In This Series|
Introduction/Overview | How We Got the Bible | History of the Septuagint
How Was the Old Testament Formed? | How Was the New Testament Formed?
In This Lesson
The Origin of the Bible | Progressive Revelation | Who Wrote the Bible?
Purpose, Theme, Authority... | Main Divisions of the Bible | Why Was the Bible Written?
Is the Bible Reliable? | Versions of the Bible
The Origin of the Bible
The word "Bible" comes from the Greek bibilia meaning "books". True to its name, it is a collection of 66 books. The first part, the Old Testament, contains 39 books; the second part, the New Testament, contains 27 books. The word "Scripture", which we often use to refer to the Bible, comes from the Latin word relating to script and means "sacred writings".
The Bible reveals to us the Person and characteristics of God. It does not try to prove the existence of God, but rather assumes His existence from the very beginning (cf. Genesis 1:1). The Bible is also a spiritual guidebook that teaches us how to know God's plan for us, His ultimate plan being an intimate relationship with us. "For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Romans 15:4)
The Bible also does not discriminate according to race, gender, age, nationality, or class. It is a book to which each individual can relate personally. We can receive blessing, instruction and correction from reading the Bible, even though we may not understand it completely. However, the full joy of Bible knowledge comes only from serious study.
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The Bible story begins in Genesis with the creation of the world and humankind, and it ends in Revelation with the creation of a new Heaven and new earth. In between these two books we have the story of how God worked out man's salvation so he can enjoy eternal life with Him.
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they sinned. They were then separated from God spiritually. But God still loved them. He began to make a way to heal their spirits. However, God knew it would take a long time for man to receive the full revelation of God providing our spiritual healing. "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world." (Hebrews 1:1-2)
Today, we have the full revelation through Christ, the living Word (cf. John 1:1). The people who lived in the Old Testament times did not have this. They only had a part of it. As time went by, God revealed more and more of His truth. We call this progressive revelation.
God dealt with Old Testament people in a different way than He deals with us today. For example, the teachings in the New Testament against polygamy and divorce seem to conflict with Old Testament stories of these practices. But Jesus explained that God dealt differently in the past because the people were slow to understand (cf. Matthew 19:3-9). They had less of the truth revealed to them than we have. We have more truth because Jesus came to show us the way.
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Who Wrote the Bible?
Although approximately 40 men physically wrote or dictated Scripture over a period of 1500-1600 years, God is the true Author: "For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:21) Even God Himself wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone with His finger (cf. Exodus 31:18; Deuteronomy 9:10).
The Bible tells us these men were "holy men of God": they were kings and peasants, poets and merchants, military and religious leaders. They were from different backgrounds, different cities, and had different interests. The fact of how these men wrote in perfect agreement with each other is one proof they were all guided by a supernatural force: that Force being God.
Some scholars today try to persuade us that, though the Bible does contain God's truth, it also contains errors. Others try to explain that parts of the Bible become the inspired Word of God to each person when God speaks to them through the particular words in the Bible. Still others explain that God dictated the Bible word-for-word to men who wrote it without thinking about the words.
But these ideas, as reasonable as some might appear at first glance, don't convey the true meaning of the word "inspiration". As the Bible tells us, "inspiration", in reference to the Bible, is the actual "breathing in" of God's Spirit to guide the thoughts of the writers, not to override their own unique personalities or communication styles.
The Bible says, "All Scripture is inspired by God..." (2 Timothy 3:16) And the Apostle Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:21
If we accept any of God's Word as truth, then we must accept the whole Word as truth.
Nevertheless, we cannot say the writers were mere machines with no freedom of choice. Although some did not fully understand what they wrote especially concerning prophecies yet to be fulfilled others studied their topics [primarily the gospel records and epistles]. They even wrote about their own experiences.
