“Trust not to rotten planks,” wrote English dramatist William Shakespeare. Indeed, before stepping onto the wooden planks of a boat, you would want to be sure that the wood was not rotten.
THE words of Shakespeare echo the sentiments of wise King Solomon of ancient Israel, who some 3,000 years ago wrote: “A fool will believe anything; smart people watch their step.” (Proverbs 14:15, Today’s English Version) Yes, only a fool would go through life blindly accepting everything he hears, basing his decisions and actions on frivolous advice or baseless teachings. Misplacing our trust—like stepping onto rotten planks—can lead to disaster. You may wonder, ‘Is there any source of guidance that is worthy of our trust?’
Millions of people the world over place their full trust in an ancient book called the Holy Bible. They look to this book to direct their steps. They base their decisions on its advice and pattern their actions after its teachings. Are such individuals stepping, as it were, onto rotten planks? The answer to that question depends greatly on the answer to another question, Are there sound reasons to trust the Bible? Lets examine the evidence.
The purpose of this examination is not to impose religious beliefs or views on you. Rather, it is intended simply to present the compelling evidence that has convinced millions that the Bible is worthy of their trust. After reading all the many topics below, you can decide for yourself whether the Bible merits your trust.
This subject deserves more than your passing interest. After all, if the Bible is, indeed, a trustworthy source of guidance from our Creator, then you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to consider what the Bible has to say.
First, though, let us mention some outstanding facts about the Bible. At the very least, it is truly a unique book.
“The Bible is the most widely distributed book in history.”—The World Book Encyclopedia.
OVER 550 years ago, the German inventor Johannes Gutenberg began printing with movable type. The first major book to come off his press was a Bible. (Gutenberg’s Bible, also called the 42-line Bible, was a Latin translation and was completed in about 1455.) Since then, billions upon billions of books on every subject imaginable have been printed. The Bible, however, is by far the most exceptional of them all.
- It is estimated that more than 4.7 billion Bibles (in whole or in part) have been printed. That is more than five times the number of copies of the next most widely distributed publication,Quotations From Chairman Mao.
- More than 50 million copies of the Bible or portions of it were distributed recently in one year alone. “The Bible is the best-selling book of the year, every year,” says a report in The New Yorker magazine.
- In whole or in part, the Bible has been translated into more than 2,400 languages. At least some of the Bible is available in the languages spoken by over 90 percent of the human family.
- About half the Bible writers finished their writings before the birth of both Confucius, the renowned Chinese sage, and Siddhārtha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism.
- The Bible has had a profound influence on the arts, including some of the world’s greatest paintings, music, and literature.
- The Bible has endured bans by governments, burnings by religious opposers, and attacks by critics. No other book in history has faced greater opposition—and survived.
The above-mentioned facts are outstanding, are they not? Of course, impressive details and statistics alone do not prove that the Bible is trustworthy. Next, we will examine five reasons why millions of people are convinced that the Bible is worthy of trust.
It would be hard to trust a book that is found to contain inaccuracies. Imagine reading a modern history book that dated the second world war to the 1800’s or that called the president of the United States a king. Would such inaccuracies not raise questions in your mind about the overall reliability of the book?
NO ONE has ever successfully challenged the historical accuracy of the Bible. It refers to real people and real events.
Bible critics questioned the existence of Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea who handed Jesus over to be impaled. (Matthew 27:1-26) Evidence that Pilate was once ruler of Judea is etched on a stone discovered at the Mediterranean seaport city of Caesarea in 1961.
Before 1993, there was no proof outside the Bible to support the historicity of David, the brave young shepherd who later became king of Israel. That year, however, archaeologists uncovered in northern Israel a basalt stone, dated to the ninth century B.C.E., that experts say bears the words “House of David” and “king of Israel.”
Until recently, many scholars doubted the accuracy of the Bible’s account of the nation of Edom battling with Israel in the time of David. (2 Samuel 8:13, 14) Edom, they argued, was a simple pastoral society at the time and did not become sufficiently organized or have the might to threaten Israel until much later. However, recent excavations indicate that “Edom was a complex society centuries earlier [than previously thought], as reflected in the Bible,” states an article in the journal Biblical Archaeology Review.
