Thursday, June 23, 2011
Can any human with a life span of a few decades personally reach all mankind and serve as a channel of communication from God? No. But a permanent written record can. Therefore, would it not be appropriate that the revelation from God be made available in the form of a book? One of the ancient books claiming inspiration by God is the Bible. “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness,” states one of its writers. (2 Timothy 3:16) Let us take a closer look at the Bible and see if it is the source of true teachings.
Among the major books of religion, the Bible is one of the very oldest. Its first parts were written some 3,500 years ago. This book was completed in 98 C.E.* Though some 40 men were its writers over a period of 1,600 years, the Bible is a harmonious body of writings. That is so because its real Author is God.
The Bible is the most widely circulated and translated book in all history. Each year, some 60 million copies of the entire Bible or portions of it are distributed. The complete Bible or parts of it have been translated into more than 2,300 languages and dialects. Over 90 percent of the human family have access to the Bible, or at least part of it, in their native language. This book has transcended national boundaries, racial divisions, and ethnic barriers.
If you have a Bible, why not open it and see how it is organized?# First, turn to the table of contents. Most Bibles have one at the beginning, listing the name of each book and the page number where it can be found. You will note that the Bible is actually a large collection of individual books, each having a unique name. The very first book is Genesis, and the last is Revelation, or Apocalypse. The books are grouped into two sections. The first 39 books are called the Hebrew Scriptures, since they were written mostly in the Hebrew language. The last 27 books were written in the Greek language and make up the Greek Scriptures. Some refer to these two sections as the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The books of the Bible have chapters and verses for easy reference. When scriptures are cited in this magazine, after the name of the Bible book, the first number indicates the chapter of that book and the next denotes the verse. For example, the citation “2 Timothy 3:16” means the book of Second Timothy, chapter 3, verse 16. See if you can find that verse in the Bible.
Would you not agree that the best way to become familiar with the Bible is to read it regularly? Some have found it helpful to read the Greek Scriptures first, starting with the book of Matthew. By reading from three to five chapters a day, you can read the entire Bible in a year. But how can you be sure that what you read in the Bible is actually inspired of God?
Can You Trust the Bible?
Should not a divinely inspired book for all people contain timeless advice for living? The Bible reflects an understanding of human nature that applies to every generation of mankind, and its principles are just as practical today as they were when first stated. This can easily be seen in a famous discourse given by Jesus Christ, the Founder of Christianity. It is recorded in Matthew chapters 5 to 7. This address, known as the Sermon on the Mount, shows us not only how to find true happiness but also how to settle disputes, how to pray, how to view material needs, and much more. In this discourse, and throughout the rest of its pages, the Bible clearly tells us what to do and what to avoid in order to please God and improve our lot in life.
Another reason why you can put your trust in the Bible is that when it comes to scientific matters, what this ancient book states is accurate. For example, at a time when most people believed that the earth was flat, the Bible spoke of “the circle [or, sphere] of the earth.”% (Isaiah 40:22) And over 3,000 years before the famous scientist Sir Isaac Newton explained that the planets are held in empty space by gravity, the Bible poetically stated that ‘the earth is hanging upon nothing.’ (Job 26:7) Consider also this poetic description of the earth’s water cycle, recorded some 3,000 years ago: “All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again.” (Ecclesiastes 1:7, New International Version) Yes, the Creator of the universe is also the Author of the Bible.
The historical accuracy of the Bible agrees with the fact that it is inspired of God. Events covered in the Bible are not mere myths. They are related to specific dates, people, and places. For example, Luke 3:1 factually refers to “the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was district ruler of Galilee.”
Although ancient historians almost always reported only the successes and virtues of rulers, the Bible writers were honest, openly admitting even their own mistakes. For instance, King David of Israel confessed: “I have sinned very much in what I have done. . . . I have acted very foolishly.” That statement is candidly documented in the Bible. (2 Samuel 24:10) And the Bible writer Moses himself recorded the incident in which he did not demonstrate reliance on the true God.—Numbers 20:12.
