To: 9 readers
From: Su Min (Lim Su Min)
Subject: Bible Review
Just a few a thoughts on the Bible before we launch into review of Matthew.
The Bible as we know it, comes in two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament probably began as oral tradition, and the commitment to writing of the earliest books attributed to Moses. They were written in Chaldean or Hebrew script on rolls of reed papyri. The Hebrew Bible was the one that Jesus referred to as "the scriptures" or "the law" or "it is written". There were rolls and rolls of it.
There were 3 parts to the Hebrew Bible: the Law (Torah), comprising the Pentateuch which are the five books of Moses: The Prophets (Nebiim): and the Writings (Ketubim). The Pentateuch comprise Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy. The old testament records important events in the spiritual and physical development of man and mankind, with specific focus on the people of Israel and their relationship to God.
The book of Genesis starts of with creation of the world and of man and woman. It continues to the first sin and the discharge from the garden of Eden (Paradise Lost). In Genesis we learned of Adam and Eve, Abel and Cain, Enoch who walked with God, the growing wickedness of mankind, Noah and the flood, the tower of Babel, Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebekah, Jacob, Leah & Rachel, then Joseph the dreamer and his many coloured coat, bringing his brothers to Egypt to escape the famine.
In Exodus we read of a new Pharaoh who did not know Joseph, who grew harsh and oppressive against the Hebrews. Moses was born to the Hebrews to champion their cause and lead them out of Egypt. The journey was to last 40 years. Joshua records their entry into the promised land.
The rest of the old testament includes the promised land under David and Solomon, then the spilt into Judah and Israel. There are the ups and the downs, the kings who walked with God, and the kings who were exceedingly wicked.
Around the year 600 BC King Nebuchadnezzar from Babylon conquered Jerusalem and took the Jews into slavery. 70 years later King Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.
The old testament history can be seen summed up in the opening chapter of Matthew, the next book that we are going to study, where Matthew lists fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen generations from David to the exile in Babylon and fourteen generations from the exile to the Christ .
The Psalms are where most young Christians begin to appreciate the Old Testament. 150 psalms are recorded which help us reflect many aspects of God's nature. Psalm 23 is a good place to start if you have not visited the book.
The Jewish world had no problem recognising the canonicity of the Hebrew Bible. The last book in the Old Testament is the book by the Prophet Malachi. It was written about 400 years before Jesus was born.
The 400 years between Malachi and the New Testament are called the silent years.
Then Jesus was born. Not much is written about his younger days, except one incident when he was 12. Then the 3 years of his Judean ministry fill up most of the gospels, his miracles and his teachings. Then he was crucified, dead and buried. Then he rose from the dead and appeared to first his disciples, then to more than 5000 people.
Four gospels record the life and ministry of Jesus. The 4 gospels were not written during Jesus' life time. We estimate they were written around 70 AD. We do not have the original manuscripts. But when they were written there were still some original eye witnesses around who could verify to the truth of what they recorded.
Matthew, Mark and Luke are called the synoptic gospels because they tell the good news (gospel) approximately, more or less, from the same point of view (synoptic).
The gospel of "Matthew" is credited by the early church fathers to Matthew the tax collector (Matt 10:3) who became one of the 12 apostles. This is more by tradition rather than by internal proof. The author could have originally wrote in Aramaic for the early Jewish Christians. The gospel contains some 60 references to Jewish prophecies and 40 quotations from the Old Testament. Special emphasis is given to the teaching ministry of Jesus.
The gospel of "Mark" is likewise unsigned. There is no internal evidence to link this text to a specific person. But tradition assigns the authorship of this gospel to John Mark (Acts 12:12). It is the shortest and simplest of the 4 gospels. Its style was to Roman or Hellenistic (Greek) gentile public, often explaining Jewish words and traditions.
The longest gospel is that of Luke. Both Acts and Luke are written by the same person, the beloved physician identified in Colossians 4:14. This gospel was addressed mainly to the gentiles, and reflect the author's Greek background.
The gospel of John is in a markedly different style. It records no parables. Its style is most profound. The author, the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 13:23), is identified as John son of Zebedee.
The next book Acts, traces the first 30 years of the embryonic church. The epistles are a collection of letters, mostly written by Paul to the early church. They include various aspects of a vertical relationship with God and a horizontal relationship with man. The New testament ends with Revelation, a prophetic book written by John.
Canonicity. While copies of the gospels and copies of the epistles circulated as teaching material, along with the good stuff there was some rubbish and some heretic material. Since the 4th century a canon (measuring rule) was drawn up to recognise the authoritative lists of books that belong to the old and new testament. A conference was called in around year 400 AD to accept the canonicity of various texts, and it was agreed that the document that we consider the new testament were all fully authoritative records of divine revelation.
Language. The old testament was originally written in Chaldean and Aramaic Hebrew. The New testament documents were first written in common Greek (Koine), lingua franca of the Near East and Mediterranean Lands in Roman times. Within 400 years the common language spoken throughout the Roman Empire was Latin. The commoners could no longer understand Greek, and so a commoner's version, the Vulgate, was translated in Latin by Jerome in Bethlehem.
The first English version that was widely acknowledged was produced by John Wycliffe 1320-1384. William Tyndale was the next great English translator (1525). King James authorised the translation in 1611 of the regal text that bears his name. The American Standard Version was published in 1900. The New International Version, The Good News Bible, the Amplified Bible are present day versions that attempt to faithfully present in English the contents concepts and messages that the original writers recorded. I mainly read the NIV, but pop into KJV, AMP & others for further reading and understanding.
In summary, the Bible is God's Word for us. It teaches us that God is love. In study of the bible we learn of God and we learn to be like God. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The good news of the redeeming blood of Jesus is detailed in the bible. If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord", and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Rom 10:9). The free gift of salvation by faith is coupled with the requisite fruit of works (James 2:14-26). God longs for us to be reconciled to Him. The more we read and understand of the bible the better we are equipped to do His will. Praise God for His Word!
For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min
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