Volume 2, Issue 3, March 1995

Help With Your Bible Study

The Bible is more than an ancient book - it is a library, made up of 66 different writings, written by different persons, at different times, under different circumstances, and for different reasons. These writings were written with limited writing materials and in different languages than ours. Our Bible is the result of a series of translations from the original tongues to ours. The oldest writings were written more than 3000 years ago, and the most recent from somewhere between 100 and 150 A.D..

The name, "Bible", comes from the Greek word, "biblia", meaning, "books". The Bible is a library of books. If you separate them you have a shelf of 66 books.

The term, "Testament", is somewhat misleading. It arose from an accidental mistranslation into Latin of a Greek word meaning, "covenant", which in turn goes back to a Hebrew word having the same meaning. Hence it would be more accurate to speak of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.

Perhaps a first question should be why read and study such an ancient book today?

We live in a tense and chaotic time. New issues press upon us and call for contemporary decisions. But it is important to remember the present can only be understood and lived effectively with a perspective from the past. We must have a curiosity about the influences that have given our civilization its most characteristic marks.

It is certainly not to our benefit to live ignorant of the inspiration that runs through the great art and great literature of the past.

The Bible is great literature. It deals with life in all its aspects, from birth to death. It has a lot to say about the destiny of humankind.

The doctrine of biblical inspiration caused the Bible to be separated from other books, making it impossible to be read impartially. In exactly the same way belief in the truth of Christianity led scholars to view the Christian faith in isolation - as a separate religion revealed by God in its perfection, and therefore only slightly if at all related to other ideas and other traditions.

Today's global village has brought us into closer contact with people of many traditions and faiths. We can share our insights into truth. The Bible is useful to help us to see how the creative spirit we call God is active in history. Here we find a record of spiritual reality rising out of the remote past and continuing through succeeding generations.

The Bible is useful also to show us there is a divine meaning and power in life that can help us steer through the shifting choices we continually make. God is the source of moral qualities and the Bible can assist us to see how persons before us found truths and morality that worked for them in their day and circumstances. We face new and dangerous issues today and need all the help we can get to deal with them.

The message of the Bible to our own day is a reaffirmation of the value of the individual. In our overcrowded society the individual may become lost to sight. We can become part of a lonely crowd. In our laws and dealings with one another we can lose sight of the value of the individual. Each of us is more than a pawn in history.

Again, the Bible is of permanent religious value because of its keen insights into human nature. It has been called the "family album of God". We are given a number of character sketches that enable us to see how others faced and met the trials and temptations of their day, and we are shown and inspired to live well and faithfully in our day.

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"Religion NOW" is published in limited edition by the Rev. Ross E. Readhead, B.A., B.D., Certificate of Corrections, McMaster University, in the interest of furthering knowledge and participation in religion. Dialogue is invited and welcomed.