The Bible is a collection of books written by different people for different purposes over about 1600 years. Christians believe that the whole Bible is inspired by God as his message to us, and that all of it is true and useful in our lives. 2 Timothy 3:16 Christians believe that it is the best resource we have to know God, and is foundational to our relationship with him. It underpins all Christian belief and is the ultimate authority on how to live God’s way.
The books of the Bible cover different genres, including historical documentation, biography, poetry, songs, teaching and prophecy. Some of the text is written for literal interpretation and application, and some of it uses metaphor and symbolism to help us understand a concept. For example, Jesus uses ‘parables’ or stories that illustrate a point. He revealed truth through telling stories of fictional characters and events.
The Bible is split into two sections. The Old Testament shows how the world began and what went wrong, and a long history of attempts to make it right again. It specifically traces the nation of Israel, the people chosen to be used by God to save the world. This salvation comes with the arrival of Jesus, the event that slices the Bible in two, just like it slices our record of history. The New Testament documents Jesus’ life on earth and the development, teaching and revelation of the early Christian Church.
The Bible is not like any other book, although it is made of words we can read like any other. If it is true, then it is a spiritual and supernatural message from God not solely intended to impart information, but to draw its readers into a living relationship with its inspiration. It is a book that will transform lives when read in the context of that relationship. If you want to understand God’s message to you, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth to you.
A great place to start reading the Bible is at the beginning of the New Testament, in the Gospels. These are four accounts of the life of Jesus, told from different perspectives that together offer us the essence of Jesus’ message and acts.
The Bible is well supported as an authentic historical document. Around 24,000 ancient New Testament manuscripts have been found – an extremely high number compared to other ancient subjects. The New Testament was written within living memory of Jesus, all within 70 years of Jesus’ departure. In a less literate time when knowledge was mostly shared verbally, this recording is remarkably close to the fact. Other trusted historic accounts from a similar time were written hundreds of years after the events took place.
Because of supporting evidence from other texts of the time, most scholars agree that we can be certain from a historical perspective that Jesus existed – although almost all of what we know about Jesus comes from the Bible. As with any text, especially from ancient history, believing that these writings are truthful demands faith. The fact that the Bible writers wrote with such consistency and mostly independently over a short period of time helps us to believe that they were recording what really happened.
However, we can’t scientifically prove that what happened in the Bible is true. Many events described in the Bible are supernatural, like Jesus walking on water, multiplying food and returning to life after three days of death. These are things that are not easy to believe. We know natural laws that don’t allow these kinds of things. God has put us in a position where we must trust in him – not so that we will abandon the intellect he has given us, but so that we can begin a relationship with him. Without trust, it’s an academic exercise.
It's interesting to see that people in the Bible were as shocked as we are by miraculous events. The Bible writers weren’t depicting a pretend world where our laws of nature don’t exist – the things Jesus was doing were just as uncomfortably incredible as they would be now.
Are you open-minded enough to believe that things that haven’t been scientifically documented or experienced by us could happen? Or have you closed your mind to the possibility of God’s existence or miracles? If your mind is closed, you won’t even consider the claims of the Bible. Could you open your mind enough to invite Truth to reveal himself?
Many of the ideas and research in this section come from the episode called 'The Bible' in the Towards Belief series by Olive Tree Media. To rent or buy the video, click here or contact us to see if there's a free series running near you.