In less than two weeks we will have the great delight and opportunity to combine in one day four marvelous events: Dr. D. A. Waite speaking on the subject of the King James Version of the Bible, the consumption of some 200 pounds of carne asada with rice, beans and tortillas after the sermon, and concluding the evening, for those of you who purchased tickets, a baseball game at Dodger stadium, and a heart-stopping fireworks display after the game. Can you think of a better way to enjoy a 4th of July? I cannot. If I were you, I would do two things in preparation for that 4th of July treat. First, I would stop eating now, so you will be good and hungry for that mouth watering carne asada. I can taste it now. And we will have our church’s best barbecue cookers on that job. Second, I would invite some friends. It all begins at noon, July the 4th. Don’t come late. Food will be served only to those who have worked up an appetite by listening to the good preaching of Dr. D. A. Waite, who will stake out that middle ground between those who subscribe to the errors of Westcott and Hort and the inaccurate new translations of the Bible on one hand, and those heretical Ruckmanite folks who subscribe to secondary inspiration and assert that our King James Version is an error-free translation on the other hand. We stand on the scriptural middle ground.
This morning I want to do something by way of preparation for July 4th. I want to speak to you in a way that is very preliminary to any discussion on Bible translations or interpretation of any passages in the Bible. I do not even want to speak to you this morning on What is the Bible?, which I happen to hold by conviction to be the Word of God. I want to speak to the curious, to the questioning, to the inquiring person. Perhaps you are a visitor today, or maybe you are a long time attender. You may be a college age fellow, or one of our young people. Whoever you are, I would like to spend our time together this morning accomplishing a single thing.
I do not want to prove to you that the Bible is God’s Word, though I am convinced that it is. I will even take the very unusual step of keeping my Bible closed this morning. It is the first time in my life that I have ever spoken to lost people with a closed Bible. But I do so for the purpose, by using evidence external to the Bible, of establishing in your mind that the Bible is unique, that there is no other book like it in the world. If I can convince you that the Bible is unique I will have accomplished my goal today. Something is said to be unique if it is the only one of its kind, if it is solitary in type or character, if it is without parallel, if it is incomparable. So says the unabridged Webster’s dictionary.
Using that dictionary definition of “unique,” can the Bible be shown to be unique? Can the Bible be shown to be the only book of its kind, without parallel? Following the lead of Josh McDowell’s book, The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, I think anyone with an open mind can be shown that the Bible is unlike any other book in the world. You do not have to be a scholar of ancient eastern languages to come to a conclusion about the uniqueness of the Bible. Neither do you have to be a schooled theologian. You are quite capable of coming to the right conclusion about the Bible yourself, if you will consider the facts.
Seven ways in which facts lead an honest inquirer to conclude that the Bible is unique:
First, THE BIBLE IS UNIQUE IN ITS CONTINUITY
Did you know that the Bible is the only book that was written over about a fifteen-hundred-year span of time?
Did you know that the Bible is the only book that was written by more than forty authors from every walk of life, including kings, military leaders, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, tax collectors, poets, musicians, statesmen, scholars, and shepherds? For example:
What a collaboration to have produced the Bible from such a diverse group of authors.
Did you know that the Bible was written in different places?
Did you know that the Bible was written at different times?
Did you know that the Bible was written during different moods?
Did it ever dawn on you that the Bible was written on three continents?
Did you know that the Bible was written in three languages?
Have you ever given thought to the fact that the Bible was written in a wide variety of literary styles?
Have you ever given thought to the fact that the Bible addresses hundreds of controversial subjects, subjects that create opposing opinions when mentioned to people or discussed by people?
Finally, has it dawned on you that, among all the people described in the Bible, the leading character throughout is the one, true, living God made known through Jesus Christ?
We cannot resist concluding, with these considerations in mind, that the Bible is unique in its continuity.
Next, THE BIBLE IS UNIQUE IN ITS CIRCULATION
It is not unusual to hear about books that have hit the bestseller list selling a few hundred thousand copies. It’s much rarer to come across books that have sold more than a million copies. Rarer still to find books that have passed the ten-million mark in sales. It staggers the mind, then, to discover that the number of Bibles sold reaches into the billions. That’s right, billions! More copies have been produced of its entirety as well as selected portions than any other book in history. Some will argue that in a designated month or year more of a certain book was sold. However, no other book even begins to compare to the Scriptures in terms of its total circulation.
