3. What's In The Bible?
The Bible is a compilation of writings that have come from many different periods in history. They are united together in the claim that their writing was directed by God. This God is a being that has power over the Earth and the lives of people. He is claimed to be a real living God with great power over the world, and essentially the true ruler of the world. Just one example is in the famous “10 commandments” passage:
Exodus 20:1: God spoke all these words, saying, 2. I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3. You shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make for yourselves an idol... WEB
So here the writer is claiming to be speaking the words of an authoritative God. The Bible makes no apologies for being dictatorial, and instead claims the exclusive right to be that way. Thus the compilation of books in the Bible is considered to be the words of God to people.
The content of the Bible itself was written down over the period 1250BC through to about 100AD. Through that period of time, many different people wrote sections of text that were later put into the compilation. Despite the span of time and the various writers, the message that is contained in the various sections is coherent, and this in itself is an indicator that there is more to this book than just the ideas of humans.
The Bible offers knowledge in a number of areas:
- An account of a history.
- Knowledge about God.
- Knowledge of a Future Glory.
- A way of “salvation”.
- Description of a set of morals.
- The Meaning of life.
The account of history is in some ways obvious, and at other times glossed over. As a historical source of information it is quite valuable. Even if one were to dispute the true nature of the Bible, it is still unquestionably a very old book and reveals events that reach a long time back into history
As a source of history, the Bible is not unique, as there are many other source books for historical knowledge. Something that can make it unique is how it describes the world as being subject to the power of a mighty God. The Bible then goes onto describe the nature of this God, and what he wants from the people of the world.
On account of it's age, the Bible tells us of history, but it can also tell us of things that are still in the future. It does this through its predictions, or “prophecies”. These are sections that describe things that would happen on the Earth at some future time. One theme of those prophecies is that there is to be a future Kingdom on this earth where the problems and sufferings that we have now will stop, and people will live in peace.
Not only does the Bible prophesy that this Kingdom will appear, but also that there is a way to become a part of it. It introduces the two concepts of “salvation” and “resurrection”. The salvation is the means to be saved from the condemnation that results from our present failures before God. The Bible also speaks of a resurrection, where people will be raised from the dead to be able to participate in this future Kingdom.
The Bible also contains numerous laws and moral codes. These are presented the laws and standards of behaviour dictated by God for the people of the earth. Many people feel that these are appropriate moral standards for people to live by, but if this book is truly the words of an all-powerful God, they are also the only true morals that we can live by.
If the Bible can specify the true morals of life, it is not surprising that it can also show the true meaning of life. As humans, we can discover our world and environment through exploration and experimentation. However, that does not take us any further than the visible things in the world. The Bible though paints a picture of something bigger, and puts the world that we see into a bigger context. We can then discover the meaning of our lives in that context.
The Old Testament
There are two main sections of the Bible. There is first the “Old Testament”, which is the older section, and was written through the period 1250BC to about 400BC. This formed the book of scriptures for the Jewish people. It is primarily about the ancient nation of Israel, and includes sections of law and history that have been important to the Jewish people for a long time. It was written in the Hebrew language, and has been meticulously preserved by the Jewish people over the centuries.
The New Testament
The New Testament is quite different to the Old Testament. It was written over a comparatively short time, approximately spanning the years 50 to 100AD. It details the life of Jesus Christ, his teachings, and the early Christian movement. It starts with a number of books that are largely written as a historical narrative, and then includes a series of letters written to various Christian groups and individuals.
A message and theme of Jesus' life was given right at the start of the New Testament, by another man who told of his coming,
Matthew 3:1: In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2. and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" 3. For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.' " NKJV
Three aspects are borne out in this passage:
- There was a message that people needed to “repent”.
- A Kingdom of Heaven was at hand.
- These events had been predicted in the past.
The message of repentance shows that the Bible carries with it an active message. It ought to be the sort of message that causes changes in the life of the listener. If the repentance is something that is needed, then it is important to actually hear that message. So in this case, the Bible contains potentially very important information.
The second point about the Kingdom of Heaven indicates that it is a book about a change, and that something new was at hand. The New Testament describes what that change involves.
Importantly also, this short passage links with the words of the Old Testament. In many places, the writers in the New Testament show how something was told or predicted in the past. This emphasises the cohesiveness of the Bible, and also the power of the Old Testament to predict that were still in the future at the time it was written.