Christian

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Christianity

The person who follows the teaching of Lord Jesus Christ is a true Christian.

An Introduction to the Bible

‘Christian scriptures are commonly known under the name of 'The Bible', in English. The word itself is derived from Greek through Latin, and originally was a collective name meaning the books or the scrolls. Its universal and constant use for sacred scriptures of Christianity has made it so common that it is now usual to speak of the ‘bible' of other religions...The Bible has a central place in the life and worship of the Christian church. Acts of worship usually include readings from the old and New Testament. In private devotion and meditation a Christian uses the Bible. The Bible exercises a normative influence in checking and correcting the thinking of scholars and teachers about the Christian faith.’ (Mathew P. John)

The Bible is by far the most widely read book in the world. It is translated in almost every important languages of the world. No other book has been so minutely examined and commented upon as the Bible and the literature on the sacred volume is very vast. The Bible is the source book of Christianity. Anybody who wants to understand the Christians, their principles of ethics, their history, sociology, economics and even their politics, must study the Bible. But the primary purpose of the Bible is religious, or more exactly soteriological i.e. concerned with the history of salvation. It is historical, but it gives divine interpretation of history. Such an interpretation is guaranteed by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The authority of The Bible is intimately bound up with the authority of Christ. For the Christians, religion meant loyalty and commitment to Jesus Christ.

The Bible consists of two collections of books known as 'The Old Testament' and 'The New Testament', (The word 'testament' means covenant, promise and bond). The former contains thirty-nine books and the latter twenty seven.


The Old Testament is the sacred scripture of the Jews as well as the first part of the Christian scriptures. Christianity arose within the Jewish religion and was at first reckoned as one of its sects, and The Old Testament formed its sole scripture for the first century or more of its existence. When the writers of The New Testament speak of scriptures, they are thinking of The Old Testament. It was originally written in Hebrew. According to Jewish reckoning, The Old Testament is divided into three sections: The Law, The Prophets and The Writings.

The Law, which is the most sacred and authoritative, is contained in the first five books, attributed to Moses. The first book is called Genesis, meaning the origin of the universe. The second book is named Exodus which narrates the birth of Moses and his early life and experience. The next book, Leviticus, provides some of the laws- religious and ceremonial, as well as moral and civil which were to govern their (Jews) existence as a nation. The fourth book, Numbers, gives some enumeration of the tribal groups. Deuteronomy, the last of the five in their existing arrangement was perhaps the first to be written in its present form and accepted as authoritative. It contains a summary of their history and a restatement of their covenant obligations, in the form of discourses by Moses. This book ends with the account of the death of Moses, who led the people to the threshold of their "promised land", Palestine, but did not enter it.

The Prophets, the second group of sacred writings, is sub-divided into 'Former Prophets' and 'Latter Prophets'. Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 kings constitute the 'Former Prophets'. These historical books do not present history from a secular view-point, but from an angle of vision of the nation as a chosen people of God. The book of 'Joshua' gives an impression that the conquest of Palestine was achieved in one grand campaign. In the book of 'Judges' the deliverance is through an act of God responding to the repentance of the people. Samuel was a religious and national leader. In the greater part of the two books, 1 and 2, Samuel is devoted to the accounts of the first two kings of Israel - Saul and David. In the book I and 2 kings the judgment on the reigns of particular rulers is given in terms of their faithfulness towards their God. The 'Latter Prophets' are unique in the religious literature. The books are attributed to Isaiah, Jeremiah and others are collections of sayings in prose and poetry, collected by their disciples. The Prophets spoke out of their own experience and to the men of their times. They spoke, not on any basis of authority, either of office or power, but through an awareness contained in the word, "Thus says the Lord".

The Writings: The rest of the books of The Old Testament were called in general 'the writings'. Of these books, the collection of 150 hymns called the Psalms has been most familiar to Jews and to the Christians. The Psalms were used by Jesus, quoted by the writers of The New Testament and became the treasured book of worship of the Christian Church from its beginning. Some of them, like 23rd (The Lord is my shepherd.) have become part of the world literature. In Job we have a discussion on the difficult problems of unmerited suffering. It is the story of a good man who suffers total disaster. The Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had had before. The book of Proverbs is a collection of moral and religious teachings in the form of sayings and proverbs.

The 'writings' also include five short books called the Five Scrolls, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations and Esther, which had their place in particular festivals of the Jews and also Daniel (prophecy and vision) Ezra, Nehemiah and 1 and 2 chronicles (History). The New Testament Consists of 27 books written in Greek. Some of them are very brief, even less than a page in length. The first four books are called gospels. The word 'gospel' is derived from the old English form 'godspell' meaning good news. The Gospel of Mathew tells the good news that Jesus is the Promised Savior, the one through whom God fulfilled the promises he made to His people in The Old Testament. The gospel of Mark presents the story of Jesus in a straight forward, vigorous way, with emphasis on what Jesus did, rather than on his words and teachings.

