About the Holy Bible
It is beyond argument that the most profound text that has ever been produced is the Holy Bible. Scripture occupies a sacred place insofar as its nature and purpose:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16)
Note the statement that all Scripture is “God-breathed”. God Himself, through the power of the Holy Spirit, has inspired the words of the Bible to be revealed and written. As a result, the Bible has not only survived, it has prospered… it always was, remains now, and will always remain, the best-selling book of all time. The following is excerpted from (and paraphrased by me in various places) ‘The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict’ by Josh McDowell.
The Bible is Unique.
What does this mean? Unique, according to Webster, means all of the following: 1) one and only, 2) single, 3) sole, 4) different from all others; having no like or equal. Professor M. Montiero-Williams, former Boden Professor of Sanskrit, held the following perspective: after spending forty-two years studying Eastern books, he compared them with the Bible and said: “Pile them, if you will, on the left side of your study table; but place your own Holy Bible on the right side – all by itself, all alone – and with a wide gap between them. For … there is a gulf between it and the so-called sacred books of the East which severs the one from the other utterly, hopelessly, and forever … a veritable gulf which cannot be bridged over by any science of religious thought”. Collett,AB,314,315
The Bible is Unique in its Continuity.
1. Written over about a 1,500 year span.
2. Written by more than forty authors from every walk of life, including kings, military leaders, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, tax collectors, poets, musicians, statesmen, scholars and shepherds. For example, Moses, a political leader and judge, trained in the universities of Egypt; David, a king, poet, musician, shepherd and warrior; Amos, a herdsman; Joshua, a military general; Nehemiah, a cup-bearer to a pagan king; Daniel, a prime minister; Solomon, a king and philosopher; the Apostle Luke, a physician and historian; the Apostle Peter, a fisherman; Matthew, a tax collector, the Apostle Paul, a rabbi; Mark, Peter’s secretary.
3. Written in different places: by Moses in the wilderness, Jeremiah in a dungeon, Daniel on a hillside and in a palace, the Apostle Paul inside prison walls, the Apostle Luke while traveling, the Apostle John while in exile on the Isle of Patmos.
4. Written at different times: David in times of war and sacrifice; Solomon in times of peace and prosperity.
5. Written during different moods: some writing from the heights of joy; others writing from the depths of sorrow and despair; some during times of certainty and conviction; others during days of confusion and doubt.
6. Written on three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe.
7. Written in three languages:
The language of the Israelites and practically all of the Old Testament. In 2 Ki. 18:26-28 and Neh. 13:24, it is called “the language of Judah”, and in Isa. 19:18, “the language of Canaan”. Hebrew is a pictorial language in which the past is not merely described but verbally painted. Not just a landscape is presented but a moving panorama. The course of events is re-enacted in the mind’s sight. Common Hebraic expressions like “he arose and went”, “he opened his lips and spoke”, “he lifted up his eyes and saw”, and “he lifted up his voice and wept” illustrate the pictorial strength of the language. (Dockery, FBI, 214)
The “common language” of the Near East until the time of Alexander the Great (sixth century B.C. through the fourth century B.C.). (Albright, AP, 218) Daniel 2 through 7 and most of Ezra 4 through 7 are in Aramaic, as are occasional statements in the New Testament, most notably Jesus’ cry from the cross, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani”, which means “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mt. 27:46 NKJV). Aramaic is linguistically very close to Hebrew and similar in structure. Aramaic texts in the Bible are written in the same script as Hebrew. In contrast to Hebrew, Aramaic uses a larger vocabulary, including many loan words, and a greater variety of connectives. It also contains an elaborate system of tenses, developed through the use of participles with pronouns or with various forms of the verb “to be”. Although Aramaic is less euphonious and poetical than Hebrew, it is probably superior as a vehicle of exact expression. Aramaic has perhaps the longest continuous living history of any language known. It was used during the Bible’s patriarchal period and is still spoken by a few people today. Aramaic and its cognate, Syriac, evolved into many dialects in different places and periods. Characterized by simplicity, clarity, and precision, it adapted easily to the various needs of everyday life. It could serve equally well as a language for scholars, pupils, lawyers, or merchants. Some have described it as the Semitic equivalent of English (Dockery, FBI, 221)
