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
the 5 books of the Law or the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
the 12 historical books from Joshua to Esther
the 5 poetical books from Job to Song of Solomon
the 17 Prophets from Isaiah to Malachi
The New Testament comprises 27 documents, also in 4 main groups, namely
the 4 Gospels [or Evangels] of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
the single History of the early church called the Acts of the Apostles
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
the final book, the Revelation or Apocalypse