Where Can You Find Guidance?
WHAT stands between you and happiness? The problems you face? These may be of a personal nature—involving health, money, sex, your family. They may include the danger of crime, the shortages of life’s necessities, job frustration, prejudice, the threat of war. Yes, most persons have problems that interfere with happiness.
2 Despite efforts by the most educated and experienced humans, the problems continue and get worse. What was written long ago has proved to be true: ‘The way of man is not in himself, it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.’a Is it not plain that we need guidance from a source wiser than man if we hope to find lasting happiness? But where is such guidance available?
3 Many persons believe that the universe is, in a sense, a ‘book of creation’ that testifies about a Creator. An ancient Hebrew king agreed, writing: “The heavens are declaring the glory of God.” He also stated that the Creator has provided information in an actual written book that can ‘make the inexperienced one wise’ and joyful.b
4 Since humans have the ability to communicate—even sending messages to earth from outer space—is it not logical that man’s Creator could also? Moreover, since there are many things about the earth that give evidence of His interest in mankind, it is understandable that he would want to help humans. His doing so would agree with what we see in loving families: parents pass on knowledge and guidance to their children. But how would man’s Creator do this for our benefit?
5 Writing has long been an excellent means for conveying information accurately and with much permanence. A written record is much less likely to contain errors than is a message widely spread only through word of mouth. Also, a book can be reproduced and translated so that persons using any language can read its message. Does it not seem reasonable that our Creator has used such a means to provide information?
6 More than any other religious writing the Bible has been viewed as a communication from our Creator, and for that reason it has had an extraordinary circulation. This is significant. If mankind’s Creator were to provide a book containing his message for all men, we would expect it to be made widely available. The Bible is. It can be read in the languages of 97 percent of the world’s population. No other religious book has been produced and distributed in so many hundreds of millions of copies.
7 Truly the Bible is the religious book for all mankind. Why? The writing of it began near the cradle of civilization. It is the only sacred book that traces the history of all mankind back to its beginning. Also, it tells of God’s purpose to give opportunity for people of “all nations of the earth” to enjoy lasting blessings.—Genesis 22:18.
8 The Encyclopædia Britannica calls the Bible “the most influential collection of books in human history.” It has had the widest influence and effect on history of any sacred writings. Hence, it is fair to say that no person can be viewed as completely educated if he has not read the Bible.
9 Yet some persons have avoided the Bible. Why? Often it is because of the conduct of people and nations that supposedly follow the Bible. In certain lands it is said that the Bible is a book that leads to war, that it is a book of colonialism, or that it is a ‘white man’s book.’ But these are mistaken views. The Bible was written in the Middle East. It does not approve of the colonial wars and greedy exploitation that have been carried on in the name of Christianity. To the contrary, in reading the Bible you will see that it strongly condemns selfish warring, immorality and the exploiting of others. The fault is with greedy people, not with the Bible. (James 4:1-3; 5:1-6) So do not let the misconduct of selfish people who live contrary to the Bible’s counsel prevent your benefiting from its treasures.
WHAT WILL YOU FIND?
10 Many are surprised when they first read the Bible. They find that it is not primarily a book about religious observances or creeds. Nor is it a collection of vague sayings or philosophies that have little meaning to the average person. It deals with real people who had concerns and problems like ours. Also, by presenting God’s dealings with mankind in the past, it offers insight as to his will for us today. We encourage you to read Genesis, the opening book of the Bible. From the interesting accounts in it you will be able to learn much about God’s purpose for all mankind. You will find lessons as to what can spoil a person’s happiness. Also, you will learn about traits and actions that bring success and that please God.
11 Some of the Bible’s 66 individual books deal with the history and religious activities of ancient Israel. (Exodus, Joshua and First Samuel are a few examples you are sure to enjoy.) That history was written down so that we can benefit from it. (1 Corinthians 10:11) Hence, even though God is no longer directing one particular nation, nor expecting everyone to keep the laws he gave only for ancient Israel, we can learn much from such Bible books. And, as we will later see, what God did for the Israelites (as well as the animal sacrifices that they offered to him) has meaning for our lives.
12 For a rounded-out view of the Bible, you should also read at least one of the accounts of the life of Jesus. The brief Gospel of Mark is a good example. After that, enjoy the exciting record of the founding of Christianity set out in the Acts of the Apostles. Then sample the Bible’s practical counsel for Christians, as found in The Letter of James. Getting a basic taste of all the various parts of the Bible will help you to see why it has been so highly regarded over the centuries.
13 If a few things you read in the Bible perplex you, be patient. It contains many deep things, as we would expect of a book provided by the Creator for mankind’s study over the centuries. (2 Peter 3:15, 16) In time you will find answers to many questions, for the Bible accounts are interrelated. Questions that come up about one passage will be answered by other scriptures. The more you read the more helpful and satisfying you will find the Bible to be. Also, you will soon see that what the Bible says is very different from the teachings and practices of most churches. This will move you to want to read all the Scriptures, and you may find yourself returning to them again and again.
THE BIBLE—FROM WHAT SOURCE?
14 You likely know persons who respect the Bible as literature or as ancient wisdom, but who feel that it is a product of men, not the Word of God. What are the facts?
