"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life."
Gospel of John 3:16
The Bible is a book about God our Creator who reveals his undying love for his creation mankind. The Bible presents salvation history, God giving his only son Jesus Christ to save humanity, and sending the Holy Spirit to guide us. The Bible provides direction for a happy life on earth, gives prophecy on the end times, and helps us reach heaven in the after-life.
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The Bible is the Word of God and is composed of both the Old and New Testaments.
The Old Testament relates God's Creation of the world and his undying love for his creation mankind, in spite of man's sin and disobedience. Key events in salvation history and important passages include the following: the Creation (Genesis 1 and 2); our first parents Adam and Eve (Genesis 3); Cain and Abel (Genesis 4); Noah and the Flood (Genesis 6-9); God's Covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15-17); Abraham Offers Isaac (Genesis 22); Joseph Forgives His Brothers (Genesis 42-50); Pharoah's Daughter finds Moses (Exodus 2); Moses and the Burning Bush (Exodus 3); The First Passover (Exodus 12); The Crossing of the Red Sea (Exodus 14); Moses receives the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5); Joshua enters the Promised Land (Joshua 4-6); Samson, Delilah and the Philistines (Judges 13-16); David is Chosen to become King (1 Samuel 16); David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17); The Wisdom of Solomon (1 Kings 3:16-28); Ark of the Covenant in Solomon's Temple (Kings 5-8); Elijah and the Chariot of Fire (2 Kings 2); Tobit and Tobias (Book of Tobit); The Lord is My Shepherd (Psalm 23); Life in the Womb (Psalm 139); The Seven Gifts & The Wolf and The Lamb (Isaiah 11:1-10); The First Reference to an Afterlife (Isaiah 26:19); The Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53); Daniel in the Lion's Den (Daniel 6:13-23); The Virtue of Susannah (Daniel 13); and Jonah and the Whale (Book of Jonah).
There are over 100 Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, among them Genesis 3:15, Deuteronomy 18:15-18, 2 Samuel 7:14-16, l Chronicles 17:12-14, Psalm 22, Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Daniel 7:13-14, Daniel 9:24-27, Micah 5:2, Zechariah 9:9, and Zechariah 12:10. Perhaps the most amazing one was Daniel 9:24-27, which actually predicted the time of the Messiah to that of the time of Jesus!
The Old Testament is Hebrew Scripture or Tanakh, and is composed of the Law or Torah, the Prophets or Neviim, and the Writings or Ketuvim. The three-fold division of Hebrew Scripture was evident at the time of Jesus, who referred to "The Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms [Luke 24:44]." The Old Testament was composed in Hebrew, except for the following written in Aramaic - Genesis 31:47, Jeremiah 10:11, Ezra 4:8-6:18 and 7:12-26, and nearly half of the Book of Daniel 2:4-7:28.
The Law contains the five Books of Moses or the Pentateuch. Genesis describes the creation of the world and the story of the Patriarchs of Israel. Exodus tells the story of Moses, the Ten Commandments and the Ark of the Covenant, and the Exodus from Egypt. Leviticus relates the laws pertaining to religious observances and conduct, such as to love your neighbor (19:18), and to refrain from tattoos (19:28) or consult fortune tellers (19:31). Numbers is so named because of the census taken of the Israelites, and their wandering in the Sinai Desert for forty years because of their disobedience to the Lord God. Deuteronomy reiterates the Ten Commandments and religious laws, and delineates how the Israelites should live in the Promised Land, and prophesizes the consequences of their behavior. The Prophets include the former prophets that are part of the Historical Books - Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings; the major prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel; as well as the prophets of the Book of the Twelve, such as Jonah, Micah, and Zechariah. The Writings primarily consist of Wisdom literature, poetry, and songs, such as the Book of Psalms, Proverbs, and the Song of Songs.
The writings of the Old Testament were preserved in three languages - Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, and have been passed on to us mainly through 4 manuscripts: the Greek Septuagint from Alexandria; the Masoretic Hebrew text; the newly discovered Dead Sea Scrolls of the Essenes; and the Targums, translations of the Old Testament Books into Aramaic. The differing traditions have led to the disparity found in the Old Testament canons among major religions.