Some of the writers wrote exactly what God said as in: "Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you against Israel and Judah and all the nations, from the day I spoke to you, from the days of Josiah until today." (Jeremiah 36:2)
Other writers wrote what they experienced or what God revealed concerning the future but in their own words: "Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this." (Revelation 1:19)
What all had in common whether writing word-for-word or personal experiences or ideas was God's special revelation, as Paul wrote: "...how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. . . . which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." (Ephesians 3:3, 5) And His Holy Spirit continues to confirm God's Word as truth today!
All of the writers wrote under God's inspiration the words of His message for us.
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Purpose, Theme, Authority
Unity, Accuracy, Diversity
The Purpose of the Bible
The Bible itself records its purposes:
"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 perfect thoroughly furnished unto all good works." (2 Timothy 3:16-17 KJV)
"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." (Joshua 1:8)
The Scriptures help us to live in right relationship with God and with one another. They primarily help us, though, to understand the perfect holiness and righteousness of our God and prepare us for, and lead us to, the Messiah.
The Theme of the Bible
Why should 66 books written by approximately 40 men over a period of 1600 years be put together in one book? The answer: Because one theme runs through them all. Like various threads of many colors and sizes woven into a beautiful tapestry, the individual books of the Bible, together, show us different parts of the same picture. Books of history, law, poetry, prophecy, biography and practical teaching in the Bible have one central theme: the salvation and reconciliation of sinful man by a loving God.
Both the Old Testament and New Testament reveal humankind's need for a Savior and God's provision of a Savior in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth Jesus the Christ, the Messiah.
The Old Testament, which was written centuries before Jesus was born, contains hundreds of prophecies about Him. And the New Testament tells us how the Savior of mankind came into our world and how we can be saved by Him.
The theme of the whole Bible salvation for mankind centers around Jesus, the Savior for humankind.
The Authority of the Bible
The words of the Bible, just as the writers wrote them at first, are the best words possible to express God's purpose. Since they were inspired by God, we can trust them. They are always true. The words of God cannot fail (cf. Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33).
The Bible is complete. As the Word of God, it needs nothing else. Nothing is to be added to the Bible's words, and nothing is to be taken from them (cf. Revelation 22:18-19).
Because the Bible is inspired by God, we know it is true and complete, and that it has "authority" to guide, instruct, and correct us. Just as the crowds who heard Jesus speak recognized a divine anointing (cf. Matthew 7:29), that same anointing of authority is on God's Word to us today.
The word "authority" is defined as "final truth", "official statement or law", and "power to give commands". God's Word has authority in all three of these areas.
- It reveals the truth about God.
- It outlines God's plan of redemption for all people.
- It has power to change lives as people obey its commands.
When we accept the authority of God's Word, we can study it with greater understanding. We no longer just say it is God's Word and forget about it; we respond to it as the real, living Word of God which heals and transforms lives. As we understand its teachings, we accept them without doubt. "And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers." (1 Thessalonians 2:13)
We can rely on the authority of the Bible. We can believe God's promises are real and claim them for our lives. When we accept the authority of God's Word, His joy and peace follow and we can respond in complete obedience. As we study the Word, we are in God's presence. He talks to each of us directly through the words of the Bible.
The Unity of the Bible
Even though many writers wrote the Bible over many years, there are no contradictions. One writer does not contradict any of the others, even though the Bible includes discussions of hundreds of controversial subjects [a controversial subject is one that creates different opinions when mentioned]. Yet, the writers of the Bible spoke on controversial subjects with complete harmony from the first book of Genesis through the last book of Revelation. This was possible because there was only one Author: God. The writers only recorded the message under His direction and inspiration. For this reason, the content of the Bible is united.
The Bible also has one major theme. From beginning to end, the Bible reveals God's special purpose, which He summarizes in the book of Ephesians: Ephesians 1:9-11
The Bible reveals the "mystery" of God's plan. The unifying theme of the Bible is the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Savior of sinful mankind. In the book of Luke, Jesus explained how the Old Testament centered on Him. "Then he said to them, 'These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.'" (Luke 24:44) With this introduction, Jesus continued and "...opened their minds to understand the Scriptures." (Luke 24:45)
The "key" Jesus gave them to understanding the Scriptures was that its major theme focused on Him. "...Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things." (Luke 24:46-48)
The Old and New Testaments both tell the story of Jesus. The Old Testament prepares us for Jesus' coming and the plan of redemption, and the New Testament tells how it happened. This unites both testaments in one major theme.
