What is the Bible?
The Holy Bible (also referred to as the Word of God or Scripture) consists of 39 separate books that include the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and 27 books in the New Testament writings. It is the ultimate source for every Christian belief. The Bible claims to be the revelation (revelation is something we know that we would not otherwise know) of the Creator God and his involvement with his creation. The Bible is a record of God’s creative acts, the origin of human sin, God’s “redemptive” activities to solve the sin problem that has plagued the world since the tragic Fall in the Garden and it is a record of God’s promises about the future. The Bible is truly a remarkable book. It remains the best selling book in the world, despite numerous attempts to destroy it throughout human history.
The Bible’s uniqueness: The Bible’s sixty-six books were written over a period of 1500 years by at least 40 authors from all walks of life: shepherds, a prime minister, a general, priests, kings, a physician, a tax-collector, even a rabbi tentmaker. The Bible describes the creation of the universe and the worldwide flood; it records covenant oaths and military campaigns; it recites prayers, quotes sermons, and predicts future events. It deals with the existence and character of God, it explains human uniqueness and disobedience, it addresses the mystery and extent of evil. In the Bible we even find designs for architecture, wisdom to live by, laws to observe, blessings to enjoy and curses to shun.
Consider the Bible’s origins: The individual books of the Bible were composed in various times, places and cultures. Ezekiel wrote his prophecy in exile in Babylon. David wrote many psalms as a fugitive in the Judean desert. Jeremiah warned the leaders in Jerusalem of the impending Babylonian judgment. Paul was in a Roman prison when he wrote a number of his letters. John was exiled on the island of Patmos in the Mediterranean Sea. There could be no collusion among these writers to dupe or deceive their readers because of the vast differences in geography and time. The consistency of their message can only be attributed to God the Holy Spirit, who inspired their thoughts and guided their words to make up this Book of Books.
Consider its universal message: The Bible records the history of Israel in the midst of geographical, cultural and religious diversity. God makes exclusive claims over against the paganism and occultism of Israel’s neighbors. With the message of Jesus, the world is prepared to receive God’s final revelation: the message of the Jewish Messiah, the Son of God, written in the common language of the Greeks, under the administrative empire of the Romans.
Consider its unity: In spite of its diversity, the Bible is a book with a unified message of Creation, Fall, Redemption and Consummation. It begins with the creation of everything that exists, records the fall of man into sin, the work of God in redeeming humankind through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the God-man, and culminates in the creation of a New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21). The Bible is the story of God revealing himself to humankind through his Son, Jesus Christ. Every aspect of his life is foreshadowed in Israel’s history, rituals, laws and prophecies as recorded in the Old Testament. Just as the Old Testament predicts the coming of Christ, the New Testament records the history of Christ’s life and work on earth. The birth of Christ was God coming in human flesh (this is called the Incarnation, a term that comes from Latin meaning “in flesh’). Everything in the Bible revolves around the person of Christ, either by foretelling his coming or describing his life when he did come to earth, or telling the story of the Church, which he founded. It is no wonder those two disciples on the road to Emmaus got excited about the Bible lesson they received from the resurrected Jesus. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke 24:27”