INDISPUTABLY, the greatest and most influential book in human history is the HOLY BIBLE. In spite of the violent attacks it has been subjected to by the most learned of atheists and agnostics, and despite the cruel persecutions it has suffered at the hands of the wicked, the Bible - by reason of its divine nature and the irresistible force of its sagely message - has continued to shine from age to age, even through the darkest age. And though it also has the unique honour of being the oldest book in the world, it is still the best-seller and never out of date.
The Bible is an authoritative work containing all the books of both the Old and New Testaments. The word bible is derived from the Greek word biblia, the plural of biblion, which means the 'books'.
The whole of the Bible or part of it is sometimes referred to as "The Holy Scriptures" or "The Scripture". The word Scripture which means 'The writings' in English comes from the Latin word scribere - that is, to write.
Statistics of the Bible show, according to the Cyclopedic Concordance, that the whole volume is made up of 66 books, 1,189 chapters, 31,173 verses, 773,692 words and 3,566,480 letters.
Originally, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew language and the New Testament in Greek. At the time of Jesus Christ the books of the Old Testament had not been brought into a single collection. On a certain occasion when Jesus Christ went into the synagogue at Nazareth the book of the prophet Isaiah was delivered to him to read. He opened it and found the passage, which says, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor…. " When he had closed the book, as all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him, he told the people, "This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears".- Read Luke 4: 16-21.
The first complete translation of the whole Bible into English was made by John Wycliffe in A.D. 1380-1382. It was the first book ever printed through the process of movable type by Guttenberg, the reputed inventor of printing at Mentz, Germany, between the years 1450 and 1456 A.D.
We do not intend to go into much details here as regards the historical facts concerning the Bible. A writer once stated; "The Bible is a history book, which has itself made more history than any other history book. The events it has figured in are nearly as manifold and wonderful as the events it describes."
What makes the Bible most distinguished among books is not only for the fact that it expresses God’s will and purpose towards mankind but also because it was written under the inspiration of One whose wisdom and power are infinite. For this cause, the authenticity and reliability of the Bible is not open to question. It is true that some men, especially among those with academic training, have cavilled at and taken issue with the Bible but the Book of books has always triumphed.
The prophets and the apostles who wrote the books of the Bible were instruments that were used by God to do His work. David who was an anointed king in Israel and one of the prophets, said: “The spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was in my tongue.” – 2 Samuel 23:2.
Several years after the death of David, St. Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, confirmed that he (David) was moved by the Holy Spirit to make utterances. This happened when Peter, while addressing his fellow disciples, made reference to the Psalms of David (Psalm 41:9; 69:25; 109:8) concerning Judas Iscariot who betrayed our Lord, and whose office was to be taken by another. He declared: "Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit) by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus…. For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishoprick let another take." - Acts 1: 15-20.
Take for example, the case of Daniel the prophet who said that he did not understand what he heard. Yet God used him to write and He told him (Daniel) that people would in future be cleansed through the Holy Spirit to understand the prophecies and symbolisms of the Scriptures. Said Daniel: "And I heard, but I understood not then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And He said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end." - Daniel 12: 8, 9.
Some people argue ignorantly on the basis of this statement of Daniel that nobody can understand the Bible. If this is true, then the Bible is of no use to man since it is incomprehensible. However, that view is wrong. God did not say that "the words" were closed up and sealed forever but "till the time of the end". And when that time arrives, what will happen? God gave the answer to Daniel: “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand." - Daniel 12: 10.
We must point out that we are now in "the time of the end" or "the last days". And the prophecy of Daniel under reference is fulfilling in that while the light of God's word is breaking upon those who give themselves to righteousness and things of the Spirit, scorners and other people with carnal disposition stumble nearly at every scripture. We shall go a step further on this point as we progress in this sermon.
The argument of some people that Moses did not write cannot be substantiated. There is abundance of evidence to the contrary. It was Moses who, under the inspiration of God, wrote the first five books of the Bible - namely, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
There was an occasion when Moses was called up into the mountain to receive instructions from God. He returned and told the children of Israel the words and judgments of the Lord, and the people promised to be obedient. The account further states: "And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel." - Exodus 24: 4.
Again, in Deuteronomy 31: 9, 24-26, it is written: "And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and unto all the elders of Israel….. And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee."
On this matter no evidence can be more arresting or conclusive than that of Jesus Christ himself who testified to the truth that Moses actually wrote. In one of his encounters with the unbelieving Jews he made them know that the very Moses on whom they set their hope, wrote about him. So, if they had believed Moses they would, also, have believed him. He said: "Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believed not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" - John 5: 45-47.
To a mind that is free from prejudice, there cannot remain any doubt that the Bible is of divine origin. The accuracy of its prophecies and all the wonderful and wholesome wisdom that permeates the pages of the book lead us to the conclusion that it owes its authorship to a supernatural perfect intelligence. St. Peter made a categorical statement to this effect. He stated: "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For 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 Ghost."-2 Peter 1: 20, 21.
Dr. Henry M. Morris who is credited with having studied some in most of the basic sciences, having belonged to many scientific societies and associated with scientists and intellectuals daily for 20 years and having taught in three great universities for 14 years, is "firmly convinced that every word of the Bible is inspired of God", In his book The Bible and Modern Science, he wrote: "One of the most arresting evidences of the inspiration of the Bible is the great number of scientific truths that have lain hidden within its pages for thirty centuries or more, only to be discovered by man's enterprise within the last few centuries or even years."
