The Bible

The central scripture of Christianity is the Bible, which is a collection of books gathered into one volume. There are more books in the Catholic Bible than in versions used by other denominations:

  • 46 books of the Old Testament, other denominations acknowledge 39 books
  • 27 books of the New Testament, which is the same for other denominations

The Old Testament

The first part of the Bible is called the Old Testament. It begins with God’s creation of the universe and humanity. The Old Testament was written before the incarnation of Jesus. It begins with five books known as the Books of God’s Law - the rules on how to live a good religious life that God sent to the Jewish people via Moses. In Judaism, these five books form the holy scriptures known as the Torah. As a whole, the Old Testament describes the history, beliefs and culture of the Jewish people before Christianity. The word Christian means ‘follower of Christ’.

The New Testament

The second part of the Bible is called the New Testament. It starts with the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) that each describe the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. At the very start of the New Testament is Matthew’s description of the birth of Jesus. Following on from the gospels is the Acts of the Apostles. The New Testament also contains the letters of leaders of the early Church, such as St Paul, to the first Christians. It ends with the Book of Revelation, which tells Christians about the end of the world.

The four gospel writers are Matthew, John, Mark and Luke

The role of the Bible

  • Catholics believe the Bible reveals God’s word and God’s nature. Catholics believe that they can learn to understand God better by reading the Bible.
  • Parts of the Bible are read during liturgical worship, for example Mass.
  • Worship using the Bible unites Catholics with other members of their faith.
  • The Bible also plays a role in private worship, which many Catholics use to build a relationship with God.

The significance of the Bible

  • Most Catholics accept the authority of the Bible because they believe its authors were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the word of God.
  • The Bible contains the Ten Commandments. These act as basic guidelines for Catholics, helping them to know what they should and shouldn’t do.
  • The Bible is where Catholics can read the teachings of Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount is an example of a collection of these teachings. Catholics turn to these teachings to understand how to live a good Christian life.
  • The Bible also reveals the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. This is important as it helps Catholics to understand the place of salvation in their lives. They are able to understand that Jesus died to save their sins.