What is the Bible?

The Bible means literally “book of books.’ Other names by which we know it is “Holy Scripture”, or the “Good Book.” It is a collection of 66 books. It is divided between 39 books of the “Old Testament” or “Hebrew Bible” telling the story of God’s faithfulness to Israel, and 27 books known as the “New Testament”, which tell the story of Jesus and the early church. It is written in many literary forms: history, poetry, songs aka Psalms, memories, wisdom literature, irony, and even love poetry.

When was the Bible written? What language was it written in?

The composition of the Bible took over 1000 years – from about 900 B.C. to 140 A.D. Some of the books of the Old Testament actually wrote down very, very old oral traditions, dating hundreds of years back. Most books were written originally in Hebrew, Aramaic or 1st century Greek.

How do you interpret the Bible? Do you read it literally?

In our Protestant Reformed and Congregational tradition we treat the Bible very seriously. In the words of the great Swiss theologian, Karl Barth, “we take the Bible too seriously to take it literally.” Rather we look to it, to find out who is God and what God wants for us. The Bible has been and is the only standard for the faith and practice of the Church. It is a testament or witness, if you will, of the faithfulness of God shown to us for countless generations. Through the Bible God, and God’s purpose towards all creation is revealed. The Bible is not THE Word of God – because that is only Jesus Christ. But the Bible when read faithfully always points to the one and only Living Word, Jesus Christ. That is why before every sermon passage our pastor says: “Listen now for the Word of God as it comes to us in the book…”

Can I read the Bible on my own? Is that not enough to be a good Christian?

The short answer to both of these questions is “NO.” Christians are encouraged to read the Bible on their own for personal comfort and prayer. But there is more to the Bible. The Bible is the not just any book – it is the Church’s book. What we mean by this is that the Holy Spirit calls us to read it together under her guidance – in worship, and in Bible Study – so that we may interpret it faithfully and to the best of our abilities.

We read the Bible in conversation with the confessions or testimonies of the Church throughout the ages like the: Nicene Creed (325/381), Barmen Declaration (1934), Heidelberg Catechism (1563), and Preamble to the United Church of Christ’s Constitution (1957). Their authority is not greater than the Bible but rather, their claims are based on the Bible.

Can I study the Bible with you?

Yes, we would love you to! At First Church we have a number of opportunities to engage with the Bible: Sunday worship is one.
Regular Bible Study meets every Tuesday at 10 AM except for the summer, Christmas and Holy Week.

Which version of the Bible should I read?

There are many translations (not versions!) of the Bible available. We use in worship the New Revised Standard Version commonly known as the NRSV and that is the translation we recommend to anyone.