Bible Basics

Lesson 1: How Did We Get The Bible?

Lessons in this series: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Overview Lesson Index

Lesson Workbook (PDF) Click here
Bible Knowledge Quiz Click here  PDF Version
Answers to Bible Knowledge Quiz Click here
Group Juggling (Ice Breaker) Click here


1. For students to understand what we mean when we say “The Bible”
2. For students to be in awe that the Bible has stood the test of time
3. For students to acknowledge the unique qualities of the Bible


Guidance, Prophecy, Truth, Word of God

Scripture Memorization

2 Peter 1:20-21

OPENING PRAYER (5 to 10 minutes)

GROUP BUILDING (10 minutes)

Group Juggling (Ice Breaker) Click here

GETTING STARTED (10 minutes)

Let’s start with a quiz! (You can either photocopy the quiz in the back of your booklet or just give kids paper and read the questions to them out loud. We’ll take this quiz at the end of the study too, as a way of showing the students what they’ve learned.)

We’re going to walk through the Bible together. Our goal is that by the time we are done, you will have a basic knowledge of the Bible, where it came from, who wrote it, when it was written, how it’s organized, etc.  But I’m curious about how well you already know it. So, let’s do that quiz!

Bible Knowledge Quiz Click here  PDF Version

Okay times up. I don’t know how you think you did, if the quiz was difficult or easy. Chances are, in this room, there are some who did okay, while others struggled. That’s okay! We are all starting out in this in different places. (It’s not even important that you grade these. You may want to collect them so you know what you’re starting out with, but the students don’t need to know how each other did. You may want to save them, however, to compare to the quizzes the students will take at the end of the lesson series.)

The cool thing is, in 8 weeks or so, after we’ve studied the Bible start to finish, we’re going to take this quiz again, and hopefully you’ll feel a lot better about what you know about the Bible. So let’s get going! We’ve got a lot to learn!

DIGGING IN (30 minutes)

Today what we’re going to talk about is the very basics of the Bible in 3 parts:
1. What inspired the Bible
2. How the Bible was written
3. How the Bible was gathered

The Bible: God’s Words
Turn in your Bibles to 2 Timothy 3:16. Who can read it for us?

• What do you think that means, God-breathed (NIV)?
(The Greek word used here only occurrs this one time in the scriptures. It is a compound word, God and breath, that means inspired.)

It’s important that we remember, when we’re dicussing the Bible, that it is God’s Words, not the words of man. For example, consider the people who wrote the Gospels—Matthew did not just sit down and write an account of the life and teachings of Jesus on his own. God, through the Holy Spirit, guided the process. That is one of the reasons why, for instance, that even though he probably never even met Luke, their accounts are so similar.

The Bible: Man’s Influence
That’s not to say that God just put all the people who contributed to the Scriptures in a trance and made their hands move. One of the unique features of the Bible is that regular people authored it.

Unlike many Holy Books, such as the Muslim's Koran or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' Book of Mormon, multiple people wrote thee Bible; in fact, approximately 40 different people wrote it.

Activity (10 minutes)

Let’s see how many different authors of the Bible we can identify as a group.
(Feel free to mark them off as your group identifies them. I think you’ll be surprised by how many they know. Try to see if everybody can name at least one. The 40ish are listed below. Next to ones which are not self-titled are the books they contributed to. Some, obviously, are disputable, but serve our purposes just fine.)

 Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Job)






 Samuel (Judges, Ruth)



 Nathan (1st & 2nd Samuels)



 Jeremiah (1st & 2nd Kings)






 Mordecai (Esther)



 Sons of Korah & Others (Psalms)



 David (Psalms)



 Solomon (Proverbs)









Study Guide
Click here (Study guide is also contained in the student workbook)

The Bible is unique because it was written over a span of 1,500-2,000 years. Another unique aspect of the Bible is that nearly 40 people wrote it. Moses likely recorded Genesis around 1400 BC, whereas John may have written the book of Revelation as late as 80-90 AD.

David never met Peter, and Daniel never knew Paul. It’s incredible that the words of all these different people were spread out over so much time and still speak of the same God, in the same way, without contradicting one another!

Let me ask you a couple more challenging questions. Turn in your Bibles to the book of Esther. It’s a little over halfway through the Old Testament, after Nehemiah and before Job. 

Discussion Questions
1. How do we know who wrote Esther? Does it say anywhere in the book who wrote it? (The answer, of course, is no.)
2. How, then, can anyone figure it out? (Allow them to think, even if they’re quiet for a while.)

The bottom line is, there is a lot of evidence outside of the Bible that helps us understand who wrote what and when.  Turn to the book of Mark. The challenge is the same: How do we know that Mark wrote this? Does it say so?

However, in 140 AD, Papias, a very early leader of the church, quotes an even earlier source that states Mark was a close friend of Peter's. Mark gathered evidence from Peter about Jesus’ life to write his Gospel account.

We've still got a lot to cover, so I don't want to dwell on this too long. So, let's put it this way: there is ample evidence in the Bible and in other early Christian history writtings that both documents and confirms who wrote which books of the Bible.

(The students will probably have questions. Answer them as best you can, and if you don’t have an answer, don’t be afraid to say, “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” We’re getting pretty deep here, but we’re going to back off and get lighter for the next section.)

