Publishing the “Word of Life” in a Dying World
1. How is a message of human survival being published today, and where is it found?
TODAY the survival of the human race is in question, if we are to judge from statements made by militarists, scientists and economists. But, no matter how disquieting the statement of their fears may be, there is an authoritative message of survival now being published. Hence there are people today who believe in the survival of the human race. These few who have such a remarkable belief are being heard widely today. They are publishing everywhere the “word of life.” That life-giving word is contained in the Holy Bible, which is the Word from the Fountain of life, Jehovah God.
2. (a) With what distribution would the publishing of the “word of life” reasonably have to be accompanied? (b) How would the introduction to James’ letter and the time when he wrote it indicate such a distribution?
2 Since the “word of life” is contained on the pages of the Holy Bible, the publishing of the “word of life” would reasonably have to be accompanied by the publishing and distributing of the Bible. That Book was meant to be spread around everywhere. Various prophecies in it show that. Introductions to a number of letters in the Bible indicate that. For example, the disciple James, in writing his letter to the symbolic “twelve tribes” of Christian Israel, opened it by saying: “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes that are scattered about: Greetings!” (Jas. 1:1) How widely scattered abroad were the “tribes” by then, especially if James wrote his letter about A.D. 60, or about twenty-seven years after the holy spirit was poured out in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost? On that day about three thousand Jews and proselytes were converted to accept Jesus as Lord and Master and Messiah or Christ, the Son of God; and Acts 2:5-11 tells us that they were from “every nation of those under heaven,” Parthia, Media, Elam, Mesopotamia, Cappadocia, Pontus, Asia, Phrygia, Egypt, Libya, Rome, Crete and Arabia. When these departed from Jerusalem after the festival of Pentecost was over, they returned to these distant parts of the earth. In order to reach all these believers of the spiritual “twelve tribes” of Israel, James’ letter had to be copied and widely circulated about.
3. (a) Why would the letter to the Hebrews have to be circulated as widely as James’? (b) Why would Peter’s first letter have to be circulated?
3 Likewise, the fifty-eighth book of the Bible is directly addressed to the Hebrews, that is, to Hebrew Christians; and for this letter to reach them, it would have to be circulated just as widely as James’ letter. (Heb. 1:1) The introduction of the apostle Peter’s first letter reads: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the temporary residents scattered about in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, to the ones chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” (1 Pet. 1:1, 2) Thus Peter’s letter required circulation; and unless his original letter was slowly passed from one congregation to another, copies must have been made and distributed among all the congregations included in his introduction.
4. (a) Why did the last book of the Bible also require circulation? (b) How is Paul shown to have encouraged circulation of his letters, and who in Babylon was familiar with his letters?
4 The last book of the Bible, A Revelation to John, is addressed by John to the “seven congregations that are in the district of Asia,” in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. Hence this last book of the “word of life” required circulation also. The apostle Paul was a great letter writer. He supplied fourteen of the letters found in the Christian Greek Scriptures of the Holy Bible. Paul especially encouraged the circulation of his letters, he writing to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians and Hebrews generally. In his letter to the Christians at Colossae he said in his conclusion: “When this letter has been read among you, arrange that it also be read in the congregation of the Laodiceans and that you also read the one from Laodicea.” (Col. 4:16) Even the apostle Peter, when he was writing from Babylon in Mesopotamia, spoke of his familiarity with the letters of Paul. (2 Pet. 3:15; 1 Pet. 5:13) All the evidence is that those first-century Christians were sharing the “word of life” with others in this dying world.
5. (a) What manuscript copies of the Christian Greek Scriptures are still in existence? (b) Whom did Christian copyists have as an example for copying the Scriptures, and how could they produce the complete Bible?
