Let’s look today into the Bible in general.
Beginning with the word Bible. The word Bible means book or scroll. The Holy Bible, as we know it, is a kind of library consisting of 73 books. It is divided into two parts the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Testament means witness. You might know that people in court give their testimony to an event. This is the same. There is an old witness and a new witness, but just because it is called old doesn’t mean that it is invalid. On the contrary, if you don’t understand the Old Testament, you will not understand the New Testament.
The Old Testament begins with the Torah, which is the Hebrew word for the Law. Moses records the early dealing of God with mankind in these books. This consists of the first five books of the Bible. It is also called the Pentateuch, which is Greek for “five books.”
The next set of books deals with the history of the people of Israel as a Nation. These are really a historical record.
Then there is the wisdom literature consisting of Job, Psalms, Proverbs Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Wisdom, and Sirach.
Finally, there are the prophetic books like Jonah, Daniel, MalachI. These books were written by prophets and range from historical narratives like Jonah, to apocalyptic visions with Ezekiel.
You may heave heard of the major prophets and the minor prophets. The 4 major prophets; Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel, are called major because their books are longer.
There is a similar structure in the New Testament. Again we begin with the Law, not of Moses but of Jesus. It is not a law written on stone, but on hearts.
Then, like the Old Testament, we have the historical book of Acts, which tells of the early Church and the travels of St. Paul.
Then, in a sense, there is the wisdom literature from Romans to Jude. Inside of that we have the writings of St. Paul, which have an interesting structure in themselves.
The writings of St. Paul can be divided into two groups, letters to cities and letters to individuals. Inside both groups they go from longest to shortest. So, they are not in chronological order, but order by length.
Finally, also like the Old Testament, there is the prophetic book of Revelation.
Reading the Bible cover to cover might not be the best plan if you are going for the historical approach. Now, while any kind of reading of the Bible is good, there is a way to study it that is better. Right now I would say that Jeff Cavins and the Great Adventure Series is the best way to understand the story of the Bible.
While this Bible study is lengthy and kind of pricey, I would say get together with 10 friends and divide up the cost because it is worth every penny. His study is like one Bible tidbit after another.
It wasn’t until 380 at the council of Rome that the Bible and its 73 books were first recognized as a whole to be inspired.
So, people always pointed to the 4 gospels as being inspired and most of St. Paul’s writings, but there was dispute over other books. This was settled in 380.
It was not settled by Constantine either. I remember my friend telling me that Emperor Constantine put the books of the Bible together. When I asked him if he’d gotten that from the DaVinci Code or other nonsense, he said, “How did you know?”
Now while Dan Brown certainly believes that Constantine had his hand in choosing which books went into the Bible, all of history says otherwise.
Protestants have less books in their Bibles because some of the reformers said that they weren’t inspired. By “not inspired,” they sometimes meant, “these books are too Catholic and don‘t fit with my interpretation. Let’s get rid of them.”
So Protestants have 7 less books in their Bible, bringing their total down to 66.
Here are some questions that I like to ask Protestants, though:
Do you believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God?
They say yes, which is good. We believe that too.
I say, “Do you believe that that same Spirit that inspired them being written also guided those men who recognized them as being inspired to put them all together. So were those men in the 300’s also being driven by the same Holy Spirit to say officially that they are inspired?”
They say yes.
I point out that they also included those 7 books that the Reformers rejected. I ask, “Who should I trust? Should I trust the guys that said yes these 27 books of the New Testament are inspired along with these 46 books of the Old Testament?”
Or should I trust guys that came 1300 years later and said, “Well, they were right about the New Testament, but wrong about these 7 in the Old Testament? The Holy Spirit only partially lead them.”
To me that doesn’t make sense.