Definition: Jehovah God’s written Word to humankind. He used some 40 human secretaries over a period of 16 centuries to record it, but God himself actively directed the writing by his spirit. Thus it is inspired by God. A large portion of the record is made up of actual pronouncements made by Jehovah and details as to the teachings and activities of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In these we find statements of God’s requirements for his servants and what he will do to bring his grand purpose for the earth to completion. To deepen our appreciation for these things, Jehovah also preserved in the Bible a record demonstrating what happens when individuals and nations listen to God and work in harmony with his purpose, as well as the outcome when they go their own way. By means of this reliable historical record Jehovah acquaints us with his dealings with humankind and thus with his own marvelous personality.
Reasons for considering the Bible
The Bible itself says it is from God, mankind’s Creator
2 Tim. 3:16, 17: “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.”
Rev. 1:1: “A revelation by Jesus Christ, which God gave him, to show his slaves the things that must shortly take place.”
2 Sam. 23:1, 2: “The utterance of David the son of Jesse . . . The spirit of Jehovah it was that spoke by me, and his word was upon my tongue.”
Isa. 22:15: “This is what the Sovereign Lord, Jehovah of armies, has said.”
We would expect God’s message to all mankind to be available around the globe. The Bible, the whole or in part, has been translated into some 1,800 languages. Its circulation totals in the billions. Says The World Book Encyclopedia: “The Bible is the most widely read book in history. It is probably also the most influential. More copies have been distributed of the Bible than of any other book. It has also been translated more times into more languages than any other book.”—(1984), Vol. 2, p. 219.
Bible prophecy explains the meaning of world conditions
Many world leaders acknowledge that mankind is on the brink of disaster. The Bible foretold these conditions long ago; it explains their meaning and what the outcome will be. (2 Tim. 3:1-5; Luke 21:25-31) It tells what we must do in order to survive the impending world destruction, with the opportunity to gain eternal life under righteous conditions here on earth.—Zeph. 2:3; John 17:3; Ps. 37:10, 11, 29.
The Bible enables us to understand the purpose of life
It answers such questions as: Where did life come from? (Acts 17:24-26) Why are we here? Is it just to live a few years, get what we can out of life, and then die?—Gen. 1:27, 28; Rom. 5:12; John 17:3; Ps. 37:11; Ps. 40:8.
The Bible shows how we can have the very things that lovers of righteousness desire most
It tells us where to find wholesome associates who truly love one another (John 13:35), what can give assurance that we will have sufficient food for ourselves and our families (Matt. 6:31-33; Prov. 19:15; Eph. 4:28), how we can be happy in spite of difficult conditions that surround us.—Ps. 1:1, 2; 34:8; Luke 11:28; Acts 20:35.
It explains that God’s Kingdom, his government, will remove the present wicked system (Dan. 2:44), and under its rule mankind will be able to enjoy perfect health and eternal life.—Rev. 21:3, 4; compare Isaiah 33:24.
Surely a book that claims to be from God, that explains both the meaning of world conditions and the purpose of life, and that shows how our problems will be solved is worthy of consideration.
Evidences of inspiration
It is filled with prophecies reflecting detailed knowledge of the future—something impossible for humans
2 Pet. 1:20, 21: “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.”
▪ Prophecy: Isa. 44:24, 27, 28; 45:1-4: “Jehovah . . . the One saying to the watery deep, ‘Be evaporated; and all your rivers I shall dry up’; the One saying of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and all that I delight in he will completely carry out’; even in my saying of Jerusalem, ‘She will be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘You will have your foundation laid.’ This is what Jehovah has said to his anointed one, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have taken hold of, to subdue before him nations, so that I may ungird even the hips of kings; to open before him the two-leaved doors, so that even the gates will not be shut: ‘Before you I myself shall go, and the swells of land I shall straighten out. The copper doors I shall break in pieces, and the iron bars I shall cut down. . . . For the sake of my servant Jacob and of Israel my chosen one, I even proceeded to call you by your name.’” (Writing by Isaiah was completed by about 732 B.C.E.)
