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Categories: Religion | Christianity | Sacred Texts
Part of the Thelema & Religion series
The Bible is the primary sacred scripture of both the Jewish and Christian religions. These scriptures are compilations of what were originally separate documents (called "books") written over a long period of time. The first selection, which later formed the Jewish Bible (Tanakh) consisted of 39 books, and falls into three sections: The Law (Torah), The Prophets (Neviim), and The Writings (Ketuvim or Hagiographa). The Christian Bible reordered much of the Tanakh and added a few more books, calling it the Old Testament. Later additions after the birth of Jesus (27 Books) make up the New Testament.
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Structure of the Bible
The Hebrew Tanakh and the Christian Old Testament are largely the same except in order, although some versions of the OT include books that the Tanakh doesn’t. This article focuses on the Christian Bible (see Tanakh for more on the Hebrew Bible). The canonical list of the Books of the Bible differs between Jews, Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox, even though there is a great deal of overlap.
The general structure of the Bible, including all the various components are:
The Old Testament or Septuagint
- Genesis – Exodus – Leviticus – Numbers - Deuteronomy
- Historical books
- Joshua – Judges – Ruth - 1 Samuel - 2 Samuel - 1 Kings - 2 Kings - 1 Chronicles - 2 Chronicles - Ezra - 1 Esdras - Nehemiah - Tobit - Judith - Esther - 1 Maccabees - 2 Maccabees - 3 Maccabees - 4 Maccabees
- Wisdom books
- Job – Psalms – Odes – Proverbs - Ecclesiastes - Song of Solomon - Wisdom – Sirach - Psalms of Solomon
- Major prophets
- Isaiah – Jeremiah – Lamentations – Baruch - Letter of Jeremiah - Ezekiel - Daniel
- Minor prophets
- Hosea – Joel – Amos – Obadiah – Jonah – Micah – Nahum – Habakkuk – Zephaniah – Haggai – Zechariah - Malachi
The New Testament
- The Gospels
- Matthew - Mark - Luke - John
- History of the Apostles
- (The Letters of Paul) Romans - 1 Corinthians - 2 Corinthians - Galatians – Ephesians – Philippians – Colossians – 1 Thessalonians - 2 Thessalonians - 1 Timothy - 2 Timothy – Titus - Philemon
- (The General Letters) Hebrews – James - 1 Peter - 2 Peter - 1 John - 2 John - 3 John - Jude
See also: Deuterocanomical books ("second canon"), Apocrypha (non-canonical), Nag Hammadi Library, Dead Sea Scrolls
The Old Testament
The Hebrew scriptures of the Bible—portions of which contain stories traditionally held to be historical accounts of much of the early history of the Hebrew Nation—teach that there is one God, Jehovah, "Creator of Heaven and Earth" who created Man "in his own image", and details the relationship between Man and his Creator.
The Old Testament has as many as 52 Books, depending on which version you look at, and is also called the Septuagint—Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures from the second century B.C. Most Protestants omit some of these works, roughly following the second century A.D. Jewish canon called the Tanakh, but with some re-orderings. Within Christianity, there is not complete agreement on what the Christian Bible contains, that is, on the Biblical canon. However, this only extends to a few books—there is no dispute as to the majority of books of the Bible.
The relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament is not fully agreed upon among Christians. The degree to which the Old Testament and its laws applies to Christians is disputed. Very few Christians, for example, follow the dietary laws within the Old Testament, whereas almost all Christians believe that the Ten Commandments are applicable.
The New Testament contains many references to, and quotes from, the Old Testament, especially in relation to the fulfillment of prophecies concerning the promised messiah, whom Christians believe to be Jesus Christ. In Christian theological views, this expectation, present fulfillment and eschatological fulfillment of the divine, eternal kingdom under the headship of Jesus are the thread running through both Testaments.
The Pentateuch, Greek for "five containers", is the equivalent of the Hebrew Torah, is a Hebrew word meaning teaching, instruction, or especially Law. The Torah does not contain a complete and ordered system of legislature, but rather, a general philosophical basis, and a great number of specific laws, including the Ten Commandments. These laws are often reminiscent of the existing customs in the ancient middle east, but have important conceptual variations from them.
The book of Deuteronomy is different from the previous books; thus sometimes the first four books of the Bible are known as the Tetrateuch. The first six books of the Bible as a unit (The Pentateuch immediately followed by the book of Joshua) is sometimes referred to as the Hexateuch, as the book of Joshua picks up directly where Deuteronomy leaves off.
The New Testament
The New Testament, sometimes called the Greek Scriptures, is the name given to the part of the Christian Bible that was written after the birth of Jesus Christ. The term is a translation of the Latin Novum Testamentum, meaning "The New Covenant" or Testament. It was originally used by early Christians to describe their relationship with God and later to designate a particular collection of 27 books. For Christians, the NT is both a primary source of religious doctrine and a foundation for their spiritual beliefs. Some religious sects, notably, several of the Protestant Christian sects, believe the Bible to be the ultimate and authoritative guide in all spiritual matters, by a principle referred to as sola scriptura.
