Have you ever stopped to consider what the Bible really is. For sure, it is the word of God. But it is more than that. It is history, poetry, proverbs, parables, allegories, biography, correspondence, diaries, prophecy, and apocalyptic literature. But it is still more. From Genesis 1:1 all the way through to the last verse of Revelation there is a plan by which man can receive salvation and the promise of God for eternal life with Jesus Christ. This plan is like a scarlet cord which runs all the way through the Old and New Testaments. But still, it is more. The Bible is God’s love letter to mankind.
The Bible is the most wonderful book in the world, for it is truly the Word of God. If I could only have one book, it would be the Bible.
Throughout the centuries many critics have tried to destroy the Bible and its relevance to man. However, with God’s protection it has withstood the attacks of these unbelievers and remains the world’s best seller.
The Bible was written by forty different authors all inspired by God. These authors lived over a span of more than 1500 years, in thirteen different countries and three continents (Asia, Europe, and Africa). The original texts were written in three different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. And these authors were called by God from a variety of different occupations: doctors, farmers, fishermen, kings, tax collectors, shepherds, and tent makers.
Even though the Bible was actually written by so many individuals, over such a long period of time, in three languages and on three continents, it does not contain even one proven contradiction. On the other hand, its historical accuracy has been confirmed time and time again by archaeological finds. These same archaeological discoveries have yet to prove one aspect of the Bible incorrect. These facts point to the infallibility of the Bible and the confirmation that it was inspired by God.
The Bible contains sixty-six books; thirty-nine in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New Testament. The Old Testament contains five books of law, twelve books of history, five books of poetry, and seventeen books of prophecy. The New Testament contains four biography books, one book of history, twenty-one epistles (or books of instruction on Christian living), and one book of prophecy.
Our first reaction may be one of amazement that this could actually be true. But when we stop to consider that it was God who orchestrated the writing of His word, we should not be amazed that it has been preserved for us by Him. Remember, with God all things are possible.
So, how was the Bible handed down to our generation? The men through whom God spoke to His people, did so in word and writing. God directed Moses to go to Mt. Sinai to receive the law. Moses also learned of the early history of the world, the creation, and the nation of Israel. All these things Moses put in writing.
Later, such men as Joshua, Samuel, and Ezra would write the history of Israel. They were guided by the Holy Spirit so that their writings would be free from error. Also various prophets were called by God to preach to the people of Israel. They preserved their messages in writing as directed by God. “Now it came to pass in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, that this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: ‘Take a scroll of a book and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel, against Judah, and against all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah even to this day.'” (Jeremiah 36:1,2)
These books (or scrolls) were kept by the people and used as instruction from God. If not during the time they were written, then later after the deaths of the various writers. This is proven again in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 26 as the elders quoted from the book of Micah to show that Jeremiah was correct. This was more than a century after Micah lived.
We know by reading the New Testament that during the time that Jesus was on earth the Jews considered all of what we know as the Old Testament to be authoritative. Jesus quoted from Psalms 118 and called it Scripture. (See Mark 12:10,11) Jesus also quoted many times from the Prophets and the Law.
The Jews had tremendous respect for the manuscripts of the Old Testament. When a manuscript became too old or fragile to use, with respect, the Jews would burn the manuscript. Because of this, for centuries the oldest Old Testament manuscript was dated the ninth century A.D. Many skeptics used this in an attempt to discredit the Old Testament texts. They said the with so many transcriptions over the centuries, the text would most certainly have to be filled with error. Then in 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. These scrolls contained almost all the texts of the Old Testament. The scrolls were dated the second century B.C., or about 1100 years before the earliest manuscript of that time.
The manuscripts from the Dead Sea Scrolls, along with the Septuagint and the Targums allowed scholars to examine the Old Testament text. These examinations show that we have an Old Testament text free from error. This is due to the obvious love that the Jews had for the scriptures and the careful attention they gave to making transcripts of the various texts.
The Old Testament text was written over a period of more than 1400 years. However, the New Testament text was written approximately between 50 – 100 A.D., a span of about fifty years. At first the written text of the New Testament was in the form of letters (epistles) from some of the Apostles and early church leaders to the various churches given for instruction. As time passed, these letters were circulated around to other churches and were considered authoritative instruction. During this period of time those who new Christ and could witness to His work shared their experiences with the churches by word of mouth. As the number of churches grew and the need for these churches to be instructed in the events of Christ’s life grew, what we know as the four gospels came into being. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John put in writing the events of the life and ministry of Jesus so that all the churches could learn from their witness.
The book of Acts, the historical account of the early church and how it grew, was a natural outgrowth of this process. And finally, the book of Revelation was given to encourage the Christian to keep the faith till the end and welcome a victorious Christ.
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written in Greek. We also have the Old Testament text paraphrased in Aramaic (Targums).
Even though we do not have the original manuscripts of the Bible in existence today, much care has been taken to preserve the Word of God by His people. We said earlier that the painstaking transcription of the Old Testament was evident in the comparison of the existing Old Testament texts with those found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. We also know that the New Testament text is accurate because the early church fathers wrote extensively and quoted from scripture often. It has been said that perhaps all the New Testament could be reconstructed just using the quotes from the early church fathers in their many secular writings. As the centuries have passed since the church was established several translations of the Bible have been made. Much care and scholarly attention has been given to these translations to insure textual accuracy.
The oldest translation of the complete Bible text (Old and New Testaments) dates to about 150 A.D. It is known as the Old Latin version. Jerome revised the Old Latin version around 382 and this revision became known as the Latin Vulgate.
John Wycliffe was the first to translate the Bible into English. His translation was made from the Latin version in 1382. The first person to publish an edition of the Greek text was Erasmus in 1516. William Tyndale was the first to publish an English translation based upon the Greek text. Tyndale’s translation was made in the 1530’s.
The King James Version or Authorized Version was made in 1611. The English Revised version appeared in 1885. The more modern translations all came into existence in the 1900’s: American Standard Version – 1901, Revised Standard Version – 1932, and the New International Version – 1978.
The Word of God has withstood the test of time. Moses set forth, by God’s direction, to write the first Bible text almost 3500 years ago. Yet today we have the words Moses as well as all those who followed in one glorious book we affectionately call the Holy Bible. It is a book that is loved and revered by millions of people all over the world. It is a book that has been bombarded through the ages by unbelievers in attempts to discredit it. But it is a book that has been preserved by God, for His people. As Timothy writes, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16,17)
All scriptures quoted are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.