The Bible—A Book to Be Read
IT IS easy to run out of superlatives when one is talking about the Bible. It is by far the most widely circulated book in all history. The Bible is the oldest, most translated, most quoted, most influential, and most respected book. Probably it is also the most controversial. And certainly it is the book that has survived the most bans, burnings, and violent opposition. Unhappily, though, there is one superlative that can no longer be applied to the Bible. It is unlikely that it is any longer the most widely read book in the world.
While people may have a Bible somewhere in the house, many feel that they are too busy to spend time actually reading it. Reading was once a popular pastime. Now, however, most prefer to spend their spare time watching television or doing something else. Those who still do some reading usually prefer something light and easy. Reading the Bible takes concentration, and most people no longer concentrate deeply on what they read.
Yet, the Bible did not survive merely to be left sitting on our bookshelves. There are good reasons why it should be read. Consider some facts about it.
No Wonder It Endured!
The term “Bible” comes from the Greek word bi·bliʹa, meaning “little books.” This reminds us that the Bible is made up of a number of books—some not so little! They were written over a period of sixteen hundred years. While the writers were men, they were inspired by a higher Source. One Bible writer said: “Prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21) What is true of Scriptural prophecy is also true of the rest of the Bible. These divinely inspired “little books” are filled with the lofty thoughts of Jehovah God. (Isaiah 55:9) No wonder the Bible has endured so long!
For God’s servants, the Bible has always been the foremost book. They agree with the apostle Paul, himself one of the Bible writers. He said: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching.” (2 Timothy 3:16) Accordingly, the Bible is the basis of the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses today. It determines their doctrines and governs their conduct. They wholeheartedly recommend that everyone read some portion of God’s Word each day and meditate appreciatively on its contents.—Psalm 1:1-3.
The Habit of Bible Reading
The habit of reading the Scriptures has been beneficial in times past. Kings of Israel were commanded to make their own handwritten copy of the Law—now an important part of the Bible—and read it daily as a constant reminder of God’s will for them. (Deuteronomy 17:18-20) Failure to do this caused the downfall of many kings.
The value of studying the Scriptures is illustrated in the case of the aged prophet Daniel. Because of his personal study of the parts of the Bible that existed in his day, Daniel, while in exile in Babylon, was able to ‘discern by the books’ that an important prophecy recorded by Jeremiah was about to be fulfilled.—Daniel 9:2.
At the time of Jesus’ birth, the “righteous and reverent” man Simeon was confidently expecting to see the one who would become the Christ, or the Messiah. Simeon had been promised that he would not die before seeing the Christ. His allusion to Isaiah’s prophecy when holding the infant Jesus in his arms shows that Simeon was an attentive reader of the books of the Bible that had already been written in his day.—Luke 2:25-32; Isaiah 42:6.
When John the Baptizer was preaching, “the people were in expectation” of the Messiah. What does this indicate? It suggests that many among the Jews were familiar with the Messianic prophecies recorded in the Scriptures. (Luke 3:15) This is interesting, for in those days books were not readily available. Copies of Bible books had to be painstakingly made by hand, and they were correspondingly expensive and difficult to obtain. How did people become familiar with their contents?
In many cases, by public reading. For example, Moses commanded that at certain fixed times, the whole Law given by God was to be read to the assembled Israelites. (Deuteronomy 31:10-13) By the first century C.E., public reading of Bible books was widespread. The disciple James remarked: “From ancient times Moses has had in city after city those who preach him, because he is read aloud in the synagogues on every sabbath.”—Acts 15:21.
Today, it is easy to own a personal copy of the Bible. At least some of these “little books” are available in the languages of 98 percent of the world’s population. Thus it is sad that many are not interested in finding out what the Bible has to say to them. This may be a scientific age, but God’s Word, the Bible, is still preeminently “beneficial for teaching.” It gives sound counsel on morals, human relations, and many other subjects. Moreover, the Bible offers the only sure hope for a peaceful future.
Read It Regularly
Jehovah’s Witnesses have therefore made it a prominent part of their work to encourage the regular reading of the Bible. In bold letters on the factory building at their world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, appears the exhortation: “READ GOD’S WORD THE HOLY BIBLE DAILY.” Millions of passersby have seen these words, and it is hoped that many have heeded them.
In the more than 73,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the world, sessions of the Theocratic Ministry School are held each week. Part of the course is the public reading of a selected portion of the Bible. All in attendance also have an assignment to read a few chapters of the Bible weekly in the privacy of their own home. Those who keep up with this schedule eventually read the whole Bible.
This arrangement is in harmony with one of the textbooks used in this school. The Theocratic Ministry School Guidebook says: “Your personal schedule should include time for reading the Bible itself. There is great value in reading it right through from cover to cover. . . . However, your goal in reading should never be just to cover material, but to get the overall viewpoint of it with the intention of remembering. Take time to ponder on what it says.”
Other publications produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses likewise encourage the reading of the Bible. For example, in this journal’s companion magazine, Awake!, appeared the following encouragement for young people: “Have you read . . . the Bible all the way through? Yes, the Bible is a big book, but why not break down the reading of it into small portions? . . . The ‘noble-minded’ Beroeans ‘carefully examined the Scriptures daily.’ (Acts 17:11) If you follow a daily schedule of reading just 15 minutes a day . . . , you could complete the reading of the Bible within a year.” Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses feel that modern-day Christians should be well acquainted with the Scriptures, just as God’s servants were in ancient times.
With this in mind, the Witnesses have promoted a 20th-century version of public Bible reading. In several languages, they have made cassette recordings of readings covering the entire Bible. For many this has proved to be a fine help in overcoming some obstacles to Bible reading. Some listen to these recordings while working around the house, driving their car, or doing a number of other things. To sit down and listen quietly to the reading of a portion of the Bible while following along in your own copy is a delightful experience.
If you are not already reading the Bible daily, why not make it your habit to do so? This need not take long each day, but the benefits will be great, for application of the Scriptures will enable you to act wisely and enjoy a spiritually rewarding life. You will also be acting in harmony with this command given long ago to the Israelite leader Joshua: “This book of the law should not depart from your mouth, and you must in an undertone read in it day and night, in order that you may take care to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way successful and then you will act wisely.”—Joshua 1:8.
The pages of the Bible reveal Jehovah’s loving purpose for obedient mankind. Accurate knowledge of his inspired Word results in true happiness and the hope of eternal life in Paradise in a marvelous new world of endless blessings. (Luke 23:43; 2 Peter 3:13) May you seize your opportunity to read and study the Bible and reach out for this wonderful life.