7 min read

7 Facts About the Bible That You May Not Know...or Haven't Thought About For Awhile (The Bible, Pt. 1)

It's amazing to me that when I read the Scriptures in their own context, the way they were written, and for the purpose they were written, the words come alive with new colors, and the stories become new again, even though I've heard them so many times before.
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Photo by Aaron Burden / Unsplash

Today, I’m beginning a new series on the Bible.

If all goes according to plan, this will be a long-running series—there's a lot to talk about when it comes to the Bible! We'll spend time in the classroom digging into the Bible's background and history, learn some easy techniques for interpreting it today, and be challenged to allow the Bible to shape and form us into the kinds of people God intends us to be.

So, let's get started!

I have lived my whole life in the church as a believer and a follower of Christ, reading the Bible, doing devotionals, going to church...all the stuff. Some days, though, I feel like I am just beginning to scratch the surface of what's in the Bible, what it's all about, and what it is teaching me.

It's amazing to me that when I read the Scriptures in their own context, the way they were written, and for the purpose they were written, the words come alive with new colors, and the stories become new again, even though I've heard them so
many times before.

Not only that, but when I am knee-deep in Scripture, reading it well, and using good interpretive tools to understand its stories, I find myself less distracted by the constant barrage of doom-and-gloom urgency that often fills our lives. The news cycle no longer determines my outlook. My joy and peace are no longer shaped by presidential elections, the score of my favorite team's latest outing, or the performance of the stock market.

The more I allow the Bible to point me toward Christ and shape the person I am becoming, the easier it is for me to treat all people – even those with whom I have little in common – with respect, dignity, and Christlike love (face-to-face, behind their backs, and on social media). My struggles are not unlike those of many others and, compared to many people across the globe, are relatively small. Though important, the weighty issues of our nation will not determine humanity's eternal destiny.

I can, then, keep calm and carry on, continuing my sojourn with Jesus, allowing the God-breathed words of Scriptures to shape and form me, and living a life of love for God – heart, soul, mind, and strength – and neighbor, both across the street and across the globe.

The message of the gospel is a message of hope. God is making all things new. This is the story of Scripture, from the opening lines of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation. The hope of Scripture is an optimistic hope that leads to a time when God will once again live among humanity, as in the garden.

So, as we begin this journey, here are a few of the questions we'll start asking:

  • What is the Bible, and what is its purpose?
  • How am I supposed to read the Bible?
  • How did we get the Bible as we know it today?
  • What does the Bible teach about important contemporary issues?
  • How can I read and understand the Bible?
  • What is God’s purpose and plan for me?
  • Is the Bible trustworthy?
  • What does the Bible have to say to 21st-century people?
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Photo by Marcel Eberle / Unsplash

With that in mind, here are seven facts about the Bible that you may not know...or haven't thought about for a while:

The Bible is a collection of documents, letters, and other writings.

These writings span different genres, styles, and historical periods, reflecting the beliefs, experiences, and cultures of the people who wrote them. Each is unique, having its own function and style while also being an essential part of the greater Biblical narrative.

The Bible is a library of diverse writings, each with its own style, purpose, and cultural context, yet all pointing to the central message of God's redemptive plan.
– Timothy Keller,
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism.

The Biblical writings are ancient and non-Western, far removed from our contemporary situation.

Contemporary translations make it easy for us to think that the words of Scripture we read were written just as we read them in English, forgetting the massive time, culture, and linguistic gap in the text and in us as we read. Those of us from Western, democratic, capitalistic, hyper-time-conscious, and individualistic cultural frameworks are among those most far removed from the Biblical cultures and ways of thinking. This presents some significant challenges!

The Bible's non-Western origins are evident in its language, imagery, and cultural context, reflecting the vibrant mosaic of ancient societies from which it emerged.

– David M. Carr,
An Introduction to the Old Testament: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts of the Hebrew Bible.

The Bible tells us a single, integrated story of God’s interaction with humanity, pointing us to Jesus.

The Bible is an expertly crafted epic narrative, making use of poetry, song, metaphors, symbols, and expert storytelling techniques to explore some of life’s most difficult questions, pointing to Jesus for the purpose of being formed in his image, the reflection of our Creator and heavenly Father.

The ultimate story of the Bible, the metanarrative that unlocks the whole story, is that God is on a mission, and we are summoned to participate with God in that mission. The impulse to create, to conceive, is what lies at the heart of the missional. 

– Leonard Sweet,
So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life and the Church, Kindle, 979.

The Christian scriptures are divinely inspired, with human fingerprints all over them.

The Holy Spirit breathed on scriptures as they were written and continues to breathe in and through our scriptures as we read them today. Inspiration is an ongoing process that continues every time the faithful community of God’s people prayerfully read and study the sacred texts.

The Bible's dual nature as both divine revelation and human literature highlights the profound mystery of God's communication with humanity, inviting readers to engage with its truths through the lens of faith and reason.

– Millard J. Erickson,
Introducing Christian Doctrine.

The Christian scriptures are curated, edited, translated, and interpreted – then and now.

The curation and editing of Scripture were deliberate and ongoing throughout the history of Israel and the early church. From the beginning, the holy writings were translated and interpreted to present the sacred message of God in understandable ways that were meaningful and relevant to each contemporary situation.

When it comes to translation, it is wrong to assume that literal automatically equals accurate… in spite of the many good Bible translations available to us, there is no such thing as a perfect translation1… The finest translations are still, basically, a matter of trying to play a Beethoven symphony on a mouth-organ.2

1Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God's Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible," Kindle, 474-487.
2 N.T. Wright in "
Lost and found in translation: From 1611 to 2011."

Scripture is theological in nature, sharing truths about God, humanity, and the relationship between the two.

In other words, the Bible has a soteriological purpose. It is primarily concerned with the salvation of humanity – the human problem, the God-ordained solution, and the ultimate hope of God once again dwelling alongside God’s beloved creation.

Many texts in the Bible are specific, concrete, revelatory expressions of broader, universal realities or theological principles. While the specifics of a particular passage may only apply to the particular situation of the biblical audience, the theological principles revealed in that text are applicable to all of God’s people at all times. The theological principle, therefore, has meaning and application both to the ancient biblical audience and to Christians today.

– Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays,
Grasping God's Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, Kindle, 690.

The Bible is not always straightforward and easy to understand.

Sometimes, it’s tough to grasp. Sometimes it’s hard to accept. And sometimes, with even the parts that seem to make sense, we wonder if there might be more to it than what we observe on the surface. Often, layers of meaning and cultural nuances bring new colors and life to the pages of the Bible!

…one problem we modern readers have with the Bible is that we read it as we did when we were children. Our storybook Bibles split the text into short morality lessons, so we assume that’s how we should read the text as adults. But it’s actually not meant to be a collection of simple children’s stories. It’s a sophisticated, epic saga with a complex, interwoven plot...

... Growing up on Sunday school cartoons and flannelgraphs, you might get the impression that the Bible is supposed to be like Chopsticks, a childhood melody that’s playable with a few minutes of practice. It’s actually more like a Rachmaninoff concerto, with crashing chords and minor themes that linger through many movements. It might take years of practice to play well, but with even a lifetime of performances, its rich strains never get old.

Lois Tverberg, Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus, Kindle, 2330-2342.

I look forward to learning, growing, and being challenged throughout this series.

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