Sources of authority - Christian perspectives

The Bible

The Christian holy book is the Bible and this is the most important source of authority for Christians, as it contains the teachings of God and Jesus Christ.

All Christians, regardless of denomination, regard the Bible as the starting point for guidance about their faith. It contains 66 different books and is split into the Old Testament and the New Testament.

Old Testament

The Old Testament is a collection of books that were written before the life of Jesus. It contains the rules which Christians should live by, contained in the Ten Commandments in the book of Exodus.

The Old Testament also contains examples of:

  • other people that Christians can learn from, eg Job
  • prayers and songs that are used in worship, eg The Song of Solomon
  • passages that are regarded as prophecies of the Messiah, such as Isaiah chapter 53

New Testament

The New Testament is a collection of books that were written after Jesus died and rose from the dead. It contains the four gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It is in the gospels that Christians learn about the example that Jesus set and the teachings that he gave to his disciples and early followers.

The New Testament also contains the teachings of Saint Paul who helped to form the early church's teachings. He wrote some of the letters, sometimes called epistles, that are in the New Testament, such as Romans and Galatians.

Some Christians also regard the Deuterocanonical books or Apocrypha as part of the Bible. The Deuterocanonical are books that are accepted as scripture by Roman Catholics and the Eastern Churches, but they were not in the Hebrew Canon and are not regarded as canonical by Protestants. These books are usually placed after the Old Testament in a Bible. They help to place other books in historical context and offer a different view on the Hebrew Bible. Examples of Deuterocanonical books include The Book of Wisdom and The Books of Maccabees.