1, 2. Why do many respect the Bible, and what claim do its writers make?
THE New Encyclopædia Britannica calls the Bible “probably the most influential collection of books in human history.” The Bible is held in high regard by many because of its antiquity—parts were written 3,500 years ago. Yet, its practical, up-to-date advice is one of the reasons that over three billion copies have been distributed and that it has been translated, in whole or in part, into almost two thousand languages, making it the world’s all-time best-seller.
2 Aside from these factors, all of which inspire respect for the Bible, there is yet another feature that has made it so influential and appealing throughout the ages—its claim to be the inspired revelation of Almighty God. Moses, who compiled the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) “wrote down” all that God told him to, which included the account of creation, the record of the Flood of Noah’s day, and the history of Abraham and of Moses’ own dealings with God. (Exodus 24:3, 4) King David said: “The spirit of the LORD has spoken through me, his message is on my tongue.” (2 Samuel 23:2) Other Bible writers made similar claims of divine guidance. All these writings together form God’s own explanation of history—its true meaning, interpretation, and final outcome. The many different writers of the Scriptures—kings, hired laborers, priests, and others—were all acting as secretaries in recording the thoughts of God, the Bible’s Author and the Guarantor of its promises.
3. What shows that belief in God and belief in science are not incompatible?
3 Since the Bible claims divine authorship, perhaps the foremost question for many relates to the very existence of its Author. Many reject God’s existence outright. Others, under the impression that all intelligent people have rejected the idea of God and belief in the Bible, ask: “Why don’t scientists believe in God?” Is this impression really true? An article in the magazine New Scientist said that the “view that commonly expects scientists to be nonbelievers . . . is a view that is wildly wrong.”2 The same article reports that random surveys among universities, research establishments, and industrial laboratories indicate that “as many as eight of every 10 scientists follow a religious faith or countenance principles that are ‘non-scientific.’” So it cannot accurately be said that faith is incompatible with science or scientists. (See the box “Evolution—A Fact?”)
Is There Proof of Inspiration?
4. What scientific truths were mentioned thousands of years ago in the Bible?
4 When one reaches the conclusion that there is convincing evidence of a Creator’s existence, the question still remains whether he has inspired men to record his thoughts and purposes in the Bible. There are many reasons why we can be sure that this is the case, one of which is its scientific accuracy. (See the box “‘In the Beginning God Created’ . . .”) For example, over 3,000 years ago, Job said that God “hangeth the earth over nothing.” (Job 26:7, JP) About 2,700 years ago, the prophet Isaiah stated that God “sitteth above the circle of the earth.” (Isaiah 40:22, JP) Now, how could Job or Isaiah have known these basic scientific truths that the earth is suspended in space and is a sphere? They may be well-known today, but these statements were made at a time when such notions were unheard of. Is not divine revelation the most reasonable explanation?
5, 6. What fulfillments of prophecy give evidence that the Bible writers were inspired by God?
5 Prophecy, in effect history written before it happens, is perhaps the main feature of the Bible that substantiates its claim of divine inspiration. For example, the prophet Isaiah foretold not only that Jerusalem would be destroyed by Babylon and that the entire Jewish nation would be taken captive but also that in time the Persian general Cyrus would conquer Babylon and liberate the Jews from captivity. (Isaiah 13:17-19; 44:27–45:1) Can you think of any means, other than divine inspiration, by which, 200 years in advance, Isaiah could have successfully predicted Cyrus’ birth, his name, and precisely what he would do? (See the box “God—‘The Revealer of Mysteries’ Through Prophecy.”)
6 Some of the most remarkable prophecies are recorded by Daniel, a prophet who lived in the sixth century B.C.E. Not only did he foretell the fall of Babylon to the Medes and the Persians but he also predicted events far beyond his time, into the distant future. For example, Daniel’s prophecy foretold the rise of Greece as a world empire under Alexander the Great (336-323 B.C.E.), the division of Alexander’s empire among his four generals after his untimely death, and the rise of the Roman Empire, with its fearful military might (first century B.C.E.). (Daniel 7:6; 8:21, 22) All these events are now indisputable historical facts.
