I can say without hesitation that the Bible is the most unique book ever written.
The Bible was written in three languages by more than forty authors over a period of over 1500 years. Its authors came from many walks of life, ranging from kings to fishermen, from doctors to prophets. It was written in many different genres, from prose to poetry, from legalese to letters. Part was written during war, part during peace. Sometimes its authors wrote with joy, other times with sadness.
Unlike many books written centuries before the invention of the printing press, the Bible miraculously survived. In 1948, a manuscript of the Old Testament written about 100 years before Christ was discovered by the Dead Sea. When this manuscript was compared to a version written 1000 years later, scholars admitted that with a few minor exceptions, the two versions were virtually identical.
Despite the many attempts of governments and dictators to forbid or destroy the Bible and the efforts of many scholars to discredit it, not only has the Bible continue to be published everywhere, but it also has been translated into more languages than any other book ever written. It is read by billions of people who consider it the ultimate guidance for their lives.
While the survival and the popularity of the Bible support the idea that it is the word of God, I want to present still more evidence. Hopefully, after you reviewing this evidence, you will be less suspicious about its value.
Let us look back at the development of this book to make sure that we didn’t use circular arguments. In the first chapter, when we discussed the behavior and teaching of Jesus Christ, we treated the Bible simply as a historical document. Actually, we could have used other documents, although they are not as complete. Later when we discussed about the disappearance of Jesus’ body, we used the explanations of the non-believers to conclude that they are not valid. When we have to choose among the three hypotheses that he either was a lunatic, a liar, or the Son of God, we arrived at the third conclusion.
Even without resorting to calling the Bible the Word of God, we saw Jesus Christ as his Son. Let us now examine what Jesus Christ had to say about the Bible.
As for the Old Testament, the part of the Bible written before long he was born, Jesus Christ definitely considered it as the Word of God. He quoted and obeyed the Old Testament in all of his actions. For example, when confronted by the religious leaders, he often began his responses with, “Haven’t you read this scripture…?”128 He criticized them, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men…. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say…”129 And when people asked him, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” he replied, “What is written in the Law?”130
It is harder for us to see Jesus’ attitude towards the New Testament, the part of the Bible written after he died. However, the vast majority of the New Testament was written by his disciples or their disciples. Jesus did not pick his disciples haphazardly. Rather he “went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them.”131 He trained them and considered them as his official representatives. “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.”132 They lived with him and witnessed all that he did. After he was resurrected, he appeared before them and taught them more. Now if we believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, then we should trust his judgment and believe what was written by his handpicked and personally trained disciples.
We can use a Vietnamese story about a woman named Nam Xuong to illustrate the role of the Bible. Nam Xuong’s husband had to leave to fight in a distant war for a long time. Back at home, her young son asked her about his father. Trying to find an answer for the child, she waited until evening came and then pointed into her shadow on the wall, saying, “That is your father.” When his father returned from the war, the son did not recognize him but innocently said, “My father only comes home at night.” Seeing that her husband misconstrued this comment to mean that she was unfaithful, she killed herself.
In this story, the son somehow knew that he had a father. Even without education or special instruction, people know that there is a creator, just by looking at the universe. Paul writes, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”133
Although, this knowledge of existence is desirable, it is not sufficient. Without a relationship with his father and lacking proper education, this knowledge only led the son to believe that his father was a shadow on the wall. Similarly, lacking fellowship with God, many people were misled to powerless idols made of wood or clay.
While the Vietnamese generally accuse Nam Xuong’s husband of cruelty, I maintain that he was just a victim of his circumstances. In his time, even though he wanted to, he could not keep in touch with his family while fighting the war. If he lived in our times, surely he would send pictures home so that his son would recognize him when they reunited. Fortunately, God is not as powerless as Nam Xuong’s husband. Although sin forces Him to cut his fellowship with us, He had a plan to bring us back to Him. In order that we are not mistaken, before that, He sent to us a picture of himself so that we could recognize His son.
