In the first post of this series, I said that I was looking at the terms Scriptures, Bible, New Testament, Gospels, and gospel. In the next post, I looked at various uses of the term “Scriptures” in the New Testament.
In those passages in which the “Scriptures” are described or defined, we see that 1) the Scriptures are inspired by God, 2) they are good for teaching, correcting, etc., 3) they help prepare us for good works, and 4) they contain information about Jesus Christ. Perhaps most important are those passages that indicate that reading, studying or memorizing the Scriptures do not guarantee “knowing,” and that something more is needed to actually understand the Scriptures.
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures… (Luke 24:45 ESV)
But, what writings are considered “Scriptures”?
We should admit that the Scriptures themselves never give us a list of writings that are Scripture. We can tell that certain quotations (and thus the writings that contain those quotations) are considered Scripture. Also, through the years (beginning very early) Christians have disagreed about what writings are Scripture.
Typically, a person accepts certain writings as Scripture because of the Christian tradition they are part or grew up in. In fact, almost every list of writings has strong historical basis to be considered Scripture.
I use the term “Scriptures” to refer to 66 books – 39 books of “Old Testament” and 27 books of “New Testament.” And, of course, that also explains what I mean by the term “New Testament.” All of these writings together can be called “the Bible” (which comes from a term that means “book”), but I tend to use the term “Scriptures” instead.
In the New Testament, four of the writings by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John are typically called “Gospels.” A capital “G” is used to differentiate the writings from the term “gospel.” The “titles” attached to the earliest manuscripts of these documents were “According to X” with X being the traditional author of the books. It’s possible that “Gospel” was part of these titles, as is found in later manuscripts, or it’s possible that “Gospel” was added later.
Either way, I prefer to use the capitalized term “Gospel” to refer to the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
So, for me, Scriptures or Bible refers to those writings that are inspired by God and have been collected by and perceived by believers as being generally beneficial to followers of Jesus Christ. The term New Testament refers to the subset of Scriptures that were written after the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, the term Gospels refer specifically to those four books within the New Testament that tell the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection (i.e., Matthew, Mark, Luke, John).
How do you understand the terms “Scripture,” “Bible,” “New Testament,” and “Gospels”?