The Gospel of Luke presents Jesus as both the Promised Savior of Israel and as the Savior of all mankind. The Gospel of John presents Jesus as the eternal word of God, who "became a human being and lived among us". The closing chapters tell of Jesus' arrest and trial, his crucifixion and resurrection, and his appearances to his disciples after the resurrection.

The next book in The New Testament is called ‘The Acts of the Apostles’. It is a brief account of the Christian Church in its very early days in Jerusalem followed by the story of the conversion of Paul and his evangelistic activities. The word "Apostles" comes from a Greek word meaning "to send" and may be translated as ‘emissary’. Paul's letters to the Romans which comes next, is first of the "Epistles" of Paul. It was written to prepare the way for a visit Paul planned to make to the church at Rome. All the other epistles of Paul are to churches founded by himself or his fellow-workers or to individuals known to him. Letters to Corinthians I, 2, 3 deal with problems of Christian life and faith that had arisen in the church which Paul had established at Corinth. In the concluding chapter of the Letter to Galatians, Paul shows that Christian conduct flows naturally from the love that results from the faith in Christ.

In other epistles of Paul questions of worship, conduct, faith, factions and litigations within the group, are all discussed. Besides the letters of Paul, there are epistles attributed to James, Peter, John and Jude. The last book of The New Testament, The Revelation (To John) was written at a time when Christians were being persecuted because of their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. It concerns mainly to give his readers hope and encouragement, and to urge them to remain faithful during times of suffering and persecution.

Concept of Revelation in Christianity

The problem of revelation continues to be the central issue in the modern theological scene.1 The English word for revelation which comes from the Latin, implies the drawing back of veil, the unveiling of something hidden. It is almost equivalent of the New Testament word uncovering' (Revelation 1.1).

According to George S. Hendry, “'reveal' literally means to unveil, to remove the cover by which some object is hidden, to expose it ....” Reveal and revelation in the Bible are used exclusively in reference to God and divine things, and may thus be described as technical theological terms (The Greek word for revelation is apocalypse).2 A well known theologian H.M. Hughes defines Revelation as God’s impartation of the knowledge of Himself which is unattainable, if He did not have will to reveal Himself.3 Thus, in Christian understanding it is God who reveals Himself and man remains dependent on Him. The knowledge of God must be given to us by God Himself. In other words revelation is the self-disclosure of God Himself.4

According to Christianity we apprehend this being and His nature not by speculation, but by observing His action in human History, and by listening to the many voices with-which He speaks to us and within us. Those who know Him live in closest fellowship with Him. Revelation is both outward and inward because through the whole course of history, we can trace the working of God, and because at certain epochs there have been special manifestations of Him. It is also inward, through the inner experience of person and group of persons. 5

The nature of revelation can be seen both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. We discover the concept of revelation in the Old Testament that God who has been understood as beyond, unknown, invisible, hidden, above all else, holy, inaccessible, entirely 'other', exalted above men, transcendent, chooses to reveal Himself to man through various events6 like Burning Bush, cloud, Pillar of Fire, Thunder, smoke, shaking of Mount Sinai etc. The personal character of God's revelation is expressed in the language of the Old Testament by the name of God, when God makes Himself personally known to them.7

God raised up a special class of men to speak for Him and to be interpreters of His work. The Prophets became by an act of His Grace the great agents of God's revelation of Himself by His words.8 God had been appearing to His people and Prophets through dreams and visions. He had been also known as Personal God who responds. Thus, we see that in the Old Testament God had been revealing Himself through His word or through His message to the Prophets and messengers.

Christians believe that there was a preparatory revelation, a preparation of the stage, an announcement of God's real forthcoming. 9 In the words of H.M. Hughes "The Christians hold that revelation reached its climax in Jesus Christ. All other revelations were preparatory to Him, and were out-broken lights of Him. He is the image of the invisible God, to behold Him is to see the Father (John 14.9) and in Him are all treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden."10 In other words, the revelation of God achieved its consummation in Jesus Christ, in whom all that was scattered and fragmentary in the former dispensation was gathered into unity and fullness. It is the revelation of God in Christ that discloses the meaning of Old Testament revelation.11

The end or purpose of revelation is more than intellectual enlightenment. It is the establishment of a personal relation between God and men. In revelation, God promulgates his covenent by which He binds Himself to men and men to Himself.l2 In order to reveal Himself, therefore, God must come from heaven, He must enter into the sphere of creation. God in His revelation has accommodated Himself to our creature capacity.13

