Christianity: The Bible
Gospels, epistles, etc. that became part of the
some books that were rejected
During the early Christian movement, there were about 40 Gospels and hundreds
of Epistles circulating among the various faith groups. Centuries later, four
Gospels, 13 Pauline Epistles, 8 Epistles written by others, and Revelation were
selected to form the Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. New Testament).
It is composed of 27 books, containing a total of 260 chapters.
However, not everyone has agreed with the official canon:
|There was considerable controversy over the Gospel of John in the
early church councils. Many bishops felt that it should be rejected from
|In his translation of
the Bible into German, Martin Luther downgraded the book of James because it stressed good works, and the book of
Revelation because he felt that its portrayal of a hate-filled, revenge-seeking
God is incompatible with the Gospel message. He relegated both books to an
The final 27 books which form the official canon was
written by an unknown number of authors; most estimates run from 9 to 15. They
describe events, beliefs, activities etc. during the
interval circa 7 BCE to perhaps the mid 2nd century CE.
Christians have many conflicting beliefs about the Bible.
The table below contrasts the beliefs of the most conservative and
progressive wings of
Christianity. Roman Catholics and mainline Christians often hold intermediate beliefs:
Conservative Christian Beliefs
Progressive Christian Beliefs
Assemblies of God
||Liberal wings of the United,
Episcopal & Methodist denominations
|Writings inspired by:
||God who prevented the Bible's
authors from error.
||Beliefs/opinions of the authors and their faith groups.
||Inerrant; as originally written.
All of the text is true, and describes Jesus life and mission precisely,
without error. The bible teaches the same message throughout.
||Contains some errors, religious propaganda, and fictional
material. Contains evidence of evolving religious beliefs throughout.
|Internal Consistency of the Bible
||All passages are totally consistent.
||Contains contradictions, due to the conflicting beliefs of its authors
and their sources.
||All scripture (i.e. the Hebrew and Christian
scriptures) is useful for guidance and spiritual development.
||Passages referring to slavery,
oppression of women,
execution of non-virgin brides and victims of rape, genocides, etc.
do not reflect the will of God and must be rejected.
||Literal interpretation wherever possible.
||Interpret some literally, others symbolically, some as text
imported from Pagan religions, some viewed as religious propaganda.
|Non-canonical texts (e.g. Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Judas,
||Works of heretics with no useful content.
||Works of great importance because they reveal the large
diversity of beliefs among early Christians.
These two widely divergent views make it impossible to make definitive statements about
the Bible that are acceptable to everyone. Conservative and liberal Christianity are in
effect two separate religions. We will describe the beliefs of
both wings in this section.
Topics covered in this section:
|Description, author(s), and date of each book in the Christian
Scriptures (and some that never made it into the official canon):
|The Gospels: the story of Jesus' life, ministry,
execution & resurrection.|
|Acts: a description of two of the three main
groups within the early Christian movement: the Jewish Christians and the Pauline
The early letters, major letters, prison letters and pastoral
letters, most of which state that they were written by St. Paul.
Theologians differ on their actual author.|
|General Epistles: Books by a variety of
authors from the early Christian movement.|
|Revelation: A book about an anticipated time
of great turbulence, pain and death. It has been interpreted by different
theologians and faith groups as describing:|
the early Christian church by the Romans, or |
|A series of visions or hallucinations by
its author, or |
|Events that will happen some time in our future
when the end of civilization as we know it is
|Deletions, additions etc. in the Christian Scriptures
|Interpreting the Christian Scriptures:|
|Comparing Gospel interpretation by conservative and
|Bible Inerrancy (freedom from error)|
- Analyzing the Bible as a
|The Jesus Seminar (very
progressive theologians, studying early
- P.N. Benware, "Survey of the New Testament", Moody Press, Chicago IL
(1990) (conservative Christian beliefs) You can read
reviews and/or order this book from Amazon.com bookstore
- C.M. Laymon, Editor, The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary on the Bible,
Abingdon Press, Nashville TN (1971), P. 122 (liberal Christian beliefs) Read reviews
and/or order this book
- Bible Notes at http://www.aitcom.net/
(conservative Christian beliefs)
- R.M. Helms, "Who Wrote the Gospels," Millennium Press, Altadena, CA,
(1996) (very liberal beliefs) Read reviews
and/or order this book
- B.L.Mack, "Who Wrote the New Testament: The Making of the Christian Myth,"
HarperCollins, San Francisco, (1996) Read reviews
and/or order this book
Copyright © 2001 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Most recent update: 2015-MAR-13
Author: B.A. Robinson