- The people who looked forward to the Messiah under the Old Testament were saved from their sins through faith in God's promise.
- Everyone who looks back to Christ's redemptive work is saved in the same way through faith that it happened just as God promised.
The Accuracy of the Bible
The writers of the Bible were scholars, doctors, kings, prophets, priests, fishermen, businessmen, farmers, shepherds, carpenters, and government officials. They were all good men who had these things in common:
- They all worshiped one God called Jehovah or Yahweh Creator of the universe.
- God revealed Himself to each of them in different ways so they could be carriers of His messages for mankind.
- They all wrote what God told them or put on their hearts to write records of the past, predictions of future events, and revelations of His supremacy, righteousness and justice, but also His messages of love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
The Bible is accurate in every detail. It is historically correct. It is scientifically correct. The exact fulfillment of hundreds of its prophecies about nations and individuals proves that it really is the Word of God. We can depend on what it tells us about Jesus.
The Diversity of the Bible
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When we speak of the "diversity" of the Bible we mean that the Bible has variety. It records different ways in which God dealt with people and the different ways in which they responded to Him. The Bible is written in different moods. Some portions express joy while others reflect sorrow. The Bible includes different types of writing. It contains history, poetry, prophecy, letters, adventure, parables, miracles, and love stories. As a result of this variety, the Bible has been further divided into major groups of books.
The Main Divisions of the Bible
The Bible is divided into two major sections called the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word "testament" comes from the Latin testamentum meaning "covenant". A covenant is a legally-binding agreement or contract.
The Old Testament records God's original covenant, or agreement, with man and the ways in which He worked in them, for them, and through them to achieve His objectives. The New Testament records the new covenant made by God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Provision for Atonement in the Bible
The subject of the two covenants concerned restoring sinful man to a right relationship with God. God made a law that sin can only be forgiven through the shedding of blood: Hebrews 9:22
Under God's agreement in the Old Testament, blood sacrifices of animals were made by man to obtain forgiveness for sin. "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life." (Leviticus 17:11)
The Old Testament sacrificial system was a symbol [or a "type"] of the blood sacrifice that Jesus Christ would provide under the new covenant with God. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, a final and lasting sacrifice for sin was made: "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant." (Hebrews 9:11-15)
Both testaments are the Word of God and we must study both in order to fully understand God's message. The terms "old" and "new" testaments are used to distinguish between God's agreement with man before ["old"] and after ["new"] the death of Jesus Christ. We do not disregard the Old Testament simply because it is called "old".
The Bible is further divided into 66 books. The Old Testament has 39 books; the New Testament contains 27 books. Each book is divided into chapters and verses. Although the content of each book is the Word of God, the division into chapters and verses was done by man in order to make it easy to locate specific passages.
Old Testament Divisions
The books of the Old Testament are divided into four major groups: Law, history, poetry, and prophecy.
The Books of the Law
There are five books of Law:
These books record the creation of man and the world by God and the early history of man. They tell how God raised up the nation of Israel as a people through which He could reveal Himself to the nations of the world.
These books also record the laws of God. The best-known parts are the Ten Commandments (cf. Exodus 20:3-17), the greatest of all commandments (cf. Deuteronomy 6:5), and the second-greatest commandment (cf. Leviticus 19:18).
After God wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone with His finger, tradition teaches that He led Moses to write these first five books. These five books are also known as the Pentateuch (from the Greek pente, meaning "five") and are sometimes called "the Law of Moses" or the "Mosaic Law" (cf. Exodus 24:4, 31:18, 32:19, 34:1, 27-28).
