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Publishers sell about 20 million Bibles annually and Gideon's International gives away a new Bible every second of every day, but although most households would own at least one Bible, biblical literacy in the western world is at an all time low. The question for us is do we really read the Bible with comprehension and understanding?
The oldest writings in the Bible are more than three thousand years old, and they were written by multiple authors, over nearly 1400 years. For much of that time people did not possess a Bible or even have access to the Word of God. Printing for the masses only became a possibility in the 16th century.
Benson Bobrick in his book Wide is the Waters tells the story of how the Bible became available in the English language. During the 1300's a man named John Wycliffe began translating parts of the Bible into English and made copies available for people to read. Thousands read or went to secret readings of these books while publicly continuing to attend their local church.
Even after John Wycliffe the common people continued to have difficulty accessing the Bible. It’s hard for us to comprehend today, but in 1408 an English bishop forbade anyone to translate or even to read a version of the Bible without the approval of the minister. The Bible's message was a threat to ignorance and superstition and the hold over people's minds.
During the 1500s as the Bible continued to be translated into the language of the common people its spread was still actively resisted by religious and political authorities. William Tyndale, who translated and made the Bible available was condemned as a heretic, strangled and burned at the stake. His last words went down in history when he prayed before the flames engulfed him, "Lord open the eyes of the king of England." But it took years before that happened.
The Bible we have in our home, the book that virtually no one knows, came at a great cost in human life. We need to read what it says and ask some very hard questions about what our life here on earth is all about. In Acts chapter 17 we read that a group of people called the Berians heard the preaching of the Apostles, especially the Apostle Paul, and had read from the scriptures. An interesting statement is made about them in verse 11: "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." The Berians set an example for us that we should follow.
When people begin reading the Bible their ideas and preconceptions about what it says begins to change and ours might as well.
It's important we regard and read the Bible as a source of teaching and instruction about how to live successful, productive and righteous lives. The Apostle Paul tells Timothy in II Timothy 3:15 that his knowledge of Holy Scriptures made him wise for salvation. The Scriptures Paul was referring to here were what we call the Old Testament. The New Testament had not been fully written at that point in time. Paul goes on in verses 16 and 17 to tell us and Timothy: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”.
The Bible is freely available for each of us to study without fear of punishment, and it is a reliable guide to human conduct. When we study what the Bible teaches we come to realize there are some changes we need to make, and that we are flawed human beings who need to repent and turn to God.
The Bible is God's word to a spiritually bankrupt humanity. It is our Maker's instruction book telling us how we should live. The Bible’s challenge to us all is to seek God now while He can be found.
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