How the Good News Was Preserved
1. Why has the Bible survived?
MANY ancient writings have disappeared. Like the men who made them, they have returned to the dust and are forgotten. Only fragments remain of most literature of several thousand years ago. But the Bible lives on! It is just as 1 Peter 1:24, 25 states:
“For ‘all flesh is like grass, and all its glory is like a blossom of grass; the grass becomes withered, and the flower falls off, but the saying of Jehovah [God] endures forever.’ Well, this is the ‘saying,’ this which has been declared to you as good news.”
The Bible’s record in surviving both the ravages of time and the attacks of its enemies is remarkable. There is no question that God saw to it that the “good news” was preserved to guide us through the present critical days.
PRESERVING THE BIBLE
2. How were the original Bible writings of Moses preserved, and for how long?
2 The inspired writers recorded the original “little books” on material made from animal skins. Faithful men saw to it that such early records were preserved safely “at the side of the ark,” the sacred box that God commanded the Israelites to make. (Deuteronomy 31:26; 1 Samuel 10:25) When Israel fell into idol worship, the Law as written by Moses was lost for a time, but good King Josiah found it when he was repairing the temple in Jerusalem. These original writings disappeared at the latest when the Babylonians destroyed this temple in 607 B.C.E.
3. (a) What shows that Scripture copies had been made by Daniel’s day? (b) How was prophecy fulfilled in 537 B.C.E.? (Jeremiah 29:10)
3 By this time, however, other handwritten copies of these inspired Scriptures had been made, so that God’s servant Daniel, a captive in Babylon, “discerned by the books,” Jeremiah’s prophecy, that the Jews’ captivity must end after seventy years, in 537 B.C.E. (Daniel 9:2) And history relates that it did end, by a miracle of God, in that very year, with a remnant of the Jews returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of God.
4. (a)What did Ezra encourage that benefited the Jews? (Ezra 7:6) (b) What new development took place from about 280 B.C.E.?
4 After this restoration, “Ezra the copyist” was one who encouraged “a reading aloud of the book of the law of the true God day by day” by the Jews in assembly. (Nehemiah 8:13, 18) Many copyists appear to have been busy in those days, writing out the Scriptures by hand for the use of the Jews, who were now scattered in communities throughout the ancient world. About 280 B.C.E. a start was made in Alexandria, Egypt, to translate the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, for the benefit of Greek-speaking Jews there. This translation is known as the Greek Septuagint (meaning, “Seventy”), as it is said to have been translated by seventy Jews.
5. (a) How did scribes guard against error in making copies of the Scriptures? (b) What does a comparison of the “Dead Sea scroll” of Isaiah with tenth-century manuscripts show? (Deuteronomy 4:2)
5 Copies of the Hebrew Scriptures were written out with painstaking care and the scribes took unusual precautions to make sure that these were free from error. They checked by counting the number of words, even the number of letters, and if even one letter was wrong, they would discard that section of the manuscript and rewrite it. As proof of this accuracy, manuscripts dated as being of the tenth century C.E. contain essentially the same record as the recently discovered “Dead Sea scroll” of Isaiah, which was copied in the first or second century B.C.E. More than a thousand years of copying and recopying had resulted in no distortion of the Bible text!
6. Why can we be sure that the Bible text today is correct?
6 Similarly, minute attention to detail was shown in recopying manuscripts of the Christian Greek Scriptures. Thus we are assured that the Hebrew and Greek texts, from which our modern-day Bibles have been translated, are essentially the same as the original handwritten copies that were “inspired of God.” Comparative study of tens of thousands of manuscripts in many languages proves this to be so. Yes, the printed Bible, as we now have it, in over 1,500 languages, is the same “word” that was written down by hand under God’s inspiration, from the sixteenth century B.C.E. to the first century C.E.
ATTEMPTS TO SUPPRESS THE “GOOD NEWS”
7 There have always been enemies of the Bible. Surprisingly, its principal enemies have been religious leaders who claim to teach the Bible. For example, the religious leaders among the Jews of Jesus’ time “made the word of God invalid” because of teaching “tradition” and “commands of men as doctrines.” (Matthew 15:6-9) Jesus condemned them for this, telling them:
“You are from your father the Devil, and you wish to do the desires of your father. . . . He did not stand fast in the truth, because truth is not in him. When he speaks the lie, he speaks according to his own disposition, because he is a liar and the father of the lie.” (John 8:44)
Because Jesus spoke the truth, proclaiming the “good news” of God’s purpose to deliver mankind, those religious leaders had Jesus put to death. And though Jesus established the Christian congregation as “a pillar and support of the truth,” the Devil, Satan, continued to oppose the “good news,” using his religious agents on earth to this end.—1 Timothy 3:15.
8. (a) How does the Bible foretell the great apostasy? (Matthew 7:15, 20) (b) When was Christendom founded, and by whom? (c) Of what did the religion of Christendom become a part? (d) What makes Christendom’s sects enemies of God?
8 The apostle Paul foretold what would happen, when, in 56 C.E., he said to the elders of the Christian congregation of Ephesus:
“After my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:29, 30)
True to this prophecy, within three centuries the great apostasy took place. It was in 325 C.E. that the unbaptized Roman emperor Constantine founded “Christendom.” Its religious system twisted Christian doctrine and combined it with many of the Satan-inspired mysteries of ancient Babylon, which the Bible shows to be the mother city of all false religion. Thus the religion of Christendom became part of the world empire of false religion, “Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth.” (Revelation 17:3-5) This harlotry refers to the actions of religious sects that claim to belong to God but that are overly friendly with corrupt political leaders of this wicked world; this makes them ‘enemies of God.’ (James 4:4) Often Christendom’s religious sects have prodded the political rulers into persecuting true Christians.
