The Uniqueness of the Bible

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Written by: 
Published:
March 31, 2020

We tend to read the Bible through the lens of modernity; that is to say, we read the Bible as a book. Often people read it as a book that came from the world of textbooks with various authors. But the Bible is not just a book. The Bible was written before there were books. First the Bible was written on papyrus. This method was used in Egypt from about the third millennium and by 1100 BC it had been exported to Phoenicia. The word byblos or biblos became the ancient Greek word for “book,” a term still used.[1]

The Greek word “biblos means the “pith of the papyrus stalk”; this gave origin to the word biblion, which was the common word for “papyrus scroll” or “papyrus roll,” whose plural was biblia, “papyrus rolls”; hence ta biblia, “the scrolls.”[2] Our word “bible” is derived from the Greek word “biblos.” During the early Christian era, “biblos” came to be used to represent the most important writings made on papyrus.”[3] Therefore, the word Bible means little book or little books. It is so called “because it is the Book of books, the greatest book in the World.”[4] The term Bible was later called “the books,” and by the fifth century, it was called “The Books.” However, by the thirteenth century, the plural name, “The Books” came to be regarded as a singular “The Book,” then, later “Bible.”

The Bible is unique in many different ways. For instance, it has a dual authorship: God is the primary author of the Bible and, in other terms, man is the author of the Bible too. Roughly forty men authored the Bible over a period of about 1,500 years. When the sixty-six books of the Bible with their 1,189 chapters made up of 31,173 verses are considered, we find perfect unity and harmony in the messages they convey. The Bible as a whole communicates one coherent message; one mind planted it all by the mind of God.

The Bible is not just an ordinary book, “an account of human efforts to find God, but rather an account of God’s effort to reveal Himself to humanity.”[5] The Bible is God’s own disclosure of His dealing with humanity in His marvelous revelation of Himself to the human race as a whole. The Bible is the revealed Word of God to man and “….is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16).

There can be no doubt that the books of the Bible were written by human hands. But we certainly believe that God Himself directed the human authors for the choice of the proper words and gave them free scope to express themselves

in their own style at their own level of literal ability. Their writing revealed their individual personality. The words they used were their own, for they drew from their own experiences. God inspired the thought rather than the words. In some instances, the prophets quoted the exact words of God. Ex. 20:1–17.[6]

The Bible is not an ordinary book; it is a revelation of God to man. Because it is a sacred book, it ought to be read differently. The following ten rules should function as a guide for every believer who reads the Bible.

First, read the Bible regularly, Lloyd G. Fennell said. It was John Scott who said: “Sporadic and haphazard dipping in the Scriptures is not enough.”[7]

Second, read the Bible analytically. In order for us to read and understand the Bible well, we must read it analytically by analyzing words, phrases, and various components of the Bible.

Third, read the Bible systematically. A well-devised plan is a great way to profit. One needs to dedicate a specific time and pattern to reading the Bible. In my opinion, it should not be read only when necessities arise (e.g. sickness, “Coronavirus,” even if the Bible says, “and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”—Ps 50:15; cf. Ps 46:1). The Bible should not be fitted into our schedules but must be at the pinnacle of our schedules. Other minor things can be postponed, but Bible reading and studying cannot be pushed aside. Bible reading is a way of life.

Fourth, read the Bible persistently. One should be persistent in reading the Bible, with extra time being set aside to study more challenging texts. The Christian should be persistent and must not allow discouragement to creep in. We need to press on.

Fifth, read the Bible completely. The Bible should be read from Genesis to Revelation. The whole Bible is important. Some books of the Bible are more appealing than others, and some can be more relevant to our spiritual needs compared to others. Yet, we ought not to neglect any of its chapters and verses.

Sixth, read the Bible reverently. Your posture when reading the Bible is important too. Respect for the sacred word is vital. Regularity of our Bible reading should not diminish its sacredness. Because the Bible is of a divine origin, I have made it my custom to read my Bible while kneeling down. Each time I have done that, I remember the Islamic proverb: “Slaughter your ego with the dagger of self-discipline.”[8] Consistent reading allows for reverent reading. The “manner in which the early Christians entertained the Scriptures, at once evinces both reverence and humility.”[9]

Seventh, read the Bible expectantly. From 2 Timothy 3:16–17, we learn that the Bible can do for us what it can do for any person. It is useful for teaching (what we need to know); for reproof (what we must reject and refute); for correction (what we must turn away from and avoid); and good for instruction in righteousness (what we must consider about our lives and duties with respect to God and man).

Eighth, read the Bible fervently. We should read the Bible with focus and fervency. Choose the time and the place (in a day) when you need to read your Bible in a fervent way.

