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This name is from the Greek through the Latin, and signifies ‘The Books.’ The whole is also called ‘The Scriptures,’ and once ‘The Holy Scriptures,’ that is, ‘the Sacred Writings,’ distinguishing them from all others.
The Advent of the Lord Jesus, who was the great subject of the scriptures, John 5: 39, and in whom as ‘Son’ God spoke, after a silence of 400 years, naturally led to a division of the sacred writings into two parts, called the Old and New Testaments. The ‘Old Testament’ is mentioned as being read in 2 Corinthians 3: 14; but the term ‘New Testament,’ as applied to the collection of books that commonly bear that title, does not occur in Scripture. There was also a change in the language in which the Various books of the two Testaments were written. The Old was written in Hebrew, except Ezra 4: 8 to Ezra 6: 18; Ezra 7: 12-26; Jeremiah 10: 11; Daniel 2: 4 to Daniel 7: 28: these portions being written in Chaldee or Aramaic. The books of the New Testament were written in Greek (without now taking into consideration whether the Gospel by Matthew was originally written in Aramaic). The glad tidings of Salvation was for the whole world, and the language most extensively known at that time was chosen for its promulgation.

The Old Testament may be considered as dividing itself into: 1. The Pentateuch, or five books of Moses. 2. The Historical Books, including Joshua to the end of Esther. 3. The Poetical Books, Job to the end of Song of Solomon. 4. The Prophetical Books, from Isaiah to Malachi.

The Jews divided the Old Testament into three parts: 1. The Law (Torah), the five books of Moses. 2. The Prophets (Nebiim), including Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve Minor Prophets. 3. The Writings (Kethubim, or Hagiographa, ‘holy writings’), including a, the Psalms, Proverbs, Job; b, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther; c, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Chronicles. The books are in this order in the Hebrew Bible. The above triple division is doubtless alluded to by the Lord, in Luke 24: 44, “All things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me;” cf. Luke 24: 27. ‘The Psalms’ being the first book in the third part, may have been used as a title to express the whole of the division.

The Talmud and later Jewish writers reckon twenty-four books in the O.T. To make out this number they count the two books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles as one book each; Ezra and Nehemiah as one; and the Twelve Minor Prophets as one. The earlier Jews reckoned the books as 22, according to the letters in the alphabet: they united Ruth with Judges, and Lamentations with Jeremiah. But all such arrangements are arbitrary and fanciful.

The ‘oracles of God’ were committed to Israel, Romans 3: 2, and they have been zealous defenders of the Letter of the O.T. For a long time it was thought that their great care and exactitude in copying had preserved the manuscripts from error; but it has been abundantly proved that those copyists erred, as all others have erred in this respect, and numerous errors have been discovered in the MSS, though many of them are seen at once to be mistakes of the pen, some doubtless caused through the similarity of the Hebrew letters, and are easily corrected. Other differences can be set right by the preponderance of evidence in the MSS themselves now that many of these have been collated.

Besides such variations there are other deviations from the common Hebrew text that profess to have some amount of Authority. They are commonly called Keri and Chethib, q.v.

As to the text of the New Testament there is no particular copy that claims any Authority, though the Received Text (Elzevir, 1624) was for a long time treated ‘as if an angel had compiled it,’ as one expressed it. But the undue respect for that text has passed away, and every translator has to examine the evidence for and against every variation, in order to know what he shall translate.

He has before him 1. Many Greek MANUSCRIPTS: some 40 being called Uncials because of being written all in capital letters (though some of this number are only portions or mere fragments), and are represented by capital letters, A, B, C, etc. They date from the fourth to the tenth century. There are also hundreds of Cursives (those written in a more running hand), for the most part of later date than the uncials, a few of which are of special value. They date from the tenth century to the fourteenth, and are represented by numerals.

2. Ancient Versions, which show what was apparently in the Greek copies used for the Versions: the Old Latin, often called Italic; the Vulgate; Syriac; Egyptian, called the Memphitic and the Thebaic; the Gothic; Armenian; and AEthiopic. These Versions date from the second to the sixth century.

3. THE Fathers, which are useful as showing what was in the Greek copies from which they quoted: they date from the second century.

The variations in the Greek Manuscripts are very numerous, yet the Editors (men who have attempted to discover what God originally caused to be written) — though each formed his own plan as to which of the above witnesses he would examine — have come to the same Judgement in the great majority of the variations. In such cases we are doubtless safe in leaving the commonly received text. In other places their conclusions differ, and in a few cases nearly all the Editors have been obliged to declare the reading as doubtful. Though this is to be deplored, for we should desire to ascertain in every instance the actual words which God caused to be written, yet it is a matter of deep thankfulness that the variations do not in the least affect any one of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. These all stand forth in sublime and lucid grandeur as parts of the will of God Himself, notwithstanding all that men have done to obscure or nullify them.

The above must suffice as to the text of the Old and New Testaments. Under the name of each book will be found what are considered the leading thoughts therein, but a few words are now added as to the whole Bible.

It is ‘the word of God,’ an unfolding of unseen things — a Revelation of the Nature of God morally, and the history, divinely penned, of man His creature, first as Innocent, and then as fallen, with its consequences. It shows man’s responsibility and how man has been tested in Various ways, each test resulting, alas, in his failure. It manifests that if man is to be saved and eternally blessed, it must be by a work done for him by another. This was graciously accomplished by the Son of God becoming a man and dying a sacrificial death on the cross, which glorified God and met the question of man’s responsibility.

The word reveals that there was a counsel respecting the second Man in eternity, it also reveals that when the mediatorial Kingdom of the Lord Jesus as Son of Man has been finished, God will again in eternity become all in all. In the mean time, according to the Eternal Purpose of God, many are being brought to Himself through faith in the atoning death of the Lord Jesus, being quickened by the Spirit, and made new creatures in Christ Jesus. The Lord Jesus is awaiting the time when He will come to fetch His saints, to carry out all God’s purposes, and to punish those that know not God, and who obey not the Gospel.

The Bible also reveals the character of Satan since his fall, as being a liar and murderer; he is the great enemy of the Lord Jesus and of man, and he deceived our Mother Eve. It also details the future Eternal Punishment of that wicked one with those who are obedient to him.

The choice of Israel and the wonders wrought for their Deliverance from Egypt, together with their history in the land of promise, their expulsion and Captivity, and their future Tribulation and Blessing in the same land, occupy a large part of the Bible.

Christ in type, antitype, and Prophecy, is the centre of the whole Book: “All things were made by him and for him.” He is pointedly referred to in the 3rd chapter of Genesis, and gives His parting word to His saints in the last chapter of the Revelation.

The N.T. brings out not only the history of Redemption by the death of Christ, but gives the doctrine of the Church in its Various aspects, showing that Christianity is an entirely new order of things — indeed a new Creation. Those who form the Church are instructed as to their true position in Christ, and their true position in the world, with details to guide them in every station of life. The Revelation gives the Various phases of the Church at that time (though prophetic of its condition to the end) with warnings of the evils that had already crept in. This is followed by the many and varied judgements that will fall upon Christendom and the world, reaching to the Eternal state of the new heavens and the new earth.

This is but a brief and incomplete sketch of the contents of the Bible, for who can in few or indeed in many words describe that wonderful God-made Book? It is an inexhaustible mine: the more it is explored, the more is the finger of God manifest everywhere, and new treasures are revealed to the devout, Calling forth their Praise and Adoration. See Inspiration.

Original text taken from the New and Concise Bible Dictionary published by G. Morish, London

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