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The Bible is a collection of books, 66 in number, based on modern groupings. Within the pages of these books, one reads the historical, theological and poetic accounts of the Lord work with His people throughout history up to the remarkable prophecies and warnings of the Revelation. About two thirds of the Bible relates the the ups and downs of God's chosen people, the descendants of Abraham. Then after a gap of around 400 years, books were circulated and accepted concerning the life and continuing work of Jesus Christ. Each of these books, both Old and New Testaments, were divinely inspired by God.

The sections, called "Testaments," are a record of God's working by agreement with His people to save and preserve them in a world of evil. The Old Testament relates the "covenants" with Adam, Noah, Abraham (repeated to his son and grandson) and with David, the King. Each build upon the Lord promise to give his special people a land of their own. The plan to reach the world with his message of mercy on mankind continues in the New Testament which relates the events of Jesus Christ on Earth and the early history of the Christian church and missionary outreach.

The Bible is ultimately authored by God who, through various methods, has assigned and inspired human authors to contribute writings to the Bible[1]. Though some parts of the Bible can be obscure, there are enough which either encourage or command obedience to the will of God. When a believer comes to the Word of God, he is assured in the Bible that he is not alone, for he is a child of God.

Overview

The Creation, Fall and Restoration of Mankind

The Bible begins with the creation, a period of six days in which God creates the Earth, Heaven[2] and all their inhabitants.[3] During the sixth day God created mankind in His own image.[4] He made both male and female[5] and gave them the task of taking care of the Earth.[6] They were also permitted to eat any fruit[7] except for the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.[8] Upon temptation to eat of that fruit, the first parents failed, bringing sin into the world.

Beginning with a veiled promise to the tempter, a way of redemption was opened. When no one listened, things got incredibly evil in the course of about 1600 years. At the end of that time, a man named Noah proved to be obedient to God's call. The world was "rebuilt" by way of a flood that not only covered the earth, but changed it drastically.

A Chosen People

Though foreshadowed by the line of Seth, the true "people of God" became clear in the person of Abraham (born Abram). He would have two sons, the first by a slave and the second by a miracle. The latter, the "son of the promise," also had two sons, one loved and the other rejected by God! That grandson, Jacob, became the father of twelve sons, one of which would produce two sons, one of which would become the forefather of the future king — David.

David would serve God as the king over the people of God, and his son Solomon would build the temple to replace the Tabernacle (a structure in poor condition after hundred of years). The temple became the focal point for kings and prophets — including those who returned from captivity beyond the Euphrates River.

There would be many kings and several prophets during these tumultuous times. Then the "light" dawned with the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. He would be shown to be the son of God in many ways, especially through his resurrection from the dead. His followers would see Him ascending into Heaven, with the promise of His presence in the work and person of the Holy Spirit.

Special servants of God would bring the message of the life, work and commands of Jesus to the known world. Some of those would write letters to believers in churches spread between Jerusalem and Rome. The chosen people would take on a new form, one that included people from all nations and peoples until finally a vision of the completed people would be shown entering the New Jerusalem.

Themes

God

First of all, the Bible is about God. From the first verse, which assumes God to exist before all things, to the last verse, which promises His continuing presence, the Creator and sustainer of the universe can be seen.

Redemption

Mankind is shown to be unable to live up to its potential. In fact, the basic nature of mankind is found to be at odds with its own existence. However, God shows Himself to be gracious, saving some from the consequences of natural progression into destruction.

Christ

The promise of a redeemer is not a general one, but a personal one. From early on, the expectation for a great man — a savior — was part of the message. Individuals would arise as expectations waned, but in the end, it would be "God with us" — Jesus, the Son of God — the promised Messiah (Christ) who would be that Savior.

Authorship

Inspiration

From the beginning God has communicated with his people in many ways[9], and is in essence One Who wishes to communicate by way of His Word[10]. This is referred to as "Inspiration," though it is quite literally "ex-spired", that is "breathed out" by God to human authors commissioned to write it down[11]. As God's people wrote down their experiences and preserved the records of earlier chroniclers, they were superintended by the Spirit of God, Who literally carried them through the process[12].

