800 Words Book Summary Book Summary 2 Please write a 3-page (minimum 800 words) summary on Chapter 2 of Christianity: An introduction (Christian Creeds an

800 Words Book Summary Book Summary 2

Please write a 3-page (minimum 800 words) summary on Chapter 2 of Christianity: An introduction (Christian Creeds an

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Book Summary 2

Please write a 3-page (minimum 800 words) summary on Chapter 2 of Christianity: An introduction (Christian Creeds and Beliefs). 400 words summary, 400words reflection

Please do not use direct quotation of the book.

*References should follow the APA 6th or APA 7th edition

*Required Textbook:  McGrath, Alister E., Christianity: An Introduction. 3rd ed.; Oxford: Blackwell, 2015.

Christianity: An Introduction, Third Edition. Alister E. McGrath.
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Published 2015 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Anyone beginning to study Christianity soon realizes that the Bible plays a very important role
in Christian life and thought. If you attend a Christian service of worship, you will hear the
Bible read publicly as an integral part of that worship. You will probably hear a sermon preached,
based on one of the biblical passages read during the service. If you join a small group of
Christians who meet for study and prayer, you may well find that their meetings include “Bible
study” – that is, reflection on the meaning and relevance of a short passage from the Bible.

So what is this Bible? And why is it so important? In this chapter we shall explore the
structure and contents of the Christian Bible and the role it plays for Christians.

The term “the Bible” is used by Christians to refer to the collection of writings that they
regard as authoritative. Other ways of referring to this collection of texts are also used in
Christian writings, such as the descriptions “Sacred Scripture” or “Holy Scripture.” However,
the term “Bible” is the most widely used.

The unusual word “Bible” needs explanation. Like many words in modern English, it is
the almost direct transliteration of a Greek original. The Greek word that has been taken
into English is biblia – literally meaning “books.” The whole Greek phrase is in the plural
(ta biblia, “the books”; singular biblion) and refers to the collection of books, or writings,
brought together in the Bible.

So what sorts of books are gathered together in this way? And how are they arranged?
In the next two sections of this chapter we shall explore the two groups of writings known
as the “Old Testament” and “New Testament.”

The Christian Bible


The Christian Bible 29

Box 2.1 The books of the Old Testament

Title Abbreviation
Genesis Gen
Exodus Ex
Leviticus Lev
Numbers Num
Deuteronomy Dt
Joshua Jos
Judges Jdg
Ruth Ru
1 Samuel 1Sa
2 Samuel 2Sa
1 Kings 1Ki
2 Kings 2Ki
1 Chronicles 1Ch
2 Chronicles 2Ch
Ezra Ezr
Nehemiah Neh
Esther Est
Job Job
Psalms Ps
Proverbs Pr
Ecclesiastes Ecc
Song of Songs SoS
Isaiah Is
Jeremiah Jer
Lamentations Lam
Ezekiel Ez
Daniel Dan
Hosea Hos
Joel Joel
Amos Am
Obadiah Ob
Jonah Jon
Micah Mic
Nahum Nah
Habakkuk Hab
Zephaniah Zep
Haggai Hag
Zechariah Zec
Malachi Mal

30 The Christian Bible

The Old Testament

The Christian Bible is divided into two major sections, traditionally referred to as the Old
Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament consists of 39 books, beginning
with Genesis and ending with Malachi. It is almost entirely written in Hebrew, the lan-
guage of Israel; however, some short sections are written in Aramaic, an international
language widely used in the diplomacy of the ancient Near East. The Old Testament itself
includes a number of different kinds of writings, of which the most important are the

1 The Five Books of the Law These are sometimes also referred to as the Five
Books of Moses, reflecting a traditional belief that they were largely written by
Moses. In more scholarly works, they are sometimes referred to as the Pentateuch
(from the Greek words for “five” and “bookcase”; teuchos). They are: Genesis,
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These books deal with the creation
of the world, the calling of Israel as a people, and its early history, including the
exodus from Egypt. The story they tell ends with the people of Israel being about to
cross over the Jordan and enter the promised land. One of the most important
themes of these books is the giving of the Law to Moses and the implications of this
act for the life of Israel.

2 The Historical Books Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2
Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther are “historical” books in that they deal with
various aspects of the history of the people of God, from their entry into the promised
land of Canaan to the return of the people of Jerusalem from exile in the city of Babylon.
They include detailed accounts of the conquest of Canaan, the establishment of a
monarchy in Israel, the great reigns of Kings David and Solomon, the breakup of the
single nation of Israel into two parts (the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern
kingdom of Judah), the destruction of Israel by the Assyrians, the defeat of Judah and
the exile of its people, both caused by the Babylonians, and the final return from exile
and rebuilding of the temple. The books are arranged in historical order.

