A Unique Source of Superior Wisdom
1, 2. Why should we examine the Bible?
1 Is the Bible the record of that superior wisdom? Can it give us truthful answers to the important questions that have to do with the purpose of life?
2 Certainly the Bible is worthy of our examination. One reason is that it is the most unusual book ever assembled, very different from any other book. Consider the following facts.
Oldest, Most Widely Distributed Book
3, 4. How old is the Bible?
3 The Bible is the oldest book ever written, parts of it being composed some 3,500 years ago. It is many centuries older than any other book considered sacred. The first of the 66 books that it contains was written about a thousand years before Buddha and Confucius and some two thousand years before Muḥammad.
4 The history recorded in the Bible goes back to the beginning of the human family and explains how we came to be here on earth. It even takes us back to the time before humans were created, giving us facts about the formation of the earth.
5. How many ancient manuscripts of the Bible exist, compared with ancient secular writings?
5 Other religious books, and nonreligious ones too, have only a few copies of their old manuscripts left in existence. About 11,000 handwritten copies of the Bible or parts of it exist in Hebrew and Greek, some of which date from close to the time of the original writing. These have survived even though the most concentrated onslaughts imaginable have been attempted against the Bible.
6. How widely has the Bible been distributed?
6 Also, the Bible is by far the most widely distributed book in history. About three billion Bibles or parts of it have been distributed in some two thousand languages. It is said that 98 percent of the human family have access to the Bible in their own language. No other book comes close to that circulation.
7. What can be said of the Bible’s accuracy?
7 In addition, no other ancient book compares with the Bible in accuracy. Scientists, historians, archaeologists, geographers, language experts, and others continually verify Bible accounts.
8. How accurate is the Bible in matters of science?
8 For example, while the Bible was not written as a science textbook, it is in harmony with true science when it deals with scientific matters. But other ancient books regarded as sacred contain scientific myths, inaccuracies, and outright falsehoods. Note just four of the many examples of the Bible’s scientific accuracy:
9, 10. Rather than reflect the unscientific views of its time, what did the Bible say about the earth’s support?
9 How the earth is held in space. In ancient times when the Bible was being written, there was much speculation about how the earth was held in space. Some believed that the earth was supported by four elephants standing on a big sea turtle. Aristotle, a Greek philosopher and scientist of the fourth century B.C.E., taught that the earth could never hang in empty space. Instead, he taught that the heavenly bodies were fixed to the surface of solid, transparent spheres, with each sphere nested within another sphere. Supposedly the earth was on the innermost sphere, and the outermost sphere held the stars.
10 Yet, rather than reflect the fanciful, unscientific views existing at the time of its writing, the Bible simply stated (in about the year 1473 B.C.E.): “[God is] hanging the earth upon nothing.” (Job 26:7) In the original Hebrew, the word for “nothing” used here means “not any thing,” and this is the only time it occurs in the Bible. The picture it presents of an earth surrounded by empty space is recognized by scholars as a remarkable vision for its time. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says: “Job 26:7 strikingly pictures the then-known world as suspended in space, thereby anticipating future scientific discovery.”
11, 12. When did humans come to understand the truth of Job 26:7?
11 The Bible’s accurate statement predated Aristotle by over 1,100 years. Yet, Aristotle’s views continued to be taught as fact for some 2,000 years after his death! Finally, in 1687 C.E., Sir Isaac Newton published his findings that the earth was held in space in relation to other heavenly objects by mutual attraction, that is, gravity. But that was close to 3,200 years after the Bible had stated with elegant simplicity that the earth is hanging “upon nothing.”
12 Yes, nearly 3,500 years ago, the Bible correctly noted that the earth has no visible support, a fact that is in harmony with the more recently understood laws of gravity and motion. “How Job knew the truth,” said one scholar, “is a question not easily solved by those who deny the inspiration of Holy Scripture.”
13. How did people regard the earth’s shape centuries ago, but what changed their mind?
13 The shape of the earth. The Encyclopedia Americana said: “The earliest known image that men had of the earth was that it was a flat, rigid platform at the center of the universe. . . . The concept of a spherical earth was not widely accepted until the Renaissance.” Some early navigators even feared that they might sail off the edge of the flat earth. But then the introduction of the compass and other advancements made possible longer ocean voyages. These “voyages of discovery,” another encyclopedia explains, “showed that the world was round, not flat as most people had believed.”
14. How did the Bible describe the earth’s shape, and when?
14 Yet, long before such voyages, about 2,700 years ago, the Bible said: “There is One who is dwelling above the circle of the earth.” (Isaiah 40:22) The Hebrew word here translated “circle” can also mean “sphere,” as various reference works note. Other Bible translations, therefore, say, “the globe of the earth” (Douay Version) and, “the round earth.”—Moffatt.
15. Why was the Bible not influenced by unscientific views about the earth?
15 Thus, the Bible was not influenced by the unscientific views prevalent at the time regarding the earth’s support and its shape. The reason is simple: The Author of the Bible is the Author of the universe. He created the earth, so he should know what it hangs on and what its shape is. Hence, when he inspired the Bible, he saw to it that no unscientific views were incorporated in it, however much they may have been believed by others at the time.