The Bible has yet another mark of divine inspiration. That mark is its fulfilled prophecies—history written in advance. Some of these are prophecies concerning Jesus Christ. For example, over 700 years before Jesus’ birth, the Hebrew Scriptures accurately foretold that this Promised One would be born “in Bethlehem of Judea.”—Matthew 2:1-6; Micah 5:2.
Consider another example. At 2 Timothy 3:1-5, the Bible states: “In the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.” Does this not describe the attitude of people in general today? These words were penned in the year 65 C.E., over 1,900 years ago!
What Does the Bible Teach Us?
As its message unfolds before your eyes, you will be able to see that the Bible is a source of higher wisdom. It provides satisfying answers to such questions as these: Who is God? Is the Devil real? Who is Jesus Christ? Why does suffering exist? What happens to us when we die? The answers you may hear from others are as diverse as the beliefs and customs of the people giving them. But the Bible reveals the truth about these and many other subjects. Furthermore, in the matter of conduct and attitude toward other humans and higher authorities, the Bible’s guidance cannot be surpassed.^
What does the Bible reveal about God’s purpose for the earth and mankind? It promises: “Just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more . . . But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” (Psalm 37:10, 11) “God himself will be with [mankind]. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3, 4) “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”—Psalm 37:29.
The Bible also foretells that war, crime, violence, and wickedness will soon end. Sickness, old age, and death will be no more. Everlasting life on a paradise earth will become a reality. What delightful prospects! And how all of this demonstrates God’s love for mankind!
What Will You Do?
The Bible is a marvelous gift from the Creator. How should you respond to this book? A man of Hindu background believed that for a revelation from God to be of benefit to all mankind, it has to date back to the dawn of civilization. Upon realizing that parts of the Bible are older than the most ancient Hindu writings, the Vedas, he decided to read the Bible and examine its contents.** A university professor in the United States also came to see the need to read this most widely circulated book in the world before forming an opinion about it.
Reading the Bible and applying what it teaches will bring you rich blessings. The Bible states: “Happy is the man . . . [whose] delight is in the law of Jehovah, and in his law he reads in an undertone day and night. And he will certainly become like a tree planted by streams of water, that gives its own fruit in its season and the foliage of which does not wither, and everything he does will succeed.”## (Psalm 1:1-3) Studying the Bible and reflecting upon what it says will bring you happiness because your spiritual need will thus be satisfied. (Matthew 5:3) The Bible will show you how to live a fruitful life and how to cope with problems successfully. Yes, “in the keeping of [God’s laws set out in the Bible] there is a large reward.” (Psalm 19:11) Moreover, putting confidence in God’s promises will bring you blessings now and will give you a bright hope for the future.
The Bible urges us: “As newborn infants, form a longing for the unadulterated milk belonging to the word.” (1 Peter 2:2) An infant depends on nourishment and insists on having that need met. Likewise, we really are dependent on knowledge from God. So “form a longing,” or a strong desire, for his Word. The Bible is a book of true teachings from God. Make it a goal to study it regularly. Jehovah’s Witnesses in your community will be happy to help you to get the most out of your study. You have our warm invitation to contact them. Or you may write to the publishers of this magazine.
* C.E. denotes “Common Era,” often called A.D., for Anno Domini, meaning “in the year of the Lord.” B.C.E. means “Before the Common Era.”
# If you do not have a personal copy of the Bible, Jehovah’s Witnesses will be happy to supply you with one.
% The original-language word translated “circle” at Isaiah 40:22 may also be rendered “sphere.” Certain Bible translations read, “the globe of the earth” (Douay Version) and “the round earth.”—Moffatt.
^ These subjects are discussed in the book Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
** The earliest hymns of the Vedas are believed to have been composed nearly 3,000 years ago and transmitted orally. “It was only in the fourteenth century A.D. that the Veda was written down,” says P. K. Saratkumar in his book A History of India.
## Jehovah is the name of the God of the Bible. In many Bible translations, it can be found at Psalm 83:18.
“Form a longing” for God’s Word. Study the Bible regularly