The Bible is the collection of documents acknowledged by Christians to be inspired by God. The Bible contains 66 books (Catholic and Orthodox contain 73) and is divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament. It tells of the story of the creation of the universe and man by God, the rebellion of man against God and his rescue plan for humanity through his Son, Jesus Christ.
The word Bible comes from the Greek word for book, biblion.
The Old Testament tells the story of ancient Israel and God's intervention in their history. There are three main sections that make up the Old Testament - The Books of the Law, History and Poetry, and the Books of the Prophets. The books of the Law tell the very early story of the history of Israel and lay out the covenant or agreement between God and his people with their laws for living. The books of history and poetry continue the story of the people of Israel starting with their invasion into Canaan and ending with their kingdom splitting into two and being conquered and exiled. The books of the prophets describe some of the visions and words of the prophets who continually called the people to account for their abandonment of God.
The New Testament tells the story of Jesus and the early church. The New Testament contains different categories as well including the Gospels which describe the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus, and the book of Acts which tells the story of the formation of the early church. The New Testament also contains a number of letters or epistles to various early Christian communities. It finishes with the Book of Revelation which is apocalyptic prophecy that paints a picture of the final victory of Christ, calling on his followers to pesevere despite persecution.
Extra-Biblical texts - Apocrypha
A number of books are not considered to be part of the Bible by Protestant Christians, but are by other denominations - these books are referred to as apocryphal literature.
Formation of the Bible / Biblical Canon
Though the Early Church used the Old Testament, the apostles did not otherwise leave a defined set of new scriptures; instead the New Testament developed over time. By the fourth century the books included by today's Protestants in the Bible were roughly agreed upon.
The original languages of the various books of the Bible were Hebrew (for Old Testament books) and Koine Greek (for New Testament books). A small amount of the book of Daniel was originally written in Aramaic.
In the first few centuries after Christ the Bible was translated into a few other ancient languages (for example Latin) but it wasn't until the Protestant Reformation that widespread translation of the Bible into many languages (such as German and English) really began to occur.
In recent years there has been lots of activity in translating the Bible into many of the minor languages of the world.
Interpretation of the Bible is a complex issue. How a person interprets is dependant partly upon that person's presuppositions about the Bible. If a person comes to the Bible with the view that it is simply an ancient text full of mythology then his interpretation will be vastly different from someone who views the Bible as God's revelation.
Biblical Hermeneutics is the technical term for the study of interpreting and understanding the Bible and applying it to today's context. It is closely related to exegesis which is the study of understanding what the Biblical author's meant and what their audience would have understood.
Some Christians hold a literalistic or inerrant view of the Bible. Biblical inerrancy is the view that the Bible, as the inspired Word of God, is without error and is accurate in all aspects, including in aspects of history and science. Biblical infallibility on the other hand is the view that the Bible is free from errors on issues of faith and practice, but minor contradictions in history or science can be overlooked as insignificant to its spiritual purpose.
Protestant Christians generally hold to Sola Scriptura which is the teaching that the Bible is the final authority on matters of faith and that it alone gives sufficient information for all matters of faith. This stands in contrast to Orthodox and Catholic Christianity which accept tradition as playing an equally important role in matters of faith.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Charles H. Spurgeon
Ralph Waldo Emerson
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