The Bible—Authentic History?
THEY censured rulers. They castigated priests. They reproved the common people for their wickedness. They even put their own failings and sins on public record. They were hounded and persecuted, and some were even murdered for speaking and writing the truth. Who were they? The prophets of the Bible, many of whom contributed to the Holy Scriptures.—Matthew 23:35-37.
In his book The Historian and History, Page Smith writes: “[The Hebrews] were as pitiless to their heroes as to their villains, to themselves as to their adversaries, because they were writing under the eye of God and had nothing to gain and much to lose by dissembling.” Smith also wrote that “alongside the tedious chronologies of the warrior kings of Syria or Egypt, the account of the tribulations and the triumphs of a people chosen by God . . . make[s] an enthralling story. The Hebrew chroniclers had discovered one of the most essential elements of history—that it is enacted by real people, with all their faults and blemishes.”
The Bible writers were also meticulously accurate. After analyzing the Bible in the light of history and archaeology, writer Werner Keller said in the introduction of his book The Bible as History: “In view of the overwhelming mass of authentic and well-attested evidence now available, . . . there kept hammering on my brain this one sentence: ‘The Bible is right after all!’”
Dynamic History With Powerful Lessons
For the most part, the Bible writers were men of the earth—farmers, shepherds, fishermen. Yet, what they wrote over a period of some 1,600 years has influenced more people than any other writings, ancient or modern. Furthermore, their writings have been attacked from all quarters, but in vain. (Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:25) Today the Bible can be read in whole or in part in some 2,200 languages—far more than any other book! Why does the Bible enjoy such a distinction? The following references help answer that question.
“All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
“All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.”—Romans 15:4.
“These things went on befalling them [the Israelites] as examples, and they were written for a warning to us [Christians] upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.”—1 Corinthians 10:11.
Yes, as a divinely inspired and preserved record of real people—some who pleased God and some who did not—the Bible is elevated above all other books. It is far from a clinical listing of dos and don’ts or a collection of cute little stories to entertain children. True, God used human penmen, but this has only enhanced the Bible, giving it a warm appeal that has touched the hearts of readers generation after generation. Archaeologist William Albright stated: “The profound moral and spiritual intuitions of the Bible, which form a unique revelation of God to man through the channels of human experience, are just as true today as they were two or three thousand years ago.”
To illustrate the Bible’s timeless relevance, let us go back to the very beginning of human history—where the Bible alone can take us—and consider some key lessons from the book of Genesis.
Timely Lessons From an Ancient Narrative
Among other things, the book of Genesis reveals the start of the human family—names and all. On this subject no other work of history is so specific. ‘But what is the value today of knowing our original ancestry?’ you may ask. It has immense value, for in revealing that all humans—regardless of color, tribe, or nation—stem from the same parents, Genesis removes any basis for racism.—Acts 17:26.
Genesis also offers guidance on morality. It contains the account about Sodom, Gomorrah, and their neighboring cities, which God destroyed because of the gross sexual perversion of their inhabitants. (Genesis 18:20–19:29) Jude Verse 7 of the Bible book of Jude says: “Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them, after they . . . had committed fornication excessively and gone out after flesh for unnatural use, are placed before us as a warning example.” The people of Sodom and Gomorrah did not receive any moral laws from God; however, like all humans, they had the God-given faculty of conscience. Hence, God could justly hold those people accountable for their deeds. (Romans 1:26, 27; 2:14, 15) Likewise today, God will hold all humans accountable for their deeds, whether they accept his Word, the Holy Bible, or not.—2 Thessalonians 1:8, 9.
A History Lesson in Survival
A relief on the Arch of Titus in Rome depicts Roman soldiers carrying off sacred vessels from the temple in Jerusalem after the city’s destruction in the year 70 C.E. Over a million Jews were killed. However, obedient Christians survived, thanks to Jesus’ advance warning: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, and let those in the midst of her withdraw, and let those in the country places not enter into her; because these are days for meting out justice.”—Luke 21:20-22.
Far from being just ancient history, Jerusalem’s tribulation foreshadowed aspects of a greater tribulation soon to engulf the entire world. But once again, there will be survivors. These are described as “a great crowd . . . out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues.” They “come out of the great tribulation” because of their faith in Jesus’ shed blood—a faith firmly based on Biblical history and prophecy.—Revelation 7:9, 14.
History That Will Never Be Repeated
Today we live in the time of the ascendancy of the Anglo-American World Power, the last of Bible prophecy. History’s pattern says that like the others before it, it should come to an end. But how? According to the Bible, this power’s end will truly be unique. Pointing ahead to the year 1914 C.E., Daniel 2:44 said of the ruling political powers, or “kingdoms”: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”
Yes, God’s Kingdom—his heavenly government led by Christ Jesus—will obliterate every vestige of oppressive human rulership at Armageddon, the climax of the aforementioned “great tribulation.” Thereafter, this Kingdom will “not be passed on to any other people,” meaning that it will never be overthrown or voted out of office. Its dominion will be “to the ends of the earth.”—Psalm 72:8.
At last, the cruel cycle of domination by false religion, oppressive politics, and greedy commerce will cease. Psalm 72:7 promises: “The righteous one will sprout, and the abundance of peace until the moon is no more.” Not selfishness and pride but God’s preeminent quality of love will permeate the planet. (1 John 4:8) Jesus said: “Love one another.” Concerning this, historian Will Durant said: “My final lesson of history is the same as that of Jesus. . . . Love is the most practical thing in the world.”
God’s love for humans moved him to inspire the writing of the Bible. It alone truly illuminates the past, the present, and the future. Please embrace its life-giving message by investing a modest amount of time in Bible study. To that end and in obedience to Jesus’ command, Jehovah’s Witnesses share the “good news of the kingdom” with their neighbors. This good news will soon be more than prophecy. It will become living history.—Matthew 24:14.
[Blurb on page 9]
“The Bible is right after all!”—WERNER KELLER
[Blurb on page 11]
“The profound moral and spiritual intuitions of the Bible . . . are just as true today as they were two or three thousand years ago.”—WILLIAM ALBRIGHT, ARCHAEOLOGIST
[Pictures on page 9]
Moabite Stone: Contains King Mesha’s version of the conflict between Moab and Israel (2 Kings 3:4-27), the names of various Bible places, and God’s name in ancient Hebrew letters.
Musée du Louvre, Paris.
Silver denarius coin: Replica bears image and inscription of Tiberius Caesar (Mark 12:15-17).
Nabonidus Chronicle: A cuneiform tablet that confirms the sudden fall of Babylon to Cyrus. (Daniel, chapter 5)
Photograph taken by courtesy of the British Museum.
Stone slab: Bears name of Pontius Pilate in Latin.
Photograph © Israel Museum, Jerusalem; courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority.
Background of Dead Sea Scroll: A study of the Isaiah text proved that this book had remained practically unchanged over a period of 1,000 years of hand copying.
Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum, Jerusalem.
[Pictures on page 10]
A relief on the Arch of Titus confirms Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E.
Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma