The Bible is THE most influential book in history!  It is a best seller, and according to the Guinness Book of World Records, since 1815 the Bible has sold over 2.5 billion copies!  The full Bible has been translated into over 700 languages.  The New Testament alone has been translated into an additional 1,550+ other languages and portions of the Bible or some Bible stories have been translated into an additional 1,160 other languages.  That means, that the Bible has at least some portions of it translated into over 3,410 languages!  With that, the Word of God has shaped lives, countries, and history.  While the church is not called to change “culture,” when we follow what God’s word says, it is inevitable that culture changes, because people change!

A. The Bible in Bible Times 

                        1. Israel

God gave Israel His word throughout history.  There were certain times that the world noticed!  One highlight was with King Solomon.  Yes, he made some sinful decisions.  But God kept His promise to him and kept the Kingdom together until Solomon’s death.  One general example is 1 Kings 4.  Here is an excerpt from 1 Kings 4:29-34:

Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore. 30Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31For he was wiser than all other people… and his fame was known in all the surrounding nations… 34People came from all the nations to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.

One specific example is in 1 Kings 10, with the Queen of Sheba.  Here is an excerpt from 1 Kings 10:1-13:

Now when the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon in relation to the name of the LORD, she came to test him with riddles … When she came to Solomon, she spoke to him about everything that was in her heart. 3And Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was concealed from the king which he did not explain to her. 4When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon, and the house that he had built… she was breathless. 6Then she said to the king, “It was a true story that I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom. 7But I did not believe the stories until I came and my own eyes saw it all. And behold, the half of it was not reported to me. You have exceeded in wisdom and prosperity the report which I heard.

The wisdom God gave to Solomon impacted Israel, and the world.

                        2. The Culture of the First Century and Beyond

The Old Testament was complete, and the New Testament was being written during the first century AD.  The Messiah came.  Jews who embraced Him began writing about His life, death, and His impact on life.  All of this took place while Rome ruled.  It was because of Christians that Rome changed, and it was because of God’s word and His Spirit that Christian’s were able to live out the life God told them.  It changed an Empire!

Its sterling qualities were best shown in persecution and the heroic deaths of its adherents. Paganism, even with the alliance of the civil power and the prestige of its romantic past, could not withstand persecution. And when heathenism was thrown back on the voluntary system, it could not prosper as Christianity did with its ideals of self-sacrifice. The earnestness of early Christianity was raised to its highest power by its belief in a near second coming of the Lord and the end of the aeon. The means of propagation greatly helped the spread of Christianity, the principal means being the exemplary lives of its professors. It opposed moral and spiritual power to political. Besides, Christianity when once studied by the thinkers of the ancient world was found to be in accord with the highest principles of reason and Nature. But “the chief cause of its success was the congruity of its teaching with the spiritual nature of mankind” (Lecky). 

https://www.biblestudytools.com/encyclopedias/isbe/roman-empire-and-christianity-3.html

B. The Bible in Europe

The Apostle Paul went on missionary journeys to Europe as Acts states.  This was the major factor of the next shift in God’s work, through His Word.  Where was this?  Europe… There is a lot of history naturally that occurred.  At first Christianity was illegal, but then “legalized” and then it became the “state” religion, which changed a lot of things.  Catholicism was eventually formed, which split and then splintered.  But one thing that also occurred was the impact of the Bible on the culture.  Though not everyone who claimed the Name of Jesus was a believer, nonetheless, there was an understanding of what Scripture said in regard to many areas. 

1. Education and Religion 

Unfortunately, there were many during the Medieval times that could not read, nor afford to learn how to read.  But there were those who could, and the main text, was the Bible, in Latin.  The main Bible during this time was Jerome’s Latin Vulgate, translated at the end of the 4th century.  That became the standard for the “church” for many centuries.  With the decline of Rome and the rise of the “church,” Because the Bible was the main text, education and religion became intrinsically intwined.  Universities, monasteries, and other institutions were created at the time to proliferate Catholic teachings and more.  While it was a sad situation, the reason that some were educated was because of the Bible.  Then some things began to change… Everyone watch…

Video 2 – https://youtu.be/FcXfwSUo920 – John Wycliffe

Video 3 – https://youtu.be/TIxVouVHtsY – Martin Luther Discovers the Bible – 5 minutes 

These men, along with other reformers, changed the world during the Reformation.  While the Catholic church kept the common people from the Bible, the Reformers and others, believed that each person should be able to read the Bible in his or her own language, though Rome would and did put people to death for this.  This changed the face of religion and education.  It was because of the Reformation that additional universities and seminaries began, for the main purpose of teaching people to read God’s word.  Literacy grew greatly after this time.