□ Fulfillment: Cyrus had not been born when the prophecy was written. The Jews were not taken into exile to Babylon until 617-607 B.C.E., and Jerusalem and its temple were not destroyed until 607 B.C.E. In detail the prophecy was fulfilled starting in 539 B.C.E. Cyrus diverted the waters of the Euphrates River into an artificial lake, the river gates of Babylon were carelessly left open during feasting in the city, and Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians under Cyrus. Thereafter, Cyrus liberated the Jewish exiles and sent them back to Jerusalem with instructions to rebuild Jehovah’s temple there.—The Encyclopedia Americana (1956), Vol. III, p. 9; Light From the Ancient Past (Princeton, 1959), Jack Finegan, pp. 227-229; “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial” (New York, 1983), pp. 282, 284, 295.
▪ Prophecy: Jer. 49:17, 18: “‘Edom must become an object of astonishment. Everyone passing along by her will stare in astonishment and whistle on account of all her plagues. Just as in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah and her neighbor towns,’ Jehovah has said, ‘no man will dwell there.’” (Jeremiah’s recording of prophecies was completed by 580 B.C.E.)
□ Fulfillment: “They [the Edomites] were driven from Palestine in the 2nd century B.C. by Judas Maccabæus, and in 109 B.C. John Hyrcanus, Maccabæan leader, extended the kingdom of Judah to include the w. part of Edomitic lands. In the 1st century B.C. Roman expansion swept away the last vestige of Edomitic independence . . . After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D. . . . the name Idumæa [Edom] disappeared from history.” (The New Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia, 1952, Vol. 11, p. 4114) Notice that the fulfillment extends down to our day. In no way can it be argued that this prophecy was written after the events had taken place.
▪ Prophecy: Luke 19:41-44; 21:20, 21: “He [Jesus Christ] viewed the city [Jerusalem] and wept over it, saying: . . . ‘The days will come upon you when your enemies will build around you a fortification with pointed stakes and will encircle you and distress you from every side, and they will dash you and your children within you to the ground, and they will not leave a stone upon a stone in you, because you did not discern the time of your being inspected.’” Two days later, he counseled his disciples: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, and let those in the midst of her withdraw.” (Prophecy spoken by Jesus Christ in 33 C.E.)
□ Fulfillment: Jerusalem revolted against Rome, and in 66 C.E. the Roman army under Cestius Gallus attacked the city. But, as Jewish historian Josephus reports, the Roman commander “suddenly called off his men, abandoned hope though he had suffered no reverse, and flying in the face of all reason retired from the City.” (Josephus, the Jewish War, Penguin Classics, 1969, p. 167) This provided opportunity for Christians to flee from the city, which they did, moving to Pella, beyond the Jordan, according to Eusebius Pamphilus in his Ecclesiastical History. (Translated by C. F. Crusé, London, 1894, p. 75) Then around Passover time of the year 70 C.E. General Titus besieged the city, an encircling fence 4.5 miles (7.2 km) long was erected in just three days, and after five months Jerusalem fell. “Jerusalem itself was systematically destroyed and the Temple left in ruins. Archaeological work shows us today just how effective was the destruction of Jewish buildings all over the land.”—The Bible and Archaeology (Grand Rapids, Mich.; 1962), J. A. Thompson, p. 299.
Its contents are scientifically sound on matters that human researchers discovered only at a later date
Origin of the Universe: Gen. 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In 1978, astronomer Robert Jastrow wrote: “Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.”—God and the Astronomers (New York, 1978), p. 14.
Shape of Planet Earth: Isa. 40:22: “There is One who is dwelling above the circle of the earth.” In ancient times the general opinion was that the earth was flat. It was not until over 200 years after this Bible text had been written that a school of Greek philosophers reasoned that the earth likely was spherical, and in about another 300 years a Greek astronomer calculated the approximate radius of the earth. But the idea of a spherical earth was not the general view even then. Only in the 20th century has it been possible for humans to travel by airplane, and later into outer space and even to the moon, thus giving them a clear view of “the circle” of earth’s horizon.