The language comprising almost all of the New Testament. It was also the international language spoken at the time of Christ, as English is becoming in the modern world. The Greek script was based on an alphabet presumably borrowed from the Phonecians and then adapted to the Greek speech sound system and direction of writing. Greek was first written from right to left like the West Semitic languages, then in a back-and-forth pattern, and finally from left to right. The conquests of Alexander the Great encouraged the spread of Greek language and culture. Regional dialects were largely replaced by “Hellenistic” or “koine” (common) Greek … the koine dialect added many vernacular expressions to Attic Greek, thus making it more cosmopolitan. Simplifying the the grammar also better adapted it to a world-wide culture. The new language, reflecting simple, popular speech, became the common laguage of commerce and diplomacy. The Greek language lost much of its elegance and finely shaded nuance as a result of its evolution from classic to koine. Nevertheless, it retained its distinguishing characteristics of strength, beauty, clarity and logical rhetorical power. It is significant that the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to Christians in Rome in the Greek language rather than in Latin. The Roman Empire of that time was culturally a Greek world, except for governmental transactions. The Greek New Testament vocabulary is abundant and sufficient to convey just the shade of meaning the author desires. For example, the New Testament used two different words for “love” (for two kinds of love), two words for “another” (another of the same, or another of a different kind), and several words for various kinds of knowledge. Significantly, some words are omitted, such as eros (a third kind of love) and other words commonly employed in the Hellenistic culture of that time. (Dockery, FBI, 224-25, 227)
8. Written in a wide variety of literary styles, including: poetry, historical narrative, song, romance, didactic treatise, personal correspondence, memoirs, satire, biography, autobiography, law, prophecy, parable, and allegory.
9. The Bible addresses hundreds of controversial subjects, subjects that create opposing opinions when mentioned or discussed. The biblical writers treated hundreds of hot topics (e.g., marriage, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, adultery, obedience to authority, truth-telling and lying, character development, parenting, the nature and revelation of God). Yet from Genesis through Revelation, these writers addressed them with an amazing degree of harmony.
10. In spite of its diversity, the Bible presents a single unfolding story: God’s redemption of human beings. Norman Geisler and William Nix put it this way: “The ‘Paradise Lost’ of Genesis becomes the ‘Paradise Regained’ of Revelation. Whereas the gate to the tree of life is closed in Genesis, it is opened forevermore in Revelation.” (Geisler/Nix, GIB’86, 28) The unifying thread is salvation from sin and condemnation to a life of complete transformation and unending bliss in the presence of the one, merciful, holy God. 11) Finally, and most important, among all the people described in the Bible, the leading character throughout is the one, true, living God made known through Jesus Christ. Consider first the Old Testament: the Law provides “the foundation for Christ”, the historical books show “the preparation for Christ”, the poetical works aspire to Christ, and the prophecies display “the expectation of Christ”. In the New Testament, the Gospels … record “the historical manifestation of Christ”, the Acts relate “the propagation of Christ”, the Epistles give “the interpretation of Christ”, and in Revelation is found “the consummation of all things in Christ”. (Geisler/Nix, GIB’86, 29) From cover to cover, the Bible is Christ-centric. Therefore, although the Bible contains many books by many authors, it shows in its continuity that it is also one book. As F. F. Bruce observes, “Any part of the human body can only be properly explained in reference to the whole body. And any part of the Bible can only be properly explained in reference to the whole Bible.” (Bruce, BP, 89) Each book is like a chapter in the one book we call the Bible. Bruce concludes:”The Bible, at first sight, appears to be a collection of literature – mainly Jewish. If we enquire into the circumstances under which the various Biblical documents were written, we find that they were written at intervals over a space of nearly 1,400 years. The writers wrote in various lands, from Italy in the West to Mesopotamia and possibly Persia in the East. The writers themselves were a heterogeneous number of people, not only separated from each other by hundreds of years and hundreds of miles, but belonging to the most diverse walks of life. In their ranks we have kings, herdsmen, soldiers, legislators, fishermen, statesmen, courtiers, priests, and prophets, a tent-making Rabbi and a Gentile physician, not to speak of others of whom we know nothing apart from the writings that they have left us. The writings themselves belong to a great variety of literary types. They include history, law (civil, criminal, ethical, ritual, sanitary), religious poetry, didactic treatises, lyric poetry, parable and allegory, biography, personal correspondence, personal memoirs and diaries, in addition to the distinctively Biblical types of prophecy and apocalyptic. For all that, the Bible is not simply an anthology; there is a unity which binds the whole together. An anthology is compiled by an anthologist, but no anthologist compiled the Bible.” (Bruce, BP, 88)
