THE UNIQUENESS OF THE
By Dennis Crawford
The Bible is unique in many ways that make it worth investigating to see if it is in fact
THE WORD OF GOD, as it says it is.
Webster defines "unique" as: (1) "One and only; single, sole";
(2) "Different from all others; having no other equal."
Professor M. Monntiero Williams (cited by Sidney Collett,
"All About the Bible," Fleming
H. Revell), former Boden professor of Sanskrit, spent some 42 years studying
Eastern books and said in comparing them to the Bible: "pile them, if you will, on the left side of your study table; but place your own Holy Bible
on the right side all by itself, all alone and with a wide gap between them.
For, there is a gulf between it and the so-called sacred books of the East which severs the one from the others utterly, hopelessly, and forever...a veritable gulf which cannot be bridged over by any science or religious
thought" (ref. 6, pp.314, 315).
Any sincere individual seeking truth would
at least consider a book with these qualifications.
I. THE BIBLE IS UNIQUE IN ITS CONTINUITY.
This harmony exists in spite of the fact that it was written over a 1600-year span, during 60
generations, and by more than 40 authors from
every walk of life including kings, peasants, philosophers, fishermen, poets, statesmen, scholars,
and others. The Bible was written in a variety of places and customs, during times of war and
peace, on three continents (Africa, Asia, and Europe), in three languages (Hebrew, Aramaic,
and Greek). Yet, when the Bible is analyzed as a whole, it speaks with amazing unity and harmony about hundreds of controversial subjects about which there are
hundreds of opposing opinions! Our science books, which represent "truth" about
science and nature as we
know it, are obsolete in as soon as five to ten years, and must be constantly revised because of "theories" or
concepts that are in error!
F. F. Bruce ("The Books and the Parchments," Fleming H. Revell) observes that: "Any part of the human body can only be properly explained in
reference to the whole body. And any part of the Bible can only be properly explained in reference to the whole
Bible" (ref.5, p.89).
"The Bible, at first sight, appears to be a collection of literature--mainly
Jewish. If we inquire into the circumstances under which the various
biblical documents were written, we find that they were written at
intervals over a space of nearly 1400 years. The writer wrote in various lands,
from Italy in the west, to Mesopotamia and possibly Persia in the east.
"The writers themselves were a diverse group of people, not only separated from each other by hundreds of
years and hundreds of miles, but belonging to the most different walks of
life. In their ranks we have kings, herdsmen, soldiers, legislators, fishermen, statesmen, courtiers, priests,
prophets, a tentmaker, a...gentile physician, not to speak of others of whom we know nothing, apart from the writings they have
"The writings themselves belong to a great variety of literary types. They include history, law (civil, criminal,
ethical, ritual, sanitary), religious poetry, didactic treatises, lyric poetry, parable and allegory, biography, personal
correspondence, personal memoirs and diaries, in addition to the distinctively
biblical types of prophecy and
"For all that, the Bible is not simply a collection of writings, or anthology; there is a unity which binds the
whole together. An anthology is compiled by an anthologist, but no anthologist compiled the
Bible" (ref.5, p.88).
If you took ten authors, all from one walk of life, one generation, one place, one time, one mood, one continent,
and one language, and just one controversial subject (the Bible speaks on hundreds of subjects in harmony and
agreement), would the authors agree? No! You would have a conglomeration!
II. THE BIBLE IS UNIQUE IN ITS CIRCULATION.
The Bible has been read by more people and published in more languages than any other
There have been more copies produced of its entirety and more portions and selections than
any other book in
history. Some will argue that in a designated month or year more of a certain book was
sold. However, over all, there is absolutely no book that reaches, or even begins to
compare to, the circulation of the scriptures. The first major book printed was the Latin Vulgate
(Bible). It was printed on Gutenberg's press (ref.18,
Geisler and Nix cite S. L. Greenslade (ed.), "The Cambridge History of the Bible,"
p. 479: "No other book has known anything approaching this constant
circulation" (ref.8, p.122).
III. THE BIBLE IS UNIQUE IN ITS TRANSLATION.
The Bible was the first book translated (Septuagint: Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament,
c. 250 B.C.) (ref.19, p.1147).
