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The Bible
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Books of the Bible

The Bible is a collection of books written under God's inspiration and accepted by Christians as the Word of God. The word Bible comes from the Greek word for books - 'biblia'. Since the Bible is the most important of all books, the holiest book, the book of books, it is called The Books of The Bible. It is also called Scripture, which means "the writing", because nothing written surpasses it.

Books, Chapters and Verses

There are 72 books in the Bible (73 if Jeremias and Lamentations are considered separate books). Some are very short. The Book of Abdias, the prophet, covers less than a page and the Second and Third Epistles of Saint John the Apostle are even shorter. The Book of Psalms, 77 pages, is the longest in the Bible. Each Book of the Bible is divided into chapters and verses.

The Old and New Testament

In the 16th century Sanctus Pagninus carried out the divisions of the Old Testament and Robert Stephanus the New Testament. The word testament means a pact or agreement. In the Old Testament God had made agreements, frequently renewed, with the Jewish people, notably with Abraham and his descendants and with Moses on Mount Sinai. These were the guides set down for the Chosen People to preserve the worship of the One True God and His promise of a Saviour who would come from the Jewish race. The Old Testament comprises 45 Books. The New Testament is the complettion of all the promises of the Old Testament in the person of Jesus Christ, the Saviour and is made up of 27 Books.

Principal Author of the Bible & the Human Authors

God is the principal author of the Bible, using men to write under His inspiration. The writers, like Moses, Isaias, Matthew etc. wrote nothing that God did not want writen. Every thought and idea in the Bible is the result of such inspiration so that no part of the Scriptures is not inspired by God. The writers did not write from Heavenly dictation, but used their own personal style and language yet under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. However God may have supplied the writer with words and phrases to explain a mystery. Certainly God prevented the selection of misleading expressions throughout the Bible.

No Errors in the Bible

God cannot make a mistake therefore the Bible contains no errors, but it is only the thoughts and ideas expressed as they were originally written that are absolutely true. Copyists transcribed by hand and great care was taken in the task. God, in His Providence, has faithfully protected the Bible from serious corruption and continues to do so as more and more translations are brought forward, some with questionable omissions, interpretations and wording.

The early Christian writers recognised the divine authorship of the Bible. Throughout the centuries the divine origin of the Bible has been given as the reason for its infallible truth. The human authors of the various books have been called Instruments of God, and God is said to have spoken through them.

Often Saint Paul prefaced his teachings with "The Scripture says..." when referring to the Old Testament. Saint Peter, in his letters, classes Pauline Epistles with "the rest of the Scriptures" (Pet. 3:15-16) Saint Paul said that "...all Scripture is inspired by God"
(2 Tim. 3:16) and Saint Peter, when speaking of the prophets said " No prophesy of Scripture is made by private interpretation. For not by the will of man was prophesy brought at any time, but holy men of God who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit".

Heavenly Inspiration

The list of books which belong in the Bible is known as the canon and only those books which are canonical are inspired. Since inspiration is an invisible and supernatural action of God, it can be known only by those to whom God reveals it. Christ and the Holy Spirit revealed to the Apostles those writings which were inspired. As they did not have a written list of these books the oral tradition was passed down and is the source which we learn as the canonical books.

Which Books Belong in the Bible?

The Church alone, which has been appointed by God to guard the traditions of the Apostles, can tell us with certainty which books are inspired and therefore belong to the canon according to apostolic tradition. The overlap of the Jewish and Christian traditions led to some confusion but the early Christian Councils debated them and sorted them out. The Council of Hippo in Africa in 395 listed them and the Council of Trent and the Vatican Council reaffirmed the canon of Hippo.

The Language of the Bible

The books of the Bible were written in Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek, with Hebrew being the original language of all the books in the Old Testament with exception of the Book of Wisdom and 2 Machabees, which were written in Greek; and parts of 1 Esdras, Daniel and Jeremias, which were written in Aramaic. Greek is the original language of all the books of the New Testament with the exception of Saint Matthew's Gospel, which was originally written in Aramaic. Hebrew is a Semitic dialect spoken by Abraham and his descendents who migrated to the land of Canaan, and is seen by Rabbis as a holy or sacred language. Aramaic is another Semitic dialect that largely replaced Hebrew after the Jews returned from their captivity in Babylon. This was the language spoken by Christ and His Apostles. Greek became a common universal language spoken after the conquests of Alexander the Great.

Manuscripts of the Bible

None of the original manuscripts have been passed down to us however three of the most important of the ancient copies of the originals are among the six thousand or so manuscripts in existence today.

The Mount Sinai Manuscript, written in the early part of the 4th century, contains a Greek translation of the Old Testament and the original Greek translation of the New Testament. It was discovered in the Monastry of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai in 1859. The Tsar of Russia obtained it and had it transferred to Saint Petersburg. In 1933 the British Museum bought it from the Soviet Government for £400,000.

The Vatican Manuscript, also written in the early 4th century, contains the complete Bible in Greek with a few omissions and has rested in the Vatican Library in Rome for about 5 centuries.

The Alexandrian Manuscript, written in the 5th century in Egypt, contains the whole Bible in Greek with the exception of a few passages. In 1627 it was brought from Alexandria in Egypt to England, where it is now one of the treasures of the British Museum in London.

Famous Translations

The Septuagint (meaning to work of the 70) is a famous translation of the Old Testament, carried out in Alexandria between 250 and 100 BC. According to legend, 70 scholars were sent from Jerusalem to translate the first five books of the Old Testament, but the term septuagint is now commonly applied to all the books of the Old Testament.

