Understanding What Makes Up the Bible
When you mention the word “Bible”, all minds run to the Christian faith but before we even speak about the christian faith, we must ask ourselves what the Christian faith is. The Christian faith is a belief that centers around the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus as a redemptive work (whichever category of redemption the sect chooses to believe) to whosoever believes. There are a number of sects belonging to the christian faith whose divergent beliefs are rooted in what they believe to be the holy scriptures while other beliefs are rooted in traditions that were established by those who carry this belief.
Background Of How the Bible Comes About
The Bible is a collection of writings that come from the ancient people group known as Hebrews/Jews/Israelites. Like any ancient civilization, they had a belief in a supreme being they worshiped to whom they accorded the creation of the world and everything in it. However unlike other scriptural books, the bible tries to tell a story of how God is working with a selected people to tell the story that answers a few human problems.
Everyone at one point in life is bound to ask the following questions; How did we get here (earth)?, Why are we here? ,Is there any problem here? If yes; What is the problem?, Is there any solution to the problem? If yes, what is the solution? What is my part in solving this problem?. These are the questions the Bible tries to answer through offering a narrative of how we get here, the root cause to the problem we are facing and the would be solution to the problem we are forcing as human kind.
Anyone that is part of a community is not oblivious of the common fights and disagreements that usually come up in a community. These are usually rooted in defining what should be held as right or the failure of a certain party to live up to the standards of that which is considered right.
In the Bible narrative, there was a people group known as prophets who criticized their fellow country-men for failure to live up to the standards of what their God had set for them as the right standards to live by in life. Some did it through looking back in the history of their life highlighting major events that define the ethos of their society while others shared what was coming due to the leaders and community failure to live up to the standards of what their God had demanded of them.
The Jewish Bible
From the above background we have three major sections of the Jewish Bible; The Torah (instruction), the Prophets and the writings. The Torah defined the Jewish way of life along with the key historical narratives about their fore fathers and promises that their God had offered them through their forefathers. The prophets looked back on where their fore fathers failed, and in what manner they succeeded while pointing forward to the ultimate goal of their life as a people group. The writings are considered as wisdom books that come out of the Torah and the prophets.
This might leave you wondering; my Bible has three sections while your catholic/orthodox neighbors’ bible has three sections. Lets settle that too.
Bibles with the New and Old Testaments
The Old testament is simply the Jewish Bible re-arranged after a christian faith order. It has a total of 39 books in the protestant christian circles while a little more for the catholic and orthodox groups . But all the content and the books remain the same if we consider the 39 most popular christian books. Now the Jewish Bible tells a story of a hope for a king like David(Psalm 2:7), and a prophet like Moses coming some time in Future(Deut 18:15) . Many men had arisen generation after generation claiming that they were this messiah (Acts 5:38-39). And many believed in Jesus’ day that he was also another masquerader thus making a claim about his followers, that if it be of God, their beliefs and works in view of Jesus will stand.
Jesus himself never wrote any book; though he read certain books but his disciples in quest to share the gospel (Jesus as the promised King or Enthroned King of all creation) with other people that were interested in finding out more about Jesus, they penned their convictions, experiences and their witnesses regarding the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is out of these witnesses that we have the collection known as the gospels.
Now there are other writing that fall under the same category that have not been considered by the majority as gospels for reasons that I do not feel equipped enough to discus.
The New Testament Letters
After the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, his disciples formed religious communities to whom they wrote letters addressing a few issues in these communities (take an example of first Corinthians), letters of encouragement during suffering such as 1 peter among other everyday issues of life. These letters were shared among communities; thus all the other writings that seem not to be shared among several communities do not make into the New testament collection though they might be pegged to other Jesus’ disciples.
This is the section of other writings that came into existence after the formation of the jewish Bible, they were read in the Jewish communities but they were not upheld to the level of scripture. They could be quoted by they never passed to fit the category of Bible scripture in the protestant christian circles.
The Christian Bible
As earlier said, the Christian faith is centered around the life of Jesus as the Son of the creator of Heaven and Earth. When you read the Gospels, you find different collections of writing that Jesus often referred to. These include; The Torah collection which are believed to be writings by Moses or writings inspired by Moses, the writings collection where we find the psalms, and the prophets collection where we find Elijah’s story.
It is for the above reasons that the old testament is part of the christian faith scriptures even though the biggest percentage of the christian are non-Jews. Now some Christians treasure other writings such as wisdom of Sirach thus making it to their Bibles.
There is more to discover about the formation of the Bible, how the fragments are put together, the missing pieces and how the problems of the missing pieces are corrected, but one important true north to hold in the christian faith; the bible rotates around Jesus while in the scholarly circles it rotates around ancient discoveries.