                        2. Art

While the Jews were very careful about creating “images,” it is important to note that the first time we read that someone was “filled with the Spirit,” (in the more literal translations) is in Exodus 28:1-3, referring to those whom God would enable to create the garments and more for the priests.  One man stands out in Exodus 31 was Bazalel, who God filled “…with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, 4to create artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze…” Exodus 31:3-4.  The first individuals who were filled with the Spirit for God’s work, were artists! 

Historically, the Bible has been the most influential book for art and artists in history as well.  From painting, to drawing, to sculpting and more, the Bible and the events and people contained within it has inspired people for millennia.  Consider Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” or his statue of King David.  Michelangelo has many famous Biblical works, among them the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Italy.  William Blake’s engravings based on the book of Job are in the Tate Museum in London.  These are but a few examples of how art has been influenced by the Bible.  One other area within art that needs to be mentioned is music and so many beautiful Classical pieces. 

                        3. Literature 

Many examples of literature could be given where the Bible was the foundation or inspiration for other writers to create their masterpieces.  William Shakespeare’s, “The Merchant of Venice,” “Measure for Measure,” “Macbeth” and more were based on parables, verses, or warnings in the Bible.  Another writer is John Milton, who was an English poet, and a highly intelligent man.  His famous work “Paradise Lost,” is considered to be one of the best works of literature ever written.  “Dante’s Inferno,” or “The Inferno,” by Dante Alighieri, is also another famous work.  Another classic that many have seen put on film in some fashion is “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens, first published in London in 1843.  Many more examples could be given…

                        4. Architecture 

Anyone who has seen pictures of Europe is amazed at the architecture of churches.  One must remember that it was not until the 4th century, that Christians were able to have structures where they could come together without threat of persecution.  Due to the influence of Roman Catholicism and their beliefs, and financial ability, many Churches were built that exceed imagination by today’s standards.  

St. Peter’s Basilica is one example.  Gothic Churches with their arches and grand interiors still amaze today, along with many depictions of Biblical people and situations.  Why were these structures built as such?  While the religious aspect was certainly a factor, these buildings were constructed to show forth the grand glory of God and show His magnificence!

                        5. Hospitals 

There were some hospital type places around before the Bible and Christianity took hold.  While most of these were pagan temples, remember that Luke (who wrote his gospel and the book of Acts), was a physician.  Rome possibly established some form of military hospitals, however it was not until Christianity, with the Bible emerged that hospitals were established.  

The Graeco-Roman world in which Christianity appeared was often cruel and inhumane. The weak and the sick were despised. Abortion, infanticide and poisoning were widely practised. The doctor was often a sorcerer as well being a healer and the power to heal equally conferred the power to kill. Among the pagans of the classical world only the Hippocratic band of physicians had a different attitude to their fellow human beings. They swore oaths to heal and not to harm and to carry out their duty of care to the sick.

However, it wasn’t until Constantine granted the first Edict of Toleration in AD 311, that Christians were able to give public expression to their ethical convictions and undertake social reform. From the fourth-century to present times, Christians have been especially prominent in the planning, siting and building of hospitals, as well as fundraising for them. Cities with significant Christian populations had already begun to change prevailing attitudes, and were already beginning to build hospices (guest houses for the sick and chronically disabled).

Stories of Christian caring had enormous impact, even before Constantine’s decree of toleration… In the second century when plague hit the City of Carthage, pagan households threw sufferers onto the streets. The entire Christian community, personally led by their bishop, responded. They were seen on the streets, offering comfort and taking them into their own homes to be cared for…

In AD 369, St Basil of Caesarea founded a 300 bed hospital. This was the first large-scale hospital for the seriously ill and disabled. It cared for victims of the plague. There were hospices for the poor and aged isolation units, wards for travellers who were sick and a leprosy house. It was the first of many built by the Christian Church.

This type of activity continued through the Dark Ages (476-1000), through the Middle Ages, and the training of physicians transferred from the monasteries to the public, so that the monks could continue to focus on religious practices.  The Reformation did upset some of these things, and in the 18th century, hospitals once again re-emerged.  Again, while some hospitals were founded for religious reasons, the people took seriously the statements in Scripture to care for the sick, and others… which brings us to…

                        6. The Poor and Orphanages 

The Bible speaks of orphans and the poor in various ways, and particularly, the words of Jesus in Scripture resonated with many to reach out to the poor and to children who were rejected by others.  The “Church,” based on the Bible, reached out to those in need and those who were rejected.  Christians in Rome would “adopt” children that were thrown out into the streets, and it made an impact on that society, and that was when Christians were persecuted.

