10 Amazing Facts about the Bible
No ordinary book
According to the Google Books project there are over 129 million different books out there in the world that have been published. Yet whenever reference is simply made to the 'the book' there are few doubts which one is meant: The Bible - the best-selling book of all time and steadily the best-selling book of the year, every year.
Although technically speaking the Bible is a collection of books (39 books of the Old Testament and 27 of the New Testament) it is nonetheless usually considered as a single book because of its unifying message and unique origin. To some simply a book of religious myths to others the inspired and infallible Word of God. The Bible stands out in many ways.
1. The most printed book
Perhaps not incidentally the first major book that in the 1450s came from Gutenberg's newly invented printing press with movable types was a Bible. The Gutenberg revolution ushered in the age of the printed book. As of 2015 Guinness World Records estimates that over 5 billion copies of the Bible have been printed. Other estimates range from 5 to 6 billion copies. The Gideons International announced in 2015 that their distribution of Bibles and New Testaments alone had surpassed the 2 billion mark. Nowadays 100 million Bibles are sold every year. That puts the Bible on the undisputed top spot of the books ever sold. Quotations from chairman Mao (800 million copies) comes in a distant second and a modern bestseller like The Da Vinci Code (80 million copies) pales by comparison.
One globe - many languages
2. The most translated book
The Bible is by far the most translated book of all time. 98% of the world's population has access to parts or the whole Bible in their native tongue. There are 518 languages with a complete translation of the Bible, an additional 1,275 languages with a translation of the New Testament and a further 1,005 languages in which at least the translation of one book of the Bible has been completed. There remain some 1,900 (rare) languages were translation works still needs to be done, but the Vision 2025 project by the Wycliffe Bible Translators intends to commence translation in every remaining language by 2025.
Getting the Word out
3. The most distributed book
Books are usually distributed through a sales network. In other cases ideological interests play a major role in the circulation of a particular book, like Mao's Quotations during the Cultural Revolution. As concerns the Bible many of Christ's followers have ventured out into the world, sometimes at the risk of their lives, faithful to His command to teach and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20).
Today there are over 30,000 Christian denominations and an estimated 37 million churches in the world with 50,000 new ones added every year. Even in countries where authorities forbid practicing the Christian faith or possessing the Bible, Christians continue to exercise their faith underground and in house churches. There are churches literally all around the world, including Antarctica.
In addition there are thousands of Christian organizations dedicated to reaching all sorts of interest and fringe groups. The Gideons International, for example, have made it their aim to distribute the Word of God for free in hotels, schools and colleges, hospitals and medical offices, prisons and jails all over the world.
Old woman reading a Bible
4. Both the most studied and the most neglected book
Devout Christians read their Bibles every day. At an academic level, theology was once called the 'queen of sciences' and an integral part of university studies of any discipline. Though it has somehow lost this preeminence in modern universities, faculties of christian theology all over the world are dedicated to study the Bible and its implications for our lives and the world we live in. In addition there are hundreds of seminaries and Bible schools. Thousands of commentaries on the whole Bible or on individual books of the Bible have been written over 2000 years of Christian history. No other book has been studied so extensively on both academic and at the grassroots level.
Yet somehow the Bible is also the most neglected book. Compared to its vast distribution, the Bible is poorly read. The vast majority of households (at least in Western society) have a Bible, yet only a tiny fraction regularly read and study the book of books. Even among self-confessed Christians polls found out many have never read the entire book in their whole life nor could answer correctly very basic questions about its content and the christian faith.
5. Its message more important than life
Steven in The Acts of the Apostles (chapter 7) is widely regarded as the first Christian martyr. He was so firm in his convictions about Jesus Christ being the promised Messiah of Holy Scriptures that he preferred being stoned to death rather than to deny Christ. With that he is the first of a long line of Christian martyrs who refused to compromise their confession even at the loss of their lives. At the dawn of the Protestant Reformation in the early 16th century William Tyndale was strangled to death simply because he had translated the Bible into vernacular English.
Even today there is a considerable red list of countries that deny religious freedom and persecute unto death anyone possessing a Bible or practicing the Christian faith. On a global scale there have been more Christian martyrs in the 20th century than in all previous centuries combined.
