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The Nature of Scripture
The sacred writings of the religions of the world exhibit a variety of genres—prayers, visions, ritual, moral codes, myths, historical narratives, legends, and revelatory discourses. Such works have tended to be transmitted orally at first and committed to writing at a later date. This is true of much of the content of the Christian Bible as well as of the Hindu Vedas and the Jewish Mishnah.
The sacred character of such writings is accorded them by communities that have come to value the traditions they embody. Scripture is also perceived in some sense as heavenly in origin—the Qur'an and the Book of Mormon are good examples of this. Religious communities value highly those who interpret their scriptures at both the scholarly and popular levels. Translation of scripture into the vernacular, though resisted in some religious traditions, is a common phenomenon. However, the original Arabic of the Qur'an is regarded as the actual words of God, and therefore as sacrosanct, and is printed alongside its translation. Translations can assume the status of inspired text, as did the Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures (the Septuagint) in Hellenistic Jewish and Christian communities. The process of canonizing scripture has been an extended one in many religious traditions, e.g., the Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist faiths. Other traditions authorized their respective bodies of scripture early, e.g., the Sikhs, Muslims, and Manichaeans. Inspiration is an adjunct of the idea of the divine authority of scripture.
The role of scripture in the life of the community involves its public recitation or reading at worship, its veneration as a cult object, and its citation in public prayer and in prescribing appropriate rituals. In the private devotional life of the faithful, scripture is the focus of meditation. The use of scripture to function as a charm to ward off evil or to induce healing is also common. Scripture is also the inspiration for cultural expression in art, music, and literature.
The Bible as Christian Scripture
English Translations of the Christian Bible
John Wyclif was one of the first to project the publication and distribution of the Bible in the vernacular among the English people, and two translations go by his name. In the 15th cent. the Lollards did much to extend the use of the Wyclifite translation. The next name in the history of the English Bible is that of William Tyndale, whose translation was not from the Latin Vulgate, like Wyclif's, but from the Hebrew and Greek. Its quality is attested by its use as a basis of the Authorized Version. Tyndale's New Testament (1525–26) was the first English translation to be printed. Contemporary with Tyndale was Miles Coverdale. The second version of Coverdale and the translation of Thomas Matthew closely followed Tyndale. In 1539 the English crown issued its first official version, in the name of Henry VIII. This, the Great Bible, was done principally by Coverdale. The Geneva Bible, or Breeches Bible, was a revision of the Great Bible, financed and annotated by the Calvinists of Geneva. The Bishops' Bible (1568) was a recasting of Tyndale.
The greatest of all English translations was the Authorized Version (AV), or King James Version (KJV), of 1611, made by a committee of churchmen led by Lancelot Andrewes and composed of many of the finest scholars in England. The beautiful English of this version has had great influence and is generally ranked in English literature with the work of Shakespeare. The phraseology of much of it is that of Tyndale. The Douay, or Rheims-Douay, Version was published by Roman Catholic scholars at Reims (New Testament, 1582) and Douai, France (Old Testament, 1610); it was extensively revised by Richard Challoner. In the 19th cent. the project of revising the Authorized Version from the original tongues was undertaken by the Church of England with the cooperation of nonconformist churches. The results of this revision were the English Revised Version and the American Revised Version (pub. 1880–90).
Many scholars, either cooperatively or independently, have translated the Bible into English. In other literatures, also, the translation of the Bible has had a formative effect on the literary language, notably in the case of Martin Luther's German translation. Occasionally translation of the Bible has been the first or the only notable work in a language, e.g., the translation by Ulfilas into Gothic.
In the 20th cent., American biblical scholars combined to produce the Revised Standard Version (RSV), published in 1952 and immediately adopted by many churches. A completely new translation, the work of a joint committee of representatives of all Protestant denominations in Great Britain, aided by Roman Catholic consultants, was begun in 1946. The New Testament was first published in 1961, and the entire Bible, called The New English Bible, appeared in 1970. New Roman Catholic translations were also undertaken, the Westminster Version in England, and a complete revision of the Rheims-Douay edition sponsored by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine in the United States. The latter, after undergoing several major revisions and retranslations, was finally published as the New American Bible (1970). In addition, an English translation of the French Catholic Bible de Jerusalem (1961) appeared as the Jerusalem Bible (1966). A revision of the RSV was published in 1989 as the New Revised Standard Version.
