The Bible’s Amazing Influence—In Ways that Many Overlook
MILLIONS have lived by it. Many have died for it. All of these loved it. Others, for religious or political reasons, have shown intense hatred for it and have hounded, tortured and killed those who believe in it. “It” is a book; for many, THE BOOK.
The very fact that the Bible has engendered such deep feelings is sufficient to show that it is no ordinary book. There must be something different about a book of well over a thousand closely printed pages that has been translated in its entirety into 275a languages, and parts of it into no less than 1,710 languages and dialects.
The Bible is the world’s all-time best-seller, an estimated 2,500,000,000 copies having been printed. What is more, it is continually being translated into additional dialects, and retranslated into the world’s principal languages in order to squeeze the very quintessence out of the original, written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Why all this effort if the Bible is “just another book”?
No other book on earth has inspired so many artists in their work. Many of the world’s greatest masterpieces—oratorios, operas, sculptures, mosaics, paintings, stained-glass windows, poems, plays and other literature—were created on Bible themes. Entire encyclopedias, multivolume dictionaries and commentaries, and exhaustive concordances have been written—all for the purpose of helping people to gain greater insight into the meaning of what is written in the Bible. What other book has engendered so vast a quantity of scholarly reference works and related literature?
Proof of the Bible’s influence in people’s lives throughout the centuries can also be seen in the field of linguistics. The English language is full of words and idiomatic expressions that come from the Bible. Modern German owes much to Luther’s translation of the Holy Scriptures, and the same is true of Scandinavian languages. The oldest French dictionary (8th century C.E.) is a Latin-French glossary of Bible words, and a whole book has been written about the influence of the Bible on the French language. What other book has shaped men’s speech and thinking patterns in so many languages?
The 1979 edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica goes further, stating:
“The Bible brought its view of God, the universe, and mankind into all the leading Western languages and thus into the intellectual processes of Western man. . . . Millions of modern people who do not think of themselves as religious live nevertheless with basic presuppositions that underlie the biblical literature. It would be impossible to calculate the effect of such presuppositions on the changing ideas and attitudes of Western people with regard to the nature and purpose of government, social institutions, and economic theories.”
Napoleon Bonaparte once admitted that the Bible is a book “with a power that conquers all that oppose it.” No doubt it is because others, too, have come to realize the tremendous influence the Bible can have on people’s attitudes that some powerful men have hated the Bible and have persecuted those who loved it and followed it. Surprisingly, this has also been true in the field of religion itself, as the following articles will show.
a Barely 160 languages are spoken by a million persons or more.