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How We Got the Bible

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The Bible is the best-selling book in history with the approximate sales ranging from 2.5 Billion to 6 Billion copies. It has held the title of the best-selling book since 1455 and continues to this day to outsell even the newest trending books on the market. With the success of the new Bible miniseries from the History Channel, I thought I would put some information together that could be used as a reference guide for how we got the modern protestant Bible.

Its Inspiration

The Bible is the story of God communicating to mankind the knowledge of Himself, His Grace and His mercy. It did not start as a completed document but as a process of revelation to men over the course of 1,600 years. It contains a cohesive inherent narrative of God's love for us through His Son Jesus Christ. And it all started - In the beginning...

The Bible opens with the inspired account of the creation of the world, including the creation of man in God's image. The word inspiration basically means that there is a divine influence or action on a person. By using inspiration through the Holy Spirit, God enabled man to write in human language words that were identical in meaning to His own words.

The first five books of the Old Testament are called the Pentateuch and were written by Moses about 1450 B.C. A majority of the events in those books however took place centuries earlier, especially those dealing with the actual creation of the world and man. How could Moses have known how the world and man were created? God had to reveal it to him because he did not exist at that time.

In Luke 24:26-27 Jesus validated the inspiration of Moses and all of the other prophets in the Old Testament by saying to the two men on the road to Emmaus, "Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

The Process of Compilation by Holy Spirit Inspiration

But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. 2 Peter 1:20-21 NASB

Men were specifically chosen and prepared for His purpose in creating what we know today as the Bible...

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah 1:5 NASB
But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased... Galatians 1:15 NASB

It is Divinely Authorized

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness... 2 Timothy 3:16 NASB
From the standpoint of form, the writers contributed their linguistic style of writing (e.g. Luke is very meticulous in his writing because he is a physician and a detail oriented person), historical research and theological meditation. Theologically, from the standpoint of content, the Bible regards the writers as having contributed nothing. These men wrote exactly what God wanted for His communication to the people.

The Bible's Structure

The Bible is divided into two major parts: The Old Testament and The New Testament. The Old Testament contains 39 books of pre-Christian Hebrew Scripture: 14 historical books, 5 poetic books and 17 prophetic books. The New Testament contains 27 books of the Christian era. These 66 books by 40 different authors written over the course of 2000 years make up the Protestant canon to be included in what we know today as the Bible.
Quick Vocabulary to know:

  • Testament: The Hebrew word "berith" (Greek: diathekes), which is sometimes translated 'testament', means "covenant" (an agreement between two or more persons; a contract)
  • Canon: from the Greek kanon for "rule" or "standard of measurement."

Old Testament: The Historical Books

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles

The first 17 books of the Bible trace the history of man from creation through the inception and destruction of the nation of Israel. In the Pentateuch (the first five books), Israel is chosen, redeemed, and prepared to enter a promised land to call their own given to them by God. The remaining 12 historical books record the conquest of that land, a transition period in which judges ruled over the nation, the formation of the kingdom, and the division of that kingdom into northern (Israel) and southern (Judah) kingdoms, and finally the destruction and captivity of both kingdoms.

Old Testament: The Poetic Books

Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon

Through the use of Hebrew poetry, these books delve into the questions of suffering, wisdom, meaning of life, love, and most importantly, the true character and nature of God. They also serve as a bridge linking the history of the past with the prophetic books of the future.

Old Testament: The Prophetic Books

Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel

Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
The next 17 books of the Bible comprise about one-fourth of the Scriptures and make up the last division in the Old Testament - the Prophets (sometimes divided into major or minor category). The major and minor categories usually reference the length of the books and do not indicate that the Minor Prophets were any less inspired by God than the Major ones.

The office of prophet was instituted in the days of Samuel, and those who were prophets stood alongside the priests as God's representatives. The men who wrote these books were called or appointed to "speak for" God Himself. God communicated His messages to them through a variety of means, including dreams, visions, angels, nature, miracles, and an audible voice. Unfortunately, the messages they shared from God were often rejected by their people and their lives endangered.

The prophetic books have four major themes and purposes: to expose the sinful practices of the people; to call the people back to the moral, civil, and ceremonial law of God; to warn the people of coming judgment; or to anticipate the coming of Messiah.

New Testament: The Historical Books

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts

Soon after the establishment of Christianity in the first century, Church Fathers compiled Gospel accounts and letters of apostles into a Christian Bible that became known as the New Testament. The first five books in the New Testament - Matthew, Mark, Luke, John (called the Gospels), and Acts - are entirely narrative and the only historical books in the New Testament. The Gospels are a historical account of the life and times of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, whose birth, life, death, and resurrection were prophesied throughout the Old Testament. The book of Acts provides a factual report from the period of Christ's final words to His followers, to His ascension into heaven and to the travels and trials of the apostle Paul. Acts describes some of the key events which spread the "good news" from Judea to the far reaches of the Roman Empire.

New Testament: The Doctrinal Books

Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2 & 3 John, Jude, Revelation

The first nine epistles (Romans through 2 Thessalonians) are penned by the apostle Paul and contain many of the doctrines or essentials of the Christian faith. They are all addressed to Christian assemblies or churches.

The four that follow (1 Timothy through Philemon) are also written by Paul but are addressed to individuals. Their contents center on personal relationships, church organization and maintaining a focus on Jesus.

The final nine letters of the New Testament (Hebrews through Revelation) are addressed to groups scattered throughout the world. Their messages address the issues of persecution, false teachers, the superiority of Christ, and His soon return. Even though the book of Revelation focuses largely on God's prophetic plan for the future, it is also a letter of Jesus Christ, transmitted through the apostle John, affirming Christ's authority, His concern for the church and what is soon to come. Revelation closes with a glorious glimpse of the church's future home in heaven.

Final Word...

Unfortunately in our society today, Biblical literacy is at an all-time high and it is not getting any better. Fewer than half of all adults can name the four gospels. Many Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the disciples. According to information from the Barna Research Group, 60 percent of Americans cannot name even five of the Ten Commandments. "No wonder people break the Ten Commandments all the time. They don't know what they are," said George Barna.

We have to turn this around and fast because we are in big trouble. And the solution starts with you!