Session 1: Section 1

Background to the Bible

Let’s look at a little background to this unique book. What can we say about it? It is like walking past a building site when a new office block is being built in a city. We peer through the gap in the fencing, and all we see is mud and holes, cranes and scaffolding, noisy activity with no obvious end-product.

We know, of course, that the activity is not really aimless. Tucked away in an office on the building site are drawers full of plans and flow charts listing the dates on which the foundations, walls, roof and services are scheduled to be completed. If we were good at technical drawing we could leaf through the plans and visualise the final appearance of the building, admiring the beauty and practicality of the design. But at first sight, just walking by, we may go home and wonder about it, not understanding what it could possibly be, and doubting its very need.

Looking at God’s Word is very much like that. We shall never see things in perspective unless we step inside the office and look at the plans.

That is where this course is designed to help, by opening up God’s great design, revealed in the Bible.

With that analogy in mind, let’s look at the building blocks of the foundation.

Bible Facts

The Bible is no ordinary book. Look at the two words on its spine: Holy Bible. The word "holy" means separate, and "Bible" means book. So the inference is that you have in your hands a book that is unique when compared with all others. Millions of copies are sold every year, and copies have been printed in hundreds of different languages.

The Bible comprises sixty-six books, as the chart below shows. There were forty independent writers involved in its compilation. These writers had twenty different occupations, and lived in ten different countries. They wrote over a 1,600-year time span. The book was originally written in Hebrew and Greek (with some short sections in Aramaic). It has a cast of 2,930 characters in 1,551 places. It covers a huge number of different subjects. Its message is expressed in all literary forms (narrative, poetry, prose, letters, etc.).

Open Bible Of the sixty-six books in the Bible, some are small and not very easy to find. Turn to the contents page at the front of the Bible you will be using for the course. The contents page gives the page numbers where all the books start. Click on this link button and follow the instructions in the page which will come up. This will enable you to print a table which, when filled in, will help you find verses without having to find the contents page of your Bible every time.

The following may help you to start remembering where at least some of the books are:

  • The books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) are at the beginning.
  • The Historical books, including Samuel, Kings and Chronicles, are placed after the books of Moses and before the Psalms.
  • The Psalms are roughly in the middle.
  • The Prophets are after the Psalms.
  • The four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are at the beginning of the New Testament, which starts about three quarters of the way through the Bible.

We would encourage you to learn by heart the order of the books of the Bible. This will speed up the effectiveness of your Bible study.

The Bible – a library of books

Poetry &
The Prophets
1&2 Samuel
1&2 Kings
Song of
1&2 Timothy
1&2 Peter
1,2&3 John

Most of the books of the Bible are divided into chapters. Each chapter is then divided into verses. This helps us to find a particular section easily. When we write Genesis 1 v 2, we mean that the section will be found in the book of Genesis, chapter 1 and verse 2. One or two books have only one chapter, so Jude v 4 means the 4th verse of the book of Jude. This is the convention we will use throughout the course.


There are many different translations, but because we are all different, we may find one more acceptable than another. If you have the choice, we recommend you select a version that is comfortable for you. In addition to this, bear in mind that some versions reflect the original text much more closely than others. Again, if you have a choice we would recommend those versions which reflect the original text as faithfully as they can. Examples of these versions are:
  • The Authorised Version (also known as the King James Version)
  • The Revised Version
  • The Revised Standard Version
  • The New King James Version

We will look at the different types of translation in Session 9 Section 1.

If you are considering buying a Bible, look for one with marginal references. You will see the reason for this advice later in the course.

All versions are translated by people and not God. So it is best not to rely on one version alone, but to compare several versions and then use a Concordance to ensure that the original Greek or Hebrew is translated accurately into English. We will show you how to use a Concordance in the "Concordances" section (Session 5, Section 1).

The Authorised Version is still a very popular version and is frequently used in many churches. Because it was translated in 1611, its language can sometimes appear old- fashioned and difficult. This problem can largely be overcome by using the New King James Version, which is basically the 1611 version with the old-fashioned words brought up to date.

When we quote verses in this course they will be taken from the New King James Version, unless otherwise stated.

About the writers

When considering the writers, we learn that there were many different types of people: kings and ordinary people, doctor and fishermen, princes and shepherds, poets and labourers, rich and poor, educated and unlearned.

As these servants of God were all different types of people, so their writings were designed to be relevant to all. Yet there is no discord. Though they were divided by class, time, country and disposition, there is wonderful harmony in all that they wrote.

There is no contradiction, no disagreement. We will discover why in the next paragraph......


Open Bible – please click here to view the references Look at these words that people
 in the Bible have written
2 Timothy 3 v 16 and 17
2 Samuel 23 v 1 and 2
Jeremiah 30 v 1 and 2
2 Peter 1 v 19 to 21

The Bible claims that God is its author.

In the first passage you looked at we are told that all Scripture is "inspired" or "God breathed" as the original word in Greek means. When we speak, the message comes through our breath for all to hear. So God has spoken and the message is in our Bible.

You will often read in your Bible the phrases: "Thus says the Lord....", or "The word of the Lord came to me saying...". The Bible writers never claim that the message is their own. They are not wanting to make a name for themselves or build up their own esteem.

Open Bible – please click here to view the references Look at  Isaiah 40 v 6 to 8
Proverbs 30 v 5 to 6

God’s Word is always reliable and it needs no addition from men.

The Importance of Bible Study

When we look at the Bible and accept it as God’s Word, then we also begin to understand the importance of Bible study. We have a need and a responsibility to find out what it has to tell us. Let’s have a look at a few things that the Bible says.....
Open Bible – please click here to view the references Look at 2 Timothy 3 v 14 to 17

The Bible gives us the information that we need so that we can understand God’s plan to save us from lasting death.

Open Bible – please click here to view the references Look at Romans 1 v 16,17
               15 v 4

Understanding the Bible gives us real hope for the future. It is "the power of God to salvation"

Open Bible – please click here to view the references Look at Proverbs 13 v 13

Ignoring the Bible message is fatal in the long term.

Open Bible – please click here to view the references Look at Psalm 119 V 105
        Joshua 1 v 8

The Bible gives us direction for daily living.

The Word of God gives real meaning to our life.

Continue with Section 2 of this Session