The Bible is unlike any other book in the literature of the world. Of that there can be no doubt, and this page gives nine different lines of evidence documenting some of its unique features. We shall look at topics such as the accuracy of the Bible, Bible prophecy, the explanatory power of the Bible, as well as statistics about its status as the world's best-seller. What is the explanation for all these unique points? One powerful possibility is that the Bible is indeed what it claims to be - the Word of God.
It’s a fair question. It’s a very good question. What is so special about the Bible and why does it polarize opinion so much?
It polarizes opinion because the Bible is quite obviously such a unique book, yet one about which people take such drastically different views. Some people believe it to be the Word of God – divinely inspired down to the individual words. Others believe that it contains the word of God (but that it also contains some things which are now irrelevant, morally unacceptable, or just plain wrong). Others believe it to be an entirely human book, and some that it is a book that has been the cause of tremendous evil and misinformation.
We’ll get into all of those questions on other pages of this site (most particularly on the page Is the Bible God’s Word?). To lay the cards on the table, the authors of this site believe that the Bible does come from God and is fully inspired by Him – but the aim is to present some of the evidence for that view and let you come to your own conclusions. On the way there’ll be lots of useful and interesting information about the Bible – whatever view you may take.
What is beyond any doubt is that the Bible is absolutely unique among the literature of the world. Below are some of the features that make it so. You cannot prove the Bible to be true, just like you cannot prove, in the manner of a scientific experiment, the existence of God. This page doesn’t attempt to prove anything. What it does do is to show that the Bible is remarkable, and worth exploring further. From some of the evidence presented here you can begin to draw your own conclusions.
What’s so special…
Point One: World’s best-seller
First, it’s famous! The Bible is the world’s best-selling book – translated into more languages and distributed more widely than any other book in the world. It has been read, studied, and commented upon more than any other volume. What is it about the Bible that has made people so eager to translate and distribute it? Why do so many people buy it? Why do millions of ordinary people still read it today, thousands of years after it was written?
Point Two: Culture Creator
The Bible has been the bedrock in the formation of Western culture and civilization. It has been absolutely foundational in the construction of Western society as we know it – to the sense of morality, the justice system, to the social fabric of life. It has dominated art, literature and music – lurking in the background and making its influence felt, even where it has been rejected. In recent times, as some of its central claims have been questioned and rejected we have seen major shifts in societal behaviour (just think about the organization of the family, as one example).
Within the world of religious thought the Bible’s influence has been inestimable. The characters and narratives in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) are relevant to three major world religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Some other books may have had massive influence in particular countries (Mao’s Red Book in China, for instance), but none other has made its presence felt so widely.
Point Three: Agitator
The Bible has also played a significant role in controversy and even war. But while the Bible has been used as a weapon for political power (irrespective of its content), and while it has certainly been mis-used to justify great evil – both of which must be strongly condemned – the very fact that it has aroused such passionate responses and altered the course of people’s lives so dramatically – is itself fascinating. So often it has led to behaviours (both good and bad) that would often be considered by outside observers to be extreme. What is this astonishing book really saying, and why do people react to it so intensely and in such diverse ways?
Point Four: Daring claims
The Bible claims to be the Word of God, able to save people’s lives. There haven’t been many books in history that have dared to make that claim. One of the reasons for this is that as soon as a book sets itself up as speaking for God, people are lining up to prove it to be wrong. But the Bible insists. More than nine hundred times it uses phrases like: ‘God said…’, ‘this is what the Lord says…’ or ‘The word of the Lord came to me, saying…’ Bold, bold claims, which are explored further LINK[here]. And the Bible stands alone as the one book, more than any other, that men and women have been prepared to die for and have sought to base their lives upon.
Point Five: Unity in diversity
No other book has been written in quite the same way as the Bible. It’s actually not one book at all, but a library of 66 books, written by around forty different authors over a period of more than 1500 years! It grew over time until it reached completion roughly two thousand years ago.
