What Is the Bible?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, November 4, 2022 3 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

One of the greatest unfortunate side-effects of modern academia is that because it is based on man’s ideas and man’s interpretations, even the most elite scholars have actually forgotten the most fundamental thing behind academics: reading. Now, I am not saying that these people do not read at all, but that they do not know how to read. They know how to make ideas fit with their ideals, but do not know how to actually let a text say what it actually says. This is especially true when it comes to the Bible and Christianity. And I am not merely talking about the world “out there” either. I am talking about professing Christians and defenders of the faith in our apologetic communities. When I hear some of these people talk about the Bible, I seriously have to ask, “Do you even know how to read anymore?” Because what they say the Bible says is nothing like what the Bible says. People want to boast about the salvation and sanctification of Christianity, but for the life of them they cannot figure out what the word “day” means in Genesis.

This has compelled me to write a series about how to read and understand the Bible. God’s timing is perfect, because I just completed a series about returning our homes to a Biblical structure and format, to be a place that God directs and owns and where it is a place of production and value, rather than a place of consumption and about self. How can we return to the old paths, how can we go back in order to go forward, unless we know what God is actually saying through Scripture? We need to get back to the basics, return to the foundations. There is nothing wrong with studying things academically, but there is something dreadfully wrong with how academia is done today.

This post will start a series about the fundamentals of how to read and understand the Bible. While I will at times throw in some “academic” terms, those are merely fancy words for things we normally do anyway. The Bible is a simple book in that even a child can read and understand; but it is also a deep book that the most learned scholar will have only scratched the depths of its richness. And one thing I will make clear: if the “deep” meaning contradicts in any way the “simple” meaning, it is not a “deep” meaning at all but a perversion. I will not be as some of the academics that talk down to the non-scholars and say “you have to know the original Greek and Hebrew” to understand the Bible (which is useful, but not necessary), but I want to re-open the Bible to people. It is a book that is to be cherished, loved, and respected, but it is primarily meant to be understood, believed, and obeyed. If people want to reject the Bible, that’s their call, but they had better accurately represent it when they do so if they want to be known as an academic.

So, what is the Bible? What is this book? First off, it is not one book. It is a collection of 66 books written by 40 authors from all sorts of walks of life, in all different political and religious contexts, different locations, different languages, different primary audiences, different genres, all over a 1600-year span, and yet it all says the same message. It is not an anthology either, but it actually reads as though it is a single book with a single mind. There is no other book that is like it. No anthology compares. No academic text compares. No historical document compares. No religious text compares either. It is unique among all other books. You can get more details about this in my book Ten Reasons to Believe the Bible.

The Bible is not just a book of Jewish writings about the Jewish people, but rather a book by Jewish authors through whom God is sending a message to the whole world. The primary audience of the Bible is not Jews, but rather the Church throughout the ages. While many academics often look at the Bible from the lens of the Ancient Near Eastern culture, that is not an appropriate way to interpret it. Even though Israel was geographically in the Ancient Near East, culturally they were vastly different. God set up their culture to be different from the rest. This was to be a physical demonstration for the church age to come.

The Bible’s historical writings have a two-fold purpose. First, to give an accurate history. That history was primarily as a test to prove who the Messiah would be. Jesus had to come from Adam, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and then David. The historical records are not only the most accurate accounts of history ever written, but their accuracy is part of what enables us to know that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. Second, to give all its readers examples of every type of situation we could face. These are not myths nor fables but records of actual events. They actually happened as described. They were not mythicized. There are countless examples where I have seen the exact same tactics and moves used by the people recorded in the Bible today.

The Bible has laws, teachings, wisdom writings, songs, prophecies, parables, group and personal letters, apocalyptic literature, and even metaphors and allegories. The primary genre is history or historical narratives – giving an account of what happened. Unless the text demonstrates to be otherwise, this should be the default. I’ll deal with this more as the series progresses.

The Bible is unique from every other book in that it is inspired by God. While God did indeed use human authors to physically pen the text, each were moved and carried along by the Holy Spirit. In some cases, it was direct dictation such as the prophecy books. In other cases, the Holy Spirit utilized the author’s personality and writing style and yet still carried on the divine spirit in the text. Not just any book or author could claim this, though many tried. Moses and the Apostles in particular were validated as divine authors because they were given power to perform miracles that showed they were from God. The prophets were authors were tested by the tests of a prophet which included a death sentence for prophesying wrongly. So not only were these books written under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit, but they were publicly recognized as such at the time they were written. It is this inspiration that gives the Bible its position as the first, final, and ultimate authority over every matter it speaks on.

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Ruth said...

Thank you for this, Charlie! Just what I need to read and pass on to others.

Anonymous said...

Amen my brother. Nailed it. If I was able to copy this I would use it in my men’s Bible study.

Charlie said...

Thank you for reading. You are certainly able to copy and use it for your Men's study. You can print it directly as a blog post or copy paste it to a word doc if that makes things easier. This is part of a 9-post series so there is much more coming.

Ruth, thank you for reading too.