This article is from
Creation 23(4):26–29, September 2001

Browse our latest digital issue Subscribe

How did we get the Bible?

by Dan Lietha and Stacia Byers

The universe and all in it screams, 'There is a God!' (Romans 1:18-21), but the universe cannot tell us how it was made, its history, how we should live our lives, or about when its Creator came to Earth.

For that, God has given us His Word, the Bible. Because of the Word of God, we know that God created all things in six normal-length days, that it was originally a 'very good' place, and that the first man, Adam, disobeyed the Creator, thus corrupting the entire creation (Genesis 1-3; Romans 8:20-22). We know that Jesus Christ (the Creator) came to Earth to save His people from their sins, died, was buried, and rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures (1Corinthians 15:3-4).

Where did the Bible come from?

What we today call 'The Bible' is actually a collection of 66 books, written by about 40 different authors from all walks of life (kings, fishermen, a tax collector, tent maker, etc.) over a period of 1,600 years. Each book was considered God-breathed and was received as part of the canon of Scripture, since it came from a recognized speaker of God (normally a prophet or apostle, or someone under their supervision), and contained no historical, factual or doctrinal mistakes.

The various authors wrote their books under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16, literally ‘All Scripture is God-breathed’). This means that God the Holy Spirit guided the writers so that all of the very words they recorded in their own distinctive styles on the original scrolls were without error (2 Peter 1:21). The men who penned the books listed in what we call the ‘Old Testament’ (OT) wrote mainly in the Hebrew language (a few parts were written in Aramaic). The writers of the ‘New Testament’ (NT) books (written after Jesus returned to Heaven) wrote mainly in the common language of their time—Greek.

Since the Bible is the complete Word of God, who cannot lie, we can trust it to tell us the truth about the things we need to know. Because it is the Word of the Creator, we accept it as our final authority in every area it touches on. When we take the Bible as the writer intended, and in the way his original audience would have understood it, we have a basis for understanding and explaining what we observe in the world.

Words you need to know


Four hundred years after Christ returned to Heaven, people began to use the Greek word biblia (meaning ‘books’) to describe the collection of the sacred writings. Our word ‘Bible’ comes from biblia.

Word of God

The Bible claims to be the ’Word of God’ over 3,000 times (John 10:35; Hebrews 4:12). The authors of NT books often begin a quote taken from the OT with the phrase, ‘God said’ (Matthew 15:4–6). And direct quotes of God speaking in the OT are often begun with ‘Scripture says’ in the NT (Romans 11:2, 1Timothy 5:18). So the NT authors believed the ‘Word of God’ and ‘Scripture’ were the same.


This word was used by the NT authors to refer to the sacred books of the OT (2Timothy 3:15, Romans 3:2) and also to other books of the NT (2 Peter 3:15-16, 1 Timothy 5:18, 2 Timothy 3:16). Christ Himself cited the Bible as final authority many times and said, 'Scripture cannot be broken' (John 10:35).


A prophet was a special spokesman for God—he spoke, by God's power, the actual words God gave him.


An apostle, as used here, was a man who had seen Christ after His Resurrection (Acts 1:21–22), and who was called by Jesus to be His ‘messenger’.


Canon originally referred to a ‘reed’, which was used as a measuring rod, much as we use a metre rule or yardstick today for measuring. The complete list of Biblical books is called the canon, meaning the ‘measuring rod’, or the ‘authority’, for truth.

Divisions of the Bible

The Old Testament has 39 books. The Jews divided these books into three divisions: the Law, the Prophets, the Writings. Our English Bible divides the OT into four main groups:

  1. The Law: These books relay the history of the universe from the very beginning. They also tell about God’s working through the nation of Israel, and the laws given for Israel to follow.
  2. History: These 12 books continue the history of Israel, cover 1,000 years, and show the results of disobedience or obedience to God.
  3. Poetry: These books express worship toward God, give advice, and address some deep issues.
  4. Prophets: These books proclaim God’s blessings and judgments, and tell about future events. They are divided into Major and Minor prophets depending on the length of the book.

The 27 books of the New Testament are arranged into four divisions:

  1. The Gospels: These four books record the time Jesus spent on Earth, His death, and Resurrection.
  2. Church history: The book of Acts records the beginning of the church, and the spread of Christianity to the time of the Apostle Paul.
  3. The Letters: These 21 letters from apostles were addressed to churches in such places as Rome, Galatia, Ephesus and Colosse, or to individuals, or to Christians in general. They teach about Christianity and how to live the Christian life.
  4. Revelation: This book was written to encourage Christians suffering persecution. It also reveals what will happen in the future, when new heavens and a new Earth will be created for those who have received the free gift of eternal life.

Notes on picture


Click on the thumbnail to see an enlarged version (316 K)


AD 37


AD 46-49


Early 50s

2 Thessalonians

Early 50s


Early 50s


Early 50s


AD 50s


AD 60-61

1 Corinthians

Mid-late 50s

2 Corinthians

Late 50s


AD 60

1 Timothy

AD 62-63


AD 63

1 Peter

AD 63-64


Early 60s


Early 60s


Early 60s


Early-mid 60s


AD 64-66 [Ed. note: most conservative scholars date Revelation to c. AD 95]

2 Peter

AD 64-66


AD 64-68


AD 65-69


AD 66 [Ed. note: most conservative scholars date John’s Gospel to c. AD 85]

1 John

AD 66-69

2 John

AD 66-69

3 John

AD 66-69

2 Timothy

AD 67

The books of the Bible are placed according to date of writing. Many dates are approximate, since we don't have all the information.