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The Bible

The Bible consists of two parts–The Old Testament and the New Testament. They are called "Old" and "New" because the former contains God's old covenant with His people, while the latter contains God's new covenant, which was established by Christ and the Apostles.

The Old Testament begins with the historical books. Genesis tells the story of creation, the fall of man, God's covenants with Noah and Abraham, and the story of Joseph and his brothers, the founders of the "twelve tribes of Israel". Exodus tells the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, and how the ten commandments, other laws, and instructions on the place of worship were given. Leviticus is a collection of mostly ceremonial laws. Numbers contains the account of the Israelites as they wandered through the desert for forty years after being led out of slavery by Moses. Deuteronomy is a series of addresses by Moses to the Israelites, in which he instructs the people, and names Joshua his successor. Joshua tells the story of how the Israelites conquered other nations, thereby inheriting the "Promised Land". Judges tells the story of the period of time in which Israel was led by a group of leaders called the "judges", who were mainly military leaders. Ruth takes place in the time of the judges, and tells the story of a woman who would become King David's great-grandmother. 1 and 2 Samuel tell the story of how Samuel, the last of the Judges, appointed Saul as king of Israel, his rivalry with David, who would become his successor, and the reign of David. 1 and 2 Kings tell the story of the reign of David's son, Solomon, the division of the Israelite Kingdom into two kingdoms–Judah and Israel, and the reign of the kings of Judah and Israel until the fall of Jerusalem to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. 1 and 2 Chronicles are a re-telling of the events that are recorded in Samuel and Kings. Ezra is a sequel to Chronicles, and tells the story of the return of Jewish exiles from Babylon, and the restoration of worship in Jerusalem. Nehemiah tells the story of his reign as governor of Judah after the restoration in Ezra. Tobit is the story of a man whose faith and obedience are rewarded by God. Judith is the story of a woman who saved the Israelite nation from attacking enemies. Esther likewise tells the story of a woman who saved her people from their enemies.

The Wisdom Books begin with Job, the story of a faithful and prosperous man who loses everything, turns his anger towards God, and repents after God tells him of His power and wisdom. Psalms contains a series of hymns and prayers–of praise, worship, and thanksgiving, and for help, protection, salvation, forgiveness, and the punishment of enemies. Proverbs contain religious and moral teachings in the form of sayings and proverbs. Ecclesiastes discusses the futility of human life. Song of Songs contains a series of love letters between a man and a woman, and reflects God's love for His people. Wisdom of Solomon tells how the faithful, who live by wisdom, are rewarded by God, while the wicked are punished. Sirach contains religious, moral, and practical advise on many areas.

The Prophetic Books begins with Isaiah, who wrote at a time when Assyria was threatening Judah, and when many Israelites were in exile in Babylon; he predicted that a failure to repent of idolatry and wickedness would result in destruction, and predicted that the exiles would be freed and would return. Jeremiah predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and of Judah by King Nebuchadnezzar, because of their sin and disobedience. Lamentations contains Jeremiah's meditations on the fall of Judah, and Baruch contains some of Jeremiah's discourses. Ezekiel also predicted the fall of Jerusalem, but predicted the restoration of Jerusalem and the Israelite nation. Daniel tells the story of a prophet in the time of Nebuchadnezzar, and contains apocalyptic prophecies. These four are called the "Major Prophets", as opposed to the twelve "Minor Prophets". Hosea spoke out against idolatry and faithlessness in Israel, and predicted that God would give Israel new life. Joel predicted "the day of the Lord", where he would punish all the wicked. Amos observed that Israel's prosperity was restricted to the wealthy and fed off injustice and the exploitation of the poor, that religious observance was merely external, called for justice, and warned of disaster. Obadiah predicted the punishment of nations opposed to the Israelites. Jonah tells the story of a prophet who at first refused to preach God's message to the pagans in Ninevah, and when he did, the people of Ninevah repented. Micah predicted the punishment of Judah, for the same reasons cited by Amos, but predicted that Judah would in time receive many blessings. Nahum is a poem in celebration of the fall of Ninevah, the capital of Assyria, Israel's greatest enemy. Habakkuk expressed his dismay at the persecution of the Israelites after the fall of the nation, and predicted doom for the unrighteous. Zephaniah predicted doom for the Israelites because of their worship of foreign gods, but in time, Israel would be restored and the people would turn back to God. Haggai encouraged the people to rebuild the Temple that was destroyed in the fall, and assured the people that peace and prosperity would flourish among a people renewed. Zechariah predicted the restoration and rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple, the purification of the Israelites, the coming of the Messiah, and the final judgment. Malachi, in a time after the restoration of Jerusalem, exhorts the priests and the people to be faithful to God and renounce corruption.

The New Testament begins with the gospels, which means "Good News" and recount Christ's life, ministry, death, and resurrection. The synoptic gospels–Matthew, Mark, and Luke–contain many similar stories and teachings, but each was written for a different purpose. Matthew stresses God's power and majesty. Mark's intended audience was the Jews, so he wrote his gospel in a way that Jews could relate to, and that they could make sense out of. Luke's intended audience was the Gentiles, so he stressed that the Church was open to all people, and portrayed Jesus as having great concern for the poor, the outcast, and the oppressed. John, the fourth gospel, was written in addition to the other gospels, to demonstrate Christ's nature, especially His divinity, in a way that the synoptics fail to do. The last of the historical books is the Acts, which begins with the founding of the Church at Pentecost, and continues with the story of the early Church.

The epistles are letters written by the Apostles, to various audience, for various purposes. Romans and Galatians tell of how believers are justified, or put right with God and therefore saved. 1 and 2 Corinthians deal with various problems in the church at Corinth, and provide a wealth of knowledge regarding questions of concern, mainly theological, to the people of Corinth. These are the "Major Epistles" of Paul. Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, the "Captivity Epistles" of Paul (written while Paul was imprisoned) center around the plan of salvation and the role of Jesus in bringing about salvation for all believers (hence, these epistles are also called the "Christological Epistles". The Pastoral Epistles–1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus–were addressed to bishops, and contain pastoral advice and issues. Paul also wrote 1 and 2 Thessalonians the "First Epistles". Hebrews is traditionally attributed to Paul, and relates to the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ. The "Catholic Epistles–James (which exhorts believers to live truly Christian lives), 1 Peter (which stresses the unity and joy of Christians), 2 Peter (which refutes false teachers and doctrines), 1, 2, and 3 John (which stresses Christian love and what it means to be a true believer), and Jude (which is concerned with false doctrines and teachings)–are addressed to the Catholic Church in general.

The sole prophetic book of the New Testament, Revelation, is apocalyptic. It is highly symbolic, and though it may contain prophecies to be fulfilled in the future, the main theme is that God will defeat His enemies, including Satan, and reward His faithful people in the end.

Catholic Tracts


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