The Bible: Description, History, & Facts

Get inspired to live with the principles of the Bible. Learn more about its history, sacred stories, and all the events that brought this book to life.

The Bible is the ultimate bestseller. This book, with several billion copies distributed worldwide in over a thousand languages, has hugely influenced human life. It influenced culture, art, music, literature, politics, philosophy, and scholarship.

The Bible brings timeless wisdom from different times in history. This book is a great library that contains the diverse experiences of people with God. Each book offers profound ideas that help everyone live meaningfully.

What is the Bible?

The Bible is the Word of God. This book serves as the foundation of the Christian faith. Within the biblical texts is how God loved His creation and guided them through many different joys and trials.

When you read the Bible, you find how God works and why He does what He does. Paul says in his letter to Timothy that God breathes the Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). He intends the Holy Word to teach, correct, and train us to be righteous.

The Bible is a guidebook of human life. It offers various stories of people who have lived ordinary and extraordinary lives, their battles, their mistakes, and their joys. From the Book of Genesis to Revelation, you learn how to live with dignity and neighborly love. This set of books also provides enduring lessons that we can apply to improve the world we live in.

What Makes the Bible Different from other Books?

The Bible is unique from all other books throughout history because of its structure, history, and impact.

The Bible is an anthology of holy wisdom. It tells the diverse stories of people in different literary styles. Unlike any other book ever published since time immemorial, the scriptures include varied literary genres such as poetry, historical narrative, law, sayings, and letters.

Even before the invention of the printing press, the Bible is the book that people read, discussed, and challenged. No other book has ever beat the scriptures for wide circulation and survivability. 

Ultimately, the Bible shares excellent life lessons that other religions or belief systems do not have. For example, in Hebrews 11:1, we learn that faith is about finding things that we hope for and believing in the unseen grace of God. 

The Bible is also the living symbol of God. The texts here are sharp to pierce through the heart, spirit, and soul and discern the needs and desires of man (Hebrew 4:12). So it is no wonder that the Bible has shaped civilization and ideologies for the progress of humanity. In every field, from politics to science to stewardship, we follow the rules and principles that come from the Bible. 

Where Does the Word “Bible” Come From?

The word “Bible” comes from the Latin word for books, “Biblia.” This particular word goes back to Byblos, the Greek name of the Phoenician city of Gebal. Byblos was famous back then as the maker of papyrus. The ancients used papyri to make books.

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Who Wrote the Bible?

The Bible is complex because it is an amalgamation of the God-inspired ideas of over 40 authors. The scriptures’ original text is in three languages: Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic. All the biblical writers come from a Jewish background. 

The biblical book authors come from diverse backgrounds. From King Solomon and David to Apostles Matthew and Paul, the Bible includes unique viewpoints of life that relate to everyone. Biblical tradition, for instance, states that Moses wrote the first books of the Old Testament while the Apostle Paul penned the majority of the New Testament. Some books of the Bible even have unknown authors.

How is the Bible Organized?

The Bible contains 66 books written with diverse perspectives, styles, and principles. If you study the Bible with a reading plan that cross-references it to historical events, you find that the Bible is not written chronologically. The authors of the Bible did not write the texts in real-time. Instead, the Bible comes from the Word of God orally shared before scribes and disciples wrote it down.

The Bible serves as sacred scriptures for Judaism and Christianity. The Hebrew Bible has the books of the ancient Jewish prophets and their history. This is the Old Testament of the Bible.

Christian denominations have both the Old Testament and the New Testament in their Bibles. 

The Old Testament discusses what happened to the people of Israel before Jesus came. The New Testament talks about Jesus’ life, ministry, and the early growth of Christianity.

Biblical canon differs from the Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Bibles. The Catholic includes seven more books – the Deuterocanonicals – plus the books of Daniel and Esther are longer in the Old Testament. The Orthodox Christian Bible also has other books.

The Bible consists of several writing styles. This difference also shows the changes in the way people receive the Word of God before, during, and after Jesus’ time.

Old Testament

The Old Testament is the first section of the Bible. This covers the covenant of God with the people of Israel. It starts with the creation of the world and ends with the destruction of the Jewish nation from the conquest of its neighboring empires.

The Old Testament consists of the following divisions:

Pentateuch

Jews also call these first five books of the Bible the Law or The Torah.

These are Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy.

Historical Books

Here you learn how Israel developed as a nation to its eventual destruction and oppression under several empires. These books are Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1st and 2nd Samuel, 1st and 2nd Kings, 1st and 2nd Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Here you read about the Israelites prospered when they followed God and suffered when they disobeyed His commandments. 

