THE BOOKS OF THE HOLY BIBLE
The Holy Bible contains 73 books written through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit over a period of more than 15 centuries. These books are divided into two testaments:
1) The Old Testament: Includes the history of creation, the fall and corruption of mankind, and the establishment of a covenant between God and man in preparation to save mankind from their corrupt state. The old testament covers the period from the creation till the coming of Jesus Christ, the Savior and the King. The Old Testament consists of 46 books. These books are again divided into a- the first canonical books, which are 39 books collected by Ezra the priest in one volume, and b- the second canonical books (Deuterocanonical or Apocryphal), which are seven in addition to the completion of the books of Daniel and Esther.
2) The New Testament: This is the era of grace that embraced mankind by the glorious advent of the Messiah and the salvation from corruption by redemption which gave us the privilege to become the children of God who have the blessed hope of eternal life at the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ at the end of time. The New Testament consists of 27 books.
The main sections of the Old Testament are:
1) The Five Books of Moses (from Genesis to Deuteronomy): Also called the Pentateuch, Torah or the covenant. They correspond to the four gospels in the New Testament. These books describe the beginning of human history dealing with God…the failure of the human race…until his arrival to the gates of the promised land. Whereas these books declare the need for a savior to free the human race from bondage, the gospels in the New Testament reveal this savior, who is the desire of all nations, and take us into the true promised land.
2) The Historic Books (from Joshua to Esther): These books present the chronicles of the work of God with His people from before the period of the kings (period of Joshua and the Judges) until the captivity in Babylon. The corresponding book in the New Testament (The book of the Acts of the Apostles, “Praxis”) presents Jesus Christ as the judge and king who does not request an earthly kingdom, and presents his disciples declaring the only savior (Joshua vs. Jesus), and warning against sin that leads to the devil’s captivity.
3) Poetic, Edification or Wisdom Books (from Job to the Song of Solomon): They present practical teachings for living with God, teachings which help us throughout the present life. The corresponding books of the New Testament (the Epistles: the Pauline and Catholicon) present the Christian life with the Father in His Son through the Holy Spirit as a true foretaste of eternal life in heaven.
4) Prophetic Books (From Isaiah to Malachi): These books came in a spiritually dark period, calling people to repentance and preaching a glorious vision of the Messiah, Christ the Savior. The corresponding book in the New Testament, Revelation, encourages us to keep up our struggle expecting the glorious second coming of Jesus Christ, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords.
GENERAL COMMENTS ON THE OLD TESTAMENT
1) Jesus is the center of the two Testaments. He appears in the Old Testament behind the scenes and the events and in symbols and through holy men. For example: 1- At the creation of man, God said, “Let us make man in our image (Gen 1:26); 2- Isaac carries the wood (the cross) on his way to death as a burnt offering (redemption) but he returns alive (resurrection); 3- Joseph saves the world from starvation and death (salvation) in the Old Testament; 4- Moses and Joshua lead the Israelites from slavery to freedom; 5- The Passover and sacrifices as a method to escape death and receive forgiveness.
2) The Holy Bible is one book, and the Holy Spirit has inspired the writing of the Testaments. The New Testament complements the Old. The men of the Old Testament are seen as heroes of faith by the New Testament (Heb 11). They are the people that hoped for salvation and resurrection of the dead. In the transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appear beside Jesus (Matt 17:1-8).
3) The Law was the means to discover man’s sin, and a helper for him to look ahead to the savior (Gal 3:24). It successfully accomplished these purposes during the period of spiritual childhood of mankind until the coming of the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4) declaring Jesus Christ the savior who gives new life and grants liberty, proclaiming the age of the generous grace for every one who accepts.
4) The sons of Israel are the people whom God has entrusted with the seed of faith in order to prepare a field for the continuation of the work of God i.e. the salvation of all people and the spread of the kingdom of heaven when His Son arrives in the “fullness of time”.
THE BOOK OF GENESIS
Genesis is the first book of the five books of Moses (the Pentateuch) which were written by the prophet Moses, as declared by the Old and New Testaments (Ezra 3:2, Matt 8:4). The last chapter of the fifth book (Deuteronomy) was written by Joshua, the son of Nun, after Moses death. These books were written in the 15th Century B.C. They are a mixture of history and dogma. They start by the creation and end up with Moses (representing the Law) delivering the leadership to Joshua (representing Jesus Christ, the Savior) at the eastern shore of the river of Jordan.
