Old Testament

Old Testament, Christian name for the Hebrew Bible, which serves as the first division of the Christian Bible. The designations “Old” and “New” seem to have been adopted after c.A.D. 200 to distinguish the books of the Mosaic covenant and those of the “new” covenant in Christ. New Testament writers, however, simply call the Old Testament the “Scriptures.”

Among contemporary Christians, the Roman Catholic Church recognizes as deuterocanonical several books that are consigned to the Old Testament Apocrypha by most Protestant bodies, whose canon conforms to that of the contemporary Hebrew Bible. There the books follow the order of the Palestinian Hebrew canon, which appears to have been adopted by c.A.D. 100, although most of the books had clearly received canonical status well before this time. The order is as follows: (1) the Torah or Law, the five books of the Pentateuch, i.e., Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy; (2) the Prophets, consisting of Joshua, Judges, First and Second Samuel, First and Second Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve (or Minor) Prophets; (3) the Writings (Hagiographa), a heterogeneous group to which belong (a) Psalms, Proverbs, and Job, (b) the Scrolls ( Megillot ), consisting of the Song of Solomon (Song of Songs), Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther, and (c) Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and First and Second Chronicles.

The number of Old Testament books (not counting the Apocrypha) stands at 39; in the Hebrew Bible they are usually counted as 24. The discrepancy occurs because Ezra and Nehemiah are counted as one book, as are each of the following—First and Second Kings; First and Second Chronicles; and the 12 Prophets (Hosea through Malachi). Sometimes Judges and Ruth are also conflated, as are Jeremiah and Lamentations, making for 22 books, the number attested by Josephus (c.A.D. 36–A.D. 96).


New Testament

New Testament, the distinctively Christian portion of the Bible, consisting of 27 books of varying lengths dating from the earliest Christian period. The seven epistles whose authorship by St. Paul is undisputed were written c.A.D. 50–A.D. 60; most of the remaining books were written in the era A.D. 70–100, often incorporating earlier traditions. All were written in the koinē idiom of the Greek language.

The works are, in the conventional order: the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles, a history of apostolic missionary activity; 21 letters written in apostolic times, called epistles, named for their addressee (or, in the case of the last seven, for their putative author)—Romans, First and Second Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon, First and SecondThessalonians, Ephesians, Colossians, First and Second Timothy, Titus (these 13 comprising the Pauline corpus, although Paul’s authorship of the last six is disputed), Hebrews, James, First and Second Peter, First, Second, and Third John, and Jude; and finally Revelation, or the Apocalypse. Most present problems of date, composition, or authorship. All reflect the needs of the community addressed, as well as their religious convictions and cultural heritage. Consequently, they reflect a diversity of viewpoints while agreeing that Jesus’ death and resurrection marks the decisive intervention of God in human affairs.

The 27 books of the New Testament represent only a portion of early Christian literature (see patristic literature). There are other gospels, epistles, narratives, and apocalypses among the Pseudepigrapha and in the Nag Hammadi corpus. The selection of books considered canonical, i.e., authoritative, evolved over the first four centuries of the Christian era. The first canon was compiled by the heretic Marcion in the mid-2d cent. Marcion accepted only the letters of Paul (though not Titus or First and Second Timothy) and a truncated version of the Gospel of St. Luke. The earliest extant orthodox list is the Muratorian canon (c.190 or possibly later), which contains most of the books finally accepted as canonical. There was, however, dispute for some time over seven books (Hebrews, James, Second Peter, Second and Third John, Jude, and Revelation) eventually included in the canon, and over others (including the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, First Clement, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Epistle of Barnabas (see Barnabas, Saint, and the Didache). The present New Testament canon appears for the first time in the Festal Letter of St. Athanasius (367). The criterion was that works written by an apostle or by a colleague of one could be trusted to preserve the authentic apostolic witness to Jesus. The traditional view has been that a canonical work must also be divinely inspired. All major Christian traditions use the same New Testament.

Special Series Bible Study

These are study materials for seasonal series studies such as Christmas Series, New Year Series, Tithing & offering Series and many more series that we will be observing at our church. Please help yourself to some special series study questions