B. HISTORICAL BOOKS
JOSHUA -- Took over as judge of Israel after Moses and led the Israelites into the Promised Land.
JUDGES -- 6 Judges, men and women, who led the children of Israel until they asked God for a king
RUTH -- Reveals the family line to Jesus
I & II SAMUEL -- 1st and 2nd book of the Kings (Samuel anoints the first two Kings of Israel)
I & II KINGS -- 3rd and 4th Book of the Kings, History of the Kingdom of Israel (Elijah and Elisha appear)
I & II CHRONICLES -- Records David, Solomon, and the kings of Judah after the division of Israel up to the time of captivity
EZRA -- Records the return of the Jews from captivity, and the rebuilding of the temple
NEHEMIAH -- Accounts the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, and the re-establishment of the sacred ordinances
ESTER -- Story of Queen Esther's deliverance of the Jews from the plot of Haman.
I & II MACABEES - The account of the Maccabean revolt against the abominations in the Temple by Seleucids in the 2nd C. B.C.. Led by the father of five sons, the revolt was largely successful and ended with the establishment of an independent Jewish state.
JUDITH A Widow, Judith saves her people from the Assyrians by killing its general, Holofernes sent by Nabuchodonosor, King of Nineveh.
JOB Is a theological and philosophical reflection on "the problem of the righteous suffering." and how one man overcome affliction despite the attack led by Satan against him
PSALMS "The hymn book of the second Temple a collection of 150 spiritual songs, poems, and prayers used through the centuries by the church in its devotion
PROVERBS -- Collection of aphorisms and poems dealing with the relationship between wisdom, righteousness and moral and religious devotion. In its final form 3rd century. B.C.
ECCLESIASTICS [or the Preacher] The most pessimistic book in the Bible. Still it leads us towards God as the only real source of hope and meaning. 5th. B.C.
SONG OF SOLOMON -- A long, religious poem symbolising the mutual love of Christ and the church
THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON Wisdom is personified as intelligent, holy, a subtle lover of the good who is an expression of the purity, power, glory, light and goodness of God Himself.
SIRACH OR ECCLESIASTICUS - A late expression (2nd C.) of the Wisdom tradition enshrined in Proverbs. Wisdom is interpreted as a practical understanding of God's law, which makes possible a good life under the authority of God.
TOBIT Written c. post-exile. In Tobit God shows that He is faithful to those that are faithful to Him by sending his angel Raphael to help Tobias and Raguel.
D. PROPHETICAL BOOKS.
i. MAJOR PROPHETS (4)
ISAIAH -- (Prophet of Redemption) -- It is a collection of at least three different authors' writings. It contains many beautiful passages foretelling of the coming of the Messiah. The first 11 chapters are often referred to as "The Emmanuel Book. Writings of the prophet Isaiah of the 8th C. dominate the first 39 chapters.
JEREMIAH -- (Weeping Prophet) -- THEME: Backsliding, bondage, restoration of Jews, Lived from time of Josiah to the Captivity
LAMENTATION OF JEREMIAH - Series of wailing for the affliction of Israel
EZEKIEL -- A book showing the sad condition of God's people and the pathway to restoration
DANIEL -- Personal biography of Daniel, lived during captivity, also a vision of the end times, nut written in the 2nd C. B.C.
ii.. MINOR PROPHETS (13)
HOSEA -- Lived with Isaiah and Micah -- Revealed the spiritual adultery of Israel.
JOEL -- Prophet to Judah, requiring national repentance and fasting.
AMOS -- The herdsman prophet, a reformer denouncing selfishness and sin.
OBADIAH --Prophecies the doom of Edom and final deliverance of Israel.
JONAH -- The "Reluctant Missionary",who went to Nineveh, and preached repentance to that city. It reveals the universality of God's message of redemption.
MICAH -- Shows a dark picture of the moral condition of Israel and Judah. Has the most beautiful summary of the Christian life in the O.T. "To act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with thy God."
NAHUM -- Describes the destruction of Nineveh.
HABAKKUK -- Its theme is how can a just God allow a wicked nation to oppress Israel.
ZEPHANIAH -- A sombre book filled with threatening, but ends in a vision of the future glory of Israel.
HAGGAI -- A colleague of Zechariah. Reproves the people for slackness in building the second temple, promises return of God's glory upon completion
ZECHARIAH -- Contemporary of Zephaniah. Helps arouse the Jews to rebuild the temple
MALACHI -- Gives a graphic picture of the closing period of Old Testament History. Shows necessity of reforms before the coming Messiah.