According to the United Bible Societies’ 1998 Scripture Distribution Report, in that year alone member organizations were responsible for distributing 20.8 million complete Bibles and another 20.1 million testaments. The total number of copies of the Bible or portions of the Bible distributed in 1998 reached a staggering 585 million - and these numbers only include Bibles distributed by the United Bible Societies! To put it another way, if you lined up all the people who received Bibles or Scripture selections in 1998, and handed a Bible to one of them every five seconds, it would take more than ninety-two years to do what just the United Bible Societies accomplished in 1998 alone.
As The Cambridge History of the Bible states, “No other book has known anything approaching this constant circulation.” A critic would indeed be correct in asserting that “This doesn’t prove that the Bible is the Word of God.” But it does demonstrate that the Bible is unique.
Third, THE BIBLE IS UNIQUE IN ITS TRANSLATION
The Bible was one of the very first major books to ever be translated. Around 250 B.C., the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek and given the name Septuagint. The work was originally produced for Greek-speaking Jews living in Alexandria, Egypt who could no longer read Hebrew.
For reasons I presented to this congregation several years ago, and for reasons Dr. D. A. Waite will deal with on July 4th, strong evidence shows that the King James Version is still the best English translation of the Bible. This is true, despite the publication of many modern versions of the Bible. So, I will not speak to that subject today. Insofar as the Bible is unique in its translations, allow me to focus in this message on translations of the Bible into other languages.
The numbers of translations of the Bible into other languages are every bit as impressive as its sales numbers. Most books are never translated into another language. Among the books that are, most are published in just two or three languages. Far fewer books see translation figures rise into the teens. Yet, according to the United Bible Societies, the Bible (or portions of it), has been translated into more than 2,200 languages! Worldwide, no other book in history has been translated, retranslated, and paraphrased more than the Bible. No other book in history comes close to comparing with the Bible in its translation activity. It is unique in that respect.
Fourth, THE BIBLE IS UNIQUE IN ITS SURVIVAL
Consider the Bible’s survival through time. Although it was first written on perishable materials, and had to be copied and recopied for hundreds of years before the invention of the printing press, the Scriptures have never diminished in style or correctness, nor have ever faced extinction. Compared with other ancient writings, the Bible has more manuscript evidence to support it than any ten pieces of classical literature combined. John Warwick Montgomery observed that “to be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament.” Bruce Metzger, a former Princeton professor and one of the world’s leading Biblical text critics, is a man I disagree with about many things related to Bible texts and translations. Nevertheless, he once commented that in contrast with other ancient texts, “the textual critic of the New Testament is embarrassed by the wealth of his material.” Bernard Ramm wrote about the accuracy and number of biblical manuscripts: “Jews preserved it as no other manuscript has ever been preserved. . . They kept tabs on every letter, syllable, word and paragraph. They had special classes of men within their culture whose sole duty was to preserve and transmit these documents with practically perfect fidelity—scribes, lawyers, massoretes. Who ever counted the letters and syllables and words of Plato or Aristotle? Cicero or Seneca?” John Lea, in his 1929 book, The Greatest Book in the World, compares the Bible with Shakespeare’s writings: In an article in the North American Review, a writer made some interesting comparisons between the writings of Shakespeare and the Scriptures, which show that much greater care must have been bestowed upon the biblical manuscripts than upon other writings, even when there was so much more opportunity of preserving the correct text by means of printed copies than when all the copies had to be made by hand. He said: “It seems strange that the text of Shakespeare, which has been in existence less than two hundred and eight years, should be far more uncertain and corrupt than that of the New Testament, now over eighteen centuries old, during nearly fifteen of which it existed only in manuscript. . . the text of every verse in the New Testament may be said to be so far settled by general consent of scholars, that any dispute as to its readings must relate rather to the interpretation of the words than to any doubts respecting the words themselves. But in every one of Shakespeare’s thirty-seven plays there are probably a hundred readings still in dispute, a large portion of which materially affects the meaning of the passages in which they occur.”