See The Cambridge History of the Bible (3 vol., 1963–70); F. F. Bruce and E. G. Rupp, ed., Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition (1968); F. M. Denny and R. L. Taylor, The Holy Bible in Comparative Perspective (1985); H. M. Orlinsky and R. M. Bratcher, A History of Bible Translation and the North American Contribution (1991); J. Miles, God: A Biography (1995); J. L. Kugel, The Bible as It Was (1997); R. E. Friedman, The Hidden Book of the Bible (1998); C. Murphy, The Word According to Eve (1998); D. H. Akensen, Surpassing Wonder: The Invention of the Bible and the Talmuds (1999); A. Nicolson, God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible (2003); B. Chilton et al., ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Bible (2007); H. Hamlin and N. W. Jones, ed., The King James Bible after Four Hundred Years (2011).
Bible(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
The Bible is a library of books containing the scriptures of two religions. The Hebrew scriptures have been adopted by Christians and labeled the Old Testament. These thirty-nine books were written before the birth of Jesus. The twenty-seven books of the New Testament are the product of the Christian movement following the birthday of the church on the day of Pentecost, sometime around 30-33 CE.
The names "Old" and "New" Testaments come from the New Testament book of Hebrews, chapter 8, which in turn quotes the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, chapter 31:
The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant [testament] with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.
Then follows an editorial comment by the Christian author of Hebrews: "By calling this covenant `new,' he has made the first one obsolete."
Christianity was, at first, considered a reform movement of Judaism. All of its first converts were Jewish. But when the apostle Paul freed Gentile converts from the Jewish requirements of circumcision and kosher food restrictions, they began to think of themselves as the "new" Israel, related to Abraham not by blood but by spirit. The only scripture familiar to the new Church was the Hebrew Bible, and it was quoted freely in their writings, which, when brought together some three hundred years later, would be called the New Testament. (The process is explained under the entry on Apocrypha).
The Story of the Bible
The Bible, written by many authors over the course of more than one thousand years, tells a single story. The individual books are divided into chapters and verses for easy identification. Genesis 3:15-18, for instance, means that the passage quoted is from Genesis (the first book of the Bible), chapter three, verses fifteen through eighteen. With so many different translations and editions, identification by page number is simply not feasible. This refinement, however, was not found in the original manuscripts. It is the result of an editorial decision made in the Middle Ages.
The first eleven chapters of Genesis contain a prologue to the main story:
Chapters 1 and 2: Creation. Chapter 3: The Fall. Adam and Eve are expelled from Eden. Chapter 4: Cain murders Abel and goes forth to populate the earth. Chapters 5 through 9: As evil spreads throughout the earth, God destroys humankind with a great flood. Chapter 10: The Table of Nations. An explanation of how each human race descended from one of the three sons of Noah. Chapter 11: The Tower of Babel. An explanation of why different races speak different languages.
In chapter 12 the main story of the Bible begins. Abraham answers the call of God, who tells him to "leave your country, your people and your father's household to go to the land I will show you." By following this command to migrate to the land now called Israel, Abraham sets in motion the long story of his descendants that occupies the rest of the Bible. Genesis tells the story of how Isaac, his son, becomes the father of Jacob and Esau. Jacob's name is changed to Israel when he wrestles with an unknown antagonist all night. His sparring partner is finally revealed to be none other than God. Israel means "he struggles with God." Jacob, now called Israel, fathers twelve sons. Their descendants, known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel, are forever after called bene Yisrael, "children of Israel."
Their occupation of the land promised them by God, the Promised Land, is interrupted by a four-hundred-year captivity in Egypt (described in the book of Exodus). But under Moses they finally break free and begin their journey to the place they will forever call home (see Passover). If the Hebrew race began with Abraham, it can be said that the Jewish religion began with Moses. In the forty-year period of desert wandering following their escape from Egypt, the Hebrews were given the Law at Sinai and developed Tabernacle worship. The children of Israel became a unified people with a clear goal (detailed in Exodus through Deuteronomy). Their conquest of the Promised Land (Joshua through Ruth) began a long journey leading to great heights of glory under David and Solomon and great depths of despair in captivity in foreign lands (Samuel through Nehemiah; see Babylonian Captivity). Wisdom was acquired at a great price and expressed beautifully by many different writers (Job through Solomon's Song). The Hebrew prophets (Isaiah through Malachi) would time and again call upon the people to return to the path of God begun by their ancestors so many generations earlier.
