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The Holy Bible
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The Holy Bible

I.       The Making of the Bible

A.     The Bible is a Book of God

1.        The Bible is a book written under the inspiration of God (2 Tim 3:15–17).

2.        No prophecy in the Bible ever came by human impulse, but people, moved by the Holy Spirit, spoke from God (2 Pet 1:20, 21).

3.        Jesus Christ tells us that the Bible is the word of God, and that not an iota or a dot will pass away (cf. Mt 5:18; Mk 7:8–9; Jn 10:35).

4.        The Lord Jesus said that the Scriptures testify of him (Lk 24:27, 44; Jn 5:39).

5.        The Bible outlines the standard of Christian faith (Isa 8:20; Acts 17:2; Gal 1:6–9).

6.        The Scriptures cannot be added to, taken away from, or altered (Deut 12:32; Jer 26:2; Rev 22:18–19).

B.     The Construction of the Bible

1.        The Old Testament (TaNaK in Hebrew—Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim).

The Old Testament (OT) consists of 39 books. There are only 24 books in the Hebrew Bible, as the following combination of books are each counted as one book/scroll: Samuel (1 and 2 Samuel); Kings (1 and 2 Kings); Chronicles (1 and 2 Chronicles); Ezra-Nehemiah; and the Twelve (the minor prophets). The first book, Genesis, was written ca. 1500 B.C. and the last book, Malachi, ca. 400 B.C. These books have been written in Hebrew and copied by Jewish scribes. The structural division of the OT consists of three major categories—the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (Hagiographa):

 a.      The Pentateuch or the Law (Torah)

The Pentateuch, composed of the first five books of the Bible, are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. They are also called “The law of Moses” (2 Chr 30:16; Lk 24:44), “The book of Moses” (2 Chr 35:12), “Moses” (Lk 24:27; Jn 5:46), “The law” (Mt 5:17), and “Writings of Moses” (Jn 5:46–47).
The Pentateuch was used by the Jews at an early period, but its compilation and canonization took place ca. 400 B.C.

 b.      The Prophets (Nevi’im)

The Books of the Prophets comprise eight historical books and are divided into two sections:

·         Former Prophets:

·         Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings

·         Latter Prophets:

·         Major: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.

·         Minor:The Twelve—Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

The choice of these prophetic books lasted for about 400 years; their canonization took place ca. 250 B.C.

 c.      The Writings or Hagiographa (Ketuvim)

They can be subdivided into:

·         The poetic books: Job, Psalms and Proverbs.

·         The five scrolls: Ruth, Esther, Ecclesiastes, Canticles (Song of Songs), and Lamentations.

·         The apocalyptic: Daniel.

·         The historical books: Chronicles (one book), Ezra-Nehemiah (one book).

Most of these books are dated from the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C. After the fall of Jerusalem and the dispersion of the Jews (diaspora) around A.D. 100, the Council of Jamnia made the ultimate canonization of the 24 books of the OT: the 5 Books of Moses, the 8 Prophetic Books, and the 11 Writings.

2.        The New Testament.

The New Testament (NT) is composed of 27 books. According to scholarly consensus, the Gospel of Mark was written first; conservative scholarship dates it circa A.D. 34. The final book, Revelation, can be dated circa A.D. 90. We can classify the NT canon, which was originally written in Greek, into four literary categories: gospel (the Four Gospels), history (Acts), corre spondence/letters (Pauline epistles and others), and apocalypse (Revelation).

 a.      The Four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

In the beginning of the Christian era, most Christians used the Septuagint, which was a Greek version of the Old Testament. The sayings of Jesus in the Gospels were preserved orally. “And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42). The sayings and acts of Jesus were regarded as the highest authority in the Christian faith. Naturally, a desire arose for a document that would distinguish the new religion, full of the grace and truth of Jesus, from other forms of Judaism, as well as from the many popular heresies (e.g., Gnosticism, Docetism, etc.). Thus the four Gospels were gradually formed and recognized among the believers. The four Gospels became one of the first collection of NT texts to come together. All this probably took place during the early part of the second century A.D.

 b.      Pauline Epistles and the Acts of the Apostles

The missionary work of Paul hastened the production of his letters. The thirteen letters, often called Pauline Epistles, are as follows: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. These Epistles and the Acts of the Apostles became another canon at the end of the second century.

 c.      Other Letters

Eventually, the NT canon also came to include other letters: Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, Jude and Revelation. These documents were regarded as canon late in the second century. We do not know who wrote the book of Hebrews or to whom the letter was addressed.