Try to think of another book that was written in that way. There isn’t one. Sure, an encyclopedia has many contributors and an overall purpose. But it is commissioned at one point in time, and there is no overall message or agreement between the authors – no golden thread which unites it.
Despite the Bible’s unparalleled diversity (history, law, poetry, letters, parables, essays) and its unique history of formation, it has an amazing consistency, coherence, and singleness of purpose. Most Bible believers have a personal favorite reason for believing the Bible, and this is an important one. Just as when you take a microscope and focus in on a blade of grass or a flower, you see incredible beauty that you had no idea was there, so it is with the Bible. Its intricacy and its power as well as its connectedness and consistency are very powerful evidence that the Bible is not merely the words of a group of men, but the words of God Himself.
Point Six: Accuracy of preservation
When you read the Bible, how do you know you are reading what the original writers actually wrote? After all, you’re reading something that is between 2000 and 3500 years old, written in completely different languages, before there were electronic backups or printing presses.
It turns out that there is no other book in the world of remotely comparable age which has been transmitted through history with such accuracy. It is unparalleled in any other ancient book. Is it just a fluke of history, or did God plan it that way?
For instance, we have something like 24000 manuscript fragments of the New Testament documents, and even if we had none we could recreate virtually the whole thing from quotations of it that were made by ancient writers! That record of textual preservation is completely unparalleled – compare it, for instance, with the 650 manuscript fragments (dating from much later times) that we have of Homer’s Iliad. There is more on this topic LINK[here].
Point Seven: Survival
The Bible has survived. It might not sound that amazing, but it is. Over the centuries people have had plenty of motivation for wanting to destroy the Bible or disprove it (then they don’t have to do what it says!). There have been many attempts to do so. The French philosopher and writer Voltaire claimed that within 100 years of his death, God and the Bible would be completely discredited, and no one would read the Bible any more. In fact, within 50 years of his death, the Geneva Bible society had taken ownership of Voltaire’s printing press and were using it to print Bibles to send all over the world!
In the face of attempts to burn and ban it, to torch its translators and printers at the stake, the Bible lives on. Today, critics are more likely to try to attempt to marginalize, dismiss or ridicule the Bible (often without having read it), but still people read it. It is a book that will not lie down.
Point Eight: Telling the future
The Bible has told and continues to tell the future. No other major world religion can lay claim to evidence of this kind from prophecy. The birth and death of Jesus were predicted hundreds of years before he was born, and the Bible has many remarkable prophecies about the Jewish nation, as well as some of the world empires of the past. Sceptics will claim that some of these prophecies were written after the event – and it is true that it is impossible to prove that some were not. But in other cases (like the prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament, and the prophecies about the Jews), the case is absolutely clear. The Bible predicted the future in advance. There’s more LINK[here] and LINK[here].
Point Nine: It makes sense
And finally, there is the explanatory power of the Bible. The Bible provides a logical and credible explanation of why the world is the way it is, what human nature is like, and what has gone wrong – an explanation which many feel is the most compelling way of understanding ourselves and our world. The Bible explains the emptiness and lack of purpose or direction that men and women sometimes feel in today’s world. It tells what we need to do to put things right and get back into a good relationship with God, the role for which we were designed. Every reader has to decide whether there is another book or theory out there which fits the facts so well.
There can be no doubt at all that the Bible stands unique among the literature of the world. No sane person could seriously dispute that fact. Whether it is the word of God, revealing His plan and purpose is a different matter, and one that can only be decided by a careful consideration of the evidence, and by first-hand experience of what the Bible says.
Lots of people judge the Bible by its outward appearance and things they have heard about it, without actually opening it and trying it for themselves. The saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’ was never more pertinent. You have to try to piece together the evidence and the clues for yourself in order to get a fair picture. The best way to come to an informed view about the Bible is to read it for yourself! You’ll find some hints an how to do this here, and also some Bible reading planners.