5 Today there are still in existence about 4,000 manuscript copies of the twenty-seven books found in the Christian Greek Scriptures, none of these, however, being of the first century. Besides this, there are around 8,000 manuscript copies in a Latin translation, and around 1,000 manuscript copies of translations in still other languages. As regards making copies, the early Christians, the first of whom were Jews or Hebrews, had an example in the Jewish scribes or Sopherim, who, from the days of Ezra the priestly scribe or copyist, made handwritten copies of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures for the Jewish synagogues. The synagogues came to be established all around, inside and outside the Roman Empire, wherever the Jews were scattered. Thus it was possible to go into a synagogue in Antioch in Pisidia, Asia Minor, and hear the Hebrew Scriptures read; or in Beroea, Macedonia; or in Rome, Italy. (Acts 13:14, 15; 17:10, 11; 28:16-23) So the Hebrew Scriptures had a then worldwide circulation. Accordingly, besides copying the Christian Greek Scriptures, the Christian copyists could make copies of the inspired Hebrew Scriptures or of its Greek Septuagint translation, if they could not buy copies from the Jewish vendors or sellers. They could thus make copies of the complete Bible of sixty-six inspired books.
6. (a) How were the Christians under a command different from that of the Jews as regards publicity? (b) This “word of life” is what kind of word, as demonstrated by Jesus during temptation?
6 Under the law of Moses the Jews were under command to keep to themselves, or separate from the Gentiles. The Christian congregations, however, were under command by the Greater Moses, Jesus Christ, and his apostles to move out, to become unitedly the greatest publicity organization on earth, a Christian organization specializing on publishing to the whole dying world the “word of life,” the good news of God’s kingdom. This “word of life” is not a mere verbal tradition, a message handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. It is a written Word, that remains unchanged by time or circumstances and that can be read, analyzed and compared with the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. That is why Jesus Christ himself, who is called “the Word of God” and “the word of life,” could repulse the Devil’s temptations by saying repeatedly: “It is written,” and then quoting the written Bible—Scriptures!—Matt. 4:1-10.
7. (a) What did Jesus predict regarding the good news in our day? (b) For this to be accomplished, what has it required, and to what extent has this been done by now?
7 Pointing forward to our days, days that have been marked by world war, famine, pestilences, earthquakes and perplexity of the nations because of their approaching end in the universal war of Armageddon, Jesus said: “Also, in all the nations the good news has to be preached first.” (Mark 13:8-13) For the good news of eternal life through God’s kingdom under Christ to be preached and understood in all the nations, it had to be translated into the languages of the peoples of those nations. To this end, because the Holy Bible is a book with a message from God for the whole world, it has been translated into more languages than any other book in human history. By this year 1961 it had already been translated in whole or in part into 1,165 languages and dialects, so that, if everybody on earth were taught to read in his own language, the Bible or parts of it could be read by 90 percent of the world’s population.
8. What is reported about Bible translation in behalf of the peoples in Asia and Africa and island peoples?
8 It is reported at this time that there are 1,000 translators of nearly 100 different religious societies that represent 40 different nationalities, who are preparing for their peoples what they hope will be an authoritative translation of the Scriptures, an Authorized Version, as it were, for Africa, Asia and peoples of the islands. To provide scholarship and technical aid for getting translations of the Holy Scriptures to the people, the Bible Society is said to be “now entering on a phase of expansion and cooperation without precedent in its long history.”
9. When especially were Bible societies established, and what have popes of Rome said about such societies?
9 Especially toward the beginning of the last century Bible societies were established. These societies have not had the approval of the popes of the Vatican nor of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy. In a papal bull to the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland, A.D. 1825, Pope Leo XII said: “A certain society, vulgarly called the Bible Society, is audaciously dispreading itself through the whole world. After despising the traditions of the holy fathers, and in opposition to the well known decree of the Council of Trent, this society has collected all its forces, and directs every means to one object:—to the translation, or rather to the perversion, of the Bible into the vernacular languages of all nations.” A later pope, Pius IX, showed his attitude toward the “word of life,” saying: “Accursed be those very crafty and deceitful societies called Bible Societies, which thrust the Bible into the hands of the inexperienced youth.”a
10. In spite of Catholic disapproval what work went on, and what were established in Europe and America?
10 In spite of Roman Catholic disapproval and opposition the work of translating and publishing the “word of life” went forward. The Italian Bible was printed a dozen times before A.D. 1500, and eighteen editions of the German Bible had already been published before the version by ex-priest Martin Luther appeared. In 1804 the Basel Bible Society was founded at Nuremberg. That same year the British and Foreign Bible Society was founded in London, and it contributed financially to Bible societies on the continent of Europe. In America the earliest Bible society was established in Philadelphia in 1808; the New York Bible Society followed in 1809, and the American Bible Society in 1816. The Danish Bible Society at Copenhagen and the Swedish Bible Society came into existence in 1814. The Hamburg-Altona Bible Society appeared in the same year, and also the Netherlands Bible Society at Amsterdam. The Paris Protestant Bible Society was authorized by the French government in 1818. Numerous Bible societies followed in Europe, but, says The Encyclopædia Britannica (Volume 3, edition 11), on page 907: “Some of them were ultimately dissolved or suppressed through political or ecclesiastical opposition, the Roman Church proving especially hostile.”