3 The Prophets This major section of the Old Testament contains the writings of a
group of individuals understood to be inspired by the Holy Spirit who sought to make
the will of God known to their people over a period of time. There are 16 prophetic
writings in the Old Testament, which are usually divided into two categories. First, there
are the four major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. These are followed by
the twelve minor prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum,
Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The use of the words “major”
and “minor” does not imply any judgment about the relative importance of the prophets.
It refers simply to the length of the books in question. The prophetic writings are
arranged roughly in historical order.

Other types of book can be noted, for instance the “wisdom” writings: Job, Proverbs,
Ecclesiastes. These works deal with the question of how true wisdom may be found, and
they often provide some practical examples of wisdom.

The Christian Bible 31

From what has been said, it will be clear that the phrase “Old Testament” is used by
Christian writers to refer to those books of the Christian Bible that were (and still are)
regarded as sacred by Judaism. For Christians, the Old Testament is seen as setting the
scene for the coming of Jesus, who brings its leading themes and institutions to fulfillment.
The same texts, of course, continue to be held as sacred by Jews to this day. This means that
the same collection of texts is referred to in different ways by different groups. This has
stimulated a few proposals for alternative ways of referring to this collection of texts, none
of which has gained general acceptance. Three main alternative names for the Old Testament
may be noted.

1 The Hebrew Bible This way of referring to the Old Testament stresses the fact that it
was written in Hebrew and is sacred to the Hebrew people. However, it fails to do justice
to the way in which Christianity sees an essential continuity between the Old and the
New Testament. A minor difficulty is also caused by the fact that parts of the Old
Testament are written in Aramaic rather than Hebrew.

2 The First Testament This way of referring to the collection of texts avoids using the
word “old,” which is held by some to be pejorative. “Old,” it is argued, means “outdated”
or “invalid.” Referring to the Old Testament as the “First Testament” and the New as the
“Second Testament” is held by some to emphasize the continuity between the two
collections of texts.

3 Tanakh This is an acronym of the Hebrew words for “law, prophets, and writings”
(torah, nevi’im, ketuvim), which is the standard Jewish description of the works that
Christians call the “Old Testament.” Tanakh is perfectly acceptable for Jewish use but
does not reflect the specifically Christian understanding of the nature of the continuity
between Israel and the church.

There is presently no generally accepted substitute within Christianity for the traditional
phrase “Old Testament,” which will therefore be used throughout this study. Nevertheless,
readers should be aware of the alternatives and of the issues that led to their being

There are some disagreements within Christianity over exactly what is included in the
Bible, which primarily focus on the Old Testament. The most important of these disagree-
ments concerns a group of works usually referred to as “the Apocrypha” (from the Greek
word for “covered, hidden”) or as “the Deuterocanonical works.” This category includes
books such as the Wisdom of Solomon and the book of Judith. These books, although
dating from the period of the Old Testament, were not originally written in the Hebrew
language and are thus not included in the Hebrew Bible.

Protestants tend to regard these “apocryphal” books as interesting and informative, but
not as being of doctrinal importance. Catholics and Orthodox Christians, on the other
hand, regard them as an integral part of the text of the Bible. This difference is probably best
reflected in the way in which Protestant and Catholic Bibles are laid out. Many Protestant
Bibles do not include the Apocrypha at all. Those that do – such as the famous King James’s
Bible of 1611 – include these texts as a third section of the Bible. Catholic Bibles – such as
the Jerusalem Bible – include them within the Old Testament section of the Bible.

32 The Christian Bible

Major Themes of the Old Testament

The Old Testament is a remarkably complex work, which merits much fuller study than is
possible in this overview. If you have the time to take the study of the Old Testament further,
you are strongly recommended to make use of one of the excellent introductions currently
available (which are noted in the Further Reading section for this chapter). What follows is
a very basic and brief introduction to some of the themes of the Old Testament.

The creation

The Old Testament opens with an affirmation that God created the world. The fundamental
theme asserted in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis is that God is the originator
of all there is in the world. No created thing can compare with God. This point is of
particular importance, given the importance of worship of, for example, the sun or the stars
among other religions of the ancient Near East. In the Old Testament, God is superior to
everything in creation. The height of God’s creation is declared to be humanity, which alone
is created in the image and likeness of God. Humanity is understood to be the steward (not
the possessor!) of God’s creation and is entrusted with its care.

