What does the Bible mean to you

Researching the Bible: How Did the Book of Books - The Foundation of Christianity Come About?

After the death of Jesus of Nazareth, people tell each other many stories about the preacher - but only the written record of his work in the Bible and the standardization of its texts ensure the continued existence of Christianity

The Bible is the foundation of two world religions, Judaism and Christianity. More than 30 million copies are printed every year. No other work has been translated so often: it can be read in almost 1900 languages. But little is known about its origins. No original Bible text has stood the test of time. There is no definite knowledge of any author of the Holy Scriptures. The gaps in the tradition are great, the puzzles and contradictions great. Only this much can definitely be said: At the beginning of the Christian Bible is the Holy Scriptures of the Jews, the Tanakh, which the Christians adopt as the Old Testament. In the Five Books of Moses as well as the history and textbooks and the writings of the prophets he reports on the creation of the world and men by God, on the origin of the people of Israel and their fate. It is the story of the Jewish people of God who have to flee from Egypt, find a new home in the promised land, are expelled again and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem after their exile in Babylon. These are the oldest texts in the Bible: formerly oral traditions and traditions , the scribes in the countries east of the Mediterranean from about 600 BC. On papyrus, leather rolls or clay tablets.

For seven centuries theologians will struggle for the correct number of these scriptures. It was not until around the year 95 AD that the Jewish historian Josephus testified to the final extent of the Tanakh tradition. The early Christians adopted the Jewish Bible as Holy Scripture and used it in their own worship services - they see each other
in the tradition of Judaism, consider themselves part of the chosen people.

It was around this time that the texts in Greek were written that would later form the New Testament (from testamentum, the Latin translation of the Greek word for "covenant") and that tell of the life and work of Jesus Christ. The first reports about Jesus of Nazareth as well as his sayings and parables were probably already circulating in the Holy Land during his lifetime. After his death, the apostles spread the word of the resurrection of the Son of God throughout the Roman Empire. Many believers tell the stories on, decorate them, change them, condense them into an ever more vivid tradition, which is initially largely passed on orally. Researchers today do not consider the life stories of Christ to be the oldest writing of the New Testament, but rather
a letter from Paul, probably from the year 50 AD, in which he encourages the congregation in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Because around 20 years after the death of Jesus, doubts wear down the believers: Hasn't the Messiah promised his imminent return? But what if Jesus does not return yet: should the churches still exist? And if so - what should they stick to, what should they hope for? Paul and other apostles strengthen the believers in their letters, give advice and guidance. The congregations collect the scriptures, exchange them with one another, and copy them. But the further back the death of Jesus and the fewer people live who still knew him personally, the more powerful the desire seems to be to hold onto the good news (Greek: euangelion) for future generations. This motivation leads to the invention of a completely new literary genre, the gospel. Unlike in the ancient biographies so far, the life of Jesus is told here with a new intention: The authors (evangelists) want to awaken the faith in the readers, want to carry the good news into the world through stories, parables and Jesus' words.

The first in writing The traditional gospel originates from around the year 70 AD and is ascribed to a man named Mark; however, not even the name is certain. The Gospels of the authors Matthäus, Lukas and Johannes follow until around the year 100 AD, whose names and respective origins are just as obscure as those of Mark. These are only four texts among many portraits of Jesus' life that emerged at that time - but they alone are considered authentic testimonies by the majority of believers; early Christians are convinced that only they contain information from Jesus himself or one of his disciples, because their authors supposedly knew the Savior or the apostles personally.

By 140 AD all the writings of the later New Testament were available. But a universally recognized selection, even a fixed canon, does not yet exist - any more than a uniform Christianity. In the 2nd century many different groups compete for the right faith: for example the Gnostics, who strictly separate between the perfect God and the fallen, evil world; or the like-minded docetists who see Jesus only as God, not as a person; or the Montanists, who vehemently oppose the emerging church institution and advocate strict penance discipline.

Marcion, a rich shipowner from Sinope on the Black Sea and himself a Christian deviator, presented a draft for a Bible in Rome. He consciously cuts off the connection to Judaism, his Bible consists only of writings about the life of Jesus: Marcion leaves out the Old Testament, whose God for him is in contradiction to the loving God of the New Testament. He sees something completely independent in Christianity and separates faith - unlike most of the early followers of Jesus - strictly from the tradition of Judaism. For the majority of Christians, who use the Tanakh in worship as a matter of course, this amounts to an attack on the foundations of their faith. Word of Marcion's choice of fonts quickly gets around, because the communities are in lively exchange. The emerging church, whose members are traditionally more connected to the Jewish cultural area, is making massive contradictions. For them, Jesus is the Messiah announced in Judaism, the redeeming Son of God, the fulfillment of Jewish prophecies. For them, the Old Testament is part of the canon of Christianity.

The still young religion threatens to disintegrate in a dispute. In order to create unity, their representatives must create a generally binding basis: the one book that most people can agree on. In 144 AD, Marcion was excluded from the "Catholic" church that was being formed (a term that emerged in the 2nd century for the majority church that understood itself as "all-embracing"). In their worship services, the Christian communities rely on the Old Testament, the Gospels and selected writings of the Apostles.

But it will be more than 200 years before theologians finally codify the canon of the New Testament in AD 367 and determine it to be part of the second part of the Christian Bible alongside the Old Testament as the source of Christian faith. The New Testament is now limited to 27 writings: the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, the Acts of the Apostles, the Apocalypse and 21 letters, including that of Paul to the congregation in Thessaloniki. Only what the scholars believe to be authentic is accepted. This corpus of the holy scriptures is from now on immutable, writes Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria in his Easter letter in 367 AD. And so it still applies today.