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How the Bible Was Built
By Charles Merrill Smith James W. Bennett
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing CompanyCopyright © 2005 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHow This Book Was Built
The Bible, always the world's bestseller, is setting new sales records every year. Its popularity has never been greater. It is available in many translations and paraphrases - all of them in wide use.
Yet most Bible readers would find it difficult to answer such questions as: How did the Bible get to be the Bible? What kind of literature is in it? Who wrote it? Why were the various books written? Why were they chosen to be included in the Bible? When were they written? Why do we have four books on the life of Jesus in the New Testament instead of just one? What is the Apocrypha?
This book answers just such questions. It tells the story of the writing of the Bible step by step. It is a book of facts. No particular perspective about the Bible is presented or urged on the reader. Those who hold conservative views of the scriptures can pick it up without fear that the book will undermine their faith.
Those of a more liberal persuasion can do the same.
Those who hold no strong religious convictions of any kind, but believe the Bible to be an essential part of our culture will find it just as useful.
Benefits of Reading This Book
What started out as a book for teenagers and young adults has become, with each successive draft (orrevision), a book targeted at a much wider readership. Not just teenagers, but parents, teachers, spiritual seekers, even ordinary churchgoers curious about the Bible will find much to learn in it.
I have said that Christians of various backgrounds and predispositions will benefit from this book, and enjoy it as well. After all, facts are facts. Bible scholars, for example, are conservative and liberal, Roman Catholic and Protestant and Jewish, and can differ widely on how they interpret the Bible. But they are in general agreement with regard to the fundamental facts about the Bible.
Is it important to know these facts? Yes indeed. Some readers might wonder, why can't I just enjoy reading the Bible without going into all these facts? The answer would be that of course they can, because that is precisely what many people do. It is the belief here, however, that reading the Bible will mean more to people if they know what they are reading.
People are reading the Bible in record numbers today. They are taking it seriously. But if they are to be "at home" with the Bible instead of treating it as a remote and mysterious document, then knowing these facts will be beneficial to them.
To enable people to know exactly what the Bible is; to make it possible for them to read it with real comprehension; to make it clear to them where the Bible came from, and why these special books came to be collected as holy scripture - these are the purposes of this book.
Most books written about the Bible mix facts with doctrinal or theological perspectives. This is necessary and legitimate for books meant for use as evangelical tools or as instruments for sectarian instruction. But if there is a book which sets forth briefly and clearly the story behind the Bible, sets it forth unadorned by theological or sectarian persuasion, I am not aware of it. That is what this book seeks to be.
The Inspiration According to Julia
Originally, the book was inspired by my fourteen-year-old granddaughter Julia. One day she began asking me questions about the Bible, asking them with almost machinegun rapidity. Where did the Bible come from? Who wrote it? Who said it was the Bible? And on and on.
When I reported the conversation to Julia's mother, she said she wished I would find a book which would tell the story of the Bible that all the grandchildren could read. They were growing up rather ignorant of the Bible, she declared, and she didn't like that. As a matter of fact, she said, she didn't know as much about the Bible as she would like to know. She'd welcome a simple, understandable, factual story of the Bible herself.
Since I couldn't find such a book, I decided to write one.
I am not a Bible scholar. I am a seminary-trained, ordained clergyman who has spent more than three decades in the parish ministry. The Bible, of course, has always been my basic working tool. If there is a fact about the Bible I don't know - and there are many - I know where to find it. I rely on the works of scholars whose credentials and integrity are well established.
Like every person of faith, I have an attitude toward the Bible. But I have not permitted it to intrude in this book. This is a book of information, not evangelism. If the Bible plays any part at all in our lives - as a guide for living, a handbook of devotion, or a source for understanding our culture - it is important that all of us, young and old, have this information.
Excerpted from How the Bible Was Built by Charles Merrill Smith James W. Bennett Copyright © 2005 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company . Excerpted by permission.
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