Though religious fundamentalists are sometimes perceived negatively as extremists, in case of Christian martyrs, the willingness of sober-minded, educated men to sacrifice their lives to defend the truth of the Bible is actually a sign of authenticity. Would there have been but a few they might have been fools. But with thousands of men and women across the centuries facing death rather than accepting denial, something really big must be at stake.
Stoning of Saint Steven
6. The unity of the Bible
Written from three continents and in three languages over a period of at least 1600 years (from 1500 BC to 100 AD) by more than 40 writers of all kinds of backgrounds, the unifying message of the Bible is nothing but extraordinary. Its writers include farmers, fishermen, tax collectors, politicians, poets, priests, military commanders and kings, all inspired by the Spirit of God - the true author of the Bible. That is why despite the diversity of origins and variety of cultures all biblical writings very remarkably converge in Jesus Christ and his work of salvation.
The handwriting on the wall
King Belshazzar: He was for real
- Reliability of the Bible - Who was King Belshazzar?
The Babylonian king Belshazzar had long been forgotten by secular history, his name being preserved but in the Old Testament. Then an archeological find established his identity, confirming the Bible's historical accuracy and reliability.
7. Revealed in history
Unlike other religious books the Bible is not simply a set of rules given to mankind at an appointed time, but the account of God's interaction with men and revelation of truth over time. Despite the diversity of literary genres the Bible's main feature is that of a history book. From the early period of the patriarchs down to the historical accuracy of Luke in his Gospel and the book of Acts, customs, names of places and people, titles etc. mentioned in the biblical narrative all reveal first-hand knowledge of their respective epochs. In some cases names had completely disappeared from history books for centuries and had been preserved only in the Bible, before archeology brought them back to light, as in the case of the last Babylonian king Belshazzar.
Piercing the truth
8. The most reviled book
Jesus said: "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you" (Gospel of John 15:18). Although Christianity heavily influenced Western civilization, its foundational book did not go down well with many. The Bible has endured bans by governments, burnings by religious and non-religious opponents alike and has faced greater opposition than any other book in history, yet survived. During the French Revolution worship of God was abolished by law and Bibles collected and publicly burned with the utmost manifestation of scorn. Yet it were the Revolutionaries to be soon defeated while the Bible marched on. During the Cultural Revolution in China Mao Zedong expelled christian missionaries and banned the Bible propagating his Quotations instead, yet the church continued underground in house churches. Mao did not succeed in eradicating Christianity, since the 1970s it is estimated that some 50 million Chinese have been baptized and the Bible is in wider circulation than ever.
9. Divinely Inspired
Unlike the wisdom of philosophers the Bible isn't simply about conjectures and wise counsel. By contrast, the Bible claims absolute truth and asserts to be God's special revelation to mankind. God's grace as sublimely revealed in His Son Jesus Christ who became man to offer his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). In Him alone is made peace with God (Romans 5:1) and there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which they must be saved (Acts 4:12).
Although the Bible's content has been delivered by men, ultimately its writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16). Unlike apocryphal religious writings characterized by uncertainty (cf. 2 Maccabees 15:38) the writers of the books that made it into the canon of Holy Scriptures are quite sure what they're talking about, including supernatural events like the resurrection and the miracles (cf. 2 Peter 1:16). If these claims weren't true, all the wise counsel in the Bible would be for nothing. Worse, the book as a whole would have to be rejected as by compromising it would undermine the very truth it pretends to represent (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:14-19).
10. Lives transformed
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). The entire message of the Bible is about Jesus Christ and wherever his words are believed, hearts are changed and lives transformed.
Having been touched by God's love Christians have gone out to take care of the widow, the orphan, the poor, the sick and campaign against all forms of social discrimination. Sometimes the actions of a single believer have had an impact on a wider scale for the benefit of society as a whole. When William Wilberforce, an English politician at the turn of the 1800s, became a Christian his conversion resulted in major changes to his lifestyle. He begun to campaign heavily for the abolition of the slave trade. At the end of his carrier slavery had been abolished in most of the British Empire.
The biblical view of man created in the image of God is also the very foundation of human rights.
Now it's your turn...
What do you think about the Bible?
Is the Bible trustworthy?
Is the Bible historically reliable?
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God
Do you read the Bible?
For further reading...
- Reliability of the Bible - Daniel predicted rise of Antiochus IV Epiphanes
By some simply considered a collection of myths, the Bible is actually firmly rooted in history. Check out one piece of evidence from the book of Daniel.