Why Study the Bible?

Content
Preface
What Is the Bible?
Old Testament / New Testament?
How Do I Navigate Its Pages?
How Did the Bible Come Down to our Day?
Is It Man's Ideas or God's Word?
How Practical Is It for our Day?
How To Study the Bible
A Guiding Rule for Study of the Bible
Read the Bible Daily
Prefaces to the King James and American Standard Versions

Preface
Top of Page | Prev Item | Next Item

Why should you take your time to study the Bible? Many individuals and organizations discredit the Bible and refer to it as myth and legend. Yet many persons feel that it is the Word of God. If you are interested in knowing why it is to your benefit to study the Bible, then please read on . . .

What Is the Bible?
Top of Page | Prev Item | Next Item

The word "Bible" comes from the Greek word bi·bli'a, which means "little books." This word was derived from bi'blos, the word used to describe the inner part of the papyrus plant which was used to produce writing paper in Bible times. Documents written on bi'blos became known as bi·bli'a. Consequently, bi·bli'a described any writings, scrolls, books, documents, or scriptures or even a library collection of little books. By the time of the 2nd century BCE, the Hebrew Scriptures were called ta bi·bli'a in Greek. In their several grammatical forms, the Greek words bi·bli'on and bi'blos occur more than 40 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. These occurrences are usually translated "scroll(s)" or "book(s)." Bi·bli'a was later used in Latin, and it is from Latin that the word "Bible" came into the English language.

The Bible logically falls into two sections. The first section (erroneously called by some the "Old Testament") was written in Hebrew and Aramaic, and the second section (erroneously called by some the "New Testament") was written in Greek .

The Hebrew Scriptures contain the earliest records of man, the promises of God to restore mankind to its original state, the birth of the nation of Israel, the Law that they received from God, and the history of God's dealings with Israel until about the year 440 BCE. These writings are divided up into 39 books at our present time. The traditional Jewish Bible, while including all 39 books, counts them as only 24. Some also combine Ruth with Judges and Lamentations with Jeremiah and count only 22, equal to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. According to the traditional Jewish canon, the books are:

The Law (The Pentateuch)

1. Genesis
2. Exodus
3. Leviticus
4. Numbers
5. Deuteronomy

The Prophets

6. Joshua
7. Judges
8. Samuel (First and Second together as one book)
9. Kings (First and Second together as one book)
10. Isaiah
11. Jeremiah
12. Ezekiel
13. The Twelve Prophets (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, as one book)

The Writings (Hagiographa)

14. Psalms
15. Proverbs
16. Job
17. The Song of Solomon
18. Ruth
19. Lamentations
20. Ecclesiastes
21. Esther
22. Daniel
23. Ezra (Nehemiah was included with Ezra)
24. Chronicles (First and Second together as one book)

The Greek Scriptures take up the narrative with the coming of the foretold Christ, the Son of God, and relates the earthly work of that one and the establishing of the Christian congregation. This portion of the Bible is divided into 27 books. The entire Bible is therefore made up of 66 books which have withstood the test of time and are today accepted as God's message for mankind.

Old Testament / New Testament?
Top of Page | Prev Item | Next Item

Nearly all reference works refer to the Scriptures written in Hebrew and Aramaic as the "Old Testament" and the Scriptures written in Greek as the "New Testament". While I have occasionally followed this practice, a deeper investigation into the origins of these terms has led me to drop their use in favor of "Hebrew Scriptures" and "Greek Scriptures". My reason for doing so is as follows:

The use of the names "Old" and "New Testament" in English is based upon the reading of 2 Corinthians 3:14 in the Latin Vulgate and King James Versions. The key words read:

Latin Vulgatein lectione veteris testamenti
King James"in the reading of the old testament"
Jerusalem Bible"when the old covenant is being read"

The Greek word in question here is "diathe'kes". It occurs 33 times in the Greek text and its basic meaning is "covenant" although occasionally it can be translated by "will". It basically has to do with God's arrangement for dealing with people, first through the Law of Moses and later through Jesus. It does not refer to the sacred writings that we call the Bible.

When Jesus referred to the Bible, he called it "the Scriptures" (Matthew 21:42; Mark 14:49; John 5:39). The apostle Paul called them "the holy Scriptures", "the Scriptures", and "the holy writings" (Romans 1:2; 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:15). At 2 Corinthians 3:14, Paul is only referring to the old Law covenant, which makes up only a small part of the Hebrew/Aramaic text. Hence, it appears to me to be incorrect to use "Old" and "New Testament".

So, what should be used? "Jewish Scriptures" and "Christian Scriptures" does not seem right, because all the scriptures are holy for Christians and all of them were written by Jews. The best terms seem to be those which reference the languages they are written in. So I have used "Hebrew Scriptures" and "Greek Scriptures" for the most part in these pages.

