One of the truly unique characteristics of the Bible has been its indestructibility in the face of severe persecution. Originally written on perishable material, the Bible was preserved hundreds of years before the invention of the printing press, often in times of intense opposition. There has never been a book so loved and so hated as the Bible. In its earliest days, the church was persecuted by Judaism. But, this persecution was eventually overshadowed by persecution from Roman emperors. In A.D. 64, Nero had Christians sewn to animal skins and torn to pieces by wild dogs as a spectacle for onlookers. Other Christians were burned on crosses as human street lights. Nero eventually killed himself around 68 or 69 A.D.

The next Roman emperor to ravage havoc on the church was Domitian, who ruled between 81 and 96 A.D. Prior to his reign, Roman emperors were merely worshiped as gods following their deaths. But, Domitian was the first to demand such worship while living. True Christians refused to engage in such worship and, consequently, lost their lives during his reign of terror.

Yet, another period of intense persecution against Christianity came during the reign of Diocletian (284-305 A.D.). He enacted laws making it illegal for Christians to assemble for worship. All church buildings were destroyed. He burned as many copies of the Bible as he could find, killing their owners in the process. Yet, in spite of this, Christianity continued to flourish.

Through the centuries, other efforts have been made to destroy the influence of the Bible. Many such efforts came at the hands of religious people. In 1199, Pope Innocent III had the French Bibles burned at Metz and forbade the people from having more. In 1234, Pope Gregory IX ordered the people to bring in their Bibles so that they might be burned. Wycliff was condemned for heresy following the Synod of Oxford in 1383 because he had translated the Bible. In 1533, some bishops advised Pope Julius III to permit the least possible reading of the Bible in order the strengthen the papacy. Such effort as these have repeatedly failed. Jesus promised, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (Mt. 24:35).

The French skeptic, Voltaire (1694-1778) said, “In less than a hundred years the Bible will be discarded and Christianity swept from the earth.” Yet, only fifty years after his death, the Geneva Bible Society used his printing press and house to produce stacks of Bibles.

The more men have assaulted the Bible, the more it has stood the test. Take the time to read the Bible today. Appreciate it for what it is: God’s message to man. In the final analysis, the only way the Bible’s influence can be diminished is for us to close our hearts and leave its pages unread.

— Glen Elliott —