What Is the Bible About?
SOME view the Bible as a book of history, since it documents thousands of years of God’s dealings with humankind. Others regard it as a book of ethics. They point to the more than 600 judicial, domestic, moral, and religious laws and regulations that God gave the nation of Israel. Still others consider the Bible to be a spiritual guidebook that reveals the mind of God.
Actually, all of these descriptions are correct. The Bible says of itself: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) Indeed, everything in God’s Word—including historical accounts, laws, and spiritual counsel—is valuable.
However, the Bible is far more than an anthology of helpful information. Uniquely, the Bible is a revelation from Jehovah God. It provides practical, divinely inspired counsel for daily life. It also reveals Jehovah’s purpose for the earth and for mankind, as well as shows how he will eliminate the causes of human suffering. Most important, the Bible explains that God has been willfully misrepresented and tells how he will settle this universal challenge.
God Is Called a Liar and a Bad Ruler
The Bible states that God created the first humans, Adam and Eve, perfect in mind and body and placed them in an ideal setting. He put them in charge of the earth and the animal kingdom. (Genesis 1:28) As God’s children, Adam and Eve had the opportunity to live forever on earth, provided that they obeyed their heavenly Father. He placed only one restriction upon them. “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction,” said Jehovah, “but as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.”—Genesis 2:16, 17.
However, a spirit creature identified in the Bible as Satan the Devil said just the opposite: “You positively will not die.” (Genesis 3:1-5) In blatantly contradicting God, Satan not only called the Creator a liar but also implied that His way of ruling is wrong—that man could do better without God. Satan convinced Eve that disobedience to God would bring liberation and moral independence. He said she would be “like God”! Satan thus attacked Jehovah’s good name and purpose.
That conversation had profound consequences. In fact, Jehovah’s purpose to clear his name and reputation is the primary theme of the Bible. This is summed up in Jesus’ model prayer—often called the Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father. Jesus taught his followers to pray: “Let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place . . . upon earth.”—Matthew 6:9, 10.
How God Clears His Name
Satan raised some fundamental issues: Who told the truth—Jehovah or Satan? Is Jehovah’s rule over his creation just and good? Does he have the right to expect humans to obey him? Would mankind really be better off ruling themselves? In order to resolve those questions, Jehovah has temporarily allowed humans to govern themselves.
What has been the result? Since that first lie in Eden, human history has been filled with hardship and suffering, proving that Satan is a monstrous liar and that independence from God leads only to disaster. However, Jehovah in his love and limitless wisdom purposes to clear his name by undoing all the difficulties that began in Eden. He will do so by means of the Messianic Kingdom. What is that Kingdom?
God’s Solution—The Kingdom
Millions of people regularly recite the Lord’s Prayer. Why not take a moment to reflect on what it means? Consider the words: “Let your kingdom come.” (Matthew 6:10) That Kingdom is not merely an abstract condition of the heart, as some have concluded. Rather, as the term “king” suggests, it is a government—a heavenly one in the hands of Jesus Christ, the “King of kings.” (Revelation 19:13, 16; Daniel 2:44; 7:13, 14) The Bible teaches that he will rule over the entire earth, establishing lasting peace and harmony among all people and ridding the earth of all wickedness. (Isaiah 9:6, 7; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10) In this way, God’s Kingdom—not any human government—will fulfill Jesus’ words: “Let your will take place . . . upon earth.”
To ensure the fulfillment of those words, Jesus gave his life as a ransom, redeeming Adam’s descendants from sin and death. (John 3:16; Romans 6:23) Hence, under God’s Kingdom, all who show faith in Christ’s sacrifice will see the effects of Adam’s sin reversed and human perfection progressively restored. (Psalm 37:11, 29) Gone at last will be the infirmities that blight us, especially during old age. Even the emotional pain that sickness and death bring to the human family will have “passed away.”—Revelation 21:4.
How can we be certain that God will fulfill his promises? For one thing, literally hundreds of prophecies found in the Bible have already come true. (See page 9.) Clearly, then, faith in the Bible is not blind credulity or wishful thinking but is founded on reason and abundant evidence.—Hebrews 11:1.
