THE BIBLE’S SURVIVAL
by Wayne S. Walker
In several previous articles seeking to provide evidence, both internal and external, that the Bible is a book of divine rather than purely human origin, we have looked at its remarkable unity, fulfilled prophecies, archaeology, its scientific accuracy, its rational doctrine, its amazing style of writing, the purity of its ethics, and its relevance to human needs. All of these areas of study provide cumulutive proof that the Bible is something different, beyond the means of mere men to produce. Of course, not everyone accepts that proof, but it has convinced many honest hearts who have examined it through the years.
However, a question might be asked. Even if it could be established that the Bible, when originally given, was indeed a revelation from God, how can we be sure that what we have now is the same thing? Indeed, some have affirmed that in the process of its being transmitted and translated into the form which we have it today, the original Bible has been so corrupted that we can have no confidence in its being what God originally intended to give us. Therefore, our acceptance of the Bible as God’s inspired word must also take into account whether or not it has survived intact during the nearly four to five thousand years or so since God first began revealing His will to Moses.
In the articles to follow, we shall examine this question as we learn how we got our Old Testament, how the New Testament came to us, the history of the English Bible, a review of the versions available to us today, and what relationship many of the modern speech translations have to this issue. However, in this article, we simply want to look at the Bible’s survival in a general way. Jesus made us a promise in Matthew 24:35 when He said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away." The Bible claims to be a divinely inspired record of the words and will of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 14:37, Ephesians 3:3-5). If it can be shown that the Bible has survived intact, it would be powerful testimony to its inspiration.
The fact is that through the years, several attempts have been made to stamp out the Bible by many people. The Old Testament was the oracles of God to the Hebrew people (Romans 3:-12). Even among the disobedient rulers of the Israelites, there were those who tried to destroy the inspired writings of the prophets (Jeremiah 36:1-24). Also, among the ancient enemies of Israel, such as in Egypt, Babylon, and Persia, some sought to annihilate the Hebrew people and their sacred writings.
Then, the Israelite rulers of first century Palestine were among the first to attempt to silence the men through whom God was revealing the New Testament (Acts 4:1-20). The Roman Empire did everything within its power to stamp out Christianity and its holy book, as portrayed in the figurative language of Revelation. Through the middle ages, the Roman Catholic Church claimed that it alone had the right to interpret God’s will to man and so made efforts to keep the Bible from people. And atheists, skeptics, and agnostics of all ages have wished and worked for the elimination of the Bible.
Yet, the Bible survives. It was the first complete book ever printed. Many of our great works of literature, art, and music–such as Milton’s Paradise Lost, DaVinci’s The Last Supper, and Handel’s Messiah–are based on Biblical references. It is the most widely read and dearest loved work that man has ever known. At nearly every funeral I have preached, people want Psalm 23 read. More Bibles are published and sold each year than all other books combined. It is so influential, that we even count our years by the life of its central figure. We might offer as a reason why the Bible has survived in spite of all the attempts to destroy it that "Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven" (Psalm 119:89).
As previously noted, God has promised that the Bible will continue forever. It will be present in the day of judgment as "the books" are opened (Revelation 20:11-12). Indeed, the Lord has told us that it will be the standard by which we shall be judged. "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him–the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). Of course, other books have survived the centuries, and they are not inspired of God. But the Bible’s survival, in the face of such great opposition, adds to the cumulative evidence that it is "the word of God which lives and abides forever" (1 Peter 1:23). (—taken from With All Boldness; November, 1998; Vol. 8, No. 11; p. 14)