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I use Biblical references in my writing a lot. I do that because I believe the Bible is the written revelation of God to humanity. It is God’s message to each of us and all of us. But some of you might not have the same knowledge or understanding about the Bible that I have. God wants you to know and trust the Word, and the first step is to know the answer to this question: “What is the Bible?”
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A Book of Books
The Bible is a book of books. It is one book, written over about 1,500 years by approximately 40 authors. It is divided into two major sections: the Old Testament, written before Jesus was born, and the New Testament, written after the birth of Jesus. The Old and New Testaments are further divided into smaller sections.
The Theme of the Bible
The books of the Bible have many different themes. For example, the theme of Genesis is beginnings and the theme of John is Jesus, the Son of God. However, over and above all the individual book themes, the Bible has a single unifying theme: the Redemption of humanity. So, Genesis is the beginning of creation, the covenant, nations, and sin, but also the beginning of redemption. Also, John is about the Son of God, but also the Son of God as Redeemer, the perfect God-Man who provides the way of salvation.
I should point out that other people have different opinions about the overarching theme of the Bible. Some believe it is Jesus, while others believe it is God’s relationship with humanity or the kingdom of God. The key idea, however, always relates to God’s relationship with humanity, which was fractured by sin and restored by Jesus.
The Author(s) of the Bible
The Bible was written over many centuries by many different men. These authors were shepherds, farmers, kings, prophets, musicians, fishermen, and even a tax collector. Some were well-educated (Solomon, Luke, Paul), while others were not (Amos, Peter).
Although they were different in many ways, they were also similar in a few ways. All the authors of Scripture, except Luke, were Jewish men. Likewise, all of them (including Luke) were well-versed in the Jewish Scriptures to the extent they had been written during their lives. Finally, all were “inspired by God” to record His thoughts.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17
The bottom line is this: Many men, over many centuries, from many different backgrounds, wrote many different books. But because God inspired each one, the result was one book: the Bible. These 66 different books written over 1500 years all proclaim the passion and message of God because God is the ultimate Author.
The Genres the Bible Uses
In addition to having different themes and different authors, the Bible also has many different styles – or genres – of writing. The books of the Bible include poetry, narrative stories, parables, proverbs, historical records, and prophecies. The Bible also uses many different figures of speech. Metaphors, similes, and personification are three examples of figurative language that are frequently used.
God, in His wisdom, knew that word pictures – as used in figures of speech, parables, and poetic language – would make His Word easier for humans to understand. The Holy Spirit inspired the human authors to use these writing techniques to make it easier for us to know Him.
I mention the styles and figures of speech because sometimes people become confused about what “taking the Bible literally” means. Perhaps you are one of those people. To read the Bible literally does not mean we ignore obvious figures of speech and poetic language. God doesn’t have wings (Psalm 91:4), isn’t a literal shield (2 Samuel 22:31), and we do not drink Jesus’ actual blood during communion (Matthew 26:26-29). Reading the Bible literally does not mean forgetting everything you know about understanding the written word.
The Bible is God’s Message to You
Everything God wanted you (and everyone else) to know, He included in the Bible. You have everything you need to live a godly, fulfilled and joyful life. The Bible is a guide for our choices and a lighthouse to lead us through troubled times. It is a roadmap to heaven and wisdom for the road leading there.
- Teaches us everything we know about who God is – John 1:18; Hebrews 1:1-3
- Reveals the only way to salvation. – John 14:6
- Reveals that God desires for us to live an abundant life. John 10:10
- Shows us how to love others as Jesus did – 1 John 4
- Encourages us to persevere in our faith when it’s hard – Hebrews 12:1-3
- Teaches us to pray – Matthew 6:1-15
Finally, the Bible is full of biographical, historical accounts of real people navigating a real faith and real relationship with a real God. These stories – such as Joshua conquering Jericho, Daniel in the lion’s den, Esther saving her people, and David defeating Goliath – teach us in the way we learn best: from the lives of others. But they are not just stories – they are history! When we get to glory, we will meet the heroes of the faith whose stories are included in the Bible – those who led the way before us (Hebrews 12:1).
What is the Bible?
The Bible is “God’s love letter” to you. If you had no way of communicating with your loved ones, other than letters, you would read and re-read, save and savor, each letter. You’d read the letters repeatedly until you practically had them memorized. The Bible is God’s love letter to you – you need to read it as if it was the best thing in the world – better even than coffee or chocolate!
If you are confused about where to start reading, I have a few suggestions. Just want a chapter to read? Try Psalm 1, Psalm 23, or Psalm 91. Want a small book with encouragement to live a godly life? Try Philippians or Colossians – only four chapters each. How about a book about the life of Jesus? Choose either Mark (the shortest gospel) or Luke (the gospel I’d choose). Finally, if you want a picture of the church when it was young – read Acts. It’s a long book, but well worth reading. What will you read today?