Appreciating the Book of Life-giving Wisdom
“I am bearing witness to everyone that hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone makes an addition to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this scroll; and if anyone takes anything away from the words of the scroll of this prophecy, God will take his portion away from the trees of life.”—Rev. 22:18, 19.
1. Of what value is life, and in what have men’s efforts to prolong life resulted?
LIFE! Of all the possessions we may have, what could be more precious than life itself? Without it could enjoy none of the other things we possess. Reasonably, then, it was asked by the greatest of men to live on the earth: “What benefit will it be to a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul?” (Matt. 16:26) The desire to live, the instinct for self-preservation, is one of the primary forces that drives man. Since ancient times imperfect, dying men have sought to unlock the secret of life and thus escape the inevitability of death. But neither the wisdom of the ancients nor the technical know-how of modern doctors and scientists has proved successful in this search. Despite all the sum of human wisdom, man still dies, and the goal of a perfect life continues to elude his grasp.
2. What does the truly wise person recognize about life, and what therefore becomes essential?
2 But the truly wise person recognizes the essential truth that life is a provision of the great Creator of all things animate and inanimate. The book known as the Bible identifies this One as Jehovah, “the God that made the world and all the things in it . . . he himself gives to all persons life and breath and all things. For by him we have life and move and exist.” (Acts 17:24, 25, 28; Gen. 2:4, 7) As Creator, the true God could be the only One to hold the key to everlasting life, and this He has promised as a gift to those who faithfully worship him. (Rom. 6:23) If you are a person who professes Christianity, you will no doubt wholly agree with that statement. But consider for a moment just what that means. It means that each one of us is entirely in the Creator’s hands as to gaining life. He grants life to us, not on our terms, but as it pleases him and according to whether we conform to his will. Hence, to come to an accurate knowledge of God’s will is as essential to life as temporal food and drink, indeed, more so.
3. How was man’s dependence on feeding on the words of God forcibly brought home to the Israelites?
3 This principle for living was forcibly brought to the attention of an entire nation, the nation of Israel, and that by the Creator of life himself. To that nation, overly concerned as it was with its immediate physical need for food in the wilderness, Moses explained: “So [Jehovah] humbled you and let you go hungry and fed you with the manna, . . . in order to make you know that not by bread alone does man live but by every expression of Jehovah’s mouth does man live.” The first one to receive life from the Creator was “the beginning of the creation by God,” and he became Christ Jesus. When being tempted by the Devil in the wilderness, he quoted from those words of Moses, thus not only verifying the historicalness of the event but also underlining the essential principle: To live man must feed upon the words of God.—Deut. 8:3; Rev. 3:14; Matt. 4:4.
4. What provision would God logically make for man?
4 It logically follows that, having made the feeding upon his words essential for life, God would make the ‘expressions of his mouth’ available to mankind through the ages. This he has done by having these expressions preserved in writing in what we today call the Bible. That book, then, may properly be called the Word of God.—Compare Mark 7:13.
5. (a) Why is an accurate knowledge of the Bible essential to one’s worship of God? (b) For what did Paul pray on behalf of his fellow Christians?
5 It is in the Bible that Jehovah God reveals himself and his purposes to man. Hence, for one to be able to worship God he must come to know accurately what the Bible has to say about Him. It is in the Bible that man can learn of Jehovah’s greatness, so that ‘generation after generation may commend his works.’ Its pages reveal the ‘abundance of God’s goodness’ and show how “Jehovah is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and great in loving-kindness.” It is only by appreciating these qualities of God as manifest in his dealings with mankind that the hearts of men are stirred to give to Jehovah the worship that is due to him and thus live in a way pleasing to him. Realizing the need for such knowledge, the apostle Paul wrote: “That is also why we . . . have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the accurate knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual discernment, in order to walk worthily of Jehovah to the end of fully pleasing him as you go on bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the accurate knowledge of God, being made powerful with all power to the extent of his glorious might so as to endure fully and be long-suffering with joy.”—Ps. 145:4, 7, 8; Col. 1:9-11.