Contrast the books of the Bible with the compilation of Western classics called the Great Books of the Western World. The Great Books contain selections from more than 450 works by close to 100 authors spanning a period of about 25 centuries: Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Aquinas, Dante, Hobbes, Spinoza, Calvin, Rousseau, Shakespeare, Hume, Kant, Darwin, Tolstoy, Whitehead, and Joyce, to name but a handful. While these individuals are all part of the Western tradition of ideas, they often display an incredible diversity of views on just about every subject. And while their views share some commonalities, they also display numerous conflicting and contradictory positions and perspectives. In fact, they frequently go out of their way to critique and refute key ideas proposed by their predecessors.
A representative of the Great Books of the Western World came to my house one day, attempting to recruit salesmen for the series. He spread out a chart describing the series, and spent five minutes talking to my wife and I about it. We then spent an hour and a half talking to him about the Bible, which we presented as the greatest book of all time. I challenged this representative to take just ten of the authors from the Great Books series, all from one walk of life, one generation, one place, one time, one mood, one continent, one language, and all addressing just one controversial subject. I then asked him, “Would the authors agree with one another?” He paused and then replied “No”. “What would you have, then?” I retorted. Immediately he answered, “A conglomeration.” Two days later, he committed his life to Jesus Christ. The uniqueness of the Bible as shown above does not prove that it is inspired. It does, however, challenge any person sincerely seeking truth to consider seriously its unique quality in terms of its continuity. That Great Books representative took this step, and discovered the Savior of the Bible in the process.
The Bible is Unique in its Circulation.
It’s not unusual to hear about books that have hit the best-seller list, selling a few hundred thousand copies. It’s much rarer to come across books that have sold more than a million copies, and rarer still to find books that have passed the ten-million mark in sales. It staggers the mind, then, to discover that the number of Bibles sold reaches into the billions. That’s right… billions. More copies have been produced of its entirety as well as selected portions than any other book in history. Some will argue that in a designated month or year more of a certain book was sold. However, no other book even begins to compare to the Scriptures in terms of its total circulation.
According to the United Bible Societies’ 1998 Scripture Distribution Report, in that year alone member organizations were responsible for distributing 20.8 million complete Bibles, and another 20.1 million Testaments. When portions of Scripture (i.e., complete books of the Bible) and selections (short extracts on particular themes) are also included, the total distribution of copies of the Bible or portions thereof in 1998 reaches a staggering 585 million – and these numbers only include Bibles distributed by the United Bible Societies! To put it another way, if you lined up all the people who received Bibles or Scripture selections last year, and handed a Bible to one of them every five seconds, it would take more than ninety-two years to do what just the United Bible Societies accomplished last year alone. As The Cambridge History of the Bible states, “No other book has known anything approaching this constant circulation.” (Greenslade, CHB, 479) The critic is right: “This doesn’t prove that the Bible is the Word of God.” But it does demonstrate that the Bible is unique.
The Bible is Unique in its Translation.
The numbers of translations of the Bible are every bit as impressive as its sales numbers. Most books are never translated into another tongue. Among the books that are, most are published in just two or three languages. Far fewer books see translation figures rise into the teens. According to the United Bible Societies, the Bible (or portions of it) has been translated into 2,200 languages! Although this is only about one-third of the world’s 6,500 known languages, these languages represent the primary vehicle of communication for well over ninety percent of the world’s population (www.biblesociety.org). Worldwide, no other book in history has been translated, re-translated, and paraphrased more than the Bible.
