1. Discussion Questions
  2. Is it reasonable to believe the Bible?
  3. Knowing is not believing
  4. How did we get the Bible?
  5. Do you know why God gave us the Bible?
  6. How To Read and Correctly Interpret the Bible
  7. Bibliography of New Testament

How Did We Get the Bible?

  • How was the Bible actually put together?
  • How do we know that the Bible contains the books that it should?

These questions concern the canon—the group or list of books that are considered to be inspired by God. The word canon means regulations, principles, rules, standards of judgment, or benchmark of being considered part of the inspired, hand-recorded Word of God.

The word Bible comes from the Greek word biblia, meaning "books." It contains the books (originally written on scrolls) that are acknowledged or understood to be the canonical—divinely inspired—books of God.

How God chose to communicate His love for us?

God wanted to communicate His love and His plan for humankind and all creation, so He decided to give His teachings in ways that would make it convenient for us to learn and remember. God chose to utilize human beings to be the messengers through which He communicated His Word. He inspired them to write the words that He wanted us to learn.

Whom did God use to help in writing the Bible?

There were approximately seventy people used by God to compose His Word for us. They lived over a period of 15 centuries and gave us God’s teachings through various kinds of literature, including history, poetry, prophesy, biography, and narration. Later, others dedicated their time to making word-for-word copies of the message that had been inspired by God and written down by the human authors.

The Bible is made up of 66 books, divided into two main divisions, the Old and the New Testaments. God impressed His message on the minds of the writers through divine inspiration. Through prayer and meditation, God caused these people to utilize their own intelligence and thought patterns to communicate what He wanted people to know and to do. Second Peter 1:19-21 tells us that the words of the prophets were like lights shining in a dark place and that we ought to obey them because the words didn’t come from humans, but from the Holy Spirit.

The Old Testament or Covenant contains 39 books and covers time from the creation to approximately four hundred years before Christ was born.

Traditionally, Moses has been given credit for writing the first five books of the Bible, which we call “the Pentateuch” or “the Law.” Genesis records the accounts of the creation, the disobedience of Adam and Eve, and their punishment. It covers the history of humankind from the time of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and his family, Abraham and Sarah, their son Isaac, and his sons Jacob and Esau. The last chapters of Genesis narrate the life and experiences of Joseph and his brothers.

Exodus tells us how God utilized Moses to deliver the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt and preserved their descendants in the wilderness. It also contains the Ten Commandments, which God revealed to Moses at Mt. Sinai. These Commandments are still the basis of our belief in the one true God and how we are to live in relationship with others.

Leviticus contains detailed instructions about how people were to make sacrifices of animals and the fruit of their land. These sacrifices served as an expression of gratitude to God. The Book of Numbers contains a record of the census the people took as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. Deuteronomy, a word meaning the “second law,” is a repetition of the commands God gave to the people on the edge of their new home.

Several books (Joshua – Nehemiah) contain the history of the Jewish people. At first, judges governed in sections of the land, but eventually the people cried out for a king.

The Bible contains what we call the poetic books, including Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. This section contains some of the most beautiful poetry that has ever been written. David and Solomon were prominent authors of this section of the Bible.

The prophets were men who were inspired by God to speak the messages God revealed to them. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Amos, and Micah were some of the prophets who spoke on God’s behalf. Sometimes their writings included harsh words of condemnation because the people had sinned. Other times, they spoke words of hope and promises of the future Messiah who was to be born in Bethlehem.

The New Testament or Covenant

The New Testament or Covenant, with 27 books, begins with the birth of Christ and ends with the promise of the new heaven and new earth Christ will inaugurate upon His return to the earth.

The New Testament covers the historical period from the birth of Christ until the end of the first century. Four different men wrote accounts of the life of Christ. These accounts are called the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Each writer wrote to a different group of people and with a different purpose, but there is harmony in the basic facts related to Jesus and His ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles as a second volume to his Gospel. Acts records the expansion of the Christian movement from Jerusalem to Judea and Samaria, and eventually to the surrounding areas of the world (Acts 1:8).

Acts also introduces us to Paul, who had a dramatic conversion from Judaism and became a dedicated missionary. Paul shared the gospel and established churches in the major cities of Asia Minor. He also wrote several of the letters to various churches and leaders, which we call epistles (Romans – Philemon). Other writers include John, Peter, James, and Jude. John wrote Revelation, which describes the persecution of the Christians in the first century and of the triumphal future return of Christ to receive all who have believed in Him.

How was the Bible handed down from the original writers to our time?

Instead of pages of paper like we use today, biblical writers utilized scrolls that could be rolled up. The material was called papyrus. They were thin sheets made from strips of a plant that grew near the Nile River.

