History of the Holy Bible

Knowing the history of the Holy Bible helps us to solidify and establish the foundation of our faith. Despite having 66 books written by 40 different men over a period of approximately 1500 years, the Holy Bible is consistent in tone and its message throughout.

Every chapter fits perfectly with every other one. This could only have happened if there was one singular mind behind the whole project - God. The Bible is comprised of the Old Testament with 39 books written in Hebrew (with a little Aramaic), while the New Testament contains 27 books written in Greek.

The history of the Holy Bible can also be considered a history of old manuscripts from which we obtain our present day copy of the Scriptures.

History of the Holy Bible - Manuscripts

For the Old Testament, the following major manuscripts exist:

  • Dead Sea Scrolls – contains portions of every book of the Old Testament, with the exception of Esther, and does have the entire book of Isaiah;
  • Masoretic Text – the Masoretes (after the ancient scribes) spent generations faithfully copying the Old Testament, with the last complete copy dating back to 1008 A.D.;
  • Aramaic Targums – around 400 B.C. the Old Testament was translated into Aramaic, the language spoken by the Jewish people from the time of the Babylonian captivity through the time of Christ;
  • Septuagint LXX – around 250 B.C. the Old Testament was translated into Greek, by about 70 translators (hence the “LXX”), and was the translation often quoted by New Testament writers when quoting Old Testament scripture.

Regarding the New Testament, well over 5,000 early Greek manuscripts still exist today, the most complete being:

  • Codex Sinaiticus – discovered in 1856 in a monastery on Mt Sinai, it contains the entire New Testament and a good portion of the Old Testament;
  • Codex Vaticanus – dating from 350 A.D., this almost complete New Testament has been in the Vatican Library catalog since 1475.

History of the Bible – Early Translations

From 180 A.D. to 380 A.D., the Bible was translated into Latin, Syriac, and Coptic. The Latin Vulgate, translated by St. Jerome from Hebrew and Greek manuscripts was the translation most widely used by the Catholic Church and is still considered the authoritative translation.

The Protestant Reformation brought about an increase in translating the Holy Bible into the language of the common people, including Armenian, Georgian, Slavic, Gothic, and Ethiopic.

The first English translation was made in c.1380 by John Wycliffe, who used the Latin Vulgate, making it a translation of a translation.

Printing Influences the History of the Holy Bible

Until the advent of the printing press, most people could only dream of owning their own copy of God’s Word. Occasionally, the very wealthy owned a hand-copied Bible, but for the most part only the Church had copies of the Holy Bible. Then the printing press was invented and Bible history took a new direction:

  • Gutenberg – c. 1454 Gutenberg printed off the first Bible, in Latin, on a printing press. This revolutionized the entire process of producing books.
  • Textus Receptus – In 1514, Erasmus printed the Greek New Testament, which eventually became known as the Textus Receptus (or Received Text in English).
  • King James Version (KJV) – In 1611, scholars were commissioned by King James to translate the Bible into English. These scholars used the original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts (the Masoretic text) and the Textus Receptus.
  • During the latter half of the 20th century and early 21st century, many translations have been published, specially in the English language.

History of the Holy Bible – the Canon

The Early Church fathers followed three simple rules for determining which writings would be included in the Canon of New Testament and which would be excluded:

  • Apostolic Authority – must have been written by the apostles, as eye witnesses, or by associates of the apostles;
  • Rule of Faith – the document must agree with basic Christian tradition and recognized teachings
  • Continuous Acceptance and Usage – the document must have been recognized and used by the early church.

The History of the Holy Bible and Languages of the People

Since the first Bible rolled off the first printing press, the goal of Bible scholars, translators, and missionaries has been to make the Bible available in every language. A daunting task, nonetheless, groups such as the Bible and Foreign Bible Society (now simply called the Bible Society) and Wycliffe Bible Translators have dedicated their lives and fortunes to that worthy cause.

Here are some basic statistics behind the Bible and the work done on it over the years.

  • There are nearly 7,000 languages spoken in a world of around 7 billion today.
  • More than 2,000 of those languages have no Bible translation.

  • Over 350 million people speak languages for which there is no Bible translation.

  • Over 1,200 language groups have access to the New Testament in their own language.
  • Less than 500 language groups have the entire Bible in a language they understand
  • Less than 500 language groups have the entire Bible in a language they understand

Thanks to the computer, the Bible is available online, where people who speak Malayalam, Kurdi, Nepali, Portuguese, Farsi, Hindi, Somali, and 28 more languages are able to read the Bible in their own language on a computer.

As it says in Rom. 10:17, “…faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” It is God who guided the history of the Holy Bible, ensuring that it was translated into the language of the land whose people would eventually carry it around the world with them.

The history of the Holy Bible would not be complete without acknowledging that no other book in the history of mankind has ever changed lives, influenced decisions, and been the foundation for the establishment laws and principals as this book. From the beginning to the end, the Holy Bible has been quoted more often, in more books, plays, and movies than any other book. It has been carried into battle, clutched in hands at funerals, been splashed with tears and even gone into space, and it still changes lives today.

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