11. What society was incorporated in 1884, and what has it kept printing till now?
11 Comparatively late, but in God’s due time, in 1884 there was incorporated at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, what is known today as Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania. Though a special target of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy and of the Protestant clergy as well, the Watch Tower Society has kept printing Bibles till now and is the publishing agent used by Jehovah’s witnesses.
12. Since the forming of Bible societies, how great has been the putting out of the Bible, and how is this keeping up with the growth of the world population?
12 Since the formation of all these Bible societies the publishing and distributing of the Holy Bible has been enormous, more than two thousand million copies having been put out, in whole or in part. This past year there was a world distribution of 30 million copies by all Bible societies, many of these being New Testaments, or the Christian Greek Scriptures. However, the world population increases by 45 million persons a year, or half again as many as the number of copies of the Holy Scriptures. So the production of copies of the Scriptures is not keeping up with the world population. Yet we must remember that much of this population increase is in Communist Russia and Red China, which are behind the Iron and Bamboo Curtains, so that their peoples cannot easily be reached.
13. How is the crying need for putting out more Bibles shown in the experience of one Bible society this past year?
13 There is a crying need for the distributing of more Bibles. One Bible society reported that there had been “an astonishing increase in circulation of Holy Scripture in areas of political tension and revolution”; that in Cuba and the African Congo, for instance, the society’s stocks were exhausted; that fresh printings had to be made and new books rushed, sometimes by air, to supply the demands of religious organizations in those areas of turmoil; that, in co-operation with other Bible societies, in seventy-five countries, the organization had put out more than 23 million pieces of Scripture last year, which means an increase of 32 percent over the distribution during 1959.—New York Times, May 12, 1961.
MAKING IT NOT IN VAIN
14. Why may much of this vast Bible distribution have been in vain, and how only can the Bible be understood?
14 Here it is proper to ask some questions: How much of this vast Bible distribution has been in vain? Recently there has occurred what is called a “reading explosion,” so that doubtless more persons are reading the Bible. But will Bible reading alone impart life to the reader? Does such Bible reading, begun by an individual with much enthusiasm and appreciation, fall off after a while and this book become just another stacked away on his library shelf? Can the Bible be understood and harmonized by the individual reader by himself? God gave the Bible, not to an individual, but to a nation, first the Hebrew nation, and then to what Peter calls God’s “holy nation,” which is the “Israel of God,” whose circumcision is not in the flesh but in the heart. It is thus an organization Book. It can be understood only in company with God’s true visible organization, the one filled with his holy spirit.—1 Pet. 2:9; Gal. 6:12-16.
15. How does the case of the Ethiopian Bible reader illustrate that the Bible cannot be understood unaided by someone else?
15 Remember the Ethiopian Bible reader. He was returning from the temple in Jerusalem and reading aloud Isaiah’s prophecy as he rode along. Directed by God’s angel, the Christian evangelizer Philip hailed the chariot and asked this Ethiopian court official whether he understood what he was reading. Honestly the Ethiopian answered: “Really, how could I ever do so, unless someone guided me?” He invited Philip to step aboard and then listened to Philip explain the prophecy to him from the Christian standpoint. Now he understood to the point of desiring to become a follower of Jesus Christ, “the Word of God.” On driving near to a body of water he asked: “What prevents me from getting baptized?” After baptizing him Philip left and the Ethiopian convert went on his way rejoicing.—Acts 8:26-39.
16. Through whom did the Bible have to be explained, as illustrated in the case of the Berean Bible-reading Jews?
16 Remember also the Bible-reading Jews in Beroea in Macedonia. They heard the Law and the Prophets read in their synagogues and also studied these Scriptures privately, but never understood. Then along came the apostle Paul and he went into their synagogue. What he told them was new and different to them. But they were noble-minded about the matter. In what way? “They received the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so. Therefore many of them became believers, and so did not a few of the reputable Greek women and of the men.” (Acts 17:10-12) To understand the Bible for their salvation they had to have it explained through God’s organization.