The oldest surviving translation of Hebrew Scripture was the Greek Septuagint, which was undertaken in the third century BC in Egypt by Jewish scholars who had migrated there during the Diaspora. The Greek Septuagint Old Testament was in circulation at the time of Christ, and was widely read. When Jesus read Isaiah [61:1-2] in the synagogue at Nazareth [Luke 4:16-19], he followed the language of the Greek Septuagint. The early Christian Churches referred to the Septuagint as the source of Scripture. The Orthodox Churches have retained the Septuagint for their canon of the Old Testament to the present day! In fact, the majority of Old Testament quotations in the New Testament are from the Greek Septuagint Old Testament, primarily from the Books of Psalms, the prophet Isaiah, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, and the Book of the Twelve.
The canon of Hebrew Scripture developed in stages. The Law was known as Scripture as early as II Kings 22:8ff. The Prophets were considered Scripture by the end of the second century BC (Daniel 9:2; ll Maccabees 2:13, 15:9; Sirach 49:10). While the Psalms were uniformly accepted, the final books of the Writings took time to become clearly defined.
The sacred books of the Writings often varied with each religious sect. This has become evident through the Dead Sea Scrolls of the Essenes, a conservative religious sect. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 at Qumran in the Judean desert, and were found in 9 of 11 caves that underwent excavation. Every book of the Old Testament was found in the Dead Sea Scrolls except for the Book of Esther. It is important to note that the Dead Sea Scrolls do include 3 books written in Hebrew which had been considered part of the Apocrypha - Tobias [or Tobit], Sirach, and the Letter of Jeremiah [Chapter six of Baruch], as well as Psalm 151 of David. The Hebrew canon for Judaism was established by the second century AD. The Masoretic Text developed from the eighth through tenth century reflected this Hebrew canon.
St. Jerome translated both Old and New Testaments into Latin; he completed the translation of the New Testament into Latin in 384, and the Old Testament in 405. St. Jerome translated from both Greek and Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament and noted the difference between the larger canon of the Greek Septuagint and the shorter Hebrew canon, and called those books comprising the difference the "hidden or secret books," or the Apocrypha. The difference between the two canons consists of the Books of Tobias (Tobit), Sirach, Baruch, Wisdom, First and Second Maccabees, and Judith, as well as the Greek portion of Daniel, which includes the story of Susannah, Bel and the Dragon, and the Prayer of the Three Young Men; and portions of Esther. As the Greek Septuagint was the accepted version of the Old Testament for Christianity at that time, Jerome translated the 46 books that were affirmed as Old Testament canon at the Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397). The Latin Vulgate Bible published by St. Jerome served as the standard Bible for Western civilization for over 1000 years.
In summary, modern Christianity reflects the lack of uniformity found in the canon of the Old Testament, for Catholics and Eastern Orthodox continue to refer to the Greek Septuagint as Old Testament while Protestants chose the Masoretic Hebrew text. See the Canon of the Old Testament for a more complete discussion.
It was St. Augustine who best explained the relationship of the Old and New Testaments:
"The new lies hidden in the old, the old is made manifest in the new."
The New Testament recorded the oral tradition of the Life and Teachings of Jesus, his Passion, Death and Resurrection, and the formation of the early Christian community, the Church.
Jesus and his Apostles spoke Aramaic, as this was the common language at the time in Palestine. Several Aramaic words and expressions were preserved in the writings of the Greek New Testament, such as the following examples. Jesus addressed God in prayer, using the Aramaic word Abba, the affectionate term for "Father" [Mark 14:36]. Jesus raised the child by calling out Talitha cumi, which means "little girl, arise" in Mark 5:41. He cured the man who was deaf and dumb by speaking Ephphatha, meaning "be opened" in Mark 7:34. Jesus refers to hell as Gehenna in Mark 9:42-50. Jesus cried out from the cross Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani, that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" [Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34]. Jesus used Aramaic words twice in referring to Peter: he used the prefix Bar-, "the son of," (not the Hebrew Ben) when he called Peter Bar-Jonah, the son of Jonah [Matthew 16:17]; and he called Peter Cephas, the Aramaic word for rock in John 1:42.
The canon of the New Testament is exactly the same for all of Christianity!
There are 27 Books in the New Testament.
The Tradition of the Church Fathers was important to the early Church, for they were the ones who had an important role in the process of the formation of the canon of the New Testament, as well in the interpretation of Scripture. Irenaeus of Lyons around 180 AD was among the first to propose a canon for the New Testament. Three Fathers of the Church - Athanasius of Alexandria in his Letter of 367, Jerome at Bethlehem in 384, and Augustine at the Council of Hippo in 393 - agreed 27 Books were the inspired Word of God. The Canon of the New Testament was confirmed at the Third Council of Carthage in 397 AD.
No original manuscript by the author of a biblical book has yet been discovered!
