What is the Bible?
The Bible is a collection of 66 ancient books, about 40 different authors. The Bible is ultimately the story about God. It reveals how men and women were created in the image of God, but sinned and broke God’s law. Yet God loved his people and sent his son Jesus to die for their sins. Finally, God set up a kingdom through Jesus which will last forever.
The Bible is divided into two major sections.
The first section is the Old Testament or Tanakh in Hebrew (תַּנַ”ךְ).
The Old Testament was written by prophets like Moses, King David, Isaiah, Daniel, and others. There are 39 books in the Old Testament divided into 4 sections:
Pentateuch / Law: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Historical: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther.
Poetic: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
Prophetic: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel (Major Prophets); Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (Minor Prophets)
The second section of the Bible is the New Testament. The New Testament records the historical events of the life of Jesus the Christ. There are 27 books in the New Testament divided into 5 sections:
Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
Pauline Epistles: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon
General Epistles: Hebrews*, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude,
How Can I Start to Read the Bible?
First of all, it is probably best to get a reasonably up-to-date translation of the Bible, such as the New International Version or English Standard Version. Some of the language in the King James Version, although beautiful, can be difficult to understand. Once you have chosen your Bible, it is probably best not to start at the beginning of the Old Testament and get bogged down in the genealogies and name lists of Numbers and the laws of Leviticus. If, as we have suggested, the centre of the Bible is Jesus Christ, then the best place to start is with one of the Gospels to learn about his life, death and resurrection – you can then move on to other parts.
Read a whole chapter at a time, more if you can, to see the developing account of Jesus’ life. Ask what it tells you about God, about Jesus and how this fits in to God’s wider plan of salvation. Is there anything that you need to do as a result of reading this passage?
Many Christians refer to the Bible as “the word of God.” The intent is to affirm and reinforce the divine inspiration of the Bible. However, the Bible never calls itself “the word of God” either. Why not?
“For the word of God is living and active” (Heb. 4:12a, NIV). God sends forth His word, and it does not return to Him until it has accomplished its purpose (Isa. 55:10,11).
The word of God spreads on earth (Acts 6:7a). We are “born again…through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23,NIV). The word of God lives in us (1 John 2:14). Jesus’ name is the word of God (Rev. 19:13). The word of God, the revealed truth of God, is not a book, even though our book reveals many things about God.