“Why All the Fuss Over an Old Book?”

Posted by Paul Suckling on May 13, 2011

People took the Bible pretty seriously back 400 years ago when the King James Version was translated—some even gave their lives over the centuries to preserve this book! But today even many churches don’t take it seriously. What does it all mean for you, in the 21st century?

The Bible has had a huge impact on Western civilization. But today the average person doesn’t know much about the Bible and has doubts that he or she can understand it or that it is relevant to his or her life. Most have heard skeptics and even ministers question the value or validity of the Scriptures.Old Bible to illustrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Version

Can we understand the Bible and can it help us? Or is it really just a muddle of phrases that people can interpret in any way they wish?

First, let’s take a quick peek at a different world—a world when the Bible ruled.

400 years ago

Recently celebrations were held because the King James Version reached the 400th anniversary of its translation as authorized by James I of England. Known by many as the Authorized Version, the KJV has long held its position as world-class literature.

The cover of the May 2011 edition of Christianity Today said, “Me and Thee and the KJV; Mark Noll Tells the Story of the World’s Most Popular English Bible—and Where We Would Be Without It.”

It is a fascinating story to follow, and an important one. Consider the story of just one man who was instrumental in getting the Bible into English in the first place.

An early translator’s sad demise

Following the invention of the printing press, a brilliant scholar, William Tyndale, translated the New Testament into English. But his translation was different from the official Latin Vulgate, since Tyndale used other manuscripts to get a better understanding. This caused an uproar.

Christian History’s 100th edition records: “Unfortunately, his work stirred up such English concern over possible ‘heresy’ that it had to be published in Germany. Tyndale himself was burned at the stake in 1536.”

It can be hard to imagine that kind of devotion for understanding and sharing the Bible today.

Different approaches toward the Bible

Probably all Christian denominations would say that the Bible is “The Holy Bible.” But that doesn’t mean all of them agree that it is inspired—“God-breathed”—in its original writings (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Many churches and theologians pick and choose the parts of the Bible they feel are valid or useful.

In the preface to Michael Green’s 1977 book The Truth of God Incarnate, the author draws an interesting analogy between a car and the Bible. He asks, how many things can you strip from a car before you can no longer call it a car? Eventually, once the chassis and engine are gone, is it really still a car?

Yet this is the approach many today take toward the validity of the Scriptures: Inspiration is discounted; faith in what God says is set aside; the Bible’s authority is questioned. What’s left when the deconstructionists are through?

In the book Who Really Wrote the Bible? (2010) Eyal Rav-Noy and Gil Weinreich mention the rabbi who recently told his congregation that “the Exodus from Egypt … most likely never occurred—at least not in the way described in the Bible” (p. 3). The book then cites the example of the Episcopal church choosing its first openly gay bishop in New Hampshire in contradiction of biblical teaching.

“These two little vignettes—the Exodus-denying rabbi and the Leviticus-denying priest—may seem unrelated. But both point to a society whose core religious values are up for grabs” (p. 4).

How could things like this happen? The only possible answer is that they don’t really believe the Bible, say the authors.

What can you do?

If religious leaders don’t believe the Bible, what chance does the average person have of understanding and finding value in it? Actually, with the right approach, the chances of benefitting from our Creator’s instruction manual are pretty good. The timeless truths preserved by zealous people for centuries are just as relevant and effective today as when they were written. But don’t take our word for it. Check it out for yourself.

How?

Start by approaching the Bible with a sincere desire to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, King James Version).

Another help, when you run across something you don’t understand, is to consult several different translations and other Bible helps, all the while asking God to guide you (see “Which Bible Translation(s) Should I Use?”). Jesus said to His disciples, “No one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father” (John 6:65). But those who are called by God are told to “ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). Take God up on this—ask for His help.

For more about how to gain the most from studying the Bible, see our Frequently Asked Question “What’s the Best Way to Study the Bible?

Appreciation

Throughout much of history, most people did not have access to the Bible at all, and especially in their own language. Also, the freedom of religion has been rare. But today many of us live in countries where we have freedom of religion and freedom of thought and practice. We should deeply appreciate this fact and seek to prove for ourselves whether the Bible can help us.

The Bible not only gives practical human relations principles, it also answers the most important questions about the meaning of life. Ask yourself: Why am I here on this earth? Our booklet The Mystery of the Kingdom will help you explore the inspiring and encouraging answer from the Bible. You owe it to yourself to give the old book a try.

Paul Suckling is a pastor of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in New England. 


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