That’s One Big Book!

Big Book 1  A manuscript that is essentially the founding document of Alcoholics Anonymous, which members of the recovery group call, ”The Big Book,” sold at auction recently for $2.4 million to Jim Irsay, the owner of the Indianapolis Colts football team. It is the third time the 161-page typed document has been sold. It had previously sold in 2007 for $992,000 and for approximately $1.5 million in 2004. The manuscript includes notes and scribbles from one of AA’s founders, William Wilson, more commonly known as ”Bill W.” With more than 30 million copies sold, translations in 67 languages, and the world wide success of Alcoholics Anonymous, the “Big Book” is certainly a big deal!

There is little doubt that Alcoholics’ Anonymous has helped many people and it is pretty easy to see why the original manuscript of the Big Book would have such a high monetary value; but there is a book that has helped even more people, that has been translated into even more languages, and that is far more infamous. That, of course, is the Bible. It was hard to find exact numbers everyone agreed on, but as near as I can determine, as of 2017, the full Bible has been translated into 670 languages, the New Testament alone into 1,521 languages and smaller portions of Scripture into 1,121 other languages. And while the Big Book has sold approximately 30 million copies since it was first published, the Bible sells about 100 million copies per year.

AA’s Big Book was first published in 1939, nearly 80 years ago. To this date, as the original manuscript sells at auction, no one questions its authenticity. And why would they? Eighty years ago is what we would call “very recent history”. It is easy to compare the Big Book in circulation today with the original manuscript and conclude they are the same. With the Bible, we have approximately 5800 Greek manuscripts and about 24,000 complete or fragments of manuscripts in other languages such as Latin, Aramaic, Coptic, and so on. Some of these manuscripts date to within decades of the original writing. For example, the Gospel of John is believed to have been written between 70 AD and 90 AD. The earliest manuscript evidence is a portion of John’s Gospel known as Papyrus 52, which is dated to approximately 125 AD, or within about 50 years of the original. That’s less time than has elapsed since the original manuscript of the Big Book was written!

The amount of evidence supporting the authenticity of the Bible we read today is staggering. Consider this comparison: Homer’s Illiad is generally thought to have been written in approximately 750 BC. To date, 647 manuscripts of this book have been found. Only 190 contain a complete copy. The oldest manuscript is dated around 400 BC, or 350 years after the original was written. Despite this rather large time gap, no one questions the authenticity of the version of The Iliad we have today. Yet, as we mentioned, the Bible is supported by far more manuscript evidence dating far closer to the originals. And the documentation for the Bible doesn’t stop with the manuscript evidence; I do not have space here to go into all the details, but ancient, non-Christian sources also confirm many New Testament events as being historical. Some of these sources are: Flavius Josephus (A.D. 93), the Babylonian Talmud (A.D. 70-200), Pliny the Younger’s letter to the Emperor Trajan (A.D. 100), and the Annals of Tacitus (A.D. 115-117).

So when we read the Bible today, we can be confident we are reading an authentic document. Psalm 19 describes the Bible as perfect, trustworthy, sweeter the honey, and more desirable than pure gold. Psalm 119 declares that the way of purity is found “by obeying your Word” (Psalm 119:9). The writer of Hebrews teaches that “the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Hebrews 4:12) And the Apostle Paul tells us that “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (2 Timothy 3:16).

In today’s world, it seems western culture has moved towards individuality and decision making based on felt needs. Children and young adults are told to be aware of their feelings and that what is right for them may not be right for everyone. This is, of course, very bad thinking – though it is nothing new. We read in the book of Judges, more than once, the words: “all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (see Judges 17:6 and 21:25) History throughout the ages has shown that this never turns out good. Never. People, and society, need a moral guide to be successful. Of course, God knew this and so He gave us the Bible. The Bible is absolutely reliable for teaching us everything for Godliness and living. It is our moral compass and owner’s manual for life. By studying the Bible, you will be prepared to interpret events in the daily news, understand the behavior of your children, correctly discern the social issues affecting our world, and more. It is absolutely rich with truth from our Creator God, who’s greatest desire is that we should live long and full lives.

And the Bible is also 100% reliable for bringing each of us to eternal life through the grace of Jesus Christ. In the words of AA’s founder, Bill Wilson, “no one is too discredited or has sunk too low to be welcomed cordially.” We all inherently know that we have made mistakes, that we have done things we regret. Not one of you reading this would dare claim to be perfect, nor would I. And the Bible agrees, saying: “everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23) The unfortunate reality is that those mistakes we’ve all made are called sin and sin separates us from God; but God made a way for us to be reconciled to Himself through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. In the book of Acts, we are assured that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Acts 2:21) And so we find “we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 15:11) Won’t you avail yourself of this grace today, if you haven’t already?

“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10) And those are words you can count on, for we know the Bible is 100% reliable!

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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