Top 5 Bible questions

What does it mean that the Bible is the word of God?

The usual way that Christians understand the Bible to be a book from God /the word of God is to say that he inspired it.

The concept of ‘inspiration’ comes from 2 Timothy 3.16, which refers to the Bible by the Greek word theopneustos (which some translate as ‘God-breathed’).

In Latin this was then translated as inspirata, from which we get the word inspiration. Inspiration is understood to mean that the Bible is not just an ordinary collection of documents. Rather, it usually means that the biblical authors were prompted to write as they did by God.

This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that the writers looked to God for ideas. Nor does it mean that what they wrote was necessarily inspiring. It simply means that God had a hand in the process of writing the Bible.

Because of this, some Christians refer to the Bible as a supernatural book by calling it 'the word of God'.

Nevertheless, Christians may often have very different understandings of what it means to say that the Bible is ‘inspired’.

Some people understand inspiration to apply to the words of the biblical texts themselves. Others believe that inspiration extends only to the messages the Bible contains or to the people who wrote them down. Still others use the term to refer to the process of reading the Bible in the here and now. So there are a range of views about what it means to say God ‘inspired’ the Bible.

Does the Bible contain typos?

The text of the Bible has been copied and studied far more than that of any other book. The technical term used for the study of the biblical text is ‘textual criticism’.

Textual criticism is a field of research that involves investigating the history of the biblical text. The aim is either to try to get as close to the original text as possible or sometimes, to investigate how an ‘official’ version of the text came together.

Until the invention of printing in the Middle Ages, the Bible was copied out by hand. Mistakes often crept into copies of the text. Textual critics try to unpick these mistakes by carefully noting variations or corrections among different manuscripts.

Is the Bible mostly 'thou shalt nots'?

While the Bible does contain legal material, letters and instructions, most of it is actually made up of either advice material (‘hints and tips’) or relationship stories. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 75% of the Bible is narrative.

In many ways, it resembles a collection of biographies rather than an official rulebook.

How is the Bible different from other holy books?

Sometimes, people assume that the holy books of different religions are pretty much alike in terms of their size and subject matter, but this isn’t actually the case.

Of course, there are similarities, but the Bible is fundamentally different. The important difference is the for the most part, the Bible is a book full of relationship stories…

The Qur’an (which is a fifth of the length of the Bible) does contain some biographical material but focuses far more on questions and answers about specific religious matters.

The sacred texts regarded as revealed within Hinduism (the Vedas and the Bhagavad-Gita) contain philosophies, hymns, poems and ritual texts.

The Bhagavad-Gita may only be a tenth the size of the New Testament, but the Vedas are far larger than both the Old and New Testaments put together. The Tipitaka (the collection of holy books within Buddhism) has three sections and is around 11 times the size of the Bible. It includes practical teachings of the Buddha, as well as stories about (and guidelines for) Buddhist monks and nuns.

Comparing sacred texts and highlighting similarities can be important, but it’s a mistake to think that they are all the same.

How is the Bible viewed in Britain?

It’s easy to get the impression that the Bible is unpopular and viewed negatively by most British people. However, Bible Society’s research shows that this is not necessarily the case.

Many imagine the Bible to be a book written in old-fashioned language, containing lists of rules and regulations that some people try to force upon others. They are very negative about this idea of the Bible.

Most people are surprisingly open to modern translations of the Bible, agree that it contains timeless stories and are intrigued by new, creative ways of bringing it to life.

More about our work in England and Wales

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