What is the Bible?

The Bible is the world’s best-selling book of all time!

It has shaped the laws and politics of many western countries and influenced language, music and art.  Today it continues to inspire many millions of Christians around the world.  But what exactly is it?

The Bible is a remarkable collection of ancient writings Christians believe to be God’s revelation to people.  Some people say it’s actually like a library of books and letters all bound up in one.  The Bible tells the story of God’s relationship with the masterpiece of his creation – people. The Bible says that its words are ‘God-breathed’.  Although exactly how God ‘breathed’ the words remains a mystery, most Christians agree that God inspired the writers as they recorded his words.

The Bible consists of two parts – the Old Testament (the time before Jesus) and the New Testament (during and after Jesus’ life).  The list of books that make up the Bible is called the canon.  However, the canon is different for different Christian churches.  All Christian Bibles have the same 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament, but Catholics include seven more books in their Old Testament (commonly referred to as the Deuterocanonicals) plus some additional material in the books of Daniel and Esther.  Orthodox Christians also recognise some other books in their canons.  The 39 books of the Old Testament also form the Hebrew Bible of the Jewish people.

The books and letters in the Bible were written by more than forty different people over a period of more than 1,000 years.  Some of the writers were kings, royal officials, poets and even a doctor, while some parts were written by poor uneducated fishermen.  There are also some parts of the Bible where scholars and historians are unsure of authorship.

There are several different types of writings included in the Bible.  The Old Testament is made up of historical books, law, poetry, wisdom and prophetic books.  The New Testament is made up of four Gospels, one history book, 21 letters and one prophetic book.

The Bible is foundational to the Christian faith.  It is through the Bible that people can learn more about God and his plan to restore all people and the entire world to himself, by sending his son Jesus Christ to live on earth.



The Bible story

When you don’t know the full story, the Bible can feel like a jumbled puzzle. The entire Bible is one story: the story of Jesus Christ. Knowing the story will help you understand and apply the Bible to your life. That’s why we’ve made our own executive summary!

Read the summary

Bible versions

Bible Society currently has 25 different English translations of the Bible available.  But why are there so many?

Compare versions

Where did the Bible come from?

The Bible has an amazing history, surviving wars, disasters, language changes and culture shifts. But just where did it come from?

Learn more

The Bible in Māori

Early English missionaries in New Zealand began to translate the Bible into Māori in the early 1800s.  Today Te Paipera Tapu (The Holy Bible in Māori) is as popular as ever.

Read the story