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Discover! Part 2
What Is The Bible
Welcome to the second part of Discover! A short five-part interactive journey that will enable you to discover more about God and Christianity. In the first section we asked the question 'Who Is God?' and discovered that God is the Creator of the Universe and the source of all life. He is a complex being with a character, a personality, and many incredible attributes. Everything that God is, is perfect and sovereign. We found out that God is a Trinity. There is only one God, but He exists within a community of three persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Each person of this Godhead has different roles, but all share the same power and nature. We learn about God in the Bible, but what exactly is the Bible? You are probably aware that the Bible is a book but you probably have many questions about it. In this part of Discover! we are going to ask three questions:
What is in the Bible?
Can We Trust The Bible?
How Can I Start Reading The Bible?
What Is In The Bible?
When you think of the Bible you probably picture a big book. But what is in this book? In this section we are going to give you an insight into what this amazing book holds. The Bible is God’s Word. It is a book accounting for God’s actions in the world. The events and writings in the Bible took place over sixteen centuries, written by forty authors. The Bible we use today is a single book, but the word 'Bible' comes from the Greek and Latin words for books. The single Bible is formed of 66 individual books, split into two sections; the Old Testament, 39 of the 66 books and the New Testament forming the remaining 27 books.
In order to make reading the Bible easier each of these 66 books has a name and is now broken down into chapters which are further divided into verses. The Bible is written using a variety of techniques such as historical accounts, laws, narratives, proverbs, parables, songs, allegories, prophecies, biographies and letters. Below is a graphic showing you the structure of the Bible:
The 39 books of the Old Testament were written over 1000 years, from about 1400 BC to the fifth century BC. The Old Testament presents the creation of the world, the fall of man, how God chose the Israelites as His people as well as numerous prophecies about what would happen in the New Testament and far more. The Old Testament introduces us to God's infinite power. He created the earth and everything we see in it; He created the Universe and he created us. It influences and aids our understanding of key Biblical teachings and it is important to remember that the God of both the Old and New Testaments is the same true and living God. It is clear that the Old Testament points to Jesus and so there is much to learn and grasp from it.
The 27 books of the New Testament were written over a period of about 50 years, it is thought some time in the 40AD. The New Testament contains the four major Gospels, biographies of Jesus in addition to many letters written to various churches and early Christians. In the New Testament, we can read about the birth, life, death and resurrection of God the Son, Jesus Christ. It is the fulfilment of the promise of the Old Testament and interprets the new covenant, which is represented in the life and death of Jesus. Each book tells the story of Jesus in a varying though not contradictory way. The New Testament is important to read because it teaches us about the life of Christ and the faith of the early Christians.
Watch this video to understand the contents of the Bible and gain a summary of the message of the Bible:
Can We Trust The Bible?
We have heard a little about what’s in the Bible, its structure, and what it’s all about. But how can we trust what it says? Is it just a very detailed far-fetched fantasy, or a real story about real people in a real relationship with God? Many people believe that the Bible is too old or crazy to be really true, so how can we find out? Well, luckily for us, there have been many sceptics of the Bible throughout history that have pushed us to tear it apart and put it to the test. Never in all of History has any book been under such scrutiny and rigorous analysis. And guess what? The word of God still stands firm. In this section, we will briefly look at the Bible’s historical accuracy, authors and development, alongside God’s divine inspiration through it all.
Where did the Bible come from?
To begin to answer this question, let’s start with where it didn’t come from. The Bible did not fall out of the sky. The Bible was not given to Mary by an Angel. The Bible was not written by a bunch of old men with beards in an effort to create the best story ever. It is indeed the best story ever, but it was actually written by many different people across hundreds of years (between 1400BC-95AD): Slaves and kings; doctors, prophets and poets. But somehow, it all comes together to make the big story of God’s love understandable for everyone.
Most of the events in the Bible happen around Egypt and Israel with some parts that reach further from Italy to India. Therefore, geographically, the Bible makes sense and you can actually visit the places where all these things happened. A lot of Bibles actually have maps in them too. Because different parts of the Bible were found in different places, how can we make sure what’s legitimate and what’s not? Well we look at evidence from other places… Is it true? To say we believe the Bible is true just because it’s the word of God is an amazing statement to say, but actually doesn’t quite do God justice. God loves it when we put Him to the test, because He knows that whatever we find will bring even more glory to Him. Because we don’t have time to go through every part of the Bible in this short section, let’s focus on the history of the life of Jesus in the Bible.
