The Bible The Bible began with a collection of stories, passed on by word of mouth. They were stories of how God chose and blessed a nomadic group of people, the Israelites, and gave them a land of their own. In due course, the history of Israel and the messages of her prophets were written down. These scriptures became a treasured library of Jewish literature: history, folklore, wisdom and prayers, written on parchment and stored in rolls. This was the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament. If the Old Testament is the history of the Jews, then the New Testament is the story of the Christian church. It begins with the four Gospels, each of which narrates the life and significance of Jesus of Nazareth. Then follows an account of how the gospel (the good news) of Jesus spread from Jerusalem to Rome in a single generation. There are also letters which were written in those early years. Eventually, the Bible documents were Letters and Revelation collected together, transcribed on vellum (calf or sheep skin) and bound in books. The volumes were rare and precious, kept in the libraries of monasteries or chained in churches. Then, in the 15th century, the printing press was invented. The Bible was finally released from the limitation of being copied out by hand, and embarked on mass production. Now the Bible has been translated into a multitude of languages and taken to every part of the world. It is stored on microchip, recorded on tape, produced on CD-ROMs and accessed via the Internet. There are versions to suit all sorts of people and groups, and levels of understanding. Wherever and however the Bible is read, people find it to be the word of God. Here. more than anywhere else we discover what God is like aI:l4'what it is that he offers us. He is our creator, Saviour and judge. He is righteous and merciful and loving. He is perfectly portrayed in the life, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible is made up of two main parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. Both these parts are themselves collections of books. In a remarkable way, all the books in the Bible contribute to the same overall story and message. Although written at different times by a number of authors, each book contributes its own perspective to the others. Together they build a complete picture of God's holiness and love, our human rebellion against him, and his wonderful plan to rescue us from sin and death and to restore us to eternal life. From The Bible Guide by Andrew Knowles, Canon Theologian of Chelmsford Cathedral, published by Lion Publishing PLC., used by permission.