Christian Sacred Texts

The Sacred Texts of Christianity

The Bible

The primary sacred text of Christianity is the Bible. Its name is derived from the Latin word biblia, which simply means "books." The Christian Bible is made of two parts: the Old Testament, which is almost identical to the Jewish Bible; and the New Testament, a collection of Christian writings that includes biographies of Jesus Christ and the apostles, like the Apostle Paul, letters to new churches, and an apocalyptic work.

The names given to these two parts of the Bible are significant. The word testament means "covenant," so the notion of old and new testaments reflects the Christian perspective that the Church is the successor to Israel as God's chosen people. {1} The Old Testament is viewed as foundational, authoritative, and relevant, and is read and cherished by Christians along with the New Testament. But it is also regarded as having been superceded and fulfilled by the new testament (covenant) God has made with the Church.

The Apocrypha

Catholic and Orthodox Bibles include the Apocrypha, while most Protestant Bibles do not. The Apocrypha ("hidden books") is a group of 13 Jewish books written between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Following the pattern of the Greek version of the Old Testament (the Septuagint), the Apocrypha was included in all Christian Bibles until the Reformation. The reformers rejected the Apocrypha because it was sometimes used as a basis for certain Catholic doctrines and because the Jews have never included it in their biblical canon.

Other writings

Some non-canonical early Christian texts were actually considered for inclusion in the New Testament, such as the Didache. Also known as the Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles, the Didache is a first-century text that exhorts its readers to choose the Way of Life over the Way of Death.

Another important set of early Christian texts has been rejected by mainstream Christians since almost the beginning: the Gnostic scriptures. Gnosticism was an early form of Christianity that early church fathers and church councils determined to be heretical. Sacred texts of the Gnostic Christians include sayings of Jesus, mystical teachings, apocalyptic works, and accounts of the apostles. Some of them may date to as early as the New Testament writings.

The Book of Kells is an Irish book dating to the 8th century that contains ornate images along with the four Gospels.

Learn more about Christian sacred texts in the following articles.

  1. Alister McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 196.

  • Apocrypha, Deuterocanonical writings - Christianity

    What is the Apocrypha? The Apocrypha, also known as the Deuterocanonical writings, are ancient books that are associated with the Hebrew bible (i...

  • Bible Facts

    Scripture by Numbers The Christian Bible consists of the Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT) "Bible" comes from Latin biblia, meaning "books" The word "testament" means "covenant" The Bible has 66 books The Bible was written by many different authors writing in many different times and places The Bible was written from about 1450 BC to 100 AD The Bible contains many literary genres - poetry, myth, wisdom literature, prophecy, letters, narratives The Bible was the first book to be printed, in 1454 Miles Coverdale published the first English translation of the entire Bible in 1535 The Bible has been translated into over 2,000 languages The longest book in the Bible is Psalms The shortest book in the Bible is 2 John The longest verse in the Bible is Esther 8:9 The shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35 Old Testament facts The OT is almost identical to the Jewish Tanakh The OT was originally written in Hebrew The OT has 39 books (not counting the Apocrypha) The names of OT books in Hebrew are based on the first prominent word or phrase in that book The names of OT books in Greek (and English) are based on the general topic of the book The books of the OT are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi...

  • Bible Translations

    Bible translations are English-language versions of the Old Testament and New Testament. (See chart below.) Bible translations may use different editions of Hebrew and Greek texts, target different readers, and aim for varying degrees of precision...

  • Didache - Christianity

    What is the Didache? The Didache, or Doctrine of the Twelve Apostles, has long been known to exist due to quotes and references found in the writings of church fathers including Pseudo-Barnabas, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, the Apostolic Constitutions, Eusebius and Athanasius...

  • Four Gospels - Christianity - New Testament

    Introduction to the Gospels The Christian New Testament is unique among the world's sacred texts in that it provides several accounts of the life of the religion's founder...

  • Gnostic Scriptures - Christianity | New Testament

    Whay are Gnostic writings Although manuscripts of New Testament books are the most plentiful of early Christian texts known to us, other writings have survived as well...

  • Gospel of Mark - Christianity - New Testament

    Facts on the Book of Mark The Book of Mark is the 2nd book in the Christian New Testament and is one of the four gospels. It is traditionally held that John Mark wrote the gospel using the Simon Peter's eye-witness accounts, since Mark likely a young man during the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and was not an apostle...

  • Gospel of Matthew - Christianity - New Testament

    Overview of the Book of on Matthew The Book of Matthew is the 1st book of the Christian New Testament and is one of the four gospels. It is traditionally held that Matthew the tax collector and Apostle of Jesus Christ is the gospel's author...

  • New Testament

    What are the books of the New Testament? The New Testament is the Christian Bible, which is made of up 27 books, and includes the four gospels of Jesus Christ, the book of Acts, the thirteen letters of the Apostle Paul, the writings of John, like book of Revelation, and much more...

  • Old Testament

    What is the Old Testament? The Old Testament is the first two-thirds of the Christian Bible with the last third being the New Testament. The Old Testament is essentially the Jewish Bible, or Tanakh, with some minor variations...