Using The Bible

A Library

Most people think of “the Bible” as a book.  It certainly usually looks like one, and it is bound and presented like a book.  But it may be more helpful to think of it as a library or collection of 66 different kinds of writing usually presented together in a single volume.  The first 39 books are sometimes called the “Old Testament” or Jewish Scriptures, and the last 27 books known as the “New Testament”.  Using the Bible for the first time is rather like walking through a library.

The materials collected in this library were written by different people over a period of about 1,500 years and include lots of stories, history books and chronicles, poetry, proverbs, laws, letters and accounts rather lie what we now call biographies.  When people start to read the Bible assuming it is a single book with hundreds of chapters it soon becomes difficult for them (the end of Exodus and the beginning of Leviticus to be precise) to know when the storyline is being interrupted by other types of material and when it starts again.

Finding the Story as you walk through the Library

And this is exactly why this new edition of The Bible has been produced: it aims to help the reader find his or her way right through the story from the very first sentence (in Genesis) until to point when Paul reaches Rome (at the end of Acts).  The way we have done this is to present the main story (or narrative) in the form in which you would expect to find a normal storybook, biography or novel.  It is in single column, divided by subheadings and chapters.  All the rest of the material (about two thirds of the whole) is in two columns.

So you start to read the Bible at the beginning (page 3), and from that point until page 1374 you will find the story interspersed with other relevant and interesting material.  Wherever you find the text in single column you know the story continues.

It has been our experience when listening to readers from around the world, that the first time they begin walking through the Library, they usually want to read right through the story before exploring the rest of The Bible.  This is of course up to the reader, but if this is their choice then all that is needed is the willingness to turn over the pages of double-column text until the next part of the story appears. As they do so there are notes, summaries, maps and illustrations to help make the story more accessible, and easy to follow.

The Story

The story begins with God creating the universe, and then tells of how he continues to express his love and show his purposes by revealing himself to individuals like Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, Joseph. As the narrative unfolds it becomes clear that he is calling and creating a people to be a special witness to his love, holiness, faithfulness and mercy.  This people, first known as the “Hebrews”, came to be known as the Israelites or Jews.  After being freed by God from slavery in Egypt they were led through a desert into “the Promised Land” of Canaan.

Despite the guidance, love, compassion and patience of God, this people often rebelled against God and his laws.  Although God was their true King they chose to have earthly monarchs, two of whom were very famous, David and Solomon.  Eventually this people with a capital city and temple in Jerusalem were attacked and overcome by neighbouring empires and they went into exile, many of them as captives.

Still God showed his love to them and promised that he would never forget them.

He spoke through many prophets with names such as Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and they told of a time (or “Day”) that was coming, when God’s will would be done, and his kingdom come on earth.

In the New Testament there are four books that describe the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He is the promised saviour (Messiah) not only of this special people, but of the whole world.  He is the “servant-king” of a new kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven, which is completely unlike the other kingdoms of the world.  He calls a new community into being, like a shoot from the tree of Israel, whose purpose is to witness to God, not only as Creator and Father, but as Saviour.  This community acknowledges Jesus as Lord, and looks for the time when every knee will bow before Him.

Becoming part of the story

The last books of the Bible are letters written to individuals or groups of this new community.  The first people who believed in Jesus were known as “followers of the way”.  They were then given the nickname, “Christians” and this is the name that has stuck. There are many groups of Christians today spread all over the world.  To them the Bible is the most special book in the world.  It is not only a record of what God has done in the past, but an invitation to join in this story here and now.  In this way their own lives are a continuation of the story written not in words but expressed by a new way of living.