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What Is the Bible?

What Is the Bible?

The Bible’s Answer

 The Bible is a collection of 66 sacred books. It was written over a period of approximately 1,600 years. The Bible contains a divine message—“the word of God.”—1 Thessalonians 2:13.

In this article

 Facts about the Bible

  •   Who wrote the Bible? God is the Author of the Bible, but he used approximately 40 different men to write it. Some of these men were Moses, King David, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. a God put his thoughts into the minds of the writers for them to record his message.—2 Timothy 3:16.

     To illustrate: If a businessman directs his secretary to write a message on his behalf, perhaps even giving the gist of it, the businessman is still the author of the message. Likewise, even though God used men to write his message, he is the real Author of the Bible.

  •   What does the word “Bible” mean? “Bible” comes from the Greek word biblia, meaning “little books.” In time, biblia came to describe the whole collection of smaller books that together make up the Bible.

  •   When was the Bible written? The Bible began to be written in 1513 B.C.E. and was completed over 1,600 years later, about 98 C.E.

  •   Where is the original Bible? No original Bible writings are known to have survived. This is because Bible writers used perishable materials available at the time, such as papyrus and parchment. However, professional scribes meticulously copied and recopied Bible writings for centuries, preserving their contents for future readers.

  •   What are the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament”? What is commonly called the Old Testament describes the part of the Bible that was written mainly in Hebrew, b also known as the Hebrew Scriptures. What is called the New Testament refers to the section written in Greek, known as the Christian Greek Scriptures. The two parts together form one complete book, also called the Holy Scriptures. c

  •   What is in the Bible? The various parts of the Bible contain history, laws, prophecy, poetry, proverbs, songs, and letters.—See “ List of Bible books.”

 What is the Bible about?

 The Bible begins with a brief overview of the creation of the heavens and the earth by Almighty God. By means of the Bible, he introduces himself by his name, Jehovah, inviting humans to get to know him.—Psalm 83:18.

 The Bible explains that God has been misrepresented, and it shows how he will restore his reputation.

 The Bible reveals God’s purpose for mankind and the earth. It shows how God will eliminate the causes of human suffering in the future.

 The Bible provides practical advice for daily life. Examples of this include:

  •   Maintaining good relationships. “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them.”—Matthew 7:12.

     Meaning: We should treat others the way we would like to be treated.

  •   Dealing with stress. “Never be anxious about the next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties.”—Matthew 6:34.

     Meaning: Instead of worrying excessively about what may happen in the future, we do well to live one day at a time.

  •   Enjoying a happy marriage. “Each one of you must love his wife as he does himself; on the other hand, the wife should have deep respect for her husband.”—Ephesians 5:33.

     Meaning: Love and respect are vital to a successful marriage.

 Has the Bible been changed?

 No. Scholars have carefully compared ancient Bible manuscripts with today’s Bible and have found that the Bible’s original message is basically unchanged. This makes sense—after all, if God wants his message to be read and understood, is it not reasonable that he would ensure that the message would not be changed? dIsaiah 40:8.

 Why are there so many different translations of the Bible?

 Most modern readers cannot understand ancient Bible languages. Yet the Bible has “good news” for “every nation and tribe and language.” (Revelation 14:6, footnote) For that reason, people need a translation of the Bible in a language they understand so that they can read and properly understand God’s message.

 Bible translations reflect three basic styles:

  •   A word-for-word translation is as literal as possible.

  •   A thought-for-thought translation uses words that represent the meaning of the original-language text.

  •   A paraphrase translation freely rewords the text, aiming to make it enjoyable to read. However, the freeness of paraphrased translations may at times obscure the true meaning of the passage.

 A good Bible translation balances literal translation with understandable modern language to convey God’s message to mankind accurately. e

 Who decided what should be included in the Bible?

 As its Author, God decided what belongs in the Bible. He first chose the ancient nation of Israel to be “entrusted with the sacred pronouncements of God,” acting as custodians of the Hebrew Scriptures.—Romans 3:2.

 Are there lost books of the Bible?

 No. The Bible is complete; there are no “lost” books. Some may claim that certain ancient books that were long concealed rightly belong in the Bible. f However, the Bible contains its own internal measure of authenticity. (2 Timothy 1:13) Using this standard, Bible books that are inspired by God completely harmonize with one another. This cannot be said for all ancient writings that some individuals claim belong in the Bible. g

 How to find Bible verses

  List of Bible books

a For a complete list of all the books of the Bible, who wrote them, and when they were written, please see “Table of the Books of the Bible.”

b Small portions of the Bible were written in Aramaic, a language closely related to Hebrew.

c Many Bible readers prefer the expressions “Hebrew Scriptures” and “Christian Greek Scriptures.” These terms avoid giving the impression that the “Old Testament” is outdated and was replaced by the “New Testament.”

e Many enjoy reading the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures for its accurate rendering and readability. See “Is the New World Translation Accurate?

f These writings are collectively called the Apocrypha. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, “in biblical literature, [this term refers to] works outside an accepted canon of scripture”—that is, outside the authoritative list of books belonging in the Bible.