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What Christians Should Know (#WCSK): What the Bible Is

Updated on July 26, 2016

What is the Bible?

The Bible is God’s written Word. This Word is pure,[1] flawless,[2] and true;[3] it is the divine guide for our lives[4] that sustains us[5] and is the light that guides us in the darkness.[6]

God’s Word or the Word of God also refers to God’s literal speech, as in when God says, “Let there be light” in Genesis 1:3 or when He says, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” in Matthew 3:17. The Word also refers to Jesus, an address to a person or a group of people, or speech through a human vehicle.

Who wrote the Bible?

Essentially, God wrote it. How did He do it? He revealed His Word to human authors (about 40 of them) who faithfully recorded what God inspired them to write. Examples include Isaiah[7] and Jeremiah.[8] Because God is truth,[9] He inspired the authors to write what is wholly true.[10] So, the words in the Bible are all God’s, yet regular human beings were the vehicles used to transcribe God’s words. This process of divine revelation for Biblical transcription has a fancy name: verbal plenary inspiration.[11] (And no, this phrase does not appear in the Bible. It is simply the academic label used to describe a process). Consider what II Peter 1:20-21 says:

“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

In the second part of the Bible (the New Testament), God inspired the disciples to remember what Jesus taught them so that they could faithfully remember and then record what Jesus said and did during His earthly ministry.[12]

[1] Psalm 119:140

[2] Psalm 19:7

[3] Psalm 119:160

[4] Proverbs 6:23

[5] Jeremiah 15:16

[6] Psalm 119:150

[7] Isaiah 30:8

[8] Jeremiah 30:2, 36:2-4

[9] Psalm 116:160, John 17:17, Ephesians 1:13-14, Titus 1:2, James 1:18, Hebrews 6:18

[10] I Corinthians 2:12-13, II Timothy 3:16-17, I Peter 1:10-12

[11] II Timothy 3:16-17, Exodus 20:1-17, I Kings 12:22-24, I Chronicles 17:3-4, Jeremiah 35:13, Ezekiel 2:4-7, Zechariah 7:9-10, II Corinthians 5:20, II Peter 1:20-21

[12] John 14:26

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Why is it called a “Bible”?

Simple: because the Greek work for book is biblia, and our English word derives from this Greek root.

Why is the Bible special?

Because even though it’s a book, it’s more than a book. The beginning of the book of John says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” A little bit later on in verse 14 the text says, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The “Word became flesh” is Jesus. Without getting overly technical, what these verses tell us is that Jesus is God’s Word “in the flesh” and so Christ perfectly embodies God’s character, His ethics, His commandments, and His intent for humanity. Jesus lived a life in perfect alignment with God’s will and He represents the ideal that all believers strive for.[1]

Hebrews 4:12 says God’s Word is, “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit.” So, the Bible is special because it has the transformative power to change people’s lives, to reveal what God has already done for us through Christ, and to reveal to us who God is. If a person wanted to know about the God, the only place they have to look is in the Bible.

[1] I Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1

What is in the Bible?

The Bible has 66 books (e.g. the book of Genesis and the book of Revelation). There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. The Old Testament (OT) describes the period of Biblical history that starts in creation (i.e. Adam and Eve) and ends at a time before the coming of Christ (roughly 400 BC). Then there is a period of prophetic silence until the New Testament (NT) begins with the birth (0 AD) of Jesus. The first four books of the NT are the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and each book gives a different perspective on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The rest of the NT continues by giving Christians instructions on how to live and how the church ought to operate. The last book of the Bible (Revelation) was written shortly before 100 AD.

Each book of the Bible is divided by chapters, and each chapter is further divided into verses. Most of the Bible is the OT (almost 80 percent). The OT has 929 chapters and 23,214 verses. The NT has 260 chapters and 7,959 verses. Please note that the original writings of the Bible did not have chapters or verses. These were added in the second millennium for organizational purposes. The OT was originally written on long scrolls of papyrus, and the NT was written on specially prepared animal skins or parchment. The original language of the OT is Hebrew with a few parts written in Aramaic. The original language of the NT is Greek.

What does the Bible say?

Above everything else, the Bible makes a theological statement, or a statement about God. This point is crucial yet often overlooked in modernity. So while the Bible does proceed through history and interacts with real events with different people and places, its goal is always to give us theological significance through the background of history.

