"It is written, `Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"
Gospel of Matthew 4:4
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life."
Gospel of John 3:16
The Bible is the inspired Word of God and relates how God our Creator expresses his undying love for his creation mankind. The Bible presents salvation history: how God revealed himself and his plan for the redemption of fallen mankind. His Divine plan begins with the creation of the world, passes to the definitive moment in time of the Incarnation, and will be concluded with the Parousia, the Second Coming of the Lord. Promise found in the Old Testament finds fulfillment in the New Testament: God giving his only son Jesus Christ to save humanity, and sending the Holy Spirit to guide us. The Bible provides direction for a happy life on earth, gives prophecy on the end times, and helps us reach heaven in the after-life.
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The Bible is the Word of God and is composed of both the Old and New Testaments.
The Old Testament relates God's Creation of the world and his Word to Israel. He reveals his undying love for his creation mankind, in spite of man's sin and disobedience, through the promise of a Redeemer. There are a number of Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, among them Genesis 3:15, Deuteronomy 18:15-18, 2 Samuel 7:14-16, I Chronicles 17:12-14, Psalms 2, 22, and 110, Isaiah 7:14 and 52:13-53:12, Daniel 7:13-14 and 9:24-27, Micah 5:2, and Zechariah 9:9 and 12:10.
The Old Testament is Hebrew Scripture or Tanakh, and is composed of the Law, the Torah or Pentateuch, the Prophets or Neviim, and the Writings, the Kethuvim or Hagiographa. The threefold division - and original order - of Hebrew Scripture was evident at the time of Jesus, who referred to "The Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms (Luke 24:44)." The Old Testament was composed in Hebrew, except for the following written in Aramaic - Genesis 31:47, Jeremiah 10:11, Ezra 4:8-6:18 and 7:12-26, and nearly half of the Book of Daniel (2:4-7:28).
The writings of the Old Testament were preserved in three languages - Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and are available in the following manuscripts: the Greek Septuagint from Alexandria; the Masoretic Hebrew text from Tiberias, Galilee; the newly discovered Dead Sea Scrolls of the Essenes; and the Aramaic Targums and Peshitta Bible. The differing traditions have led to the disparity found in the Old Testament canons among Christian religions.
The oldest surviving translation of Hebrew Scripture was the Greek Septuagint, which was undertaken in the third century BC in Egypt by Jewish scholars who had migrated there during the Diaspora. The Greek codices arranged the books in a fourfold division, a different way than Hebrew Scripture, by placing the Law of Moses first, then the Historical Books, then the Psalms and Wisdom Literature, and then the Prophets. The three major Christian religions follow the Greek pattern, and will serve as the outline for this discussion.
The Law contains the five Books of Moses or the Pentateuch. Genesis describes the creation of the world, our first parents Adam and Eve, the Flood, and God's Covenants with Noah, and the Patriarchs of Israel, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The historical pattern of covenant, fall, judgement, and redemption that begins in Genesis remains consistent throughout the Old Testament. Exodus records the history of Moses, the Ten Commandments and the Ark of the Covenant, the Exodus from Egypt, and the Passover feast, which serves as a Memorial of the Exodus event. Leviticus relates the laws pertaining to religious observance and proper conduct, such as to abstain from homosexuality (18:22), to help the poor (19:10), to love your neighbor (19:18), and to refrain from tattoos (19:28) or consult fortune tellers (19:31). Numbers is so named because of the census taken of the Israelites, and their wandering in the Sinai Desert for forty years because of their disobedience to the Lord God. Deuteronomy repeats the Ten Commandments and religious laws, and predicts the consequences of Israelite behavior in the Promised Land.
The Historical Books include Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, as well as the Books of the Restoration - Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Joshua records the entry of the Israelites into the Promised Land and the conquest of Canaan. Judges describes the time when the Lord raised up Judges, such as Samson, to save his people, a time when there was no king in Israel. Ruth traces the ancestry of the Davidic dynasty. The Books of Samuel and Kings were made into two books each. In First Samuel, the prophet Samuel anointed Saul, who failed as the first monarch because of his disobedience; the young shepherd David was faithful to the Lord and defeated Goliath. In Second Samuel, David united all twelve tribes and became King of all Israel; he brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, which became the capital of the United Kingdom of Israel. First Kings begins with David's son King Solomon who built the first Temple of the Lord, which housed the Ark of the Covenant. Disobedience to the Mosaic Law led to the Divided Kingdom of Israel and Judah. Second Kings records the preponderance of Kings who broke covenant with the Lord, and the subsequent capture of the Northern Kingdom by the Assyrians in 722 (or 721) BC, and the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple with the Babylonian Captivity in 587 BC. The two books of Chronicles offer a sweeping view of history from Adam to the United Kingdom of Israel to the announcement of King Cyrus to allow the people to return to Jerusalem. The Restoration, the return of the Jewish people to Israel, continues through the eyes of two leaders: Ezra restored the Mosaic Law, while Nehemiah restored the twelve gates and the walls of Jerusalem. The Second Temple in Jerusalem was rebuilt during this time and completed in 516 BC. The Book of Esther records how Esther helped to spare the Jewish people during the Restoration.