The Bible was one of the first major books translated. Around 250 B.C., the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek and given the name Septuagint. (Unger, UBD, 1147) The work was originally produced for Greek-speaking Jews living in Alexandria who could no longer read Hebrew.
Since then, translators have actively rendered the Scriptures – both Old Testament and New – into languages that either have or are without a written alphabet. Wycliffe Bible Translators alone has over six thousand people working with more than 850 different languages in fifty countries to produce new or revised versions of the Bible. (Barnes, OCB, 823) Of these, 468 languages are being translated for the first time. According to Ted Bergman at the Summer Institute of Linguistics, at this rate the Bible should be available to almost all language groups between the years 2007 and 2022. This means that we are less than a generation away from witnessing the world’s first universally translated text!
No other book in history comes close to comparing with the Bible in its translation activity.
The Bible is Unique in its Survival through Time.
Although it was first written on perishable materials, and had to be copied and recopied for hundreds of years before the invention of the printing press, the Scriptures have never diminished in style or correctness, nor have they ever faced extinction. Compared with other ancient writings, the Bible has more manuscript evidence to support it than any ten other pieces of classical literature combined.
John Warwick Montgomery observes that “to be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament.” (Montgomery, HC’71, 29) Similarly, Bruce Metzger, a Princeton professor and one of the world’s leading Biblical text critics, comments that in contrast with other ancient texts, “the textual critic of the New Testament is embarrassed by the wealth of his material.” (Metzger, TNT, 34)
Bernard Ramm speaks of the accuracy and number of Biblical manuscripts: “Jews preserved it as no other manuscript has ever been preserved. With their massora (parva, magna, and finalis) they kept tabs on every letter, syllable, word, and paragraph. They had special classes of men within their culture whose sole duty was to preserve and transmit these documents with practically perfect fidelity – scribes, lawyers, massoretes. Who ever counted the letters and syllables and words of Plato or Aristotle” Cicero or Seneca?” (Ramm, PCE’53, 230-231)
John Lea, in The Greatest Book in the World, compares the Bible with Shakespeare’s writings:
In an article in the North American Review, a writer made some interesting comparisons between the writings of Shakespeare and the Scriptures, which show that much greater care must have been bestowed upon the Biblical manuscripts than upon other writings, even when there was so much other opportunity of preserving the correct text by means of printed copies than when all the copies had to be made by hand. He said: “It seems strange that the text of Shakespeare, which has been in existence less than two hundred and eight years, should be far more uncertain and corrupt than that of the New Testament, now over eighteen centuries old, during nearly fifteen of which it existed only in manuscript … With perhaps a dozen or twenty exceptions, the text of every verse in the New Testament may be said to be so far settled by general consent of scholars, that any dispute as to its readings must relate rather to the interpretation of the words than to any doubts respecting the words themselves. But in every one of Shakespeare’s thirty-seven plays there are probably a hundred readings still in dispute, a large portion of which affects the meaning of the passages in which they occur.” (Lea, GBW, 15)
The Bible is Unique in its Survival through Persecution.
