Bible

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The book called the Bible is really a collection of 'Books'. Each 'Book' represents one composition about an aspect of religion: The Bible is really the library, or collection, of these books into a single volume. (The original 'Books' were single scrolls of manuscript versions of the religious texts, each being, in general, on one scroll. The single-volume version represents the invention of bound books made of pages rather than each being kept on a separate roll of parchment or papyrus.)

The word Bible can be used to refer to the sacred writings of both the Jewish and Christian faiths. The Bible in Judaism is often called the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible and includes the books which are common to both the Jewish and Christian Bibles. The Christian Bible, variously called the called the Scriptures, the Sacred Scriptures, the Holy Bible, Holy Writ and God's Word, is split into the Old Testament and the New Testament. There are arguments about which 'Books' should be included in the Bible: see cannon - canon for an account of The Canon, and Apocrypha for an account of some of the difficulties and differences.

It is the Old Testament that has most or all books in common with the Jewish Tanakh. It is in essence the Bible which Jesus knew and from which he taught. The New Testament contains the books which tell about his life and teachings and the doings of his apostles after his death. All of the books were composed only after his death: there are no authentic writings by Jesus, nor eye-witness contemporary accounts.

You may also want to see the list of all the Books of the Bible.

The word ‘bible’ – almost always with a lower-case initial letter – is sometimes used in an extended sense to refer to any authoritative book (on a particular subject): we may speak, e.g., of ‘the golfer’s bible’ or ‘the antique collector’s bible’, or a student might say ‘In studying ancient Greek music my bible was M.L. West’s book on the subject’.

Etymological note: The word ‘Bible’ comes through French from the Latin biblia (‘books’), a transliteration of the Greek βίβλια (biblia), the plural of βίβλιον (biblion, ‘document’, ‘book’). The noun βίβλιον is a diminutive of βίβλος (biblos) or βύβλος (bublos), which means ‘papyrus’ or a ‘roll of papyrus’ and derives from Bublos, a Phoenician port from which the Greeks imported Egyptian papyrus.