Chapter 1: The Book
For Muslims the Qur'an and the Ahadith (traditions) are the foremost authority. For Christians it is the Bible, which is a resource center of the Christian faith. It is a collection or library of books. The word "Bible" itself comes from the Greek word "biblia", which means "the books".
The sixty-six books in the Bible were written down by a number of God's people over a period of 1,600 years in three languages. They were from many walks of life: they were prophets, kings, shepherds, fishermen, scholars, a soldier, a civil servant, a doctor, and missionaries. Although these people were from different walks of life and lived at different times, but all were called by God for one purpose: to proclaim His word.
There are many books beside the Bible that tell us great truths, but the Bible is different. It tells us not only about the existence of a holy God, who created us all and loves us, but also, that we have lost our way to him because of sin. It tells us of how we can get back to him and be in His presence forever.
In comparision to many books the Bible can be trusted because of: (1) the historical reliability of it from archaeology and documentary evidence, (2) the accuracy of the prophecies of the Old Testament, (3) the unity of its message over the sixteen hundred years of its production, and (4) the personal testimonies of people whose lives had been permanently changed by contact with the Bible.
The contents of the Bible
The Bible is divided into two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. These focus on the two great relationships called "covenants" that God made: the first with the nation of Israel, through Moses, and the second with all humanity, through Jesus.
The Old Testament
The Old Testament records God's dealings with the people of Israel on the basis of the covenant he made with them through Moses. The earlier part tells of the creation of man, the Flood, the call of Abraham, and the setting apart of the people of Israel through the line of Isaac and Jacob.
After the miraculous deliverance of the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, and establishment of the covenant and the law through Moses, the Old Testament records the history of God's relationship with Israel. It also tells us about the ups and downs of this nation, their rebellion against God, the many prophetic warnings and the punishment that God brought on Israel. Along with this we also find a line of prophecies concerning a coming Savior, the Messiah, and the giving of a new covenant.
The New Testament
The New Testament is the story of the fulfilment of these prophecies and the new covenant that God made through Jesus, known to Muslim friends through the Qur'an as Al-Masih, Isa, or Ibn Maryam. The message of the New Testament centers around the holiness of God and His provision, through Jesus Christ, of salvation for mankind. The Gospel introduces the Saviour to us. The chapters of Acts describe the spread of the gospel, the good news about salvation. The Letters give details of the blessings of that salvation, while the last book, called Revelation, previews the climax of salvation.
However, some may ask, "All this was written long ago. How has the Bible come down to us? Is this Bible essentially the same as it was when it left those earlier hands? Are we sure that none of the original has been lost? Has anything been added to the Bible which ought not to be there?" In the later chapters we will deal with these and other questions in the light of the evidence available to us.
The order of the books of the Bible
The arrangement of the books does not follow the order in which they were written down, although the first book, Genesis, records the earliest times, and Revelation, the last book, tells of the end times. However, the books are arranged according to their literary type or style. In the Old Testament, the first five books are known as "the books of the law"; Joshua to Esther are "the historical books"; Job to the Song of Songs are known as "the writings" or sometimes, as "the wisdom writings", and Isaiah to Malachi are "the prophetic books". In the New Testament, the first four books are biographical accounts of Jesus' life; Acts is a historical account of the early church. Romans to Jude are letters, and Revelation is written in language known as "apocalyptic".
A list of the 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books can be found in the contents page towards the front of any Bible.