What is the oldest Bible version?
"What is the oldest Bible version?" becomes a logical question today if you're trying to purchase a Bible. The choices of Bibles confronting today's reader are overwhelming. So what exactly distinguishes one version from another? Primarily, the difference lies in the language in which the text was written.
The Bible in one form or another can be found in scores of languages, including ancient languages. In fact, the Bible was originally written and preserved in two ancient texts. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the New Testament written entirely in Greek. The oldest printed translation of the Bible into the English language dates back nearly five hundred years, when in 1524 William Tyndale first printed the New Testament.
So, what is the oldest Bible version? Centuries before Tyndale's English translation of the Bible, two versions existed in Latin. The Latin Vulgate is a translation into 'common' (vulgar, thereby vulgate) Latin completed by Jerome in 383 CE. Jerome did the translation himself directly from the Hebrew, and today it is commonly known as The Vulgate.
However, there is a much older Latin version of the Bible, used for centuries by Christendom. This version, called The Old Latin Vulgate (or Itala), is known to have been in existence by AD 157. Church father Turtullian, in his own writings dated around 200 C.E, cited various Latin quotations directly from The Old Latin Vulgate. This "original" vulgate (Latin) version continued to be used for nearly a millennium, until Latin basically ceased being a common language.
What is the oldest Bible version? Consider the original recipients of Scripture. God, in communicating His love for man and His desire for a loving relationship with them, set apart an individual through whom He would communicate and illustrate that love. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants became that vehicle. And the very first portions of Scripture (God's message to man) were written in their language, which was Hebrew. Portions of the Old Testament in Hebrew date back several hundred years further than either the Greek or Latin versions. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, manuscripts now exist from as early as 168 B.C., and confirm that Hebrew was still the language used by Jews during the time of Christ. In fact, their discovery has helped establish the preciseness and integrity of Hebrew scribes in accurately reproducing manuscripts throughout the ages.
The oldest Bible versions available to us today are millennia old. The Masoretic Text, written in Hebrew, became the standard authorized Hebrew text around 100 AD. It existed prior to the writings of the New Testament, confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls as early as 168 B.C., and was used as the official Hebrew Old Testament at the time the biblical canon was established.
So what is the significance of all this, you ask? The significance lies in love. God's love for you! His story is a love story, a story which began millennia ago. Across the centuries, His love has guarded it and protected it. Today, it lies within your own hands. Don't let it slip through your fingers. God's love cherished you. Open His gift today and discover your love story written across its pages.
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