Bible Literacy

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The New Testament contains the covenant (or agreement) between God and the Church. Let's start by defining the term "Church." It's not a building. Or, a religious denomination. It's people. People who have made Jesus the Lord and Savior of their lives. Ephesians 5:24 tells us, "... Christ is the head of the church: and is the saviour of the body." (KJV)

So, what is the covenant between God and His Church? The night before He died, Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples. He instituted a practice we call "Holy Communion." When they drank the third cup of wine (called "the cup of redemption"), which was part of the Passover celebration, Jesus said, "For this is the blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." (Matthew 26:28 KJV). The basis of the new covenant is the death of Christ so that sinners may obtain forgiveness (i.e. remission of sins).

Under the terms of the old covenant, God's chosen nation of Israel learned that God is a holy Being, Who cannot tolerate sin. He laid out in great detail the specifics of living a righteous life. The Law (commandments and ordinaces spelled out in the writings of Moses) demonstrated that it was impossible for any man to live a completely blameless and holy life before a Righteous God. Because God is Just He must punish sin or He violates His Own nature and becomes unrighteous Himself.

The new covenant gives us another aspect of God's nature. Love. He cannot act against His Own nature so He must punish sin but He loves mankind. How to balance His attribute of Justice with His attribute of Love? The answer is Jesus. Because man cannot save himself from punishment, God does it for him. He becomes a man and keeps all of the Old Testament commandments and ordinances perfectly without one slip. Then, He volunteers to take the sins of mankind on Himself and suffer the punishment in the place of the sinner.

This, then, is what the Bible is all about. The Old Testament documents the history of Israel, the nation God chose to reveal Himself to the world. Through the lives of these Jews we learn about God's holiness, righteousness, and justice. The New Testament documents the story of God's love and Jesus' sacrifical death and resurrection. Through the lives and writings of those who knew Jesus, we learn about God's love, grace, and mercy.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The division of the Bible into two parts, known as the "Old Testament" and "New Testament" was in common usage in the Second Centuray A. D. This designation focused on the covenant (i.e. agreement or contract) between God and two select groups of people.

The Old Testament contains the covenant (or agreement) between God and His Chosen People, the Jews. What were they "chosen" for? To reveal God to the world. God chose one family through which He would reveal Himself through the written word first, and then, through His Son.

God brought Abram out of a system of idol worship and gave him a new name (Abraham), a new home (land of Canaan, later called "Israel"), and a son (Isaac). Isaac's son Jacob became the father of twelve sons, from which the twelve tribes of Israel were born. God gave His commandment, laws and promises to the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The thirty-nine books of the Old Testament were written by their descendants over a period of about a thousand years (c. 1450 B.C. - 400 B.C.) The priest Ezra (from the tribe of Levi) is credited with collecting the sacred writings in the 5th Century B.C. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, with a few passages in Aramaic.

What was the nature of the covenant between God and the Jews? It was the Law - commandments, ordinances, and precepts recorded in the Old Testament, especially the five books of Moses - that are the basis of the contract. "And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words." (Exodus 24:8 KJV.) The Jews promised to obey the laws of God. God promised to bless the Jews if they obeyed.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Do you have difficulty reading the Bible? Perhaps you find it boring. Or, confusing. Worse yet, you haven't even tried to read it because you don't believe there is anything in it that is relevant to life in the 21st century. Then, this is the blog for you.

Let's start with the basics. The word "Bible" simply means "book." That's it. In fact, the Bible is a book of books - 66 of them, to be exact. The Bible is a library of sorts. It contains poetry, music, history, prophecy, romance, advice, science, letters, genealogies, and more. If you try to read the Bible from the beginning to the end you are bound to be confused because the information is not arranged chronologically. The books of the Bible are grouped by type of information.

Now I am specifically referring to the Protestant Bible. The Jewish Bible does not contain the books that make up the "New Testament" in the Protestant and Catholic Bibles; and, the Jewish "Old Testament" arranges the individual books differently. The Protestant and Catholic Bibles are alike where the New Testaments is concerned but the Catholic Bible contains additional books at the end of the Old Testament, known as the Apocrypha.

Back to the basics - the Bible ("book") is divided into two main sections - the Old Testament and the New Testament. So, what's a "Testament?" A Testament is a "covenant" or an "agreement." A covenant or agreement between who, you ask. Good question. The Old Testament contains the covenant between God and the Jewish people. The New Testament contains the covenant between God and the "Church." I'm going to need to define and explain this - next time. Stay tuned.