Making the Book of Good News
1. What kind of book would be beneficial to all mankind?
WHAT would you expect of a book that provides good news for all mankind? First, it would have to be available in a wide number of languages. Also, its message would have to be meaningful, helping people of all national groups to get the best from life even now, and giving them hope for the future. That is the book we started to discuss in our first chapter. It is:
2 What kind of book is the Bible? In the first place, it is a very ancient book, having been started more than 3,400 years ago. It has reached every land and even distant, isolated islands. It may be found in simple huts and modern homes. The book itself has been translated, the whole or in part, into more than 1,575 languages and dialects, so that nearly everyone can read it in his own language. No other book even approaches its circulation, which runs into the billions. Each year millions upon millions of Bibles are distributed earth wide.
3. (a) Why is “Bible” a fitting name for the book? (b) On what were the original writings made?
3 The Bible is actually sixty-six small books combined into one. The word “Bible” comes from the Greek word bibliʹa, meaning “little books.” The word bibliʹa itself is related to biblos, which refers to the soft inner part of the papyrus plant. In Bible lands, an ancient form of paper was made from this. Books of the Bible were at one time recopied by hand on this papyrus paper, though the original writings appear to have been made on processed animal skins.
4. (a) How many writers compiled the Bible? (b) During what period did they write? (c) Why is the Bible a unique book of wisdom? (John 17:17)
4 The sixty-six “little books” of the Bible were compiled by about forty writers over a period of more than 1,600 years, between 1513 B.C.E. and 98 C.E. All its writers are in complete agreement as to doctrine, and in developing one consistent theme. The result is a remarkable, yes, a unique book of wisdom.
5. What designations are preferable to “Old Testament” and “New Testament,” and why?
5 Some persons divide the Bible up into two “Testaments,” and claim that the “Old Testament” is not of equal value with the “New Testament.” But this is not so, for it is all one Bible. Also, by “testament” is meant a covenant and there are more covenants than just two in the Bible. It is preferable, therefore, to speak of the two parts of the Bible as the “Hebrew Scriptures” and the “Greek Scriptures,” as these were the original languages in which most of the Bible was written. The Hebrew Scriptures are an essential background for fully understanding the Greek Scriptures, and the Greek Scriptures are an extension of the Hebrew Scriptures, showing their fulfillment. Each one of the sixty-six “little books” makes its contribution toward rounding out our understanding of the purpose of mankind’s Creator.
6. (a) What types of men wrote down the Bible? (b) Why were these things written aforetime? (1 Corinthians 10:11)
6 Just as the good news in the Bible is provided for all mankind, so too its writers were men who came from many different walks of life. They included shepherds and herdsmen, fishermen and farmers, a doctor and a tax collector. At least two were kings. Others were priests, prophets or scribes. One writer at one time had been a vicious persecutor of those who believed this good news, but he changed and became one of its most zealous advocates. After his conversion, this former leader in false religion, the apostle Paul, wrote concerning the earlier books of the Bible:
“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.
7. Why may the Bible be termed an Oriental book? (Romans 3:1, 2)
7 Though the Bible’s greatest distribution has been in countries of the Western world, it is actually an Oriental book. All the men who shared in writing it were Orientals who lived in the Middle East. Most of its action took place in Oriental lands, whose customs it reflects. For example, it depicts the future Ruler over mankind as an Oriental shepherd, caring compassionately for his flock:
“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has got all his own out, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. A stranger they will by no means follow . . . the fine shepherd surrenders his soul in behalf of the sheep.” (John 10:3-5, 11)
What a happy day it will be when we have that once-Oriental Shepherd as our loving Ruler!
HOW THE GOOD NEWS WAS RECORDED
8. In what way were the Bible writers similar to us humans today?
8 The men who wrote down the Bible were imperfect, subject to weaknesses and error. As humans, they did not differ from other people. The apostle Paul told men who were wrongly viewing him and his missionary companion Barnabas as gods: “We also are humans having the same infirmities as you do.” (Acts 14:15) How, then, was it possible for imperfect men to produce a record that is actually God’s message?
9. How could imperfect men produce a perfect message for mankind?
9 It was because they did not write of their own impulse, but were inspired by God. What is here meant by the word “inspired”? It means that God, the Creator of heaven and earth, moved these men by his spirit or invisible empowering force, putting into their minds what they should write down as his “word,” or message, for mankind. For example, the psalm writer David said:
“The spirit of Jehovah [God] it was that spoke by me, and his word was upon my tongue.” (2 Samuel 23:2)
And concerning prophetic messages, the apostle Peter wrote:
“No prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation. For prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.”—2 Peter 1:20, 21.