The New Testament finds the Jews living in Israel, now called Palestine, under Roman rule. Jesus Christ is born in Bethlehem. His story is told in four Gospels, called Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (see Gospel). His followers come to believe he is the Messiah anticipated by the Hebrew prophets, and they are soon called Christians. They proceed to spread his message throughout the Roman empire (described in the book of Acts). The first great Christian missionary, the apostle Paul, writes epistles, or letters, to the many churches he establishes (Romans through Philemon). Other letters written by different apostles (Hebrews through Revelation) follow these.
Taken together, Christians understand the Old and New Testaments of the Bible to tell the story of the human race. In the beginning, the first human parents are cast out of the Garden of Eden to keep them from the Tree of Life. Eating its fruit in their sinful state would have opened the doors to an eternity of evil. But that evil is addressed by God and paid for at Calvary (see Christ/Jesus of Nazareth). The way to the Tree of Life is opened once again. The final chapter of the Bible pictures the tree now standing in the New Jerusalem, "come down from heaven as a bride prepared for her bridegroom... and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse" (Revelation 22:2, 3).
What divides Bible scholars today is interpretation. How should the Bible be read? Who really wrote it? Is it a history textbook? Is it a book of ethics? What does it mean when Paul claims that "all Scripture is inspired by God" (2 Timothy 3:16)? Are Christians bound by the cultural patterns of the authors? If so, slavery and subjugation of women seem to be ordained by God, since both seem to have Paul's approval (Ephesians 6:5 and 1 Corinthians 14:34). And what about the stories of rape, murder, and incest committed by people who seem to have God's blessing? Are they in the same category as the texts that outline moral behavior?
Answers to these questions form the basis of a great divide in the Church today. How scholars approach the subject of biblical interpretation immediately labels them. Dr. Gabriel Fackre of Andover Newton Theological School has prepared the following chart to help explain basic Christian theological positions in regard to biblical interpretation:
The matter of scriptural interpretation continues to divide not only the Christian community, but Muslims and Jews as well. Whenever a holy book is read, assumptions have to be made. What was in the mind of the original author? Is the author even who he claims to be? Does the intention of the author determine our interpretation, or is the author being used by a Higher Power? Are secrets or even codes planted within scripture that are intended to remain hidden until the time arrives to which they apply? Are doctrines based on eternal truth or culturally conditioned behavior?
Bible(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
The original "wise woman" of Europe, the wicce, had to be the local doctor as well as magician, seer, spiritual leader, and arbitrator of all matters. As a doctor, she required a knowledge of all herbs and their uses including a knowledge of the antidotes for accidental poisonings by those unwary of what they ate. The early Witches' knowledge of poisons, with the early Witches, was the source of the incorrectly translated Bible passage (Exodus 22:18) "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," a passage that has been used as the first and final judgement on Witches for hundreds of years.
Sir Walter Scott pointed out that the original Hebrew word chasaph (or kaskagh) meant nothing more than "poisoner." "Thou shalt not suffer a poisoner to live" certainly makes better sense. But having a knowledge of poisons in order to be able to counteract them, is not the same as being a poisoner.
It was King James I, of England, who was responsible for the misconception. Due to his brush with the Berwick Witches, he had a phobia of what he perceived as witchcraft. This very much colored his authorized translation of the Bible. Translating from the Latin translation, he may have simply confused veneficus and maleficus—"poisoner" and "witch"—but it is far more likely that he consciously equated the two. But, as Scott pointed out, "supposing that the Hebrew witch proceeded only by charms, invocations, or such means as might be innoxious. . . the connexion between the conjurer and the demon must have been of a very different character, under the law of Moses, from that which was conceived, in latter days, to constitute witchcraft." He goes on to say that "There was no contract of subjection to a diabolic power, no infernal stamp or sign of such a fatal league, no revellings of Satan and his hags, and no infliction of disease or misfortune upon good men. At least there is no word in Scripture authorizing us to believe that such a system existed." He spent many pages examining the Bible and proved beyond doubt that the witch represented in the King James version bore no resemblance to any actual "witch" of biblical times. He summed up by saying that "It cannot be said that, in any part of that sacred volume, a text occurs indicating the existence of a system of witchcraft. . . in any respect similar to that against which the law-books of so many European nations have, till very lately, denounced punishment. . . . In the four Gospels, the word (`witch'), under any sense, does not occur."
