the Bible

     The Bible is the foundation for our faith. As Christians, we believe it is the inspired and infallible Word of God. Necessarily, many other arguments for our faith come from and/or refer to the Bible.

      This necessitates a thorough knowledge of Scripture for any serious student. It is assumed that students in this class have a working knowledge of the Bible, including the history it contains and its moral and ethical teachings. It is like any other literary debate-it's hard to discuss the topic if you haven't read the book. In many cases, those arguing against the authority of Scripture know the subject well, thus a thorough knowledge is imperative in order for the defense of Scripture to even be accepted into the arena for debate.

      Once Scripture is introduced in defense of any idea or ethic, the question inevitably arises: "Why should the word of the Bible be accepted as authoritative?"

      To answer this question effectively, we must not only know what the Bible contains, but who wrote it, and where, and when, and why. Was it accurate when it was written? Who translated it? Are the translations accurate? Is it, as it claims, inspired? What proof do we have?

      The articles in the site investigate the origins of Scripture and provide a ready defense for the Bible as the accurate, inspired Word of God.

"The Bible is not such a book a man would write if he could, or could write if he would."

Lewis S. Chafer, founder and former president of

Dallas Theological Seminary

"I soon realized that a student of English literature who does not know the Bible does not understand a good deal of what is going on in what he reads: The most conscientious student will be continually misconstruing the implications, even the meaning."

Northrop Frye, literary critic

"A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education."

Theodore Roosevelt

      If for no other reason, any intelligent person would surely read the one book that has drawn more attention than any other in the world. It has been banned time and again throughout history, and is still banned in many places today. Always, there have been those willing to give their lives to put the Bible in the hands of people who have no access to God's word. Martyrs have been burned at the stake, thrown to wild beasts, and suffered many other gruesome deaths simply for possessing, reading, or translating the Scriptures. What makes this book so special?

(Unless otherwise noted, all Biblical quotations in this website are taken from the New International Version.)

What's in the Bible?

      The Bible consists of 66 books written over a period of about 1,500 years. It includes true stories, parables, songs, poetry, laws, rules, sermons, letters, history, and predictions about the future. The Bible is unique among books both ancient and modern in its continuity, circulation, translation, survival, teachings, influence on literature, and influence on civilization.

The Old Testament

        Genesis

            Exodus

            Leviticus

            Numbers

            Deuteronomy

      The Pentateuch, or what the Jews call the Torah (book of the Law), consists of the first five books of the Bible, written almost entirely by Moses. They contain the history of the Jewish people from creation to Abraham and through the death of Moses. They include all the laws God's people are to observe.

Joshua

            Judges

            Ruth

            1, 2 Samuel

            1, 2 Kings

            1, 2 Chronicles

            Ezra

            Nehemiah

            Esther

      These books contain the history of the Jewish people from Joshua through the period of the judges and into the reign of kings, then follow the Jews into exile under the Babylonian Empire.

        Job

            Psalms

            Proverbs

            Ecclesiastes

            Song of Solomon

      These books contain wisdom literature and poetry. Much of the text is credited to King David and his son, King Solomon. It includes poetry, songs, and wise sayings.

Isaiah

            Jeremiah

            Lamentations

            Ezekiel

            Daniel

            Hosea

            Joel

            Amos

            Obadiah

            Jonah

            Micah

            Nahum

            Habakkuk

            Zephaniah

            Haggai

            Zecchariah

            Malachi

      These books contain the messages presented by God's prophets. They include warnings, encouragement, and predictions. Though they appear at the end of the Old Testament, chronologically, the prophets overlap the period covered by the histories.

The New Testament

Matthew

            Mark

            Luke

            John

            Acts

      These five books are the histories of the New Testament. The four gospels record eyewitness accounts of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. Acts tells the story of how the church grew after Christ's ascension.

Romans

            1, 2 Corinthians

            Galatians

            Ephesians

            Philemon

            Colossians

            1, 2 Thessalonians

            1, 2 Timothy

            Titus

            Philemon

            Hebrews

            James

            1, 2 Peter

            1, 2, 3 John

            Jude

      These books are all letters of Christian leaders (thirteen are by Paul) containing teaching, encouragement, and criticism for early Christians and the early church.