Transmission

Law

Only three times in history did God physically write down His Words, and one of those times was repetition. These times were the writing of the Law on two tablets[13], and a short message to a pagan king[14]. Ordinarily, God would communicate with His spokesman and have him write out what was said or what had happened as a result of His commands. This was the case with Moses[15] who not only spoke the word of God to the people, but is credited by Jesus to have written the books of the Law (Pentateuch)[16]. Joshua was promised success if he meditated on those things that Moses had written down[17] He would go on to declare in his last words that the Law written in Moses' book should be obeyed[18].

History

Throughout the historical books the readers are reminded that there were corroborating documents written down elsewhere. There was always great attention to detail. The accounts of kings from Solomon[19] to Jehoiakim[20] were said to have been recorded elsewhere. God was making sure that the record of his people was preserved for later generations.

Poetry

In the titles of the Psalms, David is often said to be the writer, but in the case of the second Psalm[21], this is confirmed to be both David and the Holy Spirit[22] by none other than Jesus Himself. David was truly the "sweet psalmist of Israel[23]." Most of the Proverbs are ascribed to Solomon, who was said to have spoken many more, along with many songs[24]. The most notable of those songs is the "Song of Songs" or "Song of Solomon".[25] Some poetry, notably the books of Job and Ecclesiastes, are a bit ambiguous, for no clear author is given. For Job, the author would have been someone familiar with the period of the patriarchs of Israel. The mention of Job's long life puts it some time after Job had died. Ecclesiastes records the "words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem[26]." By the content, the king with the title "son of David, king in Jerusalem" would most probably be Solomon.

Prophets

Most of the Prophetic books begin with a declaration of the author receiving a call, or just a message, from the Lord. Though Jonah begins like a prophet, it is mostly a narrative, and perhaps the most well known prophet of the Old Testament, Daniel is narrative in which prophecies in the form of dreams are featured. The Lamentations of Jeremiah have historically been linked to the Prophet as a single volume, though it fits the genre of poetry.

Gospels

Oddly none of the Gospels contain a clear indication of an author. However, each has internal clues that help the reader discern who wrote it. The clearest indication of the authorship of a Gospel comes with that attributed to Luke, for it is part of a two-volume set written to a Roman by the name of Theophilus[27]. The clues in the Book of Acts are in first person plural, indicating an eyewitness. The Gospel is specifically said to be written by someone who had not seen those events but who was a detail-oriented writer who talked to people who were. He may have also used Matthew as a source. About the same time, Mark seems to have written a more concise report for the church at Rome[28]. Later, a first person account of Jesus' ministry is circulated from the self-described "disciple who Jesus loved[29]." A comparison of the Revelation to John, confirms that this disciple was John, son of Zebedee.

Epistles

Personal letters were a common way to spread the message of the Gospel. The Apostle Paul wrote most of the ones preserved in the New Testament. In his earliest letter, to the churches in the Province of Galatia, he defends the message against misrepresentations[30] and goes on to say that he didn't get the message from any eyewitnesses, but from Jesus Himself[31]. He then goes on to give his testimony, which aligns well with what Luke would later record[32]. In First Thessalonians, another early letter, he gives credit to the Holy Spirit for the message of peace and hope in the Gospel[33]. In his greeting to the Roman church, Paul links the Old Testament to the Gospel, which he defines in two verses[34]. The Apostle Peter equates the letters of Paul with the "other Scriptures" (the Old Testament)[35]. In all, Paul wrote more than most writers in the Bible, having written twelve letters in all.

The other letter writers in New Testament had known Jesus personally. Both Peter and John, two of His closest disciples, would mention the reality of the Transfiguration[36]. James and his brother Jude[37] both call themselves "servant of Christ" while writing at different ends of the letters written to believes in the first century. both depend on the Old Testament to deliver vastly different messages[38].

One epistle, which like John's first letter, does not open like a letter. And like John, the writer does not identify himself by name. This letter is sort of a written sermon about Jesus, written to Hebrew Christians dispersed around the world. An educated man, obviously a student of Paul, presents a masterful Bible Study of the Old Testament, especially some of the Messianic Psalms. No one knows for sure who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Prophecy

Like Paul and fellow apostles Peter, James and Jude, John finally identifies himself in giving an account of what Jesus showed him visions of the future in the Apocalypse (Revelation)[39]. Regardless of how one might interpret these prophecies, there is no doubt that they are from Jesus, and to John, the disciple whom He loved.

