The Bible (An Introduction)
This post focuses on some basic facts about the bible. It is meant to provide context for our series on ‘the Bible’.
‘Bible’ literally means book; while ‘scripture’ means writing. So the Bible can be said to be the book of writings. But not just writings; God-inspired writings.
There are 66 books in the Bible. These Books were agreed to by Christian clerics and scholars over the years. The process leading to the compilation of the Bible was thorough and intense.
The 39 books in the Old Testament are same as the books of the Jewish Torah. The ‘Old Testament’ contains history, law, prophecies, scriptures of wisdom and Psalms. The 27 books of the New Testament were also agreed to after many years. They contain the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and the epistles (letters) (Acts-Revelation).
The Old Testament was originally in Hebrew; and the New Testament in Greek. First translation to Kjv. William Tyndale was the first man to translate the Bible into English language. In 1611, the King James Version was produced, drawing significantly from Tyndale’s Bible. Other versions have been produced over the years with some variations in translations.
There are other books not included in the Bible, called the Apocrypha. Some churches, like the Catholic church, recognise this books. However, reasons for not including the books in the Bible include the inconsistency of the books, the lack of credibility of the authors or doubtful sources of some books. For the old testament, an essential reason for the exclusion of this extra-scriptural texts is the non-reference to them in the new testament. As noted elsewhere, 31 of the 39 books in the old testament were quoted from in the new testament. Again, the 39 books of the old testament have been carefully preserved by the jews, while most of the other extra-scriptural texts (to the old testament) came later in time, hence, of doubtful sources.
The compilation of the Bible is inspired as much as its writing. The compilation of the 27 books of the New Testament was also rigorous. After years of careful study, in 367 AD, Athanasius of Alexandria arrived at the list of 27 new testament books. This list was scrutinized and endorsed over the next decades by gatherings of church scholars and clerics including the synod in Hippo in 393 and the council in Carthage in 397. The Bible is as inspired in its compilation as it is in its writing. Considering the carefulness with which the 66 books have been compiled, it is unsafe to flippantly make recourse to other extra-scriptural books. To say the least, they are not necessary. (For more about the Apocrypha see http://www.bibletruths.net/Archives/BTARO12.htm)
The New Testament and Old Testament, as used as classifications of books in the Bible are only to demarcate between earlier texts before the birth of Jesus, and later texts capturing his life and the beginning of the church. However, biblically, these terms mean different things. While the dispensation of the law is described as the Old Testament (covenant) and the dispensation of grace is described as the New Testament (covenant) (Hebrews 8: 7 – 13; Romans 3 – 8). When referring to books, we must be careful not to consider the ‘old testament’ as inferior to the ‘new testament’. The Bible is one and the ‘old’ (later) books are just as important as the ‘new’ (more recent) books. If you take away the old, you will lose context and the meaning context brings; if you take away the new, you will lose relevance and the application that comes with it.
We must consider both the old and new as ‘The Scripture’! The scripture can not be broken (someone said the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed). (John 10:35). You can read the new with an old mindset (mindset of the law) and the Old with a new mindset (mindset of grace).
With the foregoing as background, we will now dig deeper into what, why and how to engage with the Bible in our subsequent posts.