What is the Bible?
The Bible is the Holy Book of the Christian faith. It is a collection of various writings that all point to the redemptive movement of God throughout history. The Bible covers many topics from the creation of the world to the history of the nation of Israel and of course the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While there is much to consider when approaching the Biblical text, several things are of utmost importance.
The Bible is God-Breathed
First, we believe that the Scriptures are God-breathed. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16, ESV). God worked in such a way as to use the various authors in order to record His Word to humanity. This did not happen in some mechanical dictation way, but there is a dynamic relationship involved between God and the authors. The writers were inspired by the Spirit of God to write what they did. God saw it fitting to use different authors and their various styles, cultures, and languages. There certainly is an element of human personality evident in the writings of Scripture, but above all, there is the unique Divine inspiration that ultimately allows for us to proclaim that what the Bible says is truly the Word of the Lord.
The Bible is Inerrant
Because the Bible is the Word of God, we affirm that it is inerrant. Inerrant is a word that simply mean without error. This belief stems from the nature of God Himself. We believe that there is no fault within Him and that He is the ultimate source of all truth. In light of this reality, what He tells us through His Word is also totally true. By affirming inerrancy, we do allow for things like historiography, round numbers, different dating systems, and perspectival language (like the sun rising and setting). Also, there are sections of Scripture that are written in different genres and therefore should be understood in different ways. For example, God the Father is described many times as having a body and human characteristics, however we would understand these instances as cases of anthropomorphisms – or the attributing of human characteristics to something that is not human. Because we believe the Bible is inerrant, we can completely trust what we read in it. We can be sure that the Scriptures are totally true.
The Bible is a Collection of Ancient Writings
The Bible is a collection of various writings that range from historical narratives to apocalyptic visions. Some other genres that you will encounter when reading the Bible include poetry, history, sermons and speeches, gospels, and letters. It is important to know what genre a particular book fits into when considering how to understand that text. By understanding various genres and how they work, we will be better equipped to engage with Scripture.
The Bible contains 66 books in total. 39 of these books are contained in what we call the Old Testament. The remaining 27 books are found in the New Testament. These two major sections are distinguished by the predominate covenant (or testament) found in them. In the Old Testament, the writings are centered around the covenants that God makes with figures like Abraham, Jacob (also called Israel), and David. These covenants guide the storyline of the Old Testament. The Old Testament recounts the creation of the world and the story of the nation of Israel from a small nomadic family to a mighty kingdom to a scattered people living in exile and finally returning to their homeland. Throughout their history, God sends prophets to proclaim His word and one very important theme is also present: the faithfulness and lovingkindness of God made manifest through His messiah. The New Testament, then, records the coming of the Messiah.
The first four books of the New Testament are known as the gospels and they recount the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They tell the good news of God sending His Son to lay down His life so that a way might be made for sinners to be forgiven and reconciled to God. The rest of the New Testament follows the development of the early Christ followers and the expansion of the church. Most of the books in the New Testament are letters written by the Apostle Paul to various churches around the Mediterranean. These letters contain theology and exhortations on how Christians should live. There are several other letters written by men like John, Peter, and even Jesus’ half-brothers Jude and James. The final book in the Bible is Revelation and it recounts a prophetic vision of the end times.