Amongst all the books that have ever been written, the Bible is unique. Unlike any other book, it is a compilation of 66 books, written by about 40 men over a period of some 1,500 years. Its earliest writings are about 3,500 years old, whilst the age of its latest works is approaching 2,000 years. Amazingly, all these apparently diverse writings, written at differing times, have been preserved and collated into one volume, and they have survived in that form for an astonishingly long period of time.
THE BIBLE’S OWN CLAIM
The secret of this amazing preservation is to be found in the Bible’s own claim to be the word of God. The men who wrote down the various messages disclaimed any personal responsibility for their authorship, making it clear that they were but instruments in the hand of God. There is no attempt by the writers at self-glory. There is no claim to be the originators of the thoughts and ideas they expressed. The words are God’s words, and men were employed by God in writing them down as a permanent record. Consider the following statements -
“The prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1.21)
Thus, the oft-repeated statement - “The word of the Lord came unto…” = Jeremiah (12 times); Ezekiel (37 times); Jonah (twice); Haggai (once); Zechariah (4 times); etc. etc.
Jeremiah explains how he was impelled by the Holy Spirit to record God’s words. He said God’s word “was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones… and I could not stay” from speaking them (Jeremiah 20.9).
This procedure was confirmed by God when he declared, “I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets” (Hosea 12.10).
A prophet thus employed by God acknowledged that this was the means adopted by God to make his word known to man - “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3.7).
Even Jesus acknowledged that the words he spake were not his own, but were the words of God. “I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak… Whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak” (John 12.49-50).
This purpose of God was spoken of prophetically to Moses, when God promised that he would raise up Jesus in the distant future and “put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him” (Deuteronomy 18.18).
The writer to the Hebrews made this situation very clear in the opening sentence of his epistle. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son” (Hebrews 1.1-2).
The apostle Paul was anxious that those who read his letters should regard them as the word of God, and not as his own words. Writing to men and women at Thessalonica he was thankful that, when they heard Paul, they received what he had to say, “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2.13).
When he wrote to the believers in Corinth, the apostle Paul was at pains to assure them that his teaching was not his own, but it had been given to him by God. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth” (1 Corinthians 2.12-13). Thus, “My speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (verses 4-5).
Similarly, when the apostle John received the details of the Book of Revelation, he acknowledged that it was “the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him” (Revelation 1.1). Having become the recipient of this revelation, he declared that he “bare record of the word of God” (verse 2).
The Bible bears additional testimony to this phenomenen, but the above references should be sufficient for us to realise that the Bible is no ordinary book. Human nature is not such that would disclaim authorship of great writings, but this is a consistent theme of the Bible in its acknowledgment of God as its author. Such a scenario will surely earn for the Bible the accolade, “The greatest book ever written”.
QUESTIONS NEEDING ANSWERS
These matters prompt questions. Why was such a book written? Why has it survived through many centuries down to our own day? What is the purpose and the value of its message to us today?
There must be one only acceptable approach to these questions if we are to find reliable answers. It is this - if God IS the author of the Bible (as it conclusively appears from the above quotations), then men cannot pick and choose what to accept or reject of its message. Neither should we manipulate its teaching to suit our own ideas.
A basic requirement in our approach to the Bible is an acknowledgment that the mind of God is so much higher than man’s, and we must therefore bow to His superior judgment. Here is God’s own view of the situation - “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55.8-9).
WHY WAS THE BIBLE WRITTEN?
God has declared that what he has spoken, has been spoken for a purpose and is certain of accomplishment. “My word… that goeth forth out of my mouth… shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55.11).
The apostle Paul advised Timothy of this purpose of God in publishing and preserving His word. It is, said Paul, “able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”. He also confirmed that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God”, and that therefore it is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”. The purpose of its profitable contents is “that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3.15-17).
WHY HAS THE BIBLE SURVIVED DOWN THE AGES?
The apostle Peter supplies a convincing answer to this question. He describes the scriptures as “incorruptible”, saying, “The word of God liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Peter 1.23). The attempts of men to dismiss, even destroy, the Bible have been futile. Its incorruptible character means that it can never be destroyed - that it will survive any and every attempt to expunge its teaching. Now and again, warnings are given against any attempt to tamper with its contents.
“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it” (Deuteronomy 4.2)
“Every word of God is pure… Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Proverbs 30.5-6)
“If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life” (Revelation 22.18-19)
Being the word of God, the Bible cannot be revised by man. It is unique amongst books in that divine judgment is pronounced against any who would seek to amend its contents. It is our wisdom to accept its message, retain its teaching and obey its precepts.
Much has been said so far about the Bible being the word of God, and much internal evidence has been produced to support that claim. The question might understandably be asked, Is there any external evidence we can add to these statements to show that, without any doubt, this claim is justified? Well, in this respect the Bible is again proved to be unique amongst all books. As well as being filled with divine precepts giving guidance to men and women seeking salvation, the Bible also deals extensively with prophecy. Statements made and left on record for hundreds of years are shown to be absolutely true by the outcome of events. These are matters in the main that deal with nations and their rulers, the course of which it would be impossible for man to accurately predict so many years before they happened. Here are a few examples -
It is clear that Psalm 22 is a prophecy concerning Jesus, and deals with events that would transpire at his death. It foretells the scornful attitude of some who were present, even revealing the very words they would utter as Jesus hung on the cross (see verse 8 and Matthew 27.43).