Regardless of faith, we know that Jesus was a real man who was born in Bethlehem and who travelled around Israel. His existence is noted down in so many of the literature at that time, including the Jewish state documents, Roman history writings (Rome had power and influence in Israel at the time), and even other religious writings such as the Qur’an which even records some of Jesus’ miracles. Although many original manuscripts for historical writings do not exist anymore, the shorter the time period between the original manuscript and earliest surviving manuscript in addition to the number of manuscripts, the more reliable those earliest surviving manuscripts will be. The ancient writings of Greek Historian Herodotus were written in 484-425 BC. The oldest surviving manuscripts date to the 1st century thus having a time span of 425+ years. There are 75 copies. In comparison the New Testament was written during 50-100AD, the oldest manuscripts are from the 2nd century leaving a 50 year time span and yet having 5,700 Greek manuscripts plus more than 10,000 in Latin and 1 million quotations in other sources. This is one demonstration of the reliability of the Bible text. The only way one can disprove historical writings is if it does not have corroboration or internal consistency. The Bible was written in three languages, in three continents, over 1400 years by 40 different authors and yet is fully consistent and has many corroborations:
Sources outside the Bible that discuss Jesus's existence
Use this interactive slide show to discover Biblical historical corroborations
There is also substantial historical evidence recorded by Roman officers that Jesus was crucified and buried, but that His body went missing. Even though the state provides no explanation for this, there are over 3,000 eye witness accounts of Jesus in the weeks after His death that is evidence of His resurrection. I can’t really see any valid reason for 3,000 people to lie about seeing a dead man walking and risk being killed or called crazy because of it. Once, Frank Morison set out to disprove the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but in the process of writing his book ‘Who moved the Stone’, he saw how accurate the whole account is, and how it all fits together perfectly and became a Christian. This process can and has been done to the highest standards of human research on the whole Bible. We can put the Bible to the test as much as we want “…but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:25)
The beautiful thing about the truth in the Bible is that it’s written by normal people talking from their own experiences about real life events. These events are recorded in other writings as we have found, and so the Bible has a more particular focus on how these things affect real people and shows the work of God through it all.
How is it the word of God?
Real people wrote the Bible, so why do we say that it’s the Word of God? What makes it different to other writings? And what gives it authority over our lives? This is because we regard the Bible as “God breathed” (2 Timothy 3:16). This means that it is God speaking truth through the Bible, but that He does so through people. Why did He choose to speak through people? Because he loves us and wants us to be involved. Yes, the people who wrote the Bible, canonized the Bible and translated the Bible are all sinners and imperfect, just like you and me. But God is so powerful that He can, has, and does use imperfect people to create perfection. God used humans to write something beyond human minds can fully understand. God, “Sanctified them by the truth” (John 17:17). Of course humans are incapable of revealing the truth of God by themselves, but by the power of The Holy Spirit of God working in them, a wonderful and perfect partnership happens. When the Old Testament was initially translated from Hebrew to Greek, they gathered 72 professional translators and each one did their own translation. After months of writing, they gathered each translation and found that they were all identical. There are over 600,000 words in the Old Testament. It cannot be explained by anything other than the Work of God through the people. And this is not just a nice story, but it is recorded in historical documents (non-fictional) that can be accessed in Library archives. This translation is known as The Septuagint (LXX).
“And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
A lot of serious research, prayer and discussion had taken place, again, amongst thousands of people over hundreds of years in order to make sure that they got the Bible together right. They did not stumble across some writings and think: “This says it’s the word of God! Brill, let’s stick it in the Bible!” They carefully examined each text alongside other historical documents of the time, prayed diligently and discussed with Churches to see what they were using. To say that we shouldn’t have faith in something “human-made” or that relies on tradition is ridiculous because every single thing we have learnt about history, science and literally everything, comes through the human mind. That’s because God designed it that way. God doesn’t want us to believe in stupid things that aren’t real. That’s why He gave us brains, logic, and the Bible.
How Can I Start Reading The Bible?
Having discussed what exactly is the Bible and discovered that this book is reliable and trustworthy, you may begin to ask how can I start reading the Bible? While “all Scripture is God-breathed" and every section is useful and important, we ought to remember that the Bible is not like any other book. It does not have to be read from front to back because as we discovered the Bible is in fact a collection of books.
