I’ve Never Opened One
While I was teaching an essay writing class in Scottsdale, Arizona, one of my students and I got into a conversation after class about the Bible. Near the end of our conversation, he asked me, “What does a Bible look like on the inside? How is it put together?” I discovered that he had not grown up in a Christian family, never attended church, and his present girlfriend was a Wiccan. He then stated that although he had seen Bibles sold, he had never taken the time to pick one up and glance though it. I invited him out to my car in front of the building, where I had my Bible, I showed it to him, and we spoke for a few minutes. At the end of our conversation, I also had a copy of More Than A Carpenter by Josh McDowell, which I gave to him. I, unfortunately, never did see him after that, so I don’t know if anything came about as a result of our conversation, but I pray that it did.
What is the “Bible”?
Let’s start with a really basic question, “What is the ‘Bible’?” The English word “Bible” literally comes from the Greek word βιβλία (pron. “bib-lee-ah”) in Koine Greek, which literally meaning “books.” The Bible is literally not one book, but a collection of 66 books in one collection that has been written over a time span of 1,500 years by a total of 40 different authors, who lived on 3 different continents. And yet, in spite of this, there is one single narrative that flows through its pages from beginning to end.
“But isn’t the Bible Just a Rule Book?”
Contrary to what many people think, the Bible is not a “book of rules,” but it can be described in many different ways. For example, it can be described as a collection of different textbooks, such as —
|Sociology||Constitutional Law||Social Reform|
In addition to these varied studies that one can find scattered throughout the biblical pages, one can also describe the Bible as a collection of many different literary forms and types. For example, some of them include the following:
|Apocalyptic Writings||Geneaologies||Narrative Essays||Proverbs|
As you can see, the Bible is a collection of many different things, not just “rules.” Consequently, to just label it as “a rule book” would be a gross injustice to all that it contains.
“So What is the Bible All About?”
The Bible expresses God’s continual desire to establish His Kingdom down here on Earth and to establish an intimate relationship with individuals, some of which have accepted Him and others who have rejected His offer. Ultimately, though, God will establish His kingdom here on earth (see the last two chapters of Revelation), where He will dwell with and in humanity in a world of peace, safety, and love throughout eternity.
“In What Languages was It Originally Written?”
The Bible was originally written in three different languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek. You might think, “But I don’t know how to read any of those languages.” You are definitely not alone. The majority of people in the world today can’t. But this is why translators work so hard and diligently to translate the Bible into languages that people can read and enjoy today. For example, as of the end of November 2013, according to the Wycliffe Bible Translators’ online article, “What’s Been Done, What’s Left to Do: Latest Bible Translation Statistics,”
513 [languages] have a complete Bible, another 1,294 have the New Testament. 1,010 others have at least one book of the Bible.
And, of course, one of those languages that have a complete Bible is the English language.
“Why Are There So Many English Translations?”
Another common question regarding the Bible is, “Why are there so many English translations?” New believers are sometimes shocked by how many different translations are available in English. What many people don’t stop to consider is how much the English language has changed over time, such as the way the words have been pronounced, spelled, and their associated meanings.
New words have also been added to the English language, many of the most recent ones due to the invention of the computer, Internet, and texting. For example, we’ve added acronyms like “CD,” “DVD,” “BFF,” “LOL,” “FYI,” or words like “Google,” or expressions like “surf the net,” that just didn’t exist before, but they are now a regular part of most people’s lives. Consequently, new translations are made to try and keep up with the changes in the language, as well as new discoveries on how words were used and understood in the ancient world.
For example, let’s compare John 3:16-17 in three different translations:
Coverdale Bible (1535)
For God so loved the worlde, that he gave his onely sonne, that whosoever beleveth in hi, shulde not perishe, but have everlastinge life. For God sent not his sonne to y worlde to condempne the worlde, but that the worlde might be sved by him. (“The Gosepll of S. John”)
In case you were wondering, I did not make any spelling errors; that’s how those English words were spelled at that time. Now let’s look at the original King James Version of those same two verses.
King James Version (1611)
For God so loued b world, that he gaue his only begotten Sonne: that whosoeuer beleeueth in him, should not perish, but have euerlasting life. For God sent not his Sonne into the world to condemne the world: but that the world through him might be saved. (“John Chapter 3”)
You can see there were some differences between these two translations, the King James being a little bit closer to what we know in modern English, but there are still some spelling differences. Let’s look at these same two verses in modern English:
Contemporary English Version (2003)
For God so loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. (The Apologetics Study Bible)
Now in comparing these three versions, we should note that besides the spelling differences, there are some word changes, but the overall message of all three translations are the same. So as you can see, as the language changes, and we learn more about the biblical period and the variation in meaning that words had at that time, then it becomes necessary for us to update both the language and our understanding of the Scriptures.
How Did the Bible Develop?
Briefly, let me explain that the Bible did not begin as a single volume text like we know it today. Instead, if we had been alive in the first century, A.D., during the time period of the Second Temple with Jesus (Heb. Yeshua) and His early disciples, we would not have been able to go down to the local store and buy a Bible as we know it. Why not? Because originally, the Bible was comprised of a collection of different scrolls – rather than as a single text. According to the online article “Ancient Torah Scroll, Book, or Roll, ”
The Hebrew Bible – The Old Testament – as Jesus knew it, consisted of from twelve to twenty such scrolls of different sizes. They were never united into what we would call one “book” until the invention of printing made that possible, in the fifteenth century…so a “Bible” as we know it, even a Hebrew Bible, containing the Old Testament by itself, was unknown among the Jews of ancient times.
