Zondervan All-in-One Bible Reference Guide


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Email Newsletter. In the English Bible, however, certain OT books Joshua — 2 Chronicles are grouped together and commonly referred to as the historical books, since they focus on history.

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These books cover the period of history from the time of the judges through the Persian Empire. In the NT, the Gospels and Acts contain the majority of the historical information about the early church, though the epistles also are important in this regard.

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The Bible does not record all the major events of the historical periods it covers. It includes only those events where God reveals himself by acting in history to redeem his people. See Eschatology; Prophets. A prophecy may have both an immediate and a long-term reference. Apocalyptic writing is a type of prophetic literature that depicts political and spiritual future events in a hidden or secret way through the use of symbols and vivid imagery.

The meaning of an apocalyptic writing may not be immediately apparent.

Frequently, time is presented as a series of events that are repeated in different ages that eventually culminate in the Day of the Lord, the time when God will end the history of the present earth by establishing a new order. The wisdom books, which are associated with a group of people called wise men, focus on questions concerning the meaning of life Job, Ecclesiastes and on practical, day-to-day living Proverbs. These writings contrast human wisdom, which brings grief and frustration Eccl , 17 — 18 , with divine wisdom, which comes from God Prov and enables people to live lives pleasing to him.

The truly wise man is the truly good man. Certain psalms also belong in the category of wisdom literature. See Wisdom Literature. The word gospel means good tidings — the good news that God has given us salvation through his Son, Jesus. When that message was first written down, it was a brand new type of literature. Although the four Gospels contain biographical and historical information, their purpose is to create faith in Christ on the part of their readers, not to serve as full histories or biographies of Jesus.

Each gospel presents the ministry, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus in a distinctive way for a specific audience. Although the Bible contains many different examples of letters, the term epistles specifically refers to the twenty-one epistles of the NT. They share the features of other letters of their time. NT epistles deal with situations that needed immediate doctrinal or pastoral attention.

Sometimes epistles were written in response to information from messengers or in response to another letter. The teachings of the epistles apply to believers as individuals and to the church as a whole. As we noted earlier, the Bible was written over a period of more than a thousand years by many different men.

See Old Testament. The NT was composed by fewer authors over a period of less than one hundred years. The letters of Paul are probably the earliest writings. The writers of the NT also relied on information from other eyewitnesses, on oral tradition 2 Thess ; 1 Cor — 9 , and on other written accounts Luke See New Testament. Hebrew is the main language in which the OT was written. Hebrew is a Semitic language that was spoken by the Jews until the Exile and that much later was revived and adopted as the official language of the modern State of Israel.

The ancient Hebrew text of the OT contained only consonants. Vowel signs were added in the sixth century A. Below is the Hebrew text of the first words of Genesis ; the large letters are the consonants, the small dots and lines above and below the consonants are the vowels and various pronunciation helps. Aramaic was the international language at the end of the OT era and the spoken language in Palestine during the time of Christ.

A few passages in Ezra, Daniel, and Jeremiah are written in Aramaic, as well as a few words and phrases in the Gospels. Aramaic looks like Hebrew when written or printed. The NT was written in common Greek, the everyday business language used throughout the Greek-speaking part of the Roman Empire. This common Greek, which also is known as Koine from the Greek word for common or Hellenistic Greek, was a simplified version of classical Greek and was spread by Alexander the Great throughout the Mediterranean world. See Languages. Below are the first words of John in Greek.

Because the OT was considered the sacred Word of God, scribes carefully preserved every letter and word of the original text when making new copies. Beginning in about A. This text is the basis for modern critical editions and English translations of the Hebrew Bible. This is a valuable tool for Bible translation. Coptic and Syriac translations of the Bible appeared during the second and third centuries A. There are numerous copies and fragments of the Greek NT, many of them quite early.

Codex Vaticanus dates from the middle of the 4th century A. Codex Sinaiticus dates from the fourth century and contains a fragment of the OT and the complete NT. Codex Alexandrinus dates from the fifth century and contains most of the NT. Latin versions of the complete Bible were available by A. Due to its widespread acceptance, this translation came to be known as the Vulgate common version.

Jerome translated directly from the Hebrew text with references to the Septuagint. The Vulgate version remained the authorized Roman Catholic Bible for 1, years. See Texts and Versions. John Wycliffe made the first complete English translation of the Bible in After the invention of the printing press, William Tyndale decided to make a translation of the Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew. In , King James of England commissioned a group of scholars to make a new English translation that was based on the best available Greek and Hebrew manuscripts.

This translation, which came to be known as the King James or Authorized Version, was first published in This new translation was made using older Greek manuscripts than those that were available to the King James translators, and with a better understanding of the Hebrew language. Modern translators in the twentieth century have used recent discoveries, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and an improved understanding of Hebrew to produce English translations in everyday language. The sixty-six books in the Protestant Bible are referred to collectively as the canon, a term that comes from a Greek word that means rule or measure.

These books were accepted as authoritative and thus as the rule for faith and life. By B. Jewish scholars officially confirmed the books of the Law as canonical. Long before these official confirmations, however, the Jews had accepted the majority of the writings as canonical. Authorship by a prophet or other recipient of divine revelation was one of the main criteria for accepting a work as canonical. The Dead Sea Scrolls see below confirm an early acceptance of all the OT books as canonical with the possible exception of Esther.

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From as early as the second century A. The books of the NT were officially listed by the church council at Carthage in A. These books cover the period from the creation of the world until the time of Ezra and Nehemiah about B. Most of the OT is a history of the people of Israel. Christians arranged the books of the OT by subject matter and type of writing, not by chronological order.

In the Christian Bible, the books of the OT are divided into the following five groups: Pentateuch, history, poetry, major prophets, and minor prophets. Because it combines certain books that are separated in English translations, the Hebrew Bible consists of twenty-two books. The first five books of the OT the Pentateuch describe the beginning of the world and the beginning of the Jewish nation.

The Jewish people call these books the Law. In chapter 12, God chose Abraham to be the father of the Jewish race. God called his people to be holy and to live for him. Moses reminded the people of the laws God had given them, of their disobedience to God, and of their need to obey God in the Promised Land by keeping his law.


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The next group of twelve books tells the history of Israel from the time the nation entered the Promised Land until about B. During this era, God raised up leaders known as judges to lead the Israelites against their enemies. After each victory, however, the people forgot God. Because of her loyalty to her mother-in-law, Ruth became part of the family of God, though she was a Gentile.

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