The account of the creation is followed by an account of the nature and origins of sin. One
of the fundamental points made in Genesis 3 is that sin enters the world against God’s inten-
tions. Sin disrupts the close relationship between God and the creation; it leads to humanity
rebelling against God and asserting its autonomy. This theme recurs throughout the Bible. For
example, the story of the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11: 1–9) is basically about human attempts
at self-assertion in the face of God. God’s hostility to sin is depicted in a number of ways; the
expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and Noah’s flood are two of them.

So how important is the theme of creation to the Old Testament? In the twentieth century,
the great Old Testament scholar Gerhard von Rad (1901–1971) argued that the most
characteristic insight of the Old Testament was that its God was sovereign over history,
especially the history of Israel. In the Old Testament, faith in God is primarily faith in a God
who acts within, and is sovereign over, cosmic and human history. While von Rad is careful
to stress that the faith of Israel included reference to creation, he believed that the primary
emphasis lay on God bringing Israel out of Egypt and into Canaan. The doctrine of creation
takes its place as a secondary doctrine, providing a certain context for the affirmation of
divine lordship over history.

Abraham: Calling and covenant

The calling of Abraham is seen as being of foundational importance to the emergence of
Israel, both as a nation and as the people of God. The central theme of God’s calling of
Abraham (Genesis 12: 1–4) carries the idea that God has chosen an individual whose
descendants will possess the land of Canaan and will become a great nation. The theme of
the fulfillment of this promise is of major importance throughout the Pentateuch. It is also
of importance in the New Testament – to Paul, who sees Abraham’s willingness to trust in
the promises of God as a prototype of Christian faith.

The Christian Bible 33

The idea of a “covenant” between God and Abraham and his descendants is introduced
at this point. The ritual of circumcision is seen as the external sign of belonging to the cov-
enant of the people of God. For Paul, it is of particular importance that God’s promise to
Abraham precedes the external sign of this covenant; this, according to Paul, implies that
the promise takes precedence over the sign. As a result, Gentiles (that is, those who are not
ethnic Jews) do not require to be circumcised when they convert to Christianity.

The book of Genesis traces the fortunes of Abraham and his descendants, showing the
manner in which the covenant between God and Abraham is realized. The book ends with
an account of the way in which Abraham’s descendants settle in the land of Egypt, thus
setting the scene for the next major theme of the Old Testament.

The exodus and the giving of the Law

The story of the exodus (a word of Greek origin that literally means “exit” or “way out”) is
well known. A new ruler arises in Egypt (he is referred to as “Pharaoh”), who regards the
descendants of Abraham as a potential threat. The identity of this Pharaoh is unknown,
although there are good reasons for suggesting that he may have been Ramesses II (who
ruled during the period 1279–1213 bc). He subjected the Hebrews to a series of oppressive
measures designed to limit their numbers and influence. The book of Exodus describes
God’s call to Moses to be the liberator of Israel from its bondage in Egypt.

One of the most important Old Testament festivals is closely linked with the exodus from
Egypt. The Passover festival began in the period before the exodus. The origins and purpose
of the festival are described at Exodus 11: 1–12: 30. It marks an act of divine judgment
against Egypt. The regulations for the marking of the festival are laid down with some pre-
cision. Each household or group of households in Israel is to sacrifice a perfect lamb or goat
and to daub its blood across the sides and tops of the doorframes. This will mark off its
inhabitants as God’s own people and will distinguish them from their Egyptian oppressors.
These people are then to eat a meal, in order to recall their time in Egypt. Part of the meal
consists of “bitter herbs,” which symbolize the bitterness of their bondage. Another major
part of the meal is unleavened bread. This “bread made without yeast” points to the haste in
which the people were asked to prepare to leave Egypt. There was not even enough time for
dough to rise through the action of the yeast. The festival is named “the Lord’s Passover,”
which refers to the fact that God will “pass over” the houses of his own people as he brings
vengeance on the firstborn sons of the Egyptians. In commemoration of this act of deliver-
ance, the Passover is to be celebrated every year as a “lasting ordinance.” Further regulations
concerning its celebration are mentioned later (Exodus 12: 43–49).

