"The book, called the Bible, is filled with passages equally horrible, unjust and atrocious."

- Robert G. Ingersoll

"In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite."

- Paul Dirac



What is the Bible all about?


"It's an incredible con job when you think about it, to believe something now in exchange for something after death."

- Gloria Steinem

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

- 1 Cor. 1:18 NASB

8.1 More than one book.

The Bible is actually not one book, but a collection of sixty-six individual books and letters. These books and letters were written by fifty separate authors, of various occupations, from many countries, in three languages. 1 The dates of authorship span a period of time exceeding 1,500 years. The literary forms employed include diaries, biographies, history, law, poetry, and parables.

The biblical authors were largely isolated from each other by centuries, cultures, and continents. Yet all the books of the Bible relate their teachings with perfect consistency of viewpoint and accuracy. Christians believe that those teachings on knowing God, and knowing about love, ethics, and a coming judgment are relevant to all cultures for all time.

The writings collectively tell the continuous story of God's redemption of mankind. The Bible and Jewish tradition record that in the beginning of human history, God communicated directly with individuals. As time progressed, God divinely inspired persons to write down that which was to serve to edify future generations. Ever since the first century AD when Christ completed his ministry on earth, and Jerusalem was shortly thereafter destroyed (subsequently dispersing Christ's followers across the world), those inspired writings have continued to serve as God's voice on earth.

The collection of inspired writings is referred to as the Bible, Scripture, the scriptures, the message, God's Word, or simply the Word. God's Word exists to serve as humanity's God-given moral authority over our dealings with both God and with each other.

8.2 Old and New Testaments

The Bible is divided into the books of the Old Covenant or Old Testament (O.T.) and the New Covenant or New Testament (N.T.). The O.T. documents were written before Christ's birth, and the N.T. afterwards. F. F. Bruce summarizes:

The books of the Old Covenant, then, tell how God made necessary preparation for the sending of his Son to inaugurate the New Covenant. The books of the New Covenant tell how the Son of God came to do this and set forth the implications of this New Covenant. Both collections speak alike of Christ; it is he who gives unity to each and to both together. The former collection looks forward with hope to his appearance and work; the latter tells how that hope was fulfilled. 2

A major emphasis of the Old Testament is the special setting apart of God's people. God matured a group people for his use in the form of the nation of Israel. They were intended to be his spokespersons to the world, and their nation purposed to produce God's holy Messiah. It was while they, Israel, were being held in subjection to Roman forces that Christ was born. Not long after Christ's ministry and atoning death outside Israel's capitol of Jerusalem, Rome utterly destroyed the city.

The destruction of Jerusalem had the effect of forcibly dispersing the many witnesses to Christ's ministry and miracles into and throughout the entire world. The effective dissolution of the nation of Israel at this opportune time, and in this particular manner, was like scattering the seeds of a head of wheat into the wind. Jewish and Gentile (non-Jewish) believers spread out across the globe taking with them the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ.

The emphasis of the New Testament is Jesus Christ, who was the promised Messiah (or Christ) of the Old Testament. These books and letters document Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. They exist to tell successive generations about Jesus, and to guide them by his teachings. These writings also include Christ's promise to physically return to the earth. This event the Bible often refers to as the last day.

The arrival of the last day will be in an era the Bible describes as increasingly wicked and full of people who are lovers of pleasure, money, and themselves rather than lovers of God. His return will then precipitate a physical resurrection of the dead, the destruction of the earth, the judgment of every person, and a restoration of a new heavens and a new earth.

8.3 What were sacrifices all about?

A prominent feature of the Old Testament is or was the sacrifice offering for sin. The sacrifices, ritual laws, and historical examples within the O.T. revealed faith to be God's solution for saving mankind from the penalty for sin. Faith in the practice of sacrifice was real, but the practice itself only symbolically foreshadowed that which would actually provide our salvation: the (then future) death of Christ.

Sacrifice involved four distinct elements as exemplified within this passage: "If someone's offering is a fellowship offering, and he offers an animal from the herd, whether male or female, he is to present before the Lord an animal without defect. He is to lay his hand on the head of his offering and slaughter it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. Then Aaron's sons the priests shall sprinkle the blood against the altar on all sides" (Lev. 3:1,2 NIV).

Here are the four major symbolism's involved in making that sacrifice:

How is this representative of the death of Jesus Christ? The Bible also makes this clear:

8.4 What is judgment all about?

Considering the judgment which the Bible prophecies for the end of the world, and realizing that we have all sinned, life is not so much being on trial before God as it is awaiting sentencing. The penalty for sin is death, and we have all sinned (see What is the gospel?).

Although everyone dies physically, the debt we owe to God is infinite. The Psalms state this as "no payment is ever enough" (49:7,8 NIV). This is why it can only take a death of infinite value, God in Christ, to fully satisfy our debt. This may also be why hell is forever: in order to pay our debt for sin, either a life of infinite value (Christ) must die for a finite time, or a life of finite value (such as ours) must die for an infinite time.

After judgment, God promises believers a resurrection into perfect, everlasting bodies for dwelling among a new heaven and a new earth in his presence and bearing his character. Those who did not believe will also inherit an everlasting body. Sadly, they will be cast into the same hell which was meant for Satan and the angels who followed him.


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An eternity in hell is "fair" punishment?

Principles of God's judgment

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This is a very general introduction to the Bible and its main themes.

1. More than one book.
2. Old and New Testaments.
3. The purpose of sacrifices.
4. The purpose of Judgment.