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Overall Structure

The Bible as we know it today, is divided into two main sections or collections of books called the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word 'testament' literally means 'something that serves as proof' or 'a personal witness either verbally or written'. So these testaments, are the writings of people and the recordings of events that serve as proof... but proof of what? The Bible as a whole, is a witness to what God has done since the beginning of time. The climax or pinnacle of the Bible is Jesus - God's coming to earth as a man (incarnate). The Old Testament is the history of God's work through the nation of Israel (or the Hebrew people) to the world in preparation for Jesus and was written at different time periods from about 1400 B.C. until 400 B.C.. The New Testament is the witness of Jesus' coming, life, teachings, work, and the ramifications of these to the people of that time and in the future till the end of time. It was written starting in about 50 A.D. until somewhere in the second century. The origins and formations of the Bible, Testaments, and books included is covered in detail in the specific Testament sections. Some things however, can be said about the Bible as a whole.

The writers of the books of the Bible were just ordinary humans, but it is the historic Christian belief, that they wrote under the influence of the Holy Spirit; that is under 'inspiration'. This inspiration factor makes the Bible qualitatively different from any other book that exists - past, present or future. It therefore bears unlimited importance for us to study and understand. Many other books existed at the time the Bible books were chosen. The books that are in the Bible today, were chosen by persons spiritually guided by the Holy Spirit. This enabled them to choose what was spiritually true and what was false and therefore should or should not be included as 'scripture'. The collection of books recognized as authoritative and divinely inspired, were canonized. Canon is a Greek word which means rule or measuring line. The books that passed the canon were considered scripture. Other books that did not pass the canon, may be of interest to read, and suitable for learning, but are not regarded as on the same level as Biblical or 'canonical' books in that they carry no authority.

In Old Testament times, a canon of books was not needed, since a living prophet was usually present to announce the will of God for the people. When a prophet was not present, previous prophet's writings and teachings, as given by God (such as the Mosaic law) were collected for study and memorization. After the coming of Jesus, the old methods defined by the covenants of the Old Testament, were no longer in effect. Each person can have a personal relationship with Jesus, and being led individually by the Holy Spirit, a national level prophet is no longer available. We study the scriptures, and with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we can determine God's personal will for our lives.

At the time of canonization, numerous other books were purported to be 'inspired'. The canon was necessary to preclude the possibility of additions to the number of truly inspired works. This rule still holds today. The Bible is the single source of the written word of God.