Redemptive History as Apologetics

fter explaining the origin of the universe and of humanity and sin, the Bible provides an account of God’s redemptive work through the choosing of a people, the nation of Israel. Like the creation of the world, the chronology of the nation of Israel is presented as a historical account of God’s activity in the world.

As Timothy Paul Jones explains, “The first report we have of God calling a human being to write was when God commanded Moses to write what he heard (Exodus 17:14, 24:4-7). And so, Moses recounted the story of God’s work with humanity all the way from the beginning of time up to the people’s entrance into the Promised Land.[1]” This true story of a nation in the Arab world, chosen by God, provides invaluable apologetic resources to us today.

This Bible explains that the account of the nation of Israel is documented so that future generations might know the words and works of God (Psalm 78:6). The biblical apologist is able to use redemptive history in the very way Scripture does, to point future generations to the faithful Creator who offers salvation to all who believe, who fulfills his promises, and who sustains his people.

In addition to the history of Israel recorded in Scripture, the historical evidence left in the nation’s wake, accessible through archeology and extra-biblical literature, is extremely helpful for apologetics. Like other corroborating evidences, archeology is not fundamental to biblical apologetics, but should not be ignored or neglected.

God’s real work in the real world left the very kind of evidence you would expect of any civilization that takes up real estate, makes military conquests, and builds stuff. Israel left a trail of breadcrumbs: towns, villages, battlefields, tombs, temples, and cities. Figuratively speaking, God left footprints in Palestine.

As the Nobel Prize winning archeologist Nelson Glueck makes plain, “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has every controverted a biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries.[2] ”

Sir William Ramsay, the first to chair the Lincoln Professor of Classical Archeology and Art at the University of Oxford, came to a similar conclusion, with an emphasis on the historical reliability of the New Testament authors. Ramsay, once a critic of the New Testament, came to see Luke as a “model historian.” The predictive value of the New Testament for where to look, and what to expect, in archaeological research drove Ramsay to accept the textual witness of the gospel for both his research and his life. The words of Scripture are recorded in ink, while the movements of God’s people are recorded in stone.

[1]    See Timothy Paul Jones’ chapter “The Bible: How We Got It” in Standing for Truth, Louisville, KY: Crossings Press, 2018, 24.
[2]    Glueck, Nelson. Rivers in the Desert. New York: Farrar, Srous and Cudahy, 1959. 136.