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Basic Information

The Bible (from Gk. byblos - book)1 is the collected authoritative scripture of the Christian faith - that is, all those works considered to be historically authentic, and relevant and useful to the teaching and understanding of Christianity. Thus, the Bible as a whole consists of an assortment of historical books, books of religious law, wisdom literature, prophecy and poetry. Unlike some religious traditions, little if any of the Bible is regarded as directly received from divine revelations (with even the prophecies being filtered through those to whom they were revealed rather than directly copied or dictated) but according to tradition is considered "breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2TIM 3:16-17).

There is a traditional division of the Bible into two main parts - the first, known as "The Old Testament" is composed of the majority of the Jewish scripture2 that was considered canonical around the time of Christ's presence on Earth and the second, the New Testament, which details the life and ministry of Christ and his immediate disciples in the early church. Some bibles will also include additional books of doubtful authenticity or relevance known as apocrypha or pseudepigrapha.

Contrary to popular legend, the canon of the Bible appears not to have been developed at the Council of Nicaea, but seems to have come about by general consensus by the fifth century AD. Further examination of the canon came about in the wake of The Reformation - generally in the excision of apocrypha and pseudepigrapha which required the reader to know that they were of dubious authority and could prove misleading to those who did not - which would be a problem given the increasing desire of the Protestant churches to provide universal access to scripture rather than restricting it to a priesthood that could be relied upon to be fully and formally educated in theology. The other significant variation to canon comes with some of the more traditionally isolated churches - such as the Ethiopian Orthodox - who have a small assortment of books unique to their own tradition but unknown, and mostly irrelevant to, others. Such things are not to be confused with the assorted fan-fic and similar works sometimes presented as "lost gospels" and the like … some of which originate in the pre-canon era, and some of which are more recent.

See Also


1. full source reference
5. For comparisons between differing canons: Wikipedia article: Books of the Bible

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