Practical Counsel for Our Day
Besides giving us a solid basis for hope in the future, the Bible also helps us to have a happier life today. For instance, God’s Word gives unsurpassed practical advice on marriage, family life, human relations, finding happiness, and many other subjects. Consider just a few examples.
▪ Think before you speak. “There exists the one speaking thoughtlessly as with the stabs of a sword, but the tongue of the wise ones is a healing.”—Proverbs 12:18.
▪ Avoid petty jealousy. “A calm heart is the life of the fleshly organism, but jealousy is rottenness to the bones.”—Proverbs 14:30.
▪ Discipline your children. “Train up a boy according to the way for him; even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.” “A boy let on the loose will be causing his mother shame.”—Proverbs 22:6; 29:15.
▪ Be forgiving. Jesus said: “Happy are the merciful, since they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7) Wise King Solomon wrote: “Love covers over even all transgressions.” (Proverbs 10:12) If someone’s sin against you is so serious that you cannot simply forgive and forget, the Bible advises: “Go lay bare his fault between you and him alone.”—Matthew 18:15.
▪ Avoid the love of money. “The love of money is a root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some . . . have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.” (1 Timothy 6:10) Notice that the Bible condemns “the love of money,” not money itself.
A “Letter” From Our Heavenly Father
The Bible, then, is about many things. As we have seen, it is primarily about God and his purpose. But it is also about us—humankind—and how we can live happily both now and forever under the rulership of God’s Kingdom. In a way, the Bible is like a letter from our “Father in the heavens,” Jehovah. (Matthew 6:9) Through it, Jehovah has shared his precious thoughts with us and has revealed both his will and his beautiful personality.
By reading the Bible and meditating on it, we begin to “see” God as he really is. Our responsive heart is drawn to him in a loving bond of union. (James 4:8) To be sure, the Bible is about more than history, prophecy, and laws. It is also about a personal relationship—our relationship with God. That makes this book truly unique and very precious.—1 John 4:8, 16.
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The theme of the Bible is beautifully summed up in the first few sentences of Jesus’ model prayer
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HOW TO READ THE BIBLE
The Bible makes fascinating reading. In fact, its accounts and moral lessons are so well-known that they play a major role in the literature of many languages. The Bible helps us get to know our Creator, Jehovah God. It is also a deep source of practical wisdom. A Bible proverb says: “Wisdom is the prime thing. Acquire wisdom; and with all that you acquire, acquire understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7) How can you benefit most from your Bible reading?
Try to schedule your reading when you are normally most alert. And don’t skim over the material. Your aim should be to fill your mind with God’s thoughts and to assimilate them. After you finish a period of reading, reflect on what you have read, and compare it with what you already know. This will deepen your understanding and appreciation.—Psalm 143:5.
Some may wonder, ‘Where in the Bible should I begin reading?’ Of course, you can start at the beginning. However, some first-time readers find it easier to start with the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—the accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. Then some proceed to the beautifully written and wisdom-packed poetic books—Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. After that, your appetite may be whetted for other parts of the Bible. (See below.) And do not adopt the false notion that you only need to read what is commonly called the New Testament. Remember, “all Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial.”—2 Timothy 3:16.
A particularly effective way to study the Bible is topic by topic. For example, the study aid What Does the Bible Really Teach? used by Jehovah’s Witnesses in their public ministry includes such timely subjects as “How to Make Your Family Life Happy,” “Worship That God Approves,” and “Where Are the Dead?”—See the box on page 18.
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READING THE BIBLE BY SUBJECT
The origin of life and man’s fall into sin Genesis
The founding of ancient Israel Exodus to Deuteronomy
Action-packed accounts Joshua to Esther
Moving poetry and song Job, Psalms, Song of Solomon
Wisdom for living Proverbs, Ecclesiastes
Prophecy and moral guidance Isaiah to Malachi and Revelation
Jesus’ life and teaching Matthew to John
The establishment and spread of Christianity Acts
Letters to the congregations Romans to Jude