The learned doctor buttressed his view with instances which he cited by taking a look at the field of astronomy, sciences of hydrology and meteorology, medical and sanitary laws of Moses, which he said were far advanced of the times, and so forth.
Today, it is no longer a hidden truth that more and more archaeological discoveries continue to lend support to the authenticity of the Bible. A few years ago the LIFE magazine devoted its special double issue of April 19, 1965, to The Bible. In its introduction it was stated among other things: "All the recent finds of scholarship have tended to raise, not lower, the status of the Bible as history. Cuneiform tablets now provide ample non Hebrew testimony to many biblical battles, migrations and peoples that rationalists once thought 'mythic'; so with other discoveries in Egypt, Babylon, Turkey and elsewhere... The discoveries are still coming in and expanding - 'to the point where it blinds us,' says one hard-working scroll expert - and will steadily enrich our knowledge of all biblical times, places and beliefs. But this enrichment is not an overthrow of the Bible. It is like adding instruments to an orchestra or deeper chords to a musical score!"
The evidence of Dr. Werner Keller, a professional journalist, who did a lot of research and had to do with the learned works of Biblical Archaeologists, is very material to the issue. He admitted that the "breathtaking discoveries, whose significance it is impossible to grasp all at once, make it necessary for us to revise our views about the Bible".
Dr. Keller, in his book The Bible as History, wrote: "No book in the whole history of mankind has had such a revolutionary influence, has so decisively affected the development of the western world, or had such a world-wide effect as the 'Book of Books', the Bible….In view of the overwhelming mass of authentic and well-attested evidence now available, and I thought of the sceptical criticism which from the eighteenth century onwards would fain have demolished the Bible altogether, there kept hammering on my brain this one sentence: 'The Bible is right after all!'" (Emphasis ours)
In spiritual values, moral philosophy and even considered from historical and literary standpoint, the Bible has no equal. In any land or community where the Bible is relegated to the background or where its knowledge is lacking, godlessness is bound to hold sway over the minds of men. What then will follow? Obviously, greed, avarice, corruption, licentiousness and every other form of evil will be the order of the day; and consequently, the way of peace and concord the people can never know.
Concerning the Bible, Abraham Lincoln said: "In regard to this great book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to men. All the good Saviour gave to the worId was communicated through this book. But for it, we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man's welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it."
Other men of reputation in history had at one time or another acknowledged the greatness of the Bible and confessed how they had derived immense benefits from it. But dictators and other evil men, for obvious reasons, dread the Holy Writ. "As an educating power, the Bible has no equal. Nothing so broadens the vision, strengthens the mind, elevates the thoughts, and ennobles the affections as does the study of the sublime and stupendous truths of revelation. A knowledge of its principles is an essential preparation to every calling. To the extent that it is studied and its teachings are received, it gives strength of character, noble ambition, keenness of perception, and sound judgment. Of all the books ever written, none contains lessons so instructive, precepts so pure, or promises so great as the Bible." (Bible Readings for the Home).
With regard to the usefulness of the Scriptures, the testimony of the Psalmist is very striking indeed. Said he: "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. " - Psalm 19: 7-11.
Moreover, St. Paul wrote to exhort Timothy, his fellow labourer in the gospel, to continue in what he had learned and that the holy scriptures which he had known from childhood "are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus". He added: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished onto all good works." - 2 Timothy 3: 14-17.
From the foregoing it is abundantly clear that the value of the Bible cannot be over-estimated. Therefore, to be ignorant of the Bible is to be blind to the essentials of life in relation to God Almighty and the power of the world to come.
Owing to the divine nature of the Bible and the highly spiritual inditement of its contents it requires the direction of the spirit of God to be able to grasp the significance of its allegories, prophecies, symbolisms and other sublime revelations. "But there is a spirit in man", said Elihu, Job's adviser, "and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them (the children of men) understanding." (Job 32: 8) So, anyone who has not the "inspiration of the Almighty", no matter how academically bookish or variegated he may be, cannot understand or interpret the Bible correctly. And St. Paul stated: "But as it is written; Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." - 1 Corinthians 2: 9-11.
There are many who read the Bible not with a desire to benefit from its wealth of knowledge or to know God and understand His purpose but in order to find fault with or criticise it. Concerning such carnal people, St. Paul further stated: "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spirituality discerned." - l Corinthians 2: 14.
We must emphasise that if men want to enjoy lasting peace on this earth, the knowledge of the Bible is indispensable. An American educator and one-time President of Yale University, William Lyon Phelps, said: "Everyone who has a thorough knowledge of the Bible may truly be called educated; and no other learning or culture, no matter how extensive or elegant, can, among Europeans and Americans, form a proper substitute." He added: "I thoroughly believe in a university education for both men and women; but 1 believe a knowledge of the Bible without a college course is more valuable than a college course without the Bible."
We therefore encourage men and women and even children who can read to develop the habit of reading the Bible with interest. As St. Paul truly said, it makes one wise; and, eventually, it leads those who follow its precepts and teachings to salvation in God's Kingdom.