        Revelation

      Revelation contains prophesy and visions of the future.

Languages of the Bible

Hebrew - Most of Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, which was the language of Abraham and the Israelites.

Aramaic - Parts of Daniel and Ezra, as well as some lines from New Testament, were written in Aramaic, which is closely related to Hebrew. Aramaic was the common language of Near East before Greek influence and the official language of Persian Empire. By New Testament times, it was the ordinary language of Palestine. Jesus would have spoken primarily Aramaic.

Greek - Most of the New Testament was written in common Greek, which was widely used in the Eastern part of the Roman empire. It was the international language spoken at the time of Christ, much as English has become the international language of modern times.

Bible Authors

      In many cases, authorship of particular books is unknown or questionable, especially in the case of Old Testament books. However, a list of known and traditional authors appears below. In cases where authorship is questioned, that fact is noted. Authors whose authorship is purely speculative are not included in this list.

Old Testament Authors

Moses - Moses is credited with authorship of the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The end of Deuteronomy, which records Moses death, would have been added by a later editor (some traditions say by Moses' successor, Joshua). The books were most likely completed during the Israelites' wonderings in the desert, around 1446-1406 BC.

Joshua - Many traditions say that Joshua wrote his own book. Others say that Samuel wrote it. in the early period of the kings. Joshua succeeded Moses as leader of the Israelites, taking command as they entered and conquered the promised land around 1400 BC.

Samuel - Samuel's authorship of Judges is not certain, but it is probable that he helped gather information both on the period of the judges and of Israel's early kings. Samuel was born at the end of Israel's rule under the judges (circa 1050 BC) and anointed Israel's first king (Saul), as well as the second (David).

Ezra - According to Jewish tradition, Ezra wrote Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Ezra was a Jewish priest and teacher of the Law who led a return of exiles to Israel to reestablish the temple and worship sometime around 450 BC.

David - David, King of Judah and Israel, authored many of the Psalms.

Solomon - Solomon, a son of David, appointed king of Judah by his father, is the traditional author of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, as well as the Song of Songs, or Song of Solomon.

Isaiah - Isaiah began his ministry in 740 BC. He was a writer and prophet and was most influential under King Hezekiah. He wrote the book that bears his name.

Jeremiah - Jeremiah, with the assistance of his secretary Baruch, recorded the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a priest and prophet in Judah during the reign of Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah (640-586 BC). Jewish and Christian tradition also ascribe the book of Lamentations to Jeremiah.

Ezekiel - Author of the book that bears his name, Ezekiel was among the Jews exiled to Babylon in 597 BC. He was a priest and prophet during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel - Daniel was a prophet during the Babylonian exile and wrote his book around 530 BC.

Hosea - Hosea was a prophet to Israel during the mid-eighth century BC. It is not known for certain whether or not he wrote the book that bears his name.

Joel - Joel was a prophet who called on Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem to repent or face punishment from the Lord.

Amos - Amos, though from Judah, was sent to the northern kingdom of Israel to announce God's judgment. His prophesies are recorded in the book bearing his name.

Obadiah - Obadiah prophesied that Edom would be destroyed and Israel would be delivered through the Lord's hand.

Jonah - Tradition ascribes authorship of the book of Jonah to Jonah himself. Jonah was God's prophet sent to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh.

Micah - Micah prophesied between 750 and 686 BC during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah in Judah.

Nahum - Nahum prophesied the fall of Nineveh, which was fulfilled in 612 BC.

Habakkuk - Habakkuk lived in Judah circa 640-600 BC and prophesied the attack of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The attack occurred in 597 BC.

Zephaniah - Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah (640-609 BC). He announced to Judah God's approaching judgment.

Haggai - Haggai was a prophet who encouraged the returned exiles to rebuild the temple. Cyrus of Persia had let the Jews return to Jerusalem in 538 BC and they began the temple, but were forced to stop building until Darius became king in 522. Haggai encouraged the Jews to rebuild, and the temple was completed in 516.

