Summary of the Bible study on "How the Bible came into being."
A Complicated Process
To best understand the process we need to be aware of the dispute regarding which books are, or are not, included.Protestants call the the books that were put into the Bible the Canon. Protestants call the books that were not put into the Apocrypha.
What is the Significance of the Apocrypha?
Biblical history shows that for Christians and Jews, these books represent a continuation of sacred writings in the Jewish community up until Christ came. They paint a picture of the cultural and religious mindset in Judaism before the appearance of Christianity.
They set the scene for the coming of Jesus and help the reader to relate to the social and religious context Jesus found in Israel.
* The Jews did not accept the apocrypha as part of their Scriptures.
* Protestants also did not accept the Apocrypha as Scripture, though some ascribe to them value as "good and useful reading" and "for example of life and instruction of manners."
* The Roman Catholic Church accepts 12 of the 15 apocryphal books at the Council of Trent, April 8, 1546 A.D. as canonical Roman Catholics argue that the Apocrypha was an integral part of the early church and should be included in the list of inspired Old Testament books.
However, Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Greek Orthodox Christians agree, on the same 27 books for the composition of the New Testament.
According to Biblical History, the Bible evolved over a time span of approximately 2000 years. The time span can be divided into two parts: an Oral tradition and a Written tradition.The oral tradition is likely dated to the time of Abraham, around 1800 BC. Before anything in the Bible was written down, people told stories about God and God's relationship with the people we now read about in the Bible.
The oral tradition lasted for many years as families passed along the stories of their ancestors to each new generation.
The Old Testament, in roughly the form that we know it, did not emerge until after the return from Babylonian exile around 500-450 BC.
Likewise the New Testament underwent a similar process of development, although in a much shorter time frame.
According to Biblical history, the first letters of Paul were written around AD 45-50, the first Gospel (Mark) around AD 60, and the last of the canonical Epistles around AD 90-100.
Rolls of papyrus (plant material) and parchment (animal skin) were used.
Probably the first written parts of Scripture were short pieces of poetry, dating to the time of the exodus around 1300 BC.
2. The Languages
According to Biblical history, most of the original manuscripts of the Old Testament were written in Hebrew, although a few chapters of Ezra and Daniel were recorded in Aramaic (dialect of Hebrew and the language spoken by Jesus).
From Hebrew to Greek
Biblical history is very clear that The New Testament was written in the first century AD in Greek because it was the most spoken language around the Mediterranean at the time.
The first translation of the Bible was of the Hebrew Bible into Greek. It is called the Septuagint.
The conquest of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC made Greek the most widely spoken language in the Mediterranean area. It, therefore, seemed a natural step to translate the Scriptures into Greek for the benefit of non-Hebrew-speaking Jews.
From Greek to Latin
As the centuries after the resurrection unfolded, the dominant language spoken in the Roman Empire began to change. Latin replaced Greek as the dominant language.
The Latin edition of the Bible, the Vulgate, was translated from Hebrew and Greek mainly by St. Jerome at the end of the 4th century. It was revised in 1592 and adopted as the official text for the Roman Catholic Church.
From Latin to English
The first English translation of the Bible was by John Wycliffe. He translated the Bible into English from the Latin Vulgate.
The advent of Printing greatly aided the transmission of the biblical texts.
The King James Version (1611 AD) is the translation from the original Hebrew and Greek into English.
The Bible has since been translated into many languages.
3. The Councils
Biblical History makes it very clear that the Bible didn't drop from the sky. The books that made it into the Bible (canon) was determined by Councils (assemblies of theologians and bishops).There were three Councils of importance in Biblical history.
1. Council of Jamnia ±AD 90
This Jewish Council is a hypothetical late 1st-century council at which the canon of the Hebrew Bible was finalized. The Jewish Bible consists of the books of the Old Testament as recognized by Protestants.