It’s probably not the best idea to start with Genesis and work your way through to Revelation when you first open the Bible. We would recommend that you begin with the Gospels, this is the part of the Bible where Jesus’ life is recorded: His birth, early life, miracles, death, resurrection and ascension! The Gospels contain straight-to-the-point instructions on how to become a Christian, how to live your life and what God wants you to know today. It is worth mentioning that reading the Bible may not always be easy, you will find that some books of the Bible aren’t as easy to read as others. Luke is a whole world away from the infamous Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament). Just because some areas are hard going and don’t seem to mention anything relevant doesn’t mean they’re not useful! Take Leviticus for example; a member of the Pentateuch, it’s at the front of the Bible and its main focus is the laws of sacrifice. Reading through it gives you deja vu because of how many similar laws are mentioned! However, the sacrifices remind us of what Christ has done for us. By reading through this challenging book we can see the extent to which the Israelites went to obtain atonement (forgiveness of sins) and how we are so privileged to able to simply ask Jesus for forgiveness and live our lives for Him. That’s just an example of a seemingly dull book with a blow-your-head-off meaning! So where to begin?
Firstly you will need a Bible. You can get one of these from a bookshop, online or just use a digital Bible. You will discover that the Bible has many different translations and versions. NIV, NKJV, KJV, ESV.... The list is endless. You may begin to wonder why there are so many versions. Edward Antonio explains this by saying "one of the reasons we see different versions of the Bible is because of the number of manuscripts available. Another reason is because over time the English language has changed dramatically. English speakers have been blessed with many translations and versions of the full Bible. But what about the people who speak one of the other 7,360 living, known languages?" As languages adapt, times change, dialects form and communities create their own words so too has the Bible adapted its language while maintaining its truth. You may begin to ask which version to use, this is a personal choice and there are many great translations but the Shout Good News team find using the The New International Version of the Bible (NIV) refreshing, easy to read and beneficial. It is a completely new translation of ancient Greek and Hebrew texts sponsored by the New York International Bible Society. It was first published in 1978 and revised in 2011. The NIV uses clear and direct modern English while also ensuring it retains the meaning of the original manuscripts.
Sure you can just pick up a Bible and start reading but we understand that seems daunting so here are some practical things you can try out...
Topical Bible Verses
If you are looking for a specific type of verse in the Bible you can simply type in online 'Bible verses about...' and many websites will appear. Here are a few we suggest trying out:
Bible Study Tools - https://www.biblestudytools.com
Bible Gateway Finder - https://www.biblegateway.com/keyword/
Christianity.com Topics - https://www.christianity.com/bible/bible-topics.php
Bible verse topics you may want to discover include verses about love, faith, hope, sin, death, salvation, forgiveness, prayer, church, family, guilt, happiness, hope, strength, doubt, belief.
There are many Bible reading plans that provide you with a structure to get through the Bible. This can be helpful and enable you to read every little bit but if you’re brand new to the Bible, beginning a reading through the Bible reading plan may not be the easiest or wisest thing to do. We would recommend you check out Bible Gateway, they provide great reading plans for all ages, abilities and purposes. We will include a few below but there are hundreds out there:
Keeping it enjoyable and easy
At the end of the day you should not feel like reading the Bible is a chore or bore. It can easily become daunting and overwhelming if you have no clue where to start and how to continue so here are a few top tips to begin and continue reading the Word of God:
1. Find a Bible-reading partner who you can discuss what you are reading with. Perhaps a friend, family member or someone from your local church.
2. Find a nice Bible that you can call your own. While an online Bible is handy, owning your own physical Bible is a special thing and may help you to remain focused.
3. Listen to an audio Bible. This can be a change from staring at words on a page.
4. Make notes or keep a journal. This helps maintain focus and enable you to think about the things you read more deeply.
Below is a short video made by the Bible Project. It's called How to Read the Bible: The Gospel. They have made videos on every section of the Bible so if you want to watch more click here.
What Is The Bible? Summary
That is a lot to take in. In part 2 we asked the question What is the Bible? We have discovered that...
The Bible is God’s Word. It is a book accounting for God’s actions in the world.
The single Bible is formed of 66 individual books.
he Bible was not written by a bunch of old men with beards in an effort to create the best story ever. It is indeed the best story ever, but it was actually written by many different people across hundreds of years all inspired by God.
The Bible is reliable and trustworthy.
There are lots of ways to read the Bible but you should because that's how you get to know God better.