Animal Life: Lev. 11:6: “The hare . . . is a chewer of the cud.” Though this was long attacked by some critics, the rabbit’s cud chewing was finally observed by Englishman William Cowper in the 18th century. The unusual way in which it is done was described in 1940 in Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, Vol. 110, Series A, pp. 159-163.
Its internal harmony is significant
This is especially so in view of the fact that the books of the Bible were recorded by some 40 men as diverse as king, prophet, herdsman, tax collector, and physician. They did the writing over a period of 1,610 years; so there was no opportunity for collusion. Yet their writings agree, even in the smallest detail. To appreciate the extent to which the various portions of the Bible are harmoniously intertwined, you must read and study it personally.
How can we be sure the Bible has not been changed?
“In the number of ancient MSS. [manuscripts] attesting a writing, and in the number of years that had elapsed between the original and the attesting MSS., the Bible enjoys a decided advantage over classical writings [those of Homer, Plato, and others]. . . . Altogether classical MSS. are but a handful compared with Biblical. No ancient book is so well attested as the Bible.”—The Bible From the Beginning (New York, 1929), P. Marion Simms, pp. 74, 76.
A report published in 1971 shows that there are possibly 6,000 handwritten copies containing all or part of the Hebrew Scriptures; the oldest dates back to the third century B.C.E. Of the Christian Greek Scriptures, there are some 5,000 in Greek, the oldest dating back to the beginning of the second century C.E. There are also many copies of early translations into other languages.
In the introduction to his seven volumes on The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri, Sir Frederic Kenyon wrote: “The first and most important conclusion derived from the examination of them [the papyri] is the satisfactory one that they confirm the essential soundness of the existing texts. No striking or fundamental variation is shown either in the Old or the New Testament. There are no important omissions or additions of passages, and no variations which affect vital facts or doctrines. The variations of text affect minor matters, such as the order of words or the precise words used . . . But their essential importance is their confirmation, by evidence of an earlier date than was hitherto available, of the integrity of our existing texts.”—(London, 1933), p. 15.
It is true that some translations of the Bible adhere more closely to what is in the original languages than others do. Modern paraphrase Bibles have taken liberties that at times alter the original meaning. Some translators have allowed personal beliefs to color their renderings. But these weaknesses can be identified by comparison of a variety of translations.
If Someone Says—
‘I don’t believe in the Bible’
You might reply: ‘But you do believe there is a God, don’t you? . . . May I ask what there is in the Bible that you find hard to accept?’
Or you could say: ‘May I ask, Have you always felt that way? . . . I’ve heard others say that, even though they have not made a thorough study of the Bible. But since the Bible clearly says that it is a message from God himself and that he offers us eternal life if we believe and live by what it says, don’t you agree that it would be worthwhile at least to examine it to find out whether its claims are true or not? (Use material on pages 60-63.)’
‘The Bible contradicts itself’
You might reply: ‘I’ve had other people tell me that, but no one has ever been able to show me what is actually a contradiction. And in my own personal reading of the Bible I’ve never seen one. Could you give me an example?’ Then perhaps add: ‘What I have found is that many persons simply never found answers to questions that the Bible made them think about. For example, Where did Cain get his wife? (Use material on pages 301, 302.)’
‘Men wrote the Bible’
You might reply: ‘That’s true. About 40 of them had a part in it. But it was inspired by God.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘What does that mean? That God directed the writing, much as a businessman uses a secretary to write letters for him.’ (2) ‘The idea of receiving messages from someone out in space should not surprise us. Even humans have sent messages and pictures from the moon. How did they do it? By using laws that originated long ago with God himself.’ (3) ‘But how can we be sure that what the Bible contains is really from God? It contains information that could not possibly have come from a human source. What kind? Details about the future; and these have always proved to be completely accurate. (For examples, see pages 60-62, also pages 234-239, under the heading “Last Days.”)’