16. How does the makeup of living things agree with the Bible’s statement?
16 The composition of living things. “Jehovah God proceeded to form the man out of dust from the ground,” Genesis 2:7 states. The World Book Encyclopedia says: “All the chemical elements that make up living things are also present in nonliving matter.” So all the basic chemicals that make up living organisms, including man, are also found in the earth itself. This harmonizes with the Bible’s statement that identifies the material God used in creating humans and all other living things.
17. What is the truth of how living things came into existence?
17 “According to their kinds.” The Bible states that God created the first human pair and that from them all other humans descended. (Genesis 1:26-28; 3:20) It says that other living things, such as fish, birds, and mammals, did the same, coming forth “according to their kinds.” (Genesis 1:11, 12, 21, 24, 25) This is just what scientists have found in the natural creation, that every living thing comes from a parent of like kind. There is no exception. In this regard physicist Raymo observes: “Life makes life; it happens all the time in every cell. But how did nonlife make life? It is one of the biggest unanswered questions in biology, and so far biologists can offer little more than wild guesses. Somehow inanimate matter managed to get itself organized in an animate way. . . . The author of Genesis may have had it right, after all.”
18. What does a lawyer say about the Bible’s historical accuracy?
18 The Bible contains the most accurate ancient history of any book in existence. The book A Lawyer Examines the Bible highlights its historical accuracy this way: “While romances, legends and false testimony are careful to place the events related in some distant place and some indefinite time, thereby violating the first rules we lawyers learn of good pleading, that ‘the declaration must give time and place,’ the Bible narratives give us the date and place of the things related with the utmost precision.”
19. How does one source comment on the Bible’s historical details?
19 The New Bible Dictionary comments: “[The writer of Acts] sets his narrative in the framework of contemporary history; his pages are full of references to city magistrates, provincial governors, client kings, and the like, and these references time after time prove to be just right for the place and time in question.”
20, 21. What does a Bible scholar say about the Bible’s history?
20 Writing in The Union Bible Companion, S. Austin Allibone says: “Sir Isaac Newton . . . was also eminent as a critic of ancient writings, and examined with great care the Holy Scriptures. What is his verdict on this point? ‘I find,’ says he, ‘more sure marks of authenticity in the New Testament than in any profane [secular] history whatever.’ Dr. Johnson says that we have more evidence that Jesus Christ died on Calvary, as stated in the Gospels, than we have that Julius Caesar died in the Capitol. We have, indeed, far more.”
21 This source adds: “Ask anyone who professes to doubt the truth of the Gospel history what reason he has for believing that Caesar died in the Capitol, or that the Emperor Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of the West by Pope Leo III. in 800? . . . How do you know that such a man as Charles I. [of England] ever lived, and was beheaded, and that Oliver Cromwell became ruler in his stead? . . . Sir Isaac Newton is credited with the discovery of the law of gravitation . . . We believe all the assertions just made respecting these men; and that because we have historical evidence of their truth. . . . If, on the production of such proof as this, any still refuse to believe, we abandon them as stupidly perverse or hopelessly ignorant.”
22. Why do some refuse to accept the Bible’s authenticity?
22 Then this source concludes: “What shall we say, then, of those who, notwithstanding the abundant evidence now produced of the authenticity of the Holy Scriptures, profess themselves unconvinced? . . . Surely we have reason to conclude that it is the heart rather than the head which is at fault;—that they do not wish to believe that which humbles their pride, and will force them to lead different lives.”
Internal Harmony and Candor
23, 24. Why is the Bible’s internal harmony so unusual?
23 Imagine that a book began to be written during the time of the Roman Empire, continued down through the Middle Ages, and was completed in this 20th century, with many different writers contributing. What result would you anticipate if the writers were as diverse in their occupations as soldiers, kings, priests, fishermen, herdsmen, and doctors? Would you expect the book to be harmonious and coherent? ‘Hardly!’ you may say. Well, the Bible was written under these circumstances. Yet, it is harmonious in its entirety, not just in overall concepts but in minute details too.
24 The Bible is a collection of 66 books written over a period of 1,600 years by some 40 different writers, beginning in 1513 B.C.E. and ending in 98 C.E. The writers came from different walks of life, and many had no contact with the others. Yet, the book that resulted follows a central, coherent theme throughout, as though produced by one mind. And contrary to the belief of some, the Bible is not a product of Western civilization, but it was written by Orientals.
25. The Bible’s honesty and candor support what claim of the Bible writers?
25 While the majority of ancient writers reported only their successes and virtues, the Bible writers openly admitted their own mistakes, as well as the failings of their kings and leaders. Numbers 20:1-13 and Deuteronomy 32:50-52 record the failings of Moses, and he wrote those books. Jonah 1:1-3 and Jon 4:1 list the failings of Jonah, who wrote those accounts. Matthew 17:18-20; 18:1-6; 20:20-28; and Mt 26:56 record poor qualities shown by Jesus’ disciples. Thus, the honesty and candor of the Bible writers give support to their claim of being inspired by God.