The Bible has been translated and retranslated and paraphrased more than any other book in
IV. THE BIBLE IS UNIQUE IN ITS SURVIVAL.
Being written on materials that perish easily, having to be copied and recopied for hundreds of years before the
invention of the printing press, did not diminish its style, correctness,
"The Bible, compared with other ancient writings, has more manuscript evidence than any ten pieces of
classical literature combined" (ref.1, p.21).
A. T. Robertson, the author of the most comprehensive grammar of New Testament Greek, wrote, "There are
some 8,000 manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate and at least 1,000 for the other early
versions. Add over 4,000 Greek manuscripts and we have 13,000
manuscript copies of
portions of the New Testament. Besides all this, much of the New Testament can be reproduced from the quotations of the early
Christian writers" (ref.15, p.70).
John Warwick Montgomery ("History and Christianity," Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove,
IL) says that "to be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all classical antiquity to slip into
obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New
Testament" (ref.13, p.29).
Jews preserved it as no other manuscript ever has been preserved. They kept tabs on every letter, syllable,
word, and paragraph. They had special classes of men within their culture whose sole duty was to
preserve and transmit these documents with practically perfect fidelity--scribes,
lawyers, massoreetes. Whoever counted the letters and syllables and words of Plato or
Aristotle, Cicero or Seneca?
"In regard to the New Testament, there are about thirteen thousand manuscripts, complete and incomplete, in
Greek and other languages, that have survived from antiquity. No other work from classical antiquity has such
attestation" (ref.14, pp.230-1).
That textual errors do not endanger doctrine is stated by Sir Frederic Kenyon (one of the great authorities in
the field of New Testament textual criticism) who writes, "It can’t be too strongly asserted that in substance the
text of the Bible is certain: Especially in the case with the New Testament.
The number of manuscripts of the New Testament, of the early translations from it, and of quotations from it in the oldest writers
of the church, is so large that it is practically certain that the true reading of every doubtful passage is preserved in some one
or another of these ancient authorities. This can be said of no other ancient book in the
world" (ref.9, p.23).
In an article in the North American Review, a writer made some interesting comparisons between the writings
of Shakespeare and the scriptures, showing how much greater care must have been bestowed upon the
biblical manuscripts than upon any other writings, even when there was so much more opportunity of
preserving the correct text by means of the printed copy than when all the copies had to be made by
hand. He said:
"It seems strange that the text of Shakespeare, which has been in existence less than two hundred and
should be far more uncertain and corrupt than that of the New Testament, now over eighteen centuries
"During nearly fifteen of which it existed only as a manuscript...with perhaps a dozen or so exceptions, the text
of every verse in the New Testament may be said to be so far settled by general consent of scholars, that any
dispute as to its readings must relate rather to the interpretation of the words than any doubts as to the words
"But in every one of Shakespeare's thirty-seven plays there are probably a hundred readings still in dispute, a
large portion of which materially affects the meaning of the passages in which they
occur" (ref.11, p.15).
SURVIVAL THROUGH PERSECUTION:
The Bible has withstood vicious attacks by its enemies as no other book.
Many have tried to burn it, ban it and outlaw it "from the days of Roman emperors to the present-day Communist-dominated
countries" (ref.14, p.232).
Sidney Collett in "All About the Bible" says, "Voltaire, the noted French infidel who died in 1778, said that in one
hundred years from his time Christianity would be swept from existence and passed into
history. But what has happened? Voltaire has passed into history; while the
circulation of the Bible continues to increase in almost all parts of the world, carrying blessing wherever it
Concerning Voltaire, Geisler and Nix point out that "only fifty years after his death, the Geneva Bible
Society used his press and house to produce stacks of Bibles" (ref.8,
p.123). What an irony of history!
The world abounds with such instances...as one has truly said, "We might as well put our shoulder to the
burning wheel of the sun, and try to stop it on its flaming course, as attempt to stop the circulation of the
Bible" (ref.6, p.63).
In A.D. 303, the emperor Diocletian issued an edict to destroy Christians and their sacred book: "...an imperial letter was everywhere promulgated, ordering the razing of the churches to the ground and the destruction by
fire of the Scriptures, and proclaiming that those who held high positions would lose all civil rights, while those
in households, if they persisted in their profession of Christianity, would be deprived of their
liberty" (ref.18, p.476; ref.7, p.259).
