ABOUT THE BIBLE

Study 1. What's So Special About the Bible?

About the Bible gets us started on a fascinating journey!

INSIGHT: The word "Bible" comes from the Greek word biblos, meaning book. Another word that is sometimes used for the Bible is "Scripture" (or the Scriptures), a term simply meaning writings. "Holy" means set apart, referring to the fact that the Bible is considered by many to be a unique and special book, different from all others.

1) On your answer sheet, write out the meaning of the term "Holy Bible."

INSIGHT: Exploring some facts about the Bible we find it contains two main divisions called the Old Testament and the New Testament. The original text of the Old Testament was written mainly in the Hebrew language. The New Testament was written originally in Greek. Later, various individuals and groups translated the text into English for us. As with the translation of any language, it is not always easy to bring the exact meaning over from one language into another. This is one reason there are many English translations, or versions, of the Bible. Often it is helpful to compare one with another, to get a fuller idea of the meaning.

INSIGHT: The translation used in preparing these studies is called the New King James Version. In most cases, you will not find it difficult to answer the questions using another version. Other common ones are: the New American Standard Bible, and the New International Version.

A. HOW IS THE BIBLE PUT TOGETHER?

INSIGHT: A quick look will show that the book known as the Bible is actually a library of many books bound together. Check out the Table of Contents near the front, and you will see some of their names. These names may seem strange to you at first--difficult to say and spell! But they will become more familiar as you continue to study and work with them.

2) What Bible book is the last one in the Old Testament?

INSIGHT: The books of the Bible were not written all at one time. They came from about forty different authors, working over a period of 15 centuries or so.

INSIGHT: Each book is divided into chapters, and the chapters are divided further into "verses." This was not done by the original authors, but is a feature added later to make it easier for people to find their place. The reference of a particular Scripture text is like the address of a house; it tells us where to locate a particular statement. First comes the book. In Question 10 it is the second epistle (or letter) sent by Peter (usually written as II Peter, or 2 Peter.) Then comes the chapter (1), and the verse (21).

3) Use the Table of Contents to find the book of Second Peter, and then locate the verse that is mentioned. This may take some time, at first, until you are familiar with the location of the books. (Hint: II Peter is found near the end of the New Testament.)

3b) See if you can find Proverbs 14:34 in your Bible, and write out the words on your answer sheet.

3c) What does the number 14 in the Proverbs reference stand for? What does the number 34 stand for?

INSIGHT: The Old Testament begins with God's creation of the physical universe. The New Testament begins with events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. The New Testament is about one quarter the size of the Old Testament.

4) The Old Testament contains 39 books. How many books are found in the New Testament? (You can use the Table of Contents to count them.)

5) Approximately how many authors produced all the books of the Bible?

INSIGHT: It is important to note about the Bible that the books of the Bible have been organized into several different types of literature or forms of writing. In the Old Testament there are: books of history (mainly about the nation of Israel); books of Hebrew poetry; and books of prophecy. (Note: The first five books of the Old Testament form a separate section sometimes called the Law, but they also contain a great deal of history. For our purposes, they will be included in that section.)

6) The books of history are Genesis through Esther. How many Old Testament books of history are there? (You can use the Table of Contents to count them.)

7) The books of poetry are Job through the Song of Solomon. How many books of poetry are there?

8) The books of prophecy begin with Isaiah, and end with Malachi. How many books of prophecy are there?

INSIGHT: The New Testament has a similar threefold arrangement. In the New Testament there are: books of history (four "Gospels" telling the story of Jesus' life, and the book of Acts, about the early church); then come books called epistles (or letters) written to churches or to individual Christians; and finally one book of prophecy called Revelation.

9) The epistles begin with Romans and end with the little book of Jude. How many epistles are there in the New Testament?

B. WHAT IS THE BIBLE?

INSIGHT: It was said earlier that about 40 different authors were involved in the writing of the Bible. But that is only part of the story. Christians believe that God Himself superintended the writing in such a way that what was produced can rightly be called the Word of God. This is the miracle which makes the Bible unique.

10) How is this miracle of human beings writing Bible prophecies described in Second Peter 1:21?

11) What is said about the Bible ("all Scripture") in II Timothy 3:16?