External Sources

External sources were likely used in an abundance in the Bible's authorship. These external documents were an essential part in the historiography of historic accounts or narratives. The author of a biblical book would've referred to the original source in order to get word-for-word quotes from the people involved in the events, and gather various details from eyewitness accounts[40]. Then the author collectively using various historical sources would've either paraphrased or copied portions of each source; all under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Several times in Scripture non-inspired sources are quoted directly[41], implying some cultural recognition of the source at the time. In some cases external sources would have only been used to verify the facts from an original Scriptural account.

Both the Book of Psalms and the Book of Proverbs are compilations of inspired poetry, music, and proverbs. It is evident that both of these books were collected over time.

Eyewitness Accounts

Many of the Scriptural accounts may have not referred to any non-inspired historical sources, because they were an original eyewitness account[42].

Purpose

Sections

Divisions

The traditional division for the books of the Old Testament, used since the Latin translation was made, are: the Pentateuch or Law of Moses (Genesis-Deuteronomy), the history of the Old Testament (Joshua-Esther), the books of Poetry and Wisdom (Job-Song of Songs), the Major Prophets (Isaiah-Daniel), and the Book of the Twelve or Minor Prophets (Hosea-Malachi). Before that time, the Jews had divided the Old Testament into three basic sections: The Law ("Moses"), The Prophets (Joshua—2 Kings and Isaiah—Malachi, excluding Daniel) and The Writings (1 Chronicles—Ecclesiastes, plus Daniel, not in that order) often called Psalms, after its first volume[43].

In the New Testament, history comes first with the Gospels and Acts (Matthew-Acts). followed by Paul's letters to churches (Romans-2 Thessalonians) and individuals (1 Timothy-Philemon), the General epistles (Hebrews-Jude) and finally prophecy in the Apocalypse (Revelation to John). Over the course of time, the order of the Gospels and the epistles was disputed, finally being set in their present order. As with the Old Testament, their order is not necessarily chronological.

Testaments

Though Luke may not have been a Jew, all the rest of the writers of the Bible were under covenant agreements with God. Even the ancient book of Job tells the story of a man of Semitic descent. Since the Lord had chosen a people to follow Him, he made agreements with them. These agreements were called "covenants" — a word translated "Testament" in some contexts. The books of the Jews were called "the Tanakh (short for Torah, Nevi'im and Ketuvim). This became the "Old Testament" to Christians.

Based on the fundamental change in the way God worked with getting His message to mankind, and the fall of Israel as a nation under God's rule, a "New Testament" was made with His people. This resulted in a new collection of books to gradually be accepted throughout the world written in a language understood everywhere by the common people.

Genres

The Bible contains laws, historical accounts, poetry, letters and prophecies. Primarily the type of literature in the Bible is grouped together in book divisions.

Laws

The Bible contains many laws, primarily recorded in the Pentateuch, especially Leviticus. These laws were often Israel's ceremonial laws that created regulation for Israel. There is also the moral law, which is the moral commandments given by God that are applications of the Ten Commandments.

Many of these laws or covenants are recorded in their respective historical context and recorded in many forms throughout the Bible as reminders and explanations of these laws.

Historical Accounts

The historical accounts in the Bible are a narrative of the actions of people or nations and their interactions with God. These accounts were written to convey theological themes related to the building and preservation of the chosen people of God: the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The narrative is found in three collections. First, the books of the formation of the nation up to the time of the first King. This collection starts with Joshua and ends with the book of the RuThessalonians It covers the period in which the tribes of Israel were living under the direction of judges and the priesthood established by the Law.

After this, there are two collections of books related to the two kingdoms that arose: Judah and Israel. A united nation, called Israel, had three kings and is covered in 1 Samuel through 1 Kings 11. From 1 Kings 12 through the end of 2 Kings the account includes the history of the divided kingdoms, with the temple and legitimate dynasty of David being in the southern kingdom renamed "Judah."

A second collection, known as "The Chronicles" provides an overview of history in ten chapters of genealogies beginning with Adam and ending with Saul, Israel's first king. After that, the two volumes provide detail not found in the first collection.

