A Book From God
“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.
1, 2. (a) Why do some question whether the Bible is relevant for modern living? (b) What three lines of proof can we use to demonstrate that the Bible is from God?
IS THE Bible relevant for people living on the brink of the 21st century? Some think not. “Nobody would advocate the use of a 1924 edition chemistry text[book] for use in a modern chemistry class—too much has been learned about chemistry since then,” wrote Dr. Eli S. Chesen, explaining why he felt that the Bible is outdated. On the surface, this argument seems to make sense. After all, man has learned much about science, mental health, and human behavior since Bible times. Therefore, some wonder: ‘How could such an ancient book be free from scientific inaccuracies? How could it contain counsel that is practical for modern living?’
2 The Bible itself gives the answer. At 2 Peter 1:21, we are told that the Bible prophets “spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.” The Bible thus indicates that it is a book from God. How, though, can we convince others that this is so? Let us consider three proofs that the Bible is God’s Word: (1) It is scientifically accurate, (2) it contains timeless principles that are practical for modern living, and (3) it contains specific prophecies that have been fulfilled, as proved by historical facts.
A Book That Agrees With Science
3. Why has the Bible not been threatened by scientific discoveries?
3 The Bible is not a science textbook. It is, however, a book of truth, and truth can stand the test of time. (John 17:17) The Bible has not been threatened by scientific discoveries. When it touches on matters related to science, it is completely free from ancient “scientific” theories that proved to be mere myths. In fact, it contains statements that not only are scientifically sound but also flatly contradict the accepted opinions of the day. Consider, for example, the agreement between the Bible and medical science.
4, 5. (a) Ancient physicians did not understand what about disease? (b) Why was Moses no doubt familiar with the medical practices of Egyptian physicians?
4 Ancient physicians did not fully understand how disease spreads, nor did they realize the importance of sanitation in preventing sickness. Many ancient medical practices would seem barbaric by modern standards. One of the oldest medical texts available is the Ebers Papyrus, a compilation of Egyptian medical knowledge, dating from about 1550 B.C.E. It contains 700 remedies for various afflictions, “ranging from crocodile bite to toenail pain.” Most of the remedies were merely ineffective, but some of them were extremely dangerous. For the treatment of a wound, one of the prescriptions recommended applying a mixture of human excrement combined with other substances.
5 This text of Egyptian medical remedies was written about the same time as the first books of the Bible, which included the Mosaic Law. Moses, who was born in 1593 B.C.E., grew up in Egypt. (Exodus 2:1-10) Raised in Pharaoh’s household, Moses was “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.” (Acts 7:22) He was familiar with “the physicians” of Egypt. (Genesis 50:1-3) Did their ineffective or dangerous medical practices influence his writings?
6. What sanitary regulation in the Mosaic Law would be considered reasonable by modern medical science?
6 On the contrary, the Mosaic Law included sanitary regulations that would be considered reasonable by modern medical science. For example, a law regarding military encampments required that excrement be buried outside the camp. (Deuteronomy 23:13) This was a profoundly advanced preventive measure. It helped keep the water sources free from contamination and provided protection from fly-borne shigellosis and other diarrheic illnesses that still claim millions of lives each year, mostly in developing lands.
7. What sanitary regulations in the Mosaic Law helped to prevent the spread of infectious diseases?
7 The Mosaic Law contained other sanitary regulations that helped prevent the spread of infectious diseases. A person who had or was suspected of having a communicable disease was quarantined. (Leviticus 13:1-5) Garments or vessels that came in contact with an animal that had died of itself (perhaps from disease) were to be either washed before reuse or destroyed. (Leviticus 11:27, 28, 32, 33) Any person who touched a corpse was considered unclean and had to undergo a cleansing procedure that included washing his garments and bathing. During the seven-day period of uncleanness, he was to avoid physical contact with others.—Numbers 19:1-13.
8, 9. Why can it be said that the sanitary code in the Mosaic Law was far ahead of its time?
8 This sanitary code reveals wisdom that was far ahead of its time. Modern medical science has learned much about the spread and prevention of disease. For example, medical advances in the 19th century led to the introduction of antisepsis—cleanliness to reduce infections. The result was a significant reduction in infections and premature deaths. In the year 1900, life expectancy at the time of birth in many European countries and in the United States was less than 50. Since then, it has increased dramatically, not only on account of medical progress in controlling disease but also because of better sanitation and living conditions.
9 Yet, thousands of years before medical science learned how disease spreads, the Bible prescribed reasonable preventive measures as a safeguard against disease. Not surprisingly, Moses could speak of Israelites in general in his day as living to 70 or 80 years of age. (Psalm 90:10) How could Moses have known about such sanitary regulations? The Bible itself explains: The Law code “was transmitted through angels.” (Galatians 3:19) Yes, the Bible is not a book of human wisdom; it is a book from God.
