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Introducing the bible

Sacred Writings

  • Beliefs and ideas about the Bible underpin and are reflected in the ways Christians live their lives, for example, in helping them to decide what principles they live their lives by.
  • Understanding people’s beliefs can help you understand why they think and act the way they do.
  • Understanding these beliefs helps you compare and contrast what others believe, including thinking about your own beliefs and ideas.
  • Many of the world’s great religions have a book, or books, which they consider to be sacred writings
  • A sacred book may contain the history of the religion, including the life of the founder and other key figures, and the main beliefs and teachings about how people should live. In Christianity, the sacred book is the Bible.
  • The Bible contains different kinds of literature including history, laws, prophecy, poetry, the Gospels (accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings), letters, the books of Acts (telling the story of the early Church) and Revelation- a book written to encourage Christians to stay strong when they were being persecuted.
  • The Bible is made up of 66 books and is divided into two parts.
  • The first part, i.e. the Old Testament, which is made up of 39 books written before the time of Jesus.
  • The second part i.e. the New Testament, made up of 27 books that were written after the life of Jesus and before the end of the 2nd century CE.
  • Some versions of the Bible, particularly those used by Roman Catholics, also include some books from another collection of sacred writings known as theApocrypha.
  • The Bible is important to Christians because it is a source of Christian beliefs, is a guide to life and contains the word of God, especially as many Christians believe it is the inspired word of God and is literally true.
  • The Bible is used by Christians in their public and private worship.

What makes a book or writings sacred?

Types of Literature in the Bible

  • The history and content of the religion is recorded in the book: It may have become sacred because of its content (i.e. what’s in it). One reason it is seen as sacred is that it may contain the teachings of its founder or contains the important part of the founder’s life. The sacred writings may also contain a record of how the faith developed, and be a source of the material used in worship.
  • The book is the most importance source of moral and spiritual guidance:A book may become seen as sacred as believers feel that it has authority (i.e. that it deserves respect, and should be seen as a source of important beliefs and doctrines). It may be seen as a source of guidance to help people live a good life
  • The book is believed to be the Word of God: Many religions see a book as sacred as they believe that it is inspired by God. They may use the term the Word of God for their scriptures as they believe that God has revealed the content of the book to the people who were responsible for writing it. Some believe that this Word of God as coming through human eyes, as interpreted and recorded by humans, with their limited understanding. Others believe the Bible is literally made up of the Word of God, as though it were dictated to humans as if they were secretaries being dictated to.
  • This quote makes a very significant point.  Different beliefs about in what sense the Bible is the Word of God has a huge impact on how Christians understand the creation story, for example.  In essence, however, the sacredness of the Bible is mainly due to the belief that it is the Word of God.
  • “…And God did so control the human instruments through whom he caused Scripture to be written that they put down exactly what he intended, no more and no less”Dr J Packer, New Bible Commentary (1953)
  • Laws and Instructions – This refers to parts of the Bible which tell us how we should behave and what laws we should live by (these are mainly found in the Old Testament). The 10 commandments in Exodus 20 would come under this type of literature. //Gospels – The 4 Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are at the heart of the New Testament. They tell the story of Jesus’ life, death & resurrection. This is the central source of Jesus’ teachings, including his parables (a parable is a story told to help us understand an important point). //Prophesy & Apocalyptic Writings – In the Bible there are people who are given visions of the future by God (prophecies). Those people are called prophets; a revelation is something that has been revealed to them. //The book of revelations can be interpreted as telling humans what will happen on judgement day. Another word for judgement day is the apocalypse.// Poetry & Songs – In the Bible there are many songs and poems written to, or about, God as a way of praising him. //Wisdom Literature - Wisdom literature is found in the Old Testament. It refers to those books where we are encouraged to reflect on our ‘lot’ as humans and inspect closely our relationship with God and the world around us, e.g. Proverbs: These are short, sometimes funny, comments on human life and our manners. //History – Many parts of the Bible talk about historical people and events, including the actions of famous Kings such as King David and King Solomon. The famous story of David and Goliath is an example of history in the Bible.// Prayers – People recorded prayer in the Bible because it was as important then as it is now. The Lord’s Prayer makes its first appearance in the New Testament.// Letters (Epistles) – As the early Church began to spread St. Paul and some of the disciples sent letters to these new communities with guidelines on how to live. These letters are found in the New Testament.

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