A Very Brief Introduction to the Bible
Although most frequently published as a single book, the Bible is actually a collection of books written by various authors over the course of many centuries. For example, the first book in every Bible is the book of Genesis, which opens with the story of creation.
One of the first things that newcomers to the Bible will notice is that it’s divided into two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The 39 books of the Old Testament were originally written in Hebrew, with some portions composed in Aramaic, between around 1400 and 400 B.C. The 27 books of the New Testament were composed in Greek, between about A.D. 45 and A.D. 96.
These 66 books are universally-recognized by Christians, and are often referred to as the Scriptures, a name that for believers signifies their sacredness, their spiritual authority, and their supernatural character as inspired by God.
The list of books included in the Bible is sometimes referred to as “the canon of Scripture.” The word “canon” here comes from the Greek word kanōn (κανών), which can mean, “measuring rod,” “rule,” or “standard.” The word “canon” not only implies the Bible’s authority, but also that its many writers speak with one voice—that is, they are in harmony with each other concerning the truths they teach.
Not only do the Bible’s various authors speak with one voice, but its many historical accounts also tell a single story. It’s a story that unfolds over many centuries, through the histories of several nations, and the lives of countless people.
It tells us of the true and the living God who created all that is, of how He made us in His image, but we rebelled against His loving care for us and fell very far from our original state of goodness.
Most importantly, it tells us of His plan to save His people from their sins. It explains how God Himself came into this world as a human being, in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, and how He sacrificed His life to pay the penalty for the sins of those who would put their trust in Him.
The resurrected Christ—seen by more than 500 witnesses—demonstrated that He had conquered death for His people by paying their debt in full. The ascension of Christ into heaven inaugurated the beginning of a new era in God’s plan, during which time God would extend His kingdom through the preaching of the Good News of what Christ had done.
The ultimate purpose of the Bible as a whole is to present Christ to us. The purpose of the Old Testament is to point forward to His first coming. The purpose of the New Testament is to both point backward to His first coming and forward to His second, when He will return to judge the living and the dead, bring an end to human history as we’ve known it, and usher in an eternal age of joy for His people.
Meanwhile, for those who have put their faith in Christ alone for salvation, the Bible serves to completely equip believers to live in a world driven by spiritual forces that are hostile to their faith, where they face constant temptations to doubt and to disobey. For them, the Bible is God’s all-sufficient message of warning, comfort, and guidance. It serves as a lamp for their feet and a light for their path in a dark and troubled world.
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