The second most-often quoted "witch" of the Bible is the "Witch of Endor." Again, King James's hand is obvious. In I Samuel 28:3, the actual text says, "And Saul had put away those that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land." Verse 7 goes on to say, "Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and enquire of her. And his servants said to him, Behold there is a woman that hath a familiar spirit at Endor." But the headings that are appended to these two verses in the King James version are: "3: Saul, having destroyed the witches" and "7: Saul seeketh to a witch."
It becomes clear, as the text is read, that this woman is simply a spiritualist-type medium, one able to communicate with spirits of the dead. Nowhere is she further described, neither as being young nor old, yet later writers invariably refer to her as a "hag" and as living in a "hovel," although the Bible gives no description of her dwelling. She is so depicted in the illustration found in Joseph Glanvil's Saducismus Triumphatus (1681) and elsewhere.
Ronald Holmes mentions that the Welsh Bible, which first appeared in 1567, held few of the same misconceptions, probably because of the lack of suitable Welsh words. The Witch of Endor is presented there in the correct light, simply as a medium. Where it cannot be specific, the word gwrach was used for "witch," without the implications of devil's emissary.
The above biblical references were much used during the Witch persecutions in the Middle Ages. One of the tests given when a person was accused of witchcraft at that time was weighing them against the Bible. The village Bible was invariably a monstrous volume, usually donated by the local lord of the manor and weighing many pounds, far heavier than most people. If the accused outweighed the Bible— an unlikely event—she was innocent of the charges. However, if the Bible weighed more than the accused, it was a sign of guilt. But although some few accused did weigh more than the Bible, they then found themselves facing additional tests.
A new Bible translation was proposed at the Hampton Court conference in 1604. There had been several previous translations. There was the fourteenth century translation associated with John Wycliffe and presented in two versions. The New Testament of William Tyndale was published in 1525, translated directly from the Greek original. The Great Bible of 1539 was followed by the Bishop's Bible of
1568. But the translation proposed at the Hampton Court conference was to become the standard. It was the Authorized or King James version.
Despite many of the oft-quoted biblical admonitions against various forms of magic and divination. Corinthians 12:4-12 and 14:1, 3, 31, 32, and 39 recommend accepting and using the gifts given, including those of prophesy, speaking with tongues—"covet to prophesy and forbid not to speak in tongues"—working miracles, healing, and so on. And all pagans should revel in Job 12:7-8, which says, "But ask now the beasts, and they will teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee."
Bible(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
The Christian Bible is full of references to psychic and Spiritualist activities, to materializations, healings, apparitions, and spirit contact of all kinds. In 1 Corinthians there are exhortations for all to use their gifts of prophecy and other spiritual gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 says, “For to one is given, by the Spirit, the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another diverse kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.” Also, 1 Corinthians 14:31 says: “For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.”
There are a number of references to materializations in the Bible: Genesis 3:8, 18:1, 32:24, Exodus 24:10, 24:11, Ezekiel 11:9, Daniel 5:5, Luke 24:15, 16, 29-31, John 20:12, 14, 19, 26. In John 20:19 the Bible says: “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples had assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.” This verse is describing an event that was supposed to have taken place two days after the crucifixion, which was carried out on the eve of the Jewish Sabbath. This is described as being on “the first day of the week.” Jesus, early in the day, had appeared to Mary Magdalene in the garden of the sepulcher where his body had been laid, and told her to tell his brethren that he had not yet ascended to the Father, whom he described as “my Father and your father.” When the disciples assembled in a room, with the door closed “for fear of the Jews,” then suddenly Jesus appeared standing in the middle of them. Apparently it was a solid materialization for he showed them his hands and his side, to verify that it really was him, thus proving that there is indeed life after death and that communication is possible.