The Bible has withstood vicious attacks by its enemies. Many have tried to burn it, ban it, and “outlaw it from the days of the Roman emporers to present-day Communist-dominated countries.” (Ramm, PCE’53, 232)
In A.D. 303, the Roman emporer Diocletain issued an edict to stop Christians from worshipingand to destroy their Scriptures. “An imperial letter was everywhere promulgated, ordering the razing of the churches to the ground and the destruction by fire of the Scriptures, and proclaiming that those who held high positions would lose all civil rights, while those in households, if they persisted in their profession of Christianity, would be deprived of their liberty.” (Greenslade, CHB, 476)
The historic irony of this event is recorded by the fourth-century church historian Eusebius, who wrote that twenty-five years after Diocletian’s edict, the Roman emporer Constantine issued an edict ordering that fifty copies of the Scriptures should be prepared at the government’s expense. (Eusebius, EH, VII, 2, 259)
Many centuries later, Voltaire, the noted French infidel who died in 1778, said that in one hundred years from his time Christianity would be swept from existence and passed into history. But what has happened? Voltaire has passed into history, while the circulation of the Bible continues to increase in almost all parts of the world, carrying blessing wherever it goes. For example, the English cathedral in Zanzibar is built on the site of the Old Slave Market, and the Communion Table stands on the very spot where the whipping-post once stood! The world abounds with such instances … As one has truly said, “We might as well put our shoulder to the burning wheel of the sun, and try to stop it on its flaming course, as attempt to stop the circulation of the Bible.” (Collett, AAB, 63)
Concerning Voltaire’s prediction of the extinction of Christianity and the Bible in a hundred years, Geisler and Nix point out that “only fifty years after his death the Geneva Bible Society used his press and house to produce stacks of Bibles.” (Geisler/Nix, GIB ’68, 123, 124)
The Bible’s enemies come and go, but the Bible remains. Jesus was right when He said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” (Mk. 13:31, NKJV)
The Bible is Unique in its Survival through Criticism.
H. L. Hastings has forcefully illustrated the unique way in which the Bible has withstood attacks of infidels and skeptics:
Infidels for eighteen hundred years have been refuting and overthrowing this book, and yet it stands today as solid as a rock. Its circulation increases, and it is more loved and cherished and read today than ever before. Infidels, with all their assaults, make about as much impression on this book as a man with a tack hammer would on the Pyramids of Egypt. When the French monarch proposed the persecution of the Christians in his dominion, an old statesman and warrior said to him, “Sire, the Church of God is an anvil that has worn out many hammers.” So the hammers of infidels have been pecking away at this book for ages, but the hammers are worn out, and the anvil still endures. If this book had not been the book of God, men would have destroyed it long ago. Emporers and popes, kings and priests, princes and rulers have all tried their hand at it; they die and the book still lives.” (Lea, GBW, 17-18)
Bernard Ramm adds:
A thousand times over, the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession formed, the inscription cut on the tombstone, and the committal read. But somehow the corpse never stays put. No other book has been so chopped, knived, sifted, scrutinized, and villified. What book on philosophy or religion ot psychology or belles lettres of classical or modern timeshas been subject to such a mass attack as the Bible? With such venom and skepticism? With such thoroughness and erudition? Upon every chapter, line, and tenet? The Bible is still loved by millions, read by millions, and studied by millions. (Ramm, PCE’53, 232-233)
Biblical scholars once deferred to “the assured results of higher criticism”. But the results of the higher critics are no longer as assured as we once believed. Take, for example, the “documentary hypothesis”. One of the reasons for its development – apart from the different names used for God in Genesis – was that the Pentateuch could not have been written by Moses, as the “assured results of higher criticiam” had proven that writing was not in existence at the time of Moses or, if in existence, was used sparingly. Therefore, it was concluded that it had to be of later authorship. The minds of the critics went to work, devising the theory that four writers, designated as J, E, P, and D, had put the Pentateuch together. These critics formulated great structures of criticism, going so far as to attribute the components of one verse to three different authors!
Then some fellows discovered the “black stele.” (Unger, UBD, 444) It had wedge-shaped characters on it and contained the detailed laws of Hammurabi. Was it post-Moses? No! It was pre-Mosaic. Not only that, but it preceded Moses’ writings by at least three centuries. (Unger, UBD, 444) Amazingly, it antedated Moses, who is supposed to have been a primitive man lacking an alphabet.
What an irony of history! The documentary hypothesis is still taught, yet much of its original basis (“the assured results of higher criticism”) has been shown to be false.
The “assured results of higher criticism” concluded that there were no Hittites at the time of Abraham, as there were no records of their existence apart from the Old Testament. They must be myth. Wrong again. Archaeological research has now uncovered evidence revealing more than 1,200 years of Hittite civilization.