Synagogues then, and now, have in their possession a collection of scrolls that are used in the study of the Scriptures (and today, they also have the Hebrew Scriptures [Old Testament] in book form for the convenience of people to read and study). For example, most synagogues have a Torah scroll, which contains the first five books of the Bible, as well as other scrolls, which contain other books. This was also true in the first century, A.D. Synagogues, then and now, on each weekly Sabbath, read a portion from the Torah (usually translated as “Law”) and then a portion from the prophets. This was also true in the first century, during the days of the Second Temple period, as we see from the book of Acts:
But going on from Perga, they arrived at Pisidion Antioch, and on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down. And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, “Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it.” (Acts 13:4-5)
We can also see this same practice during the life of Jesus (Heb. Yeshua). In the Gospel of Luke, for instance, we read how Jesus (Yeshua) read from the scroll of Isaiah [which, as we have seen, would have happened after the weekly reading of the Torah (usually translated as “Law”)]:
And He came to Nazareth, where He [Jesus] had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read. The book [scroll] of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book [scroll], and found the place where it was written. (Luke 4:16-17)
Can you imagine the scene? The assigned portion from the Torah scroll had been read, like it is every Sabbath in the synagogue (even today), and before they could have Jesus (Yeshua) come up to read, they had to put away the Torah scroll away. Then as they pulled out the scroll of Isaiah, Jesus (Yeshua) stands up to read, and they hand Him the scroll. He unrolls it to the appropriate section, gives the appropriate blessing, and then He reads it. The congregation couldn’t just flip over to the book of Isaiah in their Bibles, since again the Bible, as we know it in a book format today, didn’t exist yet. At that point, again, the Scriptures were a collection of scrolls and not yet a single publication.
Translators and theologians started putting together the Bible in the English language, as we know it today, not long before the invention of the printing press. The Wycliffe Bible was the first New Testament to be translated into English in the 1380s, and then other New Testament translations came into English along after the invention of the Guttenberg Printing Press in 1454 A.D. There was John Colet’s translation of the New Testament in 1496, and William Tyndale’s translation in 1525-1526. The Coverdale Bible was the first complete English Bible printed on October 4, 1535. However, the Bible that was the most popular, even more than the King James Version in the KJV’s first fifty years, was the Geneva Bible, published in 1560. According to the online article “Part 1: From Wycliffe to King James (The Period of Challenge),” the Geneva Bible was —
1. The first English Bible translated entirely from the Greek and Hebrew.
2. The first English translation done by a committee.
3. The first English Bible with verse divisions.
In addition, the Geneva Bible “was the Bible the Pilgrims took with them when they came to America and landed at Plymouth. It was also the Bible that Shakespeare used” (“Part 1: From Wycliffe”). But what I found rather interesting from the article was that —
During the 45-year reign of Queen Elizabeth nearly 100 editions of the Geneva Bible were published! Even fifty years after the KJV appeared, the Geneva Bible was the most popular Bible in England. Ultimately, it would not survive because of politics: a new king [James 1] would come along who wanted his own translation – one that was not so Calvinistic. (“Part 1: From Wycliffe”)
The King James Version of the Bible was published in 1611. In considering the discussion of the article here, it makes one wonder if politics had not been involved, and King James had allowed the public to have equal access to both translations, which of the two translations would be popular today?
“But How Can the Bible Speak to My Life Today?”
The Bible is unique among all other books on the planet in that it was literally spoken by God. In 2 Timothy 3:16, it says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,….” The Greek word that’s translated by the phrase “given by inspiration of God,” literally means “God-breathed” or “God-enspirited,” and so each verse of the Bible has been breathed out and infused with the Spirit of God. In Hebrews 4, it explains it this way:
For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
The Word of God is “alive and active,” and it can transform the worst sinner on earth, if we are willing to submit ourselves to God and to the teachings within His Word. The Bible is also unique in that through prayer and fellowship with God, you can actually ask the author questions regarding His own work.
There have been times when I’ve had questions or got stuck in trying to understand what the Bible was saying, and so I would go to Jesus (Yeshua) in prayer and ask Him to teach me. Then as I continued in my studies, I found that those areas where I just wasn’t seeing what I needed to see began to get clearer and clearer as I continued in my studies. So the Lord can teach us what we need to know from the Word for that day, if we are willing to listen and to continue to diligently seek Him through our study of the Word.
The greatest way that the Bible speaks to our lives today is that it reveals Yeshua/Jesus to us in every book. It reveals to us who He is and His love for us, and it reveals who we are, what our lives are like without Him, and what our lives can be if we surrender our lives to Him and allow Him to live His life though us. James, in his epistle, explains it this way:
For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does. (James 1: 23-25)
Do you want to have an intimate relationship with God and to experience His Presence and blessings in your life? What you have to do is as easy as A-B-C:
- Admit you are a sinner and ask Jesus (Heb. Yeshua) to forgive you of your sins.
- Believe what Jesus (Yeshua) did for you on the cross, and accept His death on the cross and resurrection was for you;
- Confess Him as your Lord and Savior from this point forward.
- Also begin to read and study the Bible, pray, and attend a Bible-believing congregation.
“Do You Want to Make Jesus the Lord of Your Life?”
If you’d like to make Jesus (Yeshua) the Lord of your life, just repeat this prayer after me:
Dear Lord, thank You for opening my eyes to the truth of Your Word and for coming to earth, revealing to me Your love, dying for me on the cross, so that I can be forgiven of my sins, and rising again and going up into heaven, so You can be my Mediator, Advocate and High Priest with the Father. Thank you for my new life, and that one day, You will come back for me. I love you and I am looking forward for that day when we will finally meet one another face-to-face. Amen.
If you have said this prayer, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, so that I can pray for you as well, along with answer any questions that you may have.