How Well Do You Actually Know The Bible?
This week we continue our series to help us know more about the Bible.
No book in the history of the world has wielded as much influence on civilization as the Holy Bible. The Bible is unique in that it had God as its Author, while all other books were composed by human beings. It is indeed, the Book of Books.
Canon of the Bible
Know Your Bible #1
The Bible contains 72 books (or 73, depending on whether the Book of Lamentations is listed as a separate book and not as a part of Jeremiah), varying in length from a few hundred words to many thousands. Together, these books comprise the official list or canon of the Bible. Of these books, 45 were written before the time of Christ and are called the books of the Old Testament. The other 27 books were written after the time of Christ and are called the books of the New Testament.
The Bible Needs an Interpreter
Know Your Bible #2
The Bible is extremely difficult to understand, even for Bible scholars. It was written in languages long dead, and in the manner and idiom of the time. To interpret the Bible, it is not only necessary to understand the languages in which the Bible was written, but to understand the meanings that the words of the Bible had at the time they were written. The Bible, therefore, has to be interpreted to be understood, and for Catholics, the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, is the official guardian and infallible interpreter of the Bible.
The Bible Defined
Know Your Bible #3
The Bible is the source of supernatural knowledge. In the words of the Council of Trent, which enumerated the books of the Bible under their proper titles, the Church declares that she receives, “All the books of the Testaments, Old and New, since the one God is the Author of both.” The Vatican Council is more explicit, “The Church holds those books as sacred and canonical, not because, having been composed by human industry, they were afterwards approved by her authority, nor merely because they contain revelation without error, but because having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they have God as their Author.”
The word “Bible” comes from the Greek biblion meaning “the book;” the plural is ta biblia, “the books.” In the Greek the word is a neuter, but later on the word biblia was taken for a feminine singular, “the book.” Taken in this sense, it refers to all the books of both Testaments. The Bible is the Book par excellence.
Meaning of the Word "Testament"
Know Your Bible #4
The meaning of the word "testament" as used in the Bible is that of a pact, an agreement, or a covenant. The Old Testament is the pact or alliance with God made first with the Patriarchs and then with the Jewish people through Moses; a Savior is promised and a Law is proclaimed, and salvation is through the Law.
The New Testament is the covenant or the alliance that God made with all men whereby, through the mediatorship of His Son, Jesus Christ, all men can be saved.
Determination of the Bible Canon*
* list of books that are declared to be inspired by God.
Know Your Bible #5
At the time the books of the New Testament were written, many other pious stories and legends relating to Christ and His times were also widely circulated. As a result, in the early centuries of the Church, there was some confusion and doubt as to which books were inspired and biblical, and which were not. As far as is known, it was the Council of Hippo in A.D. 393 which first determined which books were inspired and were to be included in the Bible canon, a canon identical with the canon of the Council of Trent. Subsequent Councils confirmed this decision, and the Council of Trent formally canonized all the traditional books of the Bible in 1546. These books comprise the Old and the New Testaments, and it is a matter of faith for Catholics to believe that all passages of all books are equally inspired.
Know Your Bible #6
Those books which were rejected by the Council of Hippo as being non-biblical belong to what is called the Apocrypha. These books treat largely of the incidents and events during the life of Christ not related in the books of the Bible. They are often well worth reading, as they offer much historical information not otherwise available. However, some of these stories have slightly heretical tendencies.
The Catholic use of the word “Apocrypha,” as defined above, should be distinguished from the incorrect Protestant use of the word. Protestants use this term to designate the seven books of the Bible included in the Catholic Bible canon, but not accepted or found in Protestant Bibles. These seven books are: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and parts of Esther and Daniel. Protestants call the books found in the Catholic Apocrypha the Pseudepigraphal books.