God’s Word on Paper
When I travel, I always take a Bible with me. One is so small that it fits in my jacket pocket.
The people of Israel were also to have the Word of God, the Law, and the words of the prophets with them at all times. How did that work? After all, they moved long distances several times! Later, the apostle Paul traveled a lot. He did not yet have a pocket Bible. How handy we have it today, and yet we forget the Bible so easily!
The “book” of antiquity was the scroll. The first “paper” was made in Egypt from the water plant papyrus. It was so fragile that it had to be rolled. Parchment was invented in the city of Pergamon in Asia Minor (look for it on the map at the back of the Bible). Real parchment is specially tanned animal skin. Parchment was also rolled. Such a roll could be up to 40 meters long. The rolls were kept in leather covers or sealed clay jars. Later, many such scrolls were found in caves. Now we can compare the text of our Bible with the text on these scrolls. God has wonderfully kept His hand over His Word. It was not allowed to get lost.
The scrolls were written on in ink and copied repeatedly by hand, of course. This had to be done very conscientiously to avoid mistakes if possible. This is how God’s Word came to us through the centuries – to you, too!
God’s Word in Stone
“The Lord gave [Moses] the two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18). How beautiful this writing must have been!
You may say, “We don’t have those tablets anymore. How can we know what God has written!” But we have the words, even though the tablets are no longer there. The words are in our Bible.
At the time of Moses (about 1500 years before Christ), people wrote on clay tablets. The clay (a kind of loam) was kneaded and flattened. Then they took a sharp stylus and pressed letters into this soft clay. If the text was no longer needed, the tablet was flattened again; it could now be rewritten. But if the writing was important, if it was to be stored, then the clay tablets were dried.
Large stones or stone tablets were used when something very important was written, and the letters were chiseled into the stone. In this way, they could be kept for a long time and read again and again.
God took His words so seriously that He wrote them in stone with His finger. We human beings need these words from God so that we can know what His will is. That is why we also want to read the Bible every day and think about what it says. Have you done that today?
The Unity of the Bible
The Bible is a miracle book. Take it in your hand and count all the books in it! How many are there?
There are about 1600 years between the authors of the first and the last book. How many changes of opinion might there have been in such a long time? People often change their minds after only a few years. Not so God. Although the Bible was written over a span of 1600 years and contains 66 books, it has only one opinion, because it essentially has only one author!
This is not the only miracle. The Bible was written in different places: in the desert, in Canaan, in Babel, in Rome, on journeys, in prison, and elsewhere. It was written in different languages. Yet it has only one theme because it essentially has only one author!
Only one author? More than 40 men wrote in the Bible! There were shepherds, fishermen, statesmen, priests, Pharisees, and many more. They all wrote one book, on one subject, most of them without knowing each other.
All this is possible only because the Bible essentially has one author, and that is God, the Holy Spirit. In His power, under His guidance, people wrote His book.
The Author of the Bible
“In the past, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” That is written in Hebrews 1:1-2. The whole Bible testifies to it, “God spoke!” In the Old Testament alone, you will find this statement about 3800 times. The Bible also says how God spoke: “through the prophets – through the Son.”
Some people imagine it something like this: God spoke or revealed something, and then the person sat down and made a retelling, that is, they wrote an essay. They may think that some of the things they wrote down are no longer important to us or are not true at all; others may well be a message from God to us. To those who believe such things, the Bible says, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures,” for the whole Bible is God’s word to us. True, God used human beings, and thus their language and idiosyncrasies, to write down His Word. But the Holy Spirit guided them and gave them the right words. Carefully read 1 Corinthians 2:13 and 1 Thessalonians 2:13 for yourself and memorize the verses well.
“Prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). That is why we can be sure that the Bible is God’s Word.
The Theme of the Bible
The Bible has only one author, although different men wrote on it: God Himself. But the Bible also has only one subject: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became man to die for us and reconcile us to God.
The Lord Jesus says: “You study the Scriptures diligently, … and it is they that testify about Me” (John 5:39). Jesus is talking about the Old Testament because the New Testament was not yet written in His time.
Already in Genesis, we find Jesus Christ. Therein He appears like a very small bud. Everything is already inside, but it must unfold gradually. When we read the Old Testament, this bud unfolds more and more, and we see Jesus more and more clearly. Think of the many promises that speak of Jesus!
John says: “And the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). When Jesus became man, the many passages in the Old Testament that speak of Him came to life. They were fulfilled.
So, when you read the Old Testament, you have Jesus in front of you – and the same is true of the New Testament. If you love Jesus, you love the Old Testament. He who criticizes it criticizes Jesus. Whoever is engaged with the Bible engages with Jesus. How great is this book!
The Language of the Bible
Many men have translated the Bible into the language of their country. Among them, Martin Luther is the most well-known to us. Even today, hundreds of missionaries are working to translate the Bible into foreign languages. Won’t you pray for them to do it right? Just think, there are still many people who do not have God’s Word in their language. And the Bible asks us, “How shall they believe if they do not hear?” Who knows, maybe one day the Lord will also send you to people who have never heard His word.
Have you ever thought about what language God speaks? He can speak all languages! He also understands all languages: the prayer of the tribesman as well as that of the Indian scholar!
The Bible was written in the languages spoken by the people of Israel. First, it was Hebrew. Then the Jews came into Babylonian captivity. In Canaan, Arameans were settled. Therefore, a small part of the Old Testament was still written in Aramaic. Later, Alexander the Great of Greece conquered all the surrounding lands. Now Greek had to be spoken. The Old Testament was translated into Greek. At the time of Jesus, Greek was still written and read. So, the New Testament is written in Greek.
Regarding Reading the Bible
“Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet” (Acts 8:30). In ancient times, people always read aloud. Quiet reading was not known at all. In Jewish schools, people even read half aloud to themselves.
So, we can understand that many people who could not read and write themselves nevertheless heard God’s message. Couldn’t that be a way for us today to share God’s Word? Can’t you read to your grandma who can’t see well anymore, or to your little brothers and sisters? Maybe someone in the neighborhood is sick and would be happy if you read them a passage from the Bible.
When Philip heard the eunuch reading, he knew right away what kind of book the eunuch had bought in Jerusalem: the prophet Isaiah. But how was the Ethiopian court official to understand a Jewish prophet?
The Bible says that the Spirit of God has the task of making the Bible understandable to us. Therefore, ask Him to open your heart and mind so that you understand what you read. After all, the Bible was created by the Spirit of God, so He is the best one to interpret it. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand everything you read right away. Practice reading the Bible, and it will become more and more familiar to you!
From “Many Days Has a Year”