A savior would be born in Bethlehem, the descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the tribe of Judah in the house of David. From Galilee, he would teach and perform miracles, using parables to illustrate his teachings. He would be betrayed and sold for thirty silver coins. His disciples would abandon him and people would give false witness against him. At his death, the sky would darken, his hands and his feet and his sides would be pierced, but his bones not to be broken. He would be thirsty, and they would give him vinegar to drink. He was to be buried in the tomb of a rich man.
Were the above written after Jesus died? No, they were the images scattered throughout the Old Testament, written at least 500 years before he his birth. Consider the following passage, written by Isaiah about 700 years before Jesus was born:
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.134
We can consider the whole Bible as a diary written by the human-son, who was more fortunate than Nam Xuong’s son. In the Old Testament, the human-son recorded the images that his Father-God sent so that he could recognize Him. In the New Testament, the human-son wrote about his reunion with his Father-God.
You may say, “I agree that the images of Jesus Christ were unbelievably precise, but could the authors in the Old Testament simply be lucky?” No, this is very unlikely, because those images were very difficult to conceive. Although the Jews always longed for a savior, nobody would expect their savior to be beaten, cursed, and finally killed in a humiliating manner.
Let us look at similar evidence, that is the incredible accuracy of the prophecies in the Old Testament regarding the history of the Jews. We cannot say that these prophecies were written after the events. In fact, many of these events occurred thousands of years after the prophecies. These prophecies are very specific, and not vague and are easily distorted such as, “Your first child will be either a boy or a girl.” Also we cannot say that the Old Testament was lucky, because more than 2000 prophecies have become reality. And we cannot say that these prophecies were likely to occur, as some events were stranger than imagination.
Although I cannot list all the prophecies here, let me present just one of them that most of us know about, that is the dispersion of the Jews. Many years before it happens, Moses wrote, “The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven, and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth.”135 The prophet Hosea prophesized, “My God will reject them because they have not obeyed him; they will be wanderers among the nations.”136 These prophecies were written while the Jewish people were still a strong nation. Who could imagine that they would be realized?
Furthermore, who could imagine that a people scattered for 2000 years, like the Jews, could survive and regroup into a nation? Yet, the Bible predicted this. If the prophet Jeremiah first said, “I will make them abhorrent and an offense to all the kingdoms of the earth, a reproach and a byword, an object of ridicule and cursing, wherever I banish them. I will send the sword, famine and plague against them until they are destroyed from the land I gave to them and their fathers,”137 then Jeremiah also prophesized, “I will build you up again…. I will bring them from the land of the north and gather them from the ends of the earth…. He who scattered Israel will gather them and will watch over his flock like a shepherd.”138
In 1948, one of the greatest miracles in human history occurred: the nation of Israel was reestablished.
The fact that the image of Jesus Christ is scattered throughout the Old Testament supports the Bible as the word of God. If you were to gather ten people together and ask them to write ten articles about human nature or God, would you expect them to all have the same philosophy? Now, if these ten people belonged to different generations, would you still expect that your collection be of the same worldview? But that is characteristic of the Bible. Although it was written by so many authors from many walks of life over a duration of many centuries, the Bible remains a unified book with a singular theme: human salvation by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Not only is the Bible comprised of many different and independent articles, it can be thought of as a mystery novel written by many authors. In the Old Testament, some authors presented leads that could be followed by more leads of other authors. In the New Testament, these leads, which previously seemed to be incomprehensible and unrelated, suddenly converge into a solution. In order to write such a mystery novel, we would need the solution before writing the leads. In the case of the Bible, only God could be the “author” of the whole Bible because before Jesus Christ, only He could understand the plan of salvation and only He could reveal appropriate information to the authors so that they could present appropriate leads.
If we had forty musicians sitting together but playing independently, we would have a noisy racket. However, if we add a conductor and a score, then we have music. The Bible is a love song entitled “Salvation,” written for human beings by the composer God, played by forty musician authors under the direction of the conductor Holy Spirit.
Will you quiet your soul so that you can hear this love song?