Contents The Basics The Old Testament The New Testament Using the Bible Interpreting the Bible Summary
The Basics The Bible is made up of two sections – the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is a collection of books – a bit like a library. There are 39 books in the Old Testament (54 books in the Catholic Old Testament). There are 27 books in the New Testament.
The Old Testament The Old Testament is about the Jews and contains their beliefs about God and the religion, their history and their hopes for the future. It has several different types of books: –Law e.g. Exodus –History e.g. Judges –Prophecy – the major prophets e.g. Isaiah and the minor prophets e.g. Amos –The Writings e.g. Psalms
The Old Testament Christians believe that the Old Testament pointed towards the coming of the Messiah (anointed one) – Jesus. In Roman Catholic Bibles there are extra books called the Apocrypha.
The New Testament Christians believe the New Testament is a fulfilment of the hopes that are found in the Old Testament. There are four different types of books: –The Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that tell about the life of Jesus. ‘Gospel’ means ‘good news’. –One history book, Acts, which tells of the first Christians and the growth of the Church. –The Letters (or Epistles) which were written by St Paul and some other early Christians. They help Christians know how to live their lives. –Revelation, the last book of the Bible is a book of prophecy about the end of time.
Using the Bible Christians use the Bible in many different ways, for example: –To give inspiration, perhaps through praying using Bible passages, either alone or with a group. –To look for God’s help and to find out how we should live our lives, perhaps through Bible Studies. –In church services the sermon is usually based on Bible passages in some way. –The Bible helps Christians to feel part of the wider Christian community. –The Eucharist and the Lord’s Prayer are both found in the Bible.
Interpreting the Bible All Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God in some way. This is why for all Christians, the Bible has authority. 2 Timothy 3:16 ‘All Scripture is inspired by God.’ They hope to read the Bible and to hear (in some way) the voice of God within it.
Literalists Literalists believe that it is word for word the word of God and must be taken literally in all ways. –This means that the Bible cannot contain any mistakes. Everything in it is true. –In some way it was God that wrote the Bible, not humans. –If the Bible seems to contradict itself, there must be some reason for this. –If the Bible seems to contradict science, then scientists must be wrong. For example fundamentalists believe that the world was created in six days and that Adam and Eve were the first humans.
Fundamentalists Fundamentalists are very similar to literalists, but they believe that we can interpret the words a bit. –All the Bible was directly inspired by God and so cannot contain errors. –The Genesis story is correct, but the word for ‘day’ might mean ‘a period of time’.
Conservatives Conservatives believe that the Bible is inspired by God but written by human writers. –It is God’s message in human words. –Some of the personal beliefs and interests of the writers has come into their books. –The Bible is not a science book – there is no problem in believing in evolution and seeing the creation story in Genesis as poetic. –Conservatives look for truths in the message of the Bible. Some of these are that God created the world, spoke through the prophets, came to earth in Jesus, who died and rose from the dead and so on.
Liberals Liberals believe that the writers of the Bible were inspired like any good writer. –The Bible contains spiritual truths not literal truths. –The Bible can help people to come closer to God in some way because the writers are sharing their experiences of God in some way. –Many parts of the Bible are symbolic and poetic. –There is a big range of beliefs among liberals. –For example, some may believe all Jesus’ miracles are symbolic – others may believe that the healing ones happened, but things like the walking on water did not.
Summary The Bible is made up of the Old Testament and the New Testament: each has a variety of different types of book. The Bible is a central part of Christian worship. The Bible has authority for all Christians. Literalists believe the words of the Bible are to be taken literally. Fundamentalists believe the Bible cannot contain any errors. Conservatives believe the Bible is inspired but written by humans. Liberals believe the Bible needs to be interpreted in ways that are relevant to our personal lives.