6. What was it that shaped Jesus’ mental attitude, and how can we be like him in this respect?
6 Yes, we have to become well acquainted with the Bible, “the word of righteousness,” if we want to be counted among the true worshipers of God. Jesus Christ was well acquainted with his heavenly Father and with the expressions that came from him. This personal, intimate knowledge of God shaped his whole mental attitude. It led him to serve appreciatively as the foremost worshiper of the Creator, with the one desire to glorify him. (John 17:1) If it is your sincere desire to follow Jesus in the way of true worship, then, as you read the Bible, which contains “things that were written aforetime . . . for our instruction,” you too may grow in like knowledge and appreciation, and indeed by this means Jehovah God may graciously grant you the privilege of having “the same mental attitude that Christ Jesus had, that with one accord you may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—Rom. 15:4-6.
7. How does Jehovah provide training for our perceptive powers to distinguish right and wrong?
7 Jesus was accurately acquainted with Jehovah’s viewpoint on matters, of how He viewed what was right and what was wrong. Never was he in doubt as to what course he should follow to please his heavenly Father. Beneficially for us, Jehovah God has preserved in his Word the Bible his expressions as to what is good for man and what is bad for him. By having recorded the histories of men and nations as they relate to His purposes, Jehovah also instructs man by example as to what courses of action he approves or disapproves, and of the consequences thereof. Thus he trains us to distinguish clearly between right and wrong. Well did Paul express this under inspiration: “Everyone that partakes of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”—Heb. 5:13, 14.
8. What, then, must be cultivated, and to what advice will the sincere person wish to respond wholeheartedly?
8 If, then, it is your desire to be counted among those worshiping God “with spirit and truth,” you will want to cultivate an appetite for his written Word, having a sincere longing to learn the life-giving wisdom this book contains. You will want to respond wholeheartedly to the inspired advice: “My son, if you will receive my sayings and treasure up my own commandments with yourself, so as to pay attention to wisdom with your ear, that you may incline your heart to discernment; if, moreover, you call out for understanding itself and you give forth your voice for discernment itself, if you keep seeking for it as for silver, and as for hid treasures you keep searching for it, in that case you will understand the fear of Jehovah, and you will find the very knowledge of God.”—Prov. 2:1-5.
9. What questions concerning the Bible might some wish to ask?
9 But, you may ask, can we be sure that, when we open the Bible and read it, we are reading a book truly inspired by God? Do we have sound reasons for believing that the Bible as we have it is indeed God’s own revelation of himself and his purposes for mankind? May it not be that the Bible is but a collection of writings of merely human origin which, over the passage of time, has come to be accepted by tradition as of divine origin but without any real evidence of such?
10. (a) If the Bible were of human origin, what would we expect to find? (b) But to what do the contents of the Bible testify?
10 It is true that the Bible is a collection of different documents composed and compiled in written form over a period of some sixteen centuries. Such a collection written by at least thirty-nine men from virtually all walks of life, if of merely human origin, would, without doubt, lack cohesion and unity and would, because of human imperfection, be full of contradiction and error. Here at the outset we are faced with one of the most remarkable qualities of the Bible. Despite its being written over such a long period of time and having many writers involved in its compilation, this book exhibits the kind of unity of composition and inner harmony of facts and teaching that one could expect only from a common author. And that is exactly what the Bible claims for itself: that, though different men were used in its writing, this book has but one author, Jehovah God, whose invisible power or spirit moved those who wrote it. And so it is written: “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 Tim. 3:16, 17.
ESTABLISHING THE BIBLE CANON
11. In what ways is the term canon appropriate to the Bible?
11 The collection of inspired Scriptures is sometimes called the Bible canon. Originally this word canon referred to a reed used as a measuring rod. So, the books of inspired Scripture comprise a measuring rule or standard for determining right faith and doctrine and what is acceptable conduct with God. Additionally, the internal unity and harmony of the Bible has served as a straightedge or rule for determining the rightness of the claim of the individual books to a place in the collection of sixty-six books comprising the Divine Library.
