In The last 25 years of writing columns, I have never written on “the Book”. This article will be my first and perhaps my last on this particular topic. The word Bible means the book. You could have a bible on golf, or on gymnastics, or on farming, or any other general topic. It simply means, “Here is the information about “the Book”.
About 40 different writers were involved in writing the Bible. These authors wrote over a period of 1500 years. Their backgrounds were varied. Some were Kings, some farmers, some fishermen, tax collectors, some shepherds, priests and prophets. Some were world leaders, others just plain ordinary folks.
Can you imagine an author of today writing a book, and his son writing a book and his grandson writing a book, and generation after generation writing books and eventually putting all these writings together in ONE BOOK? Just one generation gap would destroy any form of unity of thought. Yet the Bible is a book of unity of thought and purpose. Inspired of God? Faith is extremely personal. Each one will have to make that decision on their own. I believe it is.
The Bible is organized in a structured way. There are 66 different books in your Bible with 39 comprising the Old Testament, and 27 making up the New Testament. It is arranged in a way that would be confusing without some explanation. The books of LAW are the first 5 books of the Old Testament. They are followed by 12 books of HISTORY. This is followed by 5 books of POETRY. The next 5 books are called the MAJOR PROPHETS. The term ‘major’ is used only because of the volume of the prophecy, not their importance. The last section of the Old Testament is comprised of 12 books of MINOR PROPHETS. The numbers are 5-12-5-5-12, or a total of 39. If you had these writings in separate books and you had five bookshelves, you could separate them in shelf form. The Bible is not written in a chronological order but is gathered in books of Law, History, Poetry, Major Prophets, and Minor Prophets. These books cover the patriarchal age, and the life and times of Moses and the prophets.
The New Testament is treated the same way. The first 4 books are called GOSPELS (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). The book of ACTS is a section to itself, giving a running history of the early church. SPECIFIC LETTERS (or epistles) number 14 and are writings to specific churches or people. GENERAL LETTERS are those written to the church at large (scattered abroad). The last book is a book of prophecy called REVELATION. The numbers here are 4-1-14-7-1.
When you have time, (preferably now), open the BOOK and simply page through the 10 divisions (five in the Old and five in the new). Paul wrote to Timothy in these words, “Study to show thyself approved of God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, RIGHTLY DIVIDING (Emp. Mine) the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Luke echoes this statement by writing, “These (the Bereans) were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
An interesting footnote; the absolute center of the 66 books is Psalms 118:8. It reads, “It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in men”. The longest chapter in the Bible is Psalms 119. The shortest chapter is Psalms 117. There are 594 chapters before Psalms and 594 chapters after this Psalm. Double that number and you have 1188 or Psalms 118:8.
Paul concluded, “For whatsoever things were written before hand were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Translators throughout the ages have broken down the texts into chapters, and the verses by numbers. This way you may locate thought and principles in the scriptures easily. It also is an absolute necessity to have the Bible arranged for memory.
Obviously, the Bible is accepted as the Word of God by faith. Where else could you find a book written by so many authors, with such varied backgrounds over a period of hundreds of years that has a central theme, the redemption of fallen mankind? Paul wrote, “Now faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). If your faith is weak, go to the only source that brings faith, to the word of God. It is a lifelong quest – a movement of the mind that never stops.
What the old country preacher used to say, “What God has revealed is for us and our children – what ain’t said, ain’t none of our business nohow”.