We’re a species that loves information. We want to be in the know and we want to be known. Have you ever been watching a TV program or a movie and ‘googled’ what you were watching to investigate the facts behind the real story? I certainly have.
There is an innate sense of curiosity in human beings. From the time we’re born we’re trying to figure out how something works or why it exists. We want information. Is it possible, that this innate sense of curiosity is there because we were created in the image of God? Is it possible that stamped into our souls is a desire to know what is beyond ourselves – principally to know God?
If this is true (and I believe it is) how do we know God? How do we know what God is like? We discover much about God in creation, or what is theologically referred to as “general revelation”. But how do we learn of God’s character, plans, and attributes? This is where the Bible comes in. The Bible is “special revelation”. By special revelation we mean: specific human descriptions of who God is and what he is up to.
This assertion possess several questions Christians need to consider. Over the next series of posts I aim to answer these critical questions:
What is the Bible? Is the Bible Trustworthy? Does the Bible contain errors and contradictions? And other common questions about the Bible. I’ll address the first one here.
What is the Bible?
Theologically speaking the Bible is God’s written revelation to people. I emphasize the term written because God has revealed himself to people in a number of ways, including in the person of Jesus Christ – also referred to as the incarnation. (God incarnate = God in Human form) One of the primary reasons we say that the Bible is inspired (2 Timothy 3:16) is to acknowledge that the Bible came from God, not from man. This means what we read in scripture originated with God and was passed on to man by God himself. (2 Peter 1:21)
Some facts about the Bible:
The English Bible word comes from the Greek word – biblos, which means “book.” The Bible, which is often referred to as a book, is actually a collection of books. It may be even more accurate to say a collection of sacred or holy texts because of the different literary portions of the Bible (poetry, letters, books etc.)
The Bible is made up of 39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament books equalling 66 total.
The Bible was written in three languages. Most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, with small portions being written in Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Greek – the common language of the first century.
The Bible was written down over a period of almost 1,500 years on 3 different continents (Asia, Africa and Europe) by more than 40 different human authors.
The original manuscripts were written down on papyrus (a thin paper-like material from a papyrus plant) or parchments (prepared animal skins used to write on). The pages were collected together in scrolls.
The chapter and verse divisions we are familiar with today were finalized in The Geneva Bible, first published in 1560.
The terms Old and New can sometimes create a little confusion. The term “Old” can carry a connotation that the Old Testament is outdated, or not as important as the New Testament, but that isn’t the case. The term Old, simply indicates that it was before the New Testament, or New Covenant.
The first English version of the entire Bible was produced by John Wycliffe (1320?-1384) and his associates in 1380.
The Authors of the Bible
This collection of books all tell the same story, lead to the same end, with perfect harmony and unity. This might not be so significant if it was written by one person, at one time, but that isn’t the case. The Bible was written by over 40 different human authors, who under the divine providence of God penned with their own distinct personalities the divine Word of God. The Apostle Peter, one of the human authors of the Bible described it this way in 2 Peter 1:20-21: 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (ESV)
Paul described it this way in his letter to Timothy, a young pastor he mentored: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness… (2 Timothy 3:16 ESV)
Peter and Paul both claimed that the very words of God written here were miraculous and divine themselves.
The human authors were diverse in background, age and demographics. Authors included Kings, peasants, physicians, fisherman, poets and scholars. Gary Breshears, Chair of the Center for Biblical and Theological Studies at Western Seminary described the authorship of the Bible this way:
“People who were providentially prepared by God, and motivated and superintended by the Holy Spirit, spoke and wrote according to their own personalities and circumstances in such a way that their words are the very Word of God.”1
The Purpose of the Bible
The Bible is God’s story of redemption. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves mankind and comes to rescue them. At the center of the story is Jesus. The Bible is primarily about God—and this is good news! To learn about ourselves and life is important, but what is more important is to discover God. In God we find our meaning, truth and life. This changes how we read the Bible. This changes how we interpret the Bible. We don’t go to the Bible primarily for self-help, but for God, who is our greatest help.
These are big claims! That’s why we’ll look at the question: Is the Bible Trustworthy? In a subsequent post.