Zechariah - Like Haggai, Zechariah encouraged rebuilding of the temple. A prophet and a priest, he continued his ministry long after Haggai.

Malachi - Most likely a contemporary of Nehemiah (mid 400s BC), Malachi warns his people to observe the laws of Moses and return to the Godly ways of their forefathers.

New Testament Authors

Matthew - Formerly a tax collector, Matthew was one of the twelve apostles. He wrote his gospel around the middle of the first century.

Mark - John Mark, a close associate of the apostle Peter, recorded Peter's account of the gospel.

Luke - Luke, a physician by profession and a frequent companion of Paul, wrote both Luke and Acts (originally as one book).

John - The apostle John outlived all the other apostles, and his gospel is said to have been penned the latest, sometime between AD 70 and 100. He also wrote the letters of John (1, 2, and 3) and Revelation. He was a first cousin of Jesus, a fisherman, and "the disciple whom Jesus loved."

Paul - Paul, a Jew who persecuted Christians until he encountered the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, wrote letters to the developing churches. The books he authored are those letters, and are named for the church to which they were sent: Romans, Corinthians (1 and 2), Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians (1 and 2). Also included are letters to individuals - Timothy (1 and 2), Titus, and Philemon. Many scholars and traditions also hold that Paul authored the letter to the Hebrews.

James - The brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem council, James did not believe in Jesus at first, but later became very prominent in the church. He is credited with the book of James. He was martyred in AD 62.

Peter - The apostle Peter wrote both 1 and 2 Peter. Peter was martyred during Emperor Nero's reign, circa AD 68.

Jude - Jude, an abbreviated form of Judas, could either be Judas the apostle (not Judas Iscariot) or Judas the brother of Jesus. He describes himself as the "brother of James," so the latter may be more likely.

The Jewish and Christian Canon

      The Bible is more than a single book. It is a library, a collection of literature written by different authors in different contexts over a span of centuries. Some books originated orally and were later written down; others, such as the letters of Paul, were written first.

      By the time of Jesus, many scrolls of ancient writings were circulating. Some of these were accepted as Scripture. Most important was the Torah, the first five books of the Bible.

      The most authoritative writings became part of the Jewish canon. A canon is a list of books considered authoritative as Scripture by a particular religious community. The word "canon" comes from the Greek word kanon (a rod used to measure). A biblical canon is a list of books considered authoritative as Scripture by a particular religious community. It is the standard against which all else is measured.

The Tanakh

      The Jewish canon is called the TaNaKh, an acronym for the three parts of the their Bible:

       Torah (tor-AH) - The Law, also called the Pentateuch (Greek for "five books")

             Nebiim ( neh-veh-EEM) - The Prophets

             Ketubim (keh-tu-VEEM) - The Writings

      The official canonization of of the Jewish Bible (Christian Old Testament) happened after the crucifixion of Jesus and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by Rome in AD 70. Before AD 70, Judaism was centered on the temple and its rituals; after the temple was gone, a new central focus had to be found - the TaNaKh. The Jewish Council of Jamnia in AD 90 confirmed what most Jews already recognized as Scripture - the books Christians call the Old Testament.

      The Jewish Bible and the Protestant Old Testament contain the same books but they are arranged in a different order. Additionally, books that Protestant Christians divide into two parts (Kings, Chronicles, Samuel, and Ezra-Nehemiah) are only one book in the Hebrew Bible.

What's not in the Bible

      Some canons are smaller than the Protestant Bible; others are larger. The smallest Bible is claimed by the Samaritans, who recognize only the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch). The largest Bible is that of the Ethiopian Orthodox church, which has 81 books.

      Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Greek Orthodox Christians agree on the same 27 books for the New Testament; however some smaller groups of Christians do not. The Nestorian, or Syrian church, recognizes only 22 books, excluding 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude and Revelation.

      On the other hand, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church includes the same 27 books in its "narrower" canon but adds eight books to its "broader" canon: four sections of church order from a compilation called Sinodos, two sections from the Ethiopic Books of Covenant, Ethiopic Clement, and Ethiopic Didascalia.

      In terms of the Old Testament, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, and other Eastern Christians claim more "inside books."