Earl Radmacher, retired president of Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, quotes Nelson Glueck, former president of the Jewish Theological Seminary at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, and one of the three greatestarchaeologists: “I listened to him [Glueck] when he was at Temple Emmanuel in Dallas, and he got rather red in the face and said, ‘I’ve been accused of teaching the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Scripture. I want it to be understood that I have never taught this. All I have ever said is that in all of my archaeological investigation I have never found one artifact of antiquity that contradicts any statement of the Word of God.'” (Radmacher, PC, 50)
Robert Dick Wilson, a man fluent in more than forty-five languages and dialects, concluded after a lifetime of study in the Old Testament: “I may add that the result of my forty-five years of study of the Bible has led me all the time to a firmer faith that in the Old Testament we have a true historical account of the history of the Israelite people.” (Wilson, WB, 42)
The Bible is unique in its ability to stand up to its critics. There is no book in all of literature like it. A person looking for truth would certainly consider a book that bears these qualifications.
The Bible is Unique in its Teachings.
Wilbur Smith, who compiled a personal library of twenty-five thousand volumes, concludes that:
Whatever one may think of the authority and the message presented in the book we call the Bible, there is world-wide agreement that in more ways than one it is the most remarkable volume that has ever been produced in these some five thousand years of writing on the part of the human race.
It is the only volume ever produced by man, or a group of men, in which is to be found a large body of prophecies relating to individual nations, to Israel, to all the peoples of the earth, to certain critics, and to the coming of One who was to be the Messiah. The ancient world had many different devices for determining the future, known as divination, but not in the entire gamut of Greek and Latin literature, even though they use the words prophet and prophecy, can we find any real specific prophecy of a great historic event to come in the distant future, nor any prophecy of a Savior to arise in the human race…
Mohammedanism cannot point to any prophecies of the coming of Mohammed uttered hundreds of years before his birth. Neither can the founders of any cult in this country rightly identify any ancient text specifically foretelling their appearance. (Smith, IB, 9-10)
Geisler and Nix concur. In their book A General Introduction to the Bible – an authoritative source in its own right – they write:
According to Deuteronomy 18, a prophet was false if he made predictions that were never fulfilled. No unconditional prophecy of the Bible about events to the present day has gone unfulfilled. Hundreds of predictions, some of them given hundreds of years in advance, have been literally fulfilled. The time (Da. 9), city (Mic. 5:2) and nature (Isa. 7:14) of Christ’s birth were foretold in the Old Testament, as were dozens of other things about His life, death, and resurrection (see Isa. 53). Numerous other prophecies have been fulfilled, including the destruction of Edom (Ob. 1), the curse on Babylon (Isa. 13), the destruction of Tyre (Eze. 26) and Nineveh (Na. 1-3), and the return of Israel to the Land (Isa. 11:11). Other books claim divine inspiration, such as the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and parts of the [Hindu] Veda. But none of those books contains predictive prophecy. As a result, fulfilled prophecy is a strong indication of the unique, divine authority of the Bible. (Geisler/Nix, GIB, ’86, 196)
First Samuel through 2 Chronicles presents approximately five centuries of the history of Israel. The Cambridge Ancient History (vol. 1, p. 222) states: “The Israelites certainly manifest a genius for historical construction, and the Old Testament embodies the oldest history writing extant.”
The distinguished archaeologist Professor Albright begins his classic essay, “The Biblical Period”, with these observations:
Hebrew national tradition excels all others in its clear picture of tribal and family origins. In Egypt and Babylonia, in Assyria and Phonecia, in Greece and Rome, we look in vain for anything comparable. There is nothing like it in the tradition of the Germanic peoples. Neither India or China can produce anything similar, since their earliest historical memories are literary deposits of distorted dynastic tradition, with no trace of the herdsman or peasant behind the demigod or king with whom their records begin. Neither in the oldest Indic historical writings (the Puranas) nor in the earliest Greek historians is there a hint of the fact that both Indo-Aryans and Hellenes were once nomads who immigrated into their later abodes from the north. The Assyrians, to be sure, remembered vaguely that their earliest rulers, whose names they recalled without any details about their deed, were tent dwellers, but whence they came had long been forgotten. (Finkelstein, JTHCR, 3)
Concerning the reliability of the “Table of Nations” in Genesis 10, Albright concludes: “It stands absolutely alone in ancient literature without a remote parallel even among the Greeks …. ‘The Table of Nations’ remains an astonishingly accurate document.” (Albright, RDBL, 70-72)
Lewis S. Chafer, founder and former president of Dallas Theological Seminary, has said, “The Bible is not such a book a man would write if he could, or could write if he would.”