Independent spirit writing is found in Exodus 24:12, 31:18, 32:16, 34:1, Deuteronomy 5:22, 9:10. Independent spirit voices are mentioned in Deuteronomy 9:12, 13, 1 Samuel 3:3, 3:9, Ezekiel 1:28, Matthew 17:5, John 12:28-30, Acts 9:4, 9:7, 11:7-9. There are examples of healings in both the Old and the New Testaments, in Numbers 21:8, 9, 1Kings 16:17, 16:24, 2 Kings 4:18, 4:37, 5:1, 5:14, Matthew 6:5, 6:13, 7:10, 7:13, Luke 5:47, 5:54, Luke 9:11, 14:2, 14:4, Mark 3:2, 3:5, John 4:47, 4:54, 1 Corinthians 12:9, 12:28, Acts 3:1, 3:8, 16:8, 16:10. Trance is encountered in Genesis 15:2, 15:17, Daniel 8:18, 10:9, Acts 9:3, 9:9, 22:17, 2 Corinthians 12:2. There is spirit communication through dreams found in Job 33:15, Genesis 28:12, 31:24, 37:5, 41, and dream interpretation in Genesis 40:1-23, Genesis 41:14-36, Judges 7:13-14.
Spiritualism does not accept the Christian Bible as the infallible word of God. Rather, it recognizes that it is the product of a number of different authors writing at different times with material slanted to their particular conditions and circumstances. Regardless of the inspiration that moved the various authors, there is always what today is known as the “hidden agenda”—the slant or “spin” that is the author’s individualism, promoting what he feels is important. Such writings cannot be relevant to all people at all times under all circumstances. Added to this is the confusion and inaccuracy that has grown from translations of translations together with a wide variety of interpretations and presentations, many of which were personally or politically motivated. Due to the numerous translations and the actions of the Council of Nicæa, a great deal of original meaning has been lost.
Spiritualism’s recognition of the Bible’s background is an important endorsement of Spiritualism’s search for the truth and its ongoing investigation, analysis, and classification of psychic facts and spiritual values. Spiritualism believes that everyone is free to interpret according to their own understanding. Spiritualism acknowledges the history, prophecy, and spiritual phenomena which are spread throughout the Bible.
Modern Spiritualism’s regard for the Bible was expressed by Moses Hull, who inspired the first Training School for Modern Spiritualism at Matua, Ohio, in July of 1897. He said the Bible is “one of the best of the sacred books of the ages,” yet he acknowledged that it is far from infallible. The Bible is the basis for the Hebrew religion—with the Old Testament—as well as the Christian one—in the New Testament—and much of its teachings may also be found in the Koran. While not living up to all that is sometimes said of it, the Bible is accepted by Spiritualists as a book of history written by many different authors.
a collection of writings of different times, different languages, and varying character, dating from the eighth century B.C. to the second century a.d., which forms the basis of the divine service and doctrines of Judaism and Christianity and is considered by them as sacred. The Bible consists of the Old Testament, recognized as sacred scripture by both the Jewish and Christian religions, and the New Testament, recognized by Christianity only.
The Old Testament, consisting of 39 books, written in ancient Hebrew and partly in Aramaic, was completed between the third and second centuries B.C. It contains folk myths and legends (the book of Genesis), which to some extent may be traced to common Semitic traditions, such as the myth of the fall of the first people and the flood; historical narratives (the books of Samuel and Kings), which are an important source for the history of ancient Palestine and the neighboring peoples; a record of ethical principles and ritual prescriptions (the book of Deuteronomy, which includes the Ten Commandments); social and religious pronouncements (the books of the Prophets); philosophical reflections (the books of Job and Ecclesiastes); love lyrics (the Song of Songs); religious poetry (the psalms, many ascribed to King David, all of which are called the Psalter); and pseudo-historical narratives (the book of Esther).
According to tradition, the books of the Old Testament are divided into three parts: the Law (in Hebrew, Torah), or Pentateuch, the compilation of which is ascribed to Moses; the Prophets, which include—apart from the so-called prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets—the books of Joshua, Judges, I and II Kings, and others; and the Writings, or Hagiographa.
These works were written in the course of many centuries. Some fragments, such as the Song of Deborah, included in the Book of Judges, date back to the 12th century B.C. The parts began to be compiled in the fifth century B.C. and were subjected to editing by the Jerusalem priesthood, who incorporated into the Bible the idea that monotheism had supposedly prevailed among the Jews from the very beginning. The Old Testament canon was worked out between a.d. 90 and 100; between the seventh and ninth centuries a group of theologians, called Masoretes (from ancient Hebrew, masorah, “tradition”), produced a unified text of the Old Testament. The most ancient complete manuscripts of the Old Testament that have come down to us date from the late ninth and tenth centuries and are based on the Masoretic version. Only the Qumran scrolls, discovered between 1947 and 1965 in caves on the shores of the Dead Sea, have permitted us to become acquainted with certain books and fragments of the Bible in their pre-Masoretic version and created a serious basis for studying the composition of the Old Testament text.