The historic irony of the above edict to destroy the Bible is that Constantine, the emperor following
years later commissioned Eusebius to prepare 50 copies of the scriptures at the expense of the
SURVIVAL THROUGH CRITICISM:
H.L. Hastings has forcibly illustrated the unique way the Bible has withstood the attacks of infidelity and
"Infidels for eighteen hundred years have been refuting and overthrowing this book, and yet
[it] stands today as solid as a rock. Its circulation increases and it is more loved and cherished and read today
than ever before. Infidels, with all their assaults, make about as much impression on
this book as a man with a tack hammer would on the Pyramids of Egypt.
"When the French monarch proposed the persecution of the Christians in the dominion, an old statesman and
warrior said to him, 'Sire, the Church of God is an anvil that has worn out many
hammers.' So the hammers of infidels have been pecking away at this book for ages, but the
hammers are worn out, and that anvil still endures. If this book had not been the book of God, men would have destroyed it long
ago. Emperors and popes, kings and priests, princes and rulers have all tried their hand at it; they die and the book still
lives" (ref.11, pp.17-18).
Bernard Ramim adds that: "A thousand times over, the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the
funeral procession formed, the inscription cut on the tombstone, and committal
read. But somehow the corpse never stays put. No other book has been so chopped, knifed, sifted,
scrutinized, and vilified. What book on philosophy or religion or psychology or belles letters of classical or modern times
has been subject to such a mass attack as the Bible? With such venom and skepticism? With such
thoroughness and erudition? Upon every chapter, line and tenet? The Bible is still loved by millions, read by millions, and studied by
millions" (ref.14, pp.232-233).
No claim that has been made to discredit the Bible has ever been proved to be true!
V. THE BIBLE IS UNIQUE IN ITS TEACHINGS.
"It is the only volume ever produced by man, or a group of men in which is to be found a large body of
prophecies relating to individual nations, to Israel, to all peoples of the earth, to certain cities, and to the
coming of the One who was to be the Messiah.
"The ancient world had many different devices for determining the future, known as divination, but not in the
entire gamut of Greek and Latin literature, even though they use the words prophet or prophecy, can we find
any real specific prophecy of a great historic event to come in the distant future, nor any prophecy of a Savior
to arise in the human race. Mohammedanism cannot point to any prophecies of the coming of
Mohammed uttered hundreds of years before his birth. Neither can the founders of any cult in this country rightly identify any
ancient text specifically foretelling their appearance" (ref.17, pp.9-10).
Wilbur Smith cites the distinguished archaeologist, Professor Albright, who begins his classic essay,
Biblical Period": "Hebrew national tradition excels all others in its clear picture of tribal and family
origins. In Egypt and Babylon, in Assyria and Phoenicia, in Greece and Rome,
we look in vain for anything comparable. There is nothing like it in the tradition of the Germanic
peoples. Neither India nor China can produce anything similar, since their earliest historical memories are literary
deposits of distorted dynastic tradition, with no trace of the herdsman or peasant behind the demigod or king
with whom their records begin. Neither in the oldest Indic historical writings (the
Puranas) nor in the earliest
Greek historians is there a hint of the fact that both Indio-Aryans and Hellenes were once nomads who
immigrated into their later abodes from the north. The Assyrians, to be sure, remembered vaguely that their
earliest rulers, whose names they recalled without any details about their deed, were tent dwellers, but whence
they came has long been forgotten" (ref.17, p.24).
The Bible deals very frankly with the sins of its characters. Read the biographies
today and see how they
try to cover up, overlook, or ignore the shady side of people. Take the
great literary geniuses; most are painted as saints. The Bible does not do it that
way. It simply tells it the way it is!
"The Bible is not such a book a man would write if he could, or could write if he
VI. THE BIBLE IS UNIQUE IN ITS INFLUENCE ON SURROUNDING
McAfee writes in the "Greatest English Classic": "If every Bible in any considerable city were destroyed, the Book could be restored in all its essential
parts from the quotations on the shelves of the city public library. There are works, covering almost all the
great literary writers, devoted especially to showing how much the Bible has
influenced them" (ref.12, p.134).