A Practical Book for Modern Living
10. Although the Bible was completed nearly 2,000 years ago, what is true of its counsel?
10 Books offering advice tend to become outdated and are soon revised or replaced. But the Bible is truly unique. “Your own reminders have proved very trustworthy,” says Psalm 93:5. Although the Bible was completed nearly 2,000 years ago, its words are still applicable. And they apply with equal effect regardless of the color of our skin or the country in which we live. Consider some examples of the Bible’s timeless, “very trustworthy” counsel.
11. Several decades ago, what were many parents led to believe about the disciplining of children?
11 Several decades ago many parents—spurred on by “innovative ideas” on child rearing—thought it was “forbidden to forbid.” Setting limits for children, they feared, would cause trauma and frustration. Well-meaning counselors were insisting that parents refrain from anything more than the mildest correction of their children. Many such experts are now “urging parents to be a little stricter, to take control again,” reports The New York Times.
12. What does the Greek noun translated “discipline” mean, and why do children need such discipline?
12 All along, however, the Bible has offered specific, balanced counsel on the subject of child training. It advises: “Fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) The Greek noun translated “discipline” means “upbringing, training, instruction.” The Bible says that discipline, or instruction, is evidence of parental love. (Proverbs 13:24) Children thrive under clear-cut moral guidelines that help them develop a sense of right and wrong. Properly administered discipline helps them to feel secure; it tells them that their parents care about them and about the kind of person they are becoming.—Compare Proverbs 4:10-13.
13. (a) When it comes to discipline, what caution does the Bible give parents? (b) What kind of discipline does the Bible recommend?
13 But the Bible cautions parents in this matter of discipline. Parental authority should never be abusive. (Proverbs 22:15) No child should ever be subjected to cruel punishment. Physical violence has no place in the family that lives by the Bible. (Psalm 11:5) Neither does emotional violence—harsh words, constant criticism, and biting sarcasm, all of which can crush a child’s spirit. (Compare Proverbs 12:18.) Wisely, the Bible warns parents: “Do not be exasperating your children, so that they do not become downhearted [or, “you will take all the heart out of them,” Phillips].” (Colossians 3:21) The Bible recommends preventive measures. At Deuteronomy 11:19, parents are urged to take advantage of casual moments to instill moral and spiritual values in their children. Such clear, reasonable counsel on child rearing is as relevant today as it was in Bible times.
14, 15. (a) In what way does the Bible provide more than just wise counsel? (b) What Bible teachings can help men and women of different races and nations to view one another as equals?
14 The Bible provides more than just wise counsel. Its message appeals to the heart. Hebrews 4:12 says: “The word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Consider an example of the Bible’s motivating power.
15 People today are divided by racial, national, and ethnic barriers. Such artificial walls have contributed to the wholesale slaughter of innocent humans in wars the world over. The Bible, on the other hand, contains teachings that help men and women of different races and nations to view one another as equals. For instance, Acts 17:26 says that God “made out of one man every nation of men.” This shows that there is really only one race—the human race! The Bible further encourages us to “become imitators of God,” of whom it says: “[He] is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him.” (Ephesians 5:1; Acts 10:34, 35) For those who truly seek to live by the Bible’s teachings, this knowledge has a unifying effect. It works on the deepest level—in the heart—dissolving the man-made barriers that divide people. Does it really work in today’s world?
16. Relate an experience showing that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a true international brotherhood.
16 Most certainly it does! Jehovah’s Witnesses are well-known for their international brotherhood, which unites people of different backgrounds who ordinarily would not be at peace with one another. During the ethnic clashes in Rwanda, for example, Jehovah’s Witnesses of each tribe protected their Christian brothers and sisters of the other tribe, endangering their own lives in the process. In one case, a Hutu Witness concealed in his home a Tutsi family of six from his congregation. Sadly, the Tutsi family were eventually discovered and killed. The Hutu brother and his family now faced the wrath of the killers and had to flee to Tanzania. Many similar examples were reported. Jehovah’s Witnesses readily acknowledge that such unity is possible because their hearts have been deeply touched by the motivating power of the Bible’s message. That the Bible can unite people in this hate-filled world is powerful proof that it is from God.
A Book of True Prophecy
17. How are Bible prophecies unlike man-made predictions?
17 “No prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation,” says 2 Peter 1:20. Bible prophets did not analyze trends in existing world affairs and then make educated guesses based on their personal interpretation of these developments. Neither did they utter vague predictions that could be made to fit just about any future happening. Let us consider, as an example, a Bible prophecy that was extraordinarily specific and that predicted just the opposite of what people then living might have expected.
