mentioned in the New Testament at all. Had these last writings been of a later age, and after the Jewish nation had dispersed, they could not have contained such thorough familiarity with these matters. All this evidences an accurate knowledge on the part of those who wrote the New Testament and renders their words credible.
The Bible represents a woman of Samaria as being surprised that Jesus should ask her for a drink of water. She explains by saying that the Jews and the Samaritans have no dealings with each other. Luke says that on one occasion, Jesus and his disciples were going towards Jerusalem, and that they wanted to lodge in a Samaritan village, but “they did not receive him because his face was as though he were going to Jerusalem.” These statements were made incidentally, in giving an account of other matters, and no word of explanation is made regarding the cause of feeling between the two peoples.
Josephus gives absolute corroboration of the inspired record by telling of the same animosity. He says it was the custom of the Galileans when they went to Jerusalem to the festivals, to pass through the country of the Samaritans; and that on one occasion certain persons belonging to the border town of Ginea came out against a company of the Galileans thus journeying, and killed a great many of them. This led to retaliation on the part of the Jews, and to contentions before the Roman commanders, which finally culminated in a settlement of the contest by an appeal to the emperor (Antiquities xx, 6).
In Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts, constant reference is made to the Pharisees and Sadducees; but there is not one word explaining their origin or their full peculiarities. The writers assume that they were well known among the people and hence, all reference to them is made in quite an incidental way. Josephus mentions them frequently and, being himself a Pharisee, his statements regarding them are authentic.
By comparing his formal account of them with the allusions made in the New Testament, perfect harmony prevails. Matthew represents Jesus as alluding to the reputation of the Pharisees for righteousness of a high order. He said to his disciples, “Except your righteousness shall exceed that of the scribes and Pharisee, you shall in no case enter in to the kingdom of heaven.” Josephus says, “The Pharisees are a certain sect of the Jews who appear more religious that others, and seem to interpret the law more accurately” (Wars, I 5, 2).
He also declares that the Pharisees have so great a power over the multitude, that when they say anything against the king, or against the high priest, they are presently believed.
And again, on account of their doctrines they are able to greatly persuade the body of the people; and whatever the latter do about divine worship, prayers, and sacrifices, they perform according to their directions.
This is the exact kind of influence ascribed to them in the New Testament and this is why Christ devoted so much time to an effort to break down their power over the people. The writers of the inspired record are corroborated on every point and that too, by one unfriendly to the claims of Jesus.
One of the greatest difficulties of writers and travelers is the maintenance of geographical and topographical accuracy. This is peculiarly so when one is trying to give an account of any country with which he is not perfectly familiar, and even then egregious errors appear.
The Encyclopedia Britannica first appeared, although its articles were written by experts in the various departments, it contained so many errors in regard to places in America, that the publishers of the New American Cyclopedia issued a pamphlet exposing the blunders of its rival.
When Tacitus wrote his Description of Germany, it had so many mistakes in geography and topography that some doubted its being the product of an author so well known for reliability.
The principal task of those writers who have visited Palestine, for the purpose of describing its localities, has been to correct the topographical mistakes of predecessors. Even the guide books written for the special benefit of tourists have been found quite erroneous in these particulars. Let it be said without fear of contradiction that in the New Testament not a single error along this line can be found. Whether the writers speak of Palestine or of foreign lands, their statements are absolutely reliable. The argus-eyed critics of twenty centuries have not been unable to find a blunder made. Very few of us can speak of places here in Tennessee and know whether it is up or down from where we are. But in both the Old and the New Testament the writers are never at fault. The man who fell among thieves was going “down to Jericho.” Everybody went “up to Jerusalem.” They went “down to Gaza;” “down to Caesarea;” “down to Lydia;” and “down to Antioch.” Such accuracy, in these matters as prevails throughout the Bible, can only be accounted on the ground that those who wrote were guided by a higher power. My friends, if the Word of God is found in harmony with authentic writers on matters it mentions incidentally, how can you and I doubt its statements made direct regarding the issues of life and death?
The Bible was by inspiration given. Its statements are reliable and its promises are dependable. I am begging you to accept it and let it be a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path. Won’t you accept it even now, while we sing the gospel invitation?[For much of this sermon I have quoted and copied statements made by brethren A. Campbell and J. W. McGarvey.]
This lesson was edited in the scripture quotations provided from the KJV to the NKJV.
From Hardeman’s Tabernacle Sermons – Volume 3, lessons delivered at the Ryman Auditorium, Nashville Tennessee between March 18th and April 1st 1928