Ninth, read the Bible collectively. Families and married couples should read the Bible; dating couples should find time to read the Bible too. Collective reading of the Bible is needed.

Tenth, read the Bible to unlock your treasure box with the word of God—Faith. In other words, a study of the Bible is crucial to show oneself approved unto God (cf. 2 Tim 2:5). Faith needs to be the treasure to unlock God’s Word.[10]

Another significant factor in why the Bible is important is that Jesus Christ is the center of the Bible. Christ is the thin red line that can be traced from Genesis to Revelation. The entire Bible revolves around the birth, death, and resurrection of the Messiah.

***

Jesus is the Ram (Genesis), the Passover Lamb (Exodus), and the Priest (Leviticus). He is the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night—“He is our Guide” (Numbers) and our Refuge (Deuteronomy). He is our Judge (Judges) and the Captain of our Salvation (Joshua). He is the Kinsman Redeemer (Ruth). He is the Trusted Prophet (1 and 2 Samuel), the Reigning King, (Kings and Chronicles). He is the rebuilder of everything that has been broken (Nehemiah), our Advocate (Esther), and our Redeemer that ever lives (Job).

He is our Song and the reason to sing (Psalms). He is our Wisdom, (Proverbs), our hope of contentment (Ecclesiastes), and our altogether lovely (Song of Solomon).

He is the Mighty Counselor, the Prince of Peace, the Everlasting Father, and more.  In short, He is everything you need (Isaiah). He is your balm of Gilead, the soothing salve for your sin-sick soul (Jeremiah), the Afflicted and Weeping Prophet, (Lamentations), the Four-Faced Man, and the wheel in the middle of a wheel (Ezekiel), the Ancient of Days (Daniel).

He is the Eternal Husband, forever married to the backslider (Hosea). He baptized us with the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Joel). He is the Burden Bearer, and the Restorer of His people (Amos). He is the Judge, the Savior of Israel, and the Possessor of the Kingdom (Obadiah). He is the Great Missionary that takes the word of God into the entire world (Jonah). He is the Righteous (Christ) who reigns over the whole world (Micah). He is the Avenger (Nahum).

He is the Evangelist pleading for revival, the Holy One, and the Savior (Habakkuk), the Lord mighty to save (Zephaniah), the signet ring that seals both branches together (Haggai), the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness (Zechariah), and the Son of Righteousness, rising with healing in His wings (Malachi).

He is the Christ the Son of the Living God (Matthew), the Miracle Worker (Mark), the Son of Man (Luke), the door by which every one of us must enter (John). He is the Savior of the world (Acts), the Justifier (Romans), and the Resurrection (1 Corinthians), and He redeemed us from the Law (Galatians). He is the Christ of unsearchable riches, and the head of the Church (Ephesians) and He supplies our every daily need (Philippians). He is the Soon-Coming King (1 Thessalonians), the Mediator between God and man (1 & 2 Timothy), the Blessed Hope (Titus), the friend of the oppressed (Philemon), and our everlasting covenant (Hebrews). He is the Lord that heals the sick (James) and the Chief Shepherd (1 & 2 Peter). He is the Life (1 John), the Pattern (2 John), and the Motivation (3 John). He is the Lord coming like ten thousand saints (Jude 14) and He is the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation).

***

Another reason why the Bible is important is that it records the death and resurrection of Christ. The question is often asked: “Which is more important, the death of Christ or His resurrection?” The question is unanswerable! His resurrection is equally important as His death on the cross. Both: His death and resurrection are intertwined; one could not exist without the other.

The Bible foretold His coming as the Messiah and His Second Advent: His birth (Mic 5:2); His death (Gen 49:10; Ps 22:12–18; Isa 53:3–7); and His resurrection (Matt 12:38–42; Mark 8:12). Because Christ rose from the dead, He defeated the powers of death. His resurrection ensures our future resurrection (1 Cor 15:17). Death is no longer something to be feared because Christ has risen. “I am the resurrection and the life,” Christ said (John 11:25). For, without His resurrection, man could not be saved (1 Cor 15:1, 14). He is the first-fruit of the resurrection—the first person to be raised from the dead permanently.

His Second Coming (John 14:1–4) is predicted and its fulfillment ensures its reliability. Both the Old and New Testaments are filled with promises of the Second Coming of Christ. There are 1,845 references to it in the Old Testament, and a total of seventeen Old Testament books give it prominence.

