What is the bible?
The bible – sacred book or fiction?
Although we buy the bible as one book it actually contains 66 books, originally written in three languages over a time period of nearly 2000 years. Biblical students recognise that about 40 different writers contributed to the complete work. Most people who know the bible believe that God inspired the writers and that the bible is God’s Word to mankind.
I like to think of the bible as the book of instructions for life - our 'owner's manual'. We have a choice – to ignore the instructions and go our own way or to read the book and follow the advice and rules that the manufacturer (our Creator) gave us.
To explain that, let me give a parallel from my life. When I bought a new car, it came with quite a thick book of instructions. I read many of them, and I get along with the car quite well. I know how and when to add oil, water, brake fluid and suchlike. I know about some of the intricacies of the various control modes and I understand most of the warning lights. My wife, however, has read none of the instructions. She drives as well as I do, but if anything out of the ordinary happens, she has to call me to ask for help. The very first time she drove it, she couldn't start the engine, because she didn't know that you had to put your foot on the brake or clutch first.
Life can be like that if we ignore the maker. We can appear to get along just fine without the instruction book (the bible) – until something goes wrong. Then we tend to blame the manufacturer (God), or just try to fix it in our own way and probably make the problem worse. If only we would follow the instruction book, half the problems wouldn’t arise and we could trust Him to fix the other half under warranty!
Is the bible reliable?
Many people, both Christians and non-believing students, have studied the bible ever since the first books were written, and no-one has ever found a serious flaw or reason to disprove its accuracy. Some have even become Christian believers simply because of reading it.
Many more copies of the source materials for the bible are preserved than for any other ancient books, giving us a very high confidence level that they are accurate. In fact, science and archaeology, far from disproving the bible, tend to confirm more and more of its claims as time goes on. Many recent discoveries have tended to support the biblical record. Perhaps that’s why many scientists are also believers!
God communicates with us through the bible
It’s true that the bible is difficult to understand – but so is the instruction book for my car and that's much more boring! The bible really does repay the time that you spend studying it. I had been a Christian for many years before I began to spend time reading the bible every day. Almost immediately my life was transformed. Whereas before I was always running from problem to problem, now my life is under control – the control and guidance of God. Most people who have made the effort to study and use God’s ‘Book of Life’ have had similar experiences. It’s life transforming.
How can I get into the bible?
I usually recommend that a beginner does not start at page 1 and read through. The first two books are very interesting, but then there are some really boring bits and you are likely to give up very quickly. Most people would suggest starting with the New Testament (the part which begins with the birth of Jesus Christ and goes on to describe the church and our personal Christian life). At CHURCH@Claremont we have produced a little booklet which highlights the parts considered most important for those who are just starting out on this adventure, and we will gladly send you a free copy if you wish (contact us through our email), or there are many popular sets of bible study notes that you can purchase on-line or in bible bookshops.
Of course, you could always find a good church near your home and they should be able to help you with bible studies or other forms of tuition. If they don't encourage studying the bible, then it is unlikely that they are a great church, no matter how good their programmes may be - look for one that does. If you live in Bolton, consider joining us at CHURCH@Claremont next Sunday at 10:30? We’ll be glad to see you!
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT)