The Holy Bible

“Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 236).

The OT reveals God’s mighty acts in creation, the deliverance of the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt, and the making of the old covenant with the chosen people. God’s saving will for his people is made known in the OT through the gift of the Law in the Ten Commandments and through the witness of the prophets. The OT is also known as the “Hebrew Scriptures.” The NT describes the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, whose coming was foretold in the OT. It also tells the story of the creation of the Christian church through the gift of the Holy Spirit and presents the new covenant, based on love, which is the new relationship with God given by Jesus Christ to all who believe in him. (BCP, pp. 850-851).


Theological criterion of Christian belief is the revelation of God to which testimony is given in the Bible

  • The Bible is the basic source of theology
  • The Bible contains original witness of God’s revealing events
  • All later interpretations and authority of Scripture depend upon the original authority given in the written texts of those with first- or second-hand knowledge of the events
  • Tradition and Reason are used in response to the witness of Holy Scripture

Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures)

The Old Testament is both a literary collection of historical experiences and a theological witness of ancient Israel. The Old Testament has two audiences: (1) Ancient and (2) Contemporary.

• The Old Testament is ancient Israel’s books about their experiences, but it also belongs to the current Jewish Synagogues and Christian churches. The challenge is to read the texts in their historical context while also bringing those experiences into dialogue with our contexts.

• The Hebrew Bible was written in ancient Hebrew and Aramaic and the contexts of the authors differ from our own. There is a tension between the ancient texts and contemporary world.

Three main parts:

  1. The Law (The Pentatuch / The Five Books of Moses)
  2. The Prophets
  3. The Writings

Sources & Themes of the Old Testament

J — Yahwist source: Is a southern tradition and dates around 950 BCE. The J source emphasizes God’s divine activity, humans are made from dust, worship is community worship without an established priesthood of Israel.
E — Elohist source: Is a northern tradition and dates around 800 BCE. The Name used for God is El or Elohim. God is mediated through messengers. dreams, and visions. God is involved in human activity by walking and talking with people. There is a fear of God as God is awesome and we need to pause to recognize the greater power. Worship has official liturgies.
D — Deuteronomous source: Dates after 621 BCE. The D source assumes an established priesthood for Israel. It is the primary text for Deuteronomy.
P — Priestly source: Dates around 550 BCE (a time of Exile). Its style includes lists: it emphasizes genealogies. Provides detailed descriptions of the Temple and the Ark. It contains four covenants (Creation to Noah. Noah to Abraham. Abraham to Moses. and Moses and following). Uses the names El. Elohim. El Shadim. and Yahweh for God. God is depicted as remote: God is the Holy One of Israel. There is an emphasis on ritual practice and worship is centered in Jerusalem.

New Testament

The New Testament is a witness to Jesus Christ and the establishment of the early Church. It was written within the context of specific Christian communities, which is important for interpretation.

Dates of New Testament: Mid-1st to early 2nd Centuries

•Oral Tradition

• Events of Jesus’ life and death

• Resurrection & Pentecost to ca. 40-50 A.D.

•Written Tradition: ca. 40-50 A.D. — ca. 130 A.D.

• Composed originally in Greek

• Writing began 40-50 years following Jesus Christ

• 27 books

• Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, & Luke

• Gospel of John

• Acts of the Apostles

• Epistles (Letters)

• Hebrews (Serrmon)

• Catholic (universal) Epistles: James through Jude

• Revelation

Four Gospels

Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell the story of Jesus Christ and are most similar due to sources. John’s gospel differs in chronology, style, characters, preaching focus, and Christology.

Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke

Synoptic Problem: Synoptic Gospels differ somewhat

  • Infancy narratives in Mt and Lk
  • Communities addressed (Jewish Christian [Mt],
  • Gentile Christian [Mk, Lk],
  • Purposes & theological emphases (Jesus, disciples, & Christian life)
  • Appearance of Teachings/incidents


Various traditions as sources:

• Triple Tradition – teachings/incidents appear in all three gospels

• Double Tradition – Some appear in two gospels

• Special Material – Some only in one gospel (either from the tradition or composed by evangelist from other source)


How Synoptic Problem has been explained
Two Source Theory: Mt and Lk independently used Mk and source know as Q, plus some special traditions. Most economical and widely accepted hypothesis about the relationships among Synoptic Gospels.

Mk written first and Mt & Lk dependent on Mk. Where Mt & Lk agree, but not from Mk each independently had source called Q. Where Mt. & Lk differ from each other and Mk is that each had their own independent source (M) and (L).

Two Source Theory at The Rev. Jay Lawlor - Introduction to New Testament Gospels

Mark’s Gospel

Where, When, Who, Why:

Approximately 70 A.D. in Rome or Syria (scholars disagree). Secretary or someone who knew the Apostle Peter. Gentile-Christian audience to encourage them in time of persecution & why should follow Jesus by providing a narrative. in literary form, of the story of Jesus.


Structure and Themes:

a) Shows Jesus’ authority and power over wind, illness. & evil. Despite his teaching and preaching and the miracles he performed. Jesus is misunderstood by the crowds. religious authorities, even his own disciples and hometown friends. Death on cross not a historical accident but will of God.
b) Mark shows how attractive it is follow to Jesus (e.g. fisherman giving up businesses to follow), but that discipleship will likely bring suffering. Life of disciple marked by persecutions and suffering. Jesus was misunderstood and suffered and disciples will be misunderstood and suffer. Discipleship means having vigilance of Christian life. Discipleship is about service.

