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 (Q and A on Biblical Doctrines)
Chapter 4: The Bible
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Q1 Does everyone have access to the Bible?

The Bible is reaching more and more people in the world year on year. According to the United Bible Societies (a community of 146 international Bible societies serving over 200 countries), the complete book has been translated into 469 languages, the New Testament into 1,231 languages, and parts of Scripture into 2,527 of the world’s estimated 6,500 languages.[1]

Q2 Why is it so important?

The Bible reveals God’s will and His work, and answers important questions about life, the universe and the fate of mankind. Crucially, it highlights the intimate link between God and ourselves and directs us to the way of salvation. For these reasons, no one can afford to ignore its message.

Q3 Has it always been received positively?

For countless generations, the Bible has served to inspire people and to lead them into God’s light. However, history tells us that it has not always been received positively: some people have tried to destroy it or halt its circulation. Fortunately, God has preserved it, proving that His word is eternal and stands firm in heaven (Ps 119:89). Hence, the Bible states, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isa 40:8); “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Mk 13:31).

Q4 How long did it take to write?

The time span between the writing of Genesis by Moses and the writing of Revelation by John is about 1,500 years. The Bible’s sixty-six books were penned by forty people who lived in different times and places. As we consider these facts, we cannot help but be amazed at how systematic and consistent its message is. They prove that the Bible is the outcome of God’s divine will and revelation.

Q5 What language was it written in?

The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and Aramaic, while the New Testament was written in Greek. The Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, was translated in stages between 250 bc and 100 bc in Alexandria, Egypt. A Latin translation—Jerome’s Vulgate—was produced around ad 400. An English version was available in part by ad 700, and the first full translation was completed by John Wycliffe in 1383.[2]  

Q6 What is in the Bible?

There are thirty-nine books in the Old Testament and twenty-seven books in the New Testament. The OT was written from the time of Moses[3] onwards. It contains God’s law, the history of His chosen people and numerous prophecies—including those relating to the birth of Jesus. The NT contains four Gospels detailing the ministry of Jesus, a historical account of the early church, letters to local churches and named recipients, and a book of prophecy.

The central theme of both Testaments is Jesus Christ, the Saviour. Jesus says, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (Jn 5:39); “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Lk 24:44).

The OT comprises:

• Five books by Moses, also known as the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. They recount the early history of God’s people, starting from the time of creation, and detail the laws that God gave to Moses.

• Twelve books of history: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther.

• Five books of poetry: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs.

• Seventeen books of prophecy: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.

The NT comprises:

• Four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which record the ministry and teachings of Jesus.

• One book of history (in the form of a letter): Acts, which records the work of the Holy Spirit in the early church.

• Twenty-one letters: Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2 & 3 John and Jude.

• One book of prophecy: Revelation.

Q7 What is the purpose of the Bible?

The Bible is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps 119:105). Paul says, “...The Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:15–16).

Unlike secular books, which provide for entertainment, academic analysis and philosophical rumination, the Bible is the living word of God whose purposes include: 

• Calling mankind to repentance. The Bible highlights the fact that everyone has sinned and proclaims a message of repentance (Acts 3:19; 17:30): “Turn at my reproof; surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you” (Prov 1:23); “Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls…’ ” (Jer 6:16).

• Leading us to true righteousness. Jesus says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Mt 5:6). The Bible explains how we can obtain this righteousness: “...The righteousness of God which is through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe…” (Rom 3:22); “And by [Jesus] everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39). Righteousness, then, comes from believing in Jesus Christ, and by keeping the teachings of the Bible so that we become skilled in the “word of righteousness” (Heb 5:13) and “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:17).

• Directing us onto the path of salvation. Jesus says, “Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved” (Jn 5:34); “Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death” (Jn 8:51). Elder James describes the Scriptures as “the implanted word, which is able to save [our] souls” (Jas 1:21).

Q8 What do the books of history and prophecy talk about?

The books of history testify of Jesus: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (Jn 20:31). They also remind and warn us by highlighting the successes and failures of the believers before us: “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor 10:11); “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall after the same example of disobedience” (Heb 4:11).

The prophetic books contain God’s messages to His people at different periods in history. In many cases, they also reveal significant events that would transpire after the time of writing. Examples are God’s revelations concerning the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus, which were given to the OT prophets hundreds of years before they happened. The NT also contains prophecies, some of which have already been fulfilled, and others that have yet to take place.

Q9 What are the different types of laws in the Old Testament?

God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, along with civil and religious laws:

• The Ten Commandments. These are recorded in Exodus 20:1–17. They are a core set of laws that God personally delivered from Mount Sinai and wrote with His own finger onto tablets of stone (Ex 31:18; Deut 10:2). All the subsequent laws that God gave to Moses were based upon them. 

• Civil laws. These governed the community life of the Israelites and dealt with specific issues relating to their inter-personal relationships (e.g. Ex 21–23:9). 

• Religious laws. These governed the religious life of the Israelites—specifically, how they were to serve and worship God. They included instructions about various feasts (e.g. Lev 23:1–44) and offerings (e.g. Lev 1:1–7:38).

Moses compiled all of the above, giving rise to the first five books of the Bible. Later on, the Jewish teachers developed an ever-expanding set of interpretations for this written law, which the Pharisees and scribes in the NT period referred to as the “tradition of the elders” (Mk 7:5), but Jesus, more scathingly, as the “tradition of men” (Mk 7:8). 

