The word Bible is actually a borrowed term from Latin (biblia) meaning “book.” For Christians, the Bible is the Book above and beyond all books. Jews and then Christians have long been called “the people of the Book,” highlighting the point that Judaism and Christianity both see the Book God has given as the most reliable guide to God’s direction for our lives. For Jews, this is restricted to the Old Testament; for Christians, both the Old and New Testaments from the complete Book that God authored.


Almost everywhere in the Old Testament where we encounter the word book we should be thinking scroll: a long, sewn-together series of written sheets of leather or parchment-thick, primitive paper made from reeds. More specifically, book usually refers to the scrolls of Scripture, When Joshua is told by God, “Never stop reciting these teachings. You must think about them night and day so that you will faithfully do everything written in them. Only then will you prosper and succeed” (Josh 1:8), the term teachings is literally book and refers to Moses’ inspired collection-the Pentateuch or first five books of the Bible. In this sense, book is a symbol for all of the teachings of God by which Christians live.


In Psalm 139 we read, “Every day of my life was recorded in your book before one of them had taken place” (v 16). This idea of a book symbolizes God’s record of events and lives. We find this concept in passages like Exodus 32:32, where being blotted out of the book is an image for death: “But will you forgive their sin? If not, please wipe me out of the book you have written.”

Building on this imagery, the Book of Life mentioned in Daniel 12:1 and then in Revelation symbolizes God’s judgment of individual people. Their eternal fate depends on whether their names have been recorded in the book:

I saw a large, white throne and the one who was sitting on it. The earth and the sky fled from his presence, but no place was found for them. I saw the dead, both important and unimportant people, standing in front of the throne. Books were opened, including the Book of Life. The dead were judged on the basis of what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead. Death and hell gave up their dead. People were judged based on what they had done. Death and hell were thrown into the fiery lake. (The fiery lake is the second death.) Those whose names were not found in the Book of life were thrown into the fiery lake (Rev 20:11-15)


This idea of the book as a symbol of judgment comes up in the prophet Zechariah’s vision (Zech 5:1-2) of a flying scroll. In this sealed scroll is written God’s judgment. This symbol of God’s judgments sealed in a scroll is also a central picture in Revelation, and here we learn that only one Person is worthy to open it and reveal its contents. The scroll is introduced in chapter 5: “I saw a scroll in the right hand of the one who sits on the throne. It had writing both one the inside and on the outside. It was sealed with seven seals. I saw a powerful angel calling out in a loud voice, ‘Who deserves to open the scroll and break the seal on it?'” (Rev 5:1-2).

Access to the scroll that unfolds history depends on the Lamb, Jesus, who alone is qualified:

When the lamb had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 leaders bowed in front of him. Each held a harp and a gold bowl full of incense, the prayers of God’s holy people. Then they sang a new song.


“You deserve to take the scroll and open the seals on it, because you were slaughtered. You bought people wit your blood to be God’s own. They are from every tribe, language, people, and nation. You made them a kingdom and priests for our God. They will rule as kings on the earth.” (Rev 5:8-10)


God’s book is a symbol of truth as well. The psalmist tell us that God desires truth in our inmost being (Ps 51:6), and elsewhere we are told to mediate or chew on God’s Word (Josh, 1:8). Sometimes this was done by literally eating the book. Ezekiel received a scroll from God and was required to eat it as a symbol of his acceptance of God’s call: “He said to me, ‘Son of man, eat this scroll I’m giving you, and fill your stomach with it.’ So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth” (3:3). In Revelation 10, John also encountered as small scroll that revealed information he was forbidden from telling others. He was commanded to eat the scroll: “Take it and eat it. It will be bitter in stomach, but it will be as sweet as hone in your mouth” (Rev 10:9). Knowing the trust can be “sweetness,” but sometimes the truth and what it reveals to us turns our stomachs

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