2. Council of Carthage ±AD 397
However, the 27 books of the New Testament did not emerge as an entire body of collected writings until well into the third century AD. The Council of Carthage AD 397 finalized the 27 books of the New Testament. Even then, some of the books were debated (for example, Hebrews, James and Revelations).
Since I was born and raised in South Africa, it is cool to know that the New Testament was finalized on African soil. Carthage is in modern Tunisia.
3. Council of Trent ±AD 1546
However, the Christian canon was not "officially" closed until the tensions that erupted during the Reformation led to the exclusion of the Apocrypha by the emerging Protestants. This in turn led to the Catholic Council of Trent in AD 1546.
The Council of Trent officially defined the Catholic Canon including the Apocryphal books.
The Apocryphal books are being called the deuterocanon (second Canon) by the Roman Catholics and are included in their Bible.
4. The Empires
According to Biblical history the Old Testament (as known by Protestants), was composed and compiled between the 12th and the 2nd century BC. It was during the time of the Assyrian (900-607 BC), Babylonian (607 -536 BC), Persian (558-330 BC) and Greek Empires.The Assyrian Empire (900-607 BC)
The Assyrian Empire, with its capital at Nineveh, actually had its greatest influence on Bible history during the period from about 900 to 600 B.C. The Assyrians conquered and took into captivity the northern kingdom of Israel, from which the "Lost Ten Tribes" never returned (2 Kings 17:1-23).
The Babylonian Empire (607 -536 BC)
Biblical history reveals that the Babylonian Empire, which existed from 606 to 536 B.C., fully conquered the southern kingdom of Judah in 586 B.C. It was then that the Babylonians under the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar completely devastated the city of Jerusalem, looted and burned the original Temple of God, built by Solomon (see Temple Mount Treasures), and carried the people of Judah, including the prophets Daniel and Ezekiel, off into captivity.
The Persian Empire (558-330 BC)
Of all of the human empires that affected the people of Israel, the Persians did something rather unique - they permitted the return of the people of the southern kingdom of Judah, by God's command (see above verses), 70 years after their exile by the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar.
"The Greek Empire"
Greece did not establish an Empire other than the one of Alexander the Great which lasted for 300 years, (331 - 30 BC) until the fall of Egypt to the Romans.
The world power shifted from the east to the west with the rise of Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great lived only about 33 years, from 356 to 323 B.C., but during that time he became one of the most successful military commanders in human history. He became the ruler of the earth from Greece to India.
Alexander died before his thirty-third birthday. After his death, his empire was divided among his four generals. They shared Alexander’s dream and continued to spread Greek culture, Greek thinking and the Greek language everywhere.
The Roman Empire (27 BC–AD 476)
The next world rulers, the Romans, fully embraced Greek culture. The Greek dialect used at the time was known as koine (general) Greek and flourished in the Roman Empire.
The New Testament, the name given to the final portion of the Christian Bible, written after the Old Testament, was written in Koine Greek by various unknown authors after c. AD 45 and before c. AD 140. Its 27 books were gradually collected into a single volume over a period of several centuries.
End Remarks on Biblical History
The Bible consists of two major divisions. These two primary divisions are the 39 books that constitute the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New Testament. According to Biblical history, the names "Old Testament" and "New Testament" have been used since the close of the second century A.D. to distinguish the Jewish (God’s covenant with Israel) and Christian (God’s new covenant people) Scriptures.
Testament was a translation of the Hebrew word berith ("a covenant") to render the Greek word diatheke (Latin testamentum). Even though these books were written at different times and under varying circumstances, they harmoniously complement each other and constitute a whole.
It has been aptly remarked that the Hebrew scriptures are the New Testament in prophecy and the New Testament is the Hebrew scriptures in fulfillment (Jer. 31: 31-34, cp. Heb. 8: 7-13). It’s amazing to consider that the Bible was written by about 40 different people over a time span of about 1500 years! Many of these people were from totally different backgrounds.
Biblical history reveals that no other book has influenced the thinking of humankind and the moulding of human character as the Bible.
_The Bible is for sure the Greatest Monument of Humankind!