Now consider the Bible’s survival through persecution. The Bible has withstood vicious attacks by its enemies. Many have tried to burn it, ban it, and “outlaw it from the days of Roman emperors to present-day Communist-dominated countries.” In 303 AD, the Roman emperor Diocletian issued an edict to stop Christians from worshiping and to destroy their Scriptures. “An imperial letter was everywhere promulgated, ordering the razing of the churches to the ground and the destruction by fire of the Scriptures, and proclaiming that those who held high positions would lose all civil rights, while those in households, if they persisted in their profession of Christianity, would be deprived of their liberty.” The historic irony of this event is recorded by the fourth-century church historian Eusebius, who wrote that twenty-five years after Diocletian’s edict the Roman emperor Constantine issued another edict ordering that fifty copies of the Scriptures should be prepared at the government’s expense. Many centuries later, Voltaire, the noted French infidel who died in 1778, said that in one hundred years from his time Christianity would be swept from existence and passed into history. But what has happened? Voltaire has passed into history, while the circulation of the Bible continues to increase in almost all parts of the world, carrying blessing wherever it goes. Concerning Voltaire’s prediction of the extinction of Christianity and the Bible in a hundred years, Geisler and Nix point out that “only fifty years after his death the Geneva Bible Society used his press and house to produce stacks of Bibles.” The Bible’s enemies come and go, but the Bible remains. Jesus was right when he said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away,” Mark 13.31.
Third, consider the Bible’s survival through criticism. H. L. Hastings has forcefully illustrated the unique way in which the Bible has withstood attacks of infidels and skeptics:
Infidels for eighteen hundred years have been refuting and overthrowing this book, and yet it stands today as solid as a rock. Its circulation increases, and it is more loved and cherished and read today than ever before. Infidels, with all their assaults, make about as much impression on this book as a man with a tack hammer would on the Pyramids of Egypt. When the French monarch proposed the persecution of the Christians in his dominion, an old statesman and warrior said to him, “Sire, the Church of God is an anvil that has worn out many hammers.” So the hammers of infidels have been pecking away at this book for ages, but the hammers are worn out, and the anvil still endures. If this book had not been the book of God, men would have destroyed it long ago. Emperors and popes, kings and priests, princes and rulers have all tried their hand at it; they die and the book still lives.
Bernard Ramm adds:
A thousand times over, the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession formed, the inscription cut on the tomb stone, and committal read. But somehow the corpse never stays put.
No other book has been so chopped, knived, sifted, scrutinized, and vilified. What book on philosophy or religion or psychology or the so-called fine literature of classical or modern times has been subject to such a mass attack as the Bible? with such venom and skepticism? with such thoroughness and erudition? upon every chapter, line and tenet?
The Bible is still loved by millions, read by millions, and studied by millions.
Biblical scholars once deferred to “the assured results of higher criticism.” But the results of the higher critics are no longer as assured as we once believed. Take, for example, the “documentary hypothesis.” One of the reasons for its development-apart from the different names used for God in Genesis-was that the Pentateuch could not have been written by Moses, as the “assured results of higher criticism” had proven that writing was not in existence at the time of Moses or, if in existence, was used sparingly. Therefore, it was concluded that it had to be of later authorship. The minds of the critics went to work, devising the theory that four writers, designated as J, E, P, and D, had put the Pentateuch together and not Moses. These critics formulated great structures of criticism, going so far as to attribute the components of one verse to three different authors! Then, in 1799, some fellows discovered, near a town called Rosetta, in Egypt, what has come to be called the Rosetta Stone. It had parallel writings on it in Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphics, making it possible for the first time to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics. Was the Rosetta Stone crafted after Moses? No! It was made before Moses. Not only that, but it preceded Moses’ writings by at least three centuries. And the liberal scholars had said that Moses had to have been a primitive man lacking an alphabet. What an irony of history! The documentary hypothesis is still taught in universities, yet much of its original basis (“the assured results of higher criticism”) has been shown to be false. The “assured results of higher criticism” also concluded that there were no Hittites at the time of Abraham, since they had no records of their existence apart from the Old Testament. “They must be myth,” the liberal scholars said. Wrong again. Archaeological research has now uncovered evidence revealing more than 1,200 years of Hittite civilization. Earl Radmacher, retired president of Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, quotes Nelson Glueck (pronounced Glek), former president of the Jewish Theological Seminary at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, and one of the three greatest archaeologists: “I listened to him [Glueck] when he was at Temple Emmanuel in Dallas, and he got rather red in the face and said, ‘I’ve been accused of teaching the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Scripture. I want it to be understood that I have never taught this. All I have ever said is that in all of my archaeological investigation I have never found one artifact of antiquity that contradicts any statement of the Word of God.” Robert Dick Wilson, a man fluent in more than forty-five languages and dialects, concluded after a lifetime of study in the Old Testament: “I may add that the result of my forty-five years of study of the Bible has led me all the time to a firmer faith that in the Old Testament we have a true historical account of the history of the Israelite people.”
The Bible is unique in its ability to stand up to its critics. There is no book in all of literature like it. A person looking for truth would certainly consider a book that bears these qualifications.
