Marco is a lay preacher of an Evangelical Church (Brethren Assemblies) in Northern Italy with a keen interest in Apologetics.
No Ordinary Book
According to the Google Books Library Project, there are over 129 million books that have been published worldwide. Yet whenever reference is made simply to 'the book' there are few doubts which one is meant: the Bible. The best-selling book of all time and steadily the best-selling book of the year, every year.
Although technically speaking the Bible is a collection of books (39 books of the Old Testament and 27 of the New Testament) it is nonetheless usually considered as a single book because of its unifying message and unique origin.
To some simply a book of religious myths, to others the inspired and infallible Word of God. The Bible stands out in many ways.
1. The Most Printed Book
Perhaps not incidentally the first major book that in the 1450s came from Gutenberg's newly invented printing press with movable types was a Bible. The Gutenberg revolution ushered in the age of the printed book.
As of 2015 Guinness World Records estimates that over 5 billion copies of the Bible have been printed. The Gideons International, an evangelical Christian association, announced in 2015 that their distribution of Bibles and New Testaments had surpassed the 2 billion mark. Nowadays 100 million Bibles are sold every year.
That puts the Bible on the undisputed top spot of the books ever sold. Quotations from Chairman Mao (800 million copies) comes in a distant second and a modern bestseller like The Da Vinci Code (80 million copies) pales by comparison.
2. The Most Translated Book
The Bible is by far the most translated book of all time. 98% of the world's population has access to at least parts of the Bible in their native tongue. There are 518 languages with a complete translation of the Bible, an additional 1,275 languages with a translation of the New Testament, and a further 1,005 languages in which the translation of at least one book of the Bible has been completed.
There remain some 1,900 (rare) languages in which translation work has still to be done, but the Vision 2025 project by the Wycliffe Bible Translators intends to commence translation in every remaining language by 2025.
3. The Most Distributed Book
Books are usually marketed through a sales network. Some writings have reached a wide circulation through a state's ideology, like Mao's Quotations during the Cultural Revolution. As concerns the Bible, many of Christ's followers have, sometimes at the risk of their lives, joined the mission field faithful to His command to teach and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).
Globally today there are over 30,000 Christian denominations and an estimated 37 million churches with 50,000 new ones been added every year. Even in countries where Christian churches are banned, Christians continue to exercise their faith in house or underground churches.
Furthermore, there are thousands of Christian organizations dedicated to reaching dedicated mission fields or fringe groups. The Gideons International, for instance, have made it their aim to distribute the Word of God for free in hotels, schools and colleges, hospitals and medical offices, prisons and jails all over the world.
4. Both the Most Studied and the Most Neglected Book
Devout Christians read their Bibles daily. At an academic level, theology was once considered the 'queen of sciences' and an integral part of university studies of any field. Although nowadays it has somehow lost this preeminence, faculties of Christian theology all over the world are dedicated to studying the Bible and its implications for the world we live in.
During the 2000 years of Christian history, thousands of commentaries on the Bible or single books of it have been written. No other book has been studied so extensively both academically and at the grassroots level.
Yet somehow the Bible is also the most neglected book. Compared to its wide circulation, the Bible is little read. The vast majority of households (at least in Western societies) possess a Bible, yet only a tiny fraction regularly read and study the book of books.
5. Its Message Is More Important Than Life
Steven (Acts of the Apostles chapter 7) is widely regarded as the first Christian martyr. He was so firm in his convictions about Jesus Christ being the promised Messiah that he preferred being stoned to death rather than denying Christ.
With that, he is the first in a long line of Christian martyrs. At the dawn of the Protestant Reformation, for instance, William Tyndale was strangled to death simply because he had translated the Bible into vernacular English. Even today there still are many countries in which Christians face persecution, even unto death. Overall there have been more Christian martyrs in the 20th-century than in all the previous centuries combined.
The willingness throughout the centuries of sober-minded, educated men and women to sacrifice their lives in defense of the Bible is a reminder to all of us that something really big must be at stake.
6. The Unity of the Bible
Written in three languages over a period of at least 1600 years (1500 BC to 100 AD) by more than forty writers from all kinds of backgrounds, the unique and coherent message of the Bible is nothing but extraordinary.
Its writers include farmers, fishermen, tax collectors, politicians, poets, priests, military commanders, and kings, all inspired by the Spirit of God, the ultimate author of the Bible. In spite of their diverse backgrounds, all biblical writings remarkably converge in the person of Jesus Christ.
7. Revealed Throughout History
Despite the diversity of literary genres, the Bible's main feature is that of a history book. Unlike other religious books the Bible is not simply a set of rules revealed to mankind at an appointed time, but the account of God's interaction with men throughout history.
From the early period of the patriarchs down to the historical accuracy of Luke in his Gospel and the book of Acts, customs, names of places and people mentioned in the biblical narrative are precise and reveal first-hand knowledge of their respective epochs.
In some cases, like that of the last Babylonian king Belshazzar, names had already disappeared from the history books and had been preserved only in the Bible, before archeology brought them back to light.
- Reliability of the Bible - Who was King Belshazzar?
The Babylonian king Belshazzar had long been forgotten by secular history, his name being preserved but in the Old Testament. Then an archeological find established his identity, confirming the Bible's historical accuracy and reliability.
8. The Most Reviled Book
Jesus said: "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you" (Gospel of John 15:18).
Although Western civilization has been heavily influenced by Christianity, its foundational book did not go down well with many. The Bible has endured bans by governments, burnings by religious and non-religious opponents alike, and has faced greater opposition than any other book in history, yet survived.
During the French Revolution, the worship of God was abolished by law, and Bibles were collected and publicly burned with the utmost manifestation of scorn. Yet it were the Revolutionaries to be soon defeated while the Bible endured the test of time.
During the Cultural Revolution in China, Mao Zedong expelled Christian missionaries and banned the Bible, propagating his Quotations instead, yet the church continued underground in house churches. Mao did not succeed in eradicating Christianity. Since the 1970s it is estimated that some 50 million Chinese have been baptized and the Bible is in wider circulation than ever.
9. A Unique Message
Unlike the wisdom of philosophers, the Bible isn't simply about conjectures and wise counsel. Instead, the Holy Scriptures firmly assert to be God's special revelation to mankind: God's grace as it is sublimely revealed in His Son Jesus Christ who became man to offer his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). In Him alone is made peace with God (Romans 5:1). There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which they must be saved (Acts 4:12).
Although the Bible's content has been written by men, ultimately its authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16). Unlike religious apocryphal writings which are characterized by uncertainty (cf. 2 Maccabees 15:38), the authors of the writings that made it into the canon of the Holy Scriptures were quite sure about their affirmations. These included supernatural events like the resurrection and the miracles (cf. 2 Peter 1:16).
10. Lives Transformed
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). The entire message of the Bible is about Jesus Christ and wherever his words are believed, hearts are changed and lives transformed.
Having been touched by God's love Christians have gone out to take care of the widow, the orphan, the poor, the sick and campaign against all forms of social discrimination.
Sometimes the actions of a single believer have had an impact on a wider scale. When, for instance, William Wilberforce, an English politician at the turn of the 1800s, became a Christian his conversion resulted in major changes to his lifestyle. He began to campaign heavily for the abolition of the slave trade. At the end of his carrier slavery had been abolished in most of the British Empire.
The biblical view of man created in the image of God is also the very foundation of human rights.
Now it's your turn...
Is the Bible historically reliable?
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2015 Marco Pompili