What is the Bible?
Outline: Student level information about the Bible; its claims; how written; existing manuscripts. Its importance and validity.
Script Number: 202
Theme: Christ (Saviour of Sinful Men); Character of God (Word of God (the Bible)); Living as a Christian (Church, Christianity, Faith, trust, believe in Jesus)
Audience: General; Western
Genre: Bible Stories & Teac
Bible Quotation: Extensive
Scripts are basic guidelines for translation and recording into other languages. They should be adapted as necessary to make them understandable and relevant for each different culture and language. Some terms and concepts used may need more explanation or even be replaced or omitted completely.
Why is it that people all over the world count the Bible as their most valuable possession? Why do they call it a sacred book? Why is it different from other books?
The basic truths of the Christian faith are all to be found in the Bible. It has been given its name, which is a transcription of a Greek word meaning "Books," because it is considered to be the most important and valuable book that has ever been written. It is THE book. It takes this foremost place because it enables men to know their present state, their origin and their destiny in regard to eternal and spiritual realities.
This knowledge cannot be obtained by observation or through reasoning, although nothing that we know by these means is able to contradict the knowledge which the Bible reveals to the mind and to the heart. Without this knowledge man is in the dark, a victim to error, fear and misery. The Bible reveals to us the will of God and His love, and also the nature and condition of mankind in relation to these.
The Bible consists of two parts:- (1) The Old Testament, which comprises all the sacred books (historical, prophetical, and poetical) of the people of Israel and (2) The New Testament. It comprises the four Gospels (St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John), the book of the Acts of the Apostles, the letters of Paul, Peter, John, James and Jude, which they wrote to the Christians of their time, and lastly the book of Revelation. This contains particularly the prophecies relating to the end of our present age, the return of the Lord Jesus Christ, the setting up of His Kingdom on earth, the last Judgment, and the bringing in of eternal life.
The New Testament is in one sense the most valuable part of the Bible, because it records the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus. The purpose for which it was written is told in the Gospel which the Apostle John wrote. He states, "These things are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life through His name."
In the New Testament we find the conditions given under which right relationships may be established between God and man. The New Testament also offers an inheritance, into possession of which every man may fully enter because of the death of Christ. This inheritance includes a peace, a strength, a joy, a hope, and a life which cannot be obtained apart from Jesus Christ.
The books of the New Testament are all written in the universal language of the time of the apostles, a dialect of Greek used by the ordinary people. This was spoken in all the main centers of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Thus the Gospel of Christ spread rapidly along the great trade routes and in the larger cities of the countries which were part of the Roman Empire.
The first copies (that is, the original writings of the apostles) of the various parts of the New Testament, were lost after about the year 150, but not without having been previously copied many times. We possess today more than 2500 manuscripts of the Greek text of either the entire New Testament or of parts of it. As a useful comparison, we may remember that we have only 50 manuscripts of the famous "Tragedies" of Aeschylus, only 200 of Pliny's letters and 250 of the works of Horace. This fact is at once a guarantee that we have the genuine text of the New Testament in our hands.
The earliest of these manuscripts is a fragment of the Gospel of John which authorities declare was written about 150 A.D. Thus, the ancient manuscripts enable us to read the same text of the New Testament as the Christians who were living fifty years after the apostles themselves. Other ancient documents we possess dating from about the times of the apostles are very useful in making comparisons regarding the information which the New Testament gives. These documents help to confirm the fact that the Gospels give a faithful picture of the Palestinian world, and that the many details given are of great exactitude. The writers of the Gospels are seen to be people who are well-informed, trustworthy and accurate in the testimony they give concerning the doings and sayings of Jesus.
Everybody can read and understand the Bible, in regard to its basic truths necessary for one's eternal salvation, without any need of notes from men. Indeed, the Word of God itself exhorts all to read and study it. "These words which I command you this day shall be in your heart; and you shall teach them diligently unto your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up." Here God is speaking to all - not to any particular person or to any class of people. "See what is written in the book of the Lord and read." Here God is speaking to the peoples and nations of the earth. And the duties of a King are stated also: "He shall ... read therein all the days of his life..."
Thus we have people of every walk of life who freely read and meditate on the Word of God, without any interpreters or commentators. "I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read to all the brothers," writes St. Paul to the Thessalonians. And in the letter to the Colossians, he says, "When this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans." Everybody is exhorted by the Word of God to meditate on it and to study it. Timothy states, "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."
To anyone who comes to it with simplicity, with reverence, and with the desire to receive its words into his own heart, it is a light. It is obscure only to those who are blinded in their minds and hearts by pride, by the things of the world, and to those who come to it with unbelief. Why shouldn't you, too, get a copy of the Holy Scriptures for yourself, and so make the wonderful promise of God from the First Psalm your very own: "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, which yields its fruit in its season. His leaf also shall not wither, and whatever he does shall prosper."
REFERENCES: John 20:31, Deut. 6:6,7, Isa.34:16, Deut.17:19, I Thess.5:27, Col.4:16, II Timothy 3:16,17