The Bible is the sacred book containing God’s revelation to people. It is the inspired word of God. It is the book through which God communicates with His people.
The Bible as the word of God
The Bible is the word of God because:
a) The written scripture contain God’s word.
b) Through the Bible God communicates his will to humans.
c) It contains word written by inspired authors such as the prophets who were sent by God.
d) God himself took part in the writing of the Bible. E.g. God is believed to have written the Ten Commandments
e) It contains the history of salvation realized through Jesus Christ.
f) The Word gives revelation to mysteries.
g) The Bible contains a message of hope and reconciliation.
h) It reveals that God controlled what was being written and what He inte-nded the writers to pass to the people.
The Bible as a library
The Bible is referred to as a library since it is a collection of inspired scri-ptures or books. The Bible contains 66 books. The Bible is divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament contains 39 books while the New Testament contains 27 books. However, the Ro-man Catholic Church accepts 7 additional books referred to as Apocrypha or Deutero or canonical books. The word Apocrypha means hidden or secret. They are Esdras (1, 2), Tobit, Judith, Ecclesiaticus, Baarch and Maccabees.
Why the Bible is a library
Several studies show that:
a) The Bible contains (66) book just like a library has many books. The Bible is a collection of books arranged in series.
b) The Bible is a reference book for Christians. The authors of the Bible had a special spiritual guidance; hence each book was written for a purpose.
c) The books were written at different times in history.
d) The Bible has literary works.
e) The Books written contain different topics.
f) The Bible has different books written by different authors.
g) The books of the Bible were written under different situations and circumstances.
THE BIBLE: MAJOR DIVISIONS AND ITS BOOKS
Major divisions of the Bible
The bible is divided into two major divisions. These are the Old Testame-nt with (39 Books) and the New Testament with (27 Books). The word Testament means covenant or agreement with God.
The Old Testament books are divided into:
- Books of the law or the Pentateuch or Torah.
- Historical books.
- Poetic Books
- Prophetic books.
Law books or the Pentateuch or Torah
The books of law are (i) Genesis (ii) Exodus (iii) Leviticus (iv) Numbers (v) Deuteronomy.
Moses wrote these books. They contain the law of God as it was given to the people of Israel through Moses. They also contain the history of the Israelites from creation to the time they entered the Promised Land. The author Moses is regarded as a lawgiver, teacher and prophet.
There are the 12 consecutive books from (i) Joshua (ii) Judges (iii) Ruth (iv) 1, 2 Samuel (v) 1, 2 Kings (vi)1, 2 Chronicles (vii) Ezra (viii) Nehemiah (ix) Esther. These 12 books record the history of the Israelites.
They also contain information about the life and achievements of some prophets, for example, the life history of Elisha and Elijah.
Exercise 1 – Go through the 12 books and check page by page the names of other prophets.
The books are poetic in nature. The poetic books contain wise sayings, songs, and prayers. The poetic books are (1) Psalms which was written by David (ii) Proverbs (iii) Ecclesiastes (iv) Song of Solomon written by Solomon and (v) Job.
These are divided into major and minor prophets. A prophet is a messe-nger of God, or God’s spokesperson. A prophet is a mouthpiece of God. Prophets pass information and messages from God to the people. They are messengers from God. Their messages from God concern the future.
Five Major Prophetic Books
- The major prophetic books are by (i) Isaiah (ii) Jeremiah (iii) Lamentations (iv) Ezekiel and (v) Daniel. The books are named after the prophets who prophesied and probably wrote them. Jeremiah wrote lamentations. These prophets are called Major Prophets because they cover a longer period of time. Their prophe-cies are long, and they prophesied over a long period of time.
- Minor Prophets. There are 12 books of (1) Hosea (2 Joel (3) Amos (4) Obadiah (5) Jonah (6) Micah (7) Nahum (8) Habakkuk (9) Zephaniah (10) Haggai (11) Zechariah and (12) Malachi. These books are by Minor Prophets who are said to have prophesied over a shorter period of time if you compare them with the Major Prophets.
New Testament books are:
- Biographical books or Gospels.
- Historical books (Acts of the Apostles).
- The Epistles.
- Apocalyptic or Prophetic book
a) Biographical book or Gospels
Gospel means Good News. The disciples of Jesus wrote the biographical books. They contain information about the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The biographical books are four. (i) Mathew – Written by Mathew (ii) Mark – Written by Mark (iii) Luke – Written by Luke, the doctor and (iv) John – written by John (the beloved disciple of Jesus Christ)
b) Historical books
There is one historical book, which is the Acts of the Apostles. Luke, the writer of the St. Luke’s Gospel, wrote it. The book of Acts tells us the history of the early church.
c) The Epistles
There are two Epistles: Pauline Epistles and General Epistles. Pauline Epistles are letters written by Paul. They are 13 letters that Paul wrote to (1) Romans (2,3) 1, 2 Corinthians (4) Galatians (5) Ephesians (6) Philip-pines (7) Colossians (8, 9) 1, 2 Thessalonians (10, 11) 1, 2 Timothy (12) Titus and (13) Philemon.
General Epistles are letters written to the church by other people. The letters are 8 in number. They (1) Hebrews (2) James (3,4) 1, 2 Peter (5,6,7) 1, 2, 3, John and (8) Jude
d) Apocalyptic or Prophetic book
This is the book of Revelation. It is the last book in the New Testament. It is different from other books. This is because it is prophetic of things to come. It is about the future. It was written by John the beloved disciple of Jesus Christ.