The period of exile and restoration is covered in the books of Nehemiah, Ezra and Esther. The former two tell of those who returned to the homeland, while the latter tells of life of those who stayed in the diaspora. Other historical narrative is found in the books of the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel.

Poetry

Hebrew poetry is generally meant to be sung, or recited, in times of worship to God. Most commonly it is in couplets of corresponding phrases that emphasize the point of each verse. Sometimes the phrases contrast a point with a counterpoint, such as wisdom versus foolishness, or righteousness versus evil.

The first poetry preserved in the Bible is the drama of Job, a faithful believer tested by God. After the prelude, Job and his friends are locked in a discussion for most of the book. The book ends in God Himself revealing Himself to Job.

Within the books of Moses, the narrative is repeated in places in poetic form to be used by generations to come to commemorate the deliverance God brings from oppression and difficulties along the way. This is repeated in places in the book of Judges.

Following Job, the first book in the section commonly set apart as poetry, comes the longest book in terms of verses and "chapters" — the book of the Psalms. These 150 psalms range in length from two verses of Psalm 117 to 176 verses in twenty-two parts of Psalm 119.

With Job, the books following the Psalms are considered the "Wisdom literature" of the Old Testament. The Proverbs, mostly attributed to Solomon, are broken into 31 chapters. These are mostly short couplets, but also have larger portions. Also attributed to Israel's third king are a work from early in his life (Song of Songs) and from late in his life (Ecclesiastes).

In the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke three songs: one each from Elizabeth, Mary and Simeon. In the Revelation to John, there are also songs sung in worship to God.

The Poetry in the Bible is primarily located in the poetry division, there are also several smaller songs throughout the narrative portions that are sung to God for praise in times of great joy.

The Poetry in the Bible often is the recording a person's thoughts, conversations with God, prayers and wisdom. Such poetry helps convey a person's relationship with God and their personal thoughts about it. (Apologies to the original editor. I hope the expansion incorporates this synopsis.)

Prophecy

Throughout the Bible, God sends prophets to tell His people messages of hope and of judgement. In the English Bible, the writing prophets, from Isaiah to Malachi, are divided into the Major (longer) and the Minor (shorter) Prophets.

Most prophecies that are made are seen to be fulfilled within the pages of the Bible, though there are prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled.

The first prophecy in the Bible comes directly from God concerning the fate of mankind after Adam and Eve sinned. As is often the case, the prophecy of hope comes along with a curse. Later, the promises of God and the blessings of the Patriarchs contain prophecies that are later fulfilled in surprising ways.

Even unbelieving individuals are sometimes used to bring God's prophetic utterances, as would be the case with Balaam. But usually, God would use His chosen men to proclaim His Word as they lead His people. For this reason, the books of Joshua through 2 Kings are called the "Former Prophets" by Jews to this day.

In the New Testament, prophecy is found mostly in what is known as Apocalyptic passages. That is, a revealing of things to come. Jesus tells his disciples not only of his coming fate, but that to come to Jerusalem and to the world. The letters of Paul and Peter also contain such messages. The final book of the Bible, though, is the main Prophetic literature of the New Testament. In it, Jesus and his messengers bring a true "unveiling" of the future.

The Bible contains several prophetic books, usually divided into the Major Prophets as well as Minor Prophets. Also throughout the rest of the Bible within books themselves that are not considered prophetic contain specific prophecies concerning biblical people, or those that concern world empires and powers. A large amount of biblical prophecies are fulfilled, while prophecies on the Apocalypse particular are unfulfilled.

Letters

Occasionally, in the annals of the historical material of the Bible, correspondence directed to dignitaries is preserved. However, it is in the New Testament that the genre is used extensively. An old term, epistles, based on the Greek, is usually used to refer to the letters by the apostles to individuals and churches.

These letters will usually begin with an introduction from the author, naming the recipients and the purpose of his correspondence. This is followed by the body of the letter, in which the message is expanded. At the end, an exhortation and most often a benediction is given.

Most of these letters are written by Paul, with the apostles Peter and John providing their correspondence as well. A major epistle, to the Hebrew Christians throughout the Roman world, lacks some of the elements of a letter, including an indication of who wrote it! Brothers James and Jude also write letters that are included in Bible.

