A BACKGROUND STUDY OF THE BIBLE ITSELF.
You are beginning what will prove to be the most interesting and most profitable study you have ever undertaken. You are going to study the Bible. There has never been another book like the Bible. There never will be. It is much easier to make it divine than it is to make it human. On the arc that spans the ages hang the works of mighty men; works of science, and of art and of literature, that light the dim canopy of the years. Shinning out above them all with the brilliance of the sun above the stars is the Bible.
The word Bible means “Book”. Really, the Bible needs no other description. There are millions of books, but only one Bible. It is in a class by itself.
There are 66 books in the Bible. Thirty-nine of them are in the Old Testament, and 27 are in the New Testament. These books were not written by a single author, but rather, were written by some forty men who lived in different countries and who spoke different languages, over a period of some 1600 years. Many of them did not know that others had written. Yet, when their works were assembled, each fit perfectly into the pattern. There was not a single contradiction in any of them. At every point where any two touched upon the same event or subject there was perfect harmony. Skeptics through the centuries have sought to find a single flaw and have failed. Their efforts to destroy the Bible have been sufficient to establish it.
Written by kings and sheepherders, noblemen and peasants, farmers and fishermen, it comprises a perfect record of the perfect plans of a perfect God.
Our Bible was not always in the form we have it – that is, printed on India paper and bound in leather. The Bible is older than either paper or printing. Each separate book was laboriously written; either upon carefully tanned animal skins, or upon a sort of plant fiber called papyrus. Each was written by hand and copies were made by hand. Hence they were very sacred, and were greatly treasured.
It is generally agreed that Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament somewhere around 1500 B.C. These are called the Pentateuch. Other writers provided the rest scattered over the next thousand years. The books were all written in the Hebrew tongue and were supposedly gathered together first by Ezra (See Nehemiah 8:5), around 400 B.C. At Alexandria, in 277 B.C. the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into the Greek language by seventy scholars, who called it the “Septuagint”. This seems to be the version of the scriptures in general use in Jesus’ day, and from which he and the apostles quoted.
The Greek language, being the language of the land in Jesus’ day, was used by the writers of the New Testament to give us the 27-book record. All these 27 books were written within a relatively short period of time; the first being written sometime after 33A.D. and the last not later than 96 A.D.
These 27 books were written in much the same way as the manuscripts of the Old Testament. None of them have been preserved for us in the original. The pick and spade may yet uncover one of the original letters in the ruins of some ancient city, but as of now, none of them are known to exist.
However, we can be absolutely certain that we have the letters of the apostles, exactly as they were first written. Herewith is presented some (and only a portion) of the proof: We have today the writings of some two score church leaders of the first and second centuries, who quote freely from the actual copies of the apostles’ letters. Some think that if the New Testament were completely destroyed it could be reproduced from quotations of others who had access to the actual letters.
Then, we have at present three famous manuscripts that date back to the fourth and fifth centuries. They are the Sinaitic Manuscript, the Alexandrian Manuscript and the Vatican Manuscript. These three, which were in all probability direct copies of the original letters, and which bear no evidence of having a common origin, other than those original letters, are indisputable proof that we have the Testament today as the apostles gave it.
Third: There are dozens of manuscripts of lesser importance, all of which agree, except for copyists’ errors, with these and with the quotations of church leaders of the first centuries. In addition, new evidence is being unearthed almost every year, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, which in every instance substantiate existing documents.
Fourth: The Latin Vulgate, translated by Jerome in 405 A.D. from sources other than the three famous manuscripts mentioned above, agrees in substance with these Greek manuscripts. Scholars agree that through comparison of all available evidence, the conclusion is perfectly safe that we have the New Testament as the apostles gave it.
There is no way of knowing what translations of the Bible have been made and lost forever in the dead centuries. But we do know that the first surviving English translation of importance was made by John Wycliffe in England 1382. Forty years later the Gutenberg Bible made its appearance as the first product of the newly invented printing press. William Tyndale completed his translation of the New Testament in 1525, and the Coverdale translation was the first printed Bible in the English language.
The translation of the Bible met with opposition from the Roman Catholic church, and some of the translators paid with their lives for their efforts to give the Bible to the people. It was the contention of the church that the Bible did not belong to the people, and the Bible was publicly burned in many places. Yet it has survived, and today every person who wants one may have one. None of us will ever know the debt of gratitude that we owe to those brave men who struggled so mightily to give the Bible to the common man in his own language.
In 1604 the King of England authorized the translation of time’s most famous version: the Authorized Version, or the King James Version. He employed the best scholars available and in 1611 they finished their work and gave to the world what has remained to this day the standard translation of the English-speaking world.
Translations since that time have been numerous. Some have been good; some bad. Perhaps all of them have made worthwhile contributions to our understanding of the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. A reading of several different versions of the Scriptures is about the safest commentary on any given passage of scripture.
We can rest assured that we have the complete New Testament; and that we have it as it was given. It is God’s complete revelation. “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Being thus guided, they gave to us a perfect law of liberty. “Every Scripture is inspired of God, and is profitable for teaching, for reproof and correction, for instruction which is in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16,17).
Section1-Fill in the blanks
The word “Bible” means _______.
There are ______ books in the Bible.
The material upon which the books of the bible were first written was either _______ or _______.
The first Five books of the Old Testament were written by _______.
The Old Testament was written in the _______ language.
We have three Manuscripts, the (1) _______, the (2) _______, and the (3) _______ which are copies of the original New Testament letters.
The great Latin translation of the Bible is called the _______.
The first English translation was made by ________.
The most widely used English translation is the _______.
The reading of several different versions gives us a good ______ on any given passage.
Section 2-Multiple Choice
How many books are there in the New Testament?
The Old Testament was written in :
The time covered in writing the Bible was
The books of the Old Testament were first gathered together by
The last book of the Bible was written about
500 B.C35 B.C96 A.D150 A.D
The Latin Vulgate was translated by
The first printed Bible was the
Section 3-Complete the Scriptures
Holy men of God spake as __________________________________________( 2 Peter 1:21).
Every Scripture is inspired of God, and is profitable for ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ thoroughly furnished unto every good work ( 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
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