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Browsing the Bible

Nigel Bovey gives chapter and verse on each book of the Scriptures

It contains many literary categories and styles

WHEN, in a pub argument or aca­demic discussion, somebody claims, ‘The Bible says…’ it is tempting to think that the Bible is one book. One volume, yes. One book with one author, no.

The Bible is a library of 66 separate books, divided into two sections – the Old Testament, with 39 books, and the New Testament with 27 books.

The Old Testament is an archive of the early nation of Israel. It was written by a number of authors between 1200BC and 165BC. It contains many literary categories and styles: history, biography, poetry, lyric, heroics, allegory, prophecy, genealogy, romance and mysticism included.

Covering a period from the creation of the world to the 6th century BC, the Old Testament can be thought of as a five-act play, each part being marked by a significant journey.

Journey one: In response to God’s calling (see Genesis chapter 12), Abraham – who would become the founder of the Hebrew people – moves from Ur of the Chaldees (modern-day Iraq) to Canaan (modern-day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel).

Journey two: Because of famine in Canaan, Joseph invites Jacob and family to move to Egypt (see Genesis 47:11).

Journey three: Persecuted by a new Pharaoh, the Hebrew people leave Egypt under the leadership of Moses and head towards the ‘promised land’ of Canaan. The escape is known as the Exodus and is related in the Book of Exodus.

Journey four: Invaded and ransacked by Babylon (modern-day Iraq), citizens of the nation of Judah are taken hundreds of miles east into captivity (see 2 Kings 24:10 to 25:11). Their time in a foreign land is known as the Exile.

Journey five: The exiled Jews return from Babylon to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple (see Ezra 1:1 to 6:19).

Written between AD50 and AD100, the New Testament comprises accounts of the life, teachings and works of Jesus (the gos­pels), a chronicle of the growth of the Early Church (the Acts of the Apostles), letters from leaders to church congregations and individuals (the epistles) and prophecy (Revelation).

When blended together, the two Testaments distil the message that God loves the world he created and that – through the life, death, resurrection and promised return of his Son, Jesus Christ – he has provided a way by which the sin-filled world can be reconciled to him.

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