Lesson 5

The Bible

“Lesson 5: The Bible,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)


This lesson will provide students with background information about how the Bible came to be, help them understand the overall organization of the Bible, and give them an opportunity to learn the names of the books in the Old Testament.

Suggestions for Teaching

The contents of the Bible

Write the word Miracles on the board. Invite students to name as many miracles that have occurred in the history of the world as they can think of. Ask a student to act as a scribe and list them on the board.

After several miracles are listed, invite students to hold up their Bibles. Ask students if they would consider the Bible a miracle.

  • Why might you consider the Bible a miracle?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask students to listen for how the Bible is a miracle.

Elder M. Russell Ballard

“My brothers and sisters, the Holy Bible is a miracle! It is a miracle that the Bible’s 4,000 years of sacred and secular history were recorded and preserved by the prophets, apostles, and inspired churchmen. …

“It is not by chance or coincidence that we have the Bible today” (“The Miracle of the Holy Bible,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 80).

  • According to Elder Ballard, how is the Bible a miracle? (Its writings have been preserved for thousands of years.)

Invite students to turn to the “Bible” entry in the Bible Dictionary. Invite a student to read aloud the first two paragraphs. Ask the class to follow along and identify what the word Bible means and who wrote the Bible. Ask students to report what they find.

Ask students if they know who wrote the first book in the Bible. After they respond, invite them to turn to Genesis 1 and look in the title to see who wrote the book of Genesis. (You may want to explain that in addition to writing Genesis, Moses wrote Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price also contains Moses’s writings.)

Copy the following timeline on the board (the dates listed are approximate). You could also refer students to the timeline on the Old Testament scripture mastery bookmark.

Old Testament timeline

Explain that Moses wrote about the Creation, the Fall of Adam, and the lives of earlier prophets, but most of Moses’s writings contain information and revelations from his own lifetime.

Invite a student to read Moses 1:40 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for one way that Moses learned about events that occurred many years before Moses’s time, such as the Creation and the Fall. Ask students to report what they find.

  • According to what you read in Moses and in the Bible Dictionary, how did Moses and other writers of the Bible know what to write? (The Lord revealed it to them.)

To help students recognize that the Bible contains the word of God, display the following statement by Elder M. Russell Ballard and ask a student to read it aloud. (This statement is found in “The Miracle of the Holy Bible,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 80.) You may want to suggest that students write it in their scriptures.

We love the Bible and other scriptures. … [We believe] in the Bible as the revealed word of God” (Elder M. Russell Ballard).

Explain that the Bible is composed of two main parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word testament means “covenant.” In addition to historical information, the Old Testament contains God’s covenant with His children as they looked forward to the coming of Jesus Christ. The New Testament contains a record of Jesus Christ’s ministry and Atonement and again records God’s covenant with His people. Between A.D. 300 and 400, Christian leaders chose a number of books that had been written during Old Testament and New Testament times and combined them to form the Bible that we know today.

The structure of the Old Testament

Note: Before class, create “scrolls” that correspond to each book in the Old Testament by loosely rolling up pieces of paper and taping them closed. On the outside of each scroll, write the name of a book of the Old Testament.

scroll of Genesis

To help students understand how the Old Testament is organized, distribute the paper scrolls you prepared before class among the students. Explain that the scrolls represent the books of the Old Testament. The books of the Old Testament were originally written on material such as leather or papyrus. These were eventually transcribed and preserved as scrolls, which were written mostly in Hebrew (see Bible Dictionary, “Bible”).

  • If you were in charge of compiling all of these scrolls into one book, how would you organize them?

Explain that over the years several efforts were made to collect and organize the authentic inspired words of the prophets. One important effort happened during the third to second century B.C. The original language of most of the Old Testament was Hebrew, but at this time Jewish scholars translated the Old Testament writings into Greek and decided to organize them categorically. This Greek version of the Old Testament, referred to as the Septuagint, was the version commonly used by the Jews in the Savior’s day. The order of the books in the King James Version of the Old Testament today follows this same organization. Write the following on the board:

The Law


The History


The Poetry

(Job–Song of Solomon)

The Prophets


Invite students to open to the table of contents page of their Bibles, which is titled “The Names and Order of All the Books in the Old and New Testaments.” You may want to suggest that they mark and label this page with the four categories written on the board.

Explain to students that there were some books and writings that for various reasons were not included in the Hebrew Bible. This collection of books is called the Apocrypha. Some Christian churches favor versions of the Bible that include the Apocrypha. When Joseph Smith was engaged in his inspired translation of the Bible, he inquired of the Lord concerning the Apocrypha. He was instructed that while there were many good things contained in the Apocrypha, it was not needful that it should be translated by the Prophet (see D&C 91; see also Bible Dictionary, “Apocrypha”).

Invite students to use the table of contents page of their Bibles to locate the book written on their scrolls. Then ask them to come forward and deposit their scrolls on the ground or in a container beneath the appropriate heading on the board.

Hold up one of the scrolls and explain that we do not have any of the original documents on which the books of the Bible were recorded. The oldest known sources of Bible text are copies of copies. Explain that as copies of the Bible texts were made, translated, and transmitted, scribal errors—both unintentional and intentional—were perpetuated with each succeeding copy (see 1 Nephi 13:24–28). Invite a student to read the following statement aloud:

Joseph Smith

“Joseph Smith taught that ‘many important points touching the salvation of men, had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled.’ He also said that the Bible was correct as ‘it came from the pen of the original writers,’ but that ‘ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors.’ (History of the Church, 1:245; 6:57.)” (Bible Dictionary, “Bible”).

