2.1 Why is it called the "Bible"?
The word "Bible" comes from a Greek word meaning book. Thinking of the Bible as one big book is helpful in reminding us it ultimately has one Writer—God Himself. But it's also called the "Holy Scriptures" to remind us the Bible is actually a collection of texts—God used more than 40 people spanning 1,500 years to produce this remarkable book.
2.2. What is so special about the Bible? Isn't it just an ordinary book?
There are many great books written by wise men and women. But of all the books in the world the Holy Bible is unique. It identifies itself as God's own Word, His message for all people, for all time.
2.3 Why did God use human writers?
God could have given us His Word directly, or through an angel. But instead He speaks to us through human writers. He gave them the thoughts they expressed and every single word they wrote. Through these widely varied writers over many centuries God was at work revealing and preserving His Word throughout the centuries.
2.4 Aren't there mistakes and contradictions in the Bible?
With so many different human writers over such a long span of time, shouldn't we expect the Bible to be filled with contradictions? Many people make that assumption, but they need to look a little closer. The accuracy of the Bible depends on how closely God oversaw its writing. Consider what Peter says about God's role in guiding the writers of the Bible:
2.5 Do we have the original writings?
The original writings (called "autographs") were handwritten on papyrus (plant stems smashed together and rolled up into scrolls) or on parchment or vellum (animal skins that were folded into a little booklet called a "codex"). Over time they were either lost or wore out, but other copies had been made. Some existing fragments of the New Testament were written just a few decades after the original, but the oldest existing copies of the Old Testament were written hundreds, even thousands of years after the original writings themselves.
2.6 How reliable are the copies of these original writings?
The church approached the making of copies of the Bible with great care. The copyists were called "sopherim," a Hebrew word meaning counters. To double check each copy they counted each word and letter comparing it to a master list for what belonged on each page to ensure accuracy. + / -
For many years, the oldest handwritten copy of the Old Testament we had was the Masoretic Text. It dates from 1006 A.D. In 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, including multiple copies of almost all the books of the Old Testament. These dated from around 200 years before Christ. Critics expected to find great discrepancies between the two texts because of the recopying that would have occurred over more than 1,000 years. However, there was remarkable agreement between the texts. In fact, any differences that did exist involved only minor, unimportant matters like the spelling of a name, or differing numbers.
2.7 Can we find any demonstrations of the Bible's divine origin?
If the Bible was written by people without God's help, it could only record events they experienced in their lifetimes. It could never accurately predict or prophecy events that would occur hundreds of years after their deaths. But the Bible has hundreds of prophecies fulfilled long after the death of the writers. + / -
For instance, in Isaiah's writings we find a vivid description of Jesus' sufferings, death and resurrection. It was written about 700 years before those events took place.
◊ He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man in His death, although He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in His mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush Him; He has put Him to grief; when His soul makes an offering for guilt, He shall see His offspring; He shall prolong His days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the Righteous One, My Servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:3-11).
2.8 What is the main purpose of the Bible?
You will hear a variety of answers to this question:
◊ He (Jesus) said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?"And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. (Luke 24:25-27)
◊ Then He (Jesus) said to them, "These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:44-45)
2.9 What is the difference between the Old and New Testaments?
Both the Old and New Testaments tell about Jesus Christ and His rescue mission. The Old Testament was written before Jesus' birth. It promises His coming and makes many predictions about His life. The New Testament tells of the Savior who came and details how He rescued us.
Old Testament Books
|1 Kings |
Song of Solomon
2.10 What should I think when things in the Bible make no sense to me?
It is important to use the rules of grammar and language to understand the Scriptures. That being said, some things in the Bible still won't fit our understanding or experience of life in this world. In these cases we have to let God be God, remembering He has the power to do more than human reason can imagine.
2.11 What should I look for when I read the Bible?
The Bible's two primary messages are Law and Gospel.
The Law, God's rules of right and wrong, shows us the reason we needed Jesus to come to save us. It commands and teaches us how to live lives pleasing to God. Since we cannot live perfect lives, it reveals our sins-the ways we violate God's Law, and it shows the punishment we deserve for those sins.
It unfolds God's plan of salvation for us-a plan created and put into action from the time humans rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden. It tells of the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the Savior. It proclaims the forgiveness we receive as a gift from God. It declares God's promises of eternal life. It promises Jesus is coming again. It gives us hope as we journey through life this side of heaven.
2.12 Is the Bible difficult to understand?
While some parts of the Bible are certainly challenging to understand, God made sure the message of the Bible is clear and comprehensible to all.
2.13 Which is the best version of the Bible for me to read?
There are a number of different English translations or versions of the Bible: the King James Version, the Revised Standard Version, the New International Version, the English Standard Version, the New American Standard Version-to name a few. All these versions give the Law and Gospel we need to understand for our salvation. But some are stronger than others in certain respects.
The following articles can help guide you in searching for the best Bible for you to read.
2.14 How can I start reading the Bible?
There is no doubt that God preserved His Word through centuries of copying for an amazing purpose! He wants you to know Him through it! If you're interested in reading the Bible, consider this approach:
2.15 What are additional resources for getting acquainted with the Bible?
Read the Bible online, find a daily reading plan or to do detailed searches.
Follow the weekly appointed readings (lectionary) read in most churches
How We Got the Bible - Video-based Bible study
The Bible on Trial: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt - A focus on the accuracy of the Bible over time