The first step in assembling the Bible involved the 39 books of the Old Testament, also referred to as the Hebrew Bible. Beginning with Moses, who wrote the first five books of the Bible, these books were written over many centuries by prophets and leaders. By the time of Jesus and his disciples, the Hebrew Bible had already been established as 39 books. This was what Jesus meant when he referred to “the Scriptures.”
After the early church was established following Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, people such as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote historical records of Jesus’ life and ministry, which became known as the Gospels. Early church leaders such as Paul and Peter wanted to provide direction for the churches they established, therefore they wrote letters that were circulated throughout the congregations. We call these books the Epistles.
A century after the launch of the church, hundreds of letters and books had been written attempting to explain the teachings of Jesus and how to live as his follower. It became blatantly obvious that many of these writings were not authentic. Church members began to ask which books should be followed and which books should be ignored.
Eventually, Christian church leaders worldwide gathered to answer major questions, including which books should be regarded as “Scripture.” These gatherings included the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325 and the First Council of Constantinople in A.D. 381, which decided a book should be included in the Bible if it met the following three criteria:
- If the letter/book was written by one of Jesus’ disciples – someone who was a witness to Jesus’ ministry, such as Peter, or someone who interviewed witnesses, such as Luke.
- If the letter/book was written in the first century A.D., meaning that books written long after the events of Jesus’ life and the first decades of the church were not included.
- If the letter/book was consistent with other portions of the Bible known to be valid, meaning the book couldn’t contradict a trusted element of Scripture.
After a few decades of debate, these councils settled which books should be included in the Bible. A few years later, all were published in a single volume, including the 39 books of The Old Testament and the 27 books of The New Testament.
Here are 8 remarkable facts about the Bible:
- The Bible is a collection of 66 books written by more than 40 authors over thousands of years.
- The word “bible” is from the Greek ta biblia, which means “the scrolls” or “the books.” The word is derived from the ancient city of Byblos, which was the official supplier of paper products to the ancient world.
- While it took thousands of years to write the Old Testament, the New Testament was written within a period of 50-75 years.
- The books of the Bible were written in 3 languages – Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Most of the Old Testament was written in Hebrew, which was the language the original readers spoke. The New Testament was written in Greek, the commonly spoken language of the time.
- The Bible was written by people from diverse occupational backgrounds, including kings, farmers, fishermen, a tentmaker, homeless prophets, a doctor, a professional scribe, vocational musicians, and pastors.
- The Bible is the best-selling book in history, with total sales exceeding 5 billion copies.
- Bob Marley was buried with a stalk of marijuana, his red Gibson Les Paul guitar, and a Bible.
- An 8-year study by the Center for Bible Engagement surveyed more than 100,000 people from around the world regarding their spiritual lives and discovered that individuals who engage the Bible four or more time a week yielded the following results:
- 228% more likely to share their faith with others.
- 30% less likely to struggle with loneliness.
- 14% less likely to struggle with anxiety.
- 31% less likely to feel discouraged with life.
- 31% more likely to forgive others.
- 40% less likely to feel bitter towards others.
- 31% less likely to lash out in anger.
- 62% less likely to drink excessively.
- 32% less likely to think destructively about themselves or others.
- 218% more likely to give to causes in addition to giving to their church.
When was the last time you read and studied your Bible?