Upholding the official beliefs and doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and spreading the three angels' message of Revelation 14:6-12
LESSON 2 - FACINATING FACTS
Each year more than 150 million Bibles (and portions of the Bible) are sold. This extraordinary Book is today's top best seller. It is already published in over 1,808 languages and dialects.
The Bible can be found throughout the whole world. People of diverse nationalities reach for one and the same Book when they are looking for comfort and help or need the nearness of God. All of them discover that the Bible has something to say to everybody at all times. But what is it that is so fascinating about this Book? And how did it come into being?
REPORTS - LETTERS - MESSAGES
The old Testament was written between 1400 and 400 BC. The New Testament
between AD 50 and 100. The Bible was, therefore, written over a period of 1,500
years. Hence the earliest parts of the Bible are 3,400 years old.
THE OLD TESTAMENT
Many men wrote of the way God treated human beings. They came from different cultures and occupations. Among them were shepherds and statesmen, priests, kings and academics. Their writings were compiled, classified and passed on. Jesus spoke of this collection of thirty-nine books when He referred to 'the Scriptures' (Luke 24:27).
THE NEW TESTAMENT
The letters were copied and sent to other churches. In this way collections of the letters came into being. In addition, the first Christians found it very important to keep a written record of what Jesus had said and done, and so the gospels came into being (Luke 1:1-4). Altogether, the New Testament comprises twenty-seven writings.
THE WHOLE BIBLE
The Old and New Testament together form the Bible. Our Christian belief is based on the whole of the Holy Scriptures.
ALL FOR ONE
How do we come to call the Bible the Word of God?
The Bible itself gives the answer to this question:
'Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.'
2 Peter 1:21.
It was men who wrote the Bible. Why did they write? Because they were receptive to God and because His Spirit led them to do it. Therefore, in the Bible we do not simply find human opinions about God. He shows us Himself, His character, and His plans for the human race.
'Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.' Amos 3:7.
Once we recognize God as the Author or Inspirer of the Bible, the scales fall from our eyes and we recognize that these words have authority. They are binding for all times.
ONE THEME THROUGHOUT
Although many people wrote at different times in different places, the Bible deals with one central theme: God's treatment of the theologians, but for all people, for tall and intellectual, rich and poor, employers and employees.
SCROLLS AND CLAY TABLETS
Qumran and the archaeological digs around Galilee, Samaria and Sinai receive
media exposure from time to time.
Until the nineteenth century the existence of these places - mentioned in the Bible - was doubted by academics. For many, the Bible was a mixture of myth and legend. One hundred and fifty years ago there began a new branch of science - archaeology. It surprised the Christian world with the discovery of the old kingdoms and cities of the Bible. Things which were dug out of the desert sand of the Near East confirmed the historical reliability of the Bible. Of great help have been the excavation of inscriptions, clay tablets, seals and papyrus which, through their content, give us information about the environment of Israel or, through the nature and style of their language, give renewed help to Bible scholars.
One example is the excavation of the ancient city of Ebla, a long-forgotten city of ancient Syria (today it is known as Tell Mardikh, located 200 miles north of Damascus). Ebla was the centre of one of the largest inhabited areas of the Near East in the third millennium BC, with a population of up to 260,000. It boasted a royal palace and an immense state archive - the oldest known in history. More than 20,000 tablets from the time of Abraham (2400-2250 BC) give us a picture of the Canaanite world. The clay tablets mention names which also appear in the Bible. Additionally they prove that language in written form existed at the time of Moses.
Of direct relevance are the old Bible manuscripts. The most well known are those from the Sinai Monastery and the scrolls from the Dead Sea (the caves of Qumran). These even contained a complete Isaiah scroll from the first century BC. It is amazing the accuracy with which the biblical text has been handed on through the centuries.
PRACTICAL HELP FOR OUR LIVES
The message of the Bible can transform and reshape a person. In every age there have been people who have been prevented from making wrong decisions and who have done great things because they regularly read the Bible. The most important thing about this Book is that it shows everyone how they can obtain eternal life by believing in Jesus Christ (John 20:31).
The Bible offers the opportunity of finding a personal relationship with God to those suffering from stress or mental torment, to the super-intelligent, to those in despair, to the discouraged, the addicted and those who are simply searching. In short, everybody.
'All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.'
2 Timothy 3: 16,17.
The real human problem is guilt. In absolute honesty the Bible exposes my condition. It may appear to me that it was written particularly for my personal situation in life. As a practical aid it is irreplaceable. Whoever really dares to have anything to do with the Bible is richly rewarded. Fear and perplexity disappear.
NOT A BOOK WITH SEVEN SEALS
We cannot always understand, at first sight, what a particular text in the Bible is trying to say. Mere intellectual endeavour does not help us to come to grips with the content:
'"Be still, and know that I am God."' Psalm 46:10.
Whoever reads the Bible should ask God for correct understanding. The Spirit of God which inspired men to write the Bible is also able to explain to us what has been written. Then we will recognise the will of God. We will understand why Jesus Christ gave His life for us and what that means for us. But the loveliest thought is that we will understand God's love better and better.
That is what Jesus meant 2,000 years ago when He said:
'"The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life."'John 6:63.
Up until now we have taken for granted that God exists.
Many try, with human logic, to prove or reject the existence of God.
The next chapter is about how God reveals Himself.
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