A Book that Changes Your Life.
Have you ever read a book that’s left a lasting impression on you? It may have been a self help book. Or a book of encouraging thoughts when you were in a down place. Or maybe it was a book that gave you hope when you were beginning to think that hope of recovery or health or finances were slipping away.
The Best Book
Well there is one book that can tick all those categories. In fact it is the best selling book in the world and has been for years. Every year, Google says, 100 million bibles are printed. And it has been translated into over 3312 languages. In addition, scholars tell us the bible has had a massive influence on literature of all types and genres. In March 2007 Time magazine said, the Bible “has done more to shape literature, history, entertainment, and culture than any book ever written. Its influence on world history is unparalleled, and shows no signs of abating. So have you read it?
It’s Not One Book.
Now one thing you must understand before you pick up a bible is that it is not really just one book. It’s more like a library of books. In fact the word “bible” literally means library. There are 66 books in the bible I have on the shelf here. They were written (according to tradition) by around 35 different authors.
It’s Changed Over Time
One thing you may have heard is that over the years the bible has changed and that’s true. The original words were written in Ancient Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek. So, obviously translating them into English is the first significant change (for an English speaker). Obviously if you want English speakers to read the bible you have either to teach them Ancient Greek and Hebrew or get people who read those languages to make an English translation. In addition it’s true to say that many words in one language do not have exact equivalents in other languages. So, there are always compromises to make when you make a translation.
But English itself also changes over time. Since the bible was first translated into English (probably about 1450), some words no longer carry the same meaning. According to the preface to the Revised Standard version (from 1971), the King James Version (translated in 1611) uses the word “let” in the sense of “hinder,” “prevent” to mean “precede,” “allow” in the sense of “approve,” “communicate” for “share,” etc. So, the changes in the English language will be reflected in any modern translation.
Over the years we have discovered more and more ancient manuscripts that have taken us back in time to within a hundred years or so, of when the original was written – at least that’s true for the New Testament. The Old Testament seems to have been written over a period beginning with Moses (about 1200BC) and concludes with the book of Malachi written about 400BC. They were written during that time on papyrus – a sort of paper made from reeds. Because of its organic nature, the possibility of any manuscripts still existing from so long ago, is miniscule. The oldest manuscripts we have for the Old Testament are found amongst the Dead Sea scrolls – some from around 100BC. However, when they were compared to those manuscripts from about 600AD, there was an astonishing agreement perhaps pointing to thecae taken by the scribes when they made a new version of the old manuscripts.
For the New Testament, the discovery of older texts has meant there’s been the need to update some words of the text of the bible in the modern translations in an attempt to get them to be as accurate as possible.
You Need to See What It Says.
So if you are thinking “I need to read the bible for myself and see what it has to say”, let me give you some advice. The first thing is to not to start with that old family bible you have from your grandparents. It will probably be a King James translation since they were very common for around 400 years. It is good and a faithful translation of the manuscripts available in the 1600’s. But it probably better to go out and buy (or Google or Download) a later version. Something like the New International Version is probably the most common one used today. But there are others. The Good News Bible is an easy read version and the Living bible attempts to convey the meaning of the original text rather than the exact words.
Get You Version for Free
If you have an iPad, iPhone or an Android version of the same thing, you can go to the respective App Store and download a program called “You Version”. It comes with lots of bibles built in and it’s free!
Where Do You Start?
The second thing is, you should not expect it to be in chronological order. Even though Genesis, the first book, is really about the beginning of things and has some very interesting stories in it, it also has some significant theology to put to you. Genesis was written about ancient people with ancient practices. Some of the things they did are a bit of a mystery of us today.
The second book is Exodus and you may struggle even more with that. The next few books don’t make things very easy either since they contain Gods interaction with these ancient Jews.
So probably the best place to start for a beginner is with the New Testament. There, the first four books are very similar because they are four eye witness accounts of the life of Jesus. There are some variations in the stories they tell as you would expect from four different accounts, but if you read at least one of them, you will get some idea of the life story of the man who is arguably the most significant man to have lived in the whole history of mankind.
Following the four account of Jesus life, is the book of Acts which is the story of the beginning of the church. After Acts is a series of letters to various churches throughout the ancient world aimed at laying out what Paul saw as good practice and theology. There are some really significant issues covered in these letters so they are well worth a read. For example you have probably heard someone read parts of the “Love Chapter” at a wedding you have been to. You can find that text in the first book of Corinthians chapter 13.
So Make Your Life Better Today.
So why not begin today and see if the history of mankind repeats itself in your life. Thousands of people have found comfort, joy and hope in the pages of the bible and today it may be your turn.