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Know Your Bible

BY: Challapalli RK | Category: Religion | Submitted: 2010-06-11 17:38:54
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Article Summary: "Bible is the revelation of God to man. The article discusses how we got the Bible, its history and composition. Bible was written over a period of approximately 1,400 years, from the time of Moses to the end of the first century A.D..."


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Bible is the revelation of God to man contained in sixty-six books (Genesis to Revelation), forming one book, and has in reality one author (God) and one purpose and plan, and is the development of one scheme of the redemption of man. The Bible has one pervasive theme, the relationship between God and humankind. It is the basis of millions of peoples' beliefs over thousands of years. Especially in the West, the Bible's influence on the culture has been so deep as to make the world-view of scripture a basic supposition.

Bible was written over a period of approximately 1,400 years, from the time of Moses to the end of the first century A.D.

1. MEANING OF WORD 'BIBLE':

* The Bible, i. e. The Book, from the Greek word 'ta biblia,' the books.
* The word "Bible" can be literally translated as 'collection of small books.'
* 'Biblia' is derived from 'byblos' which is Greek translation of word 'papyrus'.
* In ancient times Papyrus tree was used for making the paper. Papyrus sheets were made from long stems of the Papyrus tree. In dry climates like that of Egypt, papyrus is stable, due to its rot-resistant cellulose. Parchment (calf skin, sheep skin etc.) was also widely used as paper in ancient times.
* Most of the Old Testament (OT) was written in Hebrew, the dialect of Ancient Israel before exile. * A few parts of OT are in Aramaic (the language spoken in Israel during Jesus times, which is a derivative from Hebrew) viz., Ezr 4:8 - 7:18; 7:12-26; Jer 10:11; Dan 2:4 - 7:28.
* New Testament was written in Greek.

2. GROUPING OF BIBLE BOOKS (OT):

The books in the Hebrew Bible are arranged in three groups:
i. The Law (Torah - 5 books)
Pentateuch
Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy

ii. Prophets (Nabim - 8 books)
Former Prophets
Joshua Judges Samuel Kings
Latter Prophets
Isaiah Jeremiah Ezekiel Minor Prophets

iii. Writings (Katubim - 11 books)
Psalms Proverbs Job Song of Songs Ruth Lamentations
Ecclesiastes Esther Daniel Ezra-Nehemiah Chronicles

So, the total number of OT books traditionally counted as twenty four.

But these correspond to the protestant thirty nine books, counting the Minor Prophets as twelve books and Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, and Ezra-Nehemiah as two each.

Josephus, the first century AD historian held twenty-two books as canonical (after the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet). But his twenty two are same as twenty-four in the traditional counting.

In the Septuagint both the number of books and the arrangement of them differ from the Hebrew Bible.

The Protestant OT does not follow the grouping of either the Hebrew canon or the LXX.

i. Pentateuch (5)
Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy

ii. Historical Books (12)
Joshua Judges Ruth I Samuel II Samuel I Kings
II Kings I Chronicles II Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah Esther

iii. Poetical Books (5)
Job Psalms Proverbs Ecclesiastes Song of Songs

iv. Prophets (17)
i. Major Prophets
Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations Ezekiel Daniel
ii. Minor Prophets
Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah Micah
Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah Malachi

3. GROUPING OF BIBLE BOOKS (NT):
New Testament was mostly written in Greek and the text was almost standardized by 5 th century AD. The first printed edition of the NT Greek text was Ersamus's text, published in 1516 AD.

i. Gospels (4)
Matthew Mark Luke John

ii. Acts (1)
Acts of Apostles

iii. Epistles / Letters (21)
Romans 1&2 Corinthians Galatians Ephesians Philippians
1&2 Thessalonians 1&2 Timothy Titus Philemon Hebrews
James 1&2 Peter 1,2&3 John Jude

iv. Revelation (1)
Revelation of St. John

4. ANCIENT MANUSCRIPTS OF THE ORIGINAL:
There are no ancient Hebrew manuscripts (Manuscript is the ancient method of publishing. Manuscripts were produced by a group of scribes writing at the dictation of the chief scribe) older than the tenth century are available to us. But we know that these are in the main correct, because we have a translation of the Hebrew into Greek, called the Septuagint, made nearly three hundred years before Christ. Our Hebrew Bibles are a reprint from what is called the Masoretic text. The ancient Hebrew consisted of only consonants, since the ancient Hebrew had no written vowels.
The ancient Hebrew had only the consonants printed, and the vowels were vocalized in pronunciation, but were not written. Some Jewish scholars living at Tiberias, and at Sora by the Euphrates, from the sixth to the twelfth century, punctuated the Hebrew text, and wrote in the vowel points and other tone-marks to aid in the reading of the Hebrew; and these, together with notes of various kinds, they called Masora (tradition), hence the name Masoretic text.

