The Bible was completed about two thousand years ago. Since then, countless other books have come and gone. But not the Bible. Consider the following.
The Bible has survived many vicious attacks by powerful people. For example, during the Middle Ages in certain “Christian” lands, “the possession and reading of the Bible in the vernacular [the language of the common people] was increasingly associated with heresy and dissent,” says the book An Introduction to the Medieval Bible. Scholars who translated the Bible into the vernacular or who promoted Bible study risked their lives. Some were killed.
Despite its many enemies, the Bible became—and continues to be—the most widely distributed book of all time. In whole or in part, an estimated five billion copies have been printed in more than 2,800 languages. This is in sharp contrast with books on philosophy, science, and related fields, which may have a limited circulation and may quickly go out-of-date.
The Bible has helped to preserve and shape some of the languages into which it has been translated. The German translation by Martin Luther had a big influence on that language. The first edition of the King James Version has been described as “probably the single most influential book ever published” in English.
The Bible has “profoundly affected Western culture, influencing not just religious belief and practice, but also art, literature, law, politics, and other fields too numerous to mention.”—The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible.
Those are just some of the facts that set the Bible apart. Why, though, is it so popular? Why have people risked their lives for it? The many reasons include the following: The Bible contains moral and spiritual teachings that reflect exceptional wisdom. The Bible helps us to understand the root cause of human suffering and conflict. Better still, it promises an end to those problems, even revealing how that will come about.
The Bible Gives Moral and Spiritual Insight
Secular education is important. But “education . . . that produces initials at the end of your name . . . is no guarantee of moral intelligence,” said an editorial in Canada’s newspaper Ottawa Citizen. Indeed, many highly educated people—including leaders in business and government—cheat, defraud, and steal, resulting in “a serious crisis of confidence,” according to a global study published by Edelman, a public relations firm.
The Bible focuses on moral and spiritual education. It gives us insight into “what is righteous and just and fair, the entire course of what is good.” (Proverbs 2:9) To illustrate, a 23-year-old man, whom we will call Stephen, was in prison in Poland. While confined, he began to study the Bible and to appreciate its practical advice. “I now see what it means to ‘honor your father and your mother,’” he wrote. “I have also learned to control my emotions, especially excessive anger.”—Ephesians 4:31; 6:2.
A principle that Stephen took to heart is the one found at Proverbs 19:11: “The insight of a man certainly slows down his anger, and it is beauty on his part to overlook an offense.” Now, when Stephen is confronted with a challenging situation, he tries to analyze it calmly and to apply the relevant Bible principles. “I have found that the Bible is the best guidebook,” he said.
Maria, who is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, was publicly insulted by a prejudiced woman, who caused quite a commotion. But instead of retaliating, Maria calmly continued on her way. The other woman then felt bad about her behavior and sought out the Witnesses. About a month later, when she finally saw Maria again, she hugged Maria and apologized to her. Moreover, she correctly discerned that Maria’s mildness and self-control reflected her religious beliefs. The result? The once prejudiced woman and five members of her family decided to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Wisdom is vindicated by its results, said Jesus Christ. (Luke 7:35) Bible principles, therefore, stand vindicated! They bring out the best in us. They ‘make the inexperienced wise,’ they ‘cause the heart to rejoice,’ and they ‘make the eyes shine’ with moral and spiritual clarity.—Psalm 19:7, 8.
The Bible Explains Human Suffering and Conflict
When studying a disease epidemic, investigators try to find the cause—what triggered the outbreak. The same principle applies to understanding the “plague” of human suffering and discord. Again, the Bible is of immense help, for it documents our earliest history, the time when our troubles started.
The book of Genesis reveals that mankind’s woes began when the first humans rebelled against God. Among other things, they took it upon themselves to set moral standards—a right that belonged only to our Creator. (Genesis 3:1-7) Sadly, since then, people in general have adopted the same independent thinking. The results? Human history is a chronicle, not of freedom and happiness, but of conflict, oppression, and moral and spiritual discord. (Ecclesiastes 8:9) The Bible rightly states: “It does not belong to man . . . to direct his step.” (Jeremiah 10:23) The good news is that mankind’s disastrous experiment with moral independence is almost over.
The Bible Gives Hope
The Bible assures us that God, out of love for those who respect his authority and standards, will not forever tolerate badness and the suffering it causes. The wicked “will bear the consequences of their way.” (Proverbs 1:30, 31) “The meek,” on the other hand, “will possess the earth, and they will find exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Psalm 37:11.
God will fulfill his purpose for a peaceful earth by means of “the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 4:43) That Kingdom is a world government, and through it God will express his rightful sovereignty over mankind. Jesus linked the Kingdom with the earth, saying in his model prayer: “Let your Kingdom come. Let your will take place . . . on earth.”—Matthew 6:10.
Yes, the subjects of God’s Kingdom will do God’s will, recognizing the Creator—not any fellow human—as rightful Ruler. Corruption, greed, economic disparities, racial prejudice, and war will cease. There will literally be one world, one government, and one set of moral and spiritual standards.—Revelation 11:15.
The key to seeing that new world is education. “[God’s] will is that all sorts of people should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth,” says 1 Timothy 2:3, 4. That truth includes Bible teachings about what we might call the Kingdom’s constitution—the laws and principles by which it will rule, examples of which can be found in Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew, chapters 5-7) When you read those three chapters, try to imagine what life will be like when everyone applies Jesus’ wisdom.
Should we be surprised that the Bible is the world’s most widely distributed book? Absolutely not! Its teachings have the hallmark of divine inspiration. And its wide circulation reflects God’s desire that people of all languages and nations learn about him and benefit from the blessings his Kingdom will bring.—Acts 10:34, 35.