Bible the sacred book of Christianity, as the inspired record of God’s revelation of himself and of his will to mankind. It is a collection of ancient writings including the books of both the Old Testament and the New Testament, used by the Christian church. It can also be the Hebrew Scriptures, the sacred book of Judaism, or a book or collection of writings constituting the sacred text of a religion [Middle English, from Old French, from Late Latin biblia, from Greek, pl. of biblion, book, diminutive of biblos, papyrus, book, from Bublos, Byblos.]. The words biblion and biblia are used in the OT (LXX) and the Apocrypha for the Scriptures (Dan. 9:2 "books"; 1 Macc. 1:56; 3:48; 12:9). By the fifth century A.D. the Greek church fathers applied the term biblia to the whole Christian Scriptures. Later the word passed into the western church, for its use in the Latin, thus "The Books" became "The Book."
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) first occurring in Tertullian (A.D. 190-220).
Hebrew, the northwest branch of the Semitic languages, is one of the world's oldest living languages dating beyond 2000 B.C., but the OT refers to it as "the language of Canaan" (Isa. 19:18) or "the Jews’ language" (2 Kings 18:26, 28 KJV and parallel passages; also Neh. 13:24). Hebrew has a close affinity to Ugaritic, Phoenician, Moabitic, and the Canaanite dialects.
The Ugaritic from the Ras Shamra Tablets have shed much light on the meaning of the Hebrew Bible. Click here to see Ugaritic Writing and Alphabet information.
Originally the claim was that ancient Ugarit’s tablets contained a script of only twenty-seven different characters. This proved to be archaic Hebrew, dated about 1400 B.C., hence one of the earliest alphabetic writings yet known. This very early dialect of Canaanite, or Ugaritic cuneiform alphabet had about twenty-nine or thirty characters, all of them consonantal (except that three of them indicated the type of vowel occurring after aleph, whether a, i [or, e], or u).
As early as the sixteenth century B.C., evidences of a Hebrew-Phoenician alphabet are found, from which a standardized script emerged about the tenth century B.C. This is the cursive script, used in Old Hebrew and for the original writing of the OT books. The ancient Israelites who lived in Palestine (Canaan) during Biblical times spoke and wrote in Hebrew (before the Babylonian captivity). The Bible itself is the greatest product of Hebrew literature.
The first work of literature in Hebrew was the Biblical poem, 'The Song of Deborah' in Judges 5, which dates around 1,100 B.C. The biblical date of Deborah is lowered a full century by Albright to 1125 B.C., but only because of his theory that no Philistines (cf. 5:6; 3:31) could reach Palestine before the 1100s; yet see Genesis 21:22 "Abimelech (Philistine king of Gerar) and Phichol (his army captain)"; 21:34 "And Abraham sojourned in the Philistines’ land many days."; 26:1 "... And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar."
The first and most important of a number of translations of the Hebrew OT into Greek, the LXX, is also of much value in interpretative study of biblical Hebrew.
The conquest of Alexander the Great in the fourth century BC made Greek the most widely spoken language in the Mediterranean area. It seemed a natural step to translate the Scriptures into Greek for the benefit of non-Hebrew-speaking Jews. The story of the origin of the Septuagint is told in the Letter of Aristeas, a psuedepigraphical book written in the second half of the second century B.C. It states that at the request of King Ptolemy II of Egypt (also called Philadelphus the king of Egypt) in (285-246 B.C.), the high priest Eleazer of Jerusalem sent seventy-two men, six from each tribe, to Egypt with a scroll of the Jewish Law, to be translated for his famous library in Alexandria. In seventy-two days they translated one section each from this scroll. So this version was the oldest Greek translation of the Old Testament (Pentateuch only) made and was called the Septuagint, the translation of the seventy, abbreviated LXX, completed about 250 B.C. The rest of the OT was done at a later date, possibly 180. Others claim seventy-two Jewish scholars living in Alexandria's Jewish community were appointed to translate the great law of the Jews for his library. Scholars do not agree on the origins of the name Septuagint, which stems from the Latin meaning "seventy". Some believe the translation was named after the number of scholars appointed, while others believe it was named for the seventy elders of Israel mentioned in Exodus as companions to Moses.
Another tradition states that it was undertaken by a group of Essene scholars, who were members of a mystic and ascetic Jewish sect that existed in ancient Palestine from the second century B.C. to the second century A.D. The Essene initiates however, were reluctant to reveal the secret doctrine of the Hebrew faith to non initiates, and therefore disguised, with the use of similes and symbolic imagery, the mysteries given by Moses. Stories such as Adam and Eve, the serpent, and of Adam's rib, which were introduced in the Greek version of Genesis, have no corresponding passages in the Hebrew original.