C.     The Writers of the Bible

God himself directed and dictated the writing of the Bible. The human authors of different backgrounds and occupations were merely his penmen.

1.        The Old Testament.

There were about 30 Hebrews who wrote the Old Testament (cf. Rom 3:2): prophets, like Isaiah (Lk 4:17–19); kings, like David (Mt 22:42–43); statesmen, like Daniel (Dan 6:1–3; Mt 24:15); and a shepherd, like Amos (Amos 7:14–15) were all penmen for the Old Testament. Apart from Ezra 4:8–6:18, 7:12–26, Jer 10:11, and  Daniel 2:4–7:28, which were written in Aramaic, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew.

2.        The New Testament.

About nine people wrote the New Testament, among them were: fishermen, like Peter and John (Mt 4:18–22); a physician, like Luke (Col 4:14); a publican, like Matthew (Mt 9:9); and a scribe, like Paul (Acts 22:1–3). The New Testament was written in Greek (Koine, or common Greek).

D.     The Transmission of God’s Oracles

The writers of the Bible were only God’s penmen, who were moved and inspired by the Spirit of God to make his will known to the world. The following are some illustrations of how God handed down his oracles:

 a.      God gave to Moses the two tablets of stone, on which were the Ten Commandments, written with the finger of God (Ex 31:18; Deut 10:2, 4).

 b.      God spoke to Moses face to face, instructing him many things (Num 12:7, 8).

 c.      God spoke to the prophets directly with “a still small voice” (1 Kgs 19:12–18; 1 Sam 3:10–14).

 d.      God sent angels to reveal his will to the men of God (Dan 9:21–23; Acts 7:38, 53; Heb 2:2).

 e.      God made himself known by means of dreams and visions (Num 12:6; Rev 1:2, 11, 19).

 f.       The Holy Spirit moved men of God and revealed to them the will of God (2 Sam 23:2; Gal 1:12; Eph 3:5; 2 Pet 1:21).

E.     The Canon and the Apocrypha

The word “canon” comes from the Greek word for “rule” or “standard.” Today, we use it to refer to the correct list of divinely inspired books. The True Jesus Church uses the Protestant canon, which consists of 66 books (39 books of the Old Testament and 27 books of the New Testament); these books were eventually recognized by the Christian Church as genuinely inspired documents. The Apocrypha, on the other hand, include various religious writings of uncertain origin; they are not canon for our church. In fact, they are for the most part impure and heretical texts, though we do use some apocryphal books for historical information. There are 14 apocryphal books included as part of the Old Testament in the Septuagint; and there are seven such books in the Vulgate (Latin Bible). Apocryphal books are not part of the Protestant canon, but the Roman Catholic Church considers the Apocrypha as part of their canon.

F.      Some Important Versions of the Bible

1.        The Septuagint (Alexandrian Version).

During the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus (285–247 B.C.), arrangements were made for the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, for the benefit of Greek—speaking Jews in Egypt. The translation was undertaken by 70 men or 72 to be more exact. The translation began ca. 250 B.C. and continued for at least 75 years. In addition to the 39 books of the Hebrew canon, the Septuagint contained 14 apocryphal books: The First and Second Book of Esdras, The Book of Tobit, The Book of Judith, The Additions to the Book of Esther, The Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus or the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach, The Book of Baruch, The Book of Susanna, The Song of the Three Young Men, The Story of Bel and the Dragon, The Prayer of Manasseh, and The First and Second Book of the Maccabees.

