Description of the Holy Bible – Part 3

Emeritus Prof. Mercy Olumide

The process of deciding which books should belong in the New Testament is uncertain. The collection of Paul’s letters was the first stage. By the end of the second century A.D., we know that there were four Gospels (and no others) in use, and that Acts was also accepted. 1 Peter and 1 John must have been recognised soon after this, but by the third century A.D., a definite list was in existence.
Organisation of the Bible

The OT was written primarily in Hebrew, with some portions of Ezra—Nehemiah and Daniel in Aramaic. The Hebrew OT is divided into three sections: the Law or Torah, (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy); the Prophets, divided into Former Prophets (Joshua, Judges, 1-2 Samuel, and 1-2 Kings) and Latter Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the book of the Twelve—Hosea through Malachi); and the Writings. The Writings fall into three groups: Poetic Books (Job, Psalms, Proverbs), the Festival Scrolls or Megilloth (Ruth, Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Lamentations), and the Historical Books (1-2 Chronicles, Ezra—Nehemiah, and Daniel). Our current order of OT books is based upon the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the OT.

The NT, written in Greek, is organised with the narrative books (the four Gospels and Acts) followed by the epistles (Pauline Epistles and General Epistles) and concluding with Revelation.

Division of the Bible

• The OT 5 divisions—39 books:
(1) The Pentateuch—5 books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (2) The 12 historical books. Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (3) The 5 poetical books: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (Canticles) (4) The books of the major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel (5) The 12 books of the minor prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

• The NT 5 divisions—27 books:
(1) The 4 gospels—History and ministry of the Messiah: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, (2) The historical book: Acts of the Holy Spirit and the apostles, (3) The 14 Pauline epistles: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, (4) The 7 general epistles: James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude (5) The Prophetical book: Revelation.

How we got our Bible
Our modern versions of the Bible are the result of a long process going back hundreds of years, a process involving writers, editors, translators and scholars. Christians consider that the origin and ultimate author of the Bible is God, but it is also clear that he has used human gifts and skills in the process of putting His message into writing. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that ‘all Scripture is God-breathed’ and 2 Peter 1:21 says ‘holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit’, a claim that God communicated His words in some way through people. The phrase ‘moved’ is translated from an ancient Greek nautical term, which was used to describe a ship being borne along by the wind. God moved the writers of Scripture who, without losing their own style or grasp of their thoughts, wrote what He intended them to say.

So, what the scripture says, God says. Note that those writers of Scripture were not ‘speech writers,’ as we know them today. Speech writers today often write what they expect their bosses (e.g. a head of state) to say, that is, they often ‘put words into the mouths’ of their bosses or even plagiarise another person’s speech.
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