The Bible is considered to be the greatest selling book of all time. It can be read in under a year by spending just 20 minutes a day covering its pages. It has often been banned by dictatorial governments throughout the world. Missionaries to this day smuggle it into countries where they believe its truth will change hearts, minds, and whole societies. Many churches still sing the song “The B-I-B-L-E, that’s the book for me.” More recently (although not totally accurate), it has been described as “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” Despite the fan-fair, a lot of questions about the Bible exist.
In my ‘trade,’ I find that the Bible is open to misunderstanding, on two fronts. The first front regards the Bible as a document itself. The second front is if we can adequately understand the text. The thrust of the first question has to do with history. The thrust of the second question is about consistency, linguistics, and context.
The first ‘front’ must be met head on for readers to even think the book has import for the 21st century. The second question must be ‘saddled’ well, lest we fall off the interpretive horse and create injured communities following quirky ideas. Each question has good, long, and sophisticated answers. Each question spawns dozens more.
Getting to Know the Bible
Before getting into either question above, we should discuss what the Bible is in the first place. The word “bible” means “book.” In the case of the Christian “Bible,” it means the book which contains the sacred writings of the people of God throughout the centuries. The whole thing contains 66 books which consist in various forms. The forms include letter writing, historical recording, songs, wisdom sayings, erotic poetry, rhetorical pieces, narratives, prophecy, apocalyptic writings, and more. Depending on the size of the font, the Bible contains about 1,000 pages.
Although the Bible contains a diverse group of literature, there tends to be one clear focus. The centerpiece is how God has revealed himself to his people through the centuries, especially as Jesus Christ of Nazareth some 2,000 years ago. The oldest parts point forward to the coming Savior and the more recent parts expound and explain the Savior.
The first book of the Bible is Genesis which is about the beginning of times and the last book of the Bible is Revelation which focuses on the end of times. The earliest portions began to be written about 1400B.C. Some of the content, within the oldest parts, dates much earlier. The last book of the Bible was written around 96A.D. Cover to cover spans 1,500 years of authorship.
Well, that’s enough for today. Over the next couple months, we will peel away the binding on the Bible and see how well it holds. Until then, perhaps the best place to begin with learning about the Bible is…well, the Bible.