Matthew’s Gospel

When: 85-90 A.D.
Where: East near large Jewish & Jewish-Christian populations. Greek speaking area
Who: Traditionally tax collector called by Jesus to be disciple — but hard to prove
Why: Matthew writing to a Jewish-Christian audience as a Jewish-Christian response to year 70 A.D. to stress the heritage of Israel best preserved in the Jesus movement. Also a close look at the Torah and how should apply to a situation in light of Jesus.


How and Themes:

a) Infancy narrative is foreshadow of death on the cross. Jesus is the fulfillment of Scripture — he is the Messiah and earthly Son of David (as Joseph of House of David); Jesus uniquely conceived from the Holy Spirit and is Emmanuel (“God with us”). God is uniquely present and at work in Jesus. All people may find God in Jesus and become his disciples. Jesus shown as powerful in Word (e.g. Sermon on the Mount) & powerful in deed (e.g. Miracle stories). Jesus is the continuity historylheritage of Israel.
b) Kingdom of heaven is for everyone. Five speeches & narratives represent Jesus’ teaching on discipleship. Welcome and serve marginal people. Do things to please God and not human beings (e.g. alms giving, fasting, praying) as reward comes from God. Apostles share Jesus’ ministry (e.g. preach, heal, if rejected act non-violently, simple lifestyles). Discipleship is important to continue the work of Jesus on earth. In becoming a disciple of Jesus, one becomes a child of God, will share in God’s reign, and engages in mission. Loving as God loves is the essence of Christian existence.

Luke’s Gospel

When: 85-90 A.D.
Where: East between Ceseria & Greece
Who: Companion of the Apostle Paul (also seems be author of Acts —Luke-Acts)
Why: Gentile-Christian audience that knew a lot about Judaism and written to support what has been accomplished. To write an orderly account so people will know the truth about Jesus Christ and build upon the faith of the community.

Presents Jesus as a teacher, healer, & suffering Messiah. In Luke’s infancy narrative, Jesus’ birth is glad tidings of great joy (vs. Mt. Which is grimmer w/ hints of the cross) as Jesus is a revelation to Gentiles and glory of people of Israel. Jesus placed in context of world history. The baptism & genealogy show Jesus as Son of God and bearer of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus proclaims Good News to marginal people and is the fulfillment of prophecy and incarnation of salvation. Jesus is the exemplar of servant-leader and is faithful to his own teachings even on the cross (1) Love enemies, (2) Continues ministry to marginalized, and (3) Faith in God the Creator.

Luke shows us the importance of women as disciples in the Jesus movement (e.g. Mary Magdalene was apostle to the apostles). Instructions on Christian prayer (boldness in prayer). Service of others — especially those on the margin. This is particularly true in service to women and the poor (rich vs. poor is an important theme in Lk). The time of the Church is important. Disciples are told to be like Jesus: loving, kind, doers of good deeds. Acceptance of Jesus — becoming disciple of Jesus — is not an accident but part of God’s Salvation History.

John’s Gospel

Gospel of John differs in chronology, style, characters, preaching focus, and Christology
When: 90-100 A.D.
Where: Eastern Mediterranean
Who: Johanine School — Jewish Christians who had some connection to the Apostle John
Why: So that readers will know of Jesus Christ and believe

How/Themes: Emphasizes Divine aspects of Christ and the Coming Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus reveals himself as God, Jesus is the Word of God! Wisdom of God. Jesus is highly exaulted.

The Acts of the Apostles

The Acts of the Apostles (also known as Acts) was written by the same author as the Gospel According to Luke and can be considered a second volume of Luke (the two together are known as Luke-Acts). Acts tells of the work of the apostles in the founding of the earliest Christian churches. The book of Acts continues the narrative of the Gospel According to Luke by telling the Christian story from Jesus’ resurrection to Paul’s founding of the Church in Rome.

The Pauline Epistles (Letters)

The Pauline epistles (letters) are important pieces of the New Testament:

• Pastoral letters written by the Apostle Paul (or in the tradition of Paul).

• Deal with various issues concerning early church communities that Paul founded • Writing in response to problems and concerns raised by the churches.

• Of the thirteen epistles bearing Paul’s name, seven are undisputed as being written by Paul. The other six are written in the spirit of Paul (known as Pseudo-Pauline Epistles). These were probably written by students of Paul (known as the Pauline School).


Epistles actually written by Paul:

• 1 Thessalonians

• Galatians

• 1 Corinthians

• 2 Corinthians

• Philemon

• Philippians

• Romans


Pseudo Pauline Epistles:

• 2 Thessalonians

• Colossians

• Ephesians

• 1 Timothy

• 2 Timothy

• Titus

The Episcopal Church has authorized the use of the following translations of the Bible:

  • King James or Authorized Version (the historic Bible of The Episcopal Church)
  • English Revision (1881)
  • American Revision (1901)
  • Revised Standard Version (1952)
  • Jerusalem Bible (1966)
  • New English Bible with the Apocrypha (1970)
  • Good News Bible / Today’s English Version (1976)
  • New American Bible (1970)
  • Revised Standard Version, an Ecumenical Edition (1973)
  • New International Version (1978)
  • New Jerusalem Bible (1987)
  • Revised English Bible (1989)
  • New Revised Standard Version (1990)
  • Common English Bible (2012)