Prophets

Ancient Jewish prophets and their scribes wrote these books. Here they tell about God’s commands and exhortations to the Israelites in times of trouble. These prophets include Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

The prophetic books discuss God’s judgment and His promises for the people of Israel. Here the prophets confront the Israelites about their wicked ways. And they asked them to repent.

Poetry

Here the Bible includes the wise verses of the Hebrews. Some of the poetry in the Bible are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. They discuss what it means to live a righteous life on everything from money management to marriage.

New Testament

The New Testament shows the covenant of God with the entire human race. Here, the faith of the One God evolves from just the people of Israel to all nations of the Earth. Unlike the Old Testament, the New Testament has all its twenty-seven books initially written in Greek.

Even if it is shorter than the Old Testament, the New Testament wields far more influence. It relates more to people because of its timeless life lessons. 

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Gospels

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John show the story of Jesus, his ministry, and resurrection. These books are pivotal to the Christian faith because here, Jesus gives his life-changing teachings such as the Parables and the universal prayers. 

History Beyond Christ

After the Gospels, the next book in the New Testament is the historical account of the growth of the early Christian church. It tells the history of Christianity beyond Christ. Here you read about the Ascension, Pentecost to the evangelist career of persecutor-turned-apostle St. Paul. 

Epistles

The Epistles consist of a wide range of letters in which prominent church leaders such as Paul, Peter, Jude, and John write to the churches they established in Israel and Asia Minor. Here they console, guide, and teach the early Christians about how to live a Christian life. These books also deal with the persecution of the Christians by the Jews and the Romans. 

Apocalyptic

The last book of the New Testament is the only apocalyptic literature formally recognized by Christianity. Traditionally, John wrote Revelation after receiving visions from Jesus while in captivity on a remote island.

Books of the Bible

The Books of the Bible vary in length. Some are extremely short, while others span sprawling pages. But all of them unfold the Word of God that still guides countless people worldwide.

Old Testament

Genesis

Genesis is the book where most of the primary theology about God and man’s relationship come from. Here you read about creation, the Tower of Babel, the establishment of the nation of Israel, and more.

Exodus

This narrates the events after the Israelites flee the wrath of the Pharaoh with Moses.

Leviticus

This book focuses on God’s commandments and rules for His people.

Numbers

This book is about the story of the 40 years of Israelites in the desert. 

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Deuteronomy

Here Moses provides the Israelites further instructions about how to live. 

Joshua

This book narrates the eponymous Jewish leader’s conquest of Canaan. 

Judges

The Book of Judges narrates the different experiences of Israel as the judges rescue them from their tribulations after nations such as Philistines oppressed them.

Ruth

Ruth followed the mother of her deceased husband back to Israel. There she met Boaz, her husband and the great grandfather of King David. 

1 Samuel

Here Samuel anointed Saul as the first King of Israel. But Saul soon leads Israel to ruin.

2 Samuel

This book shows the story of how David, the shepherd boy, became King David.

1 Kings

Here you read about the prosperous reign of King Solomon. Then it goes to the split of Israel to the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. 

2 Kings

Both Judah and Israel disregard God and His prophets. Then they fell to world empires, including Babylonia. 

1 Chronicles

This book chronicles the history of the Kingdom of Israel.

2 Chronicles

Here you will read about Solomon’s building the temple in Jerusalem. But throughout this book, you will witness the Babylonian destruction of that very temple.

Ezra

The scribe Ezra exhorts the Israelites to follow God amid the rebuilding of the temple of Jerusalem.

Nehemiah

This book narrates how Nehemiah rebuilt the wall around the city of Jerusalem.

Esther

Esther narrates the tale of the eponymous woman who rose from an orphan Jew to the Persian empress who saved Israel from genocide.

Job

This book narrates the story of Job, the man of God. He was tested by Satan the Accuser and argued with his friends and God about why all the trials happen to him.

Psalms

The Psalms is a collection of hymns and exhortations of Israelites, with some of them written by David himself.

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Proverbs

Proverbs, as named, contain practical sayings about life.

Ecclesiastes

This is a philosophical book about life and its diverse deep meanings.

Song of Solomon (Song of Songs)

This is a love song about a man and his bride. Church tradition refers to this as the covenant of marriage between Jesus and the Church. 

Isaiah

Isaiah warns the Israelites of the future -judgment, and salvation from the child born of a virgin. 

Jeremiah

God sends a prophet to warn Israel about the coming Babylonian captivity, but the people don’t take the news very well.

Lamentations 

These verses lament the way Babylonia destroyed Jerusalem.

Ezekiel

Ezekiel exhorts the people of Israel to see their errors and to find justice. 

