In 1631, two London Bible printers accidentally left the word “not” out of the sixth commandment, which then read, “Thou shalt commit adultery.” This legendary book is now known as the “Wicked Bible.”
Beyond it being more than a little humorous, the reason we bring this intriguing historical event up is that many people wonder if our Christian trust in the Bible is not more than a little misplaced. After all, doesn’t the above story really serve to illustrate the point that the Bible has been through a lot of printings, a lot of translations, a lot of hand-copying, and we all know that when that happens, mistakes are bound to occur. It’s the “human factor.”
All that being said, we believe there are many reasons to put an extremely high degree of trust in the Bible. And the first starts with the book itself. The Bible makes a claim about itself that might sound outlandish in a lot of ways. And that claim is that the Bible is God’s word, God’s letter to mankind. The Bible claims that it is God’s direct revelation, and furthermore that it is spiritually powerful truth that has the ability to transform minds, hearts and lives. In essence the claim of the Bible is to be one-of-a-kind in all the world of millions of printed books dating all the way back to the very first etchings on stone, skin, and papyrus.
Now, considering the scale of that, that makes the Bible’s claim quite a claim to say the least.
Where does the Bible make this claim, you ask? Well, the answer is that the Bible makes this claim repeatedly, but here are just a few of the Bible passages for you, where the claim becomes clear:
- 2 Peter 1:20-21: “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
- 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
- Hebrews 4:12:“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
- John 8:31-32: “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
- Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”
Now here’s the interesting point. Over the centuries, many have set out to prove that the Bible could not live up to its claims. There have been attacks on the historical record. There have been sarcastic statements made about the scientific ideas in the Bible. There have been questions raised about the prophecies contained in Bible. And as mentioned earlier, there have been doubts raised about the accurate transmission of the Bible from its origin to our present time. Yet through all of this, no one has ever been able to prove that the claims—even the most bold claims like those represented in the verses above—are wrong.
Furthermore, many of those who set out to prove the Bible’s claims wrong actually ended up going the other direction, and they became convinced that the claims of the Bible were indeed correct. A modern day example of this would be Lee Strobel, a journalist who set out to show the world that the Bible couldn’t be true. Now, he has ended up writing multiple books about how true the claims of the Bible are. If you like history, here are a few names of highly intelligent and successful people who had the same experience as Strobel. They set out to prove the Bible wrong and ended up enthusiastic Christ-followers: Scottish archaeologist Sir William Ramsay (1851-1839), General Lewis Wallace (1827-1905), or French author Constantin Francois Volney, who wrote the book Ruins (published 1791), that caused Abraham Lincoln himself to reject Christianity for a short time.
And on the other side of the coin are many, many facts that demonstrate just how unique and “stand-alone” the Bible has been in human history. Consider this, for instance. The Bible was written:
- over a 1500 year span (from 1400 B.C to A.D. 100)
- over 40 generations
- over 40 authors from many walks of life (i.e. - kings, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, poets, statesmen, scholars)
- in different places (i.e. - wilderness, dungeon, palaces)
- at different times (i.e. - war, peace)
- in different moods (i.e. - heights of joy, depths of despair)
- on three continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe)
- in three languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek)
Yet, amazingly, the Bible has one clear point and message. Often a single author can’t achieve that, much less multiple authors, from different cultures and backgrounds, over centuries of time! Yet the Bible says this:“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31, NIV).
Or consider just one other intriguing fact about how the Bible stands above all other books. Year after year, the Bible is the perennial number one best-selling book in the entire world. Strangely, this is true even in places where you would least expect it. Here’s a quote from a December 17, 2007 Time magazine article:
“As the book business goes, Amity Printing is not unusually prolific. In the last 20 years it has printed some 50 million books; some publishers churn out that many in a year. But Amity focuses on one title — the Bible — and primarily one market, China. It is the largest printer of Christian literature in the officially atheist country, where freedom of religion remains weak; up until 1979, when Deng Xiaoping began undoing the social strictures of the Mao Zedong era, the mere possession of a Bible could get a person into serious trouble. Amity has churned out 41 million Bibles for Chinese believers at its plant outside the southern city of Nanjing, including more than 3 million copies last year… For a country whose religious oppression tends to make more international headlines than its exhibitions of tolerance, that stands as a significant achievement.”
Significant achievement is correct! But we’ve come to learn to expect such significant achievements from this book. Maybe we expect them to the point of overlooking them. So when we think about facts like the ones above, we have to ask, “Why wouldn’t I want to at least look more deeply into the Bible and investigate for myself this question: Can this book be trusted?”