12. What kind of start did the Bible canon have, and what testimony stamps this beginning as true and reliable?
12 But how did this collection get its start? What determined which writings over the years should be included as part of the growing canon of sacred Scripture? Logically the Bible canon had its beginning with those writings that told of the very origins of mankind and of the Creator’s earliest dealings with the human family. In contrast to the superstitious and illogical stories of man’s origins found in pagan mythology, the first writings to be included in the Bible canon contain a logical and comprehensible explanation of the creation of the earth and man. In so doing its presentation of the order in which living things were created is wholly in harmony with what has been established by the modern science of palaeontology, the study of past geological periods and fossils. Those same writings tell in a simple, direct way of the fall of man from perfection, and thus lay the basis for understanding the reason why man has inherited sin, imperfection and death. This account was referred to by the greatest teacher who ever lived on earth as true and reliable, and upon it he and his followers based their teachings.—Matt. 19:4, 5; 23:35; 24:37-39; Rom. 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 15:45; and so forth.
13. (a) What is the Pentateuch? (b) How were these writings viewed by the nation of Israel?
13 Those first writings of the Bible came to be called the Pentateuch (Greek for “five rolls”) and were penned by the one writer Moses. Originally comprising one book, the Pentateuch was later divided into five rolls or scrolls for easy handling, and these came to be named in modern English Bibles as Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. From the beginning these writings were accepted by the nation of Israel as a canon or rule for right conduct and worship. Moses’ successor, Joshua, said: “You must be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses by never turning away from it to the right or to the left. And you must be on constant guard for your souls by loving Jehovah your God.” (Josh. 23:6, 11) They were also accepted by the Jews as inspired and as wholly trustworthy documents. Thus the psalmist later recounts, in the first fifty-four verses 1-54 of Psalm 78, many of the events recorded in the Pentateuch as undisputed historical facts.
14, 15. What other evidences can be presented to support the authenticity of the Pentateuch?
14 “The book of the law of Moses,” as Joshua called the Pentateuch, bears all the evidence of inspiration. In addition to what is discussed above in paragraph 12, many other proofs of inspiration could be presented. The writer Moses claims that he wrote under divine command and that what he wrote was from Jehovah. So the claim of inspiration was not something that grew up by tradition, but was claimed from the start. (Ex. 17:14; 24:4) Moreover, wherever it is possible to test Moses’ writings as to their historicalness and geographical accuracy, they stand up to the closest scrutiny. For example, the Genesis account points to the plains of Shinar (now part of the modern country of Iraq) as the place where the human family settled after the Flood and where the languages of men were confused following their disastrous attempt to build the tower of Babel. On this point archaeologist Sir Henry Rawlinson remarked: “If we were to be guided by the mere intersection of linguistic paths, and independently of all reference to the Scriptural record, we should still be led to fix on the plains of Shinar, as the focus from which the various lines had radiated.”*
15 Likewise, modern geological investigation has given convincing support to the Bible account of the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, whose existence had long been questioned by critics of the Bible. (See the book “All Scripture Is Inspired of God and Beneficial,” pages 331, 332.) It can therefore be stated about the Pentateuch, as it can be stated for the rest of the inspired Scriptures: “Whenever there is sufficient documentary evidence to make an investigation, the statements of the Bible in the original text have stood the test. . . . The chronological and geographical statements are more accurate and reliable than those afforded by any other ancient documents; the biographical and other historical narratives harmonize marvellously with the evidence afforded by extra-Biblical documents.” So wrote Professor R. D. Wilson in his book A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament, page 213.
16. (a) What proves that the Pentateuch is more than just accurate history? (b) To what, therefore, does it undeniably belong, as testified by whom?
16 But the Pentateuch is more than an accurate history of bygone events. While historical, geographical and geological accuracy strongly support the claim that Moses wrote under divine inspiration, there would have to be more evidence than that to put the question beyond all doubting. And that evidence there is, in abundance. For example, mere humans could not have devised the wise and just laws recorded by Moses. The instructions regarding diet, diseases, treatment of dead bodies, quarantining of the sick, and so forth, found in the book of Leviticus, were of the highest practical value and anticipated literally thousands of years in advance the application of present medical knowledge. While not normally considered as prophetical books, those of the Pentateuch nevertheless contain prophecies that had accurate fulfillments, as recorded history has shown.* But the highest authority for the authenticity of Moses’ writings is the Bible itself. They so evidently belong to the one book of the one author Jehovah, because they are in complete harmony with it. Jesus, when on earth, clearly recognized this, for it is recorded about him: “And commencing at Moses and all the Prophets he interpreted to them things pertaining to himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:27) Time and again Jesus and the inspired Christian Bible writers quote from the writings of Moses as being of inspired origin.*
17. (a) What, then, was provided by the Pentateuch? (b) What evidences of canonicity does each succeeding book provide?
