Originally published in Creation 23, no 4 (September 2001): 26-29.
How Did We Get The Bible?
The universe and all in it screams, 'There is a God!' (Romans 1:18-21), but the universe cannot tell us how it was made, its history, how we should live our lives, or about when its Creator came to Earth.
For that, God has given us His Word, the Bible. Because of the Word of God, we know that God created all things in six normal-length days, that it was originally a 'very good' place, and that the first man, Adam, disobeyed the Creator, thus corrupting the entire creation (Genesis 1-3; Romans 8:20-22). We know that Jesus Christ (the Creator) came to Earth to save His people from their sins, died, was buried, and rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures (1Corinthians 15:3-4).
What we today call 'The Bible' is actually a collection of 66 books, written by about 40 different authors from all walks of life (kings, fishermen, a tax collector, tent maker, etc.) over a period of 1,600 years. Each book was considered God-breathed and was received as part of the canon of Scripture, since it came from a recognized speaker of God (normally a prophet or apostle, or someone under their supervision), and contained no historical, factual or doctrinal mistakes.
The various authors wrote their books under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16, literally 'All Scripture is God-breathed'). This means that God the Holy Spirit guided the writers so that all of the very words they recorded in their own distinctive styles on the original scrolls were without error (2 Peter 1:21). The men who penned the books listed in what we call the 'Old Testament' (OT) wrote mainly in the Hebrew language (a few parts were written in Aramaic). The writers of the 'New Testament' (NT) books (written after Jesus returned to Heaven) wrote mainly in the common language of their time—Greek.
Since the Bible is the complete Word of God, who cannot lie, we can trust it to tell us the truth about the things we need to know. Because it is the Word of the Creator, we accept it as our final authority in every area it touches on. When we take the Bible as the writer intended, and in the way his original audience would have understood it, we have a basis for understanding and explaining what we observe in the world.
Four hundred years after Christ returned to Heaven, people began to use the Greek word biblia (meaning 'books') to describe the collection of the sacred writings. Our word 'Bible' comes from biblia.
Word of God
The Bible claims to be the 'Word of God' over 3,000 times (John 10:35; Hebrews 4:12). The authors of NT books often begin a quote taken from the OT with the phrase, 'God said' (Matthew 15:4-6). And direct quotes of God speaking in the OT are often begun with 'Scripture says' in the NT (Romans 11:2, 1Timothy 5:18). So the NT authors believed the 'Word of God' and 'Scripture' were the same.
This word was used by the NT authors to refer to the sacred books of the OT (2Timothy 3:15, Romans 3:2) and also to other books of the NT (2 Peter 3:15-16, 1 Timothy 5:18, 2 Timothy 3:16). Christ Himself cited the Bible as final authority many times and said, 'Scripture cannot be broken' (John 10:35).
A prophet was a special spokesman for God—he spoke, by God's power, the actual words God gave him.
An apostle, as used here, was a man who had seen Christ after His Resurrection (Acts 1:21-22), and who was called by Jesus to be His 'messenger'.
Canon originally referred to a 'reed', which was used as a measuring rod, much as we use a metre rule or yardstick today for measuring. The complete list of Biblical books is called the canon, meaning the 'measuring rod', or the 'authority', for truth.
The Old Testament has 39 books. The Jews divided these books into three divisions: the Law, the Prophets, the Writings. Our English Bible divides the OT into four main groups:
The 27 books of the New Testament are arranged into four divisions:
Click on the thumbnail to see an enlarged version (316 K)
The books of the Bible are placed according to date of writing. Many dates are approximate, since we don't have all the information.