As political freedom increased, so did Christian activity. The poor were fed and given free burial. Orphans and widows were protected and provided for. Elderly men and women, prisoners, sick slaves and other outcasts, especially the leprous, were cared for. These acts of generosity and compassion impressed many Roman writers and philosophers.

Throughout history, the Bible has been the basis for reaching out to the poor, rejected, those in need, and children who were cast aside like stale bread.  There was a form of an orphanage in Rome, established around 400AD, based on what Scripture or Jewish statements declared in the Bible.  In each generation, while those who cared for the poor and orphans differed, those who claimed the Name of Christ (in some way), knew that part of their responsibility was to care for those society rejected.  This is not just true for Europe, but around the world, and in America.

C. The Bible in America

Much of the influence of the Bible on Europe came to America!  The impact of the Bible on the people there, and their search for religious freedom and desire to spread the Gospel impacted the founding of America, the laws of America and the ethics of America.  The founding of universities, hospitals, orphanages and more continued in the “New World.” 

Looking back at the early stages of America, it is impossible not to see the influence the Bible had. Our government structure, laws, morality, education, and family values were all founded on principles that came directly from the Bible. The Founding Fathers, Presidents, and foreigners visiting a young America identified the key to the nation’s success as the biblical influence embraced by its society. When a nation honors God, it develops a respect for all of God’s creation. Where there is no honor of God, a society will fail to respect His creation, and people will suffer as a result.

https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-influence.html

What most Christians and Americans do not know is what the Mayflower Compact says regarding why the Pilgrims came to the New World.  They were fleeing persecution and this document was the first “Constitution” in America and the governing document for the Plymouth Colony.  This was signed by most males on the Mayflower ship on November 11, 1620.  Here is an excerpt: 

In the name of God, Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, defender of the Faith, etc.:

Having undertaken, for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith, and the honor of our King and Country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia… (emphasis mine)

From: https://www.history.com/topics/colonial-america/mayflower-compact

1. Education 

Christians are not against education!  This is an unfortunate belief some hold to, and while historically there have been some who have shunned higher education in the “Church,” the fact remains that it is because of Christianity and the Bible, that education grew.  Most well-known universities were founded by Christians, to teach the Bible and prepare ministers to proclaim the gospel and serve the people.  These include Harvard, Princeton, Yale and more.  

In fact, the first 126 colleges and universities in the United States were built for the glory of Jesus and the advancement of the gospel. Christians took the Bible seriously when the Word of God commanded them to teach and train their children in the way of the Lord.  

From: https://bibleresources.org/bible-influence-america/

2. Freedom of Slaves 

The concept of freedom was something that America was founded upon.  This has been a major concern for individuals in the past and present.  Sadly, there were those who used the Bible out of context to justify slavery.  There is a lot of history and misunderstanding behind this topic, but it was because of the Bible that slavery was eventually abolished in Europe and in America.  William Wilberforce, due in large part to John Wesley’s influence, was the main voice for the abolition of slavery in Europe.  He began by presenting petitions to end slavery in 1788.  Through his hard work, and the work of others The Abolition of the Slave Trade Billbecame law in 1807.  This became a factor in America, and with the Civil War and some 60 years, slavery was also abolished in the United States.  Those who called for the abolition of this horrid practice based their view on the Bible and that all humans were made in God’s image and that slavery was immoral and evil.  While slavery still exists today, and there are more slaves Next is your today than in the past, thankfully, those countries that have a Biblical foundation, abolished it, because of God’s Word.

                        3. Laws and Ethics

While the laws in America were based on a mixture of Roman laws, and others, one of the main influences on the Founding Fathers in America in establishing the laws of the land, was the Bible.  The Constitution was greatly influenced by the Bible. 

As John Adams, the second President of the United States, wrote, “Suppose a nation in some distant Region should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience, to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow men; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God . . . What a Eutopia, what a Paradise would this region be” (Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, Vol. III, p. 9). 

https://www.gotquestions.org/Bible-influence.html

Others stated: 

“I have always said, I always will say, that the studious perusal of the sacred volume will make better citizens, better fathers, and better husbands.”– Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), 3rd President of the United States.

“So great is my veneration for the Bible, that the earlier my children begin to read it the more confident will be my hopes that they will prove useful citizens to their country and respectable members of society.”– John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), 6th President of the United States.

Numerous other areas could be mentioned, from business, to medicine, language itself, astronomy, and other sciences, and much more have been impacted by the Bible.  Even to this day, the Word of God influences culture through films, television shows, internet programs, songs, art and more.  While some of these are not done by Christians of course, and some are contrary and antagonistic to the Bible (the 2014 Noah film) and Christianity, it still shows the impact the Bible has had on America and our culture.