      The books of the "second canon" are considered "inside" by Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Ethiopic Christians; the latter group adds even more books beyond the deuterocanonicals (deutero = second).

      Protestants consider the same books "outside" however they give the Apocrypha high status, considering them valuable for instruction.

      "Outside books" are typically sacred writings that are non considered part of the canon, or official Bible. "Inside books" are part of the canon. Please note: Roman Catholics use the term "Apocrypha" differently than Protestants.

* Catholics consider all of the ancient Jewish and Christian "outside books" the Apocrypha. Outside books are typically non-canonical sacred writings. The Protestant Apocrypha is referred to by Catholics as the "second canon," or "deuterocanonical books."

* Protestants call the Jewish "outside books," except the Old Testament Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha (or "false writings"); they call the Christian "outside books" the New Testament Apocrypha.

      Note: In the Latin Vulgate, Ezra-Nehemiah are called 1 and 2 Esdras; thus books known as 1 and 2 Esdras in other writings become 3 and 4 Esdras in the Vulgate. Some books were combined in other canons, making the number of canonical books vary slightly. For example, I and 2 Kings and I and 2 Chronicles are combined in some manuscripts, including the Hebrew Bible.

The Apocrypha

      The word "Apocrypha" means "hidden" and is generally used by Protestants to describe the fourteen to fifteen books of doubtful authenticity and authority not found in Hebrew Bible, but which were included with other Old Testament books in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint and completed around 250 BC. The Roman Catholic Church did not officially declare these books Holy Scripture until 1545-1563 at the Council of Trent, in response to the Protestant Reformation.

      According to Merrill Unger (The New Unger's Bible Dictionary), the books of the Apocrypha were ruled out of the canon because:

1) They abound in historical and geographical inaccuracies and anachronisms

2) They teach doctrines that are false and foster practices that are at variance with inspired Scripture.

3) They resort to literary types and display an artificiality of subject matter and styling out of keeping with inspired Scripture.

4) They lack the distinctive elements that give genuine Scripture its divine character, such as prophetic power and poetic and religions feeling.

      In AD 90, the Jewish Synod of Jamnia demonstrated a reliance on the Old Testament scriptures which did not include the Apocrypha. They were and still are considered worthwhile reading, but not infallible scripture.

Contents of the Apocrypha (Protestant)

1. Books and additions to Esther in the Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Slavonic Bibles

        Tobit

            Judith

            Additions to the Book of Esther

            Wisdom of Solomon

            Ecclesiasticus (or the Wisdom of Jesus, Son or Sirach)

            Baruch

            The Letter of Jeremiah (Baruch ch. 6)

            The Additions to the Greek Book of Daniel:

            The Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Jews

            Susanna

            Bel and the Dragon

            1 Maccabees

            2 Maccabees

      Roman Catholics call these extra books Deuterocanonical (Second Canon) and consider them "inside books." Protestants call these books the Old Testament Apocrypha and consider them "outside books."

2. Books and additions to Esther in the Greek Orthodox, and Slavonic Bibles, not Roman Catholic

        1 Esdras (called 2 Esdras in Slavonic, 3 Esdras in Appendix to Vulgate)

            Prayer of Manasseh (in Appendix to Vulgate)

            Psalm 151, following Psalm 150 in the Greek Orthodox Bible

            3 Maccabees

3. Books in the Slavonic Bible and Appendix to Vulgate

        2 Esdras (called 3 Esdras in Slavonic and 4 Esdras in the Appendix to Vulgate)

4. Books in Appendix to Greek Orthodox Bible

        4 Maccabees

   List based on The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha, New Revised Version, (1994)

Non-Canonical Writings

      Not all ancient Judeo-Christian texts are included in the Christian Bible. These ancient texts are called "outside books," "extrabiblical books," or "non-canonical books."

      The Christian canon emerged through a complex process. A tradition of use, authority within the communities, antiquity or apostolicity, and orthodoxy were factors in deciding which books were "in" and which were "out."

      There are many ancient texts that our outside the biblical canon. Many of these books are valuable for learning about early Christianity and the early church. As in our own day, some have excellent insights into the Scriptures; others may be heretical. Their contents must be carefully considered in the light of scripture, not regarded as infallible.