The same Psalm portrays a situation in which the Roman soldiers at the crucifixion would “part my garments among them” (verse 18 - see Luke 23.34). The decision not to “part” one item of Jesus' clothing was remarkably, and unwittingly, fulfilled by the soldiers surrounding the cross. Admiring the nature of the coat, they decided not to “rend it”, but to “cast lots for it, whose it shall be” (Psalm 22.18 and John 19.23-24). This was undoubtedly a spontaneous act on the part of the soldiers who, very likely, would be completely ignorant of this prophetic action required of them.
But perhaps the most remarkable prophecy in this Psalm is the statement concerning Jesus that “they pierced my hands and my feet” (verse 16). Crucifixion was uniquely a Roman form of capital punishment, and when this was prophesied the Roman nation was not even in existence. And yet, 1,000 years later, they were on the scene; ruling over the people of Israel; appealed to by the Jewish leaders who were not able to lawfully put any man to death (John 18.31-32); and, being wrongly convicted, Jesus was condemned to die in precisely the way God’s word had predicted.
There are many prophecies in the Bible concerning nations, both ancient and modern. The most notable nation spoken of in Bible prophecy is the Jewish nation. The following sequence of prophecies is a brief example of their amazing accuracy.
Before the Jews entered the promised land under Joshua, God told them through Moses that, because of their disobedience to His laws, the land would become desolate and the people would be scattered among the nations of the world (read Leviticus 26.21-45). 1,500 years later, these things happened at the hands of the Romans, exactly as prophesied!
The prophet Hosea, writing about 800 years before Christ, prophesied that “the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king”, but that “afterward shall the children of Israel return” to the land of promise (Hosea 3.4-5). No king has ruled over the Jews since the last king was deposed about 2,600 years ago!
Miraculously, the Jews have survived centuries of persecution and homelessness. Today, almost 6 million of them are back in their land! Bible prophecy is vindicated by the experiences of the Jews. That is why they are spoken of as God’s witnesses (Isaiah 43.10). The revealed purpose of God is to regather them to their land to become once again the kingdom of God in the earth (see Jeremiah 30.3, 10-11, 13-19; Acts 1.6).
THE CONSISTENCY OF THE BIBLE MESSAGE
The great theme of the Bible is called simply, The Gospel. The word “gospel” means “good news”. The good news is stated to be about “the kingdom of God” (Mark 1.14). The Bible tells us that the gospel was preached long ago to Abraham when God promised him that “in thee shall all nations be blessed” (Galatians 3.8 and Genesis 12.1-3). The outworking of this purpose required that Abraham’s seed (“which is Christ” - Galatians 3.16) should rule supreme over all enemies (Genesis 22.17).
This gospel was also preached to the nation of Israel (Hebrews 4.2) as, for example, “all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord” (Numbers 14.21). Later, Israel’s greatest king, David, was told that one of his seed would occupy his throne for ever (2 Samuel 7.12-16). That seed is Jesus Christ (Acts 13.22-23) who, according to the words of the angel Gabriel, is to be given “the throne of his father David”, to “reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1.26-33).
Hence, both Jesus and his apostles came “preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God”. Jesus' commission to the apostles was to “preach the gospel to every creature”, with the promise that “he that believeth and is baptised shall be saved” (Mark 16.15-16). That is why Paul declared that “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1.16).
The importance of these matters is revealed by Paul when he wrote his letter to the Galatians. He was distressed because some had espoused a different gospel. However, he hastened to add that this was not “another gospel”, but a perversion of the one true gospel. So adamant was he that there could not be any acceptable alternative to the gospel of Christ, that he imprecated a curse upon any who preached anything other than the true gospel. The seriousness of the situation for us is that the apostle also said that those who received a false gospel would likewise be cursed (Galatians 1.6-9). That is why we should read the Bible carefully and thoughtfully to make sure we understand the one and only true gospel and thus become related to the blessings to be poured out upon those who believe and obey it.
A TEST OPEN TO ALL
The easiest way to satisfy ourselves that the Bible is the word of God is to read it and to re-read it. Constant reading will bring a greater awareness of its divine origin. An on-going acquaintance with its message will bring a conviction that it could never have been engineered, produced and preserved by man. Reading the Bible will engender faith. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10.17). Faith is no magical concept. It is an assurance of the truth of things recorded in the Bible that are past, concerning which we would have no knowledge apart from the Biblical record. Faith accepts that the things recorded actually happened.
But faith goes further than that. Belief in the authenticity of past recorded events becomes a basis for belief that the Bible’s declaration of future happenings are bound to be fulfilled. Reading and believing the Bible in this way provides us with a hope for the future - a future that is full of eternal joy and happiness experienced in the kingdom of God set up on the earth in the land promised to the fathers of Israel.
It cannot be over-emphasised that life without God is hopeless. Jesus pointed to this when he said, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent” (John 17.3). The only place where we can know of God and His purpose is in the Bible. By reading God’s word we will be able to obtain a glorious hope that will stretch into eternity, bringing everlasting life filled with divine blessings to all who obey its teaching.