Many verses in the New Testament refer to the "Law of Moses" when teaching that the Law has been fulfilled and superseded by a greater or higher Law, that of the Person of Christ (cf. Colossians 2:14, Romans 10:4).
The Books of History
There are 12 books of history in the Old Testament.
1 and 2 Samuel
1 and 2 Kings
1 and 2 Chronicles
The books of history cover a thousand-year history of God's people, Israel. Naturally, they do not tell everything that happened, but they record the major events and show the results of both following and ignoring God's law.
The Books of Poetry
There are five books of poetry.
Song of Solomon
These books are frequently used for worship among God's people both Israel and Christian believers.
The Books of Prophecy
The books of prophecy in the Old Testament are divided into two groups: "Major" and "Minor" prophetic books. This does not mean the major Prophets are more important than the minor Prophets. The titles are used because the "major" prophetic books are longer books than those of the "minor" prophetic books. There are 17 books of prophecy in the Old Testament.
These books consist primarily of prophetic messages from God to His people about future events. Many of the prophecies have already been fulfilled, but some remain to be fulfilled in the future.
About the Writers of the Old Testament
Some of the inspired men who wrote parts of the Old Testament include:
- Moses is believed to be the writer of the first five books of the Bible.
- King David wrote most of the Psalms (from the Greek psalmus meaning "sacred songs"). Many of David's psalms were songs about his joys, sorrows, depression, anger, and needs. But David is also considered to be a prophet because he wrote about Christ (the Messiah), especially about Christ's death (Psalm 2:7, Psalm 22).
- Solomon wrote most of the book of Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and Ecclesiastes.
- Several of the prophets wrote or dictated words directly from God (Acts 2:29-30; 2 Samuel 23:1-2).
- Samuel, a prophet and judge, is traditionally thought to have written 1 and 2 Samuel. However, many scholars believe these books were written hundreds of years later by an anonymous source [referred to as the deuteronomist1]. They say the books of Samuel form part of a well-integrated series now referred to as the Deuteronomic History (Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 Kings and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles), all of which are written in the same literary style and the same relatively modern form of Hebrew.
- Ezra, a prophet and scribe, is believed to have written both Ezra and Nehemiah. The main reason Nehemiah is attributed to Ezra is because in the Biblia Hebraica [Hebrew Bible], the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are combined as one book.
- The other prophets either wrote the words God gave them or they dictated them to a scribe.
The Jews were the keepers and collectors of these Old Testament writings. All of them have been copied by trusted and devout scribes and translated by equally-devout Jewish and Christian linguistic scholars over the years and delivered to us today.
The New Testament Divisions
The New Testament consists of 27 books believed to have been written by eight inspired men of God. [I use the phrase "believed to have been written" because no one knows for certain who wrote the book of Hebrews.] The New Testament has also been divided into four groups: Gospels, History, Letters, and Prophecy.
These books record the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Their purpose is to lead us to believe that He is the Messiah [the Christ], the Son of God. "...these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:31)
The Book of History
There is one book of history in the New Testament, the book of Acts. This book tells how the Church began to fulfill Christ's commission to spread the Gospel throughout the world.
There are 21 letters in the New Testament.
1 and 2 Corinthians
1 and 2 Thessalonians
1 and 2 Timothy
1 and 2 Peter
1, 2, and 3 John
While these letters may be "addressed" to specific people or churches, they are intended for all believers. Their purpose is to guide us and help us do what Jesus commanded. These letters are also sometimes called "epistles", which comes from the Greek epistole, meaning "letter".
