DO YOU believe that the Bible is from God? Or do you think that it is a book that contains purely thoughts from men?
That is an ongoing debate even among professed Christians. For instance, in 2014 a Gallup poll in the United States revealed that the majority of nominal Christians agreed that “the Bible is connected in some way to God.” On the other hand, about 1 in 5 polled viewed the Bible as a book of “ancient fables, legends, history, and precepts written by man.” This controversy puts the spotlight on the real meaning of the term “inspired” with regard to the Bible.—2 Timothy 3:16.
“INSPIRED”—WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
The Bible is made up of 66 small books, which were written by some 40 writers over a period of about 1,600 years. But if the Bible was written by men, how can it be “inspired of God”? Simply stated, the expression “inspired of God” means that the Source of the information in those writings is God. The Bible puts it this way: “Men spoke from God as they were moved by holy spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21) In other words, God used his invisible energizing force, holy spirit, to transmit his message to the writers of the Bible books. This can be likened to a businessman dictating a letter to his secretary. The letter’s author is, not the one doing the writing, but the one doing the dictating.
Some Bible writers actually heard God’s message conveyed audibly by an angel. Others saw visions from God. In some cases, God communicated his message in the form of dreams. While God at times allowed the writers to use their own words to record his message, at other times he gave them precise wording. In any event, human writers conveyed God’s thoughts and not their own.
How can we be sure that it was God who inspired the Bible writers? Consider three lines of evidence that build confidence in the Bible’s divine origin.
ALTHOUGH the Bible is not a science textbook, it is accurate when it discusses the natural world. Consider examples from the fields of meteorology and genetics.
METEOROLOGY—FORMATION OF RAIN
The Bible states: “[God] draws up the drops of water; they condense into rain from his mist; then the clouds pour it down.”—Job 36:27, 28.
Here the Bible describes the three main steps of the hydrologic cycle. God—the Source of solar heat—“draws up the drops of water” by (1) evaporation. Then, by means of (2) condensation, the uplifted water vapor forms clouds that pour water down as rain or some other form of (3) precipitation. Even now, meteorologists do not fully understand all the details of the phenomenon of rain. Interestingly, the Bible asks: “Can anyone understand the layers of clouds?” (Job 36:29) The Creator, however, does understand the rain cycle and saw to it that a human writer would include the facts accurately in the Bible. And he did this long before men could explain the basic process scientifically.
GENETICS—DEVELOPMENT OF THE HUMAN EMBRYO
The Bible writer King David said to God: “Your eyes even saw me as an embryo; all its parts were written in your book.” (Psalm 139:16) In poetic language, David speaks of an embryo developing according to the directions written in a preexisting “book,” or plan. Amazingly, this was written some 3,000 years ago!
Yet, it was not until the mid-1800’s that Austrian botanist Gregor Mendel discovered the basic principles of genetics. And only in April 2003 did researchers finish sequencing the human genome, which contains all the genetic information needed to build a living human body. Scientists have described the genetic chemical code as being like a dictionary filled with words made up of the letters of an alphabet. The words form the genetic instructions. Based on these instructions, the embryo’s parts—such as the brain, heart, lungs, and limbs—develop in precise sequence and with perfect timing. Fittingly, the genome has been described by scientists as “the book of life.” How was the Bible writer David able to be so accurate? He humbly admitted: “The spirit of Jehovah spoke through me; his word was on my tongue.”*—2 Samuel 23:2.
Accurately Predicts the Future
IT IS very difficult—if not impossible—to know when, how, and to what extent kingdoms and cities will rise or fall. Yet, the Bible foretold the destruction of mighty rulerships and cities in great detail. Consider just two examples.
THE FALL AND DESOLATION OF BABYLON
Ancient Babylon was the hub of a powerful empire that exerted influence over western Asia for centuries. At one time it was the world’s largest city. Yet, some 200 years in advance, God inspired the Bible writer Isaiah to prophesy that a conqueror by the name of Cyrus would overthrow Babylon and that it would end up uninhabited forever. (Isaiah 13:17-20; 44:27, 28; 45:1, 2) Is this what really happened?
In one night, in October 539 B.C.E., Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon. In time, the canals that had once irrigated the surrounding fertile region choked up from neglect. By 200 C.E., the site was said to have been deserted. Today, Babylon remains in ruins. Precisely as the Bible foretold, Babylon has “become utterly desolate.”—Jeremiah 50:13.