Bible was written over a period of approximately 1,400 years, from the time of Moses to the end of the first century A.D. The recently discovered Dead Sea Scrolls have some books dating back to third century BC. These scrolls were containing either whole book or fragments of all but one (Esther) of the OT books; and they bear witness to a text remarkably like the Hebrew text left by the Masoretes (from A.D 500 on).

QUMRAN LIBRARY: Dead Sea Scrolls are also called Qumran Library. These are the ancient Hebrew scrolls accidentally discovered in 1947 by a Bedouin (A minority in Arab community) boy at caves near Dead Sea.

These scrolls probably would have been hidden in the caves by a nearby monastery with the intention of preserving them from invading Greeks in those days. The Dead Sea Scrolls are a valuable collection of parts of Biblical texts, including texts from the Hebrew Bible, discovered between 1947 and 1956 in eleven caves in and around the ruins of the ancient settlement of Khirbet Qumran on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea in the West Bank. They are written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, mostly on parchment (skin), but with some written on papyrus. The chief categories represented among the Dead Sea Scrolls are:

Biblical
Those works contained in the Hebrew Bible. All of the books of the Bible are represented in the Dead Sea Scroll collection except Esther.

Apocryphal or pseudepigraphical
Those works which are omitted from various canons of the Bible and included in others.

Sectarian
Those scrolls related to a pietistic commune and include ordinances, biblical commentaries, apocalyptic visions, and liturgical works.


SEPTUAGINT: Septuagint is the Greek translation of OT, including Apocrypha, done by seventy (two) scholars sent by the high priest, Eleazar on request of Ptolemy for translating and including 'the Jewish Laws' into his famous library at Alexandria, Egypt. This translation was done and was completed between 250 to 150 BC.

VULGATE: The Vulgate, or translation of the Bible into Latin by Jerome, A.D. 385-405, is the authorized version of the Roman Catholic Church.

5. DIVISIONS INTO CHAPTERS AND VERSES:

The present division of the Bible into chapters was made by Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury, by AD 1228. The present division into verses was introduced by Robert Stephens in his Greek Testament, published in 1551, in his edition of the Vulgate (entire Bible), in 1555. The first English Bible printed with these chapters and verses was the Geneva Bible, in 1560.

6. TRANSLATIONS:

In the middle ages the Latin Vulgate was the Church's (Catholic) official version. But following reformations, attempts were made to translate it into other languages. Venerable Bede translated John's Gospel into Anglo-Saxon in the 7th Century. The first complete Bible in English is the work of the Oxford scholar John Wycliffe and his followers in 15th Century.

Tyndale had first printed New Testament in English (1526AD). This Bible was to be smuggled into Britain at first; such was the opposition to the idea of translation into common tongues, especially from Hebrew / Greek rather than official Latin Bible. Tyndale was strangled to death and burned at the stake for being the first person to publish the New Testament in early modern English. (Other scholars had translated the Bible into English before him, such as John Wycliffe, but Tyndale was the first to take advantage of Gutenberg's new printing press and widely disseminate his translation.) At the time that Tyndale published his New Testament translation, it was a crime punishable by death, according to the Roman Catholic Church, and
eventually he became martyr for fulfilling his goal of putting the Word of God into the hands of the common people.

In 1535 Coverdale published the first full Bible in English.

The Authorised, or King James Version was published in 1611. What distinguished KJV from other printed Bibles was that it was produced by a committee of Scholars.

New International Version can be called the most popular modern english version, which again is work of scholars in corporate manner.

New Living Translation, in my view, is a good attempt in translating Bible in more understandable language, without losing the essence of the message.

About Author / Additional Info:
As a Bible student I have prepared this article after various readings.

The important ones are acknowledged here:
1. Understanding the Bible - John Stott
2. New Intentional Version Bible Dictionary
3, Lion handbook of the Bible

Comments on this article: (2 comments so far)

Comment Comment By Comment Date
Dear Friend, I am not a christian but I enjoyed reading your article - Know your bible. This was indeed a very well researched and written article. Know Bible 2010-06-11 17:51:13 172
The article is very informative especially for those who wanted to start reading the bible Lot of information for those who are not read the Bible or do not know about it Jose Marokey 2010-06-12 19:49:23 175

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