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CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY, or DIVINITY, teaches from Revelation the knowledge of God, his various dispensations to mankind, and the duties required of men by their Creator.
The Scriptures, or Bible, are the only authentic source from which instruction upon these important points can be derived. The word Scriptures literally signifies Writings, and the word Bible, Book ; but these words are now, by way of eminence and distinction, exclusively applied to those sacred compositions which contain the Revealed Will of God. The words Scriptures and Scripture occur in this sense in the Gospels, Acts, and Epistles (a); whence it is evident, that, in the time of our Saviour, they denoted the books received by the Jews, as the rule of their faith. To these books have been added the writings of the Apostles and Evangelists, which complete the collection of books acknowledged by Christians to be divinely inspired.
(a) Matt. c. 21. v. 42. c. 22. v. 29. Acts, c. 18. v. 28. Rom. c. 15. v. 4. 1 Pet. c. 2. v. 6. James, c. 2. v. 8.
John, c. 5. v. 39. 2 Tim. c. 3. v. 16.
The Bible (b), or the Book, the Book of Books, was used in its present sense by the early Christians, as we learn from Chrysostom (c).
The Bible is divided into two parts, called the Old and New Testament (d). The Old Testament, of which alone it is intended to treat in this chapter, contains those sacred books which were composed, previous to the birth of our Saviour, by the successive prophets and inspired writers, whom it pleased God to raise up from time to time, through a period of more than 1000 years. These books are written in Hebrew, and they are the only writings now extant in that language. The Old Testament, according to our Bibles, consists of thirty-nine books; but among the Jews they formed only twenty-two, which was also the number of letters in their alphabet. They divided these twenty-two books into three classes; the first class consisted of five
(6) Βιβλιον signifies simply a book.
(c) Hom. 9. in Col.
(d) St. Paul, in the same chapter, 2 Cor. c. 3. v. 6. and 14. calls the dispensation of Moses the Old Testament, and the dispensation of Christ the New Testament; and these distinguishing appellations were applied by the early ecclesiastical authors to the writings which contained those dispensations. The Greek word Aia@nkn occurs in Scripture both in the sense of a testament or will, and of a covenant, Heb. c. 9. v. 16. and Gal. c. 3. v. 15. It seems improperly applied to the antient Scriptures in the former sense, since the death of Moses had no concern whatever in the establishment or efficacy of the Jewish religion; but in the latter sense it very properly signifies the covenant between God and his chosen people. The word Aia0ŋŋ, when applied in the sense of testament to the books which contain the Christian dispensation, may refer to the death of Christ, which forms an essential part of his religion; but even in this case it would, perhaps, have been better translated by the word covenant, as referring to the conditions upon which God is pleased to offer salvation to his sinful creatures, through the mediation of his only son Jesus Christ. The Hebrew word Berith, which is translated by Acaŋŋ in the Septuagint version, always signifies a covenant.
books, namely, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, which they called the Law: the second class consisted of thirteen books, namely, Joshua, Judges, and Ruth, in one book; the two books of Samuel, of Kings, and of Chronicles respectively, in single books; Ezra and Nehemiah, in one book; Esther, Job, Isaiah, the two books of Jeremiah in one; Ezekiel, Daniel, and the twelve minor prophets in one book; these thirteen books they called The Prophets : the third class consisted of the four remaining books, namely, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon, which four books the Jews called Chetubim, and the Greeks Hagiographa (e); this class was also called The Psalms, from the name of the first book in it. This threefold division was naturally suggested by the books themselves; it was used merely for convenience, and did not proceed from any opinion of difference in the authority of the books of the several classes. In like manner the minor prophets were so called from the brevity of their works, and not from any supposed inferiority to the other prophets. The books are not in all instances arranged in our Bibles (ƒ) according to the order of time in which they were written; but the book of Genesis was the earliest composition contained in the sacred volume, except, as some think, the book of Job; and the book of Malachi was certainly the latest.
Though Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, stood as separate books in the private copies used by the Jews in the time of Josephus (g),
(e) From ayios holy, and ypapn writing.
(f) There is some little difference in the arrangement of the books in the Bibles of different countries and languages. Dupin, Diss. Pred. book I. c. 1. sect. 7.
(g) It is not known when this division took place, but probably it was first adopted in the Septuagint version, as the titles
they were written by their author Moses in one continued work, and still remain in that form in the public copies read in the Jewish synagogues. These five books are now generally known by the name of the Pentateuch (h); and they are frequently cited both in the Old and New Testament under the name of The Law. It appears from Deuteronomy, that the book of the Law, that is, the whole Pentateuch, written by the hand of Moses, was, by his command, deposited in the tabernacle, not long before his death (i). It was kept there not only while the Israelites remained in the wilderness, but afterwards, when they were settled in the land of Canaan. To the same sanctuary were consigned, as they were successively produced, the other sacred books, which were written before the building of the temple at Jerusalem. And when Solomon had finished the temple, he directed that these books should be removed into it; and also, that the future compositions of inspired men should be secured in the same holy place (k). We may therefore conclude that the respective works of Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Joel, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Obadiah, all of whom flourished before the Babylonian captivity, were regularly deposited in the temple. Whether these manuscripts perished in the flames, when the temple was burnt by Nebuchadnezzar, we are not informed. But as the burning of the Scriptures is not lamented by any of the contemporary or succeeding prefixed are of Greek derivation. The beginnings of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, are very abrupt, and plainly show that these books were formerly joined to Genesis. (h) From TEVTE five, and Tεʊxog volume. It is called by the Jews, Chomez, a word synonymous with Pentateuch. (i) Deut. c. 31. v. 26.
(k) Epiphanius de Pond. et Mens. cap. 4. Gray's Introd. Jenkin, part 2. ch. 9.