The theme of the covenant between God and Israel is developed further in the book of
Exodus. Two particular points should be noted. First, a specific name is now used to refer
to God. This is the term “Lord,” which is the English word designed to translate a cypher of
four letters that is used to name God specifically. This group of four letters, often referred
to as the “Tetragrammaton” (from the Greek words for “four” and “letters”), is sometimes
represented as “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” in English versions of the Bible. Other Hebrew words
may be used to refer to gods in general; but the specific name “Lord” is used only to refer to
the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Unlike other Hebrew words for “god,” it is never

34 The Christian Bible

used for any other divine or angelic being. These other Hebrew words act as common
nouns, designating “god” or “gods” in general, and can be used with reference to Israel’s own
God or to other gods (such as the pagan gods of other nations). But the Tetragrammaton is
used only in naming the specific God whom Israel knew and worshipped.

Second, the obligations that being the covenant people of God impose on Israel are made
clear. This is a series of specific and unconditional demands, which are now usually referred
to as the “Ten Commandments,” and which Moses received at Mount Sinai. These com-
mandments continue to be of major importance within Judaism and Christianity alike,
especially as Israel enters the promised land of Canaan and attempts to establish a society
that is based on this covenant between God and the people.

After leaving Egypt, the people of Israel spend a period of 40 years wandering in the
wilderness of Sinai, before finally crossing the Jordan River to enter the promised land of
Canaan. The occupation of Canaan was seen as consolidating the distinctive identity of

Box 2.2 The Ten Commandments

1 I am the lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the
house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.

2 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in
heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the
earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the lord your God
am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and
the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the
thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

3 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the lord your God, for the
lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

4 Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all
your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the lord your God; you shall not
do any work – you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your
livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the lord made
heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day;
therefore the lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

5 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land
that the lord your God is giving you.

6 You shall not murder.
7 You shall not commit adultery.
8 You shall not steal.
9 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

10 You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s
wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your
neighbor. (Exodus 20: 2–17)

The Christian Bible 35

Israel. In particular, it established that the worship of the Lord and obedience to the cove-
nant between the Lord and Israel were of central importance to the identity and wellbeing
of people. The book of Joshua describes elaborate measures being taken to ensure that the

Area controlled by ancient Israel

Probable route of wandering in the Sinai
and entry into and conquest of Canaan












Eglon?Besor Br.

adi of






Beth Horon


Mt Gilboa

Mt Tabol



Sea of




Giloel?Abel Shittim


Hebron Jahaz?








Zered Br.




Ezion Geber










75 miles

100 km75








L. Menzaleh


Figure 2.1 The route of Israel’s exodus from Egypt and conquest of Canaan.

36 The Christian Bible

worship of the Lord was not in any way compromised by indigenous Canaanite religions.
Canaanite religion was strongly oriented toward fertility issues – such as the fertility of the
land, animals, and humans. Its major deities – including Baal and Ashtaroth – feature reg-
ularly in biblical accounts of the history of Israel over the next centuries. Canaanite religion
continued to exercise a fascination on Israel for some time to come and is a regular subject
of condemnation in the prophetic literature.

The establishment of the monarchy

In its early period Israel had no king. During the period following the conquest of Canaan,
the region was ruled by a series of charismatic religious and political leaders known as
“judges.” The book of Judges documents the serious threats (partly from internal disunity,
partly from external forces) that arose at this time to the unity of Israel and notes the role of
judges such as Gideon, Samson, and Samuel in this regard. Under Samuel, the last of the
“judges,” a series of moves were made that resulted in the establishment of the monarchy.
The first king was Saul, who probably reigned during the period 1020–1000 bc. Saul’s reign
is portrayed as divisive and tragic. One of his most significant internal opponents was
David. Following Saul’s death in a battle against the Philistines, David launched a military
campaign that eventually led to the restoration of the unity of Israel and the expansion of its
territory. Although opposition to David continued throughout his reign, particularly from
the supporters of Saul, David was able to maintain his hold on the nation until the final
years of his reign.

The reign of David (c. 1000–961 bc) saw significant developments taking place in Israel’s
religion. David’s conquest of the city of Jerusalem led to its becoming the center of Israel’s
religious life, a development that would be consolidated during the reign of Solomon. The
role of the king became important religiously, as he was seen to be a son of God. The theme
of a future successor to David, who would rule over a renewed people of God, became a
significant element of messianic hopes within Israel and explains the importance of the
“David” theme within parts of the New Testament. For New Testament writers (especially
Matthew and Paul), Jesus of Nazareth is to be seen as the successor to David as king of
Israel. Many Old Testament writings, particularly within the Psalter, extol the greatness of
the king, the temple, and the city of Jerusalem (often referred to as “Zion”). All three are
seen as tokens of God’s favor toward Israel.

