What is the Bible?
The Bible is a collection of 66 individual books that together tell the story of a group of people bound by a common faith in God. It is divided into two main sections: the Old Testament containing 39 books originally written primarily in Hebrew and the New Testament containing 27 books originally written primarily in Greek. For Presbyterians and others of the Reformed tradition the Bible is the means by which Christian believers come to understand how God has been present with humanity since the beginning of time and is present in our world today. By studying the scriptures we can begin to know of God’s faithfulness, constant love and eternal goodness.
The Old Testament tells the story of God’s covenant with the Hebrew people. It is regarded as sacred scripture by both Jews and Christians.
The New Testament contains four accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the account of the earliest Christian churches and other writings from the early Christian era. It is considered sacred scripture by Christians.
The Bible has been translated from its original languages into the languages of people throughout the world. Important early translations into English were made by colleagues of John Wycliffe in the late 14th century. Additional translations were published in the decades that followed, culminating in publication of the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible in 1611, commissioned by the king, James I. That translation was dominant for centuries.
The KJV was written in the everyday language of its time, but as language changed it became increasing difficult to understand. It was revised in the late 19th century, and numerous additional translations into English have been published since then. Many PCUSA congregations use the Revised Standard Version (RSV) or the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), though PCUSA congregations are permitted to use other translations, as determined by the session of the congregation.
The church confesses the Scriptures to be the Word of God written, witnessing to God’s self-revelation. Where that Word is read and proclaimed, Jesus Christ the Living Word is present by the inward witness of the Holy Spirit. For this reason the reading, hearing, preaching, and confessing of the Word are central to Christian worship. The session shall ensure that in public worship the Scripture is read and proclaimed regularly in the common language(s) of the particular church.
—Book of Order, W-2.2001
Leaders in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) can be expected to affirm that “… the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments … [are] … by the Holy Spirit, the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ in the Church universal, and God’s Word to [them].”
—Book of Order, W-4.4003b