None of the original manuscripts written by these people have been found; but, early on, people saw the importance of preserving God’s message and making it available to future generations. As a result, some folks dedicated years of their lives copying the message on these scrolls.

We have portions of their work in various manuscripts, which came to be called codices. Some of the codices are named for the place where they were produced. Others are named for famous leaders in the Jewish and Christian movements.

Eventually, technology made printing and distributing the Scriptures much easier. The Gutenberg Bible, named for the inventor of the movable-type printing press in the latter part of the 15th century, was among the first books printed. Immediately, copies were printed and dispersed throughout the world. This made it possible for great numbers of people to have access to God’s Word.

What language did the original writers use?

The people God inspired wrote their messages in the common language of their day. In Old Testament times, most Israelites spoke Hebrew, so a large portion of the Old Testament was written in that language. A small portion of the Old Testament (Ezra 4:8–6:18; 7:12-26; Jer. 10:11; Dan. 2:4–7:28) was written in Aramaic, a language spoken in ancient times and in the Middle East today.

The original writers didn’t divide the Bible into chapters and verses, as we have the Bible today. These divisions were made much later as a way to help folks find specific passages. Since ancient Hebrew also has no way to distinguish vowel sounds in words, vowel marks also were added at a later time. These marks serve as a pronunciation guide for modern researchers who study the Hebrew language.

The Greek version of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint.

The time between the Old and New Testaments included a great deal of political chaos. Empires came and went, but the Greeks under Alexander the Great made a lasting impact. Even after their empire fell to the Romans, Greek still served as a common language. That’s why the Old Testament was translated into Greek was by 72 elders of Israel, six from each tribe, between 285 and 244 B.C. in Alexandria, during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus. This translation is called the Septuagint and often is designated by LXX, the Roman numeral for 70. Gradually the other books of the Old Testament were also put in Greek.

Apostolic and Jesus use of the Septuagint. The Greek’s influence continued well into the time of Jesus and beyond. The New Testament writers used Greek to write their histories and epistles. The quotations of the Old Testament in the New show that the apostles often used the Septuagint.

Jesus Christ Himself affirmed His acceptance of the three divisions of the Old Testament (Law, Prophets and Writings) as canonical. Notice His statement in Luke 24:44: "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me." (The last section here is also known as the Writings, called "Psalms" after its first and largest book.)

The Old Latin version.

Within two hundred years after the departure of the apostles there were many churches throughout the world in which the people did not understand Greek very well, and so new translations of both the Old and New Testaments were made into Latin, for use in the churches. The Latin versions were not translated directly from the Hebrew, but from the Greek Septuagint.

The Vulgate. In western Europe the variety of Latin translations and copies created confusion, and a notable scholar named Jerome was asked to look into the matter and to make a trustworthy translation. Jerome wisely revised the Latin versions from the Hebrew itself, and expressed his opinion, shared by many, that it was a mistake to receive the Apocryphal books just because they happened to be included in copies of the Septuagint. There was some resistance to Jerome's version, and to his exclusion of the Apocrypha. Latin translations of the Apocryphal books were added to it, and in that form it became the version commonly used in the churches for a thousand years. This version came to be called the Vulgate, or "common" Bible.

The cannon: What makes a book inspired or canonical?

In the book The Origin of the Bible, edited by Philip Comfort, contributor R.T. Beckwith writes: "What qualifies a book for a place in the canon of the Old Testament or New Testament is not just that it is ancient, informative and helpful, and has long been read and valued by God's people, but that it has God's authority for what it says. God spoke through its human author to teach his people what to believe and how to behave. It is not just a record of revelation, but the permanent written form of revelation. This is what we mean when we say that the Bible is 'inspired,' and it makes the books of the Bible in this respect different from all other books.”

Three other comments in the same book, by Milton Fisher, show how the Church came to recognize the canon of the New Testament:

  • "The church's concept of canon, derived first of all from the reverence given the Old Testament Scriptures, rested in the conviction that the apostles were uniquely authorized to speak in the name of the One who possessed all authority—the Lord Jesus Christ.”
  • "Apostolic speaking on behalf of Christ was recognized in the church, whether in personal utterance or in written form.
  • "This is what is really meant by canonization—recognition of the divinely authenticated word.”

Gradual and independent definition of the canon by elders.

In the year 367 an influential bishop named Athanasius published a list of books to be read in the churches under his care, which included precisely those books we have in our Bibles (with this exception — he admitted Baruch and omitted Esther in the Old Testament). Other such lists had been published by others, as early as the year 170, although they did not all agree.

How did the men who published these lists decide which books should be called Scripture? Scholars who have studied this matter closely have concluded that the lists of books are merely ratifications of the decisions of the majority of churches from earliest days. We are able to prove this by examining the surviving works of Irenaeus (born 130), who lived in days before anyone felt it was necessary to list the approved books. He quotes as Scripture all of the books and only the books that appear in the list published on another continent and sixty years later by Origen.