The earliest known Greek New Testament manuscripts are the parchment codices Codex Vaticanus (B), the Codex Sinaiticus (S), and the Codex Alexandrinus (A), which date from the fourth and fifth centuries AD. The Aramaic Peshitta, the Bible of the Syriac Christian Churches, dates from the fifth century. A Western Aramaic Syro-Palestinian Bible has been discovered, which dates from the sixth century AD.
The New Testament writers accorded to the Old Testament the value of Divine Revelation. They proclaimed this revelation found its fulfillment in the life, in the teaching, and above all, in the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, source of forgiveness and of everlasting life. They frequently drew upon the Old Testament writings, primarily to confirm Jesus Christ as the Messiah, or to serve as a source for moral instruction, or for the interpretation of events. Typology in Biblical studies finds an Old Testament story serving as a prefigurement or symbol for an event in the New Testament. Referring to Christ, Paul called Adam "a type of the one who is to come" (Romans 5:14). In Hebrews 12:24 the blood of Abel speaks to the "blood of Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant." Peter saw the flood during the times of Noah as a figure of baptism (1 Peter 3:20-21). In a direct quotation, the Gospel writer acknowledged the source, and directly quoted the Old Testament, as Matthew 1:22, after Jesus is born of the virgin Mary, quoted Isaiah 7:14 that prophesized the Messiah will be born of a virgin. An example of moral instruction would be Mark 10:2ff, when Jesus quoted Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 in his instruction on marriage. Paul explained Christ's reception of Gentiles by referring to multiple sources such as Isaiah 11:1 in Romans 15:8-12. An allusion occurs when an obvious Old Testament source is woven in the text without acknowledging the source, such as Paul who refers to Genesis 3:15 in Romans 16:20, and John who refers to that "ancient serpent" of Genesis 3 in Revelation 12:12. And finally the source may be unknown, as Matthew 2:23, when he refers to the prophecy, "He shall be called a Nazarene."
The Books of the New Testament are the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the Acts of the Apostles, the 14 Letters of the Pauline corpus, the 7 catholic or universal Letters, and the Book of Revelation.
The Four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John proclaim the "Good News" of the coming of Jesus Christ. Matthew, Mark, and Luke present the teachings of Jesus in Parables; they are called the Synoptic Gospels, as they parallel each other. The Gospel of John is an unparalleled spiritual and theological work. All four Gospels present the Miracles of Christ Jesus. There are three stages in the development of the Gospel narrative: the teachings of Jesus himself; the oral tradition of the Apostles, who handed down the teachings of Jesus to the early Christian community, the Church; and finally, the inspired written Word of Scripture. The Bible was written within the Church. Considering the impact of his life and teaching, it is remarkable the Ministry of Jesus lasted such a short time!
The Acts of the Apostles is the second Book written by Luke, and describes the explosive growth of Christianity following the Pentecost, the Descent of the Holy Spirit. Acts describes the growth of the early Christian community, the Church, from Jerusalem and Antioch to Asia Minor and Rome, focusing primarily on the activities of Peter and Paul.
There are 14 Letters originally attributed to Paul that are part of the New Testament canon. This author acknowledges the efforts of modern biblical scholarship. Until an original manuscript by the author of a biblical book is uncovered and the truth is revealed, we will respect the Church Fathers that included all 14 letters in the Pauline corpus.
The Pauline corpus begins in the New Testament with the Letter to the Romans, which emphasizes God's righteousness that saves all who believe in Jesus Christ. The letter begins and ends with the ideal Christian response to our merciful Saviour, "the obedience of faith" [Romans 1:5, 16:26]. First Corinthians gives us an insight into the early Christian community, and includes the beautiful passage on love. Second Corinthians is personal in nature and reveals much about Paul's character. We are reminded that God's grace is sufficient for us. The Apostle to the Gentiles emphasizes the way to salvation is through Christ and the Cross in Galatians. Ephesians is the Pauline letter on the Church. Paul's first Christian community were the Philippians, and the letter shows his great love for the Gospel and his converts. Colossians continues the discussion of the relationship of Christ and his Church. The first writings to become part of the New Testament were First and Second Thessalonians, written in 51 AD. First and Second Timothy and Titus are the Pastoral Epistles. He breathes love and equality into the ancient and accepted institution of slavery in the Letter to Philemon. The Letter to the Hebrews is an outstanding treatise on the priesthood of Jesus, who perfected Revelation and redeemed mankind by his one Sacrifice, which established God's New Covenant. Of the 14 letters of the Pauline corpus, all but the Letter to the Hebrews begin with the name of Paul. St. Jerome attributed Hebrews to Paul, when he translated the Greek version of the New Testament into Latin in the Fourth Century.
