1-3. What kind of book is the Bible, and what attention has been given to it?
NOTWITHSTANDING the opinion of many, the Bible is a most extraordinary book. The New Encyclopædia Britannica calls it “probably the most influential collection of books in human history.” This is certainly not an overstatement. Let us see why the Bible is so outstanding.
From Antiquity—Yet, Most Widely Distributed
2 The Bible is one of the oldest of the books that have survived till our time, especially among religious texts. Its earliest part was written in ancient Hebrew some 3,500 years ago (which corresponds to the Shang dynasty in China) by an Israelite named Moses. It began with the book of Genesis, an account of the stages of creation and the beginning of the human family. In the following 1,600 years, about 40 different people took part in completing this collection, or library, of 66 books containing laws, prophecies, history, poetry, letters, counsel, and much more.
3 Even though the Bible is old and has been the target of much vicious opposition and hatred, it has turned out to be the most widely distributed book in history. The Bible has now been translated into some 2,500 languages, and about three billion copies, in its entirety or in part, have already been distributed! It is said that 98 percent of the people on earth have access to the Bible in their own language. Just think: If God intends to communicate with mankind by means of a book, is it not reasonable that this book should be well-known and easily available so that people of all nationalities and races could read and benefit from it? (1 Timothy 2:4) The Bible is just such a book.
4-8. How has the Bible withstood scrutiny in the light of science and history?
4 If the Bible is really from God, its contents must be completely accurate and reliable. Can that be said of the Bible? Can it withstand scrutiny in the light of science and history?
5 Although the Bible is not a science textbook, whenever it touches on scientific matters, it is in harmony with proven science and is free from the mistaken views and absurd theories prevalent at the time of its writing. For instance, in ancient times some believed that the earth was supported by four elephants standing on a big sea turtle. Yet, the Bible simply states: “[God] is stretching out the north over the empty place, hanging the earth upon nothing.” (Job 26:7, written about 1473 B.C.E.) As early as 2,700 years ago, the Bible correctly noted the shape of the earth, saying: “There is One who is dwelling above the circle (“globe,” Douay Version) of the earth.” (Isaiah 40:22) If the Bible had not been inspired by God, how could its writers have known such facts?
6 Of the facts stated in the Bible, some have only come to be known and confirmed by science in recent times. For example, the Bible long ago revealed a beginning for the universe (Genesis 1:1), the correct order in which all living things were formed (Genesis, chapter 1), and the effects of the hereditary process (Psalm 139:16). Long before people had any concept of germs and hygiene, the Bible provided the Israelites with instructions that anyone touching a dead body (or excrement) became unclean and had to wash himself and his garments.—Numbers 19:11-22; Deuteronomy 23:12-14.
7 How did the Bible writers come to know these scientifically correct practices? They could not have written according to their own ideas because people in Bible times did not possess such knowledge. Only the Creator had the power and wisdom to provide that information. We, therefore, have sound reasons to believe that the Bible is truly from God.
8 What about history? Most ancient historical writings are riddled with legends and myths and tend to magnify successes and victories of a ruler or a people while glossing over their failures and defeats. The Bible differs entirely in this respect; its records are completely accurate and honest, providing specific names, places, dates, and times that can be verified. For example, regarding the time when Jesus commenced his ministry, the Bible account provides the names of seven contemporaneous rulers and leaders, so that the reader can ascertain the exact time by comparing the Bible record with reliable history. (Luke 3:1, 2) If a book was written under the direction of God, it must be completely accurate and truthful, as is the case with the Bible.
9-12. (a) What are some prophecies found in the Bible? (b) What does the fulfillment of Bible prophecies prove?
9 Humans cannot foretell the future with any certainty. If a book consistently provides prophecies that are accurately fulfilled, it could not be produced by human ability and wisdom. The Bible contains hundreds of prophecies, many of which have already been fulfilled. For example, centuries in advance the Bible foretold the fall of Babylon, the order in which succeeding world empires would appear, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the exiling of the Jews to Babylon.—Isaiah 13:17-19; 44:26; Jeremiah 25:8-12; Daniel 8:5-8, 20-22.