INSIGHT: The word "inspiration" is used in a special sense in the Bible. To say the Bible is "given by inspiration of God" means it is God-breathed. The above verse is saying that Almighty God breathed His very thoughts and words into the minds of the writers, so that what they have put down is His accurate and trustworthy message to us.

12) What does Psalm 119:160 say about the Word of God?

INSIGHT: That the Bible is God's true and trustworthy Word is something Christians believe. It is a matter of faith--but not of blind faith. Entire books have been written in support of this claim. In brief, there are three lines of evidence.

a) The Bible claims to be God's Word. Hundreds of times, throughout the Bible, we see phrases such as: "thus says the Lord," and "God said," etc. Its authors claim they are speaking for God.

b) The Bible seems to be God's Word. In checking the historical record of the Bible, scholars have been impressed over and over with its accuracy. Then there is the miracle of fulfilled prophecy. The Bible contains hundreds of predictions which have come to pass exactly as promised. Added to this is its amazing unity. Written over many centuries, by many different human authors, the Bible is one book, with a harmonious message from beginning to end.

c) The Bible proves to be God's Word. This has to do with the faith of the individual in what God has said. Over the centuries, Christians have trusted the promises of God and found them to be true and powerful, in their own experience.

13) What is the meaning of the phrase "by inspiration of God" used to describe how the Bible was given to us?

14) What claim does the prophet Jeremiah make, over and over (for example, Jeremiah 2:1, and verse 4; also Jeremiah 4:3 and verse 27)?

C. WHAT'S THE BIBLE ABOUT?

INSIGHT: The most significant thing about the Bible is that it is God's revelation of Himself to man. Because God is so much greater than we are, knowing Him is beyond us, unless He shows Himself to us in ways we can understand. In the Bible, God does that. And when we determine to know Him, that pursuit becomes the essence of life itself (see Psalm 63:1-5; John 17:3). Those who seek after God through His Word discover, as many have, down through the ages, that God is infinitely worth knowing.

INSIGHT: The Old Testament, from Genesis Chapter 12 and on, describes God's dealings with the nation of Israel, and with individual Hebrews (or Jews). Israel is a nation of people, descended from a man named Abraham, a nation God chose to bless in a special way. The focus of these blessings is often earthly and material.

The New Testament, from Acts Chapter 2 and on, describes God's dealings with the church, and with individual Christians. The church is a spiritual body of believers in the God of the Bible. It is made up of all nations. The focus of the blessings God has given to the church is more often spiritual and eternal.

15) What is the difference between the inheritance God promised to the nation of Israel (Exodus 3:7-8), and the inheritance of the New Testament church (Philippians 3:20)?

INSIGHT: When the Bible speaks of "the church" in the broadest sense it is speaking of all Christians everywhere. All of them are a part of His universal church. But the Bible also uses the word of local "churches," groups of Christians who gather in a particular place, at a particular time, to worship and serve God.

16) To which does Acts 16:5 refer, the universal church, or many local churches?

17) Is Ephesians 3:21 speaking of the universal church, or of local churches?

INSIGHT: The Bible describes God's relationship with mankind in general--both the healthy and the dysfunctional parts of this relationship. It reveals that a loving God wants the best for us. It tells us about a spiritual problem we all have, called sin, and what God has done to help us with it. And it tells us how to living a meaningful life that is pleasing to God.

18) What does Jesus say is the subject of the Scriptures, in John 5:39?

INSIGHT: God's answer to the sin problem has come through what Jesus Christ has done for us. (More of this in a later study.) It is not surprising, then, that Christ is a major theme and subject of the Scriptures. The Old Testament points forward to His coming. The four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) describe His earthly life and work. And the remaining books of the New Testament teach us more about Him and what He has done for us.

19) To what two substances does Psalm 19:10 compare the Word of God (called His "judgments" in verse 9)?

20) What do we do with each of these substances (in Psalm 19:10) that illustrates what we should do with God's Word the Bible?

21) Psalm 19:7 declares, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." What further benefit is there in studying God's commandments in His Word (Psalm 19:11)?

22) What result is expected from "hearing" (or reading) the Word of God, according to Romans 10:17?

23) What result does God desire from our study of His Word, the Bible, according to Romans 15:4?

24) Why has God given us the Scriptures, according to II Timothy 3:16-17?