17 Thus with the writings of Moses so evidently compiled under inspiration of God a firm basis was established for the other inspired writings to follow. These would have to follow logically as to contents, both historically and in connection with doctrine, being in harmony with the fundamental principles of true worship established in the Pentateuch. And a close examination of the Bible books reveals this to be so. Not only does each successive book contain within itself (like the Pentateuch) evidences of inspiration, but each book gives evidence of being a product of the same divine authorship, its unity and harmony with what has gone before proving it belongs together in the one collection of divinely inspired writings.
18. Besides inspiring the writing of the individual books of the Bible, what other operation of holy spirit was required in producing the Bible canon?
18 While there were other writings contemporary with those included in the Bible canon, not all bore evidence of inspiration nor did they claim to be such for the most part, even though containing accounts historically true. Without doubt, Jehovah God, by his spirit, guided the collation of the inspired writings. Just as each individual book would give evidence of his inspiration, and hence his authorship, so the collection as a whole must give evidence of his inspired guidance and direction. And that it does. There would have to be nothing in any of the individual writings that would conflict with the internal harmony of the whole. In this respect the Bible as a collection of books by different writers stands unique, there is truly nothing else like it in existence. No other book can successfully maintain the claim to being the progressive revelation of God’s will and purposes and of his dealings with mankind.
19. (a) What considerations would guide Ezra and the Great Synagogue in establishing the canon of the Hebrew Scriptures? (b) By when, probably, was this canon finished, and of what did it consist?
19 It was without doubt with these considerations in mind and under the direction of God’s guiding invisible force that the scribe Ezra and those of the Great Synagogue after him drew up the catalogue of canonical books of the Hebrew Scriptures. It seems probable that, as the traditional Jewish view maintains, the canon of the Hebrew Scriptures was fixed by the end of the fifth century B.C.E. This canon did not include apocryphal writings included in some Bible editions, but listed just the thirty-nine books generally accepted and appearing in the majority of modern-day Bibles. That canon was the one accepted by Jesus and the early Christian church, and from which Jesus and his disciples quoted as authority, as God’s Word.*—John 17:17.
20. In what ways did the growing Bible canon manifest internal harmony and testify to its one authorship?
20 As the Bible canon grew, the original revelations as to God and his purpose for man recorded in Genesis remained uncontradicted. Rather, these were confirmed, clarified and enlarged by the later writings. With one voice they continued to testify that there is but one God, the Creator, whose name is Jehovah. He being the God who cannot lie, his standards of true justice, first expressed in his judgment on Adam and Eve, are upheld. But the developing revelation reveals him as a God of undeserved kindness to others unfortunately born to imperfect human parents. Moreover, the prophetic utterances in the first book of the Bible prove to be basic foundation stones on which later revelations of the Divine will are firmly constructed. Thus the promise of the Seed at Genesis 3:15 commences a wonderful series of prophetic revelations that is strung throughout the Bible like a string of precious stones. At the same time it, along with other stirring Bible themes, draws the individual books of the Bible together as testimony to their one common authorship.
21. (a) Rather than as a series of disjointed events and unrelated pictures, how should we view the Bible? (b) To what does it lead man?
21 As each book is written, God’s thrilling purpose unfolds—not as a series of disjointed episodes or unrelated prophetic pictures, but, like a masterful tapestry, the Bible reveals the purposes of God as a composite picture, all its parts being related to one another, each incident or event of Bible history having some part to play in the understanding of the whole. Each thought, doctrine, event, revelation or prophecy fits into the picture in its proper place, never clashing or contradicting, but contributing to our comprehension of the one grand purpose of Jehovah God. Above all, this wonderful book, the Bible, helps us to come to know God, and that knowledge means our life.—John 17:3.
The Historical Evidences of the Truth of the Scripture Records, page 287.
Ibid., pages 346 and 347.
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On the Plains of Shinar the Languages of Men Were Confused
Plains of Shinar