Finally, Jesus directs John to write letters to "the angels (messengers)" of seven churches among which the apostle had once served. These letters lay out warnings and promises based on the history of each of these churches. In doing so, they lay the groundwork for the apocalyptic message to follow.

Characteristics

Relevancy

Much of the literature recorded in the Bible, was recorded to serve as examples.[44]

Completeness

The Bible is complete and should not be added to or taken away from[45]. One part of the Bible cannot be accepted, without the entirety of the text being accepted.[46] Not only does the Bible include the Old Testament accounts, but includes the teachings of Jesus that have been spoken.[47]

Understanding

In order to understand the Bible fully, it requires guidance from the Holy Spirit[48][49].

Circulation

The Bible (specifically the New Testament) is one of the most copied and preserved ancient texts that have been passed down to us today. This is just one of many reasons for its reliability and witness to the life of Jesus Christ. In fact, no other ancient manuscripts that have been preserved of any other text come close to the number of manuscripts of the complete New Testament canon. The Bible has also faced significant persecution and attempts to destroy it which it has miraculously survived by the will of God.

Accuracy

Historical

Historical accuracy can be attributed to there being no historically inaccurate fact in the Bible due to archaeological, cultural as well as record aspects. Another attribution to historical accuracy is several of the prime stories are also present in several other religions.

Internal Consistency

The Bible does not contradict itself and is consistent, regardless that the Bible was written by many different authors through several periods of time.

Statistics

The Bible contains 66 books, 1,189 chapters and 31,102 verses. There are 39 books, 929 chapters and 23,145 verses in the Old Testament. There are 27 books, 260 chapters and 23,145 verses in the New Testament.

Verses

  1. Hebrews 1:1 (Link)
  2. Genesis 1:1 (Link)
  3. Genesis 1:3-25 (Link)
  4. Genesis 1:26; Genesis 2:7 (Link)
  5. Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:21-23 (Link)
  6. Genesis 1:28, Genesis 2:15 (Link)
  7. Genesis 1:29-30, Genesis 2:16 (Link)
  8. Genesis 2:17 (Link)
  9. Hebrews 1:1-4 (Link)
  10. John 1:1-4 (Link)
  11. 2 Timothy 3:16 (Link)
  12. 2 Peter 1:20=21 (Link)
  13. Exodus 34:1 (Link)
  14. Daniel 5:5 (Link)
  15. Exodus 17:14 (Link)
  16. Matthew 12:26 (Link)
  17. Joshua 1:8 (Link)
  18. Joshua 23:6 (Link)
  19. 1 Kings 11:41 (Link)
  20. 2 Chronicles 36:8 (Link)
  21. Acts 13:33 (Link)
  22. Matthew 22:43-44 (Link)
  23. 2 Samiel 23:1 (Link)
  24. 1 Kings 4:32 (Link)
  25. Song of Solomon 1:1 (Link)
  26. Ecclesiastes 1:1 (Link)
  27. Luke 1:4; Acts 1:1 (Link)
  28. 2 Timothy 4:11-13 (Link)
  29. John 21:20, 24 (Link)
  30. Galatians 1:1-8 (Link)
  31. Galatians 1:12 (Link)
  32. Galatians 1:15—2:2 (Link)
  33. 1 Thessalonians 1:3-6 (Link)
  34. Rom. 1:1-4 (Link)
  35. 2 Peter 3:16 (Link)
  36. 2 Peter 1:16-17; 1 John 1:1-3 (Link)
  37. Jude 1:1 (Link)
  38. James 1:27; Jude 1:11 (Link)
  39. Rev. 1:1, 4; 22:8 (Link)
  40. Luke 1:2 (Link)
  41. Josh 10:13, 2 Samiel 1:18, Num 21:14, 2 Chr 9:29, 2 Chr 12:15, 2 Chr 13:22, 1 Samiel 10:25, 1 Chr 29:29, Est 2:23, Est 10:29, Neh 12:23 (Link)
  42. Luke 1:1 (Link)
  43. Luke 24:44 (Link)
  44. 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11 (Link)
  45. Deut 4:2, Rev 22:19 (Link)
  46. John 5:46-47, Luke 16:31 (Link)
  47. Heb 1:2 (Link)
  48. 1 Corinthians 2:14, Job 32:8, Luke 24:45 (Link)
  49. Psalms 119:34, James 1:5 (Link)

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