Blue and gold detail from an illuminated manuscript

Christianity introduction

An overview of articles and British Library resources relating to Christianity.

What is in the Christian Bible?

The Christian Bible consists of two sections. The first incorporates Jewish scripture originally written in Hebrew, characterised by Christians as the Old Testament. The earliest Christians adopted a Greek version of this text known as the Septuagint. The second section is a collection of texts concerning the life, teachings and early followers of Jesus of Nazareth, all originally written in Greek and together known as the New Testament. As Christianity spread and handwritten copies of the Christian scriptures multiplied, the Bible was translated into vernacular languages, including Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopian and Armenian. In Western Europe, translations of the Bible into Latin produced by the scholar Jerome (d. 420) became the standard translation for over a thousand years. Known as the Vulgate, or common, version, this text was used in the earliest large-scale work printed in Europe using movable type.

Contents

Articles

The Christian Bible

Dr Scot McKendrick explores the Christian Bible, looking at the contents of the Old and New Testaments and the differences between the Jewish and Christian canon, alongside early translations of, and languages used for, the Bible. 

Manuscripts of the Christian Bible

Dr Scot McKendrick looks at manuscripts of the Bible prior to the invention of printing, exploring their contents and uses and answering the question of why there are so few manuscripts of the whole Bible. 

Biblical illumination

Dr Kathleen Doyle introduces the characteristics and evolution of medieval biblical illumination, discussing the various functions of images in biblical texts, together with the use of different materials, calligraphic embellishments and stylistic influences.

Translations of the Bible in Eastern Christianity

Dr Erica Hunter explores the multiple translations of the Bible made in Eastern Christianity, including those in languages such as Syriac, Coptic, Armenian and Ge’ez. 

The importance of translation in the diffusion of Christianity

The Latin Vulgate Bible was the most commonly used Bible in the Christian West for centuries. Dr Annie Sutherland looks at the history of biblical translations in Anglo-Saxon and later medieval England. 

Medieval prayer-books

Books of Hours were a popular feature of medieval Christianity in Europe. Dr Eleanor Jackson introduces their common features, uses and purposes, explaining features such as the Instruments of Christ’s Passion and the medieval veneration of saints. 

From sacred scriptures to people’s Bible

The Bible as we know it today was shaped by events of the 15th and 16th centuries. Professor Alec Ryrie discusses the transformation of the Bible, looking at humanism, the reformation and key theological figures such as John Wycliffe and William Tyndale. 

Henry VIII and the Reformation

Professor Susan Doran discusses Henry VIII and the Reformation, looking at the Catholic devotional texts that were owned by the king, his break with the Catholic Church and the development of the English Bible following the Reformation. 

Women and Christianity

Dr Christine Joynes discusses women in Christianity: both their presentation in the gospels and the apostolic letters, and the role of women in Christianity today, from the perspective of female leadership and their perceived role in society. 

Spreading the word: The missionary expansion of Christianity

Professor Brian Stanley looks at the history of how European Christians spread their message, using key texts from around the world, including China, West Africa and New Zealand. 

Christianity in America

Dr Chuck Lippy explores Christianity in America, considering the separation of church and state, the emphasis on personal experience and the impact of immigration. He also touches on the Enlightenment and the Great Awakening, as well as the development of the Mormons, the Shakers, and the Pentecostal Church. 

Christianity film

Explore the diverse ways in which five Christian denominations – Coptic Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Church of England, Methodist, and Pentecostal – worship in modern Britain, and the texts that inspire them.

Other resources on Christianity at the British Library

The text in this article is available under the Creative Commons License.