There were many rulers on the world stage during the 16 centuries that the Bible was being written. When the Bible refers to a ruler, it always uses the proper title. For example, it correctly refers to Herod Antipas as “district ruler” and Gallio as “proconsul.” (Luke 3:1; Acts 18:12) Ezra 5:6 refers to Tattenai, the governor of the Persian province “beyond the River,” the Euphrates River. A coin produced in the fourth century B.C.E. contains a similar description, identifying the Persian governor Mazaeus as ruler of the province “Beyond the River.”
Accuracy in seemingly minor details is no small matter. If we can trust the Bible writers in even small details, should that not bolster our confidence in the other things they wrote?
THE Bible writers were honest men who wrote with openness of heart. Their candor gives their writing the clear ring of truth.
Mistakes and shortcomings.
The Bible writers openly admitted their own failures and weaknesses. Moses told of a mistake he made that cost him dearly. (Numbers 20:7-13) Asaph explained that for a time he found himself envying the prosperous life of the wicked. (Psalm 73:1-14) Jonah told of his disobedience and the bad attitude he initially had when God showed mercy to repentant sinners. (Jonah 1:1-3; 3:10;4:1-3) Matthew freely related that he had abandoned Jesus on the night of Jesus’ arrest.—Matthew 26:56.
Bible writers, such as Jonah, recorded their own mistakes
The writers of the Hebrew Scriptures laid bare the repeated grumbling and rebellion of their own people. (2 Chronicles 36:15, 16) The writers spared no one, not even the rulers of their nation. (Ezekiel 34:1-10) With similar candor, the letters of the apostles reported the serious problems experienced by individual Christians, including responsible ones, as well as by some congregations in the first century C.E.—1 Corinthians 1:10-13;2 Timothy 2:16-18; 4:10.
The Bible writers did not try to gloss over what some might have viewed as embarrassing truth. The first-century Christians frankly acknowledged that they were not admired by the world around them but were looked upon as foolish and ignoble. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29) The writers noted that Jesus’ apostles were seen as “unlettered and ordinary.”—Acts 4:13.
The Gospel writers did not color the facts in order to cast Jesus in a more favorable light. Rather, they reported honestly that he was born under humble circumstances into a working-class family, that he did not study at the prestigious schools of his day, and that the majority of his listeners rejected his message.—Matthew 27:25;Luke 2:4-7; John 7:15.
Clearly, the Bible gives ample evidence that it is the product of honest writers. Does their honesty win your trust?
Imagine asking 40 men from varied backgrounds to write a book, each writing a section. The writers live in a number of lands and do not all know one another. Some do not know what the others have written. Would you expect a book thus produced to be harmonious?
THE Bible is such a book. (The Bible is a collection of 66 books, or subdivisions, starting with Genesis and ending with Revelation.) Written under even more unusual conditions than those described above, its internal harmony is nothing less than profound.
The Bible was written over a span of some 1,600 years, from 1513 B.C.E. to about 98 C.E. Many of the approximately 40 writers thus lived centuries apart. Their occupations were varied. Some were fishermen, others were shepherds or kings, and one was a physician.
A harmonious message.
The Bible penmen developed one central theme: the vindication of God’s right to rule mankind and the fulfillment of his purpose by means of his heavenly Kingdom, a world government. That theme is introduced in Genesis, expanded on in the books that follow, and brought to a climax in Revelation.—See “What Is the Bible About?” on page 19.
Agreement on details.
The Bible writers agreed on even minute details, but often this harmony was clearly unintentional. Note an example. The Bible writer John tells us that when a large crowd came to hear Jesus, Jesus specifically asked Philip where to buy some loaves to feed the people. (John 6:1-5) In a parallel account, Luke says that this took place near the city of Bethsaida. Earlier in his book, John happened to have said that Philip was from Bethsaida. (Luke 9:10;John 1:44) So Jesus naturally addressed his question to one of the men who had lived nearby. The details agree—but with an obvious lack of intent to make them harmonious.
There are some differences between certain accounts, but should we not expect this? Suppose a group of people witnessed a crime. If each one mentioned the same details using the same words, would you not suspect collusion? Reasonably, the testimony of each would vary somewhat according to his particular angle of view. So it was with the Bible writers.
