What Is the Bible?
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
For those who believe in God, the Bible is so much more than a book. It is a unique and precious gift from the Lord. They consider the Scriptures as God’s personal message to His people, and think of the Bible as their life manual and the guidebook for their faith.
Centuries ago, St. Augustine gave an encouraging definition that speaks of the Bible’s origin and how it relates to us:
“The Holy Scriptures are our letters from home.”
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What Is the Bible?
The modern Bible is really a set of individual books, divided into 2 major sections called the Old Testament and the New Testament. Many writing styles are incorporated in it, from poetry to historic accounts, prophecy to lessons and parables.
Generally, the Bible gives us a timeline of God’s work in the world, starting with His creation of nature and mankind. More specifically, generations of men and women, many of whom desire to live righteously, are documented. These accounts lead up through the ministry of Jesus Christ, the beginnings of His church, then on to the future final days of the Earth.
Everything between the covers points back to God and the redeeming work of Jesus. Both the Old and New Testaments offer us glimpses of God’s amazing plan that is still in place today:
- God’s desire to have relationship with those He created
- God’s promises to His people
- God’s compassion for our struggles with sin
- God’s love and mercy, and the ultimate sacrifice of His only Son
- God’s unending power to create and change lives
Names for the Bible
Many titles have been used for the Bible, some found in the Book itself:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” (1 Timothy 3:16).
Book of the Law
“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it” (Joshua 1:8).
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).
“For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).
Sword of the Spirit
“Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).
Word of Life
“Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16).
Some other terms for it include:
Holy Writ - “Writing or utterance having unquestionable authority”
Polyglot - “A book, especially a Bible, containing the same text in several languages”
Good Book - “A general name for the Bible”
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Who Wrote the Bible?
It’s said that the authoring of the Bible was a collaboration between God and man. The Word is full of instances of God working through people to advance His plans, and the writing of this Book seems to be another example. Around 40 men took part in writing out the various books, coming from different locations and time periods. The actual number is uncertain because several books have not been definitively attributed to anyone.
The Apostle Peter stated this reminder of the beautiful way God used men to document His truths:
“We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19-21).
The Old Testament books were written between 1200 and 165 BC, while the New Testament was authored during the 1st century AD. But even with such a huge span of time, the central themes remain constant and clear.
“Though the Bible was written over sixteen centuries by at least forty authors, it has one central theme – salvation through faith in Christ.”- Max Lucado
The Council of Nicea worked to compile what is now considered Biblical canon during sessions in 325 and 381 AD. And in 400 AD, St. Jerome helped assemble the first edition that was widely distributed.
What Religions Follow the Bible?
Two major religions consider the Bible to be the Holy Word of God: Christianity and Judaism. And within each, some variations appear in the Scriptures.
The Catholic Bible Old Testament consists of 46 books, while the Protestant Bible has only 39. The seven additional books are part of what is called “the Deuterocanon” by Catholics, or “the Apocrypha” by Protestants. The main categories in this first large section are Books of the Law, Books of the Prophets and Books of Historical Writing.
The Hebrew Bible, the “Written Torah” contains three larger segments: Torah (The Law) which correspond with first five books of the Old Testament; NEVI’IM (The Prophets): and KETUVIM (The Writings). The New Testament books are not present in the Jewish Scriptures.
The New Testament is the same in both the Protestant and Catholic Bibles - 27 Books, which include the four Gospels about Jesus’ life on Earth, then letters and prophetic writing from the Apostles.
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What Is the Main Point of the Bible?
The Bible contains many truths about God’s character, commands and plans. But the overall message it shares is about God’s love and saving grace through His Son Jesus Christ.
For Christians, spending time studying verses can actually change beliefs and attitudes and soften the heart. And meditating on passages works to strengthen our faith.
It teaches us about God
“The Bible is God's declaratory revelation to man containing the great truths about God, about man, about history, about salvation, and about prophecy that God wanted us to know. The Bible could be trusted just as much as if God had taken the pen and written the words Himself.” - John F. Walvoord
It comforts and encourages our spirits
“The remedy for discouragement is the Word of God. When you feed your heart and mind with its truth, you regain your perspective and find renewed strength.” - Warren Wiersbe
It leads us into worship
“The more you read the Bible; and the more you meditate on it, the more you will be astonished with it.” - Charles Spurgeon
It trains us up to be like Him
“The Scriptures teach us the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering and the most comfortable way of dying.” - John Flavel
It equips us to share His love and Good News
“When we know our Bible: then it is that God can use us.” - Dwight L. Moody
How to Get Started Reading the Bible
If you’re new to reading Scripture, it helps to set your intentions:
1. Understand the importance of Scripture in your life
2. Find time to set aside to read the Gospel
3. Decide to make a habit out of being in God’s Word
4. Ask for God’s presence to be with you
5. Be open to what God has for you in His Book
And these things will help you start and succeed:
Tools to support your effort
Mentors to help you grow in skill
- A deacon or elder in your church
- A men’s or women’s group leader
- A trusted brother or sister in Christ
Partners to keep you accountable
- Individual Christian friends
- An in-person or on-line Bible study group
Many people believe that the New Testament Gospel books are the best starting point for reading the Bible. These books tell us all about who Jesus is, and follow His ministry and redeeming death on the cross. In the process, they teach us many things about God the Father and how He desires us to live.
Ever since the Bible was written, people have been changed for the better by reading and hearing it. For God has revealed Himself to us within the pages. We would be wise to accept the amazing gift He offers, and to learn all we can from it.
“All that I am I owe to Jesus Christ, revealed to me in His divine Book.” - David Livingstone
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Heather Adams is an author, speaker, and singer living in Connecticut. Heather’s passion is to equip and encourage believers to seek more of God’s truth and to experience more of His joy each day. Her book, Bow Down: The Heart of a True Worshipper is a practical, 30-day devotional about worship based on the writings of King David. Heather's blog, Worship Walk Ministries, offers weekly Scripture passages and insights to ponder. A native New Englander, Heather is settling into her home in the South, trying out local foods and watching for the alligators that live nearby!