Why Read the Bible?
We are living in a world with too many problems and far too few answers. Many millions regularly go hungry. Increasing numbers are addicted to drugs. More and more families are breaking up. Incest and family violence are constantly in the news. The air we breathe and the water we drink are slowly being poisoned. Meanwhile, more and more of us are victimized by crime. Do you think problems like these will ever be solved?
1. (Include introduction.) What modern problems show that mankind needs guidance?
IN ADDITION, we live in an age of hard choices. Many, for example, are implacably opposed to abortion, calling it murder of the unborn. Others feel just as strongly that women have authority over their own bodies and should decide such a matter for themselves. Many view homosexuality, adultery, and premarital sex as rank immorality. Others believe these practices are a matter of personal choice. Who is to say who is right and who is wrong?
2, 3. How do many today view the Bible?
2 The Bible offers guidance in matters of morality, and it describes effective solutions to the problems of crime, hunger, and pollution. The trouble is, most people no longer view the Bible as an authority in such matters. At one time, it was listened to with respect—at least in the West. Although the Bible was written down by humans, in the past the majority in Christendom accepted it as the Word of God and believed that God himself had inspired its contents.
3 Today, however, it is fashionable to be skeptical about everything: customs, ideas, morals, even the existence of God. Especially, people doubt the value of the Bible. Most seem to consider it out of date and irrelevant. Few modern intellectuals view it as the Word of God. Most people would rather agree with scholar James Barr, who wrote: “My account of the formation of the biblical tradition is an account of a human work. It is man’s statement of his beliefs.”1
4, 5. Why is it vital to know whether the Bible is inspired by God or not? What is the purpose of this publication?
4 Is this your opinion? Do you think the Bible is God’s word, or man’s? However you answer that question, consider this point: If the Bible is merely man’s word, then logically there is no clear answer to mankind’s problems. Humans will just have to muddle through as best they can, hoping somehow to avoid poisoning themselves out of existence or blowing themselves up in a nuclear war. But if the Bible is the Word of God, it is the very thing we need to get us through this difficult time.
5 This publication will present evidence that the Bible really is God’s Word. And the publishers hope that after you have considered the evidence, you will realize that the Bible contains the only valid answers to mankind’s problems. First, though, we would like to draw to your attention some facts that, in themselves, make the Bible worthy of your consideration.
An All-Time Best-Seller
6, 7. What remarkable facts about the Bible demand our attention?
6 To begin with, it is a best-seller, the most widely circulated book in all history. According to the 1988 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, an estimated 2,500,000,000 copies were printed between 1815 and 1975. That is an enormous figure. No other book in history has come even close to the Bible in circulation figures.
7 Besides that, no other book has been translated into so many languages. The Bible can now be read, in its entirety or in part, in more than 1,800 different tongues. The American Bible Society reports that it is now accessible to 98 percent of the population of our planet. Imagine the huge effort involved in producing so many translations! What other book has received such attention?
A Book With Influence
8, 9. What expressions have some made that show the influence the Bible has exercised?
8 The New Encyclopædia Britannica calls the Bible “probably the most influential collection of books in human history.”2 The 19th-century German poet Heinrich Heine confessed: “I owe my enlightenment quite simply to the reading of a book . . . the Bible. It is quite rightly called Holy Scriptures. He who has lost his God can rediscover Him in this book.”3 During that same century, antislavery activist William H. Seward proclaimed: “The whole hope of human progress is suspended on the ever-growing influence of the Bible.”4
9 Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, called the Bible “the best gift God has ever given to man . . . But for it we could not know right from wrong.”5 British jurist Sir William Blackstone highlighted the influence of the Bible when he said: “Upon these two foundations, the law of nature and the law of revelation [the Bible], depend all human laws, that is to say, no human laws should be suffered to contradict these.”6
Hated and Loved
10. How has opposition to the Bible been expressed?
10 At the same time, we have to note that no other book has been the target of so much vicious opposition and even hatred throughout history. Bibles have been burned on public bonfires, from the Middle Ages down to our 20th century. And reading or distributing the Bible has been punished with fines and imprisonment even in modern times. In past centuries, such “crimes” often led to torture and death.
11, 12. How did Tyndale demonstrate his love of the Bible?
11 Parallel with this has been the devotion that the Bible has inspired. Many have persevered in reading it despite relentless persecution. Consider William Tyndale, a 16th-century Englishman who was educated at Oxford University and became a respected instructor at Cambridge University.
12 Tyndale loved the Bible. But in his days, the religious authorities insisted on keeping it in Latin, a dead language. So, in order to make it accessible to his fellow countrymen, Tyndale determined to translate the Bible into English. Since this was against the law, Tyndale had to give up his comfortable academic career and flee to the Continent. He lived the difficult life of a fugitive long enough to translate the Greek Scriptures (the “New Testament”) and some of the Hebrew Scriptures (the “Old Testament”) into his native tongue; but he was finally arrested, convicted of heresy, and strangled, and his body was burned.
13. What is one thing that makes the Bible truly unique?
13 Tyndale is only one of a great number of people who have sacrificed everything in order to read the Bible or make it available to others. No other book has inspired so many ordinary men and women to rise to such heights of courage. In this respect, the Bible is truly without equal.
Claim That It Is God’s Word
14, 15. What claim do Bible writers frequently make?
14 The Bible is also unique because of the claim made by many of its writers. Some 40 individuals, including kings, shepherds, fishermen, civil servants, priests, at least one general, and a physician, had a hand in writing the different parts of the Bible. But time and again, the writers made the same claim: that they were writing not their own thoughts but God’s.
15 Thus, in the Bible we often read expressions such as: “The spirit of Jehovah it was that spoke by me, and his word was upon my tongue” or, “This is what the Sovereign Lord, Jehovah of armies, has said.” (2 Samuel 23:2; Isaiah 22:15) In a letter sent to a fellow evangelizer, the apostle Paul wrote: “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.
16. What questions does the Bible discuss?
16 In harmony with the claim that it is God’s word, not man’s, the Bible answers questions that only God can answer. It explains, for example, why human governments have not been able to bring lasting peace, how humans can find the deepest satisfaction in life, and what the future holds for the earth and mankind upon it. Now, as a thinking person, you must have wondered about these and similar questions many times. Why not at least consider the possibility that the Bible is God’s Word and thus uniquely able to give authoritative answers?
17, 18. (a) What are some of the accusations leveled against the Bible that are discussed in this publication? (b) What further subjects will be covered?
17 We encourage you to examine carefully the evidence presented in this book. Some of its chapters will discuss often-heard criticisms of the Bible. Is the Bible unscientific? Does it contradict itself? Does it contain real history or just myth? Did the miracles recorded in the Bible really happen? Logical evidence is presented to answer these questions. After this, powerful demonstrations of the Bible’s divine inspiration are discussed: its prophecies, its deep wisdom, and the remarkable effect it has on people’s lives. Finally, we will see what effect the Bible can have on your life.
18 First, though, we will discuss how we got the Bible. Even the history of this amazing book gives proof that it has more than merely a human origin.
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The Bible is the most widely distributed and the most translated book in all history
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As this 15th-century woodcut illustrates, many were burned alive for the “crime” of reading the Bible
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Bible writers claimed to be inspired by God