The book of books
The word ‘Bible’ is derived from the ancient Greek expression biblos (Greek: book). The Bible is a collection of books divided into two parts according to their origin: the Old Testament (Tanakh in Hebrew) and the New Testament.
The Old Testament books were written in their present form between the eighth and second centuries BC, while the New Testament writings emerged between the second half of the first century and the beginning of the second century AD. A chronological distinction is also made between the ‘First’ and ‘Second Testament’. The Old Testament was written in ancient Hebrew/Aramaic, while the New Testament was written in what was then colloquial Greek (koine).
The canon is the compilation of biblical books that emerged over several centuries and through the application of various criteria. For Christians, the writings of the Old and New Testaments form the biblical canon (Greek kanon = guideline, rule). The biblical books are thus interpreted as binding guidelines for Christian faith and life.
For the Christian churches, the Bible represents the Holy Scriptures in which God reveals himself in human words. As God’s self-communication, the Bible differs fundamentally from all other texts – from telephone books or novels, church regulations and theological texts, to confessions of the faith, confessional writings and doctrinal statements. Because God himself speaks to people through his word, the biblical texts were not, are not, and will not be historical documents or ancient testimonies – regardless of their age. Instead, they are the living, effective Word (verbum efficax). At all times, the Bible remains a contemporary space for conversation, experience and a reality that wishes to be inhabited and become a living space that determines the faithful’s lives. Only where this happens is God’s Word alive.