The History of Bible Making Research Paper
The history of Bible making is an unclear subject to most people. Majority, especially Christians, blindly believe in the bible teachings without seeking to understand how it came about or where it came from. It is very important for Christians to understand this subject in order to comprehend more about their religion.
By doing so, Christians will not only be followers of Christianity, but also they will be part of it. Scholars argue that the process of bible making started thousands of years ago during the pre-reformation period between 1400 B. C and 1400 A.D. During the pre-Reformation period, the Bible existed in the original languages of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew.
The translation of the Bible started about 1380’s AD when John Wycliffe wrote dozens of manuscripts in English. The canonization process whereby the authorities determined which ‘writings’ were authoritative to form the present Bible has received worldwide criticism throughout the history.
It is uncertain why the authorities included some texts rather than others. Although, the original manuscripts of the Bible might not be available to support the arguments of most theologians, historical sources for both Testaments of the Bible provide sufficient evidence regarding the origin of the Bible. This study touches on historical issues surrounding the dissemination of the bible across the world.
The aspects explored here provide supportive evidences for emergence of different versions of the Bible. The purpose of this research is to find out how the modern Bible was collected into its current form. With focus on New Testament, the paper discusses the textual content considered for inclusion into the Bible. The paper will also examine the role played by translation of the bible as a developmental stage as the bible moved into its current form, what many refer as ‘the modern bible.’
This section highlights various teachings and writings by the early scholars, which could have led into composition of the modern Bible. The writing by Constra Celsum between 3rd BC and 3rd AD played a crucial role in the writing of the New Testament. Celsum criticized the then Christianity teaching of monotheism. Although, Celsum was a pagan, scholars assert that he believed in supreme divinity.
However, his argument was that there existed other inferior divinities which the supreme God delegated powers (Young 1990, 35). With the birth of Jesus, Celsum argued that the Christian’s position on monotheism loosened and monotheists slowly disappeared with the waning popularity of their religion. Celsum’s writings elicited debate among the Christian thinkers, who worked hard to defend the core teaching of Christianity.
In order to ensure respect for Jewish monotheism, Christian scholars wrote different texts, which disapproved the arguments of Celsum and from these texts Paul founded his teachings. 1Corinthians 8:6 states that, “But to us there is but one God” (NRV). As this text presents, the author seemingly was opposed to the views of other people such as Celsum. Scholars believe that this passage aimed to confirm the Jewish faith in monotheism.
Although, non-Christians such Celsum questioned monotheism, Paul derived 1 Cor. 8:6 from the teachings of the defenders of monotheism such Justin Martyr.
Theologians attribute the origin of John’s first chapter to the accounts of Justin Martyr. In his writings, Justin argued that God used creative speech to present his reason. This reason is what Justin referred to as Logos. In John’s first chapter, the author defines the reason as the word through which God revealed Himself to man. In fact, God expressed Himself through the ‘word’ in Genesis.
As per the Justin’s writings, the word was not just any word; it was wisdom. In order to illustrate this word as wisdom, according to Justin’s assertion, the author refers to the word as God. This teaching proved to the doubting Thomases that Jesus was the son of God since it was through him that God’s word reached the world. It is therefore justifiable that, Justin’s writings contributed significantly to the writing of the gospel books in the Bible.
The gospel books focus on confirming to the world that Jesus is the only son of God through whom, His word shall reach and save the world. Justin’s work illustrated the difference between Jesus and the prophets. According to him, Jesus was a fulfillment of the Old Testament as predicted through the prophecies of Isaiah. This further formed the foundational texts for the writing of the gospel biblical books.
The concept of God’s trinity evolved in 2nd century AD, when Irenaeus indicated that there were three personalities of God: Son, word and the spirit. As a doctor of the church, Irenaeus’ teachings received applauded attention among the Church thinkers.
Although the modern bible does not consider word as the element of trinity, it is apparent that Irenaeus’ writings formed the basis for God’s trinity in the bible. According to modern theology, God trinity is composed of three personalities namely, the father, son and the spirit. The ‘father’ replaced the ‘word’ in the Irenaeus teaching.
As the Gospel of John notes, “The word was God” (John 1:1, NRV); therefore, it is justifiable to conclude that the ‘word’ was the ‘father’ according to Irenaeus’ teachings. The writings of Irenaeus are the basis of the New Testament teachings that God is the spirit, the son and the father.
Another important scholar though controversial in the making of the New Testament is Noetus of Smyrna. Noetus in 200 AD wrote that Jesus was not the son, but the father. Although, his work may not be vivid in the New Testament, he contributed greatly to the understanding of God among the non-Christians. As per some Biblical contexts, particularly the New Testament, Jesus possesses the powers of God. Indeed, he is God.