How does this apply today? Because if you were searching for a precise description of how the universe came into existence or where the dinosaurs fit in, you certainly will not find this information in the Bible, nor does it claim to provide that information. In a similar light, if I opened up a science textbook called, “Fundamental of Calculus,” this would not contain dinosaur information either because the authors wrote a book on math. This intentional lack of information also does not diminish the textbook’s credibility. Yet, if you seek information about Jesus and how He opens up the pathway to salvation, then the Bible is the only book that you need. The Bible is explicit that God inspires people to come to know the truth and acquire knowledge.[1] God also gives humanity intellect and wisdom[2] which can be applied, for example, to the sciences and the arts. Hence, while the Bible is the ultimate source of truth by which all other sources are judged, it is not the only source of truth. This explains why I don’t open a Bible when I need to know how to remove an appendix or how to treat a complicated skin infection. The Bible can’t help me do my taxes, either. When a person judges the Bible, they first have to consider what the book claims to present.

[1] Job 32:8; John 17:17; II Timothy 3:16-17;

[2] Daniel 1:17

What does the Bible say? (cont’d)

Generally speaking, the OT describes how God initiated and developed a relationship with humanity. This relationship began with specific people, grew into a larger family, and then grew even more to involve an entire nation of people (Israel). Because God wanted to provide for said people, He freely bestowed upon them a series of covenants, or an agreement between Himself and His people. Sadly, these people always ended up falling short in fulfilling their end of the bargain. Over and over again, God gave His people space and time to turn from their ways, yet they ignored His warnings and adverse consequences resulted. Over hundreds of years, the people demonstrated that they were incapable of obedience, so a ‘new way’ had to exist. That ‘new way’ is described in the NT, with Jesus. The new way is the gospel (or “good news”) of Christ. This news is good news because it tells us that we can’t earn our salvation, because it is already earned for us by Christ. By grace, all those who have faith and believe in Christ shall not perish but will live eternally.[1]

[1] John 3:16

What does the Bible say about your story? Get practical advice and actionable wisdom from John 11

What does the Bible say? (cont’d)

The Bible directs our attention to Jesus, so we develop the sense that life is not centered around the self. Instead, we recognize that there is a personable and loving God greater than us, yet by grace, He extends His hands and imparts upon us the gift of salvation despite “what we having coming to us.” The Bible informs us that God takes humanity so seriously that He sent His Son to serve as a substitutionary sacrifice. Real love is always costly. It because of God’s love that Jesus endured the Cross and it is because God chose to forgive our sins that He had to endure suffering.

As Walter Brueggemann so eloquently says in The Bible Makes Sense:

How has God's Word transformed and positively impacted your life?

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    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Johnson 14 months ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      DrCHe Sadaphal, I appreciated the words that you wrote in this hub and your interpretation of the Bible. I think I understand what you mean in writing about the Bible though it is foreign to me that you give the attributes of God to the record itself.

      When you suggest that the Bible is the source of truth or that it is salvation to mankind I interpret that you mean it is the source of truth because it contains the words that direct us to the source of truth which is God. I understand that it is salvation to us because it directs us to the source of salvation through Jesus Christ.

      I know that we have fundamental differences in theology as you have commented on one of my hubs, but I feel a need to lend my testimony of the Bible to yours as a witness that if we follow the teachings written by those prophets that we can learn the keys to know God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.

      Studying the Bible is only the beginning. We must then make a connection with God and have a living relationship with Him. I know that He can answer our prayers just as vividly as he answered the prayers of the people written about in the Bible. That is the purpose of the Bible to let us know that He does those types of things still!

      God cannot be contained in one book. But He can give us a little here and there until we are faithful enough to receive more from Him. Thanks for taking the time to express your faith.

    • Dr CHE Sadaphal profile image

      CH Elijah Sadaphal 17 months ago from New York, NY

      Such kind words. Thank you very much.

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 17 months ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Dear CH Elijah Sadaphal, I agree with your explanation of what the Bible is in the text of this hub, and was very impressed with how clear you made the lesson in your video: "God sets you up so you can lift Him up." I thank you for this perspective and I will try it on. God bless you! I'm sharing this hub and am honoured to be the first person to comment.