Explain that in order to restore lost truths and clarify certain passages, the Lord commanded the Prophet Joseph Smith to go through the text of the Bible and translate, restore, and revise it under inspiration. This collection of revisions is called the Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (see Bible Dictionary, “Joseph Smith Translation”). The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that “the Bible [is] the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” (Articles of Faith 1:8). However, we should not think that the Bible is less important just because there may be flaws in the text. Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Ballard:

Elder M. Russell Ballard

“Without the Bible, we would not know of His Church then, nor would we have the fulness of His gospel now. …

“… Do not discount or devalue the Holy Bible. It is the sacred, holy record of the Lord’s life … [and] the bedrock of all Christianity” (“The Miracle of the Holy Bible,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 81, 82).

To help students further understand the importance of the Bible, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Ballard. Ask the class to listen for reasons the Bible is of great worth to us.

Elder M. Russell Ballard

“It is a miracle that the Bible literally contains within its pages the converting, healing Spirit of Christ, which has turned men’s hearts for centuries, leading them to pray, to choose right paths, and to search to find their Savior” (“The Miracle of the Holy Bible,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 80).

video iconInstead of inviting a student to read this statement, you could show the video “The Miracle of the Bible” (1:25), in which Elder Ballard shares his testimony of the Holy Bible.

  • Why is the Bible of such great worth?

Share a favorite scripture or brief passage from the Bible that has been meaningful to you. Also consider inviting students to share their feelings about how the Bible has helped them in their search to grow closer to the Savior. Explain that just as with any scripture, the greatest evidence of the truthfulness of the Bible comes through the witness of the Holy Ghost.

Encourage students to continue their study of God’s word as found in the Bible.

Memorizing the books of the Old Testament

Consider taking a few minutes to help students memorize the order of the books in the Old Testament. Music can be effective in helping students memorize. The Children’s Songbook includes a song that can help students memorize the order of the books in the Old Testament (see “The Books in the Old Testament,” Children’s Songbook, 114–15).

Another option for helping students memorize the names and order of the books of the Old Testament is to write the first letter of each book in order under its respective category on the board. Invite students to use the table of contents in their scriptures to recite the books in order for each category. Repeat this activity until they can recite the books using only the first letters on the board, without looking at the table of contents. Consider reviewing the books of the Old Testament at the beginning of class for the next few lessons.

Commentary and Background Information

Why we should be grateful for the Bible

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught why we should be grateful for the Bible:

“How grateful we should be for the Holy Bible. In it we learn not only of the life and teachings and doctrines of Christ, we learn of His Church and of His priesthood and of the organization which He established and named the Church of Jesus Christ in those former days. We believe in that Church, and we believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that same Church, restored to earth, complete, with the same organization and the same priesthood” (“The Miracle of the Holy Bible,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 81).

The recording, protecting, and preserving of biblical records

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught about the recording, protecting, and preserving of biblical texts:

“Righteous individuals were prompted by the Spirit to record both the sacred things they saw and the inspired words they heard and spoke. Other devoted people were prompted to protect and preserve these records” (“The Miracle of the Holy Bible,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 80).

Lost books of the Bible

Although the people who participated in the collection and organization of the Bible did their best, there were still inspired writings that were not included. There are several books of scripture mentioned in the Bible that for various reasons are missing or lost. Lists of these missing books and writers are included in the Bible Dictionary (see “Lost books”) and the Guide to the Scriptures (see “Scriptures—Lost scriptures”).

Septuagint and Masoretic Text

Several efforts were made to organize and preserve the writings of the Old Testament, including the Septuagint (Greek) and an earlier Hebrew text that eventually became known as the Masoretic text. The Septuagint was a Greek translation of Old Testament writings compiled around 200 B.C. The Hebrew text was formed in about A.D. 90 by a council of Jewish scholars at Jamnia who decided which Old Testament books were authoritative and which were not. Sometime between the 7th and 10th centuries a group of Jews known as the Masoretes further refined and solidified the Hebrew text. Most Christian Bibles today follow the same organization as the Septuagint. (See Bible Dictionary, “Bible.”) Modern English versions of the Bible, including the King James Version, have been influenced by the Septuagint and Hebrew text.

First Presidency statement on the King James Version of the Bible

The First Presidency has released the following letter regarding the King James Version of the Bible.

“Since the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has used the King James Version of the Bible for English-speaking members.

“The Bible, as it has been transmitted over the centuries, has suffered the loss of many plain and precious parts. ‘We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.’ (A of F 1:8.)

“Many versions of the Bible are available today. Unfortunately, no original manuscripts of any portion of the Bible are available for comparison to determine the most accurate version. However, the Lord has revealed clearly the doctrines of the gospel in these latter-days. The most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical passage is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations.

“While other Bible versions may be easier to read than the King James Version, in doctrinal matters latter-day revelation supports the King James Version in preference to other English translations. All of the Presidents of the Church, beginning with the Prophet Joseph Smith, have supported the King James Version by encouraging its continued use in the Church. In light of all the above, it is the English language Bible used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“The LDS edition of the Bible (1979 [and 2013]) contains the King James Version supplemented and clarified by footnotes, study aids, and cross-references to the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. These four books are the standard works of the Church. We encourage all members to have their own copies of the complete standard works and to use them prayerfully in regular personal and family study, and in Church meetings and assignments” (“First Presidency Statement on the King James Version of the Bible,” Ensign, Aug. 1992, 80).