With most books, we read them once, and we don't want to pick them up again.
Most Biblical Christians keep reading the Bible again and again till death. I've read it from cover to cover more than a dozen times now (this includes only reading while traveling, not reading for personal devotions at home, church meetings, etc). This is typical of Biblical Christians.
George Muller read his Bible from end to end almost 200 times. [Arthur T. Pierson, George Mueller of Bristol and His Witness to A Prayer-Hearing God (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel, 1999), 287. Originally published as “Authorized Memoir” (Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1899).]
When he was 71, years old, Muller spoke to a group of young people:-
"Now I have been doing this for 47 years. I have read through the whole Bible about 100 times and I always find it fresh when I begin again. Thus my peace and joy have increased more and more."
As you can see, George Muller was not trying to make some world record. In case you want to beat him, remember he didn't just read the Bible - he distributed it - nearly hundred thousand copies! The image shows Muller.
"Years ago I heard the nurse reading a story to my child, and I asked: "What is that you are reading to the little now?" "I am reading the story of Joseph in the Bible", she answered. The little child cried, "Please don't stop her papa" as she listened with delight to a story that was written in Hebrew, probably 1500 years ago. And, not far away from this room, there sat one of the greatest of modern scientists, our foremost Canadian scholar, Sir William Dawson, President of McGill College, Montreal, reading with profound devotion, and a higher delight, the pages of that same marvelous book" - The Wonder of the Book, Dyson Hague, p10.Children, great scholars - what other extreme can we think of? Illiterate adults! In rural India and Africa, most people are illiterate. However, the Bible is sufficiently popular for the mass production and distribution of audio Bibles
The Bible is the best selling book in the world and continues to maintain that position without any close rivals. Annual Bible sales in the US alone are about 25 million. The most popular English translation of the Bible (the King James Version) is not copyrighted and so there are lots of "unofficial" sales. For this reason, total sales are impossible to estimate but there is enough information to know that they are in the range of several billion. Mao's (Outdated) Red Book is a distant second at about 800 million copies. According to Wikipedia, the best seller for which accurate sales information is available is The Lord of the Rings (150 million; incidentally, this book has Biblical themes in it).
The Bible's dominance of sales is all the more remarkable considering the restrictions that are placed on the Bible but not on other books. If you publicly sell Bibles in North Korea, you will be killed in the name of Atheism. In rural India, it will be in the name of Hinduism, and in Saudi Arabia, Islam. However, atheists, Muslims and Hindus have full freedom to sell their literature in Western Europe and America.
“There are complexities of bibliographical studies [on the Bible] that are unparalleled in any other science or department of human knowledge. From the Apostolic Fathers dating from A.D. 95 to the modern times is one great literary river inspired by the Bible – Bible dictionaries. Bible encyclopedias. Bible lexicons. Bible atlases, and Bible geographies. These may be taken as a starter. Then at random, we may mention the vast bibliographies around theology, religious education, hymnology, missions, the biblical languages, church history, religious biography, devotional works, commentaries, philosophies of religion, evidences, apologetics, and on and on. There seems to be an endless number.”
More people have died for the sake of the writing and the distribution of the Bible than for any other book.
James Bainham lived in 16th century England. Tortured mercilessly by government agents loyal to the Roman Catholic Church and condemned to be burnt at the stake, James had a few words to say just before his execution:
"'I come hither, good people,' he said to the crowd, 'accused and condemned for a heretic, Sir Thomas More being my accuser and my judge.' He then spoke of the beliefs for which he was to die. 'First, I say it is lawful for every man and woman, to have God's book in their mother tongue. Second, that the bishop of Rome is Antichrist ... there is no purgatory, but the purgatory of Christ's blood, for our souls immediately go to heaven and rest with Jesus Christ for ever ...'” (Moynahan, God’s bestseller, p. 265)
William Tyndale (see image) is another famous figure from history who is known for his love for the Bible. He was a priest in the Roman Catholic Church, in 16th century England. In those days only the priests were allowed to read the Bible. Appalled at the lethargy in the clergy, Tyndale decided to put translate the Bible into English and put it into the hands of the common people. Finding the climate in England hostile, he went to Germany in 1525 and translated the New Testament from German to English. These Bibles were smuggled into England. Of course, this enraged the Roman Catholic authorities in England, and a hefty reward was announced for the capture of William Tyndale. Betrayed by a false friend, Tyndale languished in prison for a year before being burned at the stake on October 6, 1536.