9. What events of history prove Christendom to be bloodguilty? (Jeremiah 2:34)
9 Outwardly, the religion of Christendom may appear very beautiful, with its magnificent cathedrals, basilicas and churches, pompous processions and impressive music. But what is Christendom’s record? Over the centuries Christendom has plundered, colonized and suppressed defenseless peoples. History points an accusing finger at blood-spilling Crusades in the Near East, the cruel Inquisition in many Catholic-dominated lands, the Opium War against China, and also the cruel wars and religious strife of this twentieth century. World War I and World War II both started in Christendom, with Catholics and Protestants slaughtering one another indiscriminately.
10. What shows Christendom’s religions to be counterfeit? (Matthew 26:52)
10 The Bible strongly condemns such selfish warring:
“From what source are there wars and from what source are there fights among you? Are they not from this source, namely, from your cravings for sensual pleasure that carry on a conflict in your members? You desire, and yet you do not have. You go on murdering and coveting, and yet you are not able to obtain. You go on fighting and waging war. You do not have because of your not asking. You do ask, and yet you do not receive, because you are asking for a wrong purpose, that you may expend it upon your cravings for sensual pleasure.”—James 4:1-3.
OPPOSITION TO BIBLE TRANSLATION
11. How did the Catholic Church oppose Bible distribution? (John 3:19, 20)
11 The record of Christendom’s religions includes bitter opposition to the distribution of the Bible and its “good news.” And no wonder!—for it exposes her bloodguilt. During the infamous Dark Ages, when for more than a thousand years Christendom was dominated by the popes of Rome, no effort was made to circulate the Bible among the common people. The few copies available were in Latin, a language that in time came to be known only to the priests. When at last courageous men attempted to translate the Bible into the language of the common people, so that these could read and understand it, they were persecuted, often to the death. In the fourteenth century C.E., John Wycliffe first translated the Bible from Latin into English. But the Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury, England, described him as “that pestilent wretch . . . the son of the old Serpent,” and some years after his death, opponents of the Bible dug up his remains, burned them and threw his ashes into the river Swift.
12. (a) What was Tyndale’s goal? (Luke 2:10) (b) How did he proceed to attain this goal, but what happened to him? (c) What resulted from Tyndale’s work?
12 In the sixteenth century, William Tyndale set out to translate the Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into English, declaring, “If God spare my life, I will, before many years have passed, cause the boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scriptures than the priests do.” But he had to flee from England to the European continent in order to translate and print his Bible. Copies were then smuggled into England and began to circulate in great numbers, despite the clergy’s publicly burning all the Bibles that they could find. A hypocritical person betrayed Tyndale, and he was executed by being strangled at the stake, after which his body was burned. But his Bible translation lived on, so that ordinary people like a plowboy could read its “good news.” Later it was extensively consulted in the preparation of the well-known English King James version of the Bible.
13. What is some of the history of Bible translation into Oriental languages?
13 Other Bible translations often encountered problems. In Canton, China, Robert Morrison and his helpers translated secretly at night, knowing that they could be put to death by torture if they were detected. At one stage they hid wooden printing blocks of the book of Acts, only to have these eaten by termites. They produced the complete Chinese Bible in 1818. Translation of the Bible into Burmese was completed in 1835, after the translator, A. Judson, had lain in chains for almost a year in a vermin-infested jail, with his translation manuscript concealed in his pillow. In the 1880’s, while missionary activity was banned in Korea, translation and printing of portions of the Bible in Korean were done in Manchuria, and many copies found their way into Korea. The earliest complete Bible in Japanese was produced in 1887, and some early editions correctly used the divine name, Jehovah, throughout both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures.
THE “GOOD NEWS” LIVES ON!
14. (a) What shows that Satan’s efforts to suppress the Bible failed? (b) What attitude have Christendom’s sects taken toward teaching the Bible?
14 Satan’s attempts to suppress the Bible failed. In more recent years, excellent translations of the Bible have been made in many languages, and the “good news” has become available to all mankind. Bibles are to be found in many homes. But have the religious sects of Christendom helped the people to understand the Bible? No, for they stand today in the same position as the religious leaders of Jesus’ time. They shove the word of God aside “in order to retain [their] tradition,” the false teachings from Babylon that were adopted when Constantine founded “Christendom.”—Mark 7:9, 13.
15. How has the good news come to be “preached in all creation”? (Acts 1:8)
15 Happily, however, there are those Christians in all countries of earth today who have returned to the pure teaching of the good news that Jesus and his apostles proclaimed. As in the time of the first-century Christian congregation, they are again preaching that good news “in all creation that is under heaven.” (Colossians 1:23) It is “the glorious good news of the happy God.” (1 Timothy 1:11) But who is this “happy God,” and how may we enjoy his blessing?
[Picture on page 40]
“Dead Sea scroll” of Isaiah shows Bible has been accurately preserved
[Picture on page 43]
Christendom’s wars show her Christianity to be false
[Picture on page 46]
Despite opposition by false religion, the “good news” is being “preached in all creation”