Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
(Psalms 119:105)

 

The Bible is a collection of writings by many different authors over a period of about 1,600 years.  These authors were ordinary men like you and me who chose to trust God and obey His instructions.  Because they were obedient, God could use them as His spokesmen.  The Bible calls them "holy men of God" who were "moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Peter 1:21).  The Bible is God’s Instruction Manual for His children.  In it we find the secret of happiness.  It contains an accurate history of the past and reveals God’s plans for the future.  It explains the reason for suffering and death and holds out the hope of eternal life for those who believe and obey its instructions.

Many men have tried to destroy the Bible but God has preserved it down through the centuries.  Until the invention of movable type in the fifteenth century, every copy of the Bible was written by hand.  In recent times, with the discovery of ancient manuscripts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, it has been possible to check on the accuracy of these copyists.  The first discovery of these early manuscripts of the Old Testament was made by Bedouin shepherds in a cave near the Dead Sea in 1947.  Scholars have established that they were written between 200 B.C. and 68 A.D.  Portions of every book of the Old Testament except Esther have been found.  As they have compared these ancient manuscripts with the Bible we know today, scholars have been surprised to see how accurately it has been preserved.

Critics have claimed that many of the stories in the Bible were myths handed down from generation to generation.   However, with the development of the science of archaeology, the historical accuracy of the Bible has been confirmed.  As archaeologists have excavated ancient cities, they have discovered many secular and business records.  These documents have verified that the Biblical records are accurate and can be trusted.

Few people today realize what a privilege it is to own a Bible.  During the period of great moral darkness called the Dark Ages, it was a crime punishable by death to own a Bible.  Copies of the Bible were very rare and very expensive since they were all hand written.  Also, since they were in Greek or Latin, only scholars could read them.  Martin Luther never saw a complete copy of the Scriptures until he discovered a Latin Bible in the library while attending the university.  He and other reformers risked their lives to give the Bible to the people in their native tongues.

There are many versions of the Bible today and you may be wondering which one to use.  The texts quoted in these lessons will be from the King James Version (sometimes called the Authorized Version) unless otherwise noted.  This translation was completed in 1611 by a large group of scholars authorized by King James I of England.  We believe it is the most accurate version and strongly recommend it.  The New King James Version is also good and a bit easier to understand since the language is more up-to-date.  Many of the newer versions have been translated by men who do not believe in the inspiration, reliability, and historical accuracy of the Bible.  Thus, we do not recommend them.  If our translation of the Bible is not accurate, we will not be able to come to a complete understanding of truth.

The Bible consists of 66 books divided into two sections called the Old Testament and the New Testament.  The Old Testament contains 39 books written over a period of about 1000 years.  It records the history of God's dealings with mankind from creation almost to the time of Christ.    It is noteworthy that the Scripture which Christ quoted from so often was the Old Testament since the New Testament was not written yet.  Some people say that the Old Testament is not important any more but Jesus said, "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matt. 4:4)  When he said this, he was referring to the Old Testament Scriptures and quoting from them (Deut. 8:3).

The New Testament contains the record of the life and teachings of Christ and his disciples.  It consists of 27 books written from about 51 A.D. to 95 A.D.  When correctly understood, there is beautiful harmony between the Old and New Testaments.  This should not be surprising, since they have the same Author.  Jesus said that the Scriptures (Old Testament) testified of Him (John 5:39).  In fact, one of the strongest evidences that Jesus is the Messiah is the fulfillment of the many prophecies in the Old Testament concerning Him.  After Jesus' resurrection, he explained these prophecies to His disciples (Luke 24:25-27,44).  When witnessing to others about Him, they used the fulfillment of these prophecies as evidence that Jesus was the Messiah.  We will study these and other prophecies in these lessons.

Remember as you study that the Bible is not just another good book, but instructions from God.  There is wisdom and power in God's Word to help you solve the problems of life.  If you are anxious or fearful, you can find peace.  If you are lonely, you can learn what true love is.  If you are struggling to overcome bad habits that are destroying your life, there is power in God's Word to help you.  When you find a text that is especially helpful, jot it down on a card and carry it with you so you can review it throughout the day.  Soon you will have it memorized.  David wrote, “ ”Thy word have I hid in mine heart (mind), that I might not sin against thee.” Ps. 119:11.  If we have committed God’s Word to memory, we will always have it with us when we need it.

Some people feel that they cannot memorize, but just like our muscles, our minds grow stronger through exercise.  Also, God has promised to write His Word in our minds and hearts if we want Him to (see Heb. 8:10 and 10:16).  To have it written in our minds is to understand what it means.  To have it written in our hearts is to have a willing spirit to do what it tells us to do. 

The best time to study is when you first arise in the morning.  This is the time when your mind is the clearest.  God's Word is our spiritual food.  Just as we partake of food each day to maintain our physical strength, so we need spiritual food each day to become and remain spiritually strong.  You will find that your whole day goes better when you begin it with God.

Someone has said, "You are what you eat".  If you eat unhealthful food, your body will become sick.  In the same way, if we allow our minds to be filled with the wickedness that is so often portrayed and even glorified in the entertainment world today, we will become spiritually sick.  If we desire to hear God's "still small voice" speaking clearly to us in His Word, we must carefully guard what enters our minds through our eyes and ears.  Paul says it this way in his instructions to the Christians at Philippi:
Finally brethren,
whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report,
if there be any virtue,
if there be any praise,
THINK ON THESE THINGS." Phillippians 4:8.

Jesus told a parable about two men. (See Matt.  7:24-27).  One was wise and one was foolish.  Those who heard his teachings and obeyed them, he likened to a wise man who built his house upon a rock.  Those who heard his teachings but did not obey them, he likened to a foolish man who built his house upon the sand.  When the rains came, the wise man's house stood while the foolish man's house was destroyed.  The principles that we learn as we study the Bible will not help us unless we are willing to do what He tells us to do. 

We hope that these few thoughts will be helpful as you begin your study of the Bible.  If you have any questions as you study, please feel free to share them with us.  We will try to direct you to God's answers.

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