The Bible is often called the "Book of books" due to its unique standing in history, religion, and literature. It is also, quite literally, a Book of books in that it encompasses sixty-six distinct works written by scores of authors over a span of centuries. The Bible contains remarkable examples of prose and poetry, of oratories and admonitions, of songs and celebrations, of narratives and genealogies, of insights and instructions, of prophesies and parables and prayers. Indeed, the Bible can be seen as an entire library rather than just a single book--a library that is both ancient and yet continually new.
My first serious engagement with Scripture began some dozen years ago while studying theology at Oxford University. I quickly felt overwhelmed by the complexity of the Bible and the breadth of biblical scholarship. But the transforming power of the Word of God, as expressed by various writers over the ages, made a deep impression on me. I started to collect some of these observations in a file that I labeled Words on the Word.
My Words on the Word file prompted me to reflect on dimensions of Scripture that go beyond the printed page. The Word can be understood as Christ--the expression of God--the eternal Logos instilling order in the universe. In another sense, the Word is also our appropriation of that truth by making it our own here and now. The file gradually became filled with clippings and scribblings and excerpts about the Word of God--quotations that tended to uplift, challenge, inspire, amuse, comfort, instruct, or otherwise provoke a reaction.
With time this file began to take shape as a book, expanding to cover a diverse range of themes and materials. And the publishers gave it a zingy title. From these origins, it is clear that my selection process has been more random than systematic. I did not set out to compile a volume on the most important thoughts of the most important people. Often a quote presents an especially well-turned phrase. Some crystallize a complex idea or hold a singular beauty of expression. Some are notable due to their history. Others are significant due to their source. I have included dates and designations, as indeed, it does matter whether the attribution is to a medieval mystic or a modern-day movie mogul.
All of us have experienced that slight "catching" to our breath upon beholding an especially splendid sight. This perhaps best explains my selection criteria: which ideas have caught my mind or heart or soul? My hope is that this "treasury of inspiring thoughts and classic quotations" about the Bible imparts the same feeling in the reader. And that it invites us to delve again into the Book of books, fathoming our own response.
"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart....Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we possess."--Hebrews 4:12, 14
"Never approach the words of the mysteries that are in the Scriptures without praying and asking for God’s help. Say, "Lord grant me to feel the power that is in them." Reckon prayer to be the key that opens the true meaning of Scriptures."---Isaac of Nineveh (seventh century), SYRIAN SPIRITUAL WRITER
"It is less important to ask a Christian what he or she believes about the Bible than to inquire what he or she does with it."--Lesslie Newbigin (1905–1998), BRITISH REFORMED THEOLOGIAN, MISSIONARY AND ECUMENICAL LEADER
"Walking in faith brings you to the Word of God. There you will be healed, cleansed, fed, nurtured, equipped, and matured."--Kay Arthur, AUTHOR AND FOUNDER OF PRECEPT MINISTRIES INTERNATIONAL
"The Bible without the Holy Spirit is a sundial by moonlight."--Dwight L. Moody (1837–1899), AMERICAN EVANGELIST AND FOUNDER OF BIBLE INSTITUTE
"The Bible, like other classics of religion and literature, does not disclose its meaning without interpretation.... . For Christians, however, the Bible is also sacred Scripture. It is a holy book whose history narrates the story of salvation and whose teaching imparts divine wisdom."--Robert L. Wilken, PROFESSOR OF CHRISTIAN HISTORY, HARPER’S BIBLE COMMENTARY, 1988
"The vigour of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts."--George Mueller (1805–1898), PRUSSIAN MEMBER OF THE OPEN BRETHREN
"The Bible has its own special and irreplaceable role in the history of redemption. We can refer any person to it with the assurance that if they will approach it openly, honestly, intelligently and persistently, God will meet them through its pages and speak peace to their souls."--Dallas Willard, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN AND SCHOLAR, HEARING GOD, 1999