What is the Bible?
THE HOLY BI'BLE
is the name given to the collection of books which contains the revelation of God in the creation, redemption, and sanctification of the world; a history of the past dealing of God with his people; a prophecy of coming events till the final consummation; and a living exhibition of saving truth in doctrine, precept, and example for all men and all time. The name is from the Greek (biblia, "the books"), and means the Book of books, the best of all books (so used since the fifth century in distinction from heretical and all uninspired writings). The collection is likewise spoken of as the "Scriptures," "the word of God." The Bible embraces the work of about forty authors from all classes of society, from the shepherd to the king, living during an interval of sixteen hundred years, but all of the Hebrew extraction, with the single exception of Luke, whose Gospel, however, came from Jewish sources, and whose fame from his association with Paul. All forms of literary composition unite to give the Bible its unique interest, aside from its religious importance. These books, though differing in age, contents, and style, represent one and the same system of truth as revealed by God in its various aspects and adaptations to the existing wants and progressive understanding of his people. The Bible is not a book simply; it is an institution. It never grows old; it renews its youth with every age of humanity, and increases in interest and importance as history advances. It is to the Christian the only infallible source and rule of his faith and conduct; it is his daily bread of life, his faithful guide in holy living and dying, his best friend and companion -- far more precious than all other books combined. It is now more extensively studied than ever, and its readers will continue to multiply from day to day to all parts of the earth and to the end of time. Let us add some testimonies to its importance. The eloquent F. W. Robertson says: "This collection of books has been to the world what no other book has ever been to a nation. States have been founded on its principles; kings rule by a compact based on it; men hold it in their hands when they give solemn evidence affecting death or property; the sick man is almost afraid to die unless the Book be within reach of his hands; the battle-ship goes into action with one on board whose office is to expound it; its prayers, its psalms, are the language we use when we speak to God; eighteen centuries have found no holier, no diviner language. The very translation of it has fixed language and settled the idioms of speech. It has made the most illiterate peasant more familiar with the history, customs, and geography of ancient Palestine than with the localities of his own country. . . . The orator holds a thousand men for half an hour breathless, a thousand men as one listening to his single word. But this word of God has held a thousand nations for thrice a thousand years spell-bound -- held them by an abiding power, even the universality of its truth; and we feel it to be no more a collection of books, but the Book." The translators of the A. V., in their Address unto the Reader (reprinted in the Cambridge Paragraph Bible), say of the Bible: "And what marvel? -- the original thereof being from heaven, not from earth; the author being God, not man; the inditer, the Holy Spirit, not the wit of the apostles or prophets; the penmen, such as were sanctified from the womb and endued with a principal portion of God's Spirit; the matter, verity, piety, purity, uprightness; the form, God's word, God's testimony, God's oracles, the word of truth, the word of salvation, etc.; the effects, light of understanding, stableness of persuasion, repentance from dead works, newness of life, holiness, peace, joy in the Holy Ghost; lastly, the end and reward of the study thereof, fellowship with the saints, participation of the heavenly nature, fruition of an inheritance immortal, undefiled, and that shall never fade away. Happy is the man that delighteth in the Scripture, and thrice happy that meditateth in it day and night!" The Bible is ordinarily divided into two parts, called the Old and New Testaments. But it would be more accurate to say "the Old and New Covenants," inasmuch as "testament" implies the idea of a will and the death of the testator. In the present article the general questions in regard to the Bible will be discussed. The matters relating to the formation of the collection will be found under Canon, and the particulars of the different books under their respective names.