2.        The Vulgate.

With so many Latin versions in existence, the need for revision became obvious. Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus, known as Jerome (A.D. 340—420), was commissioned by Pope Damascus        to do the work of translation. Since Jerome was a famous scholar in his day and well trained in Greek and Hebrew, he was well-suited for the task. After serving as a presbyter in Antioch, Jerome was made secretary to Pope Damascus. Jerome commenced his revision ca. A.D. 383 and continued the work in Bethlehem, where he lived for about 25 years. The result of his life’s work was the Vulgate (“currently received” or “common” Latin), which took its place as the accepted text and the authoritative Bible of the Roman Church. The Latin text of Jerome was actually not designated Vulgate until the Council of Trent in A.D. 1546. The Vulgate consists of the Protestant Canon (Old and New Testaments) and seven apocryphal books.

3.        The King James Bible, or the Authorized Version.

In 1604 James I, who had succeeded Queen Elizabeth in 1603, called a conference to consider the petition of the Puritans to change the Prayer Book and service of worship. During the course of the hearings, and quite accidentally, the question of a new Bible came up. Dr. John Reynolds, president of Corpus ChristiCollege, Oxford, suggested that the king authorize the publication of a new English Bible. This authorization finally resulted in the popular King James Bible of 1611, which created a Bible in “the simple classic English style” of the time. The appointed committee designated to do the work consisted of 54 men, which included Anglicans, Puritans, high and low church men, clergy, and laymen.

The committee was divided into six sections, two to meet at Oxford, two at Cambridge, and two at Westminster. Each section was assigned ‑to a certain portion of the Scriptures.

The work of each group was reviewed by the other groups. The first revised edition of the Authorized Version appeared in 1613 and included three hundred or so changes. This edition was followed by further revisions in 1629, 1762, and 1769.

4.        The American Standard Version (1901)

5.        The Revised Standard Version (1952).

6.        The New American Standard Version (1960).

7.        The New King James Version (1982).

8.        The New Revised Standard Version (1989).

G.     Chinese Versions

According to the Nestorian inscription of Singanfu, 27 books of the New Testament were known in China ca. A.D. 781. The following are some of the important Chinese translations:

·         The earlier Christian Bible (A.D. 635–650). This version is now buried in oblivion.

·         The Morrison’s Bible (1814–1823). Robert Morrison, an English clergyman, translated the English New Testament into Chinese in 1814 and completed both Testaments in 1823.

·         The Union Version. In 1890 three versions of translation were undertaken, namely, the official Chinese (Mandarin), literary classic, and common classic. After the completion of these three versions, it was found that the literary and common forms of the classical Chinese versions were identical. Thus, only the common classic version and the official Chinese (Mandarin) versions were printed.

·         The New Revised Version of Lu Chen-Chung’s New Testament. This version, completed in 1952, was a direct rendering of the Greek text. This version is quite valuable for Bible study.

H.    Chapters and Verses of the Bible

Originally, the biblical texts were not divided by chapter and verse; rather, the text of each book was one continuous flow of letters. Around 1236, however, Roman bishops began to divide the entire biblical text into chapters. In 1660, the Jewish rabbis divided the text of the Old Testament into verses. The New Testament was later divided into verses by French publishers. There are altogether 1189 chapters in the Bible (929 chapters in the Old Testament and 260 chapters in the New Testament) and 31,173 verses.

II.    The Authority And Historicity Of The Bible

A.     The Lord Jesus Authenticated the Bible

1.        The Lord Jesus testified to the writers of Scriptures.

 a.      He referred to the writings of Moses (Mt 8:4, 19:8; Mk 7:10; Lk 16:31, 24:27; Jn 5:45–47, 7:22–23).

 b.      He mentioned David when he quoted a psalm (Mt 22:42, 43).

 c.      He quoted the words of Isaiah (Mt 13:14, 15; Mk 7:6; Lk 4:17–19).

 d.      He recalled the prophecy of Daniel (Mt 24:15).

 e.      He acknowledged the writings of the prophets (Lk 24:27).