10. (a) Why would it be easy for God to transmit messages to faithful men? Illustrate. (Exodus 34:27, 28; Jeremiah 1:1, 2, 9; Ezekiel 1:1; Daniel 7:1) (b) What directed the assembling of the complete Bible, and what is this called? (Revelation 22:18, 19)
10 It was no problem for God, the Supreme Being and Creator of all the universe, to convey messages to faithful men on earth. In modern times men have traveled to the moon, and the messages they sent back from there to earth by radio came through clearly and understandably from over 400,000 kilometers out in space. Also, TV pictures were transmitted over all that distance, so that men on earth could actually sit in their homes and watch astronauts walking about on the moon. If man can transmit messages in this way, how easy must it be for the Creator of all things to transmit messages and visions to men on earth, even from beyond “the heaven of the heavens“! (1 Kings 8:27) As God conveyed his thoughts to the minds of Bible scribes, they wrote these down as “the word of God“—his message. (Hebrews 4:12) God, by his spirit, also directed men to assemble these sixty-six “little books,” and these only, to make up the complete Bible, known as the Bible “canon.”
AN ACCURATE AND RELIABLE RECORD
11. Illustrate the accuracy and logical arrangement of the Bible.
11 An amazing thing about the Bible is the carefulness with which it records details, and also its complete harmony. For example, in Genesis, chapters 5 and 10, it sets out the family lists from the time of the first man Adam to that of the sons of Noah, covering a period of more than 2,000 years. Later, the priest Ezra wrote First Chronicles and devoted the first nine chapters to repeating and enlarging on these previous family lists, bringing the record down through another 1,500 years of ancient history to the time when the Israelites returned from captivity in Babylonia. Still later, both Matthew and Luke, in their Gospels, repeated essential parts of these earlier records, and extended the Bible family lists down to Jesus Christ. (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38) Thus, under the direction of God’s spirit, the Bible writers made a permanent record of the line of descent from our first ancestor, Adam, down through more than 4,000 years to Jesus, the “Son of man.” Of his own Gospel account, the physician Luke wrote:
“I have traced all things from the start with accuracy, to write them in logical order.” (Luke 1:3)
The record is indeed accurate and logical.
12. How may Moses have obtained information on early history?
12 The Bible speaks of early ‘histories.’ (Genesis 2:4; 5:1) These may have been transmitted by word of mouth. But in this event how could accuracy have been ensured? God created the first man, Adam, perfect. Later, he rebelled against God, so that God sentenced him to die. However, it took a long time for his once-perfect body to deteriorate to the point of death. He lived for 930 years, into the time of Lamech, the father of Noah, who could thus learn early history directly from Adam. Lamech could communicate all of this to Noah, and to Noah’s son Shem, whose near-perfect physique enabled him to live on for 500 years after the Flood. Shem would be able to convey to Abraham and to his son Isaac detailed information about the pre-Flood world. Isaac could relay this on to his grandson Levi, and evidently Levi to his grandson Amram, the father of Moses. Thus, in relating early history by word of mouth, only five links would be needed between Adam and Moses—Lamech, Shem, Isaac, Levi and Amram.
13. Why did the Creator make a record of early history, by means of inspiration? (Psalm 102:18)
13 However, due to inherited imperfection, and probably due also to changed conditions following the Flood, mankind was growing progressively weaker, Isaac living only 180 years, and Moses, 120 years. As man’s life-span dropped toward seventy or eighty years, the Creator saw fit to have mankind’s early history preserved accurately as a permanent record. Thus we would always have the reliable information concerning mankind’s beginnings. The Creator used Moses, under inspiration, to compile this record, which became the first part of the Bible.
14 Who was this Moses? He was a descendant of Abraham, the Hebrew, and was born when his people, the Israelites, were slaves in Egypt. As the adopted son of the daughter of Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, Moses was raised and educated in the royal court. However, when it came to an issue, he showed that he valued the spiritual riches that he could enjoy with God’s people as far greater than all the material wealth he might have had in Egypt. He chose to be ill-treated along with God’s own people. In the course of his life experience in Egypt and later as a shepherd in the wilderness, he cultivated great faith in God and came to be “by far the meekest of all the men who were upon the surface of the ground.” (Numbers 12:3) He was well qualified, not only to lead the nation of several million Israelites out of Egypt, but also to serve as God’s scribe, under His spirit, in writing the first part of the Bible record. After him, other men of like faith continued to add to the Bible record, until it was completed, 1,600 years later. It is of real interest, and of value to us today, to review what these Bible writings contain.
[Chart on page 12]
The Bible reaches farther back into man’s history than any other ancient writings
(For fully formatted text, see publication)
AGE OF PRINCIPAL RELIGIOUS WRITINGS
(showing also year each was completed)
Before Common Era (B.C.E.)
4026 Man’s Creation
2370 Great Flood
1473 Pentateuch (Bible) 3,448 years
500 Hindu “Books of Knowledge” (Veda) 2,475 years
480 Confucian “Great Learning” (Ta-hsüeh) 2,455 years
443 Hebrew Scriptures Completed (Bible) 2,418 years
43 Buddhist Scriptures, “Three Baskets” 2,018 years
Common Era (C.E.)
98 Whole Bible Completed 1,878 years
650 Koran (Holy Book of Islam) 1,326 years
720 Shinto Kojiki and Nihongi 1,256 years
1830 Book of Mormon 146 years
[Non-Biblical dates based on “Encyclopœdia Britannica,” 1971 edition.]
[Pictures on page 16, 17]
Ten Commandments written by God
Angels spoke God’s word
Visions while awake
God’s spirit guided selection from earlier records
Dreams while asleep