Activity  (10 minutes)

(You’ll need two decks of cards, with a different backing to tell them apart. This could get a little wild, but it will break up the brain drain and help them get moving so they’re engaged for the last section, which may be the hardest of all to grasp.)

We’re going to play a game of 52 card pick-up, with a twist. Let’s divide up into boys and girls, Each team is going to get a deck of cards. (Explain to each team how to identify their deck of cards by the picture or color on the back.) One adult will hang on to that deck for you. When we decide to, we’re going to flip the cards out so that they scatter all over the place. Your job, as a team, is to locate all the cards and put them in the right order, ace through king, in their proper suits. Just line them up on an open place on the floor. No tampering with the other team's order. Whoever wins gets to brag about it afterwards. Ready?

(Simultaneously flip the cards out. I know it’s going to get messy, but we’re going to refer back to it a lot, so go with it. Hopefully they won’t break anything. Congratulate the winner and attempt to settle them down for the last chunk of the lesson.)

The Bible: It’s Organization
Alright, I know what you’re thinking, what in the world does 52 card pick up have to do with the Bible. But the third thing we need to talk about is how the Bible came to be organized. If David wrote a thousand years before Peter, how did their books get put in the same group? How did they decide to arrange them? Who did the deciding? You probably have a lot of other questions, too. If we don’t answer them, feel free to ask.

The best way to get down to it is to answer 3 questions: Who? When? How?

1. Who
• Who organized the cards you guys picked up? (They did.)

In the same way, the men who gathered the Holy Writings also assembled them in the Bible. First it was Jewish leaders who sought to collect the books of the Old Testament. Later, Christians gathered books of the New Testament. Often, they were already circulating among society. They did not just randomly pick them; they chose them because the Holy stories were already used as teaching tools for believers.

The 66 writings were scattered all over the place, on three continents, over a span of 1,500 years or so.

• Does the fact that men gathered separate books and organized them into our present Bible bother you? Why/why not?

2. When
The Old Testament was certainly compiled as such by the second century BC or so. We know that the ancient writings were widely used bu Jesus' times because he quotes from the Psalms and other prophetic writings. Jesus reads Isaiah in His hometown synagogue at one point during His ministry. For sure, they were formally accepted by 90 AD during the council of Jamnia, which was essentially a conference in which a bunch of religious leaders gathered and more or less recognized that the books we now have in our Old Testament were the ones used by the early Church—similar to how you realized that hearts go with hearts and spades with spades.

The New Testament, recording events that took place perhaps as late as 80-90 AD, was formed in the same way—over time. The early church began using writings such as the Gospels and letters from Paul as they were written. Some of the writings were meant to be passed around and shared so people could benefit from them.

Around 120-150 AD, and even before then, false teachers starting running around writing stuff that was wrong and putting a fake name on it. You would recognize some of these, like the Gospel of Judas, from the DaVinci Code and all the controversy surrounding it.

Because of the false writings, church leaders became convinced they needed to compile a list of writings that were true and valid and combine them, much like what had happened with the Old Testament.

Many people had ideas of what should be accepted, and many suggested lists that excluded the false teachings. It’s hard to nail down, but at the Council of Carthage in Africa in 397 AD, the 27 New Testament books were declared as the only acceptable Scriptures in Christianity.

That's a lot of history and a lot to take in. A simple rhyme can help you remember these dates and facts:

We had the OT by 90 AD and the NT was done by 397 (you have to pronounce 397 as three-nine-ty-sev-UHN to make it rhyme, but hey, close enough.)

Remember that the books were around and used way before that, but only officially entered in the Bible by this time, at the latest.

• Does any of this surprise you? Have you ever thought about the ages of the writtings that went into the Bible?

3. How
• How did you arrange the cards when you picked them up? (By number, by suit)

In the same way as you arranged your deck of cards, the Bible was arranged. Often, it was by the time it was written. This is particularly true in the Old Testament. Genesis, the first book, happened first, and Malachi, the last book, happened much later. There are some exceptions to this, based on other considerations, but, in general, that's true for the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, more weight was given to the type of writing instead of the date. Just like the cards have different suits, or styles, so do writings. In the New Testament, there are 4 Gospels; those come first. Paul’s writings are grouped together in one batch, etc.

Both were considerations for both Testaments, but in general the OT puts more weight on timing and the NT considers style more important. But we had you arrange your cards according to suit and order, which both the OT and NT consider as well.

For example, the first 5 books of the Bible are books of Law, and are listed in the order which they occur. Job, though, occurred probably during the time of Abraham, whose story is told in Genesis. But since Job is a book of poetry, not Law, it’s listed with other poetic books (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon). Make sense?

(At this point, questions could easily be flying all over the place. Again, field them as you’re able, and don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. You can always get back to them later, and we’ll revisit these organizations in more detail as we go through the study.)

MAKING IT REAL (10 minutes)

We’ve discussed a lot today. And you might have a lot of questions. In a way, we designed it this way on purpose. We want to overwhelm you with the information available about the Bible so that as we go through this study, you know that there are things you should know that you don’t yet about the Scriptures.

Again, by the end, when we retake the quiz, you’ll know it much better. That's all we're trying to accomplish.

1. Why do you think it’s important that we know this stuff?
2. What is one thing you learned today/tonight that you didn’t know before?

I hope you guys get excited about exploring the Bible deeper. For more information and facts about the Bible, you can visit the following website.

CLOSING PRAYER (2 minutes)

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