BARUCH - A disciple of Jeremiah who foretold the return from the exile in Babylon. However the Jews had brought this exile on themselves because of their sins.
In addition, there are extra fragments and chapters in the Septuagint versions of Esther and Daniel, namely: the seven last chapters of Esther (10, 4 to 16, 24); the prayer of Azarias and the canticle of the three children in the fiery furnace (Dan. 3, 24-90); the history of Susanna (Dan. 13); and the history of Bel and the Dragon (Dan. 14). Together, these additional books and paragraphs constitute the Deuterocanon.
NEW TESTAMENT has 27 books
A. THE GOSPELS
1. ST. MATTHEW Written primarily for Jewish Christians to show Jesus as the fulfilment of the Messianic prophecy. Jesus is the new Moses and therefore is the giver of the new Law. Written probably in Antioch c. 75- 80 A.D. It is the only gospel that speaks of ekklesia amd promotes Peter.
2. ST. MARK - The first gospel written c. 70 A.D. Author unknown, and although it may have been written by a person called Mark, but it is not John Mark of the N.T. It is written in a time after Christians have faced persecution and the true meaning of discipleship. It gives heart to those who apostatised as even the apostles failed Jesus. It is the shortest and it also conveys urgency in the relating of Christ's life, with an emphasis on the supernatural power of Christ over nature, disease, and demons. It is reasonable to think iy was written after the Neronian persecution
3. ST LUKE The most polished and beautiful of the Gospels as it portrays Christ as the Son of Man, with His compassion for the poor, women and the sinful. It is also the gospel where discipleship means giving all. However the apostles are always presented in a positive light and our Lord dies peacefully on the cross. It was most probably written by Luke c. 85. A.D.
4. ST JOHN Written probably by a member of the Johannine community that was inspired by "the beloved disciple" and reflects his teaching c. 100. It unfolds the great mystery of the Incarnation, and the oneness of the Son to the Father to accomplish redemption, and Christ's mandate of love. The Gospel is permeated with contrasts between light and darkness, life and death, truth and falsehood. It is the gospel that demands a personal relationship with Jesus based on love. In this gospel the Holy Spirit, known as the Paraclete is portrayed as the Teacher after Christ's ascension.
ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - Is a sequel to the Gospel of Luke as it portrays the origin and growth of the early Christian communities from the ascension of Christ to the first imprisonment of Paul at Rome. It portrays the work of the Holy Spirit amongst those first Christians.
C. THE EPISTLES (14)
1. THE PAULINE EPISTLES
ROMANS - Addressed to the Roman Christians. It shows a need for salvation and spiritual, social and civic duties. It is one of the great theological writings of all times that influenced the teachings of Augustine and others after him. Written c. 58.
I CORINTHIANS - Addressed to the Corinthian church to cleanse itself from various morality wrongs and doctrinal untruths. Written c. 55-56.
II CORINTHIANS Addressed to the Corinthian Church, manifesting Paul's apostleship and the characteristics of an apostolic ministry. Written c. 57. It probably contains fragments of several letters to the Corinthinas.
GALATIANS - Addressed to the Galatian Church to warn the young Christians against false teachers and the return to Judaism. Discusses the doctrine of justification of faith. c.53-54. It also contains biographical parts of Paul life.
PHILIPPIANS - Addressed to the Philippian Church -- reveals Paul's intense devotion to Christ, steadfast doctrine, and joy in prison. Contains one of the earliest Christian hymns. Written c. 53.
I THESSALONIANS - Addressed to Thessalonica Church shortly after Paul's visit in c. 51A.D. It is eschatological in tone, with apostolic commendation, reminiscences, and counselling. Future coming of Christ was imminent. Written c. 50.
PHILEMON - A private letter written to Philemon, beseeching him to receive and forgive Onesimus, a runaway slave who is now his brother in Christ. c.57-58.
2. THE DOUBTFUL PAULINE EPISTLES
II THESSALONIANS If Paul wrote this it was soon after this first letter. It is very similar to the first letter. Enlightens church concerning the doctrine of Christ's second coming and warning against unrest and social disorders. Written c. 80 -90
COLOSSIANS If Paul wrote this it was at the end of his life but its theological content is so different from the definite Pauline letters. Addressed to the church in Colossae it unfolds the glory of Christ as the head of the Church and all creation. It also appeals to and abandoning of worldly philosophy and sin. Written c. 80.