18. Why did the inhabitants of ancient Babylon no doubt feel very secure, yet what had Isaiah foretold about Babylon?
18 By the seventh century B.C.E., Babylon was the seemingly impregnable capital of the Babylonian Empire. The city straddled the Euphrates River, and the river’s waters were used to form a broad, deep moat and a network of canals. The city was also protected by a massive system of double walls, buttressed by defense towers. Babylon’s inhabitants no doubt felt very secure. Yet, in the eighth century B.C.E., even before Babylon rose to the height of its glory, the prophet Isaiah foretold: “Babylon . . . must become as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. She will never be inhabited, nor will she reside for generation after generation. And there the Arab will not pitch his tent, and no shepherds will let their flocks lie down there.” (Isaiah 13:19, 20) Notice that the prophecy foretold not only that Babylon would be destroyed but that it would become permanently uninhabited. What a bold prediction to make! Could Isaiah have written his prophecy after he had observed a desolate Babylon? History answers no!
19. Why was Isaiah’s prophecy not completely fulfilled on October 5, 539 B.C.E.?
19 On the night of October 5, 539 B.C.E., Babylon fell to the armies of Medo-Persia under Cyrus the Great. However, Isaiah’s prophecy was not completely fulfilled at that time. Following the takeover by Cyrus, an inhabited Babylon—although an inferior one—continued for centuries. In the second century B.C.E., about the time the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah was copied, the Parthians took control of Babylon, which was then viewed as a prize over which surrounding nations fought. Jewish historian Josephus reported that “a great number” of Jews were living there in the first century B.C.E. According to The Cambridge Ancient History, Palmyrene merchants founded a prosperous trading colony in Babylon in 24 C.E. So, as late as the first century C.E., Babylon was still not completely desolate; yet, Isaiah’s book had been completed long before then.—1 Peter 5:13.
20. What evidence is there that Babylon eventually became mere “piles of stones”?
20 Isaiah never lived to see Babylon become uninhabited. But true to prophecy, Babylon eventually became mere “piles of stones.” (Jeremiah 51:37) According to Hebrew scholar Jerome (born in the fourth century C.E.), by his day Babylon was a hunting ground in which “beasts of every type” roamed, and it remains desolate to this day. Any restoration of Babylon as a tourist attraction might lure visitors, but Babylon’s “progeny and posterity” are gone forever, as Isaiah foretold.—Isaiah 14:22.
21. Why were faithful prophets able to foretell the future with unfailing accuracy?
21 The prophet Isaiah did not make an educated guess. Neither did he rewrite history to make it appear to be prophecy. Isaiah was a true prophet. So were all the other faithful Bible prophets. Why were these men able to do what no other humans can do—foretell the future with unfailing accuracy? The answer is clear. The prophecies originated with the God of prophecy, Jehovah, “the One telling from the beginning the finale.”—Isaiah 46:10.
22. Why should we do our utmost to urge honesthearted ones to examine the Bible for themselves?
22 So is the Bible worthy of examination? We know that it is! But many people are not convinced. They have formed opinions about the Bible even though they may never have read it. Recall the professor mentioned at the beginning of the preceding article. He agreed to a Bible study, and after carefully examining the Bible, he came to the conclusion that it is a book from God. He eventually got baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and today he serves as an elder! Let us do our utmost to urge honesthearted ones to examine the Bible for themselves and then form an opinion about it. We are confident that if they make an honest firsthand examination, they will come to realize that this unique book, the Bible, is indeed a book for all people!
Can You Explain?
□ How could you use the Mosaic Law to show that the Bible is not of human origin?
□ What timeless principles in the Bible are practical for modern living?
□ Why could the prophecy at Isaiah 13:19, 20 not have been written after the fact?
□ What should we encourage honesthearted ones to do, and why?
[Box on page 19]
What About the Unprovable?
The Bible contains various statements for which independent physical evidence is lacking. For example, what it says about an invisible realm inhabited by spirit creatures cannot be proved—or disproved—scientifically. Do such unprovable references necessarily put the Bible at odds with science?
This was the question facing a planetary geologist who began to study the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses some years ago. “I must admit that accepting the Bible was difficult for me at first because I could not prove some Bible statements scientifically,” he recalls. This sincere man continued studying the Bible and eventually became convinced that the available evidence demonstrates that it is God’s Word. “This lessened the yearning to have every Bible fact proved independently,” he explains. “A person with a scientific inclination must be willing to examine the Bible from a spiritual standpoint, or he will never accept the truth. Science cannot be expected to substantiate every statement in the Bible. But just because certain statements are unprovable, that does not mean that they are untrue. The important thing is that wherever provable the Bible’s accuracy is verified.”
[Picture on page 17]
Moses recorded sanitary regulations that were far ahead of their time