Kenneth Scott Latourette, former Yale historian says, "It is evidence of His importance, of the effect that He
has had upon history and presumably, of the baffling mystery of his being, that no other life
which has ever lived on this planet has evoked so huge a volume of literature among
so many peoples and languages, and that, far from ebbing, the flood continues to
mount" (ref.10, p.44).
The historian Phillip Schaff vividly describes the Bible's uniqueness along with its Savior:
"This Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander, Caesar,
Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and
divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of schools, He
spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and pronounced effects which lie beyond the reach
of orator or poet; without writing a single line, He set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for
more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole
army of great men of ancient and modern times" (ref.16).
SOME COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS:
1) "It doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you believe."
This is called a "subjective faith." It comes from within one's own
mind. The only problem with a "subjective faith" is that someone can sincerely believe in what is really false or worthless!
We are saved by
(forgiveness), through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Most faiths are based on human knowledge and moral teachings. Remove the founding prophet or Guru and
the religion remains essentially intact. Remove Christ from Christianity, and you no longer have Christianity!
Christianity is based on a person--Jesus Christ, and an event in history--the
resurrection! There is no
merit in faith alone; in order to be saved, faith must have Jesus Christ. Jesus made his identity the central issue. He claimed to be the Son of God! He presented himself as the only
avenue to a relationship with God, the only source of forgiveness for sins, the only way of salvation!
2) "The Christian faith is a blind faith and has no historical basis in
Most modern historians approach history with a narrow-minded outlook or prejudice
that shuts out any
supernatural possibilities. Instead of beginning with pure historical data this prejudice says:
"There is no God." How can anyone "know" this? How can a complicated ecosystem come into existence from
nothing, without a creator? Can a watch be made without a watchmaker?
"We live in a closed self-causation system." (The universe is closed to any outside interference and
therefore every event within it has a natural explanation.)
"There are no miracles." Just because you or I have never witnessed a miracle happening does not exclude the possibility of its
happening. If God became man, then we would expect Him to manifest the supernatural in the form of
miracles, to validate His Word or messengers. The Bible is full of
accounts of miracles performed by Jesus and the apostles. The ultimate miracle of Christ’s resurrection from the dead was witnessed by
hundreds of people.
"There is no supernatural." This is a faith in their
preconceived ideas! Intelligent faith investigates the claims and concludes on the
basis of the weight of the evidence. Faith in Christ is based on
evidence. Faith is simply the arm that reaches out to receive what Christ did on the
3) "If you can't prove something scientifically, it's not true."
If the scientific method were the only method of proving something, how would you prove you got up this
morning? The scientific method is useful only in proving repeatable events and is not adequate for events in history, or
past events. Another method is needed for proof of historic events:
The LEGAL-HISTORICAL TEST: Proof based on showing that something is true beyond a
reasonable doubt. A verdict is reached on the basis of the weight of the
evidence. It is much like the method used in our courtrooms today.
Historical evidence is determined by testimony (ref.2, p.16).
Christ's claims and His resurrection can be substantiated beyond any reasonable doubt by the Legal-Historical
The BIBLIOGRAPHICAL TEST: Not having the original documents, how reliable are the
documents we now have?
How many manuscripts are available, and what time interval is between the original and the earliest copy? This
is useful in determining that the text we now have is what was originally
When the number of surviving manuscripts of scripture are compared with the number of surviving
manuscripts from other books of antiquity, the results are truly astounding:
- Plato (Tetralogies) = 7 surviving manuscripts
- Caesar (Gallic Wars) = 10 surviving manuscripts
- Aristotle = 49 surviving manuscripts
- Homer (Iliad) = 643 surviving manuscripts (ref.2, p.24)
- Pliny the Younger = 7 surviving manuscripts
- New Testament = 24,633 surviving manuscripts
The Bibliographical Test is useful only in determining that the text we have now is what was
recorded. We must go further to determine to what extent the written record is
credible. To do this, we must apply the Internal Evidence Test (ref.2,
The INTERNAL EVIDENCE TEST: Two factors must guide this test:
1) In the event of an apparent inaccuracy or discrepancy, the benefit of the doubt must be given to
the document itself. The textual critic must not be biased.