7, 8. (a) What accusation have some made about Bible prophecies? (b) What proves that the accusation of fraud is not well-founded?
7 Because Bible prophecies have been so exact, critics have branded them as deceptions, that is, history written after the fact and disguised as prophecy. But how can one rationally assert that Jewish priests would dare to invent a prophecy? And why would they invent prophecies that contained the hardest diatribes imaginable against themselves? (Isaiah 56:10, 11; Jeremiah 8:10; Zephaniah 3:4) In addition, how could an entire literate nation, trained and educated with the Bible as its sacred text, be taken in by such a hoax?—Deuteronomy 6:4-9.
8 How could there have been any fraud connected with the disappearance of entire civilizations, such as Edom and Babylon, when these events took place many centuries after the completion of the Hebrew Scriptures? (Isaiah 13:20-22; Jeremiah 49:17, 18) Even if one maintains that these prophecies were not written in the time period of the prophets themselves, they were still recorded prior to the third century B.C.E., for by then they were already being translated into Greek in the Septuagint. Also, the Dead Sea Scrolls (which include portions of all the prophetic Bible books) are dated to the second and first centuries B.C.E. As noted, many prophecies were fulfilled only after these dates.
Is the Bible Full of Contradictions?
9-12. (a) Why do some say that the Bible contradicts itself? (b) How are some “contradictions” resolved?
9 But some object: ‘The Bible is full of contradictions and discrepancies.’ Very often, those who make this assertion have not personally investigated the matter but have just heard an alleged example or two from others. In reality most supposed discrepancies are easily resolved if it is remembered that the writers of the Bible frequently condensed their subject to a few words. An example of this is found in the account of creation. In comparing Genesis 1:1, 3 with Genesis 1:14-16, many have asked how it can be that God “made” the luminaries on the fourth creative day when light—evidently from these same luminaries—was reaching the earth on the first creative day. In this case the Hebrew writer eliminated the need for long explanations by a careful choice of words. Note that verses 14-16 speak of “making” in contrast to “creating” in Genesis 1:1, and “lights” in contrast to “light” in Genesis 1:3. This indicates that it was on the fourth creative day that the sun and moon, already in existence, became clearly visible through the earth’s dense atmosphere. *
10 Genealogical lists have also caused some confusion. For example, Ezra lists 23 names in his priestly genealogy at 1 Chronicles 5:29-40 (6:3-14) but lists only 16 names for the same period when giving his own genealogy at Ezra 7:1-5. This is, not a discrepancy, but a simple condensation. Additionally, according to a writer’s intention in recording an event, he highlighted, minimized, included, or omitted details that another Bible writer expressed differently in recording the same event. Such are not contradictions but, rather, are differing accounts reflecting the writers’ point of view and intended audience. *
11 Often, apparent inconsistencies can be resolved if we just look at the context. For example, “Where did Cain get his wife?” is a question often heard, highlighting the belief that this exposes a discrepancy in the Biblical account. The supposition is that Adam and Eve had only two sons, Cain and Abel. The difficulty is easily resolved if one reads on. Genesis 5:4 says: “After the birth of Seth, Adam lived 800 years and begot sons and daughters.” So Cain married one of his sisters or perhaps a niece, which would have been in full harmony with God’s original intention for the expansion of the human race.—Genesis 1:28.
12 There are obviously many details of human history not recorded as part of the Divine Record. But every necessary detail, both for those who first read it and for us today, has been included without making it cumbersome and impossible to read.
To Be Understood Only by Scholars?
13-15. (a) Why do some believe the Bible is too difficult for us to understand? (b) How do we know that God intended that his Word be understood?
13 Have you ever asked: “Why are there so many conflicting interpretations of the Bible?” After hearing religious authorities contradict one another, some sincere people become confused and discouraged. The conclusion that many reach is that the Bible is unclear and contradictory. As a result, many reject the Bible outright, believing that it is too difficult to read and understand. Others, when confronted with this vast array of religious interpretation, are reluctant to make a serious investigation of the Scriptures. Some say: “Learned men have studied for years in religious seminaries. How could I have any basis for questioning what they teach?” But is this how God views matters?
