The Bible: The Best Loved and Most Hated Book on the Earth
In AD 303, the Roman Emperor Diocletian issued an edict to destroy Christians and their Bibles. The persecution that followed was brutal. Over a burned and extinguished Bible, Diocletian built a monument on which he wrote these triumphant words: “Extincto nomene Christianorum” (“The name Christian is extinguished”). Diocletian fashioned a medal with the engraving: “The Christian religion is destroyed and the worship of the gods restored.”
Diocletian’s boast was premature, to say the least. Twenty-five years later, Diocletian was dead, and the new Emperor, Constantine, dedicated himself to put the New Testament in all of the churches of his Empire. In fact, Constantine offered a sizable reward to anyone who would deliver a copy of the Scriptures to him. The next day, Constantine was offered fifty copies of the word of God. He then commissioned fifty copies of the Bible to be prepared at government expense. Can you imagine Diocletian’s stunned countenance if he returned to the earth today to discover that more had been written about the Bible than about any other thousand volumes combined? The Bible has been translated into more languages than any other volume, and it has been sent into more regions of the earth than any other book.
French philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778) declared in 1776: “One hundred years from my day, there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker.” One hundred years later, Voltaire was dead, and his own house and press were being used to print and store Bibles by the Geneva Bible Society. In 1778, Voltaire bragged, “It took twelve men to start Christianity. One will destroy it.” He called Christ “the cursed wretch.”
Geisler and Nix observe that “only fifty years after his death the Geneva Bible Society used his press and house to produce stacks of Bibles.” Moreover, approximately two hundred years after Voltaire’s prediction that the Bible would be eliminated from the earth, a first edition of Voltaire’s work sold in Paris for eleven cents. On that very same day, December 24, 1933, the British government purchased an ancient New Testament manuscript, Codex Sinaiticus, for the Czar of Russia for $500,000. This ancient manuscript, dating about AD 350, is still highly prized and is on display in The British Museum.