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The Bible: An Introduction



 

The Bible is a library of sixty-six books written over a period of over a 1000 years by men who were inspired by God. The first section consisting of thirty-nine books were written prior to the birth of Christ and are collectively known as The Hebrew Bible. The Jews regarded these books as their holy scriptures. To this collection of divinely inspired writings were added twenty-seven books written after the birth of Christ, in the first century AD. This latter set of books is known as the New Testament.

The Bible and divine inspiration

Christians regard the Bible, in its original languages of Hebrew and Greek, as the infallible Word of God. God did not dictate the words of the Bible to those who penned it. Instead, the writers were inspired by God’s Spirit to write what they wrote. Therefore, each writer used his own language, grammar and vocabulary to write what God wanted him to write.

There are several reasons why Christians regard the Bible as divinely inspired literature. A few of these are given below.

Millions of Christians worldwide experience the power of the Bible in their lives because God’s power is actively at work to prove His word. This is why the Bible is not a dead book. It is alive and animated by God’s power. Click the traingular PLAY button on the audio player below this paragraph to hear the testimony of a man who was healed of an incurable throat condition even as he read the Bible aloud! He was a preacher. He was not able to preach because of his disease. He was so dejected once that he put a gun to his head to kill himself. Soon after that, a church invited him to preach. He started speaking in an almost inaudible, difficult-to-comprehend manner, until he read Psalm 103 verse 5. Listen to his 20-minute testimony to hear what happened to his voice!

Now, it is for you to read and discover for yourself that the Bible indeed is God’s holy Word. Read it prayerfully and allow God to speak to you.


Bible versions

There are several Bible versions available today in the English language. Even a single version is published in two different ways, to address different grammar and spelling preferences of the British and the American people! For a beginner, all these versions can be a little confusing.

Why do we have various versions? It’s because different preferences when it comes to the style and usage of language. At a deeper level, the philosophy of the translators of these version differ. Some translators prefer a very strict word-for-word translation. Others prefer meaning-for-meaning translation. They capture the meaning of a word or phrase and express it in today’s idiom. Some go even further and take their liberty to produce a paraphrased edition.

For instance, compare how the various English versions render Proverbs 6:6 (that is, the book of Proverbs, chapter 6, verse 6):

Another example from the New Testament, from 2 Corinthians 13:12 (read as Second Letter to Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 12:

Our advice is that you choose a modern version such as the English Standard Version (ESV) or the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) or the New King James version (NKJV) for your daily reading. Different versions may be consultued online if you wish to gain further clarity or a different perspective.


Get your own copy

The easiest way to access a Bible is to install a Bible app on your mobile device. The YouVersion Bible app is a popular choice. There are other apps such the Olive Tree app and the Logos Bible Study app or even the Bible.is audio Bible app.

Although there are online electronic copies of the Bible that may be accessed using a computer or a mobile device, it is certainly useful to acquire a hard copy of the Bible if you can afford it. Of course, Bibles don't come cheap. However, you may be able to find a good discount at a local Christian book shop during, for instance, the Christmas season. Good leather bound volumes may be available at a throwaway price because of an unnoticeable manufacturing defect.

Stick to one version and to a single edition for your regular reading so that you will be able to memorise Bible verses and develop a ‘photographic memory’ of the pages. To ensure that your copy lasts a very long time, make a good investment and get a good, leather bound edition with a reasonably large print. You could also buy a cheaper hardbound Bible and get it leather-bound.


Read, Meditate, Memorise

“Stop being hateful! Quit trying to fool people, and start being sincere. Don’t be jealous or say cruel things about others. Be like newborn babies who are thirsty for the pure spiritual milk that will help you grow and be saved.” The ‘pure spiritual milk’ St Peter refers to is the Holy Bible. A Christian needs to feed on this vital milk to grow spiritually. The Bible is also like a mirror that shows us our faults. The more we read it, the more we get purified if we take deliberate steps to cleanse our life from all known sins.

We feed on the holy Scriptures by either reading it ourselves or by listening to it. In the ancient times, not everyone could afford to own a copy of all the sacred scrolls. Even today, people who belong to oral cultures find it easier to listen than to read. Further down this web page, you will find links to audio versions of the Bible. Whether you read or listen to the Scriptures, it is vital to develop a daily habit of reading the Bible in a systematic way.

Why should we read the Bible systematically and regularly? It is to help us think about it through the day and night. If it goes out of sight, it goes out of mind! If the word of God will rule our thoughts, we will be careful to obey God constantly. God told Joshua, a newly appointed leader of His people, “Yes, keep this book of the Torah on your lips, and meditate on it day and night, so that you will take care to act according to everything written in it. Then your undertakings will prosper, and you will succeed.” Joshua 1:8 CJB

The Bible has books of history, poetry, prophecy, letters, and a special kind of books called the Gospels. If you are new to the Bible, you could start reading from the beginning—Genesis, the book of beginnings. Or, you could start reading one of the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke or John—in the New Testament. You could also browse through the book of Proverbs, a collection of wise sayings that require no prior knowledge of any other biblical book. Or, you could go through the Psalms, a collection of 150 sacred hymns, prayers, and songs of adoration and use those as your own prayers.

Christians who are serious about reading the Bible usually read the Bible cover to cover every year. Some manage to read the Good Book twice or even thrice. While some prefer to read the Bible, using a Bible Reading Plan that follows the order of the books, those who are aware of the chronology of the events tend to follow the chronological order of the books. Therefore, they may read the book of Job soon after they read the creation account in Genessis. Similarly, they may read the letter to the Thessalonian church before they read the letter to the Romans because the former was written before the latter. There are others who prefer to have a ‘balanced diet’ by including portions from the Hebrew Bible, the Psalms or Proverbs and from the New Testament in their daily reading menu. The book of Proverbs has 31 chapters and it makes an excellent reading every day of the month.

Here are three useful Bible Reading Plans. Please download and print it out.

If you are comfortable with the YouVersion Bible App or other electronic versions of the Bible, please note that these apps provide a wide variety of reading plans with reminders and helpful statistics about your reading habit.


 
Understanding the Bible

If you have read the sacred books of other religions, you will be surprised to note that the Bible, generally, is simple, clear and to-the-point. We refer to this as the perspicuity of the Bible. Anyone who has a reasonable knowledge of a language will be able to understand the essential message of the Bible.

However, you will need to go beyond the apparent simplicity of the biblical text in order to understand the message of each book. Here are a few tips for you:

We hope that these tips will encourage you to read the Bible prayerfully. Even if you may not be able to understand everything in the best way, it is vital for you to read the Bible and get familiar with its contents. A fuller and better understanding awaits all of us. Therefore, instead of being rigid and dogmatic about anything, you should allow God to teach you more about everything. A willingness to learn and to submit to God’s authority in His Word are the most important marks of a humble Christian.




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