EPHESIANS This was probably written as a covering letter for an early collection of Paul's letter. Much of its contents is similar to Colossians. Written c. 80-85.
3. THE PASTORAL EPISTLES written by the Pauline School
I & 11 TIMOTHY Written towards the end of the first century to the early church for instruction and structure. c. 95-100.
TITUS - It also gives details of the structure of the early church and the offices of bishop, prebyter and deacon. Written c. 95-100.
4. HEBREWS - Author unknown. It is probably a homily given to an early Christian community about faithful adherence to Christ who has supplanted the old covenant roles of priesthood and sacrifice. His priesthood is eternal, and reveals His glory. To reject this knowledge once known is to apostasise. Written c. 80-90.
5. THE CATHOLIC EPISTLES
JAMES - It is addressed to Jewish converts and there is no mention of the Gentile mission. It emphasised the importance of good works as well as faith in practising one's religion. There are similarities with the gospel of St. Matthew. Almost certainly not penned by the leader of the Jewish Christian church, James the brother of the Lord. Its author is also anonymous. Written c.90-100.
I PETER Almost certainly not penned by Peter. Has much in common with James, Hebrews and I Clement, and probably comes from the same tradition. It therefore was probably written towards the end of the 1stC. The author is familiar with the Septuagint and writes in sophisticated Greek. The purpose of the letter is not to convey doctrinal teaching but to encourage Christians to be faithful even in persecution. Theirs was a wonderful privilege to be engrafted into Christ. Written c. 95-100
II PETER - This has a different agenda to I Peter, and it is probably dependent on the letter of Jude or a similar source. Both attacked false teachers, but difference in style and outlook indicates a different author. Warned against false teachers and scoffers. It is the last of the canonical documents to be written c. 125.
I JOHN - This and the other two letters probably written by a member of the Johannine community. It conveys a deep spiritual message to believers in the church, with a special emphasis on the duty of love and to be faithful for what they have learnt about our Lord Jesus Christ. It also reveals division in the community. Wriiten c. A.D. 100
II JOHN - Warns against false teachers who seemed to have infiltrated the Johannine community. Written c. 100.
III JOHN - Letter of commendation written to Gaius to hold the faithful together. Written c. 100.
JUDE - Author unknown but it is written in the same tradition as James. It contains historical examples of apostasy and divine judgement on sinners, and warns against immoral teachers. Written c. 95-100
REVELATION The author was a Christian prophet named John who was familiar with the churches in the Roman province of Asia. Written whilst in exile on Patmos, it exposes a series of visions concerning the end of time, the battle between Jesus and Satan, Jesus' victory, and Heaven. It is a book of profound theology, intense prophetic insight and dazzling literary accomplishments. Babylon is Roman power of the time. It is not a book of future happenings. It is not a book of future happenings in this world.The last word in the bible is Maranatha - a fitting end to the Bible.
In the very early Church there was no Bible as we know it to-day, but Christians following Our Lord's example certainly knew the Hebraic Scriptures. This is what we know to-day as the Old Testament. At the time of Christ there existed two collections of the Old Testament : the Hebrew of the Palestinian Jews and the Greek Septuagint of the Alexandrian Jews. The latter was a translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek as well as what we know as deutero-canonical writings. It was so named “the Septuagint” from the apocryphal account based on a letter of Aristeas stating that seventy Greek-speaking Jewish scholars produced the translation in as many days. But in actual fact it took nearly two centuries, beginning in the 3rd century B.C.
Owing to the Hellenization of the eastern Mediterranean world after the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greek became the popular language. The large Jewish communities outside of Palestine (diaspora) often did not speak Hebrew or Aramaic as their first language. It was therefore necessary to produce a vernacular version of the Sacred Scriptures for them in Greek. Most of the writers of the New Testament such as Luke and Paul quoted the Old Testament from the Septuagint.
In the first century A.D. as well as the use of the Old Testament by Christians there were circulated amongst them other writings such as the letters that Paul wrote to various Christian communities such as Corinth and Rome. It was customary in the early Church when one community received a letter to share it amongst other Christian communities. This was true also in regards to accounts of martyrdoms of Christians. Towards the end of the first century it would seem that there were in circulation letters bearing Paul's name with Ephesians as a covering letter but without the Pastoral letters.
