1. The Bible: What It Is

Meet the Bible!

It is impossible to understand Christians and the Biblical faith without making a study of the Bible. We are very glad that you are willing to join us in this study with an open mind. You will certainly not regret it! Please obtain a copy of the Bible in any language that you understand well. The Bible has been translated into more languages than any other book ever written. In our discussion we will quote from the New International Version (NIV). This is one of several trustworthy translations into modern English. If you understand classical Hebrew and Hellenistic Greek, you could, of course, study the Bible in the languages in which it was originally written. A very good translation into Arabic was published in 1981, and is available at any branch of the Bible Society. If you do not know where to obtain a Bible, you may email to Biblecor <bmedia@cis.co.za> for advice.

The Bible is a Library !

Open your Bible at the “Contents” page right at the beginning. Please note that the Bible is divided into two main parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. You will see that each Testament consists of a number of separate books. The Old Testament has 39 books, and the New Testament 27. The Bible is not a single book. It is a library of 66 different books, found in one cover! Refer to the “Contents” page in your Bible if you wish to look up a Scripture reference. You will also find the number of the page on which each book begins. Since the pages are again numbered from 1 onwards in the New Testament, you should remember to note whether your Scripture reference comes from the Old Testament or the New Testament. Each book in the Bible is divided into chapters. Each chapter is subdivided into verses. When you read of 1 Sam. 3:4-14, it means the first book of Samuel, Chapter 3, from verse 4 to verse 14. (We shall avoid making use of abbreviations in this study guide.) The different books of the Bible are grouped together according to the contents.

The Books of the Old Testament

The Old Testament is a collective name for all Biblical revelation which was given to man before the time of Jesus. It could also be called the Old Covenant, for it is named after the covenant which God made with Abraham and his descendants. It was renewed with Moses and the people of Israel, the people God chose to serve Him as an example to all people to lead them to God. Jesus introduced the New Covenant, which calls on all people to serve the living God. The Bible has a message which is ageless and for all believers. The books of the Old Testament are grouped together as follows:

The “Books of Moses” (Taurat), also called the Torah (= law) in Hebrew, or the Pentateuch (= five books) in Greek

2. The Historical Books of Israel cover a period from the death of Moses to about 500 BC (1000 years).

3. The Poetic Books were originally written in the poetic style of their time.

4. The Prophets spoke to people on behalf of God. They give direction, warning and judgement. They also foretell the immediate and distant future.

The 39 books of the Old Testament were written by at least 72 writers, during the period approximately 2050 BC to about 400 BC.

The Books of the New Testament

The second main section of the Bible was written within a period of roughly 60 years (40-96 AD). It deals mainly with the life of Jesus (Nabi 'Isa) and his teaching, as well as the growth of the early Christian church. It begins with the Gospel (Injil) as recorded by four different writers. The word Gospel (Injil) means “Good News”!!

1. The Historical Books consist of the four Gospels and the book of Acts.

2. The Teaching Letters (epistles) were written in accordance with the words of Jesus: “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth ..” (John 16:12-13). “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).

These letters of guidance, teaching and prophecy were also written under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They elaborate on the Gospel and cover in addition a wide range of subjects, given for instruction and encouragement. The authors were John, Peter, James, Jude and Paul. Paul's letters receive their names from the individual of church to whom they were first addressed. The Teaching Letters are:

3. The Prophetical Book In the book Revelation the apostle John (writer of the Gospel named after him) records prophetical visions about the history of the world and of the church right up to the last Judgement, showing how God's eternal purpose will be fulfilled.

Test Yourself No 1

Answer the following questions for yourself, and then compare your answers to the answers given.

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