MAJOR BIBLE TRANSLATIONS FROM THE ORIGINAL LAN-GUAGES TO LOCAL LANGUAGES
These books of the Bible are accepted as the Canon of the Bible. The term Canon means Standard or guidance or rule. Translation means expression of books by words and pictures, poems and songs from one language to another. The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, the language of the Israelites. Then between 250 – 100 BC, it was translated to the Greek language. The Greek translation of the Bible was known as Septuagint. This term refers to 70 translators. The Jews in dispersion or Diaspora used this translation. These were the Jews living outside Palestine.
Between 386 – 420 A.D. Jerome, a great Christian Scholar, translated the entire bible from Greek into Latin, the language of the Romans. This translation was called Vulgate. Christians used the Latin translation of the Bible up to the 16th century. During the reformation in the 16th Century, Christians were encouraged to use their own native languages in worship. From that time, the Bible was translated into English and German. As Christianity spread to different parts of the world, there was the need for
translations of the Holy Bible into various languages. In 1804, the British formed the Foreign Bible Society, which translated the Bible into many languages.
Johann Ludwig Krapf translated the New Testament into Kiswahili. This was the first Bible translation in East Africa. Since that time, the Bible Society of Kenya has translated the Bible into other languages such
as Kikuyu in 1951, Kikamba in 1956, Kimeru in 1964, Kalenjin in 1968, and Luhya in 1974. By 1980 the Bible had been translated into 29 Kenyan languages. To date (2010) the Bible has been translated into 42 languages of Kenya.
Translation and versions used in Kenya today
Besides bible translation into several languages, there are many English translation versions, which are commonly used in Kenya. These are (i) King James Version (ii) Jerusalem Bible (iii) New International
version (iv) English Bible (v) The Authorized Version (vi) Good News (vii) Revised Standard Version (viii) New King James Version (ix) Amplified Bible (x) The living Bible (xi) The African Bible (xii) Common Bible (xiii) Today’s English Bible (xiv) American version among others.
Writing of the Bible
By 2010, the Bible Society of Kenya had translated the Bible into 42 Kenyan languages. The need to read the Bible led to writing of Bible reading materials to teach literacy in local languages. Those who wrote the Bible used different styles, and figures of speech to make their message vivid and clear.
Several literary forms were used in the writing of the Bible. These are:
- Poetry in Psalms
a) Read Psalms and notice the poetry used by David when he wrote psalms
b) Read Job. Notice the rhythm of the words
c) Turn to your English textbook – the Integrated English. Read topic 4 on sound and pattern in poetry.
d) Read any Psalm and any verse from Job. What do you notice?
Other literary forms that are used in the Bible are:
i) Prose in Leviticus, which is a Legislative text
ii) Wise sayings in Proverbs
iii) Prophetic speeches by Jeremiah
iv) Prayers by Nehemiah
v) Love Songs, for example, the Songs of Solomon
vi) Letters. Here see Pauline Epistles (Romans)
vii) Gospels, for example, Mark’s Gospel
viii) Religious events, for example, Exodus
ix) Narratives, for example, Genesis
x) Philosophical essays, for example, the book of Job. Here note the use of metaphors and similes in philosophical essays.
The effects of Bible translations on African languages
i) Increased and deepened African faith in God.
ii) Led to increased literacy. After Africans acquired literacy skills, they read the Bible and improved their literacy skills. Christian missionaries established schools in order to teach literacy that helped African to read the Bible.
ii) Made it easy for missionaries to spread the gospel to the African communities.
iii) Increased the demand for the Bible. This led to writing of Books and setting up of printing presses in African countries.
iv) Made it easy for the expansion of the church i.e. more people became Christians.
v) Led to the emergence of independent churches and schools.
vi) The missionaries and colonialists learnt the African languages.
vii) The African converts realized that the missionaries were unfair to them. There was for example a different treatment of African by White missionaries. This was inequality of races, which was and is even now against Christian teachings.
viii) Helped Africans to re-discover their cultural identity. For example the use of African instruments, dressings, and practice of polygamy, which David and other kings in the Old Testament did.
ix) Led to the writings and spread of African languages. The missionaries learnt local languages.
x) Improved communications between missionaries and the local people because they could understand each other.
xi) Increased printing of reading materials
The effects of Bible translations on Africans communities
After the first Bible translations, there were immediate effects or influences on some communities. For example, some community leaders did not agree with the Christian teachings. Some wanted to retain aspects of their African religion. As a result, some communities who disagreed with Bible translations established their own Christian denominations in order to preach the Bible, as they understood it. This was the emergence of independent churches. Some African communities built independent schools where their children could learn how to read and write without being forced to practice all the Christian teachings.
1) What is the importance of reading the Bible?
2) How is the Bible used in society today?
3) How does the Kenya Government use the Bible today?
4) Name the major divisions of the Bible in both the New Testament and the Old Testament
5) What are the effects of Bible translation on African languages?
6) Why is the Bible referred to as (a) a Library and (b) the Word of God
7) What is the meaning of the term inspiration?
- Read the Bible quotations given above.
- Carry out role plays e.g. the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham.
- Visit old people in your community and ask them about African religious traditional practices.