The Bible: Interesting Facts and Study Principles


Fun Quiz

(Answers are below.)

1. How many books are contained in the Bible?

A. 56 B. 66 C. 76 D. 86

2. How many books are in the Old Testament?

A. 27 B. 29 C. 37 D. 39

3. How many books are in the New Testament?

A. 21 B. 24 C. 27 D. 37

4. What is the only book of the Bible that doesn’t mention God?

A. Esther B. James C. Hezekiah D. Ecclesiastes

5. How many accounts of the gospel are in the Bible, and what are those books called?

6. What is the name of the last book of the Bible?

7. Which book of the Bible has the most chapters, and how many are there?

8. What book of the Bible has the shortest name (i.e. the least amount of letters)?

9. Which five books of the Bible contain only one chapter?

10. Can you name any secular historians who lived during the time when the New Testament was written, and whose writings back up many of the narratives written in the New Testament?

INTERESTING FACTS

There are many interesting facts about the Bible, which, according to Daniel Radosh of The New Yorker, is not only the best-selling book of all time, but also the best-selling book every year. The following are just a few of these facts:

  • Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible, containing only two verses. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible, containing 176 verses.
  • Psalm 118 is the middle chapter in the Bible (there are 594 chapters before Psalm 118, and 594 chapters after Psalm 118).
  • The middle verse in the Bible is Psalm 118:8, which reads, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.
  • The book of Psalms, the longest book in the Bible, contains 150 chapters and 43,743 words. The book of 3 John is the shortest book, and contains only 299 words.
  • The longest verse in the Bible is Esther 8:9, with 90 words. The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35, with only two words (“Jesus wept“).
  • There are 31,102 verses in the Bible (more than 23,000 in the Old Testament, and almost 8,000 in the New Testament. That’s an average of 26 verses per chapter.
  • The Bible was only divided into chapters in the year 1228, by Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The New Testament was only divided into verses in the year 1551, by Sir Robert Stephens.

PRINCIPLES FOR UNDERSTANDING THE BIBLE


Distinguish Between Literary Forms and Genres

The Bible is made up of narratives (stories) more than any other type of literature (other genres include law, poetry, wisdom, prophecies, parables, and epistles). Narratives sometimes teach things indirectly, rather than directly. For example, in the story of David committing adultery with Bathsheba (II Samuel 11), we’re not told directly that adultery is wrong. However, this was already taught directly in the law of Moses (e.g. Exodus 20:14). Still, II Samuel 11 illustrates how David’s adultery harmed his personal life and his ability to rule over Israel.

Note the Context

In the Bible, it’s rare that we seek to understand a single verse by itself, or isolated from all surrounding verses. There are exceptions to this, of course, in the book of Proverbs. Looking at a verse or a passage in context means considering a larger portion of the text as a whole.

The word “earth,” for example, is used many times in both the Old and New Testaments. In some places where it’s used, it’s not a reference to the entire globe. Instead, it’s a reference to the land of Israel (i.e. the Promised Land) only. In fact, some Bible translations will use “earth” in the same passages where other translations will use the word “land.” Luke 21:23 is one example of this pattern. Even if a translation uses the word “earth” in this verse, the context ought to clearly show that Jesus was speaking specifically about Israel. He predicted that Jerusalem would be surrounded by armies (verse 20), and He warned “those living in Judea” to flee to the mountains (verse 21). He then spoke of “great distress in the earth” (or “land”) and “wrath against this people” (verse 23). The context shows that He didn’t speak of people in Chicago, or of people living in the 21st century, but of Jews living in his own generation.

Consider Audience Relevance

“Exegesis” is a literary interpretation method that involves determining what a text meant to those who first received it. This method should guide “hermeneutics,” the science of interpretation. So the first question to ask is, “What did the text mean to the original audience that first heard or read it?” Then, and only then, is it time to ask the second question: “What does this text mean to us now?”

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and other Old Testament prophets often announced the future. However, were they speaking about our future, or were they speaking about the more immediate future of Israel, Judah, and other surrounding nations? Many today believe that Ezekiel 38-39 speaks of a future invasion of modern-day Israel by Russia, Ethiopia, and a few other countries. This is despite the fact that Ezekiel described ancient warfare (e.g. the use of horses) in his prophecy.

In II Thessalonians 2, the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica about the man of sin and the Day of the Lord. Many today assume that what Paul told them will be revealed soon and will take place for our generation to see. Yet consider what Paul said to his first century readers: “Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way” (verses 5-7).

