The Bible in a Nutshell

Every religion has its holy book, and for the Christian faith, and to a certain extent the Jewish faith, that holy book is the Bible. The Holy Bible, usually taken to be the word of God, is made up of 66 books belonging to two major divisions, with 39 in the Old Testament, and 27 in the New Testament. In case that you are not aware, the Jewish religion does not regard Jesus as the Messiah and their religious texts consist mainly of the Old Testament and does not contain the New Testament books, since the New Testament has more to do with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and his disciples. A couple of other books didn’t quite made it into the authoritative Bible, but had also at one time or another been considered as canon by the different denominations.
From the beginning, there had always been myths and legends that were passed down through the ages, stories created to explain about the creation of man and the surrounding world, words of wisdom and inspiration, as well as the occasional morality tales. At first, these tales were passed down via the oral tradition, until the advent of writing, upon which it became possible to gather these texts together and subsequently be regarded as an entire whole. These stories could have been based on actual historical events, and sometimes, even stories that were exchanged between different cultures have over time become adapted as part of the scriptures. For example, the story of Noah and the Great Flood bears similarities with the Ancient Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, right down to the building of the Ark and the collection of animals for safekeeping, while the flood itself could have been based on an ancient flooding event, theories range from a catastrophic Mediterranean tsunami, to the Black Sea deluge, or even an Indian Ocean asteroid strike.
The Tower of Babel
Apart from serving as a record of actual historical events (such as the fall of the Tower of Babel, the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, exodus of the Jews from Egypt, establishment of the Jewish Kingdom, among others), the Bible also contains many other information, ranging from important ones such as the collection of rules and laws, songs of praise and worship, prophecies and dire warnings, to others somewhat more trivial ones such as family records, construction inventories, and even donation records. Nearly every aspect is given a divine context, after all, it is supposed to be a book of worship. And just like any historical document, they were probably written to conform with whichever political climate that was prevalent at that time.
There was an approximately 400 years gap between the Old and New Testaments, during which it is believed that there were no inspired prophetic writings. Of course, the writing never stopped, only that the books produced during this period were simply not accepted as canonical scripture. Known as the Apocrypha, these books were said to promote false doctrines, they contained errors and inconsistancies, and they lacked a convincing divine nature (the writers themselves did not claim divine inspiration for their writings either).
The New Testament heralds the arrival of Jesus Christ as the Savior of Man, with the Gospels alluding to the life and teachings of Jesus (ranging from the virgin birth, Jesus’ ministry on Earth, the crucifixion, and resurrection), and one whole bunch of letters from the Apostles to Christ’s followers giving encouragement and hope during a time of Roman persecution of Christians and proliferation of errant teachings. The Book of Revelations, the last book of the Bible, tells of future apocalyptic events with the coming of the end of days, and the ultimate victory of Christ and the church over sin and evil, although some scholars believe that Revelations more likely served as a message of hope during the time of the Roman persecution.
It was also during the time of the writing of the New Testament that many Christian cults emerged and promoted their own interpretations of the teachings of Jesus, some of which clashed with the authoritative version held by the early Church leaders. These alternative teachings were branded as heresy, and as the Church grew in power and influence, such cults became persecuted and their writings were banned and destroyed. A number of such manuscripts belonging to one such cult known as the Gnostics had managed to survive to this day, providing Biblical scholars an invaluable chance at understanding the evolution of early Christian writing.
In the meantime, it fell onto the responsibility of the early Church to determine which books were to be considered as the Holy Scriptures, having been written inspired by God. In general, the gospels considered as canon were those which fit into the Church’s image of Jesus having been the martyred Messiah who was the Son of God, a concept not exactly shared by other Christian cults. Eventually, the New Testament was finalised into its current form of 27 books. And since then until now, the Holy Bible had seen numerous more translations and interpretations, depending on the religious and political overtones of the times, evolving into the versions that exist with us today.
The exclusion of the Apocrypha, and the Gnostics texts, from the canon Holy Bible, may somehow make it intriguing to take a look into these writings to see what is it that makes them so offensive. But it should be mentioned that these texts cannot be understood unless they are read in the context of their contemporaneous writings. So unless you are already knowledgable in the relevant Biblical texts, and actually believe in them, there is no way that these non-canonical texts are going to make any sense to you. You have been warned.
Oh, by the way, Merry Christmas to all !

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