The Bible

The Bible is the holy book of the Christian faith. It is also a book whose existence can only be explained by divine intervention. Why ? Because it is a compilation of 66 separate documents written by some 39 different human authors over several centuries – and yet it has one central theme:
So, let’s consider 3 key features of a document which claims to explain God:
The Scriptures we have now as the Old Testament were written over several centuries before Christ. They were used regularly during those centuries by the Jews. Those regarded as authoritative were accepted as such at different times [eg the Law c. 444 BC]. By the time of the Jewish council of  Jamnia c. 96 AD, the 39 books we call  the Old Testament were formally and finally recognised  as the definitive set of Jewish Scriptures, having been treated as such for centuries already.
A Greek version of those Scriptures  – called the Septuagint or LXX –  had existed since the 3rd century before Christ. The Septuagint is very important because the Old Testament text quoted from in the later New Testament documents is invariably the Greek Septuagint, not the original Hebrew documents.
The 27 documents of the later New Testament also emerged over a considerable time of accepted usage, being recognised generally by believers during centuries before being formally and finally recognised as the authoritative and reliable Word of God to his people.
The New Testament scriptures were written after Christs life by eye witnesses and specially gifted men like the apostle Paul. These scriptures were written in the first century and used over the following centuries, being formally recognised by the end of the 4th century. The same list which we have today is mentioned by Athanasius in the year 367 AD.  Synods in 393 and 397 AD also recognised that list as a definitive set of documents for the New Testament.
The entire Bible of 66 books therefore comprises documents established and recognised as reliable by many believers over many centuries.
That they come together as one library or collection ie biblia with one theme can only be the work of divine providence in the affairs of man.
Indeed the words, Thus saith the Lord, occur many, many times in the Bible.
These 66 ‘books’ or documents are the “Canon” of Christian literature, ie the definitive and complete set of books which alone are accepted as authoritative because expressly given by God.
The Old Testament comprises 39 books which form 4 main groupings in the Christian Bible.
They are, in the order in which they are listed in the Bible
  1. the 5 books of the Law or the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
  2. the 12 historical books from Joshua to Esther
  3. the 5 poetical books from Job to Song of Solomon
  4. the 17 Prophets from Isaiah to Malachi
The New Testament comprises 27 documents, also in 4 main groups, namely
  1. the 4 Gospels [or Evangels]  of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  2. the single History of the early church called the Acts of the Apostles
  3. the 21 Epistles [the Greek word for ‘letter’], comprising 14 letters written by the apostle Paul [ie Romans to Hebrews] and 7 written by James, Peter, John and Jude
  4. the final book, the Revelation or Apocalypse
There is also a set of books known as the ‘Apocrypha’ which the protestant tradition does not recognise as belonging to the canon of Christian literature.
While the books of the Bible are generally chronologically ordered, care needs to be taken. The Prophets spoke at various times during the history of the Jews as recorded in the earlier listed Historical books.
It should also be noted that although certain books are called  Historical, there is considerable historical content in other books. The entire Bible is, of course, a historical document.
When it comes to understanding the Bible, the Christian view is that the Old Testament must always be viewed from the perspective of the New Testament documents. The precise and careful Luke records in the final chapter of his Gospel account that Jesus stated:
These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses, and in the prophets, and the psalms concerning me.
Then opened he their understanding that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them,
Thus it is written and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem, and ye are witnesses of these things.
In the final analysis, the Bible can only be correctly understood and properly appreciated when the reader realises that it is a historical record of a living faith in a living, risen Saviour called Jesus Christ.
%d bloggers like this: