Baptists sometimes describe themselves as "people of the Book," with "the Book" being the sixty-six books of the Christian Bible. Although some Protestant Christians (notably some Lutherans and Anglicans) recognize a larger canon of scripture, which includes twelve books of what is referred to as the Apocrypha, Baptists do not.
These sixty-six books are organized into two "testaments," reflective of the history of God's saving work. The Old Testament consists of thirty-nine books, originally written in Hebrew and flowing from God's life and work with the Jews. The New Testament consists of twenty-seven books, originally written in Greek. These writings focus on the life and work of Jesus Christ and the new covenant community that he established. All sixty-six books, and both testaments, are regarded as scripture, though in their theology Baptists tend to emphasize the New Testament.
The fact that Baptists describe themselves as "people of the Book" is an indication of how centrally and fundamentally important the Bible is to them. With most other Protestant Christians, Baptists regard the Bible as their supreme authority for both belief and conduct. This authority does not derive from the fact that these writings have been included in the "canon" of scripture or because churches have long regarded them to be authoritative. Rather, this authority is an acknowledgement of the character of the scriptures themselves--they are written Word and words of God. For Baptists, the Bible is regarded as authoritative because it is God's Word and words to humankind, relevant for all times. This is the result of a process known as inspiration, whereby God communicated through human authors. As the apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16, "All scripture is God-breathed [that is, inspired] and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness."
While other resources may be consulted, the Bible is considered the source of all faithful teaching and the guide for living. For Baptists, it is important to participate in all aspects of the life of a local church, including being instructed through biblically-based preaching and teaching. Ultimately, however, the individual Christian is responsible directly to God and is to be subject to the supreme authority of God and the written Word of God, the Bible.
1. Describe the Baptist Bible. How is it organized?
2. Why do Baptists describe themselves as People of the Book?
3. Why do Baptists place great emphasis on consulting the Bible?
4. How is the Bible supplemented within the Baptist community?