The whole history of civilization goes back to the day when man began to write records. Everything before that is prehistoric, and is shrouded in mist. It is the Book of books which stands preeminent, invincible, overwhelming, in the affairs of the human race. The Vedas gave us Indian social life and thought. The "Book of the Dead" tells the story of ancient Egypt. The Koran has put its trade-mark on the foreheads of two hundred and fifty million people. "At the beginning," as someone has said, "Sinai—God and a tablet of stone ; and at the end of all things earthly —God and an opened Book."
But between that earliest revelation and God's last wordy is the battle of the books—the word of God against the word of man. For there are many voices on religion, but only one Revelation. There have been many prophets, but only one Saviour. That is the eternal issue. In the last analysis, all the sacred books of non-Christian religions are a challenge to the supremacy, the finality, and the sufficiency of God's Word. But we can meet that challenge and vindicate the finality and sufficiency of the Bible on the threefold ground of its historicity, its contents, and its dynamic.
Historicity of the Bible
The Bible, as we have it, may not contain all the oldest records of humanity, but without the shadow of doubt its oldest and its most recent pages have full historic value. By history we understand the opposite of myth and fable and legend. The Bible does not deal with the land of Utopia or the beautiful valley of somewhere, but speaks of this mountain, yonder city, this village. As Peter says: "We have not followed cunningly devised fables." Or, as Luke puts it, the gospel record is based on the testimony of those who "from the beginning were eyewitnesses."
History is anchored in geography and chronology. History deals with definite facts and definite dates. Not "once upon a time," but on this day, and in this month, and in this year. The clock and the calendar are both intended to mark with accuracy the events of life. The geography and the chronology of the Old and New Testaments are woven into the entire narrative to a most astonishing degree. The Bible is the only sacred book that has chronological date and geography. Take, for example, the tenth chapter of Genesis and its long list of nations, or the opening paragraph of the third chapter of Luke:
"In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch. of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Iturea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness."
In sharp contrast, the whole Koran, and all the Analects of Confucius, contain far less geography and chronology than one chapter of the Acts or of the Synoptic Gospels.
The sacred books of the great false religions are often puerile, of local interest, without chronological order, -cunningly devised fables." The "Bliag-,avad Gita" of the Hindus is an example. The great Sanskrit scholar, Janl Charpentier, noting this book in the Oriental Review of Uppsala University ( January, 1936), gives his opinion of the Gandhi craze, and incidentally of the sacred book which Gandhi prefers to the Scriptures.
"Although the present writer has only read a rather microscopic part of the enormous bulk of books and pamphlets turned out by the admirers and devotees of the mahatma, he still feels an ever-increasing astonishment at the way in which this extremely tedious literature seems to appeal to an increasing multitude of people. It is, perhaps, not at all curious that any religious or quasi-religious preaching should appeal to a generation that has lost nearly all the previous ideals of mankind. Now they read, 'The Bhagavad Gita,' this queer jumble of misunderstood sublimities and admired quasi-philosophical tomfooleries which is his gospel.' "
Another example is the Kojiki of Shintoism. Aside from its strange cosmogony, in Doctor Hume's opinion, "the obscenity in the Kojiki exceeds anything to be found in the sacred scriptures of any other religion in the world." It cannot be wholly translated into English, but only into Latin footnotes. Its contents are puerile, fantastic, and nationalistic to the degree of being parochial.
The Koran, in Goethe's opinion, is "an impossible book." Carlyle termed it "a piece of prolix absurdity." But the Bible is a library of literature without parallel in the history of humanity. It is a revelation of—
1. The will of God—His eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ.
2. The love of God—"For God so loved the world."
3. The commands of God—"Go ye." (1. The promise of God—"Come unto Me."
4. The program of God—Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.
5. The presence and love of God—"Lo, I am with you alway."
There is nothing of all this in any other sacred book that I know—only fragments of truth, pearls hidden in rubbish, jewels of common grace, but not the pearl of great price, the message of salvation from sin.
"Is not My word like as a fire? . . and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" This Book alone produces "broken and divine contrite hearts," and makes "hearts aflame for God." Think of its power on the individual. In Cairo a blind teacher keeps in touch with his pupils, and at the time he gave the last report he was in correspondence with 1,344 sheiks in the villages of Egypt. He runs a sort of circulating library of Scripture volumes in Arabic Braille for these men, and has worn out 1,900 volumes in the process. He has 2,506 volumes out on loan in the villages, and 1,225 volumes in the hands of Cairo sheiks. We are glad to have had a share in supplying these most-prized books. "Whereas I was blind, now I see." The light of the world is Jesus. We note also the transforming power of His Word on society. New ethics are obtaining in Turkey. Notice the following report:
"The 10,000 copies of the book of Proverbs in the revised Turkish is the first edition of this book in the new text, and with the advantage of a bright two-color cover, has been meeting with a satisfactory reception. A Moslem bookseller bought soo copies of it, explaining that he did so, not in the expectation of making profit, but as evidence of his interest in the Bible Society. If he is successful in distributing these, he intends to place with us another similar order."
Again, there is the Bible's innate power to produce a pure and dynamic literature. Who can describe what literature owes to the Bible in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America? The book of Mohammed has, of course, been the source of inspiration for a vast Moslem literature in many languages for thirteen centuries. But this literature can best be judged by its results on the home, on childhood, and on womanhood. The Bible has produced a Christian literature in every tongue and for all nations wherever its influence has been felt.
The best parts of the Koran itself bear clear testimony to the Bible. Other sacred books have no references to the gospel or to Jesus Christ. Here in the Koran, however, we have evidence of Christian influence. In it Christ is referred to again and again in spite of the fact that the Koran and all Moslem literature present, not a portrait, but a caricature, of our Saviour. The very corona witnesses to the totality of the eclipse. Nevertheless, the Bible, directly and indirectly, has exerted its power and has changed Islam in many respects down the ages.
This is true, for example, in Moslem mysticism, which owes so much to early Christian teaching. Then there was the influence of apostates, Christian wives of Mohammedans, and Christian slaves who embraced Islam.
Today in every Moslem land the battle of the books is on. Every Christian colporteur is a captain in the fight; every bookshop is a battlefield; every tract is a missile of truth against error. Christian literature is the hammer of God, more powerful than that of Charles Martel at Tours.
The Bible Society is capturing new Moslem languages year after year for the old gospel message, printed in attractive dress for both young and old. Think of the ever-increasing circulation of the Scriptures in Persia, Arabia, Moslem India, and Egypt. Holy places, which less than twenty years ago could be visited only in stealth by Christian workers, now receive the Word openly—among them Kabul, Kerbela, Nej f, Qum, Raidh, Hail, and even Taif, the near neighbor of Mecca. The more literacy takes the place of illiteracy, as is the case in Turkey, Egypt, and India, the more important is the production and circulation of clean, Christian literature for all classes.
The British and Foreign Bible Society reports a circulation of nearly six million Scriptures in Asia for one year. In India and Ceylon there was a circulation of 1,213,000 Scriptures, or an increase of 10,000 over the previous year ; Korea, 940,000 (increase, 68,oco) ; Japan, 544,000 (increase, 43,000) ; Iran, 52,000 (increase, 2,000). Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and Burma show only slight losses.
If the government schools create a reading public. Christian missions must produce books for them to read. One drop of ink can make a million think. The apostles began the battle of books. It will not end until the word of God rides triumphantly in Armageddon. and the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of the Lord and of His Christ. Then all the other sacred books will be "wood, hay, stubble." but "the word of God abideth forever," for "is not My word like as a fire? . . . and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?"