Of the 260 chapters in the New Testament, there are 318 references to the Second Coming, or one out of every thirty verses. Twenty-three of the twenty-seven New Testament books refer to this great event. The four missing books include three which are single-chapter letters written to individual persons on a particular subject, and the fourth is Galatians, which does imply Christ’s coming again.

For every prophecy on the First Coming of Christ, there are eight on Christ’s Second Coming. His coming is the blessed hope (Titus 2:13).

Another aspect of the Bible’s importance is that it can transform people’s lives. When King Josiah (640–609 BC) reigned after the wicked rule of his father, Amon, and grandfather, Manasseh. Josiah began to repair the Temple of the Lord. According to Jewish tradition, when the name Josiah comes to mind, “the remembrance of Josias [Josiah] is like the composition of the perfume, that is made by the art of the apothecary; it is sweet as honey in all mouths; and as music in a banquet of wine.”[11]

What made Josiah a reformer is the fact that he came in contact with sepher hatorah,  סֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה, “the book of the Law.”  The phrase, “the book of the Law,” has been the subject of discussion. From Second Chronicles 34:14, we can conclude that it “cannot mean anything else, either grammatically or historically, than the Mosaic book of the Law (the Pentateuch).”[12] When Josiah was confronted with the Word of God, it changed and transformed him. To king Josiah, it was not “a book of a law,” but rather, “the book of the Law.” The book contained the liturgies of the worship of Jehovah; the prophets’ teachings; and “the traditional teaching of religious families; so that the pious ear recognized its phrases as familiar.”[13]

The religious reforms of Josiah, in many different ways, was because of the Word of God. The Bible has the power to change and transform people’s lives. No wonder Paul wrote, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb 4:12). The Word of God was active at creation and still active at the re-creation of man into the image of God. The Word of God can penetrate every facet of human life. There is nothing too difficult that cannot be reached when the Word of God is in us.

Ellen G White says the following about the Bible:

The word of God includes the scriptures of the Old Testament as well as of the New. One is not complete without the other. Christ declared that the truths of the Old Testament are as valuable as those of the New.[14]

Every part of the Bible is given by inspiration of God and is profitable. The Old Testament no less than the New should receive attention.[15]

The Old and the New Testament are linked together by the golden clasp of God.[16]

The Old and the New Testament Scriptures need to be studied daily.[17]

 

Notes & References:

[1] Brad Thor, Blowback: A Thriller (London: Simon and Schuster, 2008), 134; Jim Whitefield, The Mormon Delusion: The Secret Truth Withheld from 13 Million Mormons (Raleigh, NC: Lulu, 2009), 2:184.

[2] Elizabeth Hill Boone and Walter Mignolo, Writing Without Words: Alternative Literacies in Mesoamerica and the Andes (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996), 230.

[3] Steven L. Feinberg, Crane’s Blue Book of Stationery: The Styles and Etiquette of Letters, Notes, and Invitations (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2011), 5.

[4] Marguerite Murat Cook, Hand-book of Bible Study: Outlines of Bible Structure and Bible History (Washington, DC: David C. Cook, 1895), 13.

[5] Henry H. Halley, Halley’s Bible Handbook: with the New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 11.

[6] T. H. Jemison, Christian Beliefs: Fundamental Biblical Teachings for Seventh-day Adventist College Classes (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1959), 59.

[7] John Stott, Between Two Worlds: The Challenge of Preaching Today (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2017), 138.

[8] Jolyon Mitchell, Martyrdom: A Very Short Introduction (London: Oxford University Press, 2012), 62.

[9] Francis Higgins Cuming, The Companion to the Bible: Intended for Bible Classes, Families, Sunday Schools, and Seminaries of the Learning in General (New York: Trinity, 1834), 24.

[10] Lloyd G. Fennell, I Must Tell Jesus: This Is My Story (Bloomington, IN: Xlibris, 2011), 191–193.

[11] Reuben Percy, The Percy Anecdotes: Original and Select (London: Boys Ludgate Hill, 1823), 5.

[12] H. D. M. Spence, “2 Kings,” The Pulpit Commentary, ed. H. D. M. Spence (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, 2004), 437.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1941), 126.

[15] Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1952), 191.

[16] “(Heb. 4:12) No Soft Tread,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (SDABC), rev. ed., ed. Francis D. Nichol (Washington, DC: Review & Herald, 1976–1980), 5: 1147.

[17] White, Education, 414.

 

Youssry Guirguis currently serves as a full-time Lecturer at Asia-Pacific International University (AIU), Muak Lek, Thailand and also as an adjunct professor at the Adventist Institute for Islamic & Arabic Studies at Middle East University (MEU), Beirut, Lebanon.

Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash

 

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