17. What questions must be asked as regards the reading of the Bible in Jewish synagogues and in Christendom’s churches and homes?
17 From then and over these nineteen centuries till now the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms have been read in the Jewish synagogues, along with the comment of their rabbis. But has that saved the Jews? As for the reading of the complete Bible having both the Hebrew and the Christian Greek parts in the churches and the homes of the non-Jews, is this Bible reading by them as members of Christendom’s many sectarian religious denominations saving these hundreds of millions of Bible hearers or readers?
18. What makes it evident that all such Bible reading is in vain?
18 In this perplexing day how much of this religious Bible reading is aiding the readers to make right decisions on the vital issues of these times, now when we are living in the “conclusion of the system of things” and when the nations are on judgment before God regarding the supreme issue of universal sovereignty—by Jehovah God or by Satan the Devil? In spite of the Bible reading that the people hear or do in connection with Christendom’s religious systems, the people continue to conform themselves to this old world just the same as the atheists, the agnostics, the skeptics and the pagans do. They are not preparing themselves to meet the “war of the great day of God the Almighty,” by lining up with God’s kingdom, the good news of which is being preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations. (Matt. 24:14) Evidently their personal Bible reading is in vain. So what is needed?
19. (a) What may be said in commendation of putting out the Bible by itself? (b) But by what else must the Bible be supplemented as illustrated by the cases of the Ethiopian and the Berean Bible readers?
19 As in the case of the Ethiopian and the Berean Bible readers, there is an instructor, guide or teacher needed, one who is filled with God’s holy spirit and under God’s guidance as Philip and Paul were. Philip and Paul were no longer of the cast-off Jewish religious church but were now of God’s newly chosen organization, his “chosen race,” his “holy nation,” his “people for special possession,” filled with his spirit. We agree that Bible translating and publishing and distributing is a commendable thing. There is no book better to deal with than the Holy Bible. It is symbolically called the “sword of the spirit”; and certainly it is better to manufacture and distribute the “sword of the spirit” than to engage in the arms race and in making the munitions of carnal warfare, which only result in injuring, maiming and killing. But the Bible must be supplemented by something else. No, not by the traditions of men who were religious leaders of Christendom or of Judaism. The Bible must be supplemented by dedicated, baptized persons of God’s organization whom he sends forth to preach and teach.
20. What parting words of Jesus to his followers are still applicable, and so what is needed in conjunction with Bibles distributed?
20 Nineteen centuries of time have not taken away the force and applicableness of Jesus’ parting words to his followers: “Go therefore and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you. And, look! I am with you all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 28:19, 20) Down into the present “conclusion of the system of things” there is need of teaching by the sent ones in conjunction with the Holy Bible, the written Word of God.
21. What do the words of Paul and those of James show as to the mere readers and hearers of the Word of life and those doing it?
21 Call to mind Paul’s words: “There is no partiality with God. For instance, all those who sinned without law will also perish without law; but all those who sinned under law will be judged by law. For the hearers of law [but who sin under it] are not the ones righteous before God, but the doers of law will be declared righteous.” (Rom. 2:11-13) Also James’ words: “Become doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves with false reasoning. For if anyone is a hearer of the word, and not a doer, this one is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself, and off he goes and immediately forgets what sort of man he is. But he who peers into the perfect law that belongs to freedom and who persists in it, this man, because he has become, not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, will be happy in his doing it.” (Jas. 1:22-25) So not the mere readers of the Bible, nor the mere hearers of the Bible, but the doers of the Word of life are the ones who are approved and who will be rewarded with life.
22. (a) What, then, must we do besides publishing and distributing Bibles? (b) Also besides publishing books explaining the Bible?
