In two previous posts I have briefly written about how the Bible is our basis for our knowledge of God, how important the Bible is and why we can trust it. Now I want to continue by discussing more about what the Bible is. This is important as often what we get out of something is in proportion to our expectations of it.
The Bible is a collection of 66 books, written over 1600 years by more than 40 kings, prophets, leaders and followers of Jesus; in three languages over three continents. In Hebrew Bibles some of the Old Testament books are in a different order and historically some had a different layout. For example, 1 and 2 Samuel were considered 1 book. However, the content remains the same.
Those are some dates and numbers, some bare facts. But we must understand it to be more than that if we are to gain the full benefit from it:
We have the obvious division into Two Testaments, the Old and the New Testaments. Broadly speaking these reflect God’s dealings with the nation of Israel in the Old Testament and then God’s establishment of the Church in the New Testament.
Henry Halley summarised it this way,
“The Old Testament is an account of a Nation. The New Testament is an Account of a Man. The Nation was founded and Nurtured of God to bring the Man into the world.”
(Jeremiah 31:31-34, I Corinthians 11:25, Hebrews 9:1-11)
The New Testament does not all-together replace the Old, but rather continues and completes it. The Old Testament focused upon beginnings, the Law, the development and history of the nation of Israel through which the Messiah would come.
The New Testament completes the Old in that
- the Promised Messiah comes
- the plan of salvation is fulfilled
- some parts of the law which were but shadows of that to come ceased,
- other parts of the law which rest upon God’s righteousness and not temporary out workings of His plan, continue
- the beginnings, the growth, the principles and patterns for the Church are demonstrated and instructed
- and God’s last plans for this world are prophesied and explained
Traditionally the Old Testament is broken down into the following categories
- Books of the Law
- Books of History
- Books of Poetry
- Books of Prophecy (the Major Prophets and the Minor Prophets, so called not because of importance but because of the size of their respective writings)
Traditionally the New Testament is broken down into the following groups
There are other ways of categorising the books of the Bible to emphasise certain elements of God’s revelation. And several categories can be broken down into more specific categories. But this simply gives a beginning point to base further studies.
We must also consider God’s Design in Revelation
While we speak of the practical design of the Bible we must also consider God’s design in revelation.
God did not give complete revelation of His character and plan all at once. Revelation means a revealing. God gradually and progressively revealed His character and plan
The revelation was gradual because it would be impossible to do so other wise. This is perhaps why we find some thing in Israel’s history that we find disturbing, but when understood of God’s gradually dealing with them it makes more sense.
The revelation was progressive in that each revelation built upon and developed the earlier teachings. We must understand that the later revelations never contradicted the earlier ones.
Titles for the Word
When we look at how God’s Word refers to itself and titles we attribute it gives a further insight into what the Bible is:
The Word of God/ of the Lord – Occurs 255 times. Individual occurrences were recorded together and eventually the Bible become known as the Word of God.
Scriptures – (Mark 12:10 & II Timothy 3:16) – A document, Holy Writ
The Bible – Basically means a book. It could refer to an authoritative book in a particular field. We have the Holy Bible
Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) – The Christians only weapon, wielded not by ourselves but by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.
Titles from Psalm 19
- The law of the LORD
- The testimony of the LORD
- The statutes of the LORD
- The commandment of the LORD
- The fear of the LORD
- The judgments of the LORD
Using Psalm 19 as our guide we can show some characteristics and actions of the Bible. We will look at these in the next post.