The Book of Prophecy
The known writers of the New Testament are:
The book of Revelation is the only prophetic book in the New Testament. It tells of the final victory of Jesus and His people. Its purpose is to encourage us to persevere. Its message is summarized: "Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life." (Revelation 2:10)
- Paul, a Jewish tent maker, wrote 14 books [epistles] (Romans; 1 and 2 Corinthians; Galatians; Ephesians; Philippians; Colossians; 1 and 2 Thessalonians; 1 and 2 Timothy; Titus; and Philemon);
- John, a Jewish fisherman, wrote five books (the Gospel of John; 1, 2 and 3 John; and Revelation);
- Luke, a Greek physician, wrote two books (the Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles);
- Peter, a Jewish fisherman, wrote two books (1 and 2 Peter);
- Matthew/Levi, a Jewish tax collector, wrote one book (the Gospel of Matthew);
- James, a Jewish carpenter and half-brother of Jesus, wrote one book (James);
- Mark, a Jew (occupation never given), wrote one book (the Gospel of Mark); and
- Jude, a Jewish carpenter and half-brother of Jesus, wrote one book (Jude).
While there is much speculation and even assertion that Paul wrote the letter to the Hebrews, no one knows for sure. If Paul did in fact write it, it would be a departure from his usual way of writing in that he does not identify himself at the beginning or at the end of the book as he does in all of his other letters. Rather than speculate, we should be grateful to whomever wrote it because of its deep insight into Jewish culture and explanation of how Jesus of Nazareth perfectly fulfilled the Law's requirements.
How Believable are the New Testament Writers?
Five Were Apostles of Jesus Christ
The Apostles were 12 common men who were chosen by the Messiah to be eyewitnesses of His majesty and authority while He was on earth (cf. Luke 6:13; Mark 3:14; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 2 Corinthians 12:12). By spending so much time with Him, they were the best witnesses to tell others about the Lord.
Matthew, John, James, Jude, and Peter were Apostles in the sense that they knew Jesus intimately. The resurrected Jesus appeared to Paul in a vision and also chose Paul to be an Apostle (cf. Romans 1:1; 1 and 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1). Even though Paul only saw Jesus in a vision (cf. Acts 9:1-7), Jesus used him mightily to spread the Gospel, especially among the Gentiles [non-Jews].
Two Traveled with an Apostle
Several men went with Paul on his evangelistic journeys to spread the Gospel. Two of them wrote New Testament books:
- Mark (Acts 12:25), also called John [not John the apostle].
- Luke, when writing the book of Acts, sometimes used the word "we" to indicate that he was with Paul on some of his evangelistic journeys (cf. Acts 16:10, 27:2, 37).
Both Mark and Luke would have understood first-hand from the Apostle Paul what the new message was all about.
Two Were Half-Brothers of Jesus
Jesus had at least two half-brothers, James and Jude, who eventually became followers of Him (cf. Mark 6:3; Acts 1:14; Galatians 1:19). Surely, they would be credible witnesses.
The Council of Carthage Confirmed Their Witness
In A.D. 397, the Church Council of Carthage met in North Africa and gave their formal acceptance of the 27 books in the New Testament, as these books and letters were already being used by the churches as the standard of Christian faith.
Why Are Other Books Not in the Bible?
There are three reasons why other books are not included in the Bible.
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- They Are Not Truly Inspired by God
The Council of Carthage considered many other books for inclusion, but rejected them because they are not considered to be inspired by God. For example, several books appeared between the period of both the Old and New Testaments. These have been grouped into what's called the "Apocrypha" [from Greek apokrupto meaning "to hide away"] and were not commonly used by God's Covenant people, Israel. The Apocrypha has been widely disputed as to whether it is inspired or not. The Catholic Bible includes some of these books as part of their Old Testament. But most other Bibles do not, including strictly Jewish Old Testaments.
- We Have Been Given the Final Message
The final message has already been given to us once and for all in the first century A.D. (cf. Jude 1:3).
- We Have Been Warned Not to Add Words to the Bible
Warnings of the severest punishment await those who add to or take away from the previously established message of Christ: Galatians 1:6-9
Why Was the Bible Written?
The Bible was written to demonstrate or teach us about the perfect holiness and righteousness of our God and to prepare us for, and lead us to, the Messiah.
The Old Testament
The Old Testament was written as a temporary "instructor" to prepare, train, and lead the Jews to receive their Messiah.