How Do I Navigate Through Its Pages?
Top of Page | Prev Item | Next Item

Each book of the Bible is divided into chapters (except Obadiah, 2 John, 3 John, and Jude, because of their small size). The chapters, in turn, are divided up into verses. The common way to represent this is by the following format:

BOOK_NAME SPACE CHAPTER COLON VERSE(S)

An example would be John 17:3. This means that the book is the Gospel of John, chapter 17, verse 3. An example of multiple verses would be Matthew 6:9-13 which contains the 'Lord's Prayer'. In the case of the books that do not have any chapters, just the verse is shown. An example would be Jude 4.

The Bible has not always been divided into chapters and verses. It was the Masoretes that first introduced verse divisions into the Hebrew Scriptures. However it was Stephanus (Robert Estienne) who included chapters and verses in his Greek-Latin New Testament of 1551. The present divisions are those that Stephanus used in his complete French Bible of 1553.

How Did the Bible Come Down to Our Day?
Top of Page | Prev Item | Next Item

The vast majority of all books written in the ancient past have disappeared. The bits and pieces that sometimes survive in the writings of others often end up distorted and not a true representation of what was originally written. How do we know that the same thing has not happened with the Bible? There are two outstanding reasons why we can have confidence in the accuracy of the Bible.

First of all, the men who made copies of the Bible, though not inspired, took great pains to make sure that their copies were exact. One group of these, known as the Masoretes, had as their motto: "Change nothing, reproduce everything, fence and guard everything." Such extreme care was taken that even the number of letters were counted to guard against omission.

The second is that the time period between the earliest extant manuscripts and the writing of the originals is minimal. Sir Fredrick Kenyon once observed: "The interval then between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed." - The Bible and Archaeology, pp 288,289.

When the Dead Sea scroll of Isaiah, dating from the second century before our common era (BCE), was compared with a copy from the 10th century CE, only very minor differences appeared, most of which were variations in spelling.

Is it Man's Ideas or God's Word?
Top of Page | Prev Item | Next Item

The Bible differs from other religious books in that it claims to be inspired of God, and not that men have decided that it expresses what they think God would say to man. (2 Samuel 23:1,3: Isaiah 22:15; 2 Timothy 3:16) What basis is there for considering the Bible as the Word of God? Let's examine some of the evidence.

ANTIQUITY - One would expect that, if a book were the Word of God for man, it would have been around for a long period of time. The writing of the Bible began about 3,500 years ago, and it contains documents that date from near the time of the creation of man (Genesis chapters 1 - 7). No other religious writings still in use today are as ancient.

AVAILABILITY - It would also be reasonable to expect that the word of God would be available to all mankind. The Bible is most outstanding in this respect. First of all, it has been translated in part or in whole into more than 2,190 languages. Its circulation is next to phenomenal. It is the most widely distributed book in the world, bar none. It has a circulation of thousands of millions. No other "holy book" comes anywhere near to equaling the Bible's record in this respect.

TRUTHFULNESS - The very openness of the Bible also shows that it must come from a moral source higher than man. Men try to hide their faults. Yet the Bible straightforwardly reports on the errors and mistakes of some of the principal characters in its record, discussing the sins of some of the very ones used to write it. The prophet Jonah exposes all of his errors in his own history. David was King, and yet he did not prevent recording of his sins in the Bible. He himself mentions them in his writings. And the priests, the very ones charged with the safekeeping of the written records were often denounced by those very manuscripts. (Isaiah 56:10,11; Jeremiah 8:10; Zephaniah 3:4) Would they have not altered the record if the Bible was merely the work of men?

HARMONY - The Bible was written over a period of 1,600 years. Approximately 40 different persons, from a variety of backgrounds, living in at least a half-dozen different countries and cultures, had a part in recording its message. Three different languages were used to write it (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek). Almost 3000 people are mentioned by name as well as about 1500 locations. Experience tells us that getting 40 different people to write consistently on such a broad range of subject material is next to impossible without a determined effort on their part to do so (even if they all lived at the same time and place, and spoke the same language). Yet the message found in the Bible's pages is consistent from beginning to end, and there is absolutely no evidence of collusion on anyone's part.

ACCURACY - The Bible does not claim to be a scientific textbook. Yet any book authored by the creator of the universe should at least be in accord with scientific fact. This is the case with the Bible. To cite just one example, at a time when many believed the earth to be flat, the Bible refered to it as a circle or sphere (Isaiah 40:22) and stated that it is 'hanging upon nothing' (Job 26:7). Additionally, the Bible makes every effort to tie events to specific people and dates (see: 1 Kings 14:25; Isaiah 36:1; Luke 3:1,2).

PROPHECY - Different from all other religious books, the Bible puts its reputation on the line by literally hundreds of prophecies (predictions of future events), and not one of them has ever been proven false. You may be familiar with predictions made by some non-biblical sources that seem so vague that it is not clear at all when it will occur and could apply to a multitude of different events. An example of how clear, in contrast, the Bible's prophecies are can be found in the eighth chapter of the book of Daniel. Daniel there records his vision of a male goat striking down a ram. He then explains: "The two-horned ram which you saw signifies the kings of Media and Persia, the he-goat is the kingdom of the Greeks and the great horn on his forehead is the first king. As for the horn which was snapped off and replaced by four horns: four kingdoms shall rise out of that nation, but not with power comparable to his." (Daniel 8:20-22 NEB) Just as prophesied, Alexander the Great overthrew the empire of the Medes and the Persians. When he died in 323 BCE, 4 of his generals grabbed for power and eventually formed 4 separate kingdoms, but none of them could match what Alexander had accomplished.