Fifth, THE BIBLE IS UNIQUE IN ITS TEACHINGS
Let’s consider prophecy. Wilbur Smith, who compiled a personal library of twenty-five thousand volumes, concludes that whatever one may think of the authority of and the message presented in the book we call the Bible, there is world-wide agreement that in more ways than one it is the most remarkable volume that has ever been produced in these some five thousand years of writing on the part of the human race. It is the only volume ever produced by man, or a group of men, in which is to be found a large body of prophecies relating to individual nations, to Israel, to all the peoples of the earth, to certain cities, and to the coming of One who was to be the Messiah. The ancient world had many different devices for determining the future, known as divination, but not in the entire gamut of Greek and Latin literature, even though they use the words “prophet” and “prophecy,” can we find any real specific prophecy of a great historic event to come in the distant future, nor any prophecy of a Savior to arise in the human race. Islam cannot point to any prophecies of the coming of Mohammed uttered hundreds of years before his birth. Neither can the founders of any cult in this country rightly identify any ancient text specifically foretelling their appearance. Geisler and Nix concur. In their book A General Introduction to the Bible—an authoritative standard in its own right— they write:
According to Deuteronomy 18, a prophet was false if he made predictions that were never fulfilled. No unconditional prophecy of the Bible about events to the present day has gone unfilled. Hundreds of predictions, some of them given hundreds of years in advance, have been literally fulfilled. The time (Daniel 9), city (Micah 5.2), and nature (Isaiah 7.14) of Christ’s birth were foretold in the Old Testament, as were dozens of other things about His life, death, and resurrection (see Isaiah 53). Numerous other prophecies have been fulfilled, including the destruction of Edom (Obadiah 1), the curse on Babylon (Isaiah 13), the destruction of Tyre (Ezekiel 26) and Nineveh (Nahum 1-3), and the return of Israel to the Land (Isaiah 11.11). Other books claim divine inspiration, such as the Koran, the Book of Mormon, and parts of the [Hindu] Veda. But none of those books contains predictive prophecy. As a result, fulfilled prophecy is a strong indication of the unique, divine authority of the Bible.
Now, let’s consider history. First Samuel through Second Chronicles presents approximately five centuries of the history of Israel. The Cambridge Ancient History (vol. 1, p. 222) states: “The Israelites certainly manifest a genius for historical construction, and the Old Testament embodies the oldest history writing extant.” The distinguished archaeologist Professor Albright begins his classic essay, “The Biblical Period” with these observations:
Hebrew national tradition excels all others in its clear picture of tribal and family origins. In Egypt and Babylonia, in Assyria and Phoenicia, in Greece and Rome, we look in vain for anything comparable. There is nothing like it in the tradition of the Germanic peoples. Neither India or China can produce anything similar, since their earliest historical memories are literary deposits of distorted dynastic tradition, with no trace of the herdsman or peasant behind the demigod or king with whom their records begin. Neither in the oldest Indic historical writings (the Puranas) nor in the earliest Greek historians is there a hint of the fact that both Indo-Aryans and Hellenes were once nomads who immigrated into their later abodes from the north. The Assyrians, to be sure, remembered vaguely that their earliest rulers, whose names they recalled without any details about their deed, were tent dwellers, but whence they came had long been forgotten.
Concerning the reliability of the “Table of Nations” in Genesis 10, Albright concludes: “It stands absolutely alone in ancient literature without a remote parallel even among the Greeks. . . ‘The Table of Nations’ remains an astonishingly accurate document.”
Third, let’s consider the character of the Bible. Lewis S. Chafer, founder and former president of Dallas Theological Seminary, said, “The Bible is not such a book a man would write if he could, or could write if he would.” The Bible deals very frankly with the sins of its characters, even when those sins reflect badly on God’s chosen people, leaders, and the biblical writers themselves. For example:
• The sins of the patriarchs are mentioned (Genesis 12.11-13; 49.5-7).
• The sins of the people are denounced (Deuteronomy 9.24).
• King David’s adultery with Bathsheba and his subsequent attempted cover-up is revealed (Second Samuel 11-12).
• The Gospel Evangelists paint their own faults and those of the apostles (Matthew 8.10-26; 26.31-56; Mark 6.52; 8.18; Luke 8.24, 25; 9.40-45; John 10.6; 16.32).
• The disorder within the church is exposed (First Corinthians 1.11; 15.12; Second Corinthians 2.4).
