Wednesday, 31 October 2012

10 Facts about the Bible, and more stuff

Still the world’s bestseller, the bible is both the holy text of Christianity, and it’s most challenging read!  So how should we view its role in our faith and life, and set about understanding it and its message?

1.    If you have a bible in familiar language, it’s one of 470 complete translations out of 6,800 known tongues.  The new testament is available in 1,220 languages, and 1,500 further translation projects are in progress. 
2.    The word bible means “library”. The Protestant canon includes 39 old testament books (originally writ-ten mainly in Hebrew, pre-dating Jesus) and 27 new testament ones (originally written mainly in everyday Koine Greek).  Other church traditions vary the number of Hebrew writings they recognise, what books they include, and how they’re ordered. 
3.    The writing of the bible took place from about 1,450BC to 100AD.  Many human authors took a hand, but they shared the conviction that they did this at God’s impulse.  They reflect many historic, geographic and cultural contexts in the Middle East and Greco/Roman world, but their message is unified. 
4.    Conservative Christians say the autographic/original text was fully inspired and inerrant: (but it’s now lost).
5.    Any library includes several forms of literature.  It’s important to work out if you’re studying historical narrative, religious ordinances, prophecy, poetry or a letter!  The books were divided into chapters by Stephen Langton in the 13th century, and into verses by French printer Robert Estienne in the 16th cen-tury.
6.    Hebrew is a compact and awkward language from which to translate into English: there are problems of equivalences.  It doesn’t have our vowel forms (a, e, i, o, u), S Y HV T WRK T WHT  SNTNC MNS FRM TS CNTXT.  To add to the confusion, many words can take several meanings e.g. yowm = day, has four. 
7.    The bible that Jesus and His contemporaries referred to was the Septuagint (LXX).  It is a translation into Koine Greek done in Alexandria by 70 scholars in the 3rd century BC.  It’s in four sections: the Law, the Prophets (Early and Late), and the Writings.  There are points where it varies from our translations, because today we’d use a different original Hebrew text (and we order- Law, History, Wisdom and Prophets). 
8.    As far as ancient manuscripts go, the bible is remarkable and its preservation is amazing.  We have parts of the new testament, written very close to the events, going back to the first century AD.  However, some older bits are uncertain (e.g. 1 Samuel 13:1).  In societies where oral, not written tradition was important, liberty would be taken with the text.  A scribe would write into the margin corrections or his own notes.  The next scribe along would then need to work out what to do with these (e.g. Matthew 24:15).
9.    The bible’s own witness is to its divine inspiration, consistency, accuracy and vital importance.  The old testament makes numerous references to obeying the Law.  The new testament affirms “the scriptures” about 50 times, and includes many more references and extracts.  It is the bedrock truth of our faith.
10.    Events/characters and dates: BC 1950 Abraham, 1700 Joseph, 1400 Moses, 1300 Conquest of Canaan, 1050 David, 1000 the Temple, 750 Isaiah, 600 Jeremiah, 550 Daniel, 500 Return from Exile, 450 Malachi;  AD 30 Jesus’ Ascension, 40 Paul Converted, 55-70 Gospels, Acts, Letters, 70-80 Letters, 90 Revelation.

The bible holds God’s message of His kingdom, and the faith in Jesus that secures it.

ACTS 28:23  From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.  24 Some were convinced by what he said,

Enscripturing.  God inspired the authors and instructed recording of His word for the obedience of faith. 
JEREMIAH 30:1  This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: `Write in a book all the words I have spoken to you.
2 KINGS 11:12  Jehoiada brought out the king's son and put the crown on him; he presented him with a copy of the covenant and proclaimed him king.  [see Deuteronomy 17:18-20]
2 PETER 3:15  just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.  16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. 

Inspiration.  God’s breath (Spirit) and word are living and eternal, so their life-giving effect endures.
PSALM 119:130  The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.
2 TIMOTHY 3:14  But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 

Interpretation.  There’s an internal witness that the Holy Spirit is consistent throughout in His revelation.
LUKE 16:30  " `No, father Abraham,' he said, `but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'  31 "He said to him, `If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"
2 PETER 1:19  And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.  20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation.  21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 

Incarnation.  Jesus, the Word, was conscious that His life was set in the framework of earlier prophecy.
MATTHEW 5:17  "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them . 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 
MATTHEW 26:56  But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled." 
JOHN 19:28  Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty."  

Application.  We may prefer other ways of learning, but the scriptures are indispensible for our faith.
 LUKE 24:25  He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  26 Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?"  27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
1 CORINTHIANS 15:3  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins ac-cording to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 

Authentication.  Each of the gospel writers includes his own participation and signature in his writing. 
MATTHEW 9:9  As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector's booth.  "Fol-low me," he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
MARK 14:51  A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus.  When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.
LUKE 1:3  Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 
JOHN 13:23  One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him.  24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, "Ask him which one he means."  25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?" 

Conclusion.  The early church was big on using, learning, and building faith and life from the scriptures. 
JOHN 20:30  Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, 
ROMANS 16:25  Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, ac-cording to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26 but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him-- 27 to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.
1 TIMOTHY 4:13  Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.

From Jesus Fellowship Statement of Faith and Practice: 22.  We affirm that the bible (the old and new testaments in the Protestant canon) is the fully inspired word of God and accept that these scriptures alone are the warranty and revelation for our faith and practice, believing that the Holy Spirit interprets and applies the scriptural truth to the church in this present age.

•    As well as full English translations, the bible is available in audio, video and cartoon format; which do you use?
•    The Holy Spirit is the key to get the truth out of the book and then into your life.  Do you pray before reading?
•    Jesus came as God’s full, final, incarnate Word; anticipated and explained by the bible: how do the two relate?  (This question was added to also illustrate the fundamental difference between the standing of the bible for Christians, and the koran for Muslims.  We affirm Jesus is God's "last Word". Don't get snagged up in asymmetrical arguments!)

All quotations from the New International Version
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