Most of us have probably heard the words “Holy Bible” – or at least “the Bible”…
But what is the Bible, actually?
Well, the English word “bible” is derived from older words that just meant “book.” However, in today’s usage, we have the word “book” and also the word “bible,” right?
And you may have heard of different kinds of bibles, like a coder’s bible, a gamer’s bible, etc. Used that way, the word bible means “the ultimate compendium” or “the ultimate authority” or “everything you really need to know” about that particular subject.
The reason the word “bible” is used like that is because of the influence of the actual Holy Bible, which has historically been considered “the ultimate authority” and “everything you really need to know” about God.
People have referred to the Holy Bible by different names, too, like:
- The Good Book
- God’s Word
Okay, now we know a little bit about the outside cover. But let’s dig deeper.
The Holy Bible as we know it today consists of two main parts: Part 1 (The Old Testament) and Part 2 (The New Testament).
The first part of the Holy Bible is commonly known as the Old Testament. The word “old” here really just means “original.” The word “testament” means “account,” kind of like a testimony in a court hearing.
This “original testimony” covers a lot of ground. It contains a total of 39 separate books. Think of a Kindle bundle, where you get one download, but there are six different books included. That’s kind of how the Old Testament is.
So what do these 39 books cover, exactly? Well, the first five books are sometimes called the “Pentateuch” (“penta” means “five” and “teuch” means “books”). These are some of the famous ones: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. These books cover well-known historical events, such as:
- the beginning of the world (Adam & Eve),
- the universal flood (Noah’s ark),
- the Israelites’ escape from Egyptian slavery (Moses and the plagues in Egypt),
- wilderness wanderings of the Israelites (manna from heaven),
- the law of God given to the Israelites (the ten commandments),
- and some census-taking.
There’s a lot more than that, but those are the highlights.
So that leaves 34 books, some of which included the history of the rulers of Israel (Joshua, Judges, two books of Samuel, two books of Chronicles, two books of Kings). This is where the historical accounts of King David and King Solomon (world’s wisest king) come from.
Next are some poetry books, including Psalms (you may have heard of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd”) and Song of Solomon.
There is a great book of wisdom, called Proverbs. This is the book that King Solomon contributed to and has a lot of great advice.
Then there are a lot of books written by prophets of Israel, that include messages from God as well as some historical accounts of different important personages in the ancient world.
All in all, 39 books written by a bunch of different authors, separated by time and space, but amazingly consistent in the messaging around who God is and what he expects from humans.
The second part of the Bible is commonly known as the New Testament, or the “newer” testimony. This part of the Bible is devoted almost exclusively to the words and deeds of the most amazing man who ever lived: Jesus Christ.
The New Testament starts with four books, known as the four gospels. The word “gospel” means “good news.” To be clear, these aren’t four books about four different pieces of good news; instead they are four versions of the same event: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Each of the four books was written by an eye-witness to the life of Jesus and each of the four books tells essentially the same story. However, since there are four different writers, they each see things from a slightly different perspective:
- Matthew tells about Jesus from the perspective of his right to the throne of Israel (Jesus is the Messiah King foretold in the Old Testament).
- Mark tells about Jesus from the perspective of the common man (Jesus is relatable).
- Luke tells about Jesus from the perspective of a medical doctor (Jesus is the great healer).
- John tells about Jesus from the perspective of his divine attributes (Jesus is God).
After these four journalistic accounts of Jesus’ life comes the book of Acts of the Apostles (commonly just called “Acts”). This is a historical narrative describing what happened to Jesus’ followers after he was resurrected.
The remainder of the New Testament consists primarily in letters to different peoples and churches, filled with helpful expository on what Christianity means and how to live the Christian life.
The final book in the New Testament is probably the most famous: the Book of Revelation. This is the book that tells of what will happen at the end of time, when the AntiChrist rules the world (remember 666?), when Jesus returns (the rapture), and when he battles with the AntiChrist’s armies (Armageddon).
This was a very quick and high-level explanation of what the Holy Bible actually is. Note that there is so much more detail I’m leaving out in the interest of time. But future posts will break down some of these 66 books to give you a first-hand taste of the writing.
In the meantime, if you are interested in reading the Bible and wonder where to start, I would recommend starting in the New Testament, with the first gospel account: Matthew. You will recognize the story of the virgin birth, the three wise men, and more. As you read, bear in mind that you are not reading a book of fairy tales, but of actual history that has been supported by eye-witness accounts and non-Biblical sources. You’ll be amazed at how relevant this history is to our modern times.
If you are wondering whether it’s necessary to spend any time reading the Bible at all, then check out my post describing the Four Reasons You Should Read the Bible.