The Bible is the most persecuted literary work in human history. Multitudes of its human authors were killed. In many cases, God worked through the death of those human writers to provide strength to the argument for the validity of scripture. Later in this study we will look at the 12 apostles chosen by Jesus. All but one died a violent death because of their insistence of the truth of the story told by scripture – namely the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While some may be willing to suffer for a lie, it is impossible to believe that all would go to their deaths in order to perpetuate a lie.
Shortly following the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Roman Empire began to persecute Christians, and vast numbers of Bibles were destroyed prior to Constantine declaring Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire in 313 A.D. Indeed, in 303 A/D the Roman Emperor Diocletian declared that anyone found possessing a Bible would be executed. Those who possess the Bible are routinely killed even today in countries around the world. Communist regimes in the former Soviet Union and China outlawed possession of Bibles and destroyed copies which they found. Albert Baird Cummins offers the following summary:
“The empire of Caesar is gone; the legions of Rome are smouldering in the dust; the avalanches of Napoleon hurled upon Europe have melted away, the prince of the pharoahs is fallen; the pyramids they raised to be their tombs are sinking every day in the desert sands; Tyre is a rock for bleaching fisherman’s nets; Sidon has scarcely left a wreck behind; but the WORD OF God still survives: All things that threatened to extinguish it have only aided it; and it proves every day how transient is the noblest monument that men can build, how enduring is the least Word that God has spoken.”
Despite overwhelming resistance throughout history and the persecution of those who believe in Christ, the Bible has not only survived through it all but thrived and has been passed down to us today.
In addition to surviving harsh and consistent persecution, the Bible has also survived the elements. Against all human odds, numerous of copies (we’ll look at exactly how many in a later post) have survived despite the fragile mediums it was recorded on and the elements the Bible has outlived and out-survived all other literature. When it was originally recorded, the Bible was recorded on a variety of fragile materials such as:
- Papyrus (sheep and goats skins)
- Vellum (Antelope Skin)
None of these medium are prone to surviving thousands of years. Furthermore, the years through which the Bible has survived were, for the most part, devoid of modern conveniences and storage mechanism such as climate control and protection from the weather. Again, despite the overwhelming odds against survival based on its means of transmission and exposure to the elements, the Bible has thrived providing further indication of supernatural protection.
Finally, and we will look at this more as our study progresses, the Bible has been more maligned and more criticized than other book in human history. Despite the constant barrage, it has consistently withstood those attacks and remains the core document in the Christian faith. Chuck Colson offers the following observation on the endurance and impact of the Bible:
“The Bible — banned, burned, beloved. More widely read, more frequently attacked than any other book in history. Generations of intellectuals have attempted to discredit it, dictators of every age have outlawed it and executed those who read it. Yet soldiers carry it into battle believing it more powerful than their weapons. Fragments of it smuggled into solitary prison cells have transformed ruthless killers into gentle saints.”
W.E. Sangster summarizes:
“Centuries of experience have tested the Bible. It has passed through critical fires no other volume has suffered, and its spiritual truth has endured the flames and come out without so much as the smell of burning.”
Despite vast attempts at destruction, through relentless persecution, across the ages and through the elements, and in spite of attacks from alleged scholars, the Bible has survived it all. It reminds me of Isaiah 40:8:
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” [Isaiah 40:8]