Daniel

Daniel, a top official advisor in the Babylonian and Persian empires, narrates his prophetic visions about Israel.

Hosea

Hosea’s life with his prostitute wife relates to God’s relationship with Israel.

Joel

Here the prophet Joel describes how God will send judgment to Israel and its neighboring nations. 

Amos

The shepherd Amos becomes a prophet who fights against injustices.

Obadiah

This book is about Obadiah, the prophet who tells about the impending judgment of Edom.

Jonah

This famous story narrates how Jonah runs away from God, gets stuck in the stomach of a fish for three days, then goes to spread the Word of God to the city of Nineveh.

Micah

Micah gives sermons to Israelite leaders about their unjust rule and foretells the coming of the perfect judge, Lord God. 

Nahum

Nahum foresees the divine judgment of Nineveh, the capital of Assyria.

Habakkuk

Habakkuk is about how God seeks to punish Judah for their injustice and violence.

Zephaniah

Here the prophet Zephaniah tells about God’s judgment of nations and their restoration to peace and justice.

Haggai

Haggai urges people to go back to the restoration of the temple of Jerusalem.

Zechariah

The prophet Zechariah tells of prophecies that happened to Israel.

Malachi

Malachi calls on the people of Israel to renew their faith in God. 

New Testament

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The Gospel of Matthew

Traditionally ascribed to the Apostle Matthew, this is the first book in the New Testament. Matthew narrates the story of Jesus Christ from his genealogy to his resurrection.

The Gospel of Mark

Written in a similar vein as the Gospel of Matthew, Mark’s shorter account tells about Jesus’ earthly ministry.

The Gospel of Luke

This is the most thorough Gospel. Luke added eyewitness accounts to the story of Jesus. 

The Gospel of John

John writes his Gospel differently from the other three. He focuses on the divinity of Jesus by delving into the metaphysical and philosophical aspects of Jesus’ story.

Acts

Luke continues the story of Jesus by narrating how the Apostles started evangelizing the whole world.

Romans

Paul discusses the story of Jesus in his letter to the Roman Christian congregation.

1 Corinthians

Paul counsels the divided Corinthian church here. It is here that he answers what it means to live a Christian life.

2 Corinthians

Paul reconciles with the congregation at Corinth. He further guides on what it means to live in Christ.

Galatians

Here Paul writes to the Galatian congregation about what salvation truly means.

Ephesians

Paul writes to the church in Ephesus to guide them on how to live with God’s grace, find peace and love one another.

Philippians

Here Paul encourages the Christians of Philippi to live joyfully in their faith in Christ.

Colossians

Here the Christians at Colossae receive a letter from Paul reminding them about their relationship with Christ and how to live with Christ.

1 Thessalonians

Paul encourages the budding congregation at Thessalonica to persevere in faith, hope, and love.

2 Thessalonians

Paul counsels the Thessalonians to stay firm amid persecution, for Jesus Christ is coming again.

1 Timothy

Paul instructs his scribe and apprentice, Timothy, on church leadership. 

2 Timothy

As he feels the end of his life coming, St. Paul writes to Timothy. He encourages the young man to continue the evangelization. 

Titus

Paul writes to Titus about how to lead the congregations in Crete.

Philemon

Paul writes to Philemon to forgive his slave who runs away.

Hebrews

This particular epistle has an unknown author. But it is an encouraging letter for Christians that time who suffered. This consoles them to believe in Christ, who is greater than any other authority on Earth. 

James

James, Jesus’ brother, writes this letter to Christian to exhort them to practice their faith in word and deed. 

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1 Peter

Here Peter encourages the suffering Christians to continue living a Christian life and inspiring truth through their righteous actions.

2 Peter

Peter reminds Christians about the truth about Jesus and warns about false teachers.

1 John

John writes about how Christians can follow Jesus’ commands, love each other and live righteously. 

2 John

Here John writes about truth, love, and obedience.

3 John

This last letter from John discusses Christian fellowship.

Jude

The apostle Jude writes a letter to fight for the faith, even in the midst of ungodly men.

Revelation

John sees visions of things that have been, things that are, and things that are yet to come.

History of the Bible

The Bible’s history is as colorful and complex as the stories within its pages.

Scholars posit that from 2000 BC, the Torah existed as an oral tradition. Then in 300 BC, the Old Testament was written down by scribes and collected by the Jewish church as canon.

The BBC History Revealed Magazine reveals the archaeological quest to find the historicity of the Bible. In archaeology, the best evidence found for the events in the Old Testament is Merneptah’s Stele and the Tel Dan Stele.