It is evident that the elders of each congregation had approved certain writings and rejected others as they became available, and it turned out, by the grace of God, that most of the churches were by the year 170 in agreement, having approved the same books independently. Prominent teachers were also influential in this process. About that time bishops began to prevail in the Church, as governors of groups of churches, and they simply ratified with these lists the results thus arrived at. The approved books were then called the "canon" of Scripture, "canon" being a Greek word meaning "rod" or "ruler." These books constituted the standard rule of faith for all the churches. We must not imagine that ecclesiastical authorities imposed the canon. The canon grew up by many independent decisions of elders who were responsible for their congregations alone.

The elders received apostolic writings as authoritative.

Then we must ask, how did the elders of the churches decide which writings should be read in church as authoritative? The answer is simple: They received the writings of the apostles and their closest companions, and the writings endorsed by them. The entire Old Testament was received by the implicit endorsement of the apostles.

  • The Gospel of Matthew was written by an apostle.
  • The Gospel of Mark was written by the apostle Peter's closest disciple.
  • The Gospel of Luke was written by the apostle Paul's close companion.
  • The Gospel of John was written by an apostle.
  • The Acts of the Apostles was written by Paul's close companion.
  • Thirteen letters were received from Paul. The epistle to the Hebrews was received as from Paul.
  • The epistle of James comes from the brother of the Lord, who exercised authority in Jerusalem with the apostles.
  • The epistle of Jude was from another brother of the Lord.
  • The two epistles of Peter are from an apostle.
  • The three epistles of John are from an apostle, who also wrote the Revelation.

We may ask, how did they know that these writings were not forgeries? The churches did not receive them from strangers. These documents were hand-delivered by friends of the apostles to elders who also knew the apostles personally. Forgeries would be obvious.

In A.D. 397 the Synod of Carthage accepted the 27 books that comprise our New Testament as canonical. But they were not the canonizers of these books. They had long since been distributed and were accepted and read in churches throughout the empire for some 300 years. We can rest assured that the eternal God had a sure hand in ensuring His Word would survive for future generations and we have exactly the writings He chose to be preserved for us.

Who divided the Bible into chapters and verses? Why and when was it done?


When the books of the Bible were originally written, they did not contain chapter or verse references. Why was the Bible divided into chapters and verses? The answer is to help us find Scriptures more quickly and easily.


The chapter divisions that are commonly used today were developed by Stephen Langton, an Archbishop of Canterbury. Langton put the modern chapter divisions into place in around 1227 A.D. The Wycliffe English Bible of 1382 was the first Bible to use this chapter pattern.

Stephanus, was the first to divide and print the Bible divided into standard numbered verses in 1555. Since that time, beginning with the Geneva Bible, the chapter and verse divisions employed by Stephanus have been accepted into nearly all the Bible versions.

What is the Bible’s central message?

The theme of the Bible is redemption. Throughout the 66 books, we are shown all we need to know to enjoy a right relationship with God. We learn about sin and our need for salvation. We discover that Christ, through His death on the cross, paid the penalty for our sins. The Bible also gives us clear instructions – from the Ten Commandments to Jesus’ teaching to Paul’s letters – for becoming and living as a child of God and at peace with God.


The Protestant Bible includes thirty-nine books of the Old Testament, which comprise the Hebrew Bible. The Catholic Bible includes these plus seven more and additions to the books of Esther and Daniel. The Protestant and Catholic New Testament are comprised of the same twenty-seven books.


The Protestant Old Testament has the same books as the original Hebrew Scriptures. Only the names and arrangement of the books have been changed. The Catholic version of the Old Testament differs from the Hebrew Bible by including the deuterocanonical books.*


BIBLE (See Note 1 below)





Genesis Genesis Genesis
Exodus Exodus Exodus
Leviticus Leviticus Leviticus
Numbers Numbers Numbers
Deuteronomy Deuteronomy Deuteronomy
Joshua Joshua Joshua
Judges Judges Judges
1,2 Samuel Ruth Ruth
Isaiah 1,2 Kings 1,2 Kings
Jeremiah 1,2 Chronicles 1,2 Chronicles
Ezekiel Ezra Ezra
Hosea Nehemiah Nehemiah
Joel *Tobit Esther
Amos *Judith Job
Obadiah Esther Psalms
Jonah *1,2 Maccabees Proverbs
Micah Job Ecclesiastes



Song of Solomon

Habakkuk Proverbs Isaiah
Zephaniah Ecclesiastes Jeremiah
Haggai Song of Solomon Lamentations
Zechariah *Wisdom Ezekiel
Malachi *Sirach Daniel
Psalms Isaiah Hosea
Job Jeremiah Joel
Proverbs Lamentations Amos
Ruth *Baruch Obadiah
Song of Solomon Ezekiel Jonah




Lamentations Hosea Nahum
Esther Joel Habakkuk
Daniel Amos Zephaniah
Ezra Obadiah Haggai
Nehemiah Jonah Zechariah
Chronicles Micah Malachi



* The Jews of the Dispersion in Egypt had a high regard for the sixteen books called Apocrypha, which are not found in the Hebrew Bible. These were included in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint, but the Jews of Palestine rejected them from the Hebrew canon.