The earliest of the books of the New Testament was 1 Thessalonians, an epistle of Paul, written probably 51, or possibly Galatians in 49 according to one of two theories of its writing. Of the pseudepigraphical epistles, critical scholars tend to place them somewhere between 70 and 150, with 2 Peter usually being the latest.
In the first three centuries of the Christian Church, there was no New Testament canon that was universally recognized. Nevertheless, by the 2nd century there was a common collection of letters and gospels that a majority of church leaders considered authoritative. These contained the four gospels and many of the letters of Paul. The New Testament canon as it is now was first listed by St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, in 367, in a letter written to his churches in Egypt. That canon gained wider and wider recognition until it was accepted by all at the Third Council of Carthage in 397. Even this council did not settle the matter, however. Certain books continued to be questioned, especially James and Revelation. Even as late as the 16th century, theologian and reformer Martin Luther questioned (but in the end did not reject) the Epistle of James.
The Bible and Thelema
Aleister Crowley had grown up on the Bible, which resulted in many quotes and references to it running throughout his major works, including The Book of the Law. He writes of the Bible in Confessions:
- I did not hate God or Christ, but merely the God and Christ of the people whom I hated. It was only when the development of my logical faculties supplied the demonstration that I was compelled to set myself in opposition to the Bible itself. It does not matter that the literature is sometimes magnificent and that in isolated passages the philosophy and ethics are admirable. The sum of the matter is that Judaism is a savage, and Christianity a fiendish, superstition. (p.72)
Nevertheless, he often employed aspects of the Bible. As Dionysos Thriambos points out in his essay, "The Utility of the Bible to the Student of Thelema," anyone familiar with The Book of the Law will recognize certain Biblical passages, such as:
- "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."—Matthew 10:16, (see AL I:57)
- "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still."— Revelation 22:11 (see AL II:57)
And the Greek for Will (Thelema, Θελημα) appears about forty times in the New Testament. Dionysos Thriambos explains:
- This word is of a particular, Biblical provenance. The Greek New Testament has forty instances of the word Θελημα, of which 32 refer to divine will, and seven refer to human will—although three of these are the will of a figure representing Jesus' "Father" in a parable. One single instance in II Timothy 2:26 is noteworthy for describing the Θελημα of "the devil."
- In fact, the word Θελημα occurs in one of the best-known gospel passages, the only actual invocation prescribed by Jesus, the "Lord's Prayer," as it appears in Matthew 6:10, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will (Θελημα) be done in earth, as it is in heaven." Crowley wrote two updated versions of that prayer, in The Book of Lies chapters 2 and 44. In each case, "Thy will is done" is included to indicate transcendence of the earlier formula.
Crowley mentions the Bible as a useful text for Thelemites. He lists it in the A.'.A.'. reading curriculum, describing it as “The Bible, by various authors unknown. The Hebrew and Greek Originals are of Qabalistic value. It contains also many magical apologues, and recounts many tales of folk-lore and magical rites” (Book 4).
- The Skeptic's Annotated Bible (http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/) —a brilliant and funny version of the Bible annotated from a skeptical point of view.
- The Bible Tool (http://thebibletool.com/) - contains a huge collection of bible texts, commentaries, glossaries, and dictionaries.
- The Bible Gateway (http://bible.gospelcom.net/) - Free online Bible in many translations and encompassing literally 40 different languages.
- King James Bible (http://www.gutenberg.net/etext/10) - plain vanilla text from Project Gutenberg
- The New English Translation (http://www.bible.org/netbible/) - The first Bible made for the Internet.
- The World English Bible (http://www.ebible.org/) - a Public Domain (no copyright) Modern English translation of the Holy Bible, based on the American Standard Version of the Holy Bible first published in 1901, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament. It is in draft form, and currently being edited for accuracy and readability.
- The Polyglot Bible (http://davies-linguistics.byu.edu/polyglot/) - allows the user to view parallel versions of the Bible in numerous ancient and modern languages.
- "An Interpreting Dictionary of Scripture Proper Names" (http://www.ccel.org/bible_names/title.html) - from Hitchcock's New and Complete Analysis of the Holy Bible
- Wikipedia. (2004) Bible (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible). Retrieved Sept. 22, 2004.
- ___. (2004) Pentateuch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentateuch). Retrieved Sept. 22, 2004.
- ___. (2004) Books of the Bible (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Books_of_the_Bible). Retrieved Sept. 22, 2004.
- ___. (2004) New Testament (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Testament). Retrieved Sept. 22, 2004.
- Crowley, Aleister. (1979). The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. London;Boston : Routledge & Kegan Paul.
- ___. (1997). Magick: Book 4.' 2nd ed. York Beach, Me. : S. Weiser.
- Dionysos Thriambos. The Utility of the Bible to the Student of Thelema (http://www.hermetic.com/dionysos/bible.htm). Retrieved Sept. 22, 2004.