The word bible simply means “book.” The English word bible is ultimately derived from the Greek term biblia, meaning “books.” Biblia is the plural form of biblion, which denotes any written document, but originally one inscribed on papyrus. Our word Bible eventually came to be used for the collection of 66 Old and New Testament books recognized by Christians as the canon of Scripture.
The Greek phrase ta biblia to hagia meant “the holy books.” The first Christian use of the term ta biblia, or “the books,” to designate the Holy Scriptures is believed to be in 2 Clement 2:14, written around AD 150: “The books and the apostles plainly declare that the Church hath been from the beginning.” In Latin, the Greek phrase became biblia sacra. In Old French, the word biblia became bible. Old English already had a word for the Scriptures, biblioðece, taken from the Latin word for “library.” But the shorter Old French word bible replaced it in the early fourteenth century.
The concept of a collection of holy writings developed early in both Jewish and Christian thought. In the sixth century BC, the prophet Daniel referred to the prophetic writings as “the books” (Daniel 9:2). Synonymous terms for Bible are the writings, Scripture, Holy Scriptures, and Holy Writ, which means “sacred writings.” In the early Jewish historical writing of 1 Maccabees, the author refers to the Old Testament as “the holy books” (12:9). Jesus made reference to the books of the Old Testament as “the Scriptures” in Matthew 21:42, and the apostle Paul called them “the Holy Scriptures” in Romans 1:2.
Today, the word bible can be used generically to refer to any book widely viewed as an authority on a certain topic. For example, bow hunters may speak of a book giving expert advice on how to track and bring down a trophy deer as a “bow hunter’s bible.” Or a publication for aquarium enthusiasts, written by a veteran hobbyist, might be called an “aquarist’s bible.” Capitalized, Bible usually refers to the Holy Scriptures as understood by Christians around the world.
The Bible is the Word of God; it is God’s book written to humankind. The Bible is God’s guidebook for how to live our lives: “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (2 Timothy 3:14–17, NLT).
The Bible, the book of God, is a light to illuminate our way: “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105, NLT). It is like food that nourishes and sustains us (Matthew 4:4; Hebrews 12:12–14). The Bible outlines and elaborates on God’s interactions with humans throughout history. In it, we learn of His eternal purposes and His loving plan of salvation. Most importantly, the Bible is God’s personal love letter to us: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16–17).