Where does the Bible come from?

We think of the Bible as one book—and a big, formidable book at that! Someone might approach it like a novel. But setting out to read the Bible is more like trying to get through all the books in your local library. In fact, the word bible literally means "little library." Our Bible has many different kinds of writings between its covers, including prayers, genealogies, histories, poetry, letters, short stories, love songs and so on.

The Bible contains the records of four thousand years of Judeo-Christian culture. Even before writing materials were invented, the many stories included in our Bible were handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. We call this "oral tradition."

As time passed, the ancient Israelites began to commit their community's stories to writing. The earliest written stories told about the deeds of the kings. The people also began to write down their songs (psalms) as far back as the tenth century B.C.E. (Before Common Era). But most stories were written down between the fifth and the third century B.C.E.

I can't think of a better time for you to begin reading the Bible than right now. Pick it up, dust it off if you have to, and turn to the Gospel of Mark. Once you've started, just keep going. The cover will soon lose its gloss, it may become tattered and you will learn the truth of another old saying: "Bibles that are falling apart usually belong to people who aren't."

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