What is the Bible? Ep. 1
The bible is the most read books of all time. It plays such an imperative role in exploring the big questions of why we exist and what our purpose is on earth.
With that said, it’s time we learn more about what the word of God is and how it was gifted to us.
The Bible is a small collection of books, that all emerged out of the history of the people of ancient Israel. To a normal person living at that time, they were just like other ancient civilization. But among them were a long line of individuals called prophets.
These prophets were chosen by God to open their eyes to His plan for all humanity through Israel. And these prophets were literary masters.
These prophets crafted the Hebrew language to write epic narrative, very sophisticated poetry, they were masters of metaphor and storytelling and they leveraged all this to explore life’s most complicated questions about death and life in the human struggle.
There’s a lot of different authors (about 40) writing this book and these texts were produced over a thousand year period starting with Israel’s origins in Egypt, then leading up to their kingdom with their first temple but eventually, they were conquered by the Babylonians who took them away into exile.
Then at a crucial moment in their history many Israelites returned to their land they built the Second Temple they reformed their identity and this is when the Jewish Scriptures begin to be formed into the shape that we have them today
Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible (how it all started)
Jewish Bible what’s in it when Hebrew is called by an acronym-
- T stands for Torah (sometimes called the law), that is Israel’s five-book foundation story — Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy
- the N stands for Nevi’im, the Hebrew word for prophets. This section consists of the history books that tell a real story from the prophets point of view, then you get the poetic books of the prophets themselves — Joshua, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.
- the K stands for Ketuvim, the Hebrew word for writing. This is a diverse collection of poetic books, wisdom books, and more narratives — Psalms, Proverbs, Jobs, Ruth, Chronicles, etc.
Jewish people believe that through all of these literary works God speaks to his people
There were other Jewish writings being produced during this Second Temple period as well yeah really diverse group of texts and these two were highly valued in Jewish communities and there was debate from ancient times about whether or not some of these should be considered part of their scriptures. So this is a lot of different writings over a long period of time
Why where the scriptures put all together like this?
Amazingly, altogether these texts tell an epic story about how God is working through these peoples to bring order and beauty out of the chaos of our world, and it all builds up to a hope for a new leader who would come and renew all creation and then the Tanakh concludes, and this leader never comes.
Thus making it an expertly crafted work but without an ending.
Jesus and the Apostles
A few centuries later a Jewish prophet comes on to the scene. He was named Jesus of Nazareth and claimed he was carrying the Tanakh story forward.
Jesus did a bunch of incredible stuff. He was killed on the cross, but his followers claimed he was alive from the dead.
They said that Jesus was that long-awaited leader who would restore the world and so his earliest followers called apostles, they compose new literary works about the story of Jesus they called the good news or the Gospels.
They formed an account called Acts about the spread of the Jesus Movement outside of Israel and then they circulated letters to different Jesus communities all around the ancient world.
They saw these writings as part of the scripture yeah the Apostles wrote all of this as the fulfillment of that epic story found in the Tanakh and they were continuing the literary genius of the Jewish tradition they also believed that God was speaking to his people through these texts alongside the scriptures of Israel
So that’s the old and new Testament
The Old and the New testament
Different groups had different views about some of these books but we know they read them and valued these texts because they pass them along with the Jewish Scriptures.
So we’ve got
- the Tanakh the Jewish Scriptures,
- Second Temple period works,
- The writing of the Apostles about Jesus
and that’s a lot of literature
Christian movement has taken different forms over 2,000 years and from the beginning, all Christians recognize the Tanakh and the New Testament as Scripture.And for centuries much of the Second Temple literature was read as part of the biblical tradition.
The Catholic Church eventually made it official and called some of the books from this collection the deuterocanonical books. Some Orthodox churches used even more books from this Second Temple literature.
Then in the 1500s during the Reformation Protestant, Christians wanted to go back to the oldest writings of the prophets and apostles so they accepted only the old and New Testaments
A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education
— Theodore Roosevelt
In the next episode, I will be writing about the unified story told by the Bible.