"But before faith came, we were kept under Law [Mosaic Law], having been shut up to the faith [the Christ] about to be revealed. So that the Law has become a trainer of us until Christ [Messiah], that we might be justified by faith. But faith [Messiah] coming, we are no longer under a trainer. [Mosaic Law]." (Galatians 3:23-25)
In order to come into a right relationship and be at peace with God, God now requires that we put our faith in the Messiah [the Christ], not the former temporary instructor [the Law].
The New Testament
The New Testament was written to prove, with both eyewitness testimony and prophetic proof, the good news that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah.
What Does "Messiah" Mean?
- "Messiah" Means "Anointed"
In Bible times, the priest would pour oil on the kings' heads to anoint them as kings (Saul in 1 Samuel 9:16, 15:1; David in 1 Samuel 16:12-13; Solomon in 1 Kings 1:33-34).
However, prophecy said the Messiah would be different from those earthly kings. He would be God's Son, and He would be called "Immanuel" (cf. Isaiah 7:14), which literally means "with us God" ["Immanu"="with us", "El"="God"]. His kingdom would extend from one generation to the next (cf. Isaiah 9:6, 7). He would have greater authority, not just over the Jews, but over all of mankind (cf. Isaiah 49:6).
Incidentally, this was the charge against Jesus (cf. Matthew 27:37; John 19:18-22) and the very reason He was put to death that He was, or claimed to be, Israel's Messiah, the King which Pilate had written on His cross in Hebrew "Mashiach", in Latin and in Greek "Christ"].
- "Messiah" Means "Christ"
When speaking of the same Person, the Bible uses both the word "Messiah" [Hebrew] and "Christ" [Greek]. Some Bibles use these names interchangeably even within the same chapter, or they note "Messiah" means "Christ".
- "Messiah" Also Means "Son of God"
The Bible compares and makes the Messiah equal to the Son of God. Peter understood that Jesus Christ was God's Son. He called Him, "the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:16) Even Jesus' enemy, Caiaphas, a Jewish high priest, equated the Christ to the Son of God. He asked Jesus, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One [God]?" (Mark 14:61)
It is clearly evident, then, that the Christ is God's Son, the King, and Messiah. This fits perfectly with what Isaiah had said, that the Ruler, the King, would be "a son" (cf. Isaiah 7:14, 9:6). He is God's Son, and therefore, if God's Son, then Deity.
- Angels testified to shepherds, saying, "Today in the city of David [Bethlehem] there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:4, 11)
- John the Baptist, God's prophet, testified about Jesus, saying, "I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God." (Luke 7:28, John 1:34)
- God the Father Himself testified about Jesus, saying, "This is My beloved Son..." (Matthew 17:5)
- The Apostles of Christ testified about Jesus. For example, Matthew, a Jew, when writing a prophetic account of the life of Jesus, began it by saying: "The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah..." (Matthew 1:1)
- Andrew, another apostle, who was initially a disciple of John the Baptist, believed John's testimony about the "Anointed One". So he announced to his brother Peter, "We have found the Messiah." (John 1:41)
- When Jesus asked Peter who He was, Peter said in front of all, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:16)
The most important prophetic proof is that, in Jesus' short human life, He fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. This includes all of the prophecies in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms, especially the ones about His death for our sins, His burial, and His resurrection from the dead. For example:
- "Jesus said, 'Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?' Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures." (Luke 24:26, 27)
- "Now He said to them, 'These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.' Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem'..." (Luke 24:44-47)
The New Testament confirms the Old Testament Messianic prophecies that Jesus' death for our sins, His burial, and His resurrection are the Gospel, the "Good News".
For example, Paul wrote: "Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which you also received, in which you also stand, by which you are also saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance, what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures [the Old Testament], and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve." (1 Corinthians 15:1-5)
So the Gospel is mainly all about the prophetic death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah and what it should mean to us in regards to our salvation vs. condemnation.
- The Old Testament, especially the Mosaic Law, was written to prepare the Jews for and lead them to their Messiah.
- The New Testament proves that Jesus is the Messiah.