The Vulgate is a Latin translation of the Bible carried out almost completely by Saint Jerome during his full priestly lifetime at the request of Pope Saint Damascus 1 (366-384). Over time it became the only Latin translation in common use, hence the name "vulgate" - which means "in common use".

The Douay Bible is the work of a group of Catholic scholars driven out of England by the religious persecution of Elizabeth 1. They established a Catholic College in Douay, Flanders in 1568 but shortly afterwards transferred it to Rheims in France. These scholars produced an English translation known as the Douay Bible and their New Testament translation was first published in Rheims in 1582, while their Old Testament translation was published in Douay in 1609 and 1610. 

To provide a more modern translation Bishop Challoner of London revised the text and the notes of the Douay Bible into the standard English Catholic Bible used up the mid 20th century. Many other translations have come about since but there is some doubt cast on the accuracy of translation and the omission of some of the original words. Catholic students of Scripture or those who wish to have a Bible in their homes should try to avail of the Douay Rheims or Douay Challoner versions, being the most accurate available as passed down the centuries by the apostolic traditions.

Classification of Books

Historical Books - 21
1 Kings
2 Kings
3 Kings
4 Kings
1 Paralipomenon
2 Paralipomenon
1 Esdras
2 Esdras
1 Macabees
2 Macabees
Doctrinal Books - 7

Canticle of Canticles

Prophetic Books - 17
Historical Books - 5

Acts of the Apostles

Doctrinal Books - 21
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John
2 John
3 John

Prophetic Books - 1 - Apocalypse

Rules of Interpretation

As a religious book given to man by God Himself, the reader should prepare the soul for understanding with prayer and a holy life and understand the following guidelines:

  • As God is the author no interpretation can claim there is error within the writings, or claim contradictions between the different writers of separate or similar passages, thoughts or ideas, or admit interpretations contradicting truth as demonstrated by science.
  • As the Bible was handed down through and by the Church from the Apostles it is for the Church to interpet it through the mind of the Church in that - a particular truth on a text is so; no interpretation can be admitted that has been condemned by the Church; an interpretation must be admitted if it is the unanimous teaching of the Fathers in a matter of Faith and Morals; no interpretation can be admitted that is contrary to true and certain doctrines of the Catholic Church.
  • Catholics are advised to read only those Bible translations that adhere to the full truth as revealed in the full Scriptures. Protestant translations omit 7 complete books and part of 2 others in the Old Testament. Martin Luther rejected four of the books of the New Testament although modern Protestant translations contain all books. The Church must guide its Catholic readers towards accurate translations free from error both within the texts of Scripture and in the notes and explanations.
There are marked differences in both the translations and the use of wording between a traditional Catholic translation like the Douay Bible and the more modern 'Catholic' translations as well as the Protestant translations. Catholics are encouraged to read the Bible as much as possible in order to better understand the historical periods leading into the time of Christ, His life and Ministry, His Suffering, Death and Resurrection and the events that brought about His Church from the time of the Apostles.

In order to make your reading of the New Testament teachings of the Life of Christ a little easier we have looked at the time of Jesus from His conception to His Ascension according to the writings of the four evangelists, and categorised the various events and teachings with reference to the chapter and verse of each writer. We start with Jesus' Infancy & Childhood; then move on to the start of Jesus' Public Ministry. There is no historical proof of actual times available but we have used the Douay Challoner version to divide the three years of Jesus' ministry as His First Year of Public Ministry; His Second Year of Public Ministry; His Third Year of Public Ministry; the events leading into His time of betrayal and suffering during Holy Week; the events surrounding Holy Thursday when He instituted the bloodless sacrifice of the Eucharist to be carried out in His name for perpetuity; the events surrounding His suffering, passion and death on Good Friday; and finally His Burial, Resurection and Ascension into Heaven.

For those who don't have a Bible do try and get a good copy, and again I would suggest the Douay Rheims version which has not been altered or adapted since it was first translated by Saint Jerome in the 4th century. Below is a link offering various translations and various languages, but please bear in mind that these are the more modern translations and may contain inaccuracies, omissions and personal interpretations. The search facility is fine for those who can't quite remember a full passage but can remember a few of the words. It is offered in a pop-up page which you can maximise to read.

Search Bible Gateway

Moytura has several other sites with a 'Christian flavour'. Prayerful Thoughts & Thoughtful Prayers is a little collection of prayers and thought-provoking stories, and a few links to some other really nice websites. Reflections for Lent offers a daily meditation for the 40 days of lent and the week leading into Easter. As part of my Journey section of the website join me to learn a little of the Early Christian Church in Ireland by visiting Clonmacnoise, founded by St. Ciaran on the banks of the River Shannon in the 6th. Century. Read about Saint Brendan the Navigator who started a Monastic settlement in the tiny village of Clonfert in the 6th century, located on the Galway/Offaly/Tipperary border. Travel on my journeys to two of Canada's most famous Catholic Shrines - Saint Anne de Beaupré and Cap de la Madeleine, both on the shores of the Saint Lawrence river in Quebec. Finally I welcome you to come with me to see a little of Medugorje, a peaceful haven in a war-torn country - Bosnia-Herzogovina. Please also pay a visit to  Moytura's Irish Bookshop where you can find books on the history of Christianity in IrelandIrish Prayers and Celtic Christianity

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