The Roman Catholic Church in the Council of Trent, A.D. 1546, declared eleven of the sixteen to be canonical. These Deuterocanonical books appear in the Catholic Old Testament.

NOTE 1: The canon of the Old Testament was affirmed by Jesus.

Good evidence exists in the New Testament, which shows that by the time of Jesus the canon of the Old Covenant had been established. The canonical writings, according to Jesus, that are included in the Old Testament are “from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary.” (Luke 11:51), thus referring to the martyrs of the Old Testament. The first martyr of the OT was, of course, Able and the last martyr was Zachariah— “Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, "This is what God says: `Why do you disobey the LORD's commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has forsaken you.' But they plotted against him, and by order of the king they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the LORD's temple.” (2 Chronicles 24:20-21). It is to be kept in mind that the Jewish order of the OT differs from ours. And that Chronicles is placed at the end of the Hebrew Bible. Thus the OT that Jesus knew was a collections of writings reaching from Genesis to Chronicles, with all other books in between, a collection that embraces the same books found in our OT today.

The Torah

The word "Torah" is a tricky one, because it can mean different things in different contexts. In its most limited sense, "Torah" refers to the Five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. But the word "torah" can also be used to refer to the entire Jewish bible (the body of scripture known to non-Jews as the Old Testament and to Jews as the Tanakh or Written Torah), or in its broadest sense, to the whole body of Jewish law and teachings.

To Jews, there is no "Old Testament." The books that Christians call the New Testament are not part of Jewish scripture. The so-called Old Testament is known to Jews as Written Torah or the Tanakh.

This is a list of the books of the Torah, in the order in which they appear in Jewish translations, with the Hebrew name of the book, a translation of the Hebrew name (where it is not the same as the English name), and English names of the books (where it is not the same as the Hebrew name). The text of each book is more or less the same in Jewish translations as what you see in Christian Bibles, although there are some occasional, slight differences in the numbering of verses and there are a few significant differences in the translations.

TORAH (The Law):

  • Bereishith (In the beginning...) (Genesis)
  • Shemoth (The names...) (Exodus)
  • Vayiqra (And He called...) (Leviticus)
  • Bamidbar (In the wilderness...) (Numbers)
  • Devarim (The words...) (Deuteronomy)

NEVI'IM (The Prophets):

  • Yehoshua (Joshua)
  • Shoftim (Judges)
  • Shmuel (I &II Samuel)
  • Melakhim (I & II Kings)
  • Yeshayah (Isaiah)
  • Yirmyah (Jeremiah)
  • Yechezqel (Ezekiel)
  • The Twelve (treated as one book)
    • Hoshea (Hosea)
    • Yoel (Joel)
    • Amos
    • Ovadyah (Obadiah)
    • Yonah (Jonah)
    • Mikhah (Micah)
    • Nachum
    • Chavaqquq (Habbakkuk)
    • Tzefanyah (Zephaniah)
    • Chaggai
    • Zekharyah (Zechariah)
    • Malakhi

KETHUVIM (The Writings):

  • Tehillim (Psalms)
  • Mishlei (Proverbs)
  • Iyov (Job)
  • Shir Ha-Shirim (Song of Songs)
  • Ruth
  • Eikhah (Lamentations)
  • Qoheleth (the author's name) (Ecclesiastes)
  • Esther
  • Daniel
  • Ezra & Nechemyah (Nehemiah) (treated as one book)
  • Divrei Ha-Yamim (The words of the days) (Chronicles)

All versions of the New Testament include the same contents and follow the same arrangement.

Matthew 1,2 Thessalonians
Mark 1,2 Timothy
Luke Titus
John Philemon
Acts Hebrews
Romans James
1,2 Corinthians 1, 2 Peter
Galatians 1,2,3 John
Ephesians Jude
Philippians Revelation

The New Testament is arranged in the order of the Gospels (Matthew through John), a history of the early Church (Acts), the letters traditionally ascribed to Paul (identified by their recipients, Romans through Philemon), the general letters (identified by those traditionally identified as their authors, (Hebrews through Jude), and a book of prophecy (Revelation).


Back to top >
Copyright © 2019 Ken Willig. All Rights Reserved. Site by Cubis Media