Is the Bible Practical for Our Times?
Top of Page | Prev Item | Next Item

The Bible is not a series of idealistic statements as to how man should live and treat his neighbor; rather, it focuses on the purpose of life itself. Where did life come from? Why am I here? Who am I? What is my eventuality? These and others are the questions that the Bible answers. It is only reasonable that if man can ask such questions, his creator would supply satisfying answers to them.

Perhaps the most important reason for studying the Bible is that it has a very important message for our times. It is obvious to thinking persons that the world is on the verge of disaster. The Bible shows why disaster threatens and also points out its source. But further, it shows how you can survive. Therefore, it is only good sense to look into the Bible. If it is wrong, you lose nothing, and gain an understanding of the book that has shaped the life of thousands of millions. But, if the Bible is right, it will cost you your life if you do not look into it.

The Bible's message is practical for our times. Though written centuries ago, it focuses on problems that have faced men of all ages: how to live in unity and peace with our fellow man; how to forge long-lasting and loving ties within the family; how to make wise decisions in times of crises. No human source can supply these answers; men have tried and failed. But the Bible can and does.

How Should the Bible be Studied?
Top of Page | Prev Item | Next Item

There is no doubt that regular reading of the Bible is very valuable (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1,2). However, the Bible is a very large book. Most translations that I have contain about 1000-1500 pages of fine print arranged in two columns per page. The Bible is not written in subject order. For the most part, the Bible relates events in the lives of God's people, illustrating principles that can be applied in our lives or, in some cases, giving direction on how to apply these principles. You can go through the Bible, writing down texts according to subject, then organizing the texts to see what the Bible says on this subject. I have done this on a number of subjects. It is very beneficial, but to do a proper job on just a few subjects takes years. There is a better way.

Sincere Bible students over the years have compiled the results of their research. This information is available to us today. As a result, it is now possible to study the Bible by subject or themes. This is especially beneficial to the beginning student. Once the framework of a knowledge of the Bible has been established, it is much easier to build upon that foundation and grow in knowledge of the Scriptures.

The Bible also encourages us to associate with those who have the same confidence in the Bible that we do. Hebrews 10:24,25 [NEB] says: "We ought to see how each of us may best arouse others to love and active goodness, not staying away from our meetings, as some do, but rather encouraging one another, all the more because you see the Day drawing near."

The Guiding Rule for Study of the Bible
Top of Page | Prev Item | Next Item

God has not left us in ignorance of what we need to do to please Him. To the first man God gave specific instructions. (Genesis 2:16,17) When God brought the nation of Israel out of Egypt, he gave them a detailed set of laws that were to govern their relationship with one another and with their God. (Exodus chapters 20 through 31; Deuteronomy 4:8) And with the coming of the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One of God, all that God now expects of man was carefully set out. All changes in the way that God was now dealing with mankind were carefully explained in the Christian Greek Scriptures. What God has revealed to man in the Bible is the limit of his revelation at this time. (Galatians 1:8,9) Therefore, if a particular doctrine is not discussed somewhere in the Bible, then we must conclude that it is not a Bible truth, and must be rejected as error, regardless of how popular the belief might now be.

Read the Bible Daily
Top of Page | Prev Item | Next Item

To benefit from the pages of the Bible you need to read it regularly. Below is a text file for reading the entire Bible. If you do a reading every day, this schedule will allow you to read the entire Bible in a year. Depending on how fast you can read and how easy the translation you have is to read, you need about 20-30 minutes a day to keep up with this schedule.

Read the Bible
Read the Bible in chronological order

Prefaces to the King James and American Standard Versions
Top of Page | Prev Item | Next Item

For the benefit of those who are not familiar with some of the valuable information found in the Preface of the King James Bible, a copy of it is presented here. This Preface contains considerable information that is not normally included in modern printed copies of the King James Bible. The copy presented here has the spelling somewhat modernized.

Also included is a paper by Bible translator E. J. Goodspeed in which he explains the value of the Preface. He also explains that the 1611 version has been regularly modified from 1611 until 1769 to correct mistranslations, spelling errors and to modernize the translation to conform with changes in the language. This practice was largely discontinued in 1769 (although Webster produced an update in 1833). Since then, the effort has been to make fresh translations from the original languages. Because later translations have had the advantage of more and better manuscripts in the original languages, the result is that we have better translations available to us today.

Finally, the Preface to the 1901 edition of the American Standard Version is included because they make some very valuable observations on what constitutes a good translation of the Bible.

Preface to the King James Bible
Goodspeed's Comments on the King James Preface
Preface to the American Standard Bible


This site is maintained by:
Biblia-Griega.Org.