A report published in 1971 shows that there are possibly 6,000 handwritten copies containing all or part of the Hebrew Scriptures; the oldest dates back to the third century B.C.E. Of the Christian Greek Scriptures, there are some 5,000 in Greek, the oldest dating back to the beginning of the second century C.E. There are also many copies of early translations into other languages.
In the introduction to his seven volumes on The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri, Sir Frederic Kenyon wrote: “The first and most important conclusion derived from the examination of them [the papyri] is the satisfactory one that they confirm the essential soundness of the existing texts. No striking or fundamental variation is shown either in the Old or the New Testament. There are no important omissions or additions of passages, and no variations which affect vital facts or doctrines. The variations of text affect minor matters, such as the order of words or the precise words used . . . But their essential importance is their confirmation, by evidence of an earlier date than was hitherto available, of the integrity of our existing texts.”—(London, 1933), p. 15.
It is true that some translations of the Bible adhere more closely to what is in the original languages than others do. Modern paraphrase Bibles have taken liberties that at times alter the original meaning. Some translators have allowed personal beliefs to color their renderings. But these weaknesses can be identified by comparison of a variety of translations.
If Someone Says—
‘I don’t believe in the Bible’
You might reply: ‘But you do believe there is a God, don’t you? . . . May I ask what there is in the Bible that you find hard to accept?’
Or you could say: ‘May I ask, Have you always felt that way? . . . I’ve heard others say that, even though they have not made a thorough study of the Bible. But since the Bible clearly says that it is a message from God himself and that he offers us eternal life if we believe and live by what it says, don’t you agree that it would be worthwhile at least to examine it to find out whether its claims are true or not? (Use material on pages 60-63.)’
‘The Bible contradicts itself’
You might reply: ‘I’ve had other people tell me that, but no one has ever been able to show me what is actually a contradiction. And in my own personal reading of the Bible I’ve never seen one. Could you give me an example?’ Then perhaps add: ‘What I have found is that many persons simply never found answers to questions that the Bible made them think about. For example, Where did Cain get his wife? (Use material on pages 301, 302.)’
‘Men wrote the Bible’
You might reply: ‘That’s true. About 40 of them had a part in it. But it was inspired by God.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘What does that mean? That God directed the writing, much as a businessman uses a secretary to write letters for him.’ (2) ‘The idea of receiving messages from someone out in space should not surprise us. Even humans have sent messages and pictures from the moon. How did they do it? By using laws that originated long ago with God himself.’ (3) ‘But how can we be sure that what the Bible contains is really from God? It contains information that could not possibly have come from a human source. What kind? Details about the future; and these have always proved to be completely accurate. (For examples, see pages 60-62, also pages 234-239, under the heading “Last Days.”)’
‘Everyone has his own interpretation of the Bible’
You might reply: ‘And obviously not all of them are right.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘Twisting the Scriptures to fit our own ideas can result in lasting harm. (2 Pet. 3:15, 16)’ (2) ‘Two things can help us to understand the Bible correctly. First, consider the context (surrounding verses) of any statement. Next, compare texts with other statements in the Bible that deal with the same subject. In that way we are letting God’s own Word guide our thinking, and the interpretation is not ours but his. That is the approach taken in the Watch Tower publications.’ (See pages 204, 205, under the heading “Jehovah’s Witnesses.”)
