Christianity

From its origins on the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean to its expansion to every corner of the globe in modern times, discover how the production of biblical texts enabled Christianity to become the diverse faith it is today.

Discovering Sacred Texts: Christianity

Discovering Sacred Texts: Christianity

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

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Detail of the start of the Book of Gensis. With historiated initial 'I'

The Christian Bible

Article by:
Scot McKendrick

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.

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Detail from the illuminated Cnut Gospels.

Manuscripts of the Christian Bible

Article by:
Scot McKendrick

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.

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Manuscript written in 3 columns. Each column is in a different language. The central column has a large red Q in it in which the scribe has drawn a face.

The importance of translation in the diffusion of Christianity

Article by:
Annie Sutherland

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.

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A representation of the Virgin Mary wrestling the devil. She has vanquished him and has him pinned to the ground and is pulling on his horns. An angel watches from nearby while holding a baby. From the Taymouth Hours.

Women and Christianity

Article by:
Christine Joynes

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.

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Brightly illustrated image of the the Annunciation

Medieval prayer-books

Article by:
Eleanor Jackson

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.

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Detail of Add ms 14425, f031v. A Syriac Bible

Translations of the Bible in Eastern Christianity

Article by:
Erica C D Hunter

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.

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An image of an open copy of Tyndale's new testament

From sacred scriptures to the people’s Bible

Article by:
Alec Ryrie

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.

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Illuminated manuscripts

Biblical illumination

Article by:
Kathleen Doyle

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.

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miniature of Abraham being thrown into the furnace by Nimrod - from the Golden Haggadah

The Abrahamic religions

Article by:
Anna Sapir Abulafia

Dr Anna Sapir Abulafia looks at three of the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and explores the role and narrative surrounding the figure of Abraham in their sacred texts and traditions.

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Historical texts

Henry VIII and the Reformation

Article by:
Susan Doran

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.

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Front cover of The Four-Fold Gospel

Christianity in America

Article by:
Charles Lippy

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.

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An image from Illustrated Life of Jesus in Chinese, or 59.b.19. vol 2 f. 030r

Spreading the Word: The missionary expansion of Christianity

Article by:
Brian Stanley

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.

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Blue and gold detail from an illuminated manuscript

Christianity introduction

Article by:
The British Library

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

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Further themes

Buddhism

The Buddha lived over 2,500 years ago, yet his life and teachings continue to inform the lives of millions of Buddhists worldwide. Learn about the Buddha’s teachings, the different Buddhist traditions, and Buddhist meditation.

Christianity

From its origins on the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean to its expansion to every corner of the globe in modern times, discover how the production of biblical texts enabled Christianity to become the diverse faith it is today.

Devotional texts

From medieval Christian Books of Hours to the Sikh empress Rani Jindan’s prayer book, explore how devotional texts have helped believers make a personal connection with their faith.

Hinduism

From its origins as an oral tradition over 4,000 years ago, to contemporary retellings of its epic stories, Hinduism is characterised by seemingly limitless diversity. Discover more about Hinduism’s sacred texts and the colourful gods and goddesses that feature in them.

Illuminated texts

The British Library’s collection comprises some of the most beautiful, handwritten and illuminated sacred texts from many of the world’s religions.

Islam

As the unadulterated Word of God, the Qur’an is sacred to Muslims everywhere. Learn more about Qur’an and its content, and Islam’s other important sacred texts, such as the Hadith and Sunna.

Jainism

Characterised by principles of asceticism and non-violence, Jainism has its roots in India in the sixth century BCE. Discover more about Jainism’s sacred texts, its cosmology, and the religious views and practices of its adherents.

Judaism

Explore how the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud inform the lives of Jews today, and how prayer books such as the Haggadah, used in worship and religious festivals, have helped sustain Jewish identity over many centuries.

Living Texts

Whether retold from one generation to the next, or written down from one language into another, some sacred texts have evolved while others have remained the same throughout time, enriching and informing the lives of those that read them.

Pilgrimage, text and place

Explore the connections between sacred spaces and sacred texts.

Sacred texts

All faiths have their origins in texts, be they the word of God as revealed to prophets, oral stories retold by one generation to another over centuries, or written down in books. Explore the origins and developments of the world’s major faiths.

Sikhism

Discover more about the origins of the Sikh faith, the role of the Sikh Gurus in the compilation of its sacred texts, and the importance of prayer to Sikhs.

The Baha’i Faith

Emerging in the mid-19th century, the Baha’i Faith has grown rapidly from its Middle Eastern origins, and now has around 8 million adherents worldwide. Learn more about the founders of the Baha’i faith, and how they disseminated their beliefs.

Women, texts and faith

Explore the lives of women in the sacred texts of the world’s major faiths, and the changing ways in which women contribute to religious practice in contemporary society.

Zoroastrianism

With its roots in central Asia 3,500 years ago, Zoroastrianism has a rich history of interaction with the Abrahamic faiths, and of migration around the world. Learn more about this ancient religion, and the sacred texts that inform its beliefs.