Some Bible Basics

God’s Wonderful Word


I think one of the amazing things about having a website is that even if you have never visited or been visited by your more immediate neighbors, it isn’t long before you have people from all over the world dropping by your new home on the web. They are free to come in at any time of the day or night, look around, stay as long as they like, and get a good idea about who you are. Unfortunately, you are not afforded the same opportunity; other than the country that they come from, you know absolutely nothing about those who have taken the time to pay you a visit. And no matter how long they stay, when they leave, you will know no more about them than when they first arrived.

This lack of knowledge makes it especially difficult when you’re opening your web home to talk about God and the Bible. After all, you have no idea about the religious or spiritual backgrounds of the people who have chosen to seek you out—do they believe in the God, a god, many gods, or no god? How have their beliefs (or lack of them) affected or influenced who they are and where they are headed in life? What kind of worldview do they bring to the discussion, and what kind of spiritual or emotional baggage will they be bringing along with them?

Because I am operating in the dark as far as these issues are concerned, I have found it helpful to think of my guests as being members of one of three groups.  In…

Group #1—are those who have come from a Christian/Judeo background and have some knowledge of the Bible;
Group #2—are those who have come from unchurched or secular backgrounds, with no knowledge of or belief in the Bible; and,
Group #3—are those who have come from other cultural or religious backgrounds, with holy books other than the Bible that they follow.

Since this grouping leads me to believe that at least two-thirds of the people taking part in this adventure might not have any knowledge of the Bible, it only seems reasonable to pause and provide them with some basic information about it. While it may seem overly simplistic to some, to make sure that we’re all on the same page, we will first define our terms and then get a little background on the book that will be at the center of our adventure.

  1. By definition, the Bible is the collection of books considered to be the sacred texts of both Judaism and Christianity.

The word itself comes from the Greek word biblia, the plural form of biblion, a diminutive of biblos—or the word meaning book.  It got its name because books were originally made from byblos or papyrus—the plant that was used to make parchment, or the material upon which books were written.  Byblos was also the name of the Phoenician city that exported papyrus to other parts of the ancient world.

The Jewish Bible, written mostly in Hebrew, came first and consisted of three parts...

The Law;
The Prophets; and,
The Writings.

Later, when the Christian Bible came into being, it was written in Greek, Latin, and Syriac, and contained the same books of the Hebrew Bible, only in a different order and with the books of the New Testament added to it.  In order to distinguish between the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures, the terms Old Testament and New Testament were introduced and were in general usage by the end of the second century AD.  Although the Greek word for testament is usually translated as will, the Hebrew for it is translated as covenant. Therefore, when we speak of the Old and New Testaments, what we are actually referring to are the covenants that God made with His people during each of these two eras.


The Jewish Scriptures


2. The Bible is unlike any other book that has ever been written; it is unique in all of literature because it is the only trustworthy source of God’s words—and of His self-revelation–to mankind that exists in the world.

Actually, the Bible is not just one book, but a collection of books—sixty-six, to be exact—that have been arranged in a systematic, progressive, and comprehensive way so that God’s revelation of Himself could be made known and understandable to any and all who chose to receive and heed it.  Although it was transcribed by many men over the course of fifteen hundred years, men who employed a variety of genres and styles in its recording, it is remarkably consistent in its message, in its portrayal of the person and purposes of God, and in its honest representation of the nature and character of humanity.

The only way that I know of to explain such a consistency in its content over so great a period of time is to say that, in spite of its having so many human scribes, …

3. The Bible has only one author—and that author is God Himself.

Only the One who is able to declare that…

…I the Lord do not change… (Mal. 3:6), and …I am God, and there is none other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done… (Is. 46: 9-10)

…could be capable of accurately documenting a story which transcended the generations of the very ones who took part in recording it.  Through the means of divine inspiration, or the intimate involvement of His Spirit, God made known His thoughts and words to a select group of men and then guided them in the ways in which those thoughts and words were to best be presented.  While each presentation reflected the personality of the man who was doing the writing and the times during which he lived, the words were always God’s–words which repeatedly conveyed the timeless truths that every man and every generation should know.

We learn more about this matter of inspiration in 2 Timothy 3:16, where we are told that the Bible was…

… 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 competent, equipped for every good work.

This breathing out by God means that…

...the words of the Bible were imparted directly by the Spirit of God…

…an impartation which made the Bible a living book imbued with power.  Hebrews 4:12 confirms this when it tells us that…

…the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

In other words, as a living book, the Word of God is able to penetrate our innermost beings in order to confront us with the truth about God and ourselves, and to convict us of our deviations from or rejections of that truth.


Bible Scribes at Work


4. The Bible is the only real source of truth in the world.

The Bible, then, becomes the only trustworthy guidebook which man has for life.  Not only does it teach him how to live successfully—or to live godly in the here and now—but it also instructs him on how he can obtain the eternal life which God has promised to give to those who will come to Him in the way that He has prescribed.

5. Since God’s purpose in authoring the Bible was to make Himself known to mankind, it would follow that He intended His Book to be for all people of all time, and that it was not something reserved for just Christians and Jews.

This would mean that everything in it would have application, at some point, to every person who has ever lived, and its principles and truths would be so universal that they would be relevant to every age and every culture.  This would make it possible for even the most seemingly disparate people to be able to comprehend them–meaning that the peasants working in the rice patties of ancient China, the tribesmen hunting for heads in the jungles of Africa, twenty-first century penthouse dwellers, and kings and con men throughout each generation would all be able to learn the truth presented within its pages.

6. The Bible is a multi-layered presentation of truth.

By that, I mean it presents us with a number of important truths, on several different levels or dimensions, all at the same time.  Through the stories of real people who are taking part in real life activities, at real times in human history, we not only learn important lessons that we can use in our everyday lives, but we can also learn about God’s prophetic or future plans for mankind, the earth, and His enemies–while also learning about the person and character of God in the process.

7. The Bible is consistent in its method of teaching.

Throughout the Bible, the way in which God explains spiritual truths to us is by taking the things with which we are familiar and using them to teach us about those things which are beyond our comprehension—that is, He takes the things that we can see which are temporal or earthly in nature, to explain those things that we cannot see because they are spiritual and eternal in nature.  In order to do this, He has purposefully incorporated things in His creation that He could use for His divine illustrations.  We will learn much more about these as we go along.

8. The Bible is NOT all-inclusive.

It only focuses on those people and events that play unique roles in the Revelation of God and His Plan for the Redemption of Mankind.

9. Finally, the Bible is ALL about Jesus. 

He is there at the very beginning, He is there at the very end, and He is there in every chapter and verse in between.  Throughout the Old Testament, He is seen covertly—that is, some aspect of His being is hidden within the pictures or types that were drawn from the lives of the Old Testament characters; plus, He is represented in each of the feasts and in the rituals of the Old Testament system of worship.  In the New Testament, though, He is seen overtly or openly, as He makes His appearance in the flesh to become the fulfillment of each of those Old Testament pictures or types.

Hopefully, by taking this time to go over these few Bible basics, we have been able to level the playing field, so to speak, and provide everyone journeying with us–even those with no Bible backgrounds at all–with enough information to get them started on our One Big Story Adventure!

As part of the first step in that adventure, we will learn about the basic structure of our Story in Setting the Stage…


It certainly is!