I came across a post where someone explained that the Bible was published in 1611 and that the early believers of Christ Jesus didn’t necessarily encounter Jesus through the study of the Bible. He further implied that we can do without the Bible as it is a mere religious book like the rest of the religious books.
I have a very big problem with that assertion. You can’t be a believer in Jesus and at the same time imply that there are other ways to know and learn about Jesus outside the study or teaching of the Bible. In this article, I’ll be answering very simple questions. What is the Bible? How did the early believers learn about Jesus and when was the first Bible published?
What is the Bible?
The word ‘Bible’ means book in Latin. In the 13th century, it became the official term used to identify the sacred text of believers in Christ which comprises of the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is called the Bible simply because it is a library of several collections of books from the book of Genesis to the Book of Revelation.
As a collection of books, the Bible contains 66 books in total. Some denominations like the Roman Catholic Church also accepts Apocrypha as canonical. However, the Bible is an entire library of books with stories, histories, poetry, letters, prophecies, revelations and several other writings.
The first Bible was not published in 1611, it has always been copied over and over again by scribes which was the only way it could be duplicated. In the days of Jesus on earth, the scriptures contained only the writings of Moses and the Prophets which were all pointers to Christ.
The Bible is in fact, the first complete book ever printed in human history as the invention of the printing machine was actually for the sake of printing the Bible. The first Bible printed was “Gutenberg Bible” which was printed in 1455.
Just the same way people had access to certain information before the advent of printing machine was the same way people had access to the Bible. Although technology has made access to information easier at these times, it was more difficult, expensive and tasking in those days.
Most early followers of Christ didn’t own personal copies of the Bible, they always studied the Bible as a community. During the time of the Apostles, people depended on the teachings of the Apostles whom Jesus had taught, they also periodically received the writing of Paul which Peter even referenced to his audience.
The teachings of the Apostles were not independent. They are explanations of the Old Testament in the light of what Jesus has done. In the Christian circle, the Old Testament is not studied in isolation, it is studied using the lens of the gospel and the realities of what Christ has done.
The early days and years of the Church were the days of the formation of the Church’s doctrine and theology. There has always been the Old Testament. Some believers were also struggling to break free from the laws of the Old Testament which Jesus had set us free from, hence the need for intense explanation.
The essence of gathering as a Church was and is to explain these scriptures, how Jesus fulfilled them and how we have been saved forever! That was how the New Testament, especially the epistles came about. The early Church may not have had the Bible in the way we did, but they were the first-hand witnesses of these writings which were later compiled into one book called “Bible”, a book of books.
Before Jesus came, Judaism was also a “bookish religion”, they always read from books and that is why the Quran calls both Jews and Christians the people of the book.
The Bible, as some folks argue is not less than 500 years, it is as old as the first writings of the Bible, it is a library of these writings that have been delivered to the body of Christ.
In these compilations, you see the Torah, the poems, the prophecies, the story of how Jesus came, a view into what the early Church looked like and the letters of the Apostles to the Church explaining the scriptures. It is these collections in its entirety that makes up the Bible.
While there was no Bible in print in the days of the early church, this information that we have was already there and was being written. Preachers and teachers of the gospel are how people learn about Jesus and yield themselves to him as Jesus carries on with the work of transformation.
“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” – Romans 10:14
It is true that in some rare cases, God decides to open up himself to people in strange encounters but using that encounter, he points them to the Bible or to someone who would teach them the Bible so that they can gain understanding and be able to relate their encounters to God’s will.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT
I called you “blessed!”