      Why are many of these books considered outside books? Texts became "outside" because:

Some ancient texts were considered authoritative but were dropped before the canon was closed.

Some well-regarded books were written too late and/or not believed to be apostolic, so they were not included. Nevertheless some outside books, such as the Didache, are as old or even older than some of the books in the New Testament.

            Other books were accepted by some Christian communities but not others. All the books in the canon were generally agreed upon by all the churches

            Many books were labeled "heretical" by Christian groups due to content contrary to acknowledged Scripture or to their circulation by heretical sects.

            Some books were not popular or known well enough by Greek-speaking Christians.

            Still other books never came close to making it "inside." In addition to heretical books that were excluded, other books were considered to be too outrageous, even though they were very popular. (These books also tended to be written much later than canonical books, and were therefore not apostolic.)

            A number of books were lost or destroyed.

            Some old writings were never considered as scripture but have historical value; they may be letters, or histories, or stories, or other kinds of records.

      The examples below were selected to illustrate reasons why different ancient texts were excluded from the canon.

Considered for the canon:

      The Letter of Clement I was written about AD 95-96 in the name of the church of Rome and was included in some early canonical lists. Clement I is the oldest Christian manuscript that is not in the canon. The letter is now categorized as part of a group of manuscripts called the "Apostolic Fathers," a group of manuscripts written while the apostles and other eye-witnesses to Jesus Christ's life were still alive.

      The Didache: The Lord's Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations. The Didache is a manual of moral instruction and church practice known for its eucharist service which does not use sacrificial language. The Didache was "lost" for several centuries until it was re-discovered in 1875 in the Jerusalem Monastery of the Holy Sepulchre at Constantinople. Like Clement 1, the Didache is now part of a group of manuscripts called the "Apostolic Fathers," the oldest writings of a larger grouping called "Church Fathers."

Written too late:

      First Apology by Justin Martyr: Justin Martyr is one of the most famous Christian apologists (defenders of the faith). He was born about AD 100 in Shechem, Samaria. He was converted to Christianity about 130. Justin's works are now part of a group of manuscripts called "Church Fathers." His first apology seeks to disprove Christians from various charges that had been made against them and to justify Christian religion

Labeled Heretical:

      The Gospel of Thomas is an example of a book which originated from a group that was labeled heretical. It is a Gnostic document. Of all of the Christian Gnostic manuscripts that were among those discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945, the Gospel of Thomas has the most similarities with the canonical books. It is a collection of 114 sayings (logia) of Jesus, many similar to those in the Bible and others considered by scholars to be genuine sayings of Christ. Thomas was probably written in Syria about AD 140.

Not Popular Enough:

      The Gospel of the Hebrews was a Jewish-Christian Gospel that still existed as late as the fourth century. Written originally in Aramaic instead of Greek like the canonical gospels, it was almost as long as Matthew. Jerome, who found a copy of the book in the library at Casearea, Palestine was very interested in the book and translated it into Greek and Latin. All of the versions of this gospel have been lost. We have only a few quotations from it in Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Jerome, and Cyril of Jerusalem. Biblical scholar Bruce Metzger believes that one of the reasons the gospel did not make the canon was because it was written in a Semitic language rather than the culturally dominant Greek language and because it was mostly used by Jewish Christians, some of whom became regarded as "Ebionite" heretics.

Outrageous:

      The Infancy Gospel of Thomas opens with a story about five-year-old Jesus making twelve sparrows out of mud. He claps his hands; they come to life and fly away. A nice story but in the next story, child Jesus curses a boy and makes him wither up. Later Jesus is angered when another child bumps into his shoulder and strikes him dead! This gospel, which may be as old as the second century, is a different book from the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas.

Lost:

      Many ancient manuscripts have been lost, including some books that are quoted in the Bible, such as the Book of Jasher. Other manuscripts, including the Didache mentioned above, were lost but found again.

Historical:

      The Church History of Eusebius: Except from the New Testament, this history is probably the single most essential document for the study of Church history before Constantine.

 

 

 
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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