Christian divine services use the Old Testament in Greek, Latin, Old Slavonic, and modern language translations. Many of these translations are based on the ancient Greek translation (the so-called translation of 70 interpreters, called in Latin the Septuagint), which was made from a pre-Masoretic text in the second century B.C. and which has come down to us in manuscripts dating from the fourth century a.d. and later. It contains variants from the Masoretic version, corresponding in some cases to the Qumran scrolls. Moreover, the Septuagint contains a number of works that have not been included in the Jewish canon of the Bible. The Latin translation—for the most part from the ancient Hebrew text, with the utilization of the existing Latin translation of the Septuagint—was completed by the theologian St. Jerome between a.d. 386 and 406. It forms the basis of the so-called Vulgate, the Roman Catholic Bible, of which manuscripts of the sixth century have been preserved. In Rus’, the Bible was for the most part translated from the Greek, although it is possible that the Hebrew original was used for some books. The first complete Russian translation appeared in 1499, with some books translated from the Latin text of Jerome. During the period of the Reformation in Western Europe, translations of the Bible into modern languages appeared, among them the translation of Martin Luther.
The New Testament was written in Greek. The question of whether part of the Gospel of Matthew was initially written in Aramaic remains under discussion. The New Testament consists of four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, 21 Epistles, and the Revelation (Apocalypse) of St. John the Divine. According to tradition, the New Testament writings belong to the closest followers of Christ or to their disciples and date essentially from the middle of the first century a.d. In fact, they were written later, apparently between the second half of the first and the beginning of the second century. The oldest preserved manuscript, a fragment of the Gospel of John, dates from about a.d. 125. The New Testament was compiled as the result of a compromise between various early Christian groups; its canon was not established until the end of the fourth century. There existed a number of gospels, epistles, and revelations that were not recognized by the church; some of them, such as the Revelation of John and the epistles of James, Jude, and others were included in the canon only at a later time. The New Testament is the most important source on the history of the growth of Christianity.
The Bible, heterogeneous in origin, reflects different social, political, and moral views. Side by side with the appeal to improve the condition of the oppressed, especially in the books of the Prophets, and to destroy the Roman Empire (in Revelation), there prevails in the Bible an apologetic attitude toward monarchic rule, social inequality, and property. It is proclaimed that “there is no power but of god.” The ideal of family relationships is the patriarchal family, with its subordination of the woman to the master of the household and with the inclusion of concubines and servants in the household. The historical process is viewed as a manifestation of “divine providence,” the earth is viewed as the center of the universe, and the world is viewed as having a beginning and an end.
Recognized as the sacred (“divinely inspired”) book of the Christian Church, the Bible determined the form of expression of thought throughout the Middle Ages. The biblical cosmogony, social teaching, and ethics were upheld by the church as the indisputable norm and were utilized in the interests of the exploiting classes. The Bible was invoked for justification of feudal privileges, the Inquisition, slavery, and the humble position of women. Heretical teachings— including those of the Paulicians and the Bogomils, who denied the divine inspiration of the Old Testament—did not so much reject as reinterpret biblical teachings, sometimes finding in the Bible a basis for the idea of equality. (“When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?”) Biblical quotations were used to support the demands of the peasants in the Great Peasants’ War of 1524–26 and the programs of the English Bourgeois Revolution (English Civil War). Biblical images and themes formed the arsenal of medieval art, above all of iconography and church sculpture; later the Bible also provided artists, writers, and composers with subjects (Rembrandt, J. Milton, J. S. Bach, G. Byron, T. Mann, and others).
