The Bible is a book all about God’s relationship with us. It offers us an opportunity to meet with Him and get the direction we need to live life to the full. The Bible has provided hope and inspiration for generations and continues to be a worldwide best seller, with sales outstripping any other book ever published.
The Bible is actually a collection of 66 different books and letters, written over a period of some 1,500 years up to about 100 years after Christ's death and resurrection. It is divided into the Old Testament (the first 39 books) and the New Testament (the last 27 books). The word 'testament' means covenant or agreement, so the Bible shows how God’s old agreement, based on the ‘covenant of law,’ is superseded by a new ‘covenant of grace' - as shown in The New Testament.
The Old Testament
The first 39 books of the Bible tell the story of God’s creation, man’s rebellion and prophesy the coming of Christ. The beauty of creation that we read about in the first few chapters of Genesis, the first book in The Old Testament, is an expression of God’s love for us. This is closely followed by the account of mankind’s disobedience and the consequences of it.
There are numerous historical texts and considerable archaeological evidence to corroborate the stories of natural disaster, warfare and empire that we read in The Old Testament, but it’s not merely a historical account. The Old Testament has a lot to teach us about the struggle of human nature. This ongoing tension between man and God is written about beautifully in the books of poetry and wisdom, such as Proverbs and Song of Solomon. Here, we get an insight into the pain, anger and struggle of life, along with the joy, love and passion.
Whilst The Old Testament is largely concerned with life before Christ, there are also 17 books of prophecy, from Isaiah to Malachi, that look forward to the future. These books speak of God’s judgement on his people, but they also foretell the coming of Christ and offer a glimpse of a new covenant with God.
The New Testament
The second section of the Bible starts with the four Gospels and the book of Acts, where we learn about the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The New Testament is the foundation of the Christian faith because it’s here that we see the prophecy of The Old Testament fulfilled.
God sent Jesus, his own son, to pay for our sins, so that we can have eternal life. It’s the ultimate love story, where we get the most wonderful insight into God’s character and His incredible gift of grace. Just as stories from The Old Testament have been corroborated by historians and archeological evidence, so too are the stories of Jesus and his friends.
Following the Gospels are 21 letters, from Romans to Jude, written from followers of Jesus in the years after his death. They tell of the everyday struggles of Christians and the growth of the early church. In the accounts we see early Christians challenging tradition, enduring persecution and encouraging one another practically and spiritually as they seek to live like Jesus.
The Bible ends with the book of Revelation, which describes the future of God's people in heaven and the final defeat of evil. It offers a glimpse of eternal life and reinforces the warnings about the consequences of rejecting God's light and love.
Who Wrote the Bible?
The Bible was written by lots of different people, from different walks of life, who lived in different places and eras. They are biographers, historians, philosophers and writers of theology, poetry, adventure, travel and romance who were all inspired by God.
What’s incredible is that, while most of the authors had no contact with each other, as you read through the 66 books, the similar themes and unity becomes apparent. The Bible is one whole book and no part is complete on its own. It’s a story of God’s love for us, our rebellion and God’s infinite grace to win us back.
Why Do Christians Read the Bible?
The Bible is often referred to by Christians as the manual for life. In Jesus, we have the perfect role model to follow. He offered an alternative way of life, where the poorest were the most important, it was more important to put others before yourself and hope lay not in money and status, but in God.
The Bible also shows us characters who, like us, are deeply flawed. There are plenty of heroes in the Bible that God uses for His glory, in spite of their weaknesses. In this sense, it’s the most remarkable story of hope. The Bible has consistently challenged and transformed the lives of its readers, offering guidance through even the darkest of circumstances. It’s a book for all people, for all time.
Why should I read the Bible?
The Bible, or parts of it, has now been translated into more than 2,300 languages and dialects. There are even recent translations and paraphrases to help current generations access its wisdom in language that’s relevant and applicable today.
You don’t need to be a historian, an academic or even a Christian to read the Bible. It was written by ordinary people for ordinary people and has the power to inform, reform and transform lives.
Whatever situation or circumstances you’re in, chances are you’ll read about it in the Bible. It’s brutally honest in places, offering an incredible insight into the way that God can work with us, through us and in us. But the Bible’s overarching message is one of hope – that through Jesus Christ we have the promise of eternal life. It’s a promise that has given countless people new strength and an unerring purpose for life.