Consider an example. Did Jesus wear a purple garment on the day of his death, as Mark and John report? (Mark 15:17; John 19:2) Or was it scarlet, as Matthew says? (Matthew 27:28) Really, both can be correct. Purple has components of red in it. Depending on the observer’s angle of view, light reflection and background could have subdued certain hues, giving different casts to the garment.
The harmony of the Bible writers, including their unintentional consistency, further stamps their writings as trustworthy.
THE Bible is not a science textbook. Yet, when it comes to scientific matters, the Bible is noteworthy not only for what it says but also for what it does not say.
Free of unscientific views.
Many mistaken beliefs gained wide acceptance in ancient times. Views about the earth ranged from the idea that it was flat to the notion that tangible substances or objects held it aloft. Long before science learned about the spread and prevention of disease, physicians employed some practices that were ineffective at best, lethal at worst. But not once in its more than 1,100 chapters does the Bible endorse any unscientific views or harmful practices.
Far ahead of its time, the Bible correctly stated that the earth is circular and hangs “upon nothing”
Scientifically sound statements.
Some 3,500 years ago, the Bible stated that the earth is hanging “upon nothing.” (Job 26:7) In the eighth century B.C.E., Isaiah clearly referred to “the circle [or, sphere] of the earth.” (Isaiah 40:22) A spherical earth held in empty space without any visible or physical means of support—does not that description sound remarkably modern?
Written about 1500 B.C.E., the Mosaic Law (found in the first five books of the Bible) contained sound laws regarding quarantining of the sick, treatment of dead bodies, and disposal of waste.—Leviticus 13:1-5; Numbers 19:1-13; Deuteronomy 23:13, 14.
Partly as a result of turning powerful telescopes toward the heavens, scientists have concluded that the universe had a sudden “birth.” Not all scientists like the implications of this explanation. One professor noted: “A universe that began seems to demand a first cause; for who could imagine such an effect without a sufficient cause?” Yet, long before telescopes, the very first verse of the Bible plainly stated: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”—Genesis 1:1.
Even though it is an ancient book and touches on many subjects, the Bible contains no scientific inaccuracies. Does not such a book merit, at the very least, our consideration?
Imagine a weather forecaster who has a long record of being right—every time. If he predicted rain, would you carry an umbrella?
THE Bible is filled with predictions, or prophecies.(Weather forecasts are likelihoods. Bible prophecy is inspired by God, who can maneuver events if he chooses to do so.) Its record, as documented by history, is clear. Bible prophecy is always right.
Bible prophecies are often specific and have been fulfilled down to the smallest of details. They usually involve matters of great importance and predict the opposite of what those living at the time of the writing might have been expecting.
An outstanding example.
Strategically built astride the Euphrates River, ancient Babylon has been called “the political, religious, and cultural centre of the ancient Orient.” About 732 B.C.E., the prophet Isaiah penned an ominous prophecy—Babylon would fall. Isaiah provided specifics: A leader named “Cyrus” would be the conqueror, the protective waters of the Euphrates would “dry up,” and the city’s gates would “not be shut.” (Isaiah 44:27–45:3) Some 200 years later, on October 5, 539 B.C.E., the prophecy was fulfilled in all its details. Greek historian Herodotus (fifth century B.C.E.) confirmed the manner of Babylon’s fall.
The Bible accurately foretold that a leader named Cyrus would conquer mighty Babylon
A bold detail.
Isaiah made a further startling prediction regarding Babylon: “She will never be inhabited.” (Isaiah 13:19, 20) To predict permanent desolation for a sprawling city occupying a strategic location was bold indeed. You would normally expect that such a city would be rebuilt if ruined. Although Babylon lingered on for a while after its conquest, Isaiah’s words eventually came true. Today the site of ancient Babylon “is flat, hot, deserted and dusty,” reports Smithsonian magazine.
It is awesome to contemplate the magnitude of Isaiah’s prophecy. What he foretold would be the equivalent of predicting the exact manner in which a modern city, such as New York or London, would be destroyed 200 years from now and then emphatically stating that it would never again be inhabited. Of course, most remarkable is the fact that Isaiah’s prophecy came true!
Above we have considered some of the evidence that has convinced millions of people that the Bible is trustworthy. They therefore look to it as a reliable guide to direct their steps. Why not learn more about the Bible so that you can decide for yourself whether you too can trust it?
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