Holy Bible: A General Overview
The Holy Bible is a phenomenal account of history, comprised of 66 books, written over approximately 1600 years, by at least 40 distinct authors. The Old Testament (Old Covenant) contains 39 books written from approximately 1500 to 400 BC, and the New Testament (New Covenant) contains 27 books written from approximately 40 to 90 AD. The Jewish Bible (Tenach) is the same as the Christian Old Testament, except for its book arrangement. The original Old Testament was written mainly in Hebrew, with some Aramaic, while the original New Testament was written in Greek.
Holy Bible: The Old Testament
The Holy Bible begins with the Jewish Scriptures. The historical record of the Jews was written down in leather scrolls and tablets over centuries, and the authors included kings, shepherds, prophets and other leaders inspired by God. In Exodus, God tells Moses to write the Law (Torah) in a book. About 450 BC, all of the Jewish scriptures were collected and arranged by councils of rabbis, who then recognized the complete set as the inspired and sacred authority of God. Beginning as early as 250 BC, the Hebrew Bible (Tenach) was translated into Greek by Jewish scholars in Alexandria, Egypt. The translation became known as the Septuagint, meaning 70, and referring to the tradition that 70 or 72 men comprised the translation team. At this point, the books of the Hebrew Bible were arranged by topic, including history, poetry, and prophecy. In 90 AD, at the Council of Jamnia, the Jewish elders established the final Hebrew Bible canon. Although the Jewish Scriptures were copied by hand, they were extremely accurate copy to copy. The Jews had a phenomenal system of scribes, who developed intricate and ritualistic methods for counting letters, words and paragraphs to insure that no copying errors were made. In fact, scribal tradition was maintained until the invention of the printing press in 1455. As far as manuscript accuracy, the recent discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has confirmed the remarkable reliability of the Old Testament texts over the years.
Holy Bible: The New Testament
After approximately 400 years of scriptural silence, Jesus arrived on the scene in about 4 BC. Throughout His teaching, Jesus often quotes the Old Testament, declaring that He did not come to destroy the Jewish Scriptures, but to fulfill them. In Luke 24:44, Jesus proclaims to his disciples, “All things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.” Starting in about 40 AD and continuing to about 90 AD, the eye-witnesses to the life of Jesus Christ, including Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter and Jude write the Gospels, letters and books that later become the New Testament. These authors quote from 31 books of the Old Testament, and widely circulate their material so that by about 150 AD, early Christians were referring to the set of writings as the New Covenant. During the 200s AD, the writings were translated into Latin, Coptic (Egypt) and Syriac (Syria) and widely disseminated. At this time, at least 21 of the writings were considered canonical. Thereafter, in 397 AD, the current 27 books of the New Testament were formally confirmed and canonized in the Synod of Carthage.
Like the Old Testament, we now have significant evidence that the New Testament we read today is remarkably accurate as compared to the original manuscripts. Of the thousands of copies made by hand before the printing press, we have approximately 24,000 manuscripts, including more than 5,300 Greek manuscripts from the New Testament alone. The Bible is better preserved, by far, than accepted writings of Homer, Plato and Aristotle. Of course, as the Bible was carried from country to country, it was translated into languages that don’t necessarily mirror the original languages of Greek and Hebrew. However, other than grammatical and cultural differences, God’s Word has been remarkably preserved and translated over the years. The Bible now gives inspiration to hundreds of millions throughout the world – that’s because the Bible is truly the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:20-21).
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