3. Structure of the Bible – many books, one book
The word “Bible” is the Latin word for “books”. The Bible is not a single book but a library of 66 books written over a period of 2000 years by 40 different authors. Although the authors were not aware that they were writing Scripture, their writings were recognised by the great spiritual leaders of the times as divinely inspired records of their history and God’s revelation of Himself to them through His dealings with them.
Over the centuries the ancient rabbis collected these writings and compiled them into first the Old Testament and then the New Testament until we have the Bible in one book as it is today. This did not happen overnight. It came about over a process of time and through the discussion and agreement of many leaders.
There were many books that were not recognised as inspired and they were rejected as Scripture. This collection of books is called the Apocrypha – they have been included in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Bibles and cover the history mainly of the Inter-Testamental Period, i.e. the 400 years between Malachi and Matthew.
The early church Fathers also left many writings but these were also not included in the canon of Scripture because they did not arise from direct contact with Jesus and were not generally accepted as inspired.
WHAT IS THE BIBLE ABOUT?
The Bible is divided into two parts, called Old and New Testaments. The word “testament” means “promise” – hence the Bible is about the “Old Promise” and the “New Promise”.
We have to ask the questions, “Who made the promise and what is the promise about?”
When the first two people made their choice to doubt God and trust the devil, they turned the world upside-down and created a mess. God made a promise that He would send someone- called the “Messiah” – to turn the world right-side up and fix the mess. The Old Testament tells the story of the preparation He made for that person to come.
The New Testament completes the story by explaining how Messiah came, who He was and what He did to fix what was broken because of the first man’s foolish choice. It also explains what happened after He left and how to apply what He did to our lives so that we can be a part of God’s story.
- Two Major Parts
3.1.1. Old Testament (39 books) –
Covers the creation of the world, the corruption of man and his descent into total depravity, the development of the nations and the history of the Jews from Abraham to their return from exile. It is the story of God’s covenant with Abraham and how it was lived out by the Jews.
It’s about God’s choice of a man, Abraham, through whom He built a nation who would do life His way to show the world what He is like.
The Old Testament prepares for the New Testament. If we discard or ignore the Old Testament, the New Testament will make no sense. The history and culture of Israel form the foundation of our understanding of the nature of sin, the need for salvation and the work of Jesus the Messiah – God’s covenant with Abraham fulfilled in Jesus and bringing salvation to the whole world.
Our understanding of God as Creator, man as created in the image of God, the nature of sin and how sin entered the world and the need for an atoning sacrifice to deal with the guilt and penalty of sin all arise from God’s dealings with Israel. Christianity cannot stand alone outside of the Jewish nation. It is not something new but God’s plan begun with the nation of Israel and completed in Jesus, the promised offspring of Abraham.
3.1.2. New Testament (27 books) – covers the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the coming of the Holy Spirit and the spread of the church throughout the Roman world.
The Gospels are records of the life, teaching, works, death and resurrection of Jesus written by eyewitnesses or associates of eyewitnesses, each from a specific perspective and for a specific purpose.
The Book of Acts describes the birth of the New Testament church – the Bride of Christ – and its growth and development from a small off- shoot of Judaism starting in Jerusalem to a movement that spread throughout the Roman Empire. Acts focuses mainly on the work of Peter and Paul.
The letters are communications between the apostles – Peter, John, Paul and Jesus’ brothers, James and Jude – and churches or individuals explaining Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, correcting false teaching, behavioural problems and teaching new believers how to live the Christian life.
The last book of the Bible, Revelation, was written to encourage those who were suffering severe persecution under Roman rulers. John wrote from exile on the island of Patmos to encourage believers to stay with God because He has it all under control and wins in the end.
3.2.1. Old Testament
Torah Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (Teachings)
History Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles. Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther.
Writings (Written in poetry) Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
Prophecy (Written mostly in poetry) Major prophets – Isaiah,
Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel.
Minor prophets – Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
3.2.2. New Testament
Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
Letters Pauline: Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians. Ephesians, Philippians, 1&2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon,
General: Hebrews, James, 1&2 Peter, 1, 2 &3 John, Jude.
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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