The Wisdom Literature of Hebrew Scripture consists of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs.
The Prophets cried out over the moral breakdown of the Israelites and included the Major Prophets - Isaiah, the Books of Jeremiah and Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel; and the Prophets of the Book of the Twelve, which include Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
The Hebrew canon for Judaism developed through the ages, and recognized 10 books less than the Greek Septuagint. The Masoretic Text of Galilee developed from the eighth through tenth century AD reflected the traditional canon of Hebrew Scripture.
Commissioned by Pope Damasus, St. Jerome translated both the Old and New Testaments into Latin, the New Testament in 384 and the Old Testament in 405. St. Jerome translated from both Greek and Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament and noted the difference between the larger canon of the Greek Septuagint and the shorter Hebrew canon, and called those books comprising the difference the "hidden or secret books," or the Apocrypha. To support the traditional use of the Greek Septuagint as the source of the Christian Old Testament, St. Augustine and the Synod of Carthage in 397 AD preserved seven books of the Apocrypha in the OT Canon, known as the deuterocanonical books: the Books of Tobias (Tobit), Sirach, First and Second Maccabees, Judith, Wisdom, and Baruch, as well as the Greek parts of Esther which include the name of God, and Daniel which includes the Prayer of the Three Young Men, the saga of Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon. St. Jerome included these for a total of 46 Books in his Latin Old Testament. The Latin Vulgate Bible served as the standard Bible for Western civilization for over 1000 years.
In summary, modern Christianity reflects the lack of uniformity found in the canon of the Old Testament, for Catholics and Eastern Orthodox continue to refer to the Greek Septuagint as Old Testament while Protestants chose the Masoretic Hebrew text. See the Canon of the Old Testament for a more complete discussion.
It was St. Augustine who best explained the relationship of the Old and New Testaments:
"The new lies hidden in the old, the old is made manifest in the new."
The New Testament recorded the oral tradition of the Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ, his Passion, Death and Resurrection, and the formation of the early Christian community, the Church.
Jesus of Nazareth and his Apostles spoke Aramaic, the common language at the time in the Levant. Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic, became the biblical and liturgical language of early Christian Churches in the Middle East. Jesus the Messiah addressed God in prayer, using the Aramaic word Abba, the affectionate term for "Father" (Mark 14:36). Jesus raised the child by calling out Talitha cumi, which means "little girl, arise" in Mark 5:41. He cured the man who was deaf and dumb by speaking Ephphatha, meaning "be opened" in Mark 7:34. Jesus refers to hell as Gehenna in Mark 9:42-50. Jesus used Aramaic words twice in referring to Peter: he used the prefix Bar-, "the son of," (not the Hebrew Ben) when he called Peter Bar-Jonah, the son of Jonah (Matthew 16:17); and he called Peter Cephas, the Aramaic word for rock in John 1:42. Jesus cried out from the cross Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani, that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34).
The canon of the New Testament is exactly the same for all of Christianity! There are 27 Books in the New Testament:
the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the Acts of the Apostles, the fourteen Letters of the Pauline corpus, the seven catholic or universal Letters, and the Book of Revelation.
No original manuscript by the author of a biblical book has yet been discovered! Thus we cannot truly say when the books of the New Testament were actually written. Three of the oldest manuscripts available to us are the Old Syriac Gospels and the Greek Codex Sinaiticus, both found at St. Catherine's Monastery in Sinai, Egypt, and the Codex Vaticanus in Greek from the fourth century AD.
The New Testament writers accorded to the Old Testament the value of Divine Revelation. They proclaimed this revelation found its fulfillment in the life and teaching, and above all, in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, source of forgiveness and of everlasting life. They frequently drew upon the Old Testament writings, primarily to confirm Jesus Christ as the Messiah, or to serve as a source for moral instruction, or for the interpretation of events. Typology in Biblical studies finds an Old Testament story serving as a prefigurement or symbol for an event in the New Testament. Referring to Christ, Paul called Adam "a type of the one who is to come" (Romans 5:14). In Hebrews 12:24 the blood of Abel speaks to the "blood of Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant." Peter saw the flood during the times of Noah as a figure of baptism (I Peter 3:20-21). In a direct quotation, the Gospel writer acknowledged the source and directly quoted the Old Testament, as Matthew 1:22, after Jesus is born of the virgin Mary, quoted Isaiah 7:14 that prophesized the Messiah will be born of a virgin. An example of moral instruction would be Mark 10:2ff, when Jesus quoted Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 in his instruction on marriage. An allusion occurs when an obvious Old Testament source is woven in the text without acknowledging the source, such as Paul who refers to Genesis 3:15 in Romans 16:20, and John who refers to that "ancient serpent" of Genesis 3 in Revelation 12:12. And finally the source may be unknown, as Matthew 2:23, when he cites the prophecy, "He shall be called a Nazarene." New Testament writings were considered Scripture in the early Christian Church (I Timothy 5:18, II Peter 3:16).
