Presenter: The Reverend Helen Ryding
Precis:What is the Bible?
Rev Helen describes the Bible as a “library” of books. The Old Testament and Apochrypha include works of history, literature, mythology, and philosophy. The New Testament features the Gospels—the Good News of Jesus Christ; the Epistles (the letters and homilies of His followers); and concludes with the Book of Revelation—God’s ultimate victory over evil.
The Bible is divided into three sections:the Old Testament (39 books), the Apochrypha (18 books), and the New Testament (27 books).
Old Testament and Apochrypha
The Old Testament (also known as the Hebrew Scriptures) is divided into three portions: the Pentateuch (or the Law) which includes the first 5 books of the Bible, the Historical books, the Poetic books, and the Prophetic books.
The Old Testament is the basis for the teachings of Jesus—it is the story of God’s gradual revelation of Himself to Abraham and his descendants.
The Apocrypha is read and studied by Anglicans for instruction but not doctrine. Apochrypha means “hidden”—whether this refers to the content being hidden, or that these writings had been hidden and then found is not certain.
The New Testament begins with the four Gospels—the Good News of Jesus Christ. Each of the Gospels gives an account of the life and teachings of Jesus and was written for a specific audience of believers. All four Gospels include accounts of Jesus’ teachings, healings, death, and resurrection.
The Gospels are followed by a collection of Epistles (or letters) written by the followers of Jesus Christ. The earliest of these books is believed to have been written between 50 and 60 CE. Most of the letters appear to have been written by Paul (or an author writing in his name—an accepted practice of the time.)The epistles of James, Peter, John, and Jude follow the Pauline letters. All of these letters contain messages of instruction, advice and hope for new believers.
The Revelation of John is a book of mystery with many levels of “meaning behind meaning.”It culminates in the telling of the final victory of God over evil and is a fitting conclusion to the Bible.
Translations and Versions of the Bible
A biblical translation is made by translating an original text in the original language (Hebrew or Greek) into another language, usually that spoken by the people. An example would be a translation of Hebrew scripture into Latin.
A biblical version is made from a translation; for example, the Latin translation as described above is then translated into English.
Interpretation of Scripture
Great care must be taken in the interpretation of scripture. When reading scripture, consider the following:who authored the book, for whom the book was written, when the book was written, where it was written, and what was happening in the world at that time.
Ongoing biblical research provides new insights into all of these considerations, but Rev. Helen advises readers to not only read scripture carefully but also to pray for guidance and direction from the Holy Spirit in interpretation.
The Bible tells us of God’s faithfulness to us for thousands of years and also of humankind’s struggle to be faithful to Him who sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world.