‘Everyone has his own interpretation of the Bible’
You might reply: ‘And obviously not all of them are right.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘Twisting the Scriptures to fit our own ideas can result in lasting harm. (2 Pet. 3:15, 16)’ (2) ‘Two things can help us to understand the Bible correctly. First, consider the context (surrounding verses) of any statement. Next, compare texts with other statements in the Bible that deal with the same subject. In that way we are letting God’s own Word guide our thinking, and the interpretation is not ours but his. That is the approach taken in the Watch Tower publications.’ (See pages 204, 205, under the heading “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”)
‘It is not practical for our day’
You might reply: ‘And we are interested in things that are practical for us today, aren’t we?’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘Would you agree that putting an end to war would be practical? . . . Don’t you agree that if people learned to live together in peace with those of other nations, this would be a good start? . . . The Bible foretold exactly that. (Isa. 2:2, 3) As a result of Bible education, this is taking place today among Jehovah’s Witnesses.’ (2) ‘Something more is needed—the removal of all men and nations that cause wars. Will such a thing ever happen? Yes, and the Bible explains how. (Dan. 2:44; Ps. 37:10, 11)’
Or you could say: ‘I appreciate your concern. If a guidebook was not practical, we would be foolish to use it, wouldn’t we?’ Then perhaps add: ‘Would you agree that a book that provides sound counsel that can enable us to have a happy family life is practical? . . . Theories and practices involving family life have changed many times, and the results we see today are not good. But those who know and apply what the Bible says have stable, happy families. (Col. 3:12-14, 18-21)’
‘The Bible is a good book, but there is no such thing as absolute truth’
You might reply: ‘It’s true that everyone seems to have a different opinion. And even if someone thinks he has a thing figured out, he often finds that there is at least one other factor that he didn’t consider. But there is someone who does not have such a limitation. Who might that be? . . . Yes, the Creator of the universe.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘That is why Jesus Christ said to him: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) That truth is in the Bible. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17)’ (2) ‘God does not want us to grope in ignorance; he has said that his will is for us to come to an accurate knowledge of truth. (1 Tim. 2:3, 4) In a thoroughly satisfying manner the Bible answers such questions as . . . ’ (To help some people, you may first need to discuss evidence for belief in the existence of God. See pages 145-151, under the heading “God.”)
‘The Bible is a white man’s book’
You might reply: ‘It certainly is true that they have printed many copies of the Bible. But the Bible does not say that one race is better than another.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘The Bible is from our Creator, and he is impartial. (Acts 10:34, 35)’ (2) ‘God’s Word holds out to people of all nations and tribes the opportunity to live forever here on earth under his Kingdom. (Rev. 7:9, 10, 17)’
Or you could say: ‘Not at all! Mankind’s Creator was the one to choose the men whom he would inspire to write the 66 books of the Bible. And if he chose to use people with light-colored skin, that was his responsibility. But the Bible’s message was not to be confined to white people.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘Notice what Jesus said . . . (John 3:16) “Everyone” includes persons of whatever skin color. Also, before ascending to heaven, Jesus said these parting words to his disciples . . . (Matt. 28:19)’ (2) ‘Interestingly, Acts 13:1 speaks of a certain man named Niger, which name means “black.” He was one of the prophets and teachers of the congregation of Antioch, Syria.’
‘I believe only the King James Version’
You might reply: ‘If you have yours handy, I would like to share with you something that I have found to be very encouraging.’
Or you could say: ‘Many people use that Bible version, and I personally have one in my library.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘Did you know that the Bible was originally written in the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages? . . . Do you read those languages? . . . So we are grateful that the Bible has been translated into English.’ (2) ‘This chart (“Table of the Books of the Bible,” in NW) shows that Genesis, the first book of the Bible, was completed in 1513 B.C.E. Did you know that, after Genesis was written, some 2,900 years passed before the complete Bible was translated into English? And over 200 more years elapsed before translation of the King James Version was completed (1611 C.E.).’ (3) ‘Since the 17th century, English has undergone many changes. We have seen that in our own lifetime, haven’t we? . . . So we appreciate modern translations that carefully express the same original truths in the language that we speak today.’
‘You have your own Bible’
See the main heading “New World Translation.”