- The New Testament teaches all people to obey the Messiah, Jesus Christ. "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, listen to Him." (Matthew 17:5)
The Bible leads all mankind to Jesus Christ whether Jew or Gentile, young or old, male or female, sick or healthy, rich or poor.
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Is the Bible Reliable?
For the most part, there are no surviving original manuscripts of ancient books like the Bible. What we have in varying quantities of all ancient books (not just the Bible) are ancient copies of the originals.
Why Do We Have Copies and Not Originals?
Most likely, the scribes copied the originals and later on copied copies of the copies because the material on which they were written deteriorated [fell apart] so easily.
One thing we know for sure is that the Gospel message contained within those ancient scrolls is more important than the technicalities of how we actually got copies of them.
The Bible says in Romans 10:17
This verse teaches that a person can learn to trust God by hearing about the Messiah, not by studying historical evidences or lack thereof. Faith comes by hearing, not by seeing. After reading the Bible for yourself, then by faith you may begin to trust that the Bible is from God.
It is the message in it that convicts and convinces people the Bible is true and reliable. Belief in the Son of God does not come by any other means than by hearing with your heart the message of Him.
Ancient Copies Testify to the Bible's Accuracy
Compare the Bible to any other ancient book and you will soon see that the Bible is the best-supported by ancient copies and the best-preserved textually.
Many Bibles are translated into modern-day languages from the earliest copies of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic2 Scripture. For example:
- The Septuagint is a Greek copy of the Old Testament dating back to 250 B.C.
- The Codex Sinaiticus3 is a Greek copy of both the Old and New Testaments dating from about 400 A.D.
- Even some fragments of New Testament books exist dating a little beyond 100 A.D. Those fragments are just a generation away from when the New Testament letters and books were written for the first time.
- Nothing has stirred more interest and excitement than the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in 1947 near the Dead Sea in the Middle East. More than one-third of these scrolls are books of the Old Testament that were hidden for more than 2,000 years. In fact, they are considered to be at least 1,000 years older than the Hebrew copies that the Jews used to translate from.
One of the best-preserved scrolls is the Old Testament book of Isaiah. It is estimated to have been written around 200 B.C. and agrees in almost every respect with other traditional Hebrew texts, like the ones used in translating the King James Version.
The Isaiah scrolls proved to be more than 95% word-for-word identical with the standard Hebrew Bible. The 5% variation consists chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling. So this proves, by 1000 years or more, that the copy-making process was very reliable. Because the Dead Sea Scroll of the book of Isaiah almost entirely matches other more-current copies, we have much more confidence in the copy-making process used by scribes over the centuries. These scrolls are an ancient testimony to the accuracy of today's Bibles.
Perhaps you're wondering, what difference it makes if the ancient scrolls and codices [plural of codex] are accurate or not. The answer is simple: These ancient writings testify about, and point us to, Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, the Messiah.
"This is He who came by water and blood Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood [when the spear was thrust into His side, both water and blood spilled out]. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree. If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that He has borne concerning his Son." (1 John 5:6-9)
It is necessary to prove the witness to be accurate and reliable before we can go on to prove Jesus is the Lord's Messiah.
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Versions of the Bible<
This lesson identifies the original languages in which the Bible was written and explains how the Scriptures have been translated into other languages. You will learn the difference between a translation and a paraphrase version of the Bible. I have provided various examples from various versions of the Bible.
The Bible was originally written in three languages. Most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew except for parts of the books of Daniel and Nehemiah, which were written in Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Greek.
As discussed previously, none of the original manuscripts of the Bible are now in existence. Some good manuscripts exist which are copies of the original. Translations of these copies of the original manuscripts are called "versions". From early times men saw the necessity of translating the Bible so everyone could read it in their own language.
No translation is an exact word-for-word translation because no two languages are exactly the same. In fact, some words used in the Bible do not even exist in some other languages. For example, there is a tribe of Indians in Ecuador, South America, called the Auca Indians. When missionaries first contacted them, these Indians did not know how to read or write. There were no words in their language for "writing" or "book."
