2022-Sept 14 What is the Bible?
SMALL GROUP MATERIAL
Small Group Questions:
- What did you learn about the Bible today that you never knew before?
- Why do you think God chose to reveal himself through one particular people’s history and struggles?
- Why do you think there is a diversity of genres in the Bible? What does it contribute to our understanding of the big story?
- What is the value of God revealing himself to humanity over thousands of years with multiple authors writing the story?
- What application are you going to try this week with the Bible: 1. Reading with others. 2. Meditating on it in private. 3. Responding to the Bible in prayer.
THE MAIN POINT
The Bible is a small library of books, which emerged from the history of the people of Ancient Israel, telling the story of who God is, who we are, and the big, redemptive story that we are all in.
2 Peter 1:20-21
2 Timothy 3:1
The Bible is a really large book made up of the Old and New Testaments, which themselves are made up of many books. There’s a lot of ancient history, poetry, and letters written across the span of fifteen hundred years. On top of that, there’s a cast of hundreds of people over this period of time. Who can keep it all straight?
It can be easy to get lost, not only because it’s an ancient text, but also because the book is large and complex.
Despite this variety and diversity, the Bible shows remarkable unity. The most dominant type of literature in the Bible is narrative. It opens with, “In the beginning,” and the second to last paragraph concludes with, “and they reigned forever and ever.” Narrative composes five hundred and two chapters or forty-three percent of the text. That’s nearly half the Bible! On the other hand, poetry makes up thirty-three percent of the Bible (three hundred eighty-seven chapters).
Although the Bible is a diverse set of literature and may appear fragmented at first, it ultimately presents itself as a unified epic narrative that leads to Jesus. There is one main plotline weaving the different books and stories together.
Once you grasp this core storyline and how all the books fit together, you can pick the Bible up at any point, and you’ll know right where you are and what’s going on.
- Bible: ‘Biblia’ (noun, books or library of books)
- Two main sections; Old Testament (before Jesus lived) & New Testament (after Jesus lived)
- Written over 1600 years
- 40 authors (kings, scholars, tax collectors, philosophers, doctors, fishermen, poets, historians, teachers, prophets)
- Different types of literature (history, poetry, prophecy, letters)
- 100 % written by humans, 100% inspired by God.
As you prepare the core of the message, keep in mind these points:
- THE OLD TESTAMENT [Tanak]: The “t” stands for Torah; sometimes called “the law.” That’s Israel’s five-book foundation story. The “n” stands for Nevi’im, the Hebrew word for “prophets.” And this section consists of the historical books that tell Israel’s story from the prophets’ point of view. Then you get the poetic books of the prophets themselves. The “k” stands for Ketuvim, a Hebrew word for “writings.” This is a diverse collection of poetry books, wisdom books, and more narratives. The Jewish people believe that through all of these literary works, God speaks to his people. There were also other diverse groups of texts that were highly valued in Jewish communities. There was debate from ancient times about whether or not some of these should be considered part of their Scriptures.
- THE NEW TESTAMENT: The earliest followers, called apostles, composed new literary works about the story of Jesus. They called these “good news” or “the Gospel.” They formed an account called Acts about the spread of the Jesus movement outside of Israel, and then they circulated letters to different Jesus communities all around the ancient world.
- So what’s in my Bible? The Christian movement has taken different forms over two thousand years, and from the beginning, all Christians recognized the TaNaK and the New Testament as Scripture. For centuries, much of the other writings (Second Temple literature) were read as part of the biblical tradition. The Catholic church eventually made it official and called some of the books from this collection the Deutero-Canonical books. Some Orthodox churches used even more books from this Second Temple period and then in the 1500s during the Reformation, Protestant Christians wanted to go back to the oldest writings of the prophets and apostles, so they accepted only the Old and New Testaments.
As you prepare the application, challenge, and/or encouragement, keep in mind these points:
- Two key questions will always arise when exploring the Bible: Is it true? Is it good? Over the next two weeks we are going to answer these questions, so encourage your listener not to miss what is coming!
- Reading the Bible can often be difficult when we don’t know where to start. Starting with understanding what it is, helps us engage it better. Understanding the context and writing styles, give us clearer eyes to see and clearer ears to hear what God wants to say to us.
3. Encourage your listeners not to get scared when reading the Bible but encourage them with these three helpful application points:
- Read the Bible with Other People: Reading the Bible in community is one of the quickest ways to get out of a reading rut. It’s a practice that God’s people have always done to remind themselves of who they are and what they’ve been called to.
- Meditate on the Bible in Private: By “meditation” we don’t mean emptying ourselves by chanting mindless mantras. Quite the contrary. Christian meditation is about filling our hearts and minds with the divine, not emptying ourselves. In terms of Bible reading, meditation is the practice of entering into the text by reading and rereading it out loud, allowing it to speak to us in such a way that we listen and truly hear it. We fix and order our minds around the text, reading, and rereading, until keywords, phrases, and ideas jump off the page at us. Then we chew on these words and ideas and begin to form questions that lead us into deeper reflection. This causes us to slow down and experience the text in a way that affects our hearts and minds with the love of God.
- Respond to the Bible in Prayer: A wonderful way to engage the Bible is through the prayerful reading of Scripture, a mode of reading with an eye towards finding language out of which we form a prayer of response. This differs from meditation, in that meditation is entering into the world of the text and allowing it to speak to us. Prayer is us speaking to God in a natural response to the text.