S1E2: What is the Bible?
Basics /:2:/ Bible.
The Bible has been referred to as many things. Other religions call it "the Book". Christians call it "the Word of God" or "Scripture" or "the highest rule of faith and practice in human life." But what is it? Where did it come from? And why is it worth reading?
Scripture Covered: General survey of the Bible's structure, origin and story
Suggested Reading: Westminster Confession, Chapter 1 (On Scripture)
Other Fun Reading: The TL;DR Edition of the Bible
Themes: Bible, God, Knowledge of God (Revelation), Old & New Testaments
An excerpt from the Multiply Movement (Francis Chan, 2012), entitled "Why Read the Bible?"...
No matter what your experience with the Bible has been, it’s helpful for all of us to step back and think about what the Bible actually is. When we talk about the Bible, we sometimes use profound language without considering what we’re really saying. Perhaps the strongest thing we can say about the Bible is that it is the “Word of God.” But have you ever thought about what that means? That concept should blow our minds! When we talk about the Bible, we’re actually talking about something that the all-powerful, all-knowing, transcendent God decided to write to us! What could be more important?
If we really believe that the Bible is the Word of God, then it should be much more than a book that we are familiar with. It ought to shape every aspect of our existence. It should guide the decisions we make in life. If God is the designer and creator of this world, if He made us and placed us on this earth, and if He has taken the time to tell us who He is, who we are, and how this world operates, then what could be more important to us than the Bible?
Think of how you would respond to hearing a voice from heaven speaking directly to you. We should approach the Bible with the same reverence!
Our ministry partners at The Bible Project have a great video series about the Bible. The following two videos from that series provide an excellent overview.
The theme of our gathering began with the question: What is the Bible? building on the simple conclusions of our previous gathering (Who is God?) and inspired by the assertion of St. Anselm that "we believe so that we might understand," we continue with a twofold step of believing that: (1) there is a reasonable probability that God exists based entirely on observation and logic, even though we cannot know much about God beyond that, and (2) that a God who was deliberate in creating the observable world and humanity within it, likely has a purpose and plan for us to understand.
We are created with the capacity to think, to reason, to feel, to love... so we continue beyond the probability that God exists to seek understanding and knowledge of this God, who, as it turns out, wants to be known by us!
And so, in another small step of faith we turn to the Bible to understand more about God. We approach the Bible from two perspectives, viewing it as: (1) a collection of ancient literature, and then as (2) divine revelation about God by God, which is what the Bible claims to be as we begin to read it.
The Bible doesn't claim to have a monopoly on truth, so we can easily harmonize common truth with other wisdom literature and sacred texts. But it turns out, the Bible is different from all other ancient literature and sacred religious texts in one way: it claims to contain authoritative words directly from the God who created the universe; not merely interpreted words from angels or wisdom shared by great human sages of old, but actual quoted words directly from God. In the Bible, unlike any other ancient text that claims to say something about God, God is speaking directly to creation, and even reveals God's personal name more than 7,000 times! Yes, the God of the Bible can be known personally and further invites us to do so, repeating things like this over and over and over...
Call to me, and I will answer you, and I will show you unsearchable things that you do not know on your own.
~ Jeremiah 33:3
And so we explore the Bible in this gathering primarily from the first perspective above (as a collection of ancient literature), seeking to understand its origin, composition and historical context. In the next and final study in this series, "Theology Mattters," we will look at some of the core concepts that the Bible teaches, many of which Christians and Jews share (because we share the same Bible).
Then, for the remainder of the Devoted program, after this first "Basics" series, we will embark on the adventure of studying the entire Bible together, from beginning to end!
In the meantime, you can download and review a copy of the presentation materials from our gathering on September 18: S1E2: What is the Bible? Also referenced in the presentation is this simple illustration tracing the progressive formation of the Jewish and Christian biblical canons.