Once upon a time, the Bible was a trusted book. Today many people hold it in suspicion, and feel that to believe Scripture is to take a leap of faith into the dark.
What a curious turn of events. Peter, one of the Bible’s authors, said, “We were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:16).
“The Bible stands or falls on the facts of history.”
John claimed, “We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands.” (1 John 1:1). And Luke said he wrote his gospel only after he “carefully investigated everything from the beginning.” (Luke 1:3).
In other words, this book claims to be more than religious truth (whatever that means). It’s true truth. Apparently it stands or falls on the facts of history.
Which is why, in this and future posts, I want to ask four questions:
To believers, I want to ask: do these questions make you nervous? If so, brilliant. It means your faith has a chance to mature, and be shored up on foundations stronger than just your feelings.
If you don’t follow Jesus, I have a different question: if it could be shown that the Bible is reliable, would you believe? In other words, are you truly open-minded?
It’s hard to find questions that matter more than these—because if the Bible is true, it changes everything.
What Makes the Bible Unique?
If every Bible on the planet ceased to exist this second, you could still go to your city library and piece it together just from quotations in other books. So profound is its impact on our world.
The word Bible simply means book. But in fact, the Bible is an anthology of books.
“It was penned from deserts and dungeons, palaces and prisons.”
The Bible was written over 1,500 years by more than 40 authors, who came from every walk of life: kings, peasants, military leaders, philosophers, shepherds, statesmen, and poets.
It was penned from deserts and dungeons, palaces and prisons. And on three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe.
It was written in times of peace, and periods of war and unrest. It expresses the heights of joy and the depths of despair; days of doubt and times of great faith.
“The Bible has truly given western civilisation its soul.”
And the literary styles that make up the Bible are unbelievably diverse: biography, romance, prophecy, correspondence, law, satire, song, allegory, memoirs and more.
Despite this amazing diversity, the Bible tells one story: the redemption of humanity. Everything that was lost in Genesis is restored in Revelation.
The Book That Just Won’t Go Away
The Frenchman Voltaire (1694-1778) was a famous philosopher and early atheist. He predicted that within a hundred years of his lifetime, Christianity would be swept from existence and pass into history.
Not long after his death, the Bible Society had bought Voltaire’s estate and were using it to print and distribute Bibles around the world.
Fast forward to today, and the Bible is the most widely printed, read and distributed book in history—5 billion copies and counting. No other book comes even close.
“Voltaire is dead, but the Bible lives on.”
The Bible is also the most translated book in history. Portions of it are now available in almost 3,000 of the world’s 6,500 languages, making it accessible to 90% of the world’s population.
Voltaire is dead, but the Bible lives on. It is an anvil that has worn out many hammers.
And if news from majority-world nations like China, India and Indonesia is to be believed, that doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon. In fact, its best days may yet be ahead of us.
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Check out the rest of the series:
Clark, Mark. The Problem of God: Answering a Skeptic’s Challenges to Christianity. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017.
McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands a Verdict: Life-Changing Truth for a Skeptical World. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2017.