What we refer to, as “the Bible” are the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments.
Those books are:
Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy
Joshua Judges Ruth 1 Samuel 2Samuel 1Kings 2Kings
1Chronicles 2Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Esther Job Psalms
Proverbs Ecclesiastes Song of Solomon Isaiah Jeremiah
Lamentations Ezekiel Daniel Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah
Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah
Matthew Mark Luke John Acts Romans 1 Corinthians
2Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians Colossians
1 Thessalonians 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy 2 Timothy
Titus Philemon Hebrews James 1 Peter 2 Peter
1 John 2 John 3 John Jude Revelation
The bible is divided into two sections known as The Old Testament and
The New Testament. (“Testament” is just another word for “Covenant”).
Thus, the Old Testament is the account and record of God and His people
during the Time of the Old Covenant (Adam and Eve to Abraham up until
approximately 400 years before the birth of Christ), and the New Testament
covers the life, death, and ressurection of Christ, through the ministry of the
The Old Testament
The Old Testament (“tanak”, formed by taking the first letter of each section;
“torah”, “nevii”, and “kethuvim”) was originally written in Hebrew,
with some sections in Aramaic. The “torah” or books of the law were written
by Moses around 1400 B.C. The law is made up of the first five books of the
Old Testament, Genesis through Deuteronomy. The books of the prophets
or “neviim, were finished around 430 B.C., with Malachi.
The “writings”, the poetry and wisdom literature known as the “kethuvim”,
round out the Old Testament.
In the New Testament, the Old Testament is often referred to by Jesus
and the apostles as “the law and the prophets”, “the writings”, or “as Moses
said” (the law).
(Matt 23:1-3; Luke 16:28-31; Luke 24:25, 44 for just a small sample)
The Old Testament as we have it has been recognized as complete and
authoritative from as early as 170 A.D. -as can be demonstrated by the
writings of Melito, Bishop of Sardis:
When I came to the east and reached the place where
these things were preached and done, and learnt
accurately the books of the Old Testament, I set
down the facts and sent them to you. These are
their names: five books of Moses, Genesis, Exodus,
Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son
of Nun, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kingdoms, two
books of Chronicles, the Psalms of David, the Proverbs
of Solomon and his Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, the Song of
Songs, Job, the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, the
Twelve in a single book, Daniel, Ezekiel, Ezra. [i]
The order that Christians follow in our Old Testament is the order of
the early Greek translation called the Septuagint (“LXX”), translated
about 250 B.C.
So what were the criteria for counting certain writings Scripture
and not others? In summary, the following were essentials:
· Anything revealed by God and recorded by Moses
· Books written by true Prophets (as defined by Deuteronomy 18)
· Writings that were consistent with the character of God
· Books received and used by the congregation of the people of Israel.
These sacred writings were carefully copied and preserved by Jewish scribes.
In 1947, fragments of every Old Testament book but Esther were found in
caves in Qumran dating as far back as the 3rd century B.C.
The New Testament
Originally written in Greek, with some Aramaic, the books of
the New Testament are:
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians,
2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians,
1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus,
Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter 1 John, 2 John, 3 John,
Why these books? F.F. Bruce puts it best when he writes:
What is particularly important to notice is that theThis is an important point to make and so bears repeating. The Church did not arbitrarily decide what was scripture and what was not. Rather, they tookthe collections of writings that they had and simply recognized what already
New Testament canon was not demarcated by the
arbitrary decree of any Church Council. When at last
a Church Council – the Synod of Hippo in AD 393 –
listed the 27 books of the New Testament,
it did not confer upon them any authority which
they did not already possess, but simply recorded
their previously established canonicity.
(The Books and the Parchments, pp. 112-113.)[ii]
possessed authority. Authority was derived from:
- having been written by an Apostle or a close associate of
an apostle (Luke with Paul and mark with Peter)
- having been in continuous use by the Church
- having unity/agreement with the rest of Scripture
While there are no original copies of these documents, consider this:
- There are 5, 300 known copies and fragments in the
original Greek, nearly 800 of which were copied before 1000 A.D.
- By contrast, Homer’s Iliad, one of the most famous literary
works of Western civilization has 643 copies of manuscript
support. Within those, there are 764 lines of text that are
disputed as to the accuracy, whereas there are only 40 lines
in all of the New Testament that are disputed, none of which
would compromise a major doctrine of Scripture.[iii]
- In fact, many people are unaware that each of William
Shakespeare’s 37 plays (written in the 1600’s) have gaps
in the surviving manuscripts, forcing scholars to “fill in the blanks”.
- This pales in textual comparison with the over 5,300
copies and fragments of the New Testament that, together,
assure us that nothing is lost.
- All of the New Testament except eleven verses can be
reconstructed from the writings of the early church fathers
in the second and third centuries.[iv]
With these things in mind, not to mention the wealth of internal testimony
of Scripture, we can be sure that the Scriptures we have have been kept
from dilution or error.
It is important to note that these 66 books are the only ones recognized by
the Early Church as authoritative. Some other religions or denominations
may include other books collected under the title “Apocrypha”, or have
additional authoritative books or manuals such as the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints’ (the non-christian religion known as the
Mormons) Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.
Also made popular by the recent Davinci Code book and movie of the same
name, the Gnostic gospels have been getting a lot of attention-particularly
the so-called "Gospel" of Thomas. These books are not Scripture, and as
such, are not binding as the word of God. To explore these other writings
and discuss why they are not Scripture is a worthy task, and has been done
[i] Cited in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 4.26.14
[ii] F.F. Bruce,The Books and the Parchments,Fleming
H. Revell Company; Rev Updated edition, 1984, pp. 112-113
[iii] Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, Moody, Chicago, 1986, p.367.
[iv] Ibid, Ch.24
to be continued....