“HOW THE BIBLE CAME TO US”
By Dennis W. Foust
What is the meaning and background of the term, Holy Bible?
- Greek word, Biblus: the bark of the papyrus plant from which writing paper was made (papyrus = paper).
- Eventually, the word Biblus became the word for ‘book.’
- The plural of the Greek term Biblus is Biblia and came to mean ‘books.’
- When the word, Biblia came over from Greek to Latin, it was regarded as a singular noun meaning ‘book.’
- Thus, the word, Bible came to be known as ‘the book of books.’
- The term, ‘Holy,’ means ‘related to or coming from the divine.’
- Therefore, the Holy Bible means “Book of books related to or coming from God.”
When the phrase, Canon of Scripture is used, what does that mean?
- “Canon” is a Greek word meaning, ‘rod.’
- A rod or a straight line or rule was used by carpenters and masons as a means of measurement or standard and came to be used to refer to a norm or requirement.
- Over time, people came to refer to certain books as “in the canon of the Old Testament” or “in the canon of the New Testament.”
- In other words, the writings or scripts that were included in the Biblical canon are to be accepted as the standard rule for faith and practice among God’s people; the authoritative standard by which the thought and conduct of God’s people are to be measured.
OLD TESTAMENT CANON
Consists of 39 books in the Protestant Bible
Consists of 46 books in the Catholic Bible
Consists of 50 books in the Orthodox Bible
Pentateuch – the first five books of the Bible.
History – twelve books tracing Israel’s history for 800 years (1250 to mid-400 B.C.)
Poetry – five books; also called devotional literature or writings
(Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon)
The Prophets – consisting of seventeen books
- four (five books) major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah and
Jeremiah’s Lamentations, Ezekiel and Daniel)
- twelve minor prophets (Hosea through Malachi)
NEW TESTAMENT CANON
Consists of 27 books.
Gospels – four written testimonies to Jesus Christ.
History – one book (Acts of Apostolic People), telling about the early days of the
Jerusalem Church and missionary journeys of Paul between A.D. 30 to 60.
Letters – twenty-one books; also called “Epistles” (epistolos, the Greek word for letter)
- thirteen letters written by or attributed to Paul to churches and persons
- one letters written to the Hebrews
- seven general letters of James, Peter, John and Jude
Revelation – a record of a revelation (vision) of hope based upon the sovereignty of God
This revelation is attributed to John who was imprisoned on the Island of Patmos
Translation – translating words of one language into another language.
Version – one person’s or group’s version of a translation.
The Egyptian Old Testament included ten books not included in the Hebrew scriptures of Palestine. These books came to be called, “apocrypha,” meaning “secret or hidden books.”
The Bible of the Church was translated into Latin by Jerome and as the Church spread to Rome and throughout Europe. This Bible was called the Latin Vulgate. Vulgate comes from the word, ‘vulgare,’ meaning ‘to make public or common.’ This Bible was used by the Western Church until the Protestant Reformation and was the basis of all Roman Catholic translations until 1943.
The Latin Vulgate was translated into German in the fourteenth century, including the apocryphal books. The first Bible to be written in the English language was translated to English by John Wycliffe and was called the Wycliffe Bible.
Erasmus‘ published the Greek/Latin New Testament in 1516.
Martin Luther published his 95 Theses of Contention in Wittenberg Germany in the year 1517. After he was excommunicated from the Roman Church, he translated the New Testament into German from Erasmus’ Greek/Latin New Testament in 1522.
William Tyndale, an English reformer, worked to translate the Greek New Testament into plain English in 1526.
The first translation of the complete Bible in the English language was printed on October 4, 1535, and is known as the Coverdale Bible.
At the order of King Henry VIII, Myles Coverdale was asked to publish another Bible, the first English Bible authorized for public use. It was distributed to every church and chained to the pulpit. By the decree of the king, a reader was provided so that the illiterate could hear the Scriptures in their own language. It was known as the Great Bible due to its large size, measuring over 14 inches tall.
After England split with Rome in 1534, so many English translations began to appear that King James I commissioned a committee of scholars and churchmen to produce an “authorized” version known today as the King James Version (KJV) published in 1611.
In recent years, numerous versions have been introduced. In the life and ministries of St. John’s, we primarily use the New Revised Standard Version.