The Bible deals very frankly with the sins of its characters, even when those sins reflect badly on God’s chosen people, leaders, and the Biblical writers themselves. For example:
The sins of the patriarchs are mentioned (Ge. 12:11-13; 49:5-7).
The sins of the people are denounced (Dt. 9:24).
King David’s adultery with Bathsheba and his subsequent attempted cover-up is revealed (2 Sa. 11-12).
The Gospel evangelists paint their own faults and those of the Apostles (Mt. 8:10-26; 26:31-56; Mk. 6:52, 8:18; Lk. 8:24, 25; 9:40-45; Jn. 10:6, 16:32).
The disorder within the church is exposed (1 Co. 1:11; 15:12; 2 Co. 2:4).
The Bible as a book focuses on reality, not fantasy. It presents the good and bad, the right and wrong, the best and worst, the hope and despair, the joy and pain of life. And so it should, for its ultimate author is God, and “there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13 NKJV).
The Bible is Unique in its Influence on Literature.
Cleland B. McAfee writes in The Greatest English Classic: “If every Bible in any considerable city were destroyed, the Book could be restored in all its essential parts from the quotations on the shelves of the city public library. There are works, covering almost all the great literary writers, devoted especially to showing how much the Bible has influenced them.” (McAfee, GEC, 134)
Gabriel Sivan writes, “No other document in the possession of mankind offers so much to the reader – ethical and religious instruction, superb poetry, a social program and legal code, an interpretation of history, and all the joys, sorrows, and hopes which well up in men and which Israel’s prophets and leaders expressed with matchless force and passion.” (Sivan, BC, xiii)
Concerning the Hebrew Bible, he adds,
Since the dawn of civilization no book has inspired as much creative endeavor among writers as the “Old” Testament, the Hebrew Bible. In poetry, drama, and fiction its literary influence has been unrivaled. The German poet Heinrich Heine, writing in 1830, described its significance in lyrical terms: “Sunrise and sunset, promise and fulfillment, birth and death, the whole human drama, everything is in this book …. it is the Book of Books, Biblia.” With varying insight, but unvarying consistency, writers in almost every land and culture have for more than a millenium found a matchless treasure house of themes and characters in the Bible. These they have reworked and reinterpreted in the portrayal of eternal motifs – as, for example, God and Man, the conflict of Good and Evil, love, jealousy, and man’s struggle for freedom, truth, and justice. (Sivan, BC, 218)
Susan Gallagher and Roger Lundin recognize, “The Bible is one of the most important documents in the history of civilization, not only because of its status as holy inspired Scripture, but also because of its pervasive influence on Western thought. As the predominant world view for at least fourteen centuries, Christianity and its great central text played a major role in the formation of Western culture. Consequently, many literary texts, even those in our post-Christian era, frequently draw on the Bible and the Christian tradition.” (Gallagher/Lundin, LTEF, 120)
Elie Wiesel, renowned novelist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, has observed, “An inspired work, the Bible is also a source of inspiration. Its impact has no equal, whether on the social and ethical plane or on that of literary creation. We forget too often that the Bible pertains equally to the artistic domain. Its characters are dramatic, their dramas timeless, their triumphs and defeats overwhelming. Each cry touches us, each call penetrates us. Texts of another age, the Biblical poems are themselves ageless. They call out to us collectively and individually, across and beyond the centuries.” (In Epilogue of Liptzen, BTWL, 293)
Harold Fisch, professor emeritus at Bar-Ilan University, has noted: ” The Bible has permeated the literature of the Western world to a degree that cannot be easily measured. More than any other single body of writing, ancient or modern, it has provided writers from the Middle Ages on with a store of symbols, ideas, and ways of perceiving reality. This influence can be traced not only in texts that deal directly with Biblical characters or topics, but also in a vast number of poems, plays, and other writings that are not overtly Biblical in theme but that testify to a Biblical view of humankind and the world.” (Fisch, HCBD, 136)
In his now classic Anatomy of Criticism, world-renowned literary critic Northrop Frye observed that “Western literature has been more influenced by the Bible than any other book.” (Frye, AC, 14)