Specific understanding of the revelation-

  • (i) The revelation of God through nature: The transcendent God is present and active within the realms of natural order, although His direct activity is veiled from our eyes.14 The nature or the whole creation reveals its creator, master, controller, sustainer, designer, fashioner, skill and mind of God. We may read in Psalms "How clearly the sky reveals God's glory. How plainly it shows what He has done." (19.1) Paul Says, "Ever since God created the world, His invisible qualities, both His eternal power and His divine nature, have been clearly seen; they are perceived in the things that God has made. So those people have no excuse at all. (Roman l. 20) This is from known to unknown, from seen to unseen. Thus, the whole creation or nature declares the work of God and reveals God.
  • (ii) The revelation of God in history: God guides and controls history.15 Joseph said to his brothers, "You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good." (Gen. 50:20) This means the marks of an over ruling providence and purpose in the affairs of mankind of a Divinity that has shaped man's ends, the traces of a progress and onward sweep in history.
  • (iii) The revelation of God in man: God works also through the God conscious-ness, and reason of man in each and every individual.l6 This applies to the

traces of God in man's conscience with its sense of obligation, in his emotional nature with its desire and capacity for fellowship.

  • (iv) The revelation of God in Judaism and Christianity: By revelation in this way, we mean a special, historical, supernatural communication from God to man. Not merely information about God, but revelation disclosure of God Himself in His Character and His relation to man- special revelation in the person of Christ. According to Christianity the essence of revelation is the self-manifestation of God in the person of Christ for the redemption of mankind. God reveals Himself and does His redemptive work through the historic personality of Christ.

Development of revelation:

Revelation has been mediated through history, and therefore been progressive. History is moving towards perfection. Primitive revelation is the first stage. In Christ the self-disclosure of God reached its climax and the New Testament is the permanent witness of the uniqueness of Christianity.

The Bible is considered by the Christians as record of Christian revelation. In the Old Testament we see the gradual development of revelation which was preparatory to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ which is contained and expounded in the New Testament. To Christians the Bible is the record of ever-growing and widening revelation.17 It is not the product of one age, but of many centuries, during which Israel advanced from stage to stage in the knowledge of God. The Old Testament is the record of a progressive and preparatory revelation of God to Israel, of the gradual spiritualization of the people's conception of Him, and slow ennobling of their moral standard and ideals.

It is progressive revelation. God has been revealing Himself slowly, gradually, in parts and stages. Letter of Hebrews says: "In the past, God, spoke to our ancestors many times and in many ways through the Prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us through His son ... (Hebrews 1:1-2) God taught the men as they were able to bear it, leading them step by step from the dawn to the noon of this self disclosure. While each stage of the revelation was adequate for that time, it was not necessarily adequate with reference to succeeding stages. This principle of progress enables us to avoid a two-fold error, Firstly, It prevents us from under-evaluating the Old Testament by reason of the fuIIer light of the New Testament. Secondly, it enables us to distinguish carefully between the dispensational truth and the permanent elements in the Old Testament.

In the conclusion we can say that according to Christianity Christ is the complete and perfect revelation of God. With the coming of Christ is the perfect revelation.18 It is He whom the Prophets foretold, "Revelation is first stated to be located in Man's growing enlightenment, then in the living events of history, and finally in the living personality of Christ.”19 It is a specific revelation. To see God or to know God is possible only through Jesus Christ. The-Bible justifies this statement. Christ is described as the "exact likeness of God's own being... “(Hebrews 1: 3) "For the full content of divine nature lives in Christ... “(Colossians 2: 9) "NO one has ever seen God. The only Son, who is the same as God and is at the Father's side, he has made him known." (John 1: 18) Christ himself says "whoever, has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14: 9) Thus, according to Christianity the advent of Christ marks the final stage in God's plan of revelation.

References

  • 1. H. D. McDonald, Theories of Revelation, p. 161.
  • 2. George S. Hendry, "Revelation", p. 195.
  • 3. H. Hughes, Christian Foundations. p. 3.
  • 4. Theological Word Book of tbe Bible, op.cit. p. 196
  • 5. Christian Foundations, op. cit., p.3.
  • 6. New Catholic Encyclopaedia, vol. XII, p. 436.
  • 7. A Theological Word Book of the Bible, op. cit. p. 196
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. Theories of Revelation, op. cit, p. 357.
  • 10. Christian Foundations, op. cit, p. 7.
  • 11. A Theological Word Book of the Bible, op. cit., p.197
  • 12. Ibid.
  • 13. Ibid, p. 191.
  • 14. The Christian Doctrine of Salvation, pp. 54•55.
  • 15. Ibid.
  • 16. Ibid.
  • 17. Christian Foundations, op. cit., p.7.
  • 18. New Catholic Encyclopaedia, op. cit., p. 437.
  • 19. Theories of Revelation, op, cit., p. 164.