The Bible as a book focuses on reality, not fantasy. It presents the good and bad, the right and wrong, the best and worst, the hope and despair, the joy and pain of life. In this respect, it is unique.
Sixth, THE BIBLE IS UNIQUE IN ITS INFLUENCE ON LITERATURE
Cleland B. McAfee writes in The Greatest English Classic: “If every Bible in any considerable city were destroyed, the Book could be restored in all its essential parts from the quotations on the shelves of the city public library. There are works, covering almost all the great literary writers, devoted especially to showing how much the Bible has influenced them.”
Gabriel Sivan writes, “No other document in the possession of mankind offers so much to the reader-ethical and religious instruction, superb poetry, a social program and legal code, an interpretation of history, and all the joys, sorrows, and hopes which well up in men and which Israel’s prophets and leaders expressed with matchless force and passion.”
Susan Gallagher and Roger Lundin recognize, “The Bible is one of the most important documents in the history of civilization, not only because of its status as holy inspired Scripture, but also because of its pervasive influence on Western thought. As the predominant world view for at least fourteen centuries, Christianity and its great central text played a major role in the formation of Western culture. Consequently, many literary texts, even those in our post-Christian era, frequently draw on the Bible and the Christian tradition.”
Elie Wiesel, renowned Jewish novelist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, has observed, “An inspired work, the Bible is also a source of inspiration. Its impact has no equal, whether on the social and ethical plane or on that of literary creation.”
Harold Fisch, professor emeritus at Bar Ilan University, has noted: “The Bible has permeated the literature of the Western world to a degree that cannot easily be measured. More than any other single body of writing, ancient or modern, it has provided writers from the Middle Ages on with a store of symbols, ideas, and ways of perceiving reality. This influence can be traced not only in texts that deal directly with biblical characters or topics, but also in a vast number of poems, plays, and other writings that are not overtly biblical in theme but that testify to a biblical view of humankind and the world.”
In his now classic Anatomy of Criticism, world-renowned literary critic Northrop Frye observed that “Western literature has been more influenced by the Bible than any other book.” Twenty-five years later, Frye wrote: “I soon realized that a student of English literature who does not know the Bible does not understand a good deal of what is going on in what he reads: The most conscientious student will be continually misconstruing the implications, even the meaning.”
The historian Philip Schaff (in The Person of Christ, American Tract Society, 1913) classically describes the uniqueness of the Bible and the Savior:
This Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of schools, He spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, He set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.
Bernard Ramm adds:
“No other book in all human history has . . . inspired the writing of so many books as the Bible.”
Finally, THE BIBLE IS UNIQUE IN ITS INFLUENCE ON CIVILIZATION
Geisler and Nix state:
The influence of the Bible and its teaching in the Western world is clear for all who study history. And the influential role of the West in the course of world events is equally clear. Civilization has been influenced more by the Judeo-Christian Scriptures than by any other book or series of books in the world. Indeed, no great moral or religious work in the world exceeds the depth of morality in the principle of Christian love, and none has a more lofty spiritual concept than the biblical view of God. The Bible presents the highest ideals known to men, ideals that have molded civilization.
Grady Davis, in The New Encyclopedia Britannica, writes, “The Bible brought its view of God, the universe, and mankind into all the leading Western languages and thus into the intellectual processes of Western man.” He also states, “Since the invention of printing (mid-15th century), the Bible has become more than the translation of an ancient Oriental literature. It has not seemed a foreign book, and it has been the most available, familiar, and dependable source and arbiter of intellectual, moral, and spiritual ideals in the West.”
Gabriel Sivan observes, “The Bible has given strength to the freedom fighter and new heart to the persecuted, a blueprint to the social reformer and inspiration to the writer and artist.”
French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau exclaimed: “Behold the works of our philosophers; with all their pompous diction, how mean and contemptible they are by comparison with the Scriptures! Is it possible that a book at once so simple and sublime should be merely the work of man?”
The evidence cited this morning for your consideration does not prove that the Bible is the Word of God. But to anyone with an open mind it clearly indicates that the Bible is uniquely superior to any and all other books. A professor once remarked: “If you are an intelligent person, you will read the one book that has drawn more attention than any other, if you are searching for the truth.” The Bible certainly qualifies as this one book. As Theodore Roosevelt once observed, “A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.”
I close with this: If God, the Creator of the universe and all that herein is, had written a book, would His book not be different than all other books? Would you not expect, would you not demand, that God’s book be unique? And so it is. Ladies, gentlemen, young people, I present to you a unique book . . . the Word of God.