Pharaoh Merneptah had its martial achievements written in a carved granite block measuring three meters high. Merneptah Stele, found in the ancient city of Thebes in 1896, has three lines that tell about Egypt’s conquest of Israel.

Similar to the Merneptah Stele, the Tel Dan Stele describes how their more powerful neighbors destroyed the House of David and its kingdom to 100 AD, the New Testament slowly came to life in the Greek language. The early Christian churches grew and persevered amid harsh persecution. Then some fifty years later, Marcion of Sinope prompted the establishment of a canon New Testament. In 312 AD, Roman Emperor Constantine commissioned the Codex Vaticanus, the original Bible.

The 27 Books of the New Testament came with the collation and identification of Athanasius of Alexandria in 367 AD. The Third Synod of Carthage approved these books in 397 AD. St. Jerome translated the biblical texts: from Greek to Latin (382-384 AD) and Hebrew to Latin (390-405 AD).

In 600 AD, the Roman Catholic Church designated Latin as the only Scriptural language. But this decision sparks the conflicts that will eventually break up the Christian faith. 

Another important event that sparked the rebellion of the faithful was the Council of Toulouse. In 1229, the church leaders forbade ordinary people from owning the Bible.

Then in 1381, John Wycliffe started to translate the Bible into English. This led to the Church charging him with heresy and culminated in the church officials exhuming Wycliffe, burning his remains, and throwing the ashes upon Swift River.

In 1445, Johannes Gutenberg first printed out the Bible using the printing press. This increased the fervor of translations of the Word of God.

In 1522-1536, Bishop Martin Luther translated the Bible to German. At around the same time, William Tyndale and his associates also translated the New Testament to English. But their efforts lead to persecution from the Church. In 1536, Tyndale was executed to die by the fire for heresy.

1539 saw the printing of the Great Bible, the first authorized publicly distributed English Bible by King Henry VIII of England.

In 1582, the Roman Catholic Church produced the first English Bible for Catholics – the Rheims New Testament.

King James VI of English commissioned the King James Bible in 1611. This has grown to be the most influential version of the Bible. Over the following centuries, the King James Bible was revised to be more accessible to believers from different nations.

In 1947, a Bedouin shepherd discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls. He found them in a cave near the Dead Sea. These scrolls consist of over 800 documents of animal skin and papyrus in clay jars. These scrolls were dated from 200 BC to the first century AD. They contain fragments of the Old Testament, except for the Book of Esther.

Versions of the Bible

The Bible has several different versions. Most of them are translations from the original Greek to English. Each version varies in its style and context.

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Tyndale

William Tyndale translated the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament to English. Even though he died at stake, his Bible helped develop the English Bible we know today.

King James Bible

In 1611, King James VI of Scotland and I of England and Ireland commissioned the King James Version. He tasked his scholars to produce a Bible that one can read aloud in the church. This Bible is most beloved because of its rich, majestic language. 

English Standard Version

The English Standard Version is a popular translation of the Bible. This has elements of the King James and Tyndale Bible, but with no sophisticated language. This was first published in 2001. 

New International Version

The most circulated Bible worldwide is the New International Version. This translation provides straightforward, contemporary meaning to the biblical text. 

Is the Bible Still Relevant Today?

With all the modern advances in science and technology, you might wonder about the Bible’s relevance. Everyday life lends life to nihilism and hedonism. But if you look closely, you find a place of the Word of God in life.

Biblical writers wrote with the words “Thus says the world” to show that God inspired them. There is also archaeological evidence about biblical events. 

And most importantly, the best evidence of the Bible’s relevance is the Christian and Jewish faiths. As long as people believe in God, the Bible will always be pivotal. God speaks to us through the Bible, his ministers, and the people around us.

The Bible will always be vital because it offers lessons and insights into living life with meaning. You can’t get all that from other books. So long as you study the Bible with an understanding of the historical context of its events, you will see how the Scriptures show what it means to be human and be good regardless of life events.

Conclusion

The Bible is an extraordinary book. This library of wisdom accumulated through the ages changes lives. It improves relationships and enriches communities.

From the Old Testament to New Testament, you read about how God interacts with His people. You witness the growth and destruction of Israel in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, God renews His covenant with His people and extends His grace to the whole world.

All in all, the Bible is an asset. People died, sacrificed, and persevered to bring the Word of God to life. So every time you read the Bible, relish it. Invite God into your life by listening to His Word.

Alex Shute
AUTHOR
Alex Shute
Alex is a family man and entrepreneur based in Los Angeles. His passion is to serve the global Church and bring people of diverse backgrounds together to learn & grow. In his free time, he enjoys perfecting pour-over coffee, smoking meats, and discovering new cycling routes around Southern California.