The study of the Bible began in antiquity and was initially of a primarily theological character. In the Middle Ages a special discipline was evolved, exegetics, the purpose of which is to interpret individual passages of the Bible and in particular to explain contradictions, which were glaring even then, treating them, however, as merely apparent. Biblical criticism begins in the 17th and 18th centuries with B. Spinoza and J. Astruc. It was pointed out that the Bible was not a unique, divinely inspired book, but a complex literary monument, reflecting the interests of various social groups and abounding in contradictions. Thus, mutually exclusive myths are given in the book of Genesis about the origin of man. According to one version, man and woman were created simultaneously, but according to the other version, the woman Eve was created from a rib of the man Adam at a later time; according to one myth about the flood, the rain fell for 40 days, but according to the other, it fell for 150 days; and so forth. The various gospels determine differently the time and the place of Christ’s birth, where the child Jesus was brought, and the duration of his preaching. There are also theological contradictions in the Bible. It is said in some epistles that man is saved by faith, in others by good works. Contradictory also are the social and ethical principles of the Bible, such as the condemning of riches as against making friends with riches, the call to bring the sword into this world as against the threat that all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword, an appeal not to judge others as against a demand to submit them to judgment, the appeal not to divorce a wife as against the call to forsake her, and so forth. Contradictions were found not only between the Old and the New Testaments, but also within separate books. In addition, many repetitions and stereotypes were discovered. Biblical criticism showed that the world view of the Bible was in no way unique but had definite roots and parallels in various beliefs, rites, and customs of ancient peoples, especially in Babylonian mythology. Elements were uncovered of polytheism and archaic cults, which contradicted the main trend of the Bible toward monotheism.
It was established that the Pentateuch could not be ascribed to Moses; as early as the beginning of the 19th century, it was shown that one of the books, Deuteronomy, originated in 621 b.c, significantly later than the time when, according to tradition, Moses died. Stylistically, the Pentateuch forms a unit with the Book of Joshua, which relates events after the death of Moses. A number of sources (so-called Elohist and Yahwist) were discovered, from which contradictory versions of the same legends and the like were often drawn. The nature of the priests’ revision of the Bible was also revealed; a collation of the books of Chronicles (Paralipomenon) with the books of Samuel and Kings revealed that in the editing certain dates were changed, some episodes were inserted, and others were omitted, with the intention of proving that the history of Judea was the history of the glory of Yahweh. Thus, everything was omitted that might have cast a shadow on King David, who was represented as the founder of the Yahweh cult and not as the daring little brigand king described by earlier tradition.
Biblical criticism, which impinged on the interests of the church, met with violent resistance from confessional scholarship, although some of its conclusions began to be used by theologians—particularly Protestants—to purge biblical stories of obvious absurdities. In recent years, a series of contentions of biblical criticism were reexamined in the light of new research, especially on the basis of the data of so-called biblical archaeology. Some biblical traditions that had been regarded as myth, such as the origin of Christianity on the territory of Palestine, seem to have a historic core.
For using the Bible there exist specially prepared alphabetical indexes, called concordances, of all words and proper names encountered in the Bible.
REFERENCESMarx, K., and F. Engels. O religii. Moscow, 1955.
Lenin, V. I. O religii. Moscow, 1955.
Ranovich, A. B. Ocherki istorii drevneevreiskoi religii. Moscow, 1937.
Wellhausen, J. Vvedenie ν istoriu Israilia. St. Petersburg, 1909. (Translated from German.)
Frazer, J. Fol’klor ν Vetkhom zavete. Moscow-Leningrad, 1931. (Translated from English.)
Lentsman, A. Ia. Proiskhozhdenie khristianstva. Moscow, 1960.
Amusin, I. D. Rukopisi Mertvogo moría. Moscow, 1960.
Kryvelev, I. A. Kniga o Biblii. Moscow, 1958.
Kryvelev, I. A. Kak kritikovali Bibliiu ν starínu. Moscow, 1966.
Kosidowski, Z. Bibleiskie skazaniia. Moscow, 1966. (Translated from Polish.)
Zehren, E. Bibleiskie kholmy. Moscow, 1966. (Translated from German.)
Livshits, G. M. Ocherki istoriografii Biblii i rannego khristianstva. Minsk, 1970.
Eissfeldt, O. Einleitung in das Alte Testament, 3rd ed. Tubingen, 1964.
Glanzman, G., and J. Fritzmyer. An Introductory Bibliography for the Study of the Scripture. New York, 1965.
Feine, P., and J. Behm. Einleitung in das Neue Testament, 14th ed. Heidelberg, 1965.
A. P. KAZHDAN
What does it mean when you dream about the Bible?
The meaning of a Bible in a dream often depends on one’s religious upbringing. Can indicate insight (revealed knowledge), “good news,” tradition, or even intolerance (“Bible thumpers”). The Bible is often used metaphorically to describe authoritative publications in other realms, as in the “bible of marketing” or the “back packer’s bible.”