22 What, then? We must not only publish and distribute Bibles but also live the Bible. We must not only put Bibles in people’s homes; we must also go back and help them to understand the Bible that we make it possible for them to read. We must arrange for them to have with us a home Bible study in order for them to see the truth of the Bible according to revealed scriptures and according to prophecies fulfilled in this “conclusion of the system of things.” We must help them to see the truth according to God’s dealings with the visible organization that he has chosen and is using to publish the “word of life.” Also, we must not only publish books about or in explanation of the Bible; we must also help the Bible readers to understand these Bible-explaining books, and to prove the things set forth in such books by their own copies of the Bible.
23. (a) In what respects should we all copy the greatest Bible teacher ever on earth? (b) Doing so, what do we all publish?
23 In this activity we must especially copy the greatest Bible teacher on earth, Jesus Christ, who is God’s Word personified. When God poured out his spirit upon him, Jesus was commissioned to preach. (Isa. 61:1-3; Luke 4:16-21) The work that he was commissioned to do he did, although there is no record that Jesus put out one copy of the Holy Scriptures. He left the making of copies of the Scriptures and the distributing of these to the Jewish scribes or copyists of his day. He specialized, not on copying Scripture or making Bible copies, but on teaching what was already copied of the Bible. He used people’s own copies of the Scriptures or those kept in the synagogues. (Luke 4:17, 20) Not all of us can be Bible printers, but we can be Bible distributors and, especially, Bible teachers. This in particular is how we all publish the “word of life” today.
24. What are the facts with regard to Jehovah’s witnesses in the use of Bible translations in their work from house to house?
24 “But Jehovah’s witnesses have and use their own translation of the Bible,” some critics will say in order to prejudice and stumble others regarding Bible teaching by Jehovah’s witnesses. The Bible itself shows that it was written in its original languages (Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek) by Jehovah’s witnesses, from Moses down to the apostle John, who wrote the last book of the Bible. But the many current translations of the original Bible were made by whom? By persons who claimed to be Jehovah’s witnesses? No; but by men who were, for the most part, members of sectarian churches of Christendom. Today Jehovah’s witnesses are doing the commanded teaching work in 158 languages, using not their own translations but those of the 1,165 translations already at hand for them to use. Where Bibles are already in the homes that Jehovah’s witnesses visit in preaching from house to house, they use those Bibles or let the householders use such Bibles in conducting a home study of the “word of life.” And yet with such Bibles Jehovah’s witnesses are able to teach the same good news of God’s established kingdom by Christ.
25, 26. (a) What do Jehovah’s witnesses use as their legal servant, and what is its record as to printed Bible translations? (b) In preaching the Kingdom message, what Bible translation do Jehovah’s witnesses use?
25 Jehovah’s witnesses use as their administrative, publishing and legal servant the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society. It publishes English Bibles printed on its own presses in Brooklyn, New York. First, forty-two years after this Society was incorporated, it began to print on its own presses a Greek-English New Testament called The Emphatic Diaglott, which was produced by a Christadelphian twenty years before the Society was incorporated. Fifty-eight years after it was incorporated the Society began printing copies of the Authorized or King James Episcopalian Version of the Bible of the year 1611. Sixty years after it was incorporated the Society began to print copies of the American Standard Version Bible of 1901. And now seventy-seven years after it was incorporated, the Watch Tower Society produces for the first time, namely, in this year 1961, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures in one volume, under one cover, a Bible translation that came out in six successive separate volumes from 1950 to 1960. This is only in the English language and not usable by Jehovah’s witnesses in the 157 other languages in which we preach and teach today in 181 lands.
26 So we do not need to have our own Bible translation in order to preach and teach the glorious message for which Jehovah’s witnesses are distinguished from all the sects of Christendom—the good news of the established kingdom of Jehovah God and of his Christ. We use what Bibles are available in all languages.
27. (a) If not that of Bible translations, what is the real question today? (b) What, then, should the united publishers do with regard to the “word of life”?
27 It is today a question, not of Bible translations, but of teaching the true Kingdom message from the Bible. Continue onward, then, you united publishers of the “word of life.” Keep a tight unbreakable grip upon it, but do this by at the same time sharing the “word of life” with others in this dying world. The “word of life” is for all the world, for all nations. “Be glad, you nations, with his people,” says Jehovah God himself. (Deut. 32:43; Rom. 15:10) All of you, then, gladden the life seekers of all the nations by unitedly publishing to them God’s glorious “word of life.”
a See The Time Is at Hand, by C. T. Russell, published in 1889, page 322.