David was succeeded as king by Solomon, who reigned during the period 961–922 bc.
During his reign the temple was constructed as a permanent place of worship for the Lord.
A strongly centralized administrative system was set in place and extensive trading
agreements were negotiated with neighboring countries. Solomon’s extensive harem caused
disquiet to some, on account of the pagan religious beliefs of some of his wives. Solomon
was famed for his wisdom, and some collections of proverbs in the Old Testament are
attributed to him.

After the death of Solomon, the nation of Israel proved unstable. Eventually the nation
split into two sections, each with its own king. The northern kingdom, which would now be
known as “Israel,” would eventually cease to exist under the Assyrian invasions of the eighth
century. The southern kingdom of Judah, which retained Jerusalem as its capital city,

The Christian Bible 37

continued to exist until the Babylonian invasions of the sixth century. At this point the
monarchy ended. Jewish hopes increasingly came to focus on the restoration of the monarchy
and the rise of a new figure like David. From a Christian perspective, these expectations
could be directly related to the coming of Jesus of Nazareth.

The priesthood

The centrality of religion to the identity of Israel gave the guardians of its religious traditions
a particularly significant role. The emergence of the priesthood is a major theme in its own
right. One of the most significant functions of the priesthood related to the cultic purity of
Israel. This purity could be defiled (or “made unclean,” as this type of occurrence is often
described) by various forms of pollution. The priesthood was responsible for ensuring the
cleanliness of the people, which was seen as being vital for the proper worship of the Lord.

More importantly, the priesthood was responsible for the maintenance of the sacrificial
system, and particularly for the Day of Atonement ritual, in which sacrifices were offered
for the sins of the people. A distinction is to be drawn between “uncleanliness” (which
arises from natural bodily functions) and “sin” (which has strongly ethical overtones). Sin
was seen as something that created a barrier between Israel and God. It is significant that
most of the Old Testament images or analogies for sin take the form of images of separation.
In order to safeguard the continuing relationship between the Lord and Israel, the priest-
hood was responsible for ensuring that the proper sacrifices were offered for sin.

A related theme is that of the temple. During the first period of its history, Israel used a
movable tent or tabernacle for its religious rites. However, when David captured the
Jebusite city of Jerusalem and made it his capital, he declared his intention to build a
permanent place of worship for the Lord. This was actually carried out under the direction
of his successor, Solomon. The splendor of the building is a frequent theme in Old
Testament writings dating from around this period. The temple was destroyed by the
Babylonians in 586 bc and rebuilt after the return from exile, half a century later. The
Second Temple (as the building erected by the returned exiles is known) appears to have
been rather less magnificent. However, with the end of the monarchy, the temple came to
have increased civil significance, in that temple authorities were responsible for both
religious and civil matters.

A more splendid temple was constructed under Herod. Although work on this project
appears to have begun in the decades immediately prior to the birth of Christ, the work was
only completed in ad 64. The temple was destroyed, never to be rebuilt, during the suppres-
sion of a Jewish revolt against the Romans in the city in ad 70. The western wall of the
temple largely survived; it is now widely referred to as “the wailing wall” and constitutes an
important place of prayer for Jews to this day.


The English word “prophet” is generally used to translate the Hebrew word nabi, which is
probably best understood as meaning “someone who speaks for another,” or perhaps “a rep-
resentative.” The phenomenon of prophecy was widespread in the ancient Near East, not

38 The Christian Bible

restricted to the “prophets of the Lord.” The Old Testament refers to a number of “prophets
of Baal” – charismatic individuals who claimed to act or speak on behalf of the Canaanite
deity Baal. Early prophets of importance include Elijah and Elisha, both of whom were
active during the ninth century bc. However, the most important period of prophetic
activity focuses on the eighth to the sixth centuries bc and deals with the will of the Lord
for Israel during a period of enormous political turbulence, which arose from the increasing
power of Assyria and Babylonia. Prophets such as Jeremiah proclaimed a coming period of
exile, which would be both a punishment for the past sins of the people and an opportunity
for them to renew their religious practices and beliefs. After the period of exile in Babylon,
post-exilic prophets such as Haggai and Malachi address some of the issues that came to be
of importance as the returning exiles attempted to restore Jerusalem and its temple.

The prophets of Israel were seen as affirming the Lord’s continued commitment to and
presence within Israel. Yet, with the ending of the classic period of prophecy, the Holy Spirit
seemed to have ceased to operate. God came to be viewed in distant and remote terms. No
longer was the “voice of God” heard within Israel. Even the most senior rabbis (or “teachers”)
could expect to catch nothing more than an echo of the voice of God – an idea that was
expressed in the technical phrase bath qol (literally, “the daughter of the …

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