Q10 What are the Ten Commandments?

The Ten Commandments are God’s enduring moral laws for His people. They are recorded in Exodus 20:1–17 and Deuteronomy 5:6–21:

1.     “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

2.     “You shall not make for yourself any carved image....you shall not bow down to them nor serve them...”

3.     “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain...”

4.     “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy...”

5.     “Honor your father and your mother....”

6.     “You shall not murder.”

7.     “You shall not commit adultery.”

8.     “You shall not steal.”

9.     “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

10.  “You shall not covet...”

Q11 Which is the greatest commandment?

The first four commandments set out our duty to God, while the latter six set out our duty to man. Jesus sums them up in this way: “ ‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mk 12:30–31); “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Mt 22:40). Apostle Paul adds, “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom 13:10). 

Q12 What is our responsibility with regards to God’s commandments?

The Bible states that those who believe in Jesus are justified and saved by grace, and not by works of the law (Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8). However, this does not mean we can do as we please. Paul says, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” (Rom 6:15); “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law” (Rom 3:31).

How do we, as Christians, establish the law? We do it by walking according to the Holy Spirit—that is, living a life that is submissive to the guidance of God: “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom 8:3–4). Today, we know to keep God’s commandments because they are etched into our hearts by the indwelling Spirit (Jer 31:33; cf. Heb 8:10).

Q13 The Bible was written by people, so what role did God have?

Paul says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). In truth, the Bible declares the great and wondrous works of God and reveals life, spiritual mysteries and truth—matters transcending human wisdom. Without God’s revelation, no one would have been able to write it, and certainly not with such authority.

God revealed His word to man in different ways—verbally, in writing and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that He:

• spoke to Moses “face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings” (Num 12:8).

• wrote the Ten Commandments with His own finger onto tablets of stone (Ex 31:18; Deut 10:1–4).

• gave His oracles to the Israelites (Acts 7:38; Rom 3:1–2; 9:4).

• spoke to the Old Testament prophets (e.g. 1 Sam 3:1–21).

• spoke to people as a voice from heaven (Mt 3:17; Lk 9:35; Jn 12:28–30).

• sent angels to deliver His messages (Dan 9:21–27; Lk 1:11–20).

• gave people dreams and visions (Num 12:6; Mt 1:20–23; 2 Cor 12:1–4; Revelation).

• inspired His faithful workers and apostles through the Holy Spirit (2 Sam 23:2; 2 Pet 1:21).

• sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to speak His words (Jn 3:34; 8:26; 12:49–50).

Q14 Can we view the Bible literally as the word of God?

If we view the Bible literally, we see that it contains more than the spoken word of God—it also contains the words of people (e.g. Lk 1:46–55), angels (e.g. Lk 2:13–14), and even the devil (e.g. Job 2:2, 4–5). These have been recorded for our instruction, encouragement and warning. Taken as a whole, the book is the infallible word of God because He personally inspired its writing (2 Tim 3:16). Hence, we should take care neither to add to it, nor to take anything away (Rev 22:18–19).

Q15 How should we interpret the spiritual teachings?

The Bible is the revelation of God. To understand it, we need spiritual wisdom, as opposed to worldly wisdom. Not surprisingly, many people are unable to fathom its meaning. Paul explains it in this way: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:21). He also says, “These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor 2:13). The fact is, the Bible contains spiritual truths. Therefore, we need to ask God to give us understanding (Lk 24:45) and to guide us into the truth through His Holy Spirit (Jn 14:17; 16:13).

Q16 How should we use the Bible to preach?

When we preach the gospel, we should speak the word of God faithfully and accurately (Isa 8:20; 1 Pet 4:11). Apostle Paul says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). Importantly, we should use the Bible as the sole basis upon which to preach Jesus (Lk 24:27; Acts 8:35; 17:1–4).

Q17 How does reading the Bible benefit us?

The Bible has the power to transform our lives. This is because it:

• reveals our sins (Rom 3:20; Gal 3:22; Jas 1:23–24).

• is like a sharp two-edged sword that penetrates to divide even the soul and spirit, joints and marrow (Heb 4:12).

• has the power to shatter the hardened human heart, like a hammer upon a rock (Jer 23:29).

• is a consuming fire (Jer 5:14; 23:29).

• is an imperishable seed that is sown in our heart, where it grows and bears fruit (1 Pet 1:23; Mt 13:23).

• nourishes us and makes us grow (Jer 15:16; 1 Pet 2:2).

is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps 119:105; cf. 119:130).

• is life and health to our body (Prov 4:20–22).

• cleanses us (Jn 15:3).

• is the sword of the Spirit that subdues Satan (Eph 6:17).

Bible reading should be an integral part of our life. Each day, we should study and meditate on the word of God (Josh 1:8; Ps 1:2–3; Acts 17:11); pray for understanding (Ps 119:125; Eph 1:16–17); listen and ask questions (Lk 2:46; Acts 8:31); quote from it (Lk 4:4, 8, 12); put it into practice (Mt 7:24–25; Jas 1:22, 25).


© 2012 True Jesus Church.

[1]      Source: United Bible Societies

[2]      The Origin of the Bible, ed. Philip Wesley Comfort (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992).

[3]      Born approximately 1520 BC.

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