What Is the Bible?

Welcome to our study on the most important book in the world, the Word of God, the Bible. These lessons are an introduction or overview of the books of the Bible that fit all the parts together for better understanding and future study. Thank you for joining as we try to understand it and learn how to apply its truths to our lives.

Before studying the individual books of the Bible, a few questions need answering: First, “What is the Bible,” Second, “What is the purpose of the Bible,” and lastly, “How should we read the it?”

The Bible is divided into two halves, what Christians call “testaments.” These testaments are divided further into sixty-six books. Anyone who surveys each of these books needs to look for three things: first, observe the content of each book; second, observe the outline of each book; and third and most importantly, we want to discern the message of each book and how it relates personally to our lives.

Studying the Bible will help to equip every believer so that he or she can understand their faith and communicate it more effectively to friends, family and neighbors. There is a common belief that ministry is the work of pastors alone. Our relationship to the church can be focused on what we hope to get for ourselves from our leaders. In Ephesians 4:11-13, however, the Apostle Paul envisions an entire church full of ministers who have been equipped by their leaders to do the work of ministry…an entire church full of people who are actively building the church, serving Christ, sharing their knowledge of Christ with others and helping them to become mature Christ-like Christians. He says, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” To all those involved in the study of the bible, you are a valuable part of the church and have been called to do good works through the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul also says in 2 Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” The only way to really understand the Bible is to work – challenge yourself to commit to being equipped and become a faithful believer of Jesus.

Introduction to the Bible

Now, think about the definition of “the Bible.” What is the Bible? Christians often refer to the Scriptures as “The Holy Bible.” The English word “Bible” comes from the Greek word biblia, which suggests a collection of books. The Bible is a collection of sixty-six book, and yet it is one book with a single wonderful message from beginning to end – the story of God’s redemption. The term “Holy Bible” means that this collection of books is a holy collection of books. The word “holy” means “that which is set apart, that which belongs to God,” or “that which is in some sense associated with God.” These books are related to God in a special way. This collection of books contains God’s message to humanity. This makes the Holy Bible not only the most influential, most read, most translated book in history, but also makes it the most important book in the world. Therefore, the study of the Bible is the most important study you can engage in.

The Bible is also referred to as “the Word of God.” What does it meant that the Bible is the “Word of God”? In II Timothy 3:16-17, The Apostle Paul wrote, “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.” This means the whole Bible was given by inspiration from God and is useful to teach what is true and to make you realize what is wrong in your life; it straightens you out and helps you to do what is right. It is God’s way of making you well prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good to everyone. Paul is saying that God did have something to do with the writing of these books. God had a message that He wanted to communicate to you; in order to communicate that message, He inspired the writers of the Bible in such a way that the words they wrote were not their words, but God’s words. Over a period of 1500 to 1600 years, the writings of these prophetically empowered men were recognized as inspired writing and were collected to form what is the Holy Bible.

The Bible is Inspired

The process by which God moved men to write these books is called inspiration. Paul says that these books came from God by inspiration. The Greek word translated inspiration literally means “God Breathed.” The Holy Spirit of God breathed into these men, moving or inspiring them to write these books.

Second Peter 1:16 & 20-21 describes the Bible in these words: For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty…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.

So, while the Apostle Paul states that the miracle of the Bible came to pass through a process called inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Peter states what inspiration is. The message those men wrote in those books did not have its origin in those men. It originated with God. All of the messages written in these inspired books originated in the heart of God. God communicated these messages to men by carrying them along with the Holy Spirit. But at the same time, God’s Spirit used individual people to write the books and thus used their individual personality and styles to write the Bible. God’s Spirit moved these people to write and guided them along the way but the message was not dictated to them. There was a dynamic relationship in place between God’s Spirit and man as the Scriptures were revealed and written.

Peter used a beautiful word in the Greek language to describe that “carrying along,” the word phero. In many places, where there is a lot of water, “ferryboats” are used instead of bridges to get across waterways, to carry people from one side to the other side. That is what the word phero in the Greek language refers to, “carrying along.” Just so, Peter says that God carried these people along to get them where He wanted them.