2.        The Lord Jesus attested that the Bible is the word of God.

 a.      In quoting the Bible, he said, “For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother’ ” (Mt 15:4).

 b.      “And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God...” (Mt 22:31).

 c.      He summarized the law of the Old Testament and called it “the commandment of God” (Mk 7:8, 9).

 d.      Jesus told the Pharisees that the Psalms were written by David through inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Mt 22:42–43; cf. 2 Sam 23:2).

3.        The Lord Jesus acknowledged the following events in the Old Testament:

 a.      The creation event (Mt 19:4-5; cf. Gen chaps. 1–2).

 b.      The deluge or flood (Mt 24:37–39; Lk 17:27; cf. Gen chaps. 6–8).

 c.      The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Mt 10:15, 11:23, 24; Lk 17:29; cf. Gen 19:12–29).

 d.      The transformation of Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt (Lk 17:32; cf. Gen 19:26).

 e.      The burning bush where God appeared to Moses (Mk 12:26; cf. Ex 3:2-6).

 f.       The manna given to the Israelites in the wilderness (Jn 6:31, 35; cf. Ex 16).

 g.      The brazen serpent lifted up by Moses (Jn 3:14; cf. Num 21:8, 9).

 h.      The glory of Solomon (Mt 6:29; cf. 1 Kgs 10:14–29).

 i.        The murder of Abel and Zechariah (Mt 23:35; cf. Gen 4:3-9; 2 Chr 24:20-22).

 j.        The cleansing of Naaman’s leprosy (Lk 4:27; cf. 2 Kgs 5:1–14).

 k.      The seemingly unending supplies of flour and oil from the widow of Zarephath, who received Elijah the prophet (Lk 4:25-26; cf. 1 Kgs 17:8–16).

 l.        Jonah in the belly of a great fish for three days and three nights (Mt 12:39, 40; cf. Jon 1:17).

B.     The Fulfillment of Prophecies and Promises Testifies of the Authority of the Bible

Prophecy can be taken to mean a prediction of what is to come, which is given by the revelation of God to the prophet(s). God is omniscient, and His providence covers all dimensions of time and space. God fulfills all his promises in due time. The prophecies in the Bible have continuously been fulfilled one by one, and this only goes to confirm the claim that the Bible is indeed the word of God (Isa 46:9–10; Prov 30:5–6).

The following are some fulfilled promises and prophecies which support the authority of the Bible:

 a.      Prophecies concerning Israel.

(a)     In his old age, Abraham was childless. However, God promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars of heaven (Gen 15:1–5).

·         Fulfilled: Isaac was born to Abraham at the elderly age of 100. And out of Isaac came the nation of Israel, a numerous people (Gen 21:1–7).

(b)     It was foretold that the Israelites would become strangers in a foreign land, and they would serve a nation in affliction. It was also stated that thereafter the Israelites would be released from their bondage (Gen 15:13–14).

·         Fulfilled: The Israelites moved to Egypt in the days of Joseph, and were enslaved by the Egyptian Pharaoh until Moses led them out of their bondage by God’s mighty hand (Gen 46:1–7, 26, 27; Ex 1:22, 12:35–41).

(c)     It was foretold that a king from Babylon would come to destroy Jerusalem, and Israel would be in captivity for 70 years (Jer 7:27, 25:8–12, 29:10).

·         Fulfilled: Because the kings, priests, and people transgressed the law of God and defiled the temple, God allowed the Chaldeans (a tribal people dominant in Babylonia) to burn the holy temple and the palaces down. The Chaldeans carried the people away to Babylon. After 70 years of the Babylonian captivity, Cyrus, king of Persia, was moved by God to release the Jews. In fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah, the Jews returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple (2 Chr 36:14–23).

 b.      Prophecies concerning Christ.