Twenty-five years later, Frye wrote: “I soon realized that a student of English literature who does not know the Bible does not understand a good deal of what is going on in what he reads: The most conscientious student will be continually misconstruing the implications, even the meaning.” (Frye, GC, xii)
The historian Philip Schaff (in The Person of Christ, American Tract Society, 1913) classically describes the uniqueness of the Bible and the Savior:
This Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon: without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of schools, He spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orater or poet; without writing a single line, He set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.Bernard Ramm adds:
There are complexities of bibliographical studies that are unparalleled in any other science or department of human knowledge. From the Apostolic Fathers dating from A.D. 95 to the modern times is one great literary river inspired by the Bible – Bible dictionaries, Bible encyclopedias, Bible lexicons, Bible atlases, and Bible geographies. These may be taken as a starter. Then at random, we may mention the vast bibliographies around theology, religious education, hymnology, missions, the Biblical languages, church history, religious biography, devotional works, commentaries, philosophy of religion, evidences, apologetics, and on and on. There seems to be an endless number ….
No other book in all human history has in turn inspired the writing of so many books as the Bible. (Ramm, PCE ’53, 239)
The Bible is Unique in its Influence on Civilization.
The Bible is also unique in its impact on civilization. Geisler and Nix succinctly state:
The influence of the Bible and its teaching in the Western world is clear for all who study history. And the influential role of the West in the course of world events is equally clear. Civilization has been influenced more by the Judeo-Christian Scriptures than by any other book or series of books in the world. Indeed, no great moral or religious work in the world exceeds the depth of morality in the principle of Christian love, and none has a more lofty spiritual concept than the Biblical view of God. The Bible presents the highest ideals known to men, ideals that have molded civilization. (Geisler, GIB ’86, 196-197)
Grady Davis, in The New Encyclopedia Britannica, writes, “The Bible brought its view of God, the universe, and mankind into all the leading Western languages and thus into the intellectual processes of Western man.” (Davis, EB, 904) He also states, “Since the invention of printing (mid-15th century), the Bible has become more than the translation of an ancient Oriental literature. It has not seemed a foreign book, and it has been the most available, familiar, and dependable source and arbiter of intellectual, moral, and spiritual ideals in the West.” (Davis, EB, 905)
Gabriel Sivan observes, “The Bible has given strength to the freedom fighter and new heart to the persecuted, a blueprint to the social reformer and inspiration to the writer and artist.” (Sivan, BC, 491)
French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau exclaimed: ” Behold the works of our philosophers; with all their pompous diction, how mean and contemptible they are by comparison with the Scriptures! Is it possible that a book at once so simple and sublime should be merely the work of man?”Kenneth L. Woodward points out in Newsweek magazine that after “two thousand years … the centuries themselves are measured from the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. At the end of this year, calendars in India and China, like those in Europe, America, and the Middle East, will register the dawn of the third millenium.” (Woodward, “2000 Years of Jesus”, Newsweek, March 29, 1999, p. 52)
A Reasonable Conclusion.
The evidence presented above does not prove that the Bible is the Word of God. But to me it clearly indicates that it is uniquely superior to any and all other books.
A professor once remarked to me, “If you are an intelligent person, you will read the one book that has drawn more attention than any other, if you are searching for the truth.” The Bible certainly qualifies as this one book.
As Theodore Roosevelt once observed, “A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.”
The Bible is divinely inspired … the breath of God. When one considers how the Bible has endured, one can only come to the conclusion that God has had His hand not only in its creation, but in its preservation as well. As has been said, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” Don’t be deceived by the fancy arguments of sinful men. Behold the greatness of the Living God in His Word, the Holy Bible, and let your fear of Him be the beginning of your new life … a life without end.