People tended to treat Charlie Smith’s purported age as just one more of his wild tales. In 1972 he claimed to be 124, a slave-ship survivor and a personal friend of Jesse James.
In fact, loveable Charlie did make it to 100 by the time he died in 1979, but no further. Researchers decided his imagined life as a slave and pursuer of Billy the Kid came from the stories he’d heard as a child, but no one really cared. After all, the stories were entertaining and Charlie’s smile tended to communicate that not even he believed everything he said.
At the height of his celebrity status, Charlie Smith was invited to sit in the VIP area at Kennedy Space Center to watch the launch of Apollo 17. It was to be the final Apollo moon mission, and someone thought it might be appropriate to have the nation’s oldest man on hand to witness the zenith of American technology. In a single lifetime, we’d gone from horse-drawn buggies to space ships!
But Charlie announced he didn’t believe the men on board Apollo 17 were going to the moon. After the launch shattered the silence of the night with an explosion of sound and light, members of the media wanted to know what he thought. “I see they going somewhere,” he drawled, “but that don’t mean nothing.”
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Almost certainly, there are still people who refuse to believe a dozen men have walked on the moon, despite the 842 pounds of moon-rock souvenirs those astronauts brought home after their well-photographed journeys.
What are you going to do? Fact is, some people are determined to believe what they want to believe, despite rock-solid evidence to the contrary.
Which brings me to the Bible and the incredible collection of rocks coming out of the land of the Bible right now.
Once in a while you’ll run into someone bound and determined to hold on to the liberal teaching of the 19th century known as “redaction criticism” or “higher criticism.” The authors of biblical texts, according to this school of thought, were editors and inventors. They manipulated historical events, the sayings of Jesus and accounts of miracles to pursue their own purposes. If needed, the Bible’s writers even made up stories and sayings!
The problem, of course, is that this gives people living 2,000 years after the fact the responsibility of separating fact from fiction — based mainly on their own opinions.
Maybe you’ve heard of “Jesus Seminar,” which literally votes on biblical accuracy. Or perhaps you’ve just read the weekly musings of Bill Cummings in his Sunday Telegraph column as he postulates on what parts of the Bible might — or might not — be true.
All the while, evidence for biblical reliability is mounting faster than a pile of moon rocks.
Did you know that more than a million fragments of ancient texts have been found in the past century? Many of these non-biblical writings deal with historical events and world leaders from the biblical era. Taken as a whole, these writings aren’t debunking the Bible’s record — they’re supporting it.
And the archaeological evidence is simply astounding. In the past 25 years, so much has been found in Israel, that museums can’t hold it all.
Thanks to the day in which we live, you can freely wander over dozens of ancient cities mentioned in the Bible — from Lachish and Gath in the south of Israel to Dan and Caesarea Philippi in the North. As of two years ago, you can walk the streets of Magdala, the hometown of Mary Magdalene. If you like, you can also explore the foundation of David’s palace in Jerusalem or wade through Hezekiah’s Tunnel far below that palace.
The examples of archaeological discoveries are simply too many to cite.
Here’s what’s important to know. In each case, archeologists at each of those sites are using the Bible as one of their tools for identifying what they’ve found. Why? Because they’ve learned that when the Bible gives a geographic location, it consistently tells the truth about that location.
The growing pile of historical and geographical evidence doesn’t prove that a single one of the Bible’s reported miracles took place. The rocks on the ground don’t negate the intentions of the Bible writers to communicate the message they felt God had given them to deliver. But why would the writers of biblical events go to so much trouble to tell us the truth about the place those events happened, and then lie about what happened there?
Andy Cook lives in Peach County and is the founder of Experience Israel Now.