Tyndale is famous for the following quotes:
Tyndale was certainly not alone. Even today, there are scores of people who risk their lives smuggling Bibles into communist and Muslim countries. Down through history, and even today, hundreds of thousands of people are choosing to face imprisonment, torture or death than deny the Bible. We also have poignant examples of people who yearned earnestly for their Bibles:
Mary Jones, a Welsh 14 year old girl, walked barefoot for 25 miles to buy a Bible. When she found that the last copy was booked, she started crying. Touched, the owner, Thomas Charles, gave her one of the Bibles reserved for someone else.
William McPherson lost his eyes and hands in an accident. How would he read his Braille Bible? He found that he could use his tongue, though the metal type left it sore and bleeding. In the next 65 years, William painstakingly read the Bible four times through with his tongue.
This unparalleled devotion to the Bible makes it unique and shows that the Bible comes from God. Only God could write a book that would come to be so cherished.
The worth of a book can be judged by the tributes it receives. Whose tributes carry weight?
Here are some tributes:-
"The Bible is...the best gift God has ever given to man ... but for it we could not know right from wrong...Read this book…and you will live and die a better man" – Abraham Lincoln, former president of the United States.
"The longer I study the New Testament the more convinced I become of its absolute trustworthiness…Christianity is the religion of truth; it is founded on truth, absolute and perfect truth" – William Ramsay, Oxford archaeologist and skeptic-turned-Christian.
"It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible" – George Washington
"I accept…the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures. I have studied every jot and tittle of the Word of God, and after these fifty years I see no reason for changing my position." – Thomas Newberry
"I have spent 70 years of my life studying that book to satisfy my heart; it is the Word of God. I bank my life on the statement that I believe this Book to be the solid rock of Holy Scripture." – William Gladstone(1809-1898), the leading British statesman of the 19th century. He served in the British government from the 1830s to the 1890s, and as Prime Minister of Britain on four occasions he reformed both British government and society. He wrote "The Impregnable Rock of Holy Scripture" to defend the authenticity of the Bible.
“The Bible is one of the greatest blessings bestowed by God on the children of men. It has God for its Author, salvation for its end, and truth without mixture of error for its matter" - John Locke, English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers
"I believe the Bible is the Word of God whereby His will is revealed" – Francis Bacon"The Bible is the one book to which anyone can go with life's great questions to find God's answers" – John Ruskin, one of the most influential art critics of the 19th century
"I have come to the conviction that no man knows enough to assail the truthfulness of the Old Testament." – Robert Dick Wilson, one of the world's greatest Hebrew scholars (he also knew 44 other languages). He devoted 15 years of his life to Middle Eastern language studies, and the next 30 years to researching the accuracy of the Old Testament. The next time you meet a skeptic of the Old Testament, find out how his credentials compare with those of Wilson.
"I am convinced that only God could have written a book so marvelous in its suitability." – Evangeline Booth. Along with her parents William and Catherine Booth, Evangeline Booth used the Bible to help thousands of alcoholics, orphans and slum-dwellers come up in life.
"The New Testament…I was greatly moved by the Sermon on the Mount" – Mahatma Gandhi, when asked which book had influenced him the most
"The Bible is no mere book, but a Living Creature, with a power that conquers all that oppose it" – Napoleon Bonaparte
"The Bible is worth all other books which ever have been printed" – Patrick Henry
"In my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength" – Robert E. Lee
"Bible-reading is an education in itself" – Lord Tennyson
"All human discoveries seem to be made only for the purpose of confirming more and more strongly the truths contained in the Sacred Scriptures" – William Herschel
"The New Testament is the best book that ever was or ever will be known in this world" – Charles Dickens
Also see the book "From a Cloud of Witnesses: 309 tributes to the Bible" by David Wasgatt Clark (available online for free)
It is worth noting that (unlike Mao's Red Book or the Koran) none of the popularity of the Bible has been achieved by force. Even when the Roman Catholic Church was powerful enough to dictate what common people should read, it used its power to ban and destroy the Bible, not to disseminate it. The Bible was written thousands of years ago. What makes it so widely used today? I once asked this question to my friends in university. The responses were I received were:--
The conclusion is inescapable – the Bible is the most loved book in the world because it is God’s word, doing what it claims to do: “converting the soul, making wise the simple, rejoicing the heart, illuminating the eyes… 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.” – Psalm 19:7-8, 2 Timothy 3:16-17