Deuteronomy 30:11, 14, God declared: “Surely, this Instruction which I enjoin upon you this day is not too baffling for you, nor is it beyond reach. No, the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it.” All the nation, not just the leaders, were told: “Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) God’s commandments, all committed to writing, were clear enough for the entire nation, both parents and children, to follow. *14 When God gave the Law to the nation of Israel, he did not indicate that he was giving them a system of worship that they could not understand, one that would have to be left in the hands of theological sages or “scholars.” Through Moses at
15 As far back as Isaiah’s day, religious leaders incurred God’s condemnation by taking it upon themselves to add to and interpret God’s laws. The prophet Isaiah wrote: “That people has approached Me with its mouth and honored Me with its lips, but has kept its heart far from Me, and its worship of Me has been a commandment of men, learned by rote.” (Isaiah 29:13) Their worship had become a commandment of men, not of God. (Deuteronomy 4:2) It was these ‘commandments of men,’ their own interpretations and explanations, that were contradictory. God’s words were not. The same is true today.
Any Biblical Basis for the Oral Torah?
16, 17. (a) What do some believe regarding an oral law? (b) What does the Bible indicate regarding an oral law?
16 Some believe that Moses received an “Oral Torah” in addition to the “Written Torah.” According to this belief, God directed that certain commands not be written down but rather be passed on by word of mouth from generation to generation, thus being preserved only by oral tradition. (See the box “Does the Torah Have ‘Seventy Faces’?”) However, the Bible account clearly shows that Moses was never commanded to transmit an oral law. Exodus 24:3, 4 tells us: “Moses went and repeated to the people all the commands of the LORD and all the rules; and all the people answered with one voice, saying, ‘All the things that the LORD has commanded we will do!’” Moses then “wrote down all the commands of the LORD.” Further, at Exodus 34:27 we are told: “And the LORD said to Moses: Write down these commandments, for in accordance with these commandments I make a covenant with you and with Israel.” An unwritten oral law had no place in the covenant that God made with Israel. (See the box “Where Was the Oral Law . . .”) Nowhere in the Bible is there any mention of the existence of an oral law. * More important, its teachings contradict the Scriptures, adding to the misimpression that the Bible is self-contradictory. (See the box “Death and the Soul—What Are They?”) But it is man, and not God, who is responsible for this confusion.—Isaiah 29:13. (See the box “Showing Honor to the Divine Name.”)
17 In contrast with the contradictory interpretations of men, the Bible itself is clear and trustworthy. God has provided us with ample proof within his Word that the peaceful world envisioned at Isaiah 2:2-4 is not just a dream but an impending reality. None other than God himself, the God of prophecy, the God of the Bible, will bring it about.
^ par. 9 It should be noted that the six “days” of creation do not include the statement at Genesis 1:1, which refers to the creation of the heavenly bodies. Furthermore, the Hebrew word translated “day” allows for the thought that the events described at Genesis 1:3-31 took place during six ‘periods of time’ that could have been many thousands of years in length.—Compare Genesis 2:4.
^ par. 14 Difficult questions for judicial cases were handled by a clearly outlined judicial arrangement. (Deuteronomy 17:8-11) In any other important matters that seemed obscure, to receive God’s answer, the nation was directed, not to an oral law, but rather to the Urim and Thummim in the hands of the priests.—Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8; Numbers 27:18-21; Deuteronomy 33:8-10.
^ par. 16 Some have read into the text at Deuteronomy 17:8-11 an implication of an inspired oral tradition. However, as mentioned in the footnote to paragraph 14, the text deals solely with the procedure of judgment in judicial cases. Notice that the issue was not whether different customs or traditions were passed down through many centuries or not. There were no doubt some traditions passed down as to how to carry out specifically certain aspects of the Law. But the fact that a tradition is long-standing does not prove inspiration. For example, note the tradition that developed regarding the bronze serpent.—Numbers 21:8, 9; 2 Kings 18:4.