The Books
The Old Testament said He was coming; the New Testament says He has come.

By Jon W. Quinn
Perhaps you have heard the Bible referred to as “The Good Book”. Yes, it is. It contains the message of salvation which is also referred to as “the gospel” which means “good news”. It gives information that is so vital that our very lives depend on it, and by ”lives” we do not refer merely to the lifetimes we spend on the earth. It records God’s purpose and guide for our lives here so that we may have eternal life. It is also a record of God’s perspective on human history with both positive examples of faith as well as negative examples of rebellion against the Almighty Creator.

The Good Books
But maybe it would be more accurate to describe the Bible not in the singular (“The Good Book”) but rather in the plural (“The Good Books”). The Bible is actually a collection of books. Though we can date when translations of it were made (for example, the King James Version was completed in 1611 A.D.), we cannot put such a date on when the first book was bound that contained all 66 books. While these 66 different writings were considered to be inspired Scripture, it took the development of the codex (that is, a bound book with leafs of paper for pages like the books we use today) before they all could reasonably be placed together under one cover. A scroll would not be practical to record this much written material in one document.

The Bible Comes Together
The Books of the Bible were written over the course of many centuries by over 40 writers as directed by the Holy Spirit. These writers even wrote in different languages (mainly Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek) and wrote in different regions, including N.E Africa, Asia Minor and Southern Europe.

After the development of the codex style document, and after the last inspired writer (John, the apostle) died, in the following century early Christians began to combine the documents that make up our New Testaments into one volume. Early efforts would sometimes leave some of the documents out, mainly because the compiler may not have all 27 documents available to include or be unfamiliar with some of them. Also, sometimes other documents would be included for historical interests or doctrinal interests, such as The Didache, which means “The Teachings” and is a very early, (late first century) commentary on what the apostles had taught both orally and in writing and was written either while John was still alive or very soon after his death. But even then, it was recognized that there was a difference between what was the inspired Scriptures of God and what was only a commentary about those Scriptures.

Before Moses who lived about 15 hundred years B.C., there were no inspired written records of which we are aware. God at that time spoke to man directly in many different ways; dreams, speech, signs, visions and so forth (Hebrews 1:1-2). God first chose to use writing as a form of preserving His Law at Mount Sinai and Moses became the first inspired writer of record. This would accomplish several things, including giving man a concrete document which would include many, many written prophecies. When one claims to be a prophet, but writes nothing down, it would be possible to later make a prophetic claim that would be unverifiable. But if the words are written down to be fulfilled in future years, generations or centuries, then it is what it is and can be proven to be true or false. Prophecies had been made before Moses, but Moses began writing them down for future generations to ponder.

Other Old Testament writers followed, including other prophets, historians and Psalmists. Their writings were accepted as canonical (which means that they were tested and accepted as genuine Scripture). The writing of the Old Testament books took place from Moses in about 1400 B.C. to Malachi in 400 B.C. Then there was a four century break until the arrival of John the Baptist, who himself fulfilled several Old Testament prophecies written centuries before.

The New Testament was also written gradually, over a period of slightly under 50 years, and was completed by the end of the first century. It includes four gospels that record events in the life of Christ, a book of the early history of the church, letters of instruction written to various individuals and churches about spiritual matters, and a book of prophecy dealing with the near future of first century Christians as they faced very strong persecution. Though completed, the books of the Bible had not been bound together in one volume called “The Bible” by the end of the first century. But it is important to note that these early Christians still considered these Old and New Testament books to be inspired Scripture.

The Bible We Have Today
We often refer to the Bible’s two main divisions: The Old Testament and the New Testament. The word “Testament” means “covenant” or “contract”. Christians often refer to the writings of Genesis through Malachi as the “Old Covenant” because these were writings that were given previous to Jesus coming to bring redemption and were meant to preview that coming. These writings were given to Israel, the people chosen by God to bring forth the Messiah.

The New Covenant is given not just to Israel, or any one people or nation. It was given to the whole world and speaks of redemption as an accomplished fact through Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. It was intended by God as a new “contract” to supersede the Old Covenant after it had been fulfilled by Jesus, and it has done so (Hebrews 8:1-13; 9:15-16; Galatians 3:21-29).

While God has revealed Himself throughout the books of the Bible, Old Testament and New, it is certainly in the life of His Son, Jesus, that we find the most vivid picture of God’s love as well as His other divine attributes. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written for that very purpose; so that future generations could know Jesus. The epistles of the New Testament often point back to Jesus as the pre-eminent fact of the gospel. The validity of all the teachings of the New Covenant are based on who He is and the all-encompassing authority He has. He is all of our hope and expectation. He is worthy of all honor and praise. The Old Testament books had said He was coming. The New Testament Books say He came, but not only that, but also that He is coming again! There is no greater message or better news for us than this.

From The Bradley Banner 2/26/2012
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway
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