The Organization of the Bible

The books of the Bible are not placed in the Bible on the basis of when they were written or when their authors lived. The sixty-six books of the Bible are organized on the basis of the kinds of books they are.

The books of the Bible are in two divisions. One division is called the Old Testament with 39 books; the other division is called the New Testament with 27 books.

This has not always been the case. In the days of Jesus, for instance, there were no such things as an Old Testament and a New Testament. The New Testament had not yet been written, so the books that existed in the days of Jesus were simply called The Word of God or The Scriptures. It was after the New Testament had been written and brought together into a collection of books that the distinction was made between Old Testament and New Testament.

Essential Message of the Bible

The essential message of these Old Testament books is this: “Jesus is coming.” In the beginning, according to the Scriptures, God and man were in harmony with each other, but God made man a creature of choice, and man chose to turn away from God. Because God cannot look upon rebellion or disobedience, there was a separation between God and man. That separation between God and man is the fundamental problem with which the Scriptures deal.

In the Old Testament, God says to us, “I am going to do something about that separation?” In the New Testament, God is saying to us, “I have done something about that separation, will you believe? You see, the Old Testament books say that Jesus is coming, and that He is going to reconcile the broken relationship between God and His creatures. The New Testament tells the good news: Jesus has come and reconciled the broken relationship between God and man. Two words in the Gospel of Mark sum up the whole New Testament. They are in Mark 1:9, “Jesus came.”

Old Testament Literature Categories

The Old Testament books are categorized under four different headings.

First there is the Torah, what is also called the Pentateuch, which means five books These tell the story of God’s dealings with man from the creation, fall of man into sin, and the great flood. They detail God’s promises through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (who is also called Israel) and his children. They tell the story of the rise of the great prophet Moses who delivers the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, establishes God’s law for them, and brings them to the border of the land God promised to give to Abraham and his children.

The five books of the Torah are followed by ten History books. These ten History books detail important events from the time that Joshua, Moses’ assistant, brought the Israelites into the Promised Land, through a period of trouble where judges rose to rule the people, on through the time period kings ruled the Israelites, right up until the Israelites where taken into exile into Mesopotamia. The people of God obeyed those five books of the Torah and sometimes they did not. When they did obey, they became examples to follow. When they disobeyed, their lives became warnings to heed.

The History books are followed by the Poetry books. The Poetry books are God’s message to His people as they try to live out His Word in this world. In the Poetry books God speaks a message to the hearts of His people. For example, in the Book of Job, God has a message for God’s people when they are suffering. In the Book of Psalms, His message is about all of the things that go on in your heart when you are worshipping. In the Book of Proverbs, God teaches what it should look like to live in day to day relationships with other people.

Ecclesiastes is a message from God to His people when they are experiencing doubt and frustration about the world in their hearts. The Song of Solomon is a message to the people of God about the beauty and struggles of godly human love.

Finally, the fourth category is called “The Prophets.” There are two sections. First, The Major Prophets. Second, The Minor Prophets. The Major Prophets are called Major Prophets not because they are superior to the Minor Prophets, but because they are long, while the Minor Prophets are much shorter.

New Testament Literature Categories

In the New Testament there also four kinds of books.

First, there are four historical books about the life and mission of Jesus: The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Second, there is one historical book about the life and mission of the early church—The Acts of the Apostles, or the Book of Acts for short

Then there are a collection of letters from some of the Apostles to Christian churches, the Epistles. There are two collections — the Epistles of Paul and the General Epistles, which include the letter to the Hebrews, and letters from Peter, John, James and Jude

The New Testament closes with one highly symbolic or Apocalyptic book, called “The Revelation.” It is hard to understand.

Summary

So, in the Bible there are sixty-six books. There are 39 Old Testament books telling about the promised restoration of man’s relationship with God in the coming of Jesus, which is made up of four kinds of books: Torah books, History books, Poetry books, and Prophetic books.

There are 27 New Testament books telling about the fulfillment of Jesus’ coming and restoration of relationship between man and God. It contains four kinds of books: The Gospels of Jesus, the historical book: the Acts of the Apostles, the Letters of the Apostles and the Apocalyptic book: Revelation.

Thank you for joining this study of the most important book ever written, the Bible. Teach others who are interested in knowing more and understanding the Word of God.