15 As you read the Bible you will see that various men did write down what it contains. Moses was the first, starting in 1513 B.C.E. The last man was Jesus’ apostle John, writing near the end of the first century C.E. In all, some 40 men wrote the various Bible books. What sort of men were they? They were humble men, who were willing to expose both their own shortcomings and those of their nation. Their honesty is noteworthy, for they also said that they were writing what God told them to write. You can note examples of this at 2 Samuel 23:1, 2; Jeremiah 1:1, 2 and Ezekiel 13:1, 2. Should not this move us to consider seriously the Bible’s assurance that “all Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial”?—2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20, 21.
16 What the Bible writers penned is different in many respects from most ancient records. As any student of ancient history knows, the records from Egypt, Persia, Babylon and other ancient nations included mythology and gross exaggerations about the rulers and their exploits. The Bible, in contrast, is marked by truth and accuracy. It is filled with specific names and details that can be confirmed, even dated. For example, Daniel chapter five has information about a Babylonian ruler named Belshazzar. For a long time critics claimed that Belshazzar never existed, but was invented by Daniel. In recent years, however, clay-tablet records have been unearthed and translated that agree with the details in Daniel’s account. For this reason, Professor R. P. Dougherty (Yale University) wrote that the Bible is more accurate than other writings and proves that the book of Daniel was written when the Bible indicates it was.—Nabonidus and Belshazzar.
17 If you travel to Jerusalem you can wade through an ancient water tunnel cut through solid rock. This lengthy tunnel was discovered and cleaned out only within the last century. Why is this of interest? Because it confirms what was recorded in the Bible more than 2,000 years ago about King Hezekiah’s bringing water into Jerusalem.—2 Kings 20:20; 2 Chronicles 32:30.
18 The above are just two of many examples proving the Bible to be historically and geographically trustworthy. But more than mere accuracy is involved, for some modern history books are accurate. The Bible contains things that could not be explained if it were a book of mere human origin. These have convinced many careful examiners that the Bible is from a Supreme Being.
19 Though the Bible is not written as a science textbook, when it touches on scientific matters it is accurate and reflects knowledge that was not available to humans at the time it was written. For instance, Dr. Arno Penzias (1978 Nobel Prize winner) said about the origin of the universe:
“My argument is that the best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted, had I had nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole.”
Further, Genesis lists the progressive appearance of life forms in the very order now generally accepted by scientists. (Genesis 1:1-27) And, whereas other nations taught myths such as that the earth is supported by elephants or a giant, the Bible correctly indicates that it hangs upon nothing and that the earth is round. (Job 26:7; Isaiah 40:22) How did the Bible writers know things that have been “discovered” by scientists only in recent times? The information must have come from a source greater than themselves.
20 There is something even more significant that sheds light on the Bible’s origin. It is prophecy. Humans can guess about coming events, but they cannot consistently foretell the future with any degree of accuracy. (James 4:13, 14) Yet the Bible does. Long before Babylon became a world empire and desolated Jerusalem, God caused the prophet Isaiah to foretell that Babylon would be brought down in defeat. About two centuries in advance, God named Cyrus as Babylon’s conqueror and told how the city would be captured. Isaiah also recorded precise details concerning Babylon’s final desolation, when such calamity was then more than 1,000 years in the future. (Isaiah 13:17-22; 44:24–45:3) It all came true. And so did the Bible’s prophecies about Tyre and Nineveh. (Ezekiel 26:1-5; Zephaniah 2:13-15) You can visit ruins in the Middle East and see the proof for yourself.
21 Far in advance the Bible book of Daniel explicitly foretold other international developments. Babylon would be conquered by Medo-Persia, which, in turn, would be defeated by Greece. After Greece’s prominent leader (Alexander the Great) would fall in death, four of his subordinates would take over rulership of the former empire. (Daniel 8:3-8, 20-22) That was long-range history written in advance, and it actually came about as foretold. How did Daniel know? The only satisfactory answer is stated in the Bible itself: “All Scripture is inspired of God.” This concerns us, for as will be considered in a later chapter, the Bible has prophecies about things that have occurred in our time. Further, it describes vividly things that are still in the future.c
22 In addition to dealing with the future, the Bible helps us to cope successfully with the present. It explains why so much suffering exists, and it helps us to understand the purpose of life. It offers guidance from the Creator on how we personally can overcome problems and find the greatest happiness in life, now and in the future. Later chapters will consider some of the problems of life, as well as the Bible’s realistic advice. First, however, we should get better acquainted with the One who has provided this advice.
c If you would like to study more about the Bible as a book of Divine authorship, please obtain the volume entitled “Is the Bible Really the Word of God?” published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.
Why is it reasonable that God has provided a book of guidance? (1-5)
What reasons are there to consider the Bible? (6-9)
What sort of information is found in the Bible? (10-13)
What evidence indicates whether the Bible is just from men? (14-19)
What is significant about Bible comments on future events? (20-22)
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Man’s satellites can send messages to earth. Cannot the Creator do more?
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Is it not logical that God would provide a book for mankind?
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You can wade through this ancient water tunnel in Jerusalem. It confirms the Bible’s accuracy.