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What is the Bible?

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What is the Bible? At face value, that’s a straight forward question and many common answers immediately come to mind. Like: God’s Book, God’s Love Letter, the book of the Church, the Christian Scriptures, the world’s best-selling book of the year every year, the foundational book of Western culture, and a collection of texts sacred in Judaism and Christianity.

The Bible, in and of itself, answers the question by indicating that it is that which is God-breathed (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16), true (cf. Psalm 119:160), alive (cf. Hebrews 4:12), and much more. What the Bible says about itself is crucial for our understanding of what the Bible is. [You can read more about this in Twenty Texts From The Bible About The Bible]

As with every question, there are answers that we don’t like to hear. Sam Harris, an American atheist, author, neuroscientist and philosopher, says, “There is nothing particularly useful, and there’s a lot of iron age barbarism in there, and superstition. And this is not a candid book, I mean I can go into any Barnes and Noble blindfolded and pull a book off the shelf which is going to have more relevance, more wisdom for the 21st century than the Bible … It’s really not an exaggeration; every one of our specific sciences has superseded and surpassed the wisdom of scripture.”

Of course I profoundly disagree with Harris’ view of the Bible, and could debunk his comments in short order. But I don’t want to go off on a tangent. So to the main point of this post – here are ten thought provoking descriptions about the Bible:

The Bible is the prism by which the light of Jesus Christ is broken into its many and beautiful colours. The Bible is the portrait of Jesus Christ. – John Stott

The Bible is basically and overall a narrative – an immense, sprawling, capacious narrative. – Eugene Peterson

In a profound sense, the Word of God is a living and productive scalpel in the loving hands of One who penetrates to the core of our being in order to cleanse and heal our garbled, distorted, debased word and transform it into the word God speaks us forth to be in the world. – Robert Mulholland

The Bible is the book of my life. It’s the book I live with, the book I live by, the book I want to die by. – N. T. Wright

The letter of Scripture is a veil just as much as it is a revelation; hiding while it reveals, and yet revealing while it hides. – Andrew Jukes

The Bible is a harp with a thousand strings. Play on one to the exclusion of its relationship to the others, and you will develop discord. Play on all of them, keeping them in their places in the divine scale, and you will hear heavenly music all the time. –William P. White

The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me. – Martin Luther

The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts. – A. W. Tozer

We have adopted the convenient theory that the Bible is a Book to be explained, whereas first and foremost it is a Book to be believed (and after that to be obeyed). – Leonard Ravenhill

We should settle it in our minds that everything the Father and the Son say to us in and through Scripture relates, one way or another, to the person, place and purpose of Christ, to the realities of God’s kingdom and to faithful following of Christ through what Bunyan called the wilderness of this world. That is what the Christian Bible is all about, and we are not to go off at tangents away from this when we read it. – J. I. Packer

There are many other great quotes that could be cited, but I’ll close with this metaphor:

The Bible is an intricate tapestry of two stories – God’s and ours – each connected to the other. Every thread illuminates our lives – each stitch reveals the Weaver who gives life. Broadly conceived, the tapestry portrays Jesus, and how we’re woven in or out of His narrative.

So from your perspective, what is the Bible? Feel free to make a comment.

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5

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