senior pastor's blog

SENIOR PASTOR'S BLOG


Welcome to the Blog page of the Senior Pastor for the Williamsburg United Methodist Church. 

Scroll down for the latest message from Rev. Dr. Bill Jones.

senior pastor's blog

WHAT IS THE BIBLE?


How the Bible came to be is a pretty fascinating story. We sometimes call the Bible God’s book, but God didn’t write it or drop it from the sky. The Bible is the inspired Word of God, spoken through God’s people. God inspired people, men and women, to write the stories, prayers, laws, letters, and testimonies found in the Bible. So even though we say the Bible is inspired by God, it was written by people, many different people writing at different times and places spanning nearly one thousand years!


The Bible has been around for a long time as a single book, but that’s not how it all started. One of the reasons it took so long for the Bible to become one book is that it really is a collection of books. The word bible actually comes from a Greek word that means “the books.” The Bible is a library. Each of the books in some way expresses experiences of God’s presence and activity in the Jewish community (Old Testament) and the Christian community (New Testament). In other words, no one author decided one day to write a Bible. The Bible came together over a long time.


Much of the Bible was spoken before it was written down. Imagine sitting around a campfire being told the story of how God created the world, or how the young shepherd boy David took down the giant enemy named Goliath with his little slingshot and a single stone. This is how the Jewish people first told stories of their encounters with the living God. They prayed prayers, sang songs of joy and sadness, and shared wisdom with each other. Eventually, the stories and all the different writings found in the Old Testament were written down, but it took centuries for all the books to make it into print. And those first manuscripts weren’t like our books. They were written on scrolls made of animal skins or reed paper.


Even the stories about Jesus we read in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were told by word of mouth for decades before being written down. After Jesus’ death and resurrection around AD 30, his life, and his teachings were remembered and first passed along orally by his followers. No reporters recorded eyewitness accounts of Jesus during his lifetime. Eventually, as some of the first followers of Jesus began to die, the early Christians realized they needed to preserve what Jesus said and did, so they started writing this down. The first writings of the New Testament were actually the letters of the apostle Paul (written in the 50s) not the Gospels (written between 70 and 90 AD). The last books of the New Testament were likely written in the early second century.


Eventually, the Hebrew Bible – what Christians call the Old Testament – were gathered into collections of scrolls. And the Christian community eventually gathered the individual books and letters being used by different churches into a single list or canon. The canon was a list of accepted writings that became authoritative for the life and faith of the Christian community. But coming up with this final list was not easy. The process went on for nearly three hundred years. In an Easter letter written in AD 367, a bishop named Athanasius offered a list of twenty-seven books to be considered as having authority for faith and life. Even though the debate continued, the twenty-seven books are the ones still included in the New Testament.


If you compare Bibles today, you might find that they don’t all contain the same number of books. Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Bibles differ somewhat in the number of Old Testament books. Protestant Bibles usually have 39 Old Testament books and 27 New Testament books. Roman Catholic and Orthodox Bibles include some additional books known as the Apocrypha. The Protestant reformer Martin Luther included the apocryphal books in a separate section of his translation of the Bible in the sixteenth century. He said these books were good to read, but did not have the same authority as the 39 books included in the Jewish canon. The point is that the Church agreed these books were written by the Holy Spirit working through many different authors, each with a distinct purpose and point of view.


Rev. Dr. Bill Jones

Senior Pastor, Williamsburg UMC

7/11/18