The Bible is the most-printed, most-translated book in history. What is it about the Bible that makes it the perennial best seller? What is the Bible really?
The Bible is a library of sacred books. It is the holy book of Judaism and Christianity, though different groups include different books in their library.
Judaism accepts only the 39 books called the Old Testament by Christians. Most Bibles include an additional 27 books that make up the New Testament. Catholics and other groups also include various books of the Apocrypha in their Bibles. (Our article “Apocrypha: Is It Part of the Bible?” explains why we do not believe these books should be considered an inspired part of the Holy Bible.)
What is the Bible? A library inspired by God
The 66 books of the Old Testament and New Testament were written by around 40 different authors over a period of almost 1,500 years. In spite of that diversity, there is a unity to the message that attests to the ultimate divine authorship.
The apostle Paul affirmed that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). The word translated inspiration literally means “God breathed.” God worked through human writers, but He is the ultimate Author.
See our section on “Is the Bible True?” for archaeological, scientific, historical and prophetic evidence that the entire 66-book library was inspired by God.
What is the Bible? Truth
God is the Source of all truth, and He tells us that the Bible is His written Word of truth. Consider these passages:
- “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
- “But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth” (Daniel 10:21).
- “Your law is truth. … All Your commandments are truth. … The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever” (Psalm 119:142, 151, 160).
God’s truth is the ultimate reality. It reveals God’s beneficial way of life. Truth is the foundation of all that is good and right, and it is an eternal aspect of God’s nature.
What does God’s Word of truth reveal?
What is the Bible? Instruction manual for children of God
When we buy a new, complex piece of equipment, we generally receive an instruction manual that explains how to use the equipment and avoid dangerous problems.
God has written such an instruction manual for His incredibly complex human creation. It reveals not only how we should live now, but how we can eventually receive the ultimate upgrade—receiving salvation as the very children of God!
As we read earlier, Paul said, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” He also explained why God inspired the Bible: “The Holy Scriptures … are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith”; and the Bible “is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed” (2 Timothy 3:15-17, Good News Translation).
Doctrine (teaching), reproof (rebuking error), correction (improvement) and instruction in how to live the right way are all tools that help us become more like our loving Father. We must not twist the Scriptures to our own destruction, but instead “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:16, 18) .
God’s instruction manual gives us comfort and hope (Romans 15:4). It reveals wonderful promises such as this one: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1). Everyone who grasps that hope “purifies himself, just as He is pure” (verse 3).
Ultimately, the Bible is the book that helps us become like God, our Father.
What is the Bible? The way to read God’s mind
How can we become like God? The eternal Creator God thinks on a completely different plane than the natural human being thinks. God said, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
But God has a plan to bridge this seemingly unbridgeable gap. He is “mindful” of His human creation and wants to bring “many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:6, 10). He opens the curtains on His thinking through the Bible, which reveals the mind of God.
The Bible shows how Jesus Christ acted and how we should act, as a reflection of Him and His thinking (1 John 2:6; John 13:34; 2 Corinthians 3:18). To truly think like Christ, we need the New Covenant that God promises. God says, “I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Hebrews 8:10).
The Bible tells us this process of conversion includes regular Bible study, but it also requires the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, which makes it possible for Christ to live in us.
You need to know more about what the Bible says about this vital subject. For a study exploring the process of becoming more like God, see the section on “Christian Conversion.”