Guidance for Life
The sacred text of Christianity is the Bible. The Bible is divided into two sections, the Old and New Testaments. Testament means ‘covenant’ and so the Old and New Testaments are descriptions of the bond between God and humans, and an explanation of their place in the divine plan. There are 66 chapters (known as ‘Books’) in the Bible. 39 books in the Old Testament, and 27 in the New Testament.
The Old Testament comprises a ‘history’ of the relationship between God and the people of Israel from its inception at creation until the time just preceding the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. The Old Testament includes a variety of written styles, including historical narrative, poetry, legend, myth, laws, allegory and symbolism. They are contained in three main sections of the Old Testament – the Law, Prophets and Writings.
The New Testament contains the four Gospels which contain an outline of the life, teaching death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The New Testament also includes descriptions of the early church in Acts of the Apostles, and a series of letters or epistles by St Paul to the early church. These epistles relate to controversies and theological issues of the day, as well as referring to other related tracts and homilies, and ends with the Revelation of St John which is an exploration of eschatological issues.
The Bible commands a central place in the life of the Church and the individual Christian. It provides guidance and inspiration and is regarded as the ‘Word of God’. For some Christian denominations, the bible it to be read and understood literally, for others, it is open to interpretation by spiritual leaders.
Passages from the Old and New Testaments will be read during worship as part of a lectionary of readings to ensure that all important parts in the Bible are considered over a period of time. It should be noted that in the UK the importance of the bible within the community can still be seen as witnesses who are Christian are required by law to swear an oath on the Bible during court proceedings.
The Bible is a theological work. It is Heilsgeschichte or ‘salvation history’ and the many authors and editors of the Bible moulded the text into a description of the way God has worked historically to bring about his plan for humankind. Accordingly, the text will contain complex as well as simple strands but, by unravelling the setting within which the text was written, as well as applying the text to present day situations, a fuller appreciation of the Bible may be gained.
Although the history of the development of the Bible is complex, with the many theological and interpretative stances of its authors and editors having to be considered, Christians nevertheless believe that the inspiration from, and guiding hand of, God enables the truth of the texts to become apparent.