The seven catholic or universal Letters of James (1), Peter (2), John (3), and Jude (1) are so called because they are addressed to all the Churches, unlike the letters of Paul, which are addressed to a particular community [Romans, Corinthians, and so on]. They were open letters that concerned themselves with different themes pertinent to Christians. The Letter of James emphasizes that faith without works is dead. First Peter shows us the mission of the early Church in the midst of a hostile society, and provides direction for Christian behavior in the world. Second Peter offers Peter's witness to the Transfiguration of Jesus, commentary on interpretation of Scripture, and speaks of the Parousia. First John expresses God's love and forgiveness in the face of the universality of sin, and asserts the humanity and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Second John also serves as a warning against heresy in the early Church, while Third John is a valuable testimony to the fidelity of the early Christian communities. The Book of Jude gives encouragement to fidelity in the Christian faith and notes the moral implications of the Gospel message. The mysterious Book of Jude also described a phenomenon noted in some anesthetic patients with near-death experiences: "They are like wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shameless deeds, wandering stars for whom the gloom of darkness has been reserved forever" (Jude 1:13 NAB).
The Book of Revelation is the final Book of the New Testament, and is apocalyptic in nature. The Book of Revelation is at once frightening, as it speaks of the rise of the antichrist and the end of the age, dramatic as it describes the final battle of good and evil, and, above all, optimistic, as it points to the triumph of Jesus Christ over evil and the dawn of a new creation. Written by John, it has fascinated readers for centuries, as it prophesizes about the End Times, a time which may be drawing near.
1 Minto AL. Introduction to Scripture, 1998, to Discipleship and Mission in Luke-Acts, 2005. Course Lectures and Texts, Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio.
2 Brown RE, Fitzmeyer JA, Murphy RE (eds): The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, especially Chapters on Pentateuch, Canonicity, Texts and Versions. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1990.
3 The Douay-Rheims Holy Bible. Old Testament, English College of Douai, 1609; New Testament, English College of Rheims, France, 1582. Revision, Bishop Challoner, 1749-1752, England. John Murphy Company, Baltimore, Maryland, 1914.
4 The New American Bible. Catholic Bible Press. Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1987.
5 RSV Navarre Bible Series - Pentateuch and Old Testament Series and Compact New Testament. Four Courts Press, Dublin, Ireland, 1999-2005.
6 Berry GB. The Interlinear King James Version - Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2000.
7 New Greek-English Interlinear New Testament. Fourth Corrected Greek Edition, United Bible Society; Nestle-Aland 26th Edition; NRSV English version. Translators: Brown RK and Comfort PW; Editor: Douglas JD. Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton, Ill, 1990.
8 The New Jerusalem Bible. Doubleday, New York, 1985.
9 The New American Standard Bible. Lockman Foundation, La Habra, California, 1960, 1977, 1995.
10 Pontifical Biblical Commission. The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church. Pauline Books & Media, Boston, Mass, 1993.
11 The Second Vatican Council. Dei Verbum - On Divine Revelation, November 1965. Vatican Council II, Austin Flannery (ed); Dominican Publications, Dublin, Ireland, 1998.
12 Young FM. Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture. Cambridge University Press, 1997.
13 Ratzinger JC. Introduction to Christianity. Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1990.
14 Tannehill RC. The Narrative Unity of Luke-Acts: A Literary Interpretation, in 2 Volumes. Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1990.
15 Wall RW. The Acts of the Apostles, in The New Interpreter's Bible, Volume 10. Abingdon Press, Nashville, pages 344-368, 2002.
16 Lienhard JT. The Bible, The Church, and Authority - The Canon of the Christian Bible. Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1995.
17 Johnson LT. The Writings of the New Testament. Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1986.
18 Mounce WD. Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar. Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1986.
19 Jensen J. God's Word to Israel. Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1988.
20 Vanderkam JC. The Dead Sea Scrolls Today. WB Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1994.
21 Rendsburg GA. A New Look at Pentateuchal HW'. Biblica 63:351-369, 1982.
22 Lambdin TO. Introduction to Biblical Hebrew. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey, 1971.
23 Ross A. Introducing Biblical Hebrew, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2001.
24 JPS Hebrew-English Tanakh. Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1999.
25 Kohlenberger JR. NIV Interlinear Hebrew-English Old Testament. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1987.