The Tradition of the Church Fathers was important to the Church, for they had an important role in the formation of the canon of the New Testament - to choose those inspired books that best reflected the life and teachings of Christ, as well as the interpretation of Scripture. Irenaeus of Lyons circa 180 AD was among the first to propose a canon for the New Testament. Three Fathers of the Church - Athanasius of Alexandria in his Letter of 367, Jerome at Bethlehem in 384, and Augustine at the Council of Hippo in 393 - agreed 27 Books were the inspired Word of God. The Canon of the New Testament was confirmed at the Third Council of Carthage in 397 AD.
The Four Gospels of Matthew,
Luke, and John proclaim the "Good News" of the coming of Jesus Christ. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, called the Synoptic Gospels as they parallel each other, record Jesus teaching in Parables.
Each of the Synoptics is noteworthy on their own, such as the Gospel of Matthew, which contains the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer. The Synoptic Gospels also record the Last Supper of Christ and his direction to "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19), the foundation for the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Memorial of the Last Supper. The Gospel of John is an unique spiritual and theological work. All four Gospels present the Miracles and the Paschal Mystery of Christ Jesus - Passion, Death, and Resurrection. There are three stages in the development of the Gospel narrative: the teachings of Jesus himself; the oral tradition of the Apostles, who handed down the teachings of Jesus to the early Christian community, the Church; and finally, the inspired written Word of Scripture. The Bible was written within the Church. Considering the impact of his life and teaching, it is remarkable the Ministry of Jesus lasted such a short time!
The Acts of the Apostles is the second Book written by Luke, and describes the dramatic emergence of Christianity following the Pentecost, the Descent of the Holy Spirit. Acts records the growth of the early Christian community, the Church, from Jerusalem and Antioch to Asia Minor and Rome, focusing primarily on the activities of Peter and Paul.
The Pauline corpus begins in the New Testament with the Letter to the Romans, which emphasizes God's righteousness that saves all who believe in Jesus Christ. The letter begins and ends with the ideal Christian response to our merciful Saviour, "the obedience of faith" (Romans 1:5, 16:26). First Corinthians gives us an insight into the early Christian community, and includes the beautiful passage on love. Second Corinthians is personal in nature and reveals much about Paul's character. We are reminded that God's grace is sufficient for us. The Apostle to the Gentiles emphasizes the way to salvation is through Christ and the Cross in Galatians. Ephesians is the Pauline letter on the Church. The Philippians were Paul's first Christian community, and the letter shows his great love for the Gospel and his converts. Colossians continues the discussion of the relationship of Christ and his Church. The first writings to become part of the New Testament were First and Second Thessalonians, written in 51 AD. First Timothy, Second Timothy, and Titus are the Pastoral Epistles. He breathes love and equality into the ancient and accepted institution of slavery in the Letter to Philemon. The Letter to the Hebrews is an outstanding treatise on the priesthood of Jesus, who perfected Revelation and redeemed mankind by his one Sacrifice, which established God's New Covenant. Of the 14 letters of the Pauline Corpus, all but the Letter to the Hebrews begin with the name of Paul. St. Jerome added Hebrews to the Pauline Corpus when he translated the Greek New Testament into Latin in the fourth century AD.
The seven catholic or universal Letters of James (1), Peter (2), John (3), and Jude (1) are so called because they are addressed to all the Churches, unlike the letters of Paul, which are addressed to a particular community (Romans, Corinthians, and so on). They were open letters that concerned themselves with different themes pertinent to Christians. The Letter of James emphasizes that faith without works is dead. First Peter shows us the mission of the early Church in the midst of a hostile society, and provides direction for Christian behavior in the world. Second Peter offers Peter's witness to the Transfiguration of Jesus, commentary on interpretation of Scripture, and speaks of the Parousia. First John expresses that God is love, his forgiveness in the face of sin, and asserts the humanity and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Second John warns against heresy in the early Church, while Third John is a valuable testimony to the fidelity of early Christian communities. The Book of Jude gives encouragement in fidelity to the Christian faith and notes the moral implications of the Gospel message. The mysterious Book of Jude also describes a phenomenon noted in some anesthetic patients with near-death experiences: "They are like wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shameless deeds, wandering stars for whom the gloom of darkness has been reserved forever."
The Book of Revelation is the final Book of the New Testament and is apocalyptic in nature. The Book of Revelation is at once frightening, as it speaks of the rise of the antichrist and the end of the age, dramatic as it describes the final battle of good and evil, and, above all, optimistic, as it points to the triumph of Jesus Christ over evil and the dawn of a new creation. Written by John, it has fascinated readers for centuries as it prophesizes about the End Times, a time which may be drawing near.
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3 Navarre Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible. Four Courts Press, Dublin, Ireland, 1999-2005.
4 The 1611 Authorized King James Version of the Holy Bible. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts, 2011.
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