Its Most Distinctive Feature
26, 27. Why is the Bible so accurate in scientific and other matters?
26 The Bible itself reveals why it is so accurate in scientific, historical, and other matters and why it is so harmonious and honest. It shows that the Supreme Being, the almighty God, the Creator who authored the universe, is the Bible’s Author. He merely used human Bible writers as his penmen, moving them by his powerful active force to put down what he inspired them to write.
27 In the Bible the apostle Paul states: “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.” And the apostle Paul also said: “When you received God’s word, which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as the word of men, but, just as it truthfully is, as the word of God.”—2 Timothy 3:16, 17; 1 Thessalonians 2:13.
28. From where, then, does the Bible come?
28 Thus, the Bible comes from the mind of one Author—God. And with his awesome power, it was a simple thing for him to make certain that the integrity of what was written was preserved down to our day. Of this a leading authority on Bible manuscripts, Sir Frederic Kenyon, in 1940, said: “The last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed.”
29. How may God’s ability to communicate be illustrated?
29 Humans have the ability to send radio and television signals to the earth from thousands of miles in space, even from the moon. Space probes have sent back to the earth physical information and pictures from planets that are hundreds of millions of miles away. Surely man’s Creator, the Creator of radio waves, could do at least as much. Really, it was a simple thing for him to use his almighty power to transmit words and pictures to the minds of those he chose to record the Bible.
30. Does God want humans to find out what his purpose is for them?
30 Moreover, there are many things about the earth and life on it that give evidence of God’s interest in mankind. Therefore, it is understandable that he would want to help humans find out who he is and what his purpose is for them by expressing these things clearly in a book—a permanent document.
31. Why is an inspired message that is recorded far superior to information that is handed down by word of mouth?
31 Consider, too, the superiority of a book authored by God, compared with information handed down by humans only by word of mouth. Word of mouth would not be reliable, as people would paraphrase the message, and over a period of time, its meaning would be distorted. They would relay the information by the spoken word according to their own viewpoint. But a God-inspired, permanent written record is much less likely to contain errors. Also, a book can be reproduced and translated so that people reading various languages can benefit from it. So is it not reasonable that our Creator used such a means to provide information? Indeed, it is more than reasonable, since the Creator says that this is what he did.
32-34. What does the Bible have that no other book contains?
32 In addition, the Bible bears the mark of divine inspiration in a uniquely outstanding way: It is a book of prophecies that have had and continue to have unerring fulfillment.
33 For example, the destruction of ancient Tyre, the fall of Babylon, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the rise and fall of the kings of Medo-Persia and Greece were foretold in great detail in the Bible. The prophecies were so accurate that some critics tried, in vain, to say they were written after the events took place.—Isaiah 13:17-19; 44:27–45:1; Ezekiel 26:3-6; Daniel 8:1-7, 20-22.
34 The prophecies that Jesus gave about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. were accurately fulfilled. (Luke 19:41-44; 21:20, 21) And prophecies about “the last days” given by Jesus and the apostle Paul are being fulfilled in detail in our very own time.—2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13; Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21.
35. Why can Bible prophecy come only from the Creator?
35 No human mind, however intelligent, could so accurately predict future events. Only the mind of the all-powerful and all-wise Creator of the universe could, as we read at 2 Peter 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.”
It Gives the Answer
36. What does the Bible tell us?
36 Hence, in many ways, the Bible bears the evidence of being the inspired Word of the Supreme Being. As such, it tells us why humans are on the earth, why there is so much suffering, where we are going, and how conditions will change for the better. It reveals to us that there is a supreme God who created humans and this earth for a purpose and that his purpose will be fulfilled. (Isaiah 14:24) The Bible also reveals to us what true religion is and how we can find it. Thus, it is the only source of superior wisdom that can tell us the truth about all the important questions of life.—Psalm 146:3; Proverbs 3:5; Isaiah 2:2-4.
37. What must be asked about Christendom?
37 While there is abundant proof of the authenticity and truthfulness of the Bible, do all who say that they accept it follow its teachings? Consider, for example, the nations that claim to practice Christianity, that is, Christendom. They have had access to the Bible for many centuries. But do their thinking and actions truly reflect God’s superior wisdom?
[Pictures on page 11]
Sir Isaac Newton believed that the earth was held in space in relation to other heavenly objects by gravity
The picture the Bible presents of an earth surrounded by empty space is recognized by scholars as a remarkable vision for its time
[Picture on page 12]
Some early navigators even feared sailing off the edge of the flat earth
[Picture on page 13]
There is more evidence that Jesus Christ existed than there is that Julius Caesar, Emperor Charlemagne, Oliver Cromwell, or Pope Leo III lived
[Picture on page 15]
The fulfillment of prophecies Jesus gave about Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E. is attested to by the Arch of Titus in Rome