Where did the Bible writer get such accurate historical foresight? The Bible reveals that this was “a pronouncement against Babylon that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw in vision.”—Isaiah 13:1.
NINEVEH—“AS DRY AS A DESERT”
Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire, was considered to be an architectural wonder. The city boasted wide streets, public gardens, temples, and massive palaces. Nevertheless, the prophet Zephaniah foretold that this magnificent city would become “desolate, as dry as a desert.”—Zephaniah 2:13-15.
Nineveh was completely destroyed by the combined forces of the Babylonians and the Medes in the seventh century B.C.E. According to one reference, the vanquished city then “passed into oblivion for 2500 years.” For a period of time, people doubted whether Nineveh had ever existed! Only in the mid-19th century did archaeologists excavate Nineveh’s ruins. Today the site suffers from decay and vandalism, causing the Global Heritage Fund to warn: “Nineveh’s ancient remains could again be buried forever.”
Where did Zephaniah get his advance information? He acknowledged that it was “the word of Jehovah that came to [him].”—Zephaniah 1:1.
The Bible Answers Life’s Big Questions
THE Bible provides satisfying answers to life’s big questions. Consider the following examples.
WHY IS THERE SO MUCH EVIL AND SUFFERING IN THE WORLD?
The matter of evil and suffering is covered extensively throughout the Scriptures. The Bible explains:
“Man has dominated man to his harm.”—Ecclesiastes 8:9.
Incompetent and corrupt human rule has brought untold suffering.
“Time and unexpected events overtake them all.”—Ecclesiastes 9:11.
Unforeseen events—such as serious illnesses, accidents, or disasters—can strike anyone, anywhere, at any time.
“Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin.”—Romans 5:12.
Human imperfection and death did not exist in the beginning, when man and woman were first created. Sin “entered into the world” when they deliberately disobeyed their Creator.
The Bible does more than explain why people suffer. It promises that God will eradicate evil and “will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.”—Revelation 21:3, 4.
WHAT HAPPENS TO US WHEN WE DIE?
The Bible explains that death is a state of absolute unconsciousness and inactivity. “For the living know that they will die,” states Ecclesiastes 9:5, “but the dead know nothing at all.” At death, our very “thoughts perish.” (Psalm 146:4) So all brain activity—including the function of our sensory organs—ceases when we die. Hence, we cannot act, feel, or think after death.
However, the Bible does more than explain the condition of the dead. It holds out the happy prospect that people will be awakened from the deep sleep of death by means of the resurrection.—Hosea 13:14; John 11:11-14.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?
According to the Bible, Jehovah God created man and woman. (Genesis 1:27) The first man, Adam, is thus described as a “son of God.” (Luke 3:38) Man was created for a purpose—to build a friendship with his heavenly Father and to live happily and productively on earth forever. To that end, all humans are endowed with a spiritual capacity, that is, a natural desire to want to learn about God. Hence, the Bible states: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.”—Matthew 5:3.
Furthermore, the Bible says: “Happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!” (Luke 11:28) The Bible not only teaches us about God but helps us to live happier lives and gives us hope for the future.
The Divine Author and You
AFTER examining the evidence, millions of people around the world have concluded that the Bible is more than an ancient piece of literature. They are convinced that the Bible is God’s inspired Word, his communication with mankind—including you! It contains God’s invitation to you to get to know him and become his friend. “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you,” promises the Bible.—James 4:8.
Digging into the Bible opens up a thrilling prospect. What is it? Just as reading a book gives you a glimpse into the mind of the author, reading the Bible reveals the thoughts and feelings of its divine Author, God. Think of what that can mean for you. You can get to know the sentiments and emotions of your Creator! In addition, the Bible reveals:
God’s name, nature, and marvelous qualities.
God’s purpose for man.
How you can develop a relationship with God.
Would you be interested in learning more? Jehovah’s Witnesses will be glad to assist you. They can arrange for you to study the Bible free of charge. This can help you draw ever closer to the divine Author of the Bible—Jehovah God.
This article examined some of the evidence that the Bible is an inspired book. For more information, see chapter 2 of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? published by Jehovah’s Witnesses and available at www.jw.org
You may also watch the video Who Is the Author of the Bible? available at www.jw.org
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In the Bible, God is identified by his personal name, Jehovah.—Psalm 83:18.