The Bible is just that – a collection of books. It was not written by one person – or by God -, nor is it meant to be read like a novel. The canonized Bible contains 66 books, written by at least 40 different authors between 900 BCE and 125 CE. It has been translated into many different languages, with each language having multiple versions. There are well over 100 complete English versions, which include the King James version (KJV), the Geneva Bible (GEN), and the New International Version (NIV), among others. For the purposes of this website and my personal study, I chose the New American Standard Bible (NASB).
There are many commentaries on each version, and, if you choose to do the research, you will be able to decide the version that best suits you and your personal preferences. I encourage you to not take my word as Gospel, so to speak, but explore the different versions available to you. Some versions are traditional, which means they translate the texts with the intent of expressing the traditional meanings of the texts. The problem with this is that there is an inherent bias in traditional translations, as the translators, when confronted with something that did not make sense to them, used their own experiences and theologies to influence their translations. Sometimes, this method does not hold true to the literal meanings of the texts. Other versions put the Bible in an everyday language that is easy to understand, but these versions also tend to exhibit the theological biases of their translators. Since I feel the NASB is true to a literal, word-for-word translation of the oldest and most accurate known texts, translated by individuals with wide backgrounds, who always kept the fact that the Bible is inspired by God at the core of their work, using the NASB, we can get to the heart of what Jesus preached. Since we are able to read the literal words he preached, deeper meaning can be found in Jesus’ teachings, enabling us to dig deep and discover the best possible explanations for the messages Jesus teaches. We may not be able to know all the secrets of Heaven, but the Bible is a great place to start.
The Bible is divided into two sections – the Old Testament (OT) and the New Testament (NT). The Old Testament, also known as the Old Covenant or the Hebrew Scriptures, is the story of how God chose the Israelites to be His people and the agreement (covenant) He made with them in exchange for them following His rules for their lives (eg. the Ten Commandments). The New Testament, is also called the Greek Scriptures, because they were written primarily in Koine Greek. The NT is known as the New Covenant, as well, because it tells of the promises God makes to those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah and choose to follow him.
The first book of the Bible is Genesis, which translates to “In [the] beginning”, which are also the first three words of the Bible. Jewish tradition says that Genesis and the next four books of the Hebrew scriptures (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), all five together known as the Torah, were written by Moses over 3,500 years ago. The entire OT is ripe with Jewish history and what may amount to as Jewish mythology. I am positive some events are accurately depicted, but there are parts of the OT that equate to the myths associated with other primitive, polytheistic religions. Books written by prophets, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Hosea also make up the OT.
The earliest known written manuscripts of Moses’ books are from about 600 BCE, far from the 1,500 BCE as some claim. Before it was written, the Torah was passed down from generation to generation through an oral tradition; the stories were given verbally to the listeners – no written manuscripts, like we have, today. This is fact, and what this does is create reasonable doubt – we must question the reliability of the texts we have – all of them. Because of this, as rational human beings, we must always be vigilant in seeking God’s full truth, as He has created it, and exactly as He gives it to us.
In stark contrast to the Torah, we have the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – the first four books of the New Testament. They are biographies of Jesus, traditionally said to be written by the people whose names the books bear – Matthew and John, the Apostles, Mark, the Apostle Peter’s secretary, and Luke, a companion of Paul of Tarsus. The fifth book, the Book of Acts, traditionally believed to be written by Luke, as well, is the story of the Apostles and Paul and what they did after Jesus ascended into Heaven. I choose to place my main focuses on Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts, as I believe this is the truest and most accurate representation of the Gospel. As for the Book of John, please see the related blog post (I will update later). All other books are letters written by various people to various audiences, except the last book, Revelation, which if a book of prophesy of things to come.
This is a very brief introduction to the Bible. I urgently recommend you get a copy of the Bible, open it, and keep it open. There are Bible study plans you can download and even Bible apps you can use to gather deeper insight into the texts. Keep in mind when reading the Bible that these events happened almost 2000+ years ago, so the people and the times were very different. It is also very helpful to learn about the history of the events that precede and surround the life of Jesus, so you will have a much better understanding of his parables, why they said what they said, and why they did what they did. You must also understand the context surrounding the Gospels, because if you try to relate Jesus to modern times to try to understand him, you will have a very difficult time and probably be more confused than before you started.
Again, if you want to know God, the Bible is a great place to start, but please remember much of the true Gospel can not be written down, as such revelation only comes with being in a personal relationship with God. We can not fully know God or His will for our lives unless we walk with Him and talk with Him on a daily basis. The Bible answers a lot of questions, and it leaves some unanswered, but rest assured, God has all the answers; He is the final answer.