What is the Bible?

How does an ancient Hebrew book have anything to do with our lives in the twenty-first century?

These are fundamental questions for the church. The answer to these questions will set the trajectory for how you make decisions and practice your faith.

 

Here are four important things to note about the Bible to help you get started:

  1. The Bible is a BOOKshelf.
  2. The Bible is a Shared Story.
  3. The Bible is a Window to Jesus.
  4. The Bible is Meditation Literature.

1. The Bible is a BOOKshelf

First of all, the Bible is a collection of documents, not a single book. The image below is the core image of A Cartoonist’s Guide to the Bible. Use this BOOKshelf to explore every book of the Bible.

2. The Bible is a Shared Story

Examine the image below. It depicts two very different ways to think about the purpose of the Bible. I was raised in a system that operated with the dualistic worldview. We thought of the Bible as a list of rules that we had to follow in order to insure that we would go to Heaven when we die. Paul’s letters became the new law for how to live our lives as Christians.

I have migrated, theologically, to the right hand side of the image over the past twenty years. I now understand that the Bible is a collection of documents that record how real people encountered the real God and tried to make sense out of the experience within their own context. How they applied the Good News of Jesus Christ into their contexts offers examples to us for how we can do the same within our contexts.

This video shows how the collections of books came to be over the centuries.

3. The Bible is a Window to Jesus

I am a Christian, a disciple of Jesus. I believe that Jesus is the Word of God that became human in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. To be human is to be limited to a particular body in a particular time and space. That human doesn’t walk the Earth any more. I can’t know who Jesus of Nazareth was, what he taught, and why it matters without the Bible.

4. The Bible is Meditation Literature

The Bible was designed to be read in community, over and over again. It doesn’t offer a scientific explanation for all the mysteries of the universe. It offers a communal space in which we can encounter the Word of God in, behind, before, under, through, and with the text. God speaks always, in everything. The Bible offers us a unifying touchpoint across the generations that both grounds us in an historical story, and opens us to the dynamic Spirit of God, breathing fresh life into our particular contexts.

It is alive and the Spirit continues to lead us into God’s preferred and promised future.

The Hebrew word translated meditate is hagah. It literally means to mutter or growl. It has the image of the cow chewing the cud. We take in the words, then we slowly, contemplatively chew on them the rest of the day.

This video offers a way to approach the Bible as meditation literature that will help us answer the basic question, “What is God doing and how can we join in?”

Why should we study the Bible?  Because it is real.  It records the experiences of real people who encountered the real God and real things–wild and crazy things–happened.   They set the example for us.  These stories reveal to us aspects of God’s nature that we would perhaps never know.  These stories create a common touchpoint to which every generation can refer and infer.  These are our formational stories.  They create who we are as Christians and teach us how to interact with the world around us.

The world we live in today is different than the ancient world.  The specific issues of politics, ethics, technology, and knowledge have changed dramatically, and will continue to change. It is our job, as students of the text, to listen to God in the Word and in the World, and to discern the movement of the Holy Spirit, then and now. More than that, we are invited to follow where the Spirit leads as we listen.

With that said, there is a lot of Bible Study material on this site, and hopefully more will come. Enjoy the journey!

More Online Resources

This video series from The Bible Project is an excellent introduction to the Bible.

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