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Bible

The writ­ten record of God’s rev­e­la­tion is the Bible, which means the book, or the books. The Bible is also called the Holy Scrip­tures. Scrip­ture as a word sim­ply means writ­ings.

The Bible was writ­ten over thou­sands of years by many dif­fer­ent peo­ple. It is divid­ed into two tes­ta­ments or covenants. These words sig­ni­fy agree­ments, pacts, or we might say, “deals.” The two basic covenants are the old and the new; each has its own scrip­tures. As a book, the Bible con­tains many dif­fer­ent kinds of writ­ings: law, prophe­cy, his­to­ry, poet­ry, sto­ries, apho­risms, prayers, let­ters and sym­bol­i­cal visions.

The Old Testament

The Old Tes­ta­ment scrip­ture begins with the five books of the Law called the Pen­ta­teuch, which means the five books; also called the Torah, which means the Law. Some­times these books are also called the Books of Moses since they are cen­tered on the exo­dus and the Mosa­ic laws.

In the Old Tes­ta­ment there are also books of the his­to­ry of Israel; books called the Wis­dom books such as the Psalms, Proverbs, and the Book of Job; and books of the prophe­cies which car­ry the names of the Old Tes­ta­ment prophets. A prophet is one who speaks the Word of God by direct divine inspi­ra­tion. Only sec­on­dar­i­ly does the word prophet mean one who fore­tells the future.

The Ortho­dox Church also num­bers among the gen­uine books of the Old Tes­ta­ment the so-called apoc­ryphal books, mean­ing lit­er­al­ly the secret or hid­den writ­ings. Oth­er Chris­tians put these books in a sec­ondary place or reject com­plete­ly their being of divine inspi­ra­tion.

The New Testament

The cen­ter of the New Tes­ta­ment part of the Bible is the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John who are called the four evan­ge­lists, which means those who wrote the gospels. Gospel in Greek is evan­ge­lion which, as we have seen, means the “glad tid­ings” or the “good news.”

In the New Tes­ta­ment scrip­ture there is also the book of the Acts of the Apos­tles, writ­ten by St. Luke. There are four­teen let­ters called the epis­tles (which sim­ply means let­ters) of the Apos­tle Paul, though per­haps some, such as the Let­ter to the Hebrews, were not writ­ten direct­ly by him. Three let­ters are also ascribed to the Apos­tle John; two to the Apos­tle Peter; and one each to the Apos­tles James and Jude. Final­ly there is the Book of Rev­e­la­tion, also called the Apoc­a­lypse, which is ascribed to St. John as well.

For the Ortho­dox, the Bible is the main writ­ten source of divine doc­trine since God Him­self inspired its writ­ing by His Holy Spir­it (see 2 Tim 3:16 and 2 Pet 1:20). This is the doc­trine of the inspi­ra­tion of the Bible, name­ly that men inspired by God wrote the words which are tru­ly their own human words—all words are human!—but which nev­er­the­less may be called all togeth­er the Word of God. Thus, the Bible is the Word of God in writ­ten form because it con­tains not mere­ly the thoughts and expe­ri­ences of men, but the very self-rev­e­la­tion of God.

The cen­ter of the Bible as the writ­ten Word of God in human form is the per­son of the Liv­ing Word of God in human form, Jesus Christ. All parts of the Bible are inter­pret­ed in the Ortho­dox Church in the light of Christ since every­thing in the Bible leads up to Christ and speaks about Him (Lk 24: 44). This fact is sym­bol­ized in the Ortho­dox Church by the fact that only the book of the four gospels is enthroned on the altars of our church­es and not the entire Bible. This is so because every­thing in the Bible is ful­filled in Christ.