What is Christian Literacy?
Literacy refers to the ability to use a language - to know what words means, to be able to use grammar, sentence structure, to be able to converse in that language is to be literate.
Religious literacy means having the ability to understand and speak about our faith intelligently. It’s the ability to communicate the basic tenets of our religion.
I'm very grateful to B.U. Professor Stephen Prothero for his excellent book, "Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know and Doesn't." This book, along with my desire to teach the faith, served as the inspiration for this effort.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Above is The Gutenberg Bible of 1455, the first printed Bible.
Now here’s a big subject!
39 in the Old Testament, 27 in the New Testament
31,173 verses (this varies slightly from translation to translation)
Over 40 different authors
Covering over 2000 years of history
With all that bigness you might be surprised that the word “Bible” means, “little books.” The Bible is a library of little books. Another surprising thing is that these 66 little books, covering over 2000 years of “holy history,” have many common themes running through them - God’s love, forgiveness, covenant, God’s expectations of us, the Messiah, praise, prayer and justice, just to name a few.
As you probably know, the Bible is divided into two major sections - the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word “testament” is an old term for “covenant,” which is a binding, loving partnership between two parties, in this case, between God and the Jews, and between God and all humanity.
Here are some contrasts between the Testaments:
The Old Testament covers about 1600 years of history: 2000 B.C. - 400 B.C.
The New Testament covers about 95 years of history: 3 B.C. - 90s A.D.
(Jesus was probably born 3-5 B.C. When they first figured it out they made a mistake. So Jesus was born “B.C.,” literally ahead of his time!)
The Old Testament is the story of God and the Jews/Israelites/Hebrews.
The New Testament is the story of Christ and his Church.
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, the language of the Jews.
The New Testament was written in Greek, the international language of the First Century.
The Old Testament is about a specific people and their land.
The New Testament is about a Gospel for the whole world.
The Old Testament is a partnership with God based on obeying God’s expectations, expressed in Torah, the Laws of God recorded in the first five books of the Bible.
The New Testament is a partnership with God based on faith and grace, expressed to us so clearly in the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
Reading the Bible
If you haven’t read the Bible in a while I wouldn’t suggest trying to read it from cover to cover. You’ll probably quit in Leviticus; trust me. Instead, read some of the more important books (Yes, not all Bible verses are created equal). Perhaps start with one of these: Genesis, the Psalms, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, and James.
And read the Bible devotionally. By that I mean, read it until you find something you can pray into your life. Then stop, think about it, then pray about it.
Here’s a thought: The Bible is a love letter from God to humanity.
Prayer: Loving God, thank you for the Bible, which reveals your ways, your will and your heart. Help me to grow in my knowledge of this sacred, holy Book. Amen.
There are great Study Bibles out today. My favorites are these:
The Life Application Bible
The NIV Study Bible
The Quest Study Bible
Chapter and Verse:
To make it easier to study, the Bible was divided into present-day chapters by Stephen Langton about 1200. Verses were separated and numbered by Robert Stephanus in 1557.
The longest verse in the Bible contains 81 words. It’s Esther 8:9:
“Then the king's scribes were called at that time, in the third month Sivan, on the twenty-third day of the month; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded to the Jews, and to the satraps, and the governors and princes of the provinces which are from India to Ethiopia, one hundred twenty-seven provinces, to every province according to its writing, and to every people in their language, and to the Jews in their writing, and in their language."
On the other end of the scale are the two shortest verses in the Bible consisting of only two words:
Job 3:2 - “He said.”
John 11:35 - “Jesus wept.”