The word bible is derived from the Greek word biblia and it means a collection of writings or books. The Bible contains 66 books. 39 books contain what is called the Old Testament. 27 books contain what is called the New Testament.
The books of the Bible were written in manuscript form. Manuscript is from the Latin manus, "hand," scriptus, "written." It means written by hand. Some of the materials used were:
- Clay tablets, wax tablets, leather, broken pieces of pottery, cloth, and the bark of trees.
- The Jews commonly used scrolls of leather.
- For 4,000 years, papyrus scrolls were used. Papyrus is a plant that was found in various areas including the Nile river in Egypt.
- About the fourth century, papyrus was largely replaced by parchment or vellum. Vellum is skins from a calf, a lamb or a kid goat.
The original Old Testament was written in Hebrew-Aramaic (Chaldee). The original New Testament was written in Greek. There were about 40 writers. Some of them were:
- Shepherds; Amos.
- Kings; David and Solomon.
- Scribes; Ezra.
- Priests; Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah.
- A tax collector; Matthew.
- A physician; Luke.
- Fishermen; Peter and John.
- A tent maker; Paul.
- Statesmen; Isaiah and Daniel.
The writing of the Bible covered a period of over 1500 years. We have no original manuscripts of the Old or the New Testaments. There are only "copies" of the originals.
Concerning the New Testament there are over 5,300 Greek manuscripts of the N.T.. In addition there are over 10,000 manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate of the N.T..
In addition there are at least 9,300 other early version manuscripts of the N.T..
Concerning the Old Testament, before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the earliest complete Hebrew manuscript was written about 900 A.D., with a few other manuscripts dated about the same time. Until the time of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, there was some criticism as to the reliability of the existing Hebrew manuscripts compared to the text of the first century. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 in the caves at Qumran.
They are dated about 125 - 100 B.C. These scrolls confirmed the accurateness of the existing Hebrew text. Scholars tell us that in the Dead Sea Scrolls the book of Isaiah itself is exactly word for word in 95% as the Hebrew text of 900 A.D.. The other 5% being slips of the pen, and various misspellings. The Jews were meticulous, methodical, and religious in making copies of the Hebrew text. They were very ritualistic concerning their bodily cleanliness, the clothes they wore, and before they wrote the name of God they followed a religious observance.
The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Old Testament, (285-246 B.C.). It substantiates the genuineness of the Hebrew text.
THE INTEGRITY (PURITY) OF THE TEXT
Because of the number of copies of manuscripts, multiplicity of errors crept in. This is also seen in other ancient literature. The printing press, which helped to eliminate errors, gave rise to Biblical Criticism. This is a science in correcting the problems of the text of the Bible. Because of this effort we can be assured that we have a reliable and pure text. Scholars tell us that most of the various readings are in differences of spelling; in the form of words not affecting the essential meaning; in adding or omitting words not essential to the sense; using one synonym for another; and interchanging of words whose order in the sentence is not important.
TRANSLATIONS, VERSIONS, AND REVISIONS
A translation is rendering one written language into another written language; e.g., the Greek into English. A version is a particular translation of a given work; e.g., King James Version, American Standard and The Living Bible. A revision is an improved or updated version of a particular version or translation; e.g., from the Bishops' Bible 1568; then to the King James Version 1611, then revised 1769; then to the American Standard 1901, then to the New American Standard. A paraphrase is a free translation; e.g., Good News For Modern Man and The Living Bible. Use paraphrases with great caution. In many places they are more commentary of what a man thinks God says than what God actually says.
Some things that man has done to make the Bible easier to read and reference are:
- The dividing of the Bible into Chapters and verses. Chapters, by Hugo in 1250 A.D.. Verses, by Sir Robert Stephens 1551 A.D..
- Jesus's words in some bibles are printed in red.
- References were added in Bibles. Running references, concordances.
- Notes and commentaries.All these are additions by man. Use with great caution.
BIBLES BECAME ACCESSIBLE
Bibles became more available to the general public, after the invention of the printing press, by Gutenberg, in 1450 A.D.. Some gave their lives that we might have the written word made available publicly. Some important translators were:
- John Wycliffe, in the 14th century, was the first to translate the whole bible into the English language. The Roman Catholics opposed his work and forbid many people from reading this bible under the penalty of death. Many paid large sums of money just to read it for an hour. The bones of Wycliffe were dug up forty years after his death by the Roman Catholics and burned.
- William Tyndale, in 1525 published the first English New Testament in print, at least 15,000 copies was issued. The Catholics seized thousands and burned them. The Roman Catholic authorities eventually had Tyndale strangled and burnt at the stake for the work that he had done.
- John Rogers issued a Bible in 1537, afterward he was burnt at the stake in Queen Mary's reign.
That man was an agent in writing and putting together the books of the Bible cannot be denied. Because of this there are some men who would like to discredit this work, and say it is merely a work of men; that God had no hand in it. The Bible teaches all scripture is inspired by God, (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible also teaches that His word would abide forever, and that His words would not pass away; (1 Peter 1:25; Matt. 24:35).
It is important that we understand this promise that God has given to us, and to understand the role that God and man played in the production of what we call the Bible. This understanding will help us to combat ignorance and the attacks upon the credibility of the Bible. We need to be very thankful and appreciate the work that God, the inspired writers, the scholars and educators have done in bringing together a work that none other has been able to equal. Let us show our appreciation by reading and studying the Bible.