There are approximately 800 copies of letters bearing Paul's name that have survived, but no two copies are completely identical and many are incomplete. Nothing survives in the original hand of Paul. The oldest manuscript of the letters of Paul we have is dated c.200 and is generally known as Papyrus 46 as it was found/written in Egypt. This codex was made out of one single quire, that is, 52 papyrus leaves were put on top of each other and then folded in the middle; thus forming 104 leaves holding 208 pages of text. However this manuscript definitely did not contain the Pastoral letters or Philemon. That Paul’s letters were circulated and known is evident from the letter of Ignatius of Antioch shortly before his martyrdom in A.D. c. 110 that he wrote to the Christians of Ephesus in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). In this letter he noted that "the saintly Paul" mentioned them "in every one of his letters." This suggests that Paul's letters were known to him not just as individual letters but also as a collection. Then, in what became known as the second letter of Peter (2 Pet 3:15-16) referred to the wisdom of Paul found "in all his letters," a wisdom "that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do the other scriptures." It is very hard to date this letter but it was probably written in the second century. Whenever it was written it provides further evidence that there existed a collection of Paul's letters at a relatively early date. It even suggests that these letters were being treated as authoritative, comparable to "the other scriptures." Polycarp of Smyrna, who died A.D. c. 155, is another witness to this development. In his letter to the Christians of Philippi he encourages them to pay close attention to the letters that the apostle Paul wrote after he had spent time among them. What we know as the Four Gospels, all written by the end of the first century, were first used separately in individual Christian communities. For example, the church in Antioch used the Matthean Gospel, whilst the Johannine community used the Johannine one. Even when the church as a whole recognised these four gospels they were often possessed separately for a long time. For instance we know when Dominic was travelling he possessed the Gospel of Matthew and the Pauline letters. How early is it before we find quotations from the Gospels in Christian writings? Our earliest witness to this fact is Clement of Rome, whose first letter to the church in Corinth probably dates from A.D. c 95. A few years later Ignatius of Antioch also quoted some words of Jesus. In neither case, however, can we be confident that these writers had access to written gospels, let alone to a collection of gospels. It may have been from some of the pre-existing Gospel materials. Writing some decades into the second century, Polycarp of Smyrna makes reference to a passage from the Gospel of Matthew in a way that does suggest he had a written text. Once again we do not know whether he had access to more than one account of Jesus' life. Clearer evidence for the existence of a collection of gospels can be found in the writings of Justin Martyr, who died about the year 165. Justin speaks of the "memoirs of the apostles or of those who followed them," and it seems from the extracts he gives that he is speaking of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Justin's work also tells us that these gospels were being read during the Sunday liturgy.
Finally, if we are looking for evidence of our present set of four gospels, we may find it in the story of the early Christian scholar Tatian, who died about 160. Tatian designed a harmonized version of the accounts of Jesus' life in a work entitled the Diatesseron. The name of the work, which may be literally translated "by means of the four," suggests that he had access to four gospels, presumably the same four as we have today. (In reading it today, it is interesting to see how he compiled his gospel). The fact that he could take such liberties with their text is also revealing: it suggests that these four gospels had not yet achieved a fixed status as Sacred Scripture.
There were also various kinds of manuscripts: those written either as a recording of oral stories and teachings or as original documents such as Clement's letter to the Corinthians and the Epistle of Barnabas which were often used in many churches. What seems to have happened in communities, manuscripts were read, circulated, and often revised by local churches; and then collected in books of scrolls. Until the books of the Bible were finalised by the Church at the end of the 4th century local churches thus often had different collection of books. There were also various accounts of our Lord's life, apart from the Synoptic gospels such as the gospels of Thomas and Philip, written somewhere between the second and third centuries and although popular, were not included in the final Canon.
THE CANON OF THE OLD TESTAMENT ADOPTED BY THE CHURCH
The earliest attempt to produce a canon (a collection of books) for the Old Testament by the Church was made by Melito, bishop of Sardis, an ancient city of Asia Minor A.D. c. 170. His list maintained the Septuagint order of books but contained only the Old Testament protocanonicals (that is, the books of the Hebrew Bible minus the Book of Esther). Two centuries later, the Council of Laodicea, c. 360, produced a list of books similar to today's canon, that is, it included also the deutero-canonical books. Shortly afterwards Pope Damasus (366-384), at the Council of Rome in 382, in his Decree, listed the books for the Canon, which is the same we have today in the Roman Catholic church. The official version of the Septuagint is used in the Eastern Church, which has 151 psalms, I Esdras, Three Maccabees, the Letter of Jeremiah, and the Prayer of Manasseh (part of II Chronicles) – these are missing from the Latin Church. The Septuagint also had Four Maccabees.
