Bible 101 #2: What is the Bible?

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The Bible is ____________________ . How would you fill the bank if you only had one sentence? Well, if you type it into your Google search bar, the first two suggestions are “the word of God” and “a lie.” Quite the contrast right there, isn’t it? Yes, it’s okay, you can open a new tab and see for yourself … you’re back? Good.

Is there a way we can answer this question with more than two words, but at the same time avoid using Christianese or seminary language? I think so. David Pawson, a British bible teacher answered this question in a way I think is quite simple and yet very meaningful. He says this:

“The Bible is God’s word about himself recorded in time and space history.”

Let’s unpack that a bit:

  • It’s God’s word: This captures the bare gist of the Bible’s witness about itself and echoes passages such as 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21, and Hebrews 1:1-2. The origin of the Bible is divine.
  • It’s about God: When you run a search in your average online study bible, such as ESV.org, you’ll find the following: “God” is mentioned over 4000 times, the all-caps name “LORD” occurs over 6700 times, and Jesus is named some 900 times. For comparison, the word “man” only shows up some 1800 times. Although one shouldn’t put too much weight on these stats, they do illustrate that the Bible is, at its core, a message about God.
  • It’s recorded in time and space history: This refers to both the content of the Bible and the Bible itself. The Bible narrates history from God’s point of view and it is itself a historic document. Over 40 different authors contributed to it for over more than 1500 years. Today we have thousands of manuscript copies from various epochs of history.

Do you see how this answer is both simple and yet meaningful? I hope so. It really helped me. And each of these questions opens the door for further questions: If the Bible is God’s word, what does that mean about the quality of the Bible as a work of literature? If the Bible is about God, how should we read and understand the Bible? If the Bible is a work of time and space history, how can we learn what it meant back then and what it means today?

Some of these questions will be answered in this series, but I encourage myself and anyone who considers himself a follower of Jesus to ponder these things.

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