Similarly, John told his first century readers in the book of Revelation that they were capable of calculating “the number of the beast”: “Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666” (Revelation 13:18). In other words, they could figure out who the beast was. Many have not considered the audience relevance when thinking of this text, and have insisted that the beast (or “Antichrist,” they might say) was Napoleon, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Barack Obama, etc.

It’s also important to note that we don’t live under the Old Covenant, as ancient Israel once did. This covenant, through Jesus, has been made obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). There are commands that were given to the ancient Israelites under the law, which are no longer instructive to God’s people on how to live. We can still derive principles from those laws, understand God better by reading those portions of Scripture, and understand how certain types and shadows are now fulfilled in Jesus, etc. Yet we are not bound by the Old Covenant laws which functioned as a national constitution for ancient Israelites who lived in the land of Israel. We are told in Hebrews 8, for example, that this first covenant was not faultless (verse 7), was made obsolete (verse 13), and has been replaced by a new covenant with better promises (verse 6).

Scripture Interprets Scripture

We are not the ultimate authority when it comes to interpreting Scripture. If we believe that the Biblical authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit, then we can appreciate how they interpret older Scripture passages, even if it means setting aside our own preconceived notions. We see an interesting example of this principle very early in the New Testament when Matthew takes an Old Testament passage from Hosea 11:1 that clearly refers to ancient Israel (“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son“), and applies it to Jesus:

Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring your word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.’ When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, ‘Out of Egypt I called My Son’” (Matthew 2:13-15).

The implication is that Matthew viewed Israel, not as his own homeland, the political nation of Israel, but rather as Jesus.

In Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 65 we see a prophecy that a wolf will lay down with a lamb. Many today believe or teach that the animal kingdom will literally be transformed in this way in a future millennium, a period lasting 1000 years. However, Paul demonstrated in Romans 15 that Isaiah 11 was fulfilled through Jesus’ work on the cross, and His bringing together Jews and Gentiles in Himself. In other words, the wolf and the lamb represented Jews and Gentiles.

In Matthew 23 Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, the religious rulers of Israel, when He said:

“I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:35-36).

Who did Jesus say would be responsible for shedding the blood of all righteous people, and which generation would be held responsible? Clearly, it’s first century Israel. So what do we conclude then when we see these passages in the book of Revelation?

[1] “Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying, ‘You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.'” (Revelation 16:4-6)

[2] “I saw the woman [Babylon the Great], drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” (Revelation 17:6)

[3] “Alas, alas, that great city… Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her! … And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.” (Revelation 18:20, 24)

Not only do Jesus’ words in Matthew 23 tell us who shed this blood and when they did it, but the principle of “first mention” can help us here as well. “The great city” is first mentioned in Revelation 11:8. There it is described as “the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” We know, of course, that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. The “great city” then is Jerusalem, which also happens to be the city Jesus said in Matthew 23 would be held responsible for the shed blood of all the saints. 

Types and Shadows Point Toward Fulfillment

The New Testament follows the Old Testament in the Bible. Within the Old Testament, there were many practices and laws which foreshadowed realities that have been fulfilled in Jesus. The book of Hebrews speaks much about the types and shadows (e.g. in the sacrificial system) which pointed toward Jesus. One form of eschatology, the study of last things, teaches that in a future millennium there will be renewed animal sacrifices and offerings in a rebuilt temple. Does this teaching not promote a return to types and shadows? One author, Kim Riddlebarger, calls this ” a redemptive-historical U-turn.” Perhaps this teaching persists because some view certain prophetic passages in the Old Testament through a lens that doesn’t recognize apocalyptic language, and assumptions are made that they haven’t yet been fulfilled.

ANSWERS TO THE QUIZ

1. B (66)

2. D (39)

3. C (27)

4. A (Esther); P.S. There is no book called “Hezekiah.”

5. Four: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

6. Revelation

7. Psalms; 150

8. Job

9. Obadiah, Philemon, 2 John, 3 John, Jude

10. Josephus (a Jew); Tacitus (a Roman)

Sources:

1. Maarschalk, Adam. “Romans 15 Shows That Isaiah 11 Is Fulfilled.” Pursuing Truth Blog. January 29, 2012. http://kloposmasm.com/2012/01/29/romans-15-shows-that-isaiah-11-is-fulfilled/
2. Radosh, Daniel. “The Good Book Business.” The New Yorker. December 18, 2006. http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/12/18/061218fa_fact1
3. Riddlebarger, Kim. “Jesus, The True Temple.” The Riddleblog. April 9, 2008. http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/the-latest-post/2008/4/9/jesus-the-true-temple.html

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This article first appeared on the Yahoo Contributor Network

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