What is the Bible?
The Bible ends up on the best seller lists year after year. There has probably been no book that has ever had as many runs on the printing press. But it also seems to be the least read book on the library shelves. I think I understand that. It is big. It is intimidating. And people don’t often know where to start. I hope I can help at least a few of you open it up and begin reading with my next few articles. My plan is to do a series explaining what the Bible is, why it is important, and how to read it. I think I’m somewhat qualified for this because I have read it a few times now, and spend hours every day reading and rereading it in English, and the original Greek, and Hebrew.
But it is not always the easiest book to read. It isn’t necessarily hard to understand. It can just be tough to read. When I was 16 I decided I ought to read the Bible from cover to cover. I was investigating other religions, but hadn’t yet even read the cornerstone of my faith. I decided to put the other literature down, and pick it up when I was done reading the Bible. It took me two years. In that time I probably read fifty other books. But the Bible, it sat there on my desk when I hit Leviticus. Genesis and Exodus were great, but Leviticus that was hard. But I took Luther’s advice after about a year and a half. I just plowed through it. Boy, am I glad I did. I learned a lot. It changed my whole outlook on life. To tell you the truth it opened my mind, and made me a bit more understanding of people. But it made me even more appreciative of the faith I grew up with, a faith in Jesus Christ as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Yet to fully understand that phrase of John the Baptist, I had to read Leviticus. Over the years I have learned to love Leviticus, but I still pick on it. The Monty Python skit about the “Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch” comes to mind every time I think of Leviticus.
The Bible, contrary to the name it gets from Greek, meaning book, is actually not a book, but a collection of books. In actuality it is a library of books that all have one thing in common, Jesus Christ. The many books of the Bible, 66 in all, were written over the course of 2000 years and cover a history of about 4000 years. It had many human authors, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John, Matthew etc. but these authors all received their inspiration from the one same source, the Holy Spirit. “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21 (ESV) And they all have the same focus, Jesus Christ. “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” John 5:39 (ESV)
Of course, Jesus was only speaking about the Old Testament books when he said that, but it is pretty self evident that the books of the New Testament, written after his death and resurrection, are also about Christ. This is the most important thing to keep in mind as you are reading the Bible. The whole Bible is about Jesus Christ. He is the key to understanding all of scripture. He is the promised savior of Genesis 3, the seed of the woman who will crush the head of the serpent. He is also the alpha and omega of Revelation.
The Pharisees to whom Jesus was speaking when He said that, read the Bible as a guide for life. They looked to it for special rules to follow in order to gain God’s favor. People it seems are always looking for new rules, in life. If you want those, go get Dr. Phil’s newest book. Don’t read the Bible. The Bible has rules for living, most of them pretty self explanatory. You don’t need the Bible to tell you murder is wrong, plenty of atheists have figured that out. The Bible has rules for living, but that isn’t what it is about. It is about the forgiveness of sins, we have in Christ who died for us on the Cross, when we broke those rules.
With this in mind, the best book to begin the journey through the Bible with is the Gospel of John, from there read at will, go to Genesis, or go to Romans, read Leviticus and find out what it means to be the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”