The Auca Indians had a custom of carving identification marks on their property. Since there were no words in their language for "scriptures", "writing" or "book", when the Bible was translated into their language, it was called "God's Carving". This identified it as something belonging to God. This is just one example of the difficulties in translating the Bible into other languages.
Translations and Paraphrases
There are many different versions of the Bible. The word "version" refers to a Bible written in a language different from those in which it was originally written. There are two main types of versions of the Bible:
A translation is an effort to express what the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic words actually say. It gives as nearly as possible a literal word-for-word translation. Extra words are inserted only when it is necessary to aid the reader's understanding.
Rather than translate word-for-word, a paraphrase is a restatement of the meaning of a passage. It translates thought-by-thought. Paraphrase versions are easier to read and understand because they are written in modern vocabulary and grammar, but they are not an exact translation of God's Word.
Examples of Different Versions
I have selected the text of John 3:16 to illustrate the difference among various versions of the Bible. The versions listed are the most popular English versions of the Bible.
- King James Version:
"For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
- New King James Version:
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
- New International Version:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
- Living Bible:
"For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that anyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."
- New American Standard Bible:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."
- English Standard Version:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
- Good News Bible:
"For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life."
- Contemporary English Version:
"God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die."
- Bible in Basic English:
"For God had such love for the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever has faith in him may not come to destruction but have eternal life."
- Amplified Bible:
"For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten [unique] Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life."
- The Message:
This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him."
"For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him should not be lost, but should have eternal life."
Selecting a Study Bible
Although many of these online lessons use more modern translations of the Bible, for purposes of personal Bible study, I recommend the King James version of the Bible. The reasons for this are:
- The King James Bible is very accurate and is a good translation for serious study. A paraphrase version does not contain the exact word-by-word translation of Scriptures.
- There are more study tools, such as concordances, dictionaries, and commentaries written for the King James text.
- The King James version is available in more languages than any other version. If you do not have a King James version of the Bible, you may write to:
American Bible Society
P.O. Box 5601
Grand Central Station
New York, New York 10164, USA
They have a complete listing of all the languages in which the King James version of the Bible is available.
If the King James Version is not available in your language or you have difficulty obtaining a Bible, write to:
United Bible Societies
P.O. Box 755,
Stuttgart l, Germany
They maintain a list of "Scriptures of the World" which identifies all the languages in the world in which at least one book of the Bible has been published.
If you read English but have a limited vocabulary, you may be interested in obtaining the "Bible in Basic English". This is the entire Old and New Testament written in English using only a basic 1000-word vocabulary. For more information, write to:
Cambridge University Press
New York, New York, USA
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Several versions of the Bible come in what are called "red-letter editions". In red letter editions, the words of Jesus are printed in red. The rest of the text of the Bible is printed in black ink. If a red-letter edition of the King James Bible is available in your language, I suggest you obtain it.
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1 deuteronomistic adj. from deuteronomist (n.), one of the four sources of the Torah assumed by an unproven Documentary hypothesis that holds that the Pentateuch (the Torah, or the Five Books of Moses) was derived from originally independent, parallel and complete narratives, which were subsequently combined into the current form by a series of editors. In the Torah, this source is restricted to the book of Deuteronomy, but similar themes and language are found throughout the Biblical books of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. This series of books is known among Biblical scholarship as the "deuteronomistic history".
2 Aramaic n. - a language used by the Semites, a people descended from Noah's son, .
3 Codex Sinaiticus n. 1 "codex" is an ancient unbound manuscript in book form, instead of a scroll. 2 a manuscript of the Christian Bible written in the middle of the fourth century that contains the earliest complete copy of the Christian New Testament. The hand-written text is in Greek. The New Testament appears in the original vernacular language (koine4) and the Old Testament in the version known as the Septuagint, that was adopted by early Greek-speaking Christians.
3 Koine n. the universal common dialect of the Greek language.