(a)     Christ was to be born of a virgin (Isa 7:14).

He is the seed of the woman (Gen 3:15).

·         Fulfilled: The virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus, Savior, by way of the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:18–25).

(b)     Jesus came from the lineage of David (Jer 23:5; Mt 22:41–42).

·         Fulfilled: According to earthly genealogy, Jesus is the seed of David (Mt 1:1, 20).

(c)     The Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Mt 2:4–6).

·         Fulfilled: Mary returned to Bethlehem, her home town, for registration in the census; it was there that Jesus was born (Lk 2:1–7).

(d)     The Messiah was to be sold for the price of 30 pieces of silver (Zech 11:12).

·         Fulfilled: Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Mt 26:14–15).

(e)     The Messiah’s hands and feet were to be pierced (Ps 22:14–18).

·         Fulfilled: Jesus was crucified on the cross and his hands and feet were pierced (Mt 27:22, 23, 26, 32-35).

(f)      The Messiah would be raised up from the grave or Sheol (Ps 16:10).

·         Fulfilled: Jesus resurrected on the third day from his tomb (Lk 24:1–7; Acts 2:25–32).

 c.      Predictions made by Jesus Christ himself.

(a)     The place of his suffering and death (Mt 16:21; Lk 13:33).

(b)     The time of his death (Mt 16:21, 26:18).

(c)     The person who would betray him (Mt 26:20-25).

(d)     How he would die (Jn 3:14, 12:32, 33).

(e)     That he would resurrect on the third day (Mt 12:40, 16:21, 17:22, 23).

(f)      Jerusalem would be destroyed (Mt 24:1–2; Lk 19:41–44).

Jerusalem was besieged and burnt down by the Roman soldiers ca. A.D. 70.

(g)     The promise of baptism of the Holy Spirit was made before the Lord’s ascension (Acts 1:4–5; Jn 16:7, 14:18).

According to Jesus’ promise, the Holy Spirit descended on the 10th day after his ascension, which was also the first day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–4). By the downpour of the Holy Spirit, the Lord’s ascension and resurrection is thus verified. The coming of the Holy Spirit should compel humanity to have faith in the reliability of the Lord’s promises (Acts 2:22–26).

(h)     Jesus will come again, i.e. the second coming, to bring his disciples into the kingdom of heaven (Mt 24:29–31; 25:31–46 ; Jn14:1–3).

Though the Lord has not come yet, we must have the full confidence that he will soon come to put an end to this world, and to receive the true believers into the heavenly kingdom (Rev 22:20). Since most prophecies and promises have been fulfilled, we must take heart and keep our faith strong.

III. The Efficacy Of The Bible

1.        The Bible bears witness to Jesus as the Christ (Lk 24:27, 44; Jn 5:39, 46; Acts 10:42–43).

2.        The Bible gives humans the wisdom of salvation (Ps 119:98–99; 2 Tim 3:15–16).

3.        The Bible serves as the canon or standard of our faith (Isa 8:20; Acts 17:2; Gal 1:6–9; 2 Jn 9).

4.        The Bible is the heavenly bread (Jer 15:16; Amos 8:11–13; 1 Pet 2:2).

5.        The Bible reflects humanity like a mirror, by which we can self-examine ourselves (Heb 4:12; Jas 1:23).

6.        The Bible cleanses human hearts so that we can be purer (Ps 119:9; Jn 17:17; Eph 5:26).

7.        The Bible provides instructions in righteousness (Deut 17:18–20; 2 Tim 3:16-17).

8.        The Bible provides warnings for the believers (1 Cor 10:11; 2 Pet 2:6–8).

9.        The Bible is a spiritual weapon to fight with in spiritual warfare (Eph 6:17; Rev 1:16, 12:11).

10.     The Bible is a primary source of spiritual strength and hope (Ps 19:7–8; Isa 55:2; Rom 15:4).

IV.   How to Study the Bible

A.     Surveying the Old and New Testaments

This method entails reading the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Go slowly—chapter by chapter—in order to get a general survey of the stories, teachings, and contents. You may choose to read the Old and New Testaments concurrently (i.e., a few chapters from the OT and a few from the NT) as this method works well for some.