The earliest complete text of the Septuagint is from the fourth century A. D. This is known as the Codex Vaticanus. The codex Alexandrinus, although it has parts missing, contains Deuterocanonical material not in C.V. such as the four books of Maccabees is 5th C. as is Codex Sinaiticus that has Bks 1 and 4 of Macc.
The Hebrew Canon (Tanakh) for the Jews
This began its final shape between the Babylonian exile and the first century A.D. This Canon has three parts: the law, the prophets and the writings. It was still in fluidity in the time of our Lord. Its completeness probably dates from the Council of Jamnia in A.D. 90.
Apart from the Tanakh there is also the Mishnah, a collection of Oral Traditions printed in the 2nd C. A.D. The Talmud is a collection of exegesis and homilies on the Scriptures by rabbis (Gemera) to the 6thC. together with the Mishnah.
The Masoretic Text (MT) is the Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible (Tanakh). It defines not just the books of the Jewish canon, but also the precise letter-text of the biblical books in Judaism, as well as their vocalization and accentuation for both public reading and private study. The MT was primarily copied, edited and distributed by a group of Jews known as the Masoretes between the seventh and tenth centuries A.D. Though the consonants differ little from the text generally accepted in the early second century (and also differ little from some Qumran texts that are even older), it has numerous differences of both greater and lesser significance when compared to (extant 4th century) manuscripts of the Septuagint,
The earliest existing full text of the Hebrew Text is the Lenigrad Text of the 10thC.
CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
The first attempt of making a canon of the New Testament was by Marcion A.D.c.140. He was an early Christian thinker who believed there was a radical opposition between the God of the Old Testament and that of the New Testament. This belief led him to a thoroughgoing revision of the existing Christian Scriptures, which were purged of all elements that referred to the Old Testament. Needless to say, not much was left. Thus his canon only included St. Luke's Gospel, minus the Nativity stories and what he regarded as the letters of Paul: Romans, Galatians, Corinthians 1 & 2, Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Philemon. The church as a whole rejected Marcion's position, but in doing so it was forced to name certain writings as authoritative. A key figure here seems to have been Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. 130-200), who insisted that our four gospels, and only our four gospels, should be accepted as reliable and authoritative. Although there continued to be some debate regarding the Gospel of Luke, probably because of its use by Marcion, Irenaeus' position soon became widely accepted. Thus it seems by the end of the second century there existed a fixed and authoritative collection of four gospels. About the same time 200 the Church in Rome added the Pastoral Epistles.
As far as the canonical status of the other books of the New Testament is concerned, there continued to be some debate through to the end of the fourth century. On the one hand, a few of the books that were eventually accepted into the canon continued to be regarded with suspicion. Particularly debated were Hebrews and Revelation. On the other hand, some early Christian writings that were eventually rejected from the canon were still competing for acceptance. For instance, the Christians of this period showed a particular fondness for an early second-century work known as the letter of Barnabas. This state of uncertainty is reflected in the writer Origen, who in A.D. c. 253 referred to three categories of writings. 1. "undisputed" books, whose authority all Christians accepted. 2. "doubtful" books, whose status was undecided. 3. "false" books, whose claim was to be rejected. A similar threefold classification can be found in the work of the church historian Eusebius of Caesarea (c. 260-340).
Towards the end of the 4thC in A. D. 393 at the Council of Hippo, a local North African council of bishops made a list of the Old and New Testament books which turned out to be the same as what we have to-day. A key figure in bringing these controversies to an end seems to have been the theologian and church father Athanasius of Alexandria. In a letter dated Easter 397, Athanasius set out a list of twenty-seven books and insisted that only these were to be accepted as authoritative for the New Testament. His letter was followed by the Council of Carthage, another meeting of local North African bishops in A. D. 397 which approved this list as the Canon for the New Testament. The canon of Scripture approved by the African council was adopted by the Western Church. It comprised 47 books for Old Testament and 27 for the New. Yet in actual practice there were still individual churches which still used other writings such as Clement’s letter to the Corinthians and Barnabas’ Epistle.
The books of the Bible became known as the Word of God as they set out God's promise of salvation for all, firstly through His relationship with His chosen race, the Jews, and secondly through the sending of His Son to bring redemption for all. This was the ultimate truth of God's revelation for mankind, and now continued under the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
Pope Damasus towards the end of the 4thC. appointed Jerome to translate the Canon into Latin, which became known as the Vulgate.