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So what is the Bible? - a simple guide for beginners.
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A book of two halves
Firstly the Bible is composed of two distinct halves - the first in Hebrew or Aramaic, the second in Greek.
The Jewish Bible, loved and revered by religious Jews, which is called the Tenach by the Jews (and broken down into the Torah, the Prophets (or Neviim) and the Writings (Ketuviim), from which the name TeNaCh comes). Christians call this the Old Testament. It is vital to understand the texts are identical. Although translations into English may differ from Jews and Christians,
the Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible, the Masoretic Text, is identical.

The second half of the Bible, the New Testament, is explicitly predicted and foreseen in the Jewish Bible, Jer.31.31-3,
but as  yet unrecognised by the majority  of Jews, though their return to God in large numbers is prophesied in many places.
Christians love and revere both halves of the book, and insist it is impossible to fully appreciate the gloriousness of either, without the complete interpenetration and interdependence of the two halves. They claim that in manifold parallel ways that the Jews have lost the heart of their own Torah, by neglecting and despising the New Testament,
they use not the Christian New Testament but the Jewish Bible to press their case.

A mysterious book
At first sight, the Bible is a strangely mixed collection of different styles, writers and types of literature. Genesis is composed of majestic narrative, Job, probably the oldest book of the Bible, of wrestling poetic dialogue, the Proverbs of Solomon of terse soundbites, the Psalms of deep yearnings and heart searchings in the form of songs of worship and confession, the prophecies of Isaiah and his successors of exalted adoration of God, fiery exposures of the darkness of the human heart, and gracious promises of healing to those who seek diligently. A curious phenomenon has often been noticed by those who come to the Bible sincerely, humbly seeking to test its nature - as they start to search and sift the scriptures, they find their own hearts and motives searched and sifted.
As we read it, we begin to realise we are being read ourselves by its Author.

An intensely factual book
Unlike the Qur'an or many other claimed revelations, the Bible is filled with detailed, names, dates, places, many of which may be corroborated from secular history. It gives detailed statistical and logistic information, recipes for spices and ointments, specific blueprints for construction, battle plans and formations, sober details of rotas and genealogies, geographical descriptions.
It should be the most easily falsified of books.

Often this has given rise to criticisms of the Bible, and sometimes the solution to these attacks is not always apparent. For over 2,000 years criticisms of the apparently striking contradictions in the length  of the reigns of the Kings of Judah and Israel remained unsolved, until by general consent the problem was remarkably and elegantly illuminated by Edward Merrill in his small but weighty book entitled 'The mysterious numbers of the Hebrew Kings'.
Very often critics have scathingly scoffed at the Bible only to have to shamefully swallow their words later. This has happened with the discovery of Abraham's birthplace (Ur of the Chaldees), the declaration of religious liberty by Cyrus the Persian emperor, the early date for the confirmation of Israel's nationhood by the Mernepteh stele, the discovery of lion bones in Israel - to name just four examples.

How may we know it to be God's word?
This is not just an intellectual matter. Its Divine Authorship is spiritually discerned, and the Bible warns us that by nature we harbour intense and unreasonable prejudice against God and His claims. Nevertheless there are numerous and inescapably strong reasons to demonstrate the Divine character of its writings, some of them are these:

What about the Apocrypha and other epigraphical writings?
The contrast between the Bible's vigour, perception and colour and the Apocrypha's frequent diversion to myths, the adulation of men, and relatively shallow doctrine is striking and easily perceived by the spiritually minded. One is revelation, the other the uninspired handiwork of godly men. Although Dan Brown has popularised the views of many foolish Bible critics that later writers were accepted and then rejected from the Bible's compass, the difference between even the simplest books in the scripture, like Philemon, and say Clement of Rome's eloquent and elaborate writings, though venerable and precious, is far greater than chalk and cheese.

What confidence do we have that the Bible's text has been faithfully preserved?
Here is a helpful and more detailed introduction to the history and preservation of the Scriptures after their revelation.
Yet to imagine as many Muslims and critics do that Almighty God would allow His honour to be sullied by the corruption and defilement of His Holy Word is unbelievably degrading to His majesty! For Muslim apologists to claim the Bible suffers unique problems with variance in its manuscripts is rich indeed given the burning of variant Qur'ans by the third Caliph. Yet we are confident that God's word is uniquely preserved despite efforts in every century to burn, obscure, annihilate, corrupt and pervert the Bible, both from within and without the church, and in the last more than all. To suggest otherwise not only flies against the evidence already cited, it also suggests sinful men and devils are stronger than God
, it is a direct challenge to His unbreakable promise. God cannot lie (Titus 1.2). He promises to preserve His revealed words like silver refined of the highest grade of purity, however dark and apostate man becomes (Ps.12.6-7).
The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls for example silenced many scoffers' mouths about the supposed imperfections of the Hebrew Masoretic of the Jewish Bible - given the near identical text to our own
in those scrolls which date back to up to 100 to 150 years before the Lord Jesus Christ.

A witness of either life or death
God observes our response to His word minutely - take care what you do with this book!
Here is what Moses cries out about the Bible, 'I call heaven and earth to record this day against you,
that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing:
Therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:'
(Deut.30.19)

The Lord Jesus says, 'He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him:
the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.' (John 12.48)

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