B.     Studying a Book In-depth

Study the background, purpose of the book, and teachings/ wisdom from the book you are studying. If you want to know the book well, go through the book over and over again until you know the contents in detail and can outline the structure of the whole book.

C.     Studying a Chapter In-depth

Analyze the main theme of the chapter and grasp the main concepts within the context of preceding and following chapters. Look for important words to search for the meaning of each verse. Additionally, you can use tools such as center column references and concordances to find related verses and words in other parts of the Bible. However, use biblical tools with care; we must always look to the Holy Spirit for divine guidance and wisdom.

D.     Studying by Topic/Topical Studies

You can study the Bible by individual topics of interest. First of all, examine which field of study your topic falls under, e.g., Theology, Christology, Pneumatology, Hamartiology, Soteriology, Demonology, Angelology, Anthropology, Ecclesiology, Eschatology, or Doctrines. Afterward, you may find the pertinent biblical texts and references that concern your field of interest. You should always humbly pray and consult spiritually mature members if there are any questions or problems in your studies.

E.     The Study of Typology and/or Prophecy

From shadows, prefigurations, or types in the Old Testament, we can learn a lot about the substance, figure, or antitype revealed in the New Testament. The study of prefigurations and types can be very useful for teaching, exhortation, and self-edification. In this type of study, look for the fulfillment of the prophecies/promises though historical types and prefigurations.

F.      Studying Biblical Characters

This type of study entails a biographical survey of various characters from the Bible. Just as we learn from the examples of those around us in our day to day life, studying biblical characters provide us with enlightening insights into the mentality, actions, and consequences of the lives of biblical people. We can learn from their mistakes as well as their virtues.

G.     Historical Studies

This type of study entails a good understanding of biblical chronology, historical events, customs, and geography. In order to understand such things, you may need to consult knowledgeable members or extra-biblical references. This type of study is useful in order to understand events that took place in biblical history and—ultimately—the plans of God for his chosen people.

V.     Our Attitude Toward Bible Study

A.     Have faith (Prov 30:5; Heb 4:2, 11:6; 1 Thess 2:13).

B.     Depend on the Holy Spirit through prayer. While your prayer does not always have to be on your knees or in spiritual tongues, be sure to pray unceasingly before, during, and after reading the Scriptures. By depending upon the Holy Spirit, God often guides and reveals his truth to his people (Lk 24:45; Jn 16:13; 1 Cor 2:11; Eph 1:17; 1 Jn 2:27).

C.     Prepare a pure heart and a receptive mind (Mt 5:8; Jas 1:21).

D.     Be humble (Mt 5:3; cf. Acts 8:30, 31).

E.      Study the Bible everyday. Make Bible study a habit (Ps 119:147– 148; Isa 50:4; Acts 17:11).

F.      Listen to sermons and resolve problems by talking with spiritually mature members (Lk 2:46; Acts 8:34–35).

G.     Memorize and meditate upon the Scriptures day and night (Deut 6:6–9; Josh 1:8; Ps 1:2; Col 3:16).

H.     Keep the word of God in your heart after study and act upon it (Prov 8:32; Jer 42:6; Mt 7:24, 25; Lk 11:27, 28; Rev 1:3).

I.        Determine to spread the truth of the gospel in all diligence and courage after you have tasted the goodness of the word of God (Ezek 3:1; Mt 10:27; Rom 1:14–16; Tit 1:3; Rev 10:8–11).

J.       Do not alter the word of God.

1.        Neither add anything to God’s word nor take anything away from it. Do not let personal interpretations, personal pride, or any other self-interested reasons compel you to distort or change God’s message of truth and salvation (Deut 12:32; Ps 119:89; Prov 30:5; Rev 22:18–19).

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