The word “Bible” comes from the Greek word “biblia” which means “little books”. The Bible is actually a library of 66 books written by a least 40 different authors over a period of at least 1500 years. The oldest book was written about 1500 B.C. or earlier. The last was written about A.D. 100.
Good News Bible – Today’s English Version
The Bible was originally written in the Hebrew and Greek languages. The “Good News Bible – Today’s English Version” is an English translation of the Bible. There are many good English translations of the Bible. The translators of “Today’s English Version” made a special effort to use standard English that would be easily understood by those who have learned English as a second language.
Sections of The Bible
See if you can find the “Table of Contents” in your Bible. You will notice in the contents that the Bible is divided into two main sections: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament has 39 books. The New Testament has 27 books.
A “testament” is another word for covenant, an agreement established by God setting out the relationship between God and human beings. In the Old Testament (or old covenant), the relationship was based on law. God chose a people for Himself and gave them His law. The people he chose was the nation of Israel, named for one of their ancestors. The history books in the Old Testament show that the relationship based on law failed because people always sin and disobey God’s law.
In the New Testament (the new covenant), the relationship between God and human beings is based on grace (God’s free acceptance of us) and peace. Grace and peace come through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God himself come to live among men. Jesus died in our place to pay the penalty required for breaking God’s law. After three days, he rose up from the dead to give us eternal life.
Books of the Bible
Look at the list of names of the books in the Old and New Testaments. Some of the names will sound strange to you and be hard to pronounce. That’s OK. Some of them are hard for Americans to say also. Many of the books are named for their authors. Other books are letters named for the people or groups to whom they were first sent. Other books are named for their subjects.
Old Testament Books
The contents of the books also vary. In the Old Testament there are books of history about the people that God called, government records, moral and religious law, poetry, songs, and wise sayings.
There were also books written by prophets. Prophets were men chosen by God to deliver his message. They asked people to live in ways pleasing to God. They also looked ahead to the coming of a servant and a king who would save his people. A special word used for this person was the “Messiah,” the one chosen to be king. The last Old Testament prophet wrote his book about 400 years before Jesus lived.
New Testament Books
The New Testament starts out with the Gospel – four books, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, named for the men who wrote them. Gospel means “good news.” The Gospel describes the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ is the Greek word that means the “Messiah,” the servant king looked for by the prophets of the Old Testament.
The next book in the New Testament, Acts, describes the acts of Jesus’ followers following Jesus’ return to heaven. The other New Testament books are all letters from Jesus’ followers to early Christian churches or other Christians. These letters help us understand the good news of Jesus Christ and how to apply it in our own lives.
Finding Things In The Bible
If you turn to the first page of one of the books in the “Good News Bible” (like the book of Genesison page l), you will first see an “Introduction” and an “Outline of Contents.” These were added by the translators to help you understand the book more easily. They were not in the original book.
The actual book starts just after the “Outline of Contents.” If you read the book, you will see that each book is divided into chapters a page or two long. The chapters are all numbered. Each chapter is divided into short verses a few lines long. Each verse is also numbered. The books originally were not divided into chapters and verses. The chapter and verse numbers were added later to make it easier to find things in the Bible.
When quoting something from the Bible, people will identify the location of the passage by book, chapter, and verse. You can look up the location of the book in the table of contents to find a page number for chapter 1. Then you look forward in the book to find the right chapter and verse. The page numbers start over from 1 in the New Testament, so be sure to notice whether the book you are looking for is in the Old or the New Testament.
The Message of The Bible
The following verses describe some of the important things that God tells us in the Bible. Practice what we have just learned about finding passages in the Bible by looking up the verses.
Romans 1:28-31 (page 145 in the New Testament) describes what people are like without God.
Acts 17:24-28 (page 132, NT) describes how God intended things to be.
Isaiah 59:1-2 (page 577, OT) and Romans 6:23 (page 149, NT) talk about the results of man’s disobedience to God.
Isaiah 53:6 (page 574, OT), Romans 5:6-11 (page 148, NT), and Romans 10:9-13 (page 152, NT) describe God’s plan for bringing people back into a close relationship with himself.
Reading The Bible On Your Own
God’s word is meant to be read and understood. We encourage you to read the Bible on your own. A good place to start is the Gospel according to Mark on page 33 in the New Testament. Read with a humble attitude, ready to learn, looking for what is true. John Stott, writer of an excellent book called “Basic Christianity,” suggests a prayer for those who are reading the Bible that goes like this:
“God, I’m an honest seeker after truth. I don’t know if you exist, but if you do, please reveal yourself to me as you are. Show me if Jesus is your Son and Savior of the World. If you bring this conviction to my mind, I will trust Jesus as my Savior and follow him as my Lord.”