From “How to become a Christian”: Chapter 2 – What is the Bible? How did it come to be written and why should we believe it?
The Bible consists of 66 separate books or letters written by 40 different men, starting with Moses in about 1,500 BC. He wrote the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These five books are, together, called “The Law of Moses” or “The Torah”. In the book of Genesis, Moses gives the history of the world from the first moment of creation, right through to the formation of the Jewish nation, from the family line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Then, in the second book, Exodus, Moses tells of how the Israelites were set free by God from Egypt where they had been kept as slaves.
These first five books are foundational to the whole Bible. Everything else builds on them. The sixth book is written by Joshua. He tells of how he took over the leadership of the nation of Israel after Moses died and then led the Israelites into the Promised Land, establishing the nation of Israel, which is at the very centre of God’s plan for our salvation and also for Jesus’ future Kingdom. It then continues, book by book, until we come to the book of Malachi, which is the last book of what we call the “Old Testament”.
When we refer to the “Old Testament”, we mean all those books from Genesis through to Malachi which are accepted as Scripture by the Jewish people. By “Scripture” we mean something which is effectively written by God, because the human author is inspired by God to write it. That is what happened with each of the men who wrote the books of the Old and New Testaments. I have mentioned Moses and Joshua. Each of them were leaders of Israel. However many different kinds of men wrote the other books.
Most of them were what we call “Prophets”. That means someone who was recognised by the Jewish people as having been sent by God to speak on God’s behalf to the people. In a certain sense, we can all do that from time to time. We can speak to our neighbours or to the people at work. God can use anyone to speak for Him. However, a prophet in the biblical sense is someone who does this on a much larger scale. Many of the men who wrote the Bible were prophets, such as Isaiah or Jeremiah. They told the Jewish people what God wanted to say and they wrote it down so that we can now all benefit from it.