Scripture 101 – What is the Bible?

We call it ‘The Bible’ – which literally means ‘The Book’; and yet when we try to read it, we quickly find that it doesn’t ‘read’ like a novel or a history book or biography.

For one thing – it’s not just one book, it’s many books – 66 ‘books’ written over a span of more than 1500 years by human authors in specific historical situations that we believe were inspired by God’s Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16).  The Jewish scriptures that Christians call the Old Testament were (mostly) written in Hebrew, while the Christian New Testament was written in Greek, the common language of the Mediterranean.

A second reality is that they’re not all the same ‘kind’ of literature.  The Bible (and individual books of the Bible) contain ancient history, poetry, wisdom, stories and parables, letters to churches and individuals, prophetic messages, ancient biography, visions and symbolic messages in the books of Daniel and Revelation.

God Still Speaks

Yet even though the Bible comes to us from a very different time and culture, God still speaks to people through scripture.  We find ourselves reflected in the family drama, good intentions and failures to follow through, times of triumph and tragedy.  More importantly, we find that woven through all of it is a story of God reaching out to human beings to draw us back into the life and relationships God created us for.  We find God’s story – God’s purposes in and for this world, and how we are meant to be a part of that.

Just Start!  

We don’t have to be experts or scholars to encounter God in the Bible or find direction for our lives.  One of the most important things is to just start reading scripture, both by ourselves and even better, in conversation with others.

Where to Begin?

If you’re not sure where to get started, here are some ideas:

If this is all new to you; 

  • Start with the book of Genesis – a story of creation, of broken relationships, and God beginning the work of healing the world through an unlikely family.
  • Start with a Gospel; Matthew, Mark, Luke or John – about the life and ministry of Jesus, in whom God kept the promise to that family in the book of Genesis.

If you want to go a little deeper: 

  • Read the book of Exodus – the pivotal story of God’s relationship with Abraham and Sarah’s family as God delivers them from slavery and genocide in Egypt, to call them out to be a people who will bear witness to God in their life together.
  • Read the book of Acts – how God’s Holy Spirit moved in the first generation of Christians to courageous lives in light of Jesus’ resurrection, to share the good news of God’s love and coming kingdom.

Some Tips:

  • Pay attention to words, images, or stories that stand out to you.  How do they speak to you and your life right now?
  • Don’t expect everything to feel relevant as you read it.  There are things that will naturally stand out to you right now, and other parts that won’t connect at this time.  That’s ok.
  • Try to read enough at a time that you get the sense of one section or story.   That said – if you find yourself drawn to something, slow down and really read it prayerfully.
  • You might want to try writing down insights and questions that come to mind –