The translation was gradually supplemented with translations of the remainder of the Hebrew scriptures as well as some other works that are now in the Apocrypha. The translation posed problems later on because it was based on an earlier and different Hebrew text from the standard or Masoretic text of the rabbis, which was not finalized until the second century A.D.
The seventy rabbis who formed the Supreme Council of the Priesthood in Jerusalem, known as the Sanhedrin, were the highest judicial and ecclesiastical council of the ancient Jewish nation. Unaware of the abstruse quality of the Hebrew text, they accepted this misleading translation as accurate and stamped their approval on it. Remember that they were represented by the 23 members from the political Sadducees and also the 70 members of the religious Pharisees.
Besides the twenty-four books contained in the Hebrew Bible, seventeen other books or portions of books were included. Fourteen of these seventeen, plus II Esdras, now comprise the Apocrypha. Roman Catholics accept twelve of these books or portions as of equal importance with the books of the Hebrew Bible.
In the LXX, 1 and 2 Samuel, differ greatly from the Masoretic Text (Hebrew Bible). Recent finds at Qumran ("The Dead Sea Scrolls") include a Hebrew MS of Samuel whose text seems very close to the LXX translation. The LXX Daniel was set aside in favor of a later translation made by Theodotion. The LXX Jeremiah is 1/7th and the LXX Job is 1/4th shorter than the Masoretic Text. The LXX, is not one book, but a collection of translations of the OT produced by Jews of the Dispersion.
The LXX had great authority among the non-Palestinian Jews, because of it being the first substantial work ever translated into another language.
The early Christian church, of the Greek-speaking world took over the LXX as their Bible. Their use of it, to prove to the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah, caused a change in the Jew’s attitude toward it. After A.D. 100 the Jews completely gave up the LXX, and it became a Christian book, whose oldest copies are from the fourth and fifth centuries A.D. – Sinaiticus, Vaticanus, and Alexandrinus.
As Christianity spread to other countries translations were required.
Old Latin versions (African, European and Italian) probably originated among the Latin-speaking Jews of Carthage and were adopted by the Christians, as the ones that circulated in Carthage by A.D. 250.
Saint Jerome, a hermit, originally Sophronius Eusebius Hieronymus, lived 340?-420?, was a Latin scholar who produced the Vulgate, the first authentic Latin translation of the Bible from Hebrew.
In A.D. 382, at the request of Pope Saint Damasus I, Saint Jerome used the Hebrew Bible as well as Latin and Greek (Septuagint and Origen’s Hexapla) as sources, which he completed by 405 A.D. By the end of the fourth century A.D., the Vulgate was now used in a revised form as the Roman Catholic authorized version. The word vulgate means to make known to all, or in Latin it means common or popular. They became known as the Holy Scriptures and is accepted without question by the large majority of the Christian world for a thousand years. The traditional English translation of the Vulgate is called the Douay Bible, and was until recently the only authorized Roman Catholic Bible in English.
Chapter divisions came much later, appearing first in the Vulgate, A.D. 1227 or 1248, and transferred to the Hebrew Bible about 1440. Others claim that these were made by Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury, who died in 1228. Verses were marked in the Vulgate as early as 1558. Others claim that in 1555 a printer in Paris, Robert Stephens also brought out an edition of the Vulgate that was the first entire Bible with our present chapters and verses.
Beginning with Constantine the Spanish Inquisition was an effort by the Roman Catholic Church to seek out and punish heretics (anyone or those who opposed the church teachings). Although it occurred throughout Europe this was one of the best known. During the Middle Ages from the court of Pope Gregory IX, the Jews suffered persecution, since its results tortured and burned anyone who refused to change their beliefs. In 1492, for example, they were expelled from Spain, at which point the Inquisition was turned against the Protestants. Some Hebrew authors tried to understand such Jewish suffering by examining the relationship between God and human beings. Much of the literature of these writers formed part of the Jewish mystical tradition called the Cabala. The Zohar (Book of Splendor), written chiefly in Aramic with some Hebrew sections, is the greatest work of Cabalist literature, believed to have been written by Moses de Leon of Spain in 1200.
Believe it or not this persecution may have led to what is presently called the New Age Movement. Since Mysticism evolved to such groups as the Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu mystics, a Judaic group called Hasidic, Islamic Sufi sect, some Roman Catholic saints, and even the Quakers.
I find it amusing that the Gentile authorities treatment of the Jews and the spread of Jewish mysticism may have created the poison for the world to choke on in modern times, even till the "end of the time of the Gentiles."