ANSWERS TO LIFE’S QUESTIONS
A Bible correspondence course
Lesson #1 What is the Bible?
Simply stated, “The Bible is God’s answer to the questions of life.”
The Bible will be our textbook for this course, so let’s take a brief look at our textbook.
It consists of 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament.
When people refer to the Bible as the Word of God, that term is more than simply a sign of respect. It is actually describing the relationship that the Bible has to God. Many of the prophets indicated that what they wrote was “the word of the Lord.” The Bible is a collection of books like no other.
Read II Peter 1:20-21: “20Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were ____________________ by the Holy Ghost (Spirit).”
The phrase, “private interpretation,” simply means that the writers did not make it up themselves.
The Apostle Paul reminded his disciple Timothy that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (II Timothy 3:16)
Although He used at least 40 different men to pen the text of Scripture over a period of about 1,600 years, God is the true author of the Bible, indicated by the word, “inspiration” (meaning God-breathed) in the above verse. He made sure that they wrote exactly what He wanted them to write. Those men represented various occupations: fishermen, prophets, farmers, shepherds, and kings.
Most Bible scholars believe that the Old Testament book of Job was probably the first book of the Bible to be written. The first of the New Testament books to be written was probably James about A.D. 45. The last book of the Bible to be written was the Book of Revelation which was penned by the Apostle John sometime between A.D. 95-100.
The Bible was originally written in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Koine Greek.
To date, the Bible has been translated into more than 1,200 languages.
The Bible was first translated into English in 1382 by John Wycliffe and there have been numerous additional English translations since then.
Historically, the most commonly used English translation is the King James Version (KJV), which was first translated from the original languages in 1611 and has since been revised numerous times.
The King James Version and its modern equivalent The New King James Version (NKJV) still dominate the world of English Bible translations.
The second most widely sold English version today is the New International Version (NIV) which was first translated in the 1970s and has since also been revised a few times.
According to a recent survey, when Americans read the Bible about 55% choose to read the KJV or NKJV while only 19% read the NIV, even though it is the top seller in bookstores. Other English versions aren’t even close.
Since the King James Version is so readily available, it will be used for Bible quotations in these lessons. If you do not have a KJV or NKJV, you may use another version when responding to the questions.
What we have today are copies of copies of copies of copies of the original manuscripts of the Bible that were inspired by God. No one knows how many times the copies have been copied, and no one knows for sure which copy is nearest to the original text.
Because of the multitudes of copies that we have of the Biblical text, we can be sure that we have an accurate representation of the original manuscripts. In spite of all of the possible errors that could have been introduced through the copying process, we can have confidence in the text that we hold in our hand.
The traditional view of the Bible is that as it was originally written, it contained no errors. Unfortunately, as we have already noted, we do not have any of the original manuscripts of the Bible.
However, by comparing the thousands of copies that we do have from various times and places, we can confidently say that no significant teaching of Scripture has been changed in the copying process.
We cannot go so far as to say that we have a “perfect” copy of what God originally gave us; so, while we believe that the original text was without error, we cannot make that claim for the copies we have.
That may seem unsettling to some people, but there is no reason to doubt the Bible. All things considered, no significant teaching of the Bible has been altered through the multitude of copies.
The Bible was originally written without any chapter or verse divisions. Chapters were introduced to the Bible in 1238 by Cardinal Hugo de S. Caro. Verse divisions were not added until 1551 by Robertus Stephanus.
The first complete Bible to be divided into chapters and verses was the Geneva Bible of 1560.
The Bible contains over 1,000 chapters and 31,000 verses.
Probably the most widely recognized portion of Scripture is Psalm 23. The most widely recognized verse is probably John 3:16.
That leads us to the question, “Why has the Bible been so important to people throughout the centuries?” There are several answers to this question.
First of all, the Bible tells us where we came from and where we are going, information that we will consider in Lessons Two and Three.
Second, the Bible reveals to us God’s plan for the world in general and the human race in particular.
Third, the Bible provides personal instruction that helps us live day by day before God and with our fellow man.
For example, Psalm 119:105 tells us that the Bible provides guidance for us. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” It provides direction when life’s important decisions need to be made.
The Bible also helps us know how to live in a way that pleases God. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee [God]” (Psalm 119:11).
The Bible helps us to avoid sin and live in a manner that is pleasing to God. We will learn more about that in Lesson Six.
The Bible gives us answers to life’s questions.
It tells us where the universe came from. It tells us where we came from and where we are going. It explains our relationship to God. It tells us why bad things happen to good people. It tells us why the world seems to be getting worse and worse in spite of all of man’s advancements in knowledge and technology.
The Bible is the source of dependable truth. It has not changed, is not changing, and will not change. “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the word of our God shall stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)
Among many things, the most important aspect of the Bible is what it contains—the gospel.
Look up Romans 1:16: ” For I am not ashamed of the _____________ of Christ: for it is the power of God unto ___________________ to everyone that believeth…”
Because of its importance, the gospel will be the focus in each lesson in this course.
You may want to review this lesson before completing the QUIZ SECTION below.