"One must listen to the claims of the document under analysis and not assume fraud or error unless the
author disqualified himself by contradictions or known factual
Montgomery (ref.3, p.29). An author is innocent until proved guilty of a discrepancy!
2) The nearness of the witness, both chronologically and geographically (date/place), to the events
greatly affects the writer's credibility.
The New Testament accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus were recorded by men who had been either
eyewitnesses themselves or had related the accounts of the eyewitnesses; hostile witnesses
were used many times,
and they had the opportunity (and were asked) to deny the truth of the
statements. They did not (ref.2, p.31)!
"And it was not friendly eyewitnesses that the early preachers had to reckon with: there were others less
well disposed who were also conversant with the main facts of the ministry and death of
Jesus. The disciples could not afford to risk inaccuracies (not to speak of willful manipulation of
the facts), which would at once be exposed by those who would be only too glad to do
so. On the contrary, one of the strong points in the original apostolic preaching is the confident appeal to the knowledge of the
hearers; they not only said, ‘We are witnesses of these things,’ but also, ‘As you yourselves know’ (Acts
2:22). Had there been any tendency to depart from the facts in any material respect, the possible
pressure of hostile witnesses in the audience would have served as further corrective,"
F.F. Bruce (ref.4, pp.44-46).
The EXTERNAL EVIDENCE TEST: Do other historical materials confirm or deny the internal
testimony of the documents themselves? What sources are there, apart from the literature under
that substantiate its accuracy, reliability, and authenticity?
EUSEBIUS--In his "Ecclesiastical History," 111. 39, Eusebius preserves the writings of
Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis, who received them from the apostle John!
IRENAEUS-- In "Against Heresies III," Irenaeus quoted the words of his teacher,
Polycarp, martyred in A.D. 56 , and who was a disciple of the apostle John (ref.2, p. 32)!
These historical texts (and many others) adequately demonstrate the historical reliability and accuracy of the
WHAT IF ?
Please ask yourself: If all the historical, scientific,
and prophetic statements in the Bible are true and accurate, then what
about what the Bible says about your having eternal life (or death) and about
the choices you make (or do not make) now that can affect your eternal future?
It is in your best interest to study it and find out what God requires of those
who would be His children (Romans 8:14-16).
Do you not think it is worth examining the Bible to see if it
is in fact the Word of God, and to see what you must do to receive eternal life
- McDowell, Josh, "Evidence That Demands a Verdict," Here's Life Publishers,
- McDowell, Josh, "Research in Christian Evidences," Evidence that Demands a Verdict, 1979
- Montgomery, John Warwick, "History of Christianity," Downers Grove,
IL: Inter-Varsity Press,
- Bruce, F.F., "The New Testaments; Are They Reliable?", Downers Grove,
IL: Inter-Varsity Press,
- Bruce, F.F., "The Books and the Parchments," Rev.
ed., Westwood: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1963
- Collet, Sidney, "All About the Bible," Old Tappan:
Revell, n. d.
- Eusebius, "Ecclesiastical History, VIII, 2, Loeb. ed., II, 259
- Geisler, Norman L. and Nix, William E., "A General Introduction to the
- Kenyon, Frederic G., "Our Bible and the Ancient
Manuscripts," New York: Harper and Brothers,
- Latourette, Kenneth Ascott, "A History of Christianity," New York: Harper & Row,
- Lea, John W., "The Greatest Book in the World," Philadelphia:,
n. p., 1929
- McAfee, Cleland B., "The Greatest English Classic," New York: n. p., 1912
- Montgomery, John Warwick, "History and Christianity," Downers Grove,
IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1971
- Ramim, Bernard, "Protestant Christian Evidences," Chicago: Moody Press,
- Robertson, A.T., "Introduction to the Textual Criticism of the New
Testament," Nashville: Boadman Press, 1925
- Schaff, Phillip, "The Person of Christ," American Tract Society, 1913
- Smith, Wilbur M., "The Incomparable Book," Minneapolis: Beacon Publications,
- Greenslade, Stanley Lawrence (ed.), "Cambridge History of the
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1963
- Unger, Merrill F., "Unger’s Bible Dictionary," rev. ed., Chicago: Moody Press,
- Lewis S. Chafer, Dallas Theological Seminary
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