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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
(Job–Song of Solomon)
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 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:
“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.
“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).
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.
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.