10 Bible prophecies concerning Jesus Christ are especially remarkable. Jesus lived in the first century. Hundreds of years before his birth, numerous prophecies concerning him had been given and were preserved in the Hebrew Scriptures (commonly called the Old Testament). All these prophecies were fulfilled in the one man Jesus, many in ways completely beyond his control. He could not, for instance, have arranged the time and place of his birth, the tribe into which he would be born, or the manner of his betrayal, humiliation, torture, execution, death, and burial. (Micah 5:2; Daniel 9:25; Genesis 49:10; Zechariah 11:12; Isaiah 50:6; Psalm 22:7, 8; 34:20) The fulfillment of these and other prophecies proves that Jesus was the Savior sent by God.
11 Bible prophecies do not deal only with the ancient past. They also accurately foretell events that are taking place in our day. For example, just review Matthew chapter 24, Luke chapter 21, 2 Timothy 3:1-5, and Revelation 6:3-8, and you will see how precisely the Bible describes modern-day happenings. It is worth noting that after the first world war, when the League of Nations was established, world leaders asserted that man had learned a bitter lesson and that there would never be another world war. The Bible, on the other hand, reveals that the untold suffering caused by the first world war was only the “beginning of pangs of distress.” (Matthew 24:8) History proves that Bible prophecy is completely accurate and that man’s thinking is erroneous.
12 Since prophecies in the Bible were fulfilled so accurately, is this not overwhelming evidence that the Bible is really God’s Word? Only the almighty God can provide such accurate information about events long before they occur.—2 Peter 1:21.
13-15. How do the counsel and advice that the Bible offers on daily living reflect superior and practical wisdom?
13 Life in today’s selfish world is filled with problems. Many people are plagued by money problems. Families are shattered by serious marriage problems. Young people are confronted with questions about friends, sex, drinking, drugs, and so on. If the Bible is really a guide from God for all mankind, it should help people to deal with these problems. But does it?
14 Bible counsel, though often different from popular opinion, is nonetheless effective and practical. For example, when marriage problems arise, marriage counselors often suggest separation or divorce as the solution. The Bible, however, points out that the marriage arrangement is a serious matter. It also advises both husbands and wives to show love and deep respect for each other and thus prevent serious problems from developing. (Ephesians 5:22-28) As for money matters, the Bible reminds us to avoid greed and cultivate contentment. It also encourages us to desist from money-wasting bad habits, such as overdrinking, smoking, drug abuse, and gambling. (1 Timothy 6:7-10) In human relations, the Bible’s advice is: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matthew 7:12) If you show love in all you do, you will gain the friendship and respect of others, thus lessening pressure and friction.
15 From these few examples, do you not agree that counsel from the Bible is practical and is also superior to human wisdom? Actually, there are millions of people around the world today who have overcome their problems by diligently following the Bible’s advice. Yes, by applying the Bible’s practical counsel, it is possible to find lasting peace and happiness.
A Guide for the Blessing of All Mankind
16-18. (a) Are the Bible’s instructions practical for the Chinese? (b) Do you now believe that the Bible is a book beneficial for all mankind? Please explain.
16 Many Orientals contend that the Bible is a product of the West, that its teachings and advice are not necessarily suitable for people living in the East. Is this true? Since the Creator understands human needs better than anyone else does, he has provided the Bible for mankind as a whole so that all people can benefit from its teachings. For instance, Chinese teachers and sages through the ages have provided many ethical aphorisms and sayings, some of which no doubt are of practical value. However, many of these sayings merely echo what the Bible teaches. Here are just a few examples:
Respect your seniors: Before gray hair you should rise up (Leviticus 19:32)
Honor your parents: Honor your father and your mother (Exodus 20:12)
When you drink water, think of its source: Remember, now, your Grand Creator in the days of your young manhood (Ecclesiastes 12:1)
He who comes near vermilion is stained red, and he who comes near ink is stained black: He that is walking with wise persons will become wise, but he that is having dealings with the stupid ones will fare badly (Proverbs 13:20)
17 It should be noted that such Bible teachings were written long before the many schools of thought in China came into existence. Indeed, the Bible can be of immense benefit to all mankind. With the help of the Bible, we can find the true purpose and meaning of life. Just as our daily bread satisfies us physically, the Bible can satisfy us spiritually. (Matthew 5:3; John 4:34) The Bible can also help us draw close to God. The closer we come to our Creator, the happier and more satisfied we will be.
18 Benefits promised in the Bible, however, are not limited to life today. The Bible reveals that God will soon bring an end to all wickedness and injustice, by means of a righteous government of his making. The earth will then become a global paradise. What requirements, though, must you meet so that you can enjoy such marvelous blessings? Please read the next chapter.