About the Bible: Gospels, epistles, etc.
that became part of the
some books that were
During the early Christian movement, there were about 40 Gospels and hundreds
of Epistles circulating among the various faith groups. Centuries later, four
Gospels, 13 Pauline Epistles, 8 Epistles written by others, and Revelation were
selected to form the Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. New Testament).
It is composed of 27 books, containing a total of 260 chapters.
However, not everyone has agreed with the official canon:
There was considerable controversy over the Gospel of John in the
early church councils. Many bishops felt that it should be rejected from
In his translation of
the Bible into German, Martin Luther downgraded the book of James because it stressed good works, and the book of
Revelation because he felt that its portrayal of a hate-filled, revenge-seeking
God is incompatible with the Gospel message. He relegated both books to an
The final 27 books which form the official canon was
written by an unknown number of authors; most estimates run from 9 to 15. They
describe events, beliefs, activities etc. during the
interval circa 7 BCE to perhaps the mid 2nd century CE.
Interpret some literally, others symbolically, some as text
imported from Pagan religions, some viewed as religious propaganda.
Non-canonical texts (e.g. Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Judas,
Works of heretics with no useful content.
Works of great importance because they reveal the large
diversity of beliefs among early Christians.
These two widely divergent views make it impossible to make definitive statements about
the Bible that are acceptable to everyone. Conservative and liberal Christianity are in
effect two separate religions. We will describe the beliefs of
both wings in this section.