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What is the Bible?

txt-bibledetails-rcThe Bible isn’t a book. It is a collection of books–seventy-three in all: forty-six in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New Testament. Hence the name Biblia in Greek, which means “the books” or “library.” It is important to note that most Protestant Bibles contain only sixty-six books. It was during the Reformation that non-Catholic Christians removed the following books: Tobit, Judith, Maccabees 1 and 2, Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch.

It is important to note that for more than fifteen hundred years all Christians were Catholic, and they all accepted these books as part of the Bible. It is also interesting to note that the great majority of non-Catholic Christians have no idea that there are books missing from their Bible.

The Old Testament was written and compiled between the twelfth century and the second century BC. It is made up of forty-six books, and is divided into three categories: the Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the Writings.

The Pentateuch, which is also known as the Law, Torah, or the Five Books of Moses, consists of the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. This was the embryo of the Bible. The section known as the Prophets includes all the major and minor prophets of the Old Testament. And finally, the Writings section includes historical documents.

The New Testament was written between AD 45 and AD 150 and includes twenty-seven books. It is made up of four narratives of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Gospels; a narrative of the apostles’ ministries in the early Church, Acts of the Apostles; twenty-one early letters consisting of Christian counsel, instruction and encouragement, the Epistles; and Revelation, a book of prophecy.

It is perhaps needless to say that the Bible was not originally written in English. The prominent original language of the Old Testament was Hebrew; Greek was the language of the New Testament. What we have today is a translation into English from the original languages of the prophets, apostles, and evangelists.

In every case, it is important for us to realize that the cultures, countries, and times were very different that what we experience today. Some things can mean one thing in one culture and something quite different in another culture.

It is also critically important that we remember that the Bible, as we have it now, was not printed at all until almost fifteen hundred years after the birth of Jesus Christ. It is easy to forget in our modern world, where we can print and publish works from home computers and download them to digital devices, that not all eras have enjoyed the luxury and convenience of the printing press.

Today our non-Catholic brothers and sisters place an enormous emphasis on reading and studying the Bible. And while I am in favor of both, it is critical that we do not lose sight of the fact that hundreds of millions of people came to know Christ without ever owning or studying the Bible.

Copyright © 2010 Beacon Publishing. Used with permission.

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