Genesis is divided into 50 chapters. It was called Genesis because it describes the origins: the creation, the establishment of marriage, the fall (the start of sin in the world of mankind), the promise of salvation, the establishment of sacrifices, the beginning of languages (Babylon Tower), the promise to Abraham, the beginning of Israel and of the house of God (Jacob’s dream). This book is full of early scenes from history, geography, origin of nations and the astronomical, earth and life sciences. Also, it shows how Egypt was a center of civilization and knowledge as well as a place for the holy fathers since the dawn of history.
Summary of the book: Genesis reveals to us that man chose, in his freedom that was bestowed unto him by God, to become independent of God in his knowledge. Thus, he fell into sin and lost his freedom. Despite man’s wretchedness and defiance, God remained loving him, caring for him and planning for his salvation: “the seed of woman (Jesus) shall bruise the head of the serpent (Satan)”. It reveals how evil spread, how sin took control and why destruction of the evil people (the flood) and keeping the righteous people is useless in salvation of mankind (righteousness cannot be inherited in mankind). Then comes the era of the patriarchs, the heroes of faith, with whom God was comfortable, and to whom He related Himself (“God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” speaking at the burning bush, Luke 20:37), and whom He offered as examples of faith and obedience (Abraham), of giving up themselves to death carrying the cross (Isaac), of fatherhood (Jacob) and of purity and straightness of heart (Joseph). These were early prototypes of Christ, who was promised to come in the “fullness of time”.
Subjects of the Book: Genesis can be divided into the following four main topics:
1) Early history (1-11): Covers the creation (1-2), the fall (3), Cain and Abel (4), the genealogy from Adam to Noah (5), Noah and the flood (7-9), the Tower of Babel and the tribes of the earth (10-11).
2) Abraham (12-25): Covers the calling of Abraham and his travel to Egypt (12), separation of Lot (13), his war with four kings and his meeting with Melchizedek (14), the renewal of the promise (15), running away of Hager (16), covenant of circumcision (17), hosting of God and the angels and destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (18-19), Abimelech (20), the birth of Isaac and expulsion of Hager (21), offering Isaac as a sacrifice (22), death of Sarah (23), marriage of Isaac (24), and the genealogy of Abraham’s children (25).
3) Isaac and Jacob (25-36): Covers the birth of Jacob and Esau (25), blessing of Isaac (26), Jacob takes the blessing and escapes from Esau’s fury (27), Jacob’s dream (28), Jacob at Laban (29-31), meeting of Esau and wrestling with God (32-33), in Shechem and the house of Bethel (34-35), and genealogy of Esau (36).
4) Joseph (37-50): Covers the selling of Joseph (37), Judah and Tamar (38), Potiphar’s wife (39), prisoner and interpreter of dreams (40-41), Joseph meeting his brothers (42-44), and revealing himself to them (45), Jacob goes to Egypt, adopts Joseph’s sons and blesses them (46-49) and dies in honor and dignity (50).
GENERAL REFERENCES FOR BIBLE STUDY
1) The reader can benefit from reading the writings of the Church Fathers on the Old Testament. St. George’s Church in Sporting, Alexandria has published numerous books on this topic in Arabic by Father Tadros Malaty. Also, an introduction to the Holy Bible was published by the same author in 1983. This book describes in a table format, a detailed comparison of the various books of the Bible. These publications are very helpful and may be used as an introduction for those interested in Bible studies. These books are available in most bookstores and libraries of Coptic churches.
2) In English: There are several editions of the Holy Bible (King James Version and others) with notes in the margins, maps and indexes. These are very helpful in studying the Bible. One of these books is Thompson Chain-Reference Bible which is available in most religious bookstores.
Saint Mark’s Orthodox Fellowship urges you to study the Bible and encourage others to do the same. Please feel free to make any copies from these notes and distribute them to your relatives and friends. The fellowship welcomes any questions, comments or additional references, whether for publication in these “Short Notes” or in private correspondence.
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