‘It is not practical for our day’
You might reply: ‘And we are interested in things that are practical for us today, aren’t we?’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘Would you agree that putting an end to war would be practical? . . . Don’t you agree that if people learned to live together in peace with those of other nations, this would be a good start? . . . The Bible foretold exactly that. (Isa. 2:2, 3) As a result of Bible education, this is taking place today among Jehovah’s Witnesses.’ (2) ‘Something more is needed—the removal of all men and nations that cause wars. Will such a thing ever happen? Yes, and the Bible explains how. (Dan. 2:44; Ps. 37:10, 11)’
Or you could say: ‘I appreciate your concern. If a guidebook was not practical, we would be foolish to use it, wouldn’t we?’ Then perhaps add: ‘Would you agree that a book that provides sound counsel that can enable us to have a happy family life is practical? . . . Theories and practices involving family life have changed many times, and the results we see today are not good. But those who know and apply what the Bible says have stable, happy families. (Col. 3:12-14, 18-21)’
‘The Bible is a good book, but there is no such thing as absolute truth’
You might reply: ‘It’s true that everyone seems to have a different opinion. And even if someone thinks he has a thing figured out, he often finds that there is at least one other factor that he didn’t consider. But there is someone who does not have such a limitation. Who might that be? . . . Yes, the Creator of the universe.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘That is why Jesus Christ said to him: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) That truth is in the Bible. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17)’ (2) ‘God does not want us to grope in ignorance; he has said that his will is for us to come to an accurate knowledge of truth. (1 Tim. 2:3, 4) In a thoroughly satisfying manner the Bible answers such questions as . . . ’ (To help some people, you may first need to discuss evidence for belief in the existence of God. See pages 145-151, under the heading “God.”)
‘The Bible is a white man’s book’
You might reply: ‘It certainly is true that they have printed many copies of the Bible. But the Bible does not say that one race is better than another.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘The Bible is from our Creator, and he is impartial. (Acts 10:34, 35)’ (2) ‘God’s Word holds out to people of all nations and tribes the opportunity to live forever here on earth under his Kingdom. (Rev. 7:9, 10, 17)’
Or you could say: ‘Not at all! Mankind’s Creator was the one to choose the men whom he would inspire to write the 66 books of the Bible. And if he chose to use people with light-colored skin, that was his responsibility. But the Bible’s message was not to be confined to white people.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘Notice what Jesus said . . . (John 3:16) “Everyone” includes persons of whatever skin color. Also, before ascending to heaven, Jesus said these parting words to his disciples . . . (Matt. 28:19)’ (2) ‘Interestingly, Acts 13:1 speaks of a certain man named Niger, which name means “black.” He was one of the prophets and teachers of the congregation of Antioch, Syria.’
‘I believe only the King James Version’
You might reply: ‘If you have yours handy, I would like to share with you something that I have found to be very encouraging.’
Or you could say: ‘Many people use that Bible version, and I personally have one in my library.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘Did you know that the Bible was originally written in the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages? . . . Do you read those languages? . . . So we are grateful that the Bible has been translated into English.’ (2) ‘This chart (“Table of the Books of the Bible,” in NW) shows that Genesis, the first book of the Bible, was completed in 1513 B.C.E. Did you know that, after Genesis was written, some 2,900 years passed before the complete Bible was translated into English? And over 200 more years elapsed before translation of the King James Version was completed (1611 C.E.).’ (3) ‘Since the 17th century, English has undergone many changes. We have seen that in our own lifetime, haven’t we? . . . So we appreciate modern translations that carefully express the same original truths in the language that we speak today.’
‘You have your own Bible’
See the main heading “New World Translation.”
Definition: The day of one’s birth or the anniversary of that day. In some places the anniversary of one’s birth, especially that of a child, is celebrated with a party and the giving of gifts. Not a Biblical practice.
Do Bible references to birthday celebrations put them in a favorable light? The Bible makes only two references to such celebrations:
Gen. 40:20-22: “Now on the third day it turned out to be Pharaoh’s birthday, and he proceeded to make a feast . . . Accordingly he returned the chief of the cupbearers to his post of cupbearer . . . But the chief of the bakers he hung up.”
Matt. 14:6-10: “When Herod’s birthday was being celebrated the daughter of Herodias danced at it and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Then she, under her mother’s coaching, said: ‘Give me here upon a platter the head of John the Baptist.’ . . . He sent and had John beheaded in the prison.”
Everything that is in the Bible is there for a reason.