The writing of the Bible
Originally, the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament existed in the Hebrew language except a few books, which Scholars wrote in Aramaic. Close examination of these different texts is useful for reconstruction of the most likely origin of the Old Testament.
According to Mykytiuk (2010), “the very oldest fragment resembling part of the text of the Hebrew Bible so far discovered is a small silver amulet, dating from approximately 600 BCE, and containing a version of the Priestly Blessing” (76). The Old Testament of the modern Bible originated from the Hebrew bible. The authors of the Old Testament used three blocks of genres, the Torah, Deuteronomy history, and Chronicler’s history.
The Torah comprises of books between Genesis and Deuteronomy. Torah reflects many historical writings by the Hebrew scholars concerning God’s creation of both the world and man. It also includes the history of Moses, Egypt and the Israelites. The Deuteronomy and Chronicler’s histories focus on the Israelites journey to Canaan.
Originally, the New Testament was recorded in Greek and for over the years, more than 56,000 copies of the ancient Greek Bible have survived. It is from this original manuscript that scholars derived the modern New Testament. With the support of the Roman Empire, composition of the New Testament was made easier. The authors in the New Testament describe the stories of Gospels and the Revelation.
The Gospels describe the life of Jesus Christ in the world whereas Revelation describes the end of the time and the ultimate God’s judgment to mankind. Most scholars such Dever, Young among others dispute the authorship of the New Testament books. Based on the contextual evidences of these books, scholars should not have any reason for contention. Critical analysis of the gospels reveals that the authors were conversant and closer to Jesus.
Therefore, as Mazar asserts,”the disciples or their associates therefore wrote these stories (1992, 65). It is therefore justifiable to assert that John wrote the gospel of John and so on. Scholars unanimously agree on the Paul’s authorship of the epistles and acts. This observation holds because of contextual evidences, which characterize Paul’s personality.
Evidences for Paul’s authorship
The epistles have one common format throughout the New Testament. They start with Paul’s greetings to his audience. According to Jewish culture, greetings represented courtesy and love (Mazar 1992, 73). Paul possessed these two characters. Prior to his conversion, Paul, then Saul, persecuted the followers of Christ and after the conversion; God filled him with love and the urge to transform the world.
Therefore, in order to share this love, Paul introduced his letters with “Grace and peace of Jesus Christ to you” (NRV). The letters end with similar phrase that “Grace to all who Love our Lord” (NRV). It is therefore clear that these epistles share the author, who happens to be Paul.
The second evidence is the subject of the letters, commonly known as epistles. The author aims to bring hope to humanity. Since on his conversion Paul found hope, it is justifiable that Paul used these letters to bring hope to the world. The letters also focus on change of the behaviors among the Jews.
As a person who transformed his life through encounter with God, Paul uses these epistles to transform others not to succumb in sin. In his letter to Galatians 5:1-13, Paul informs them that it is through transformation of their lives that they will live in freedom (NRV). According to Paul, human beings are captives of sin and free people in Christ. Since Paul had experienced this captivity, it is only him who could write such content.
The third evidence, which supports Paul’s authorship, is the message of peace and care for others contained universally in the epistles. As indicated earlier, the letters begins with a message of peace. In 2Corinthians 7:1, Paul emphasizes on purification of the heart (NRV). Through purification of his heart, Paul acquired unlimited peace in God.
Therefore, such message illustrates Paul believed in purification of the heart as the means to eternal peace. Throughout the letters, Paul advocates for friendship among the people of God. Because of his past life as a persecutor, Paul clearly understood the effects of unfriendliness among God’s people. Therefore, in order to ensure that the people of God do not experience the same, Paul used these letters to warn Christians in advance.
Canonization of the Bible
According to Young, the canonization of the “Old Testament consists of 24 Hebrew books, which Hebrew scholars further divided into three parts: the Torah or the law, prophets and writings” (1990, 98). The modern Old Testament therefore derived its plan from this Hebrew Bible and other additional books. The modern bible arrangement however is slightly different from the Hebrew Book. It consists of the books of Law, then the historical books, followed by the books of wisdom and the prophetic books.
The canonization of the New Testament began towards the end of 2nd century. It started with the acceptance of the ten letters of Paul. Irenaeus’ argument for inclusion of Gospel canon into the New Testament then followed. Early in the 3rd century, scholars accepted the other books.
However, an official canon of the New Testament never existed. In Egypt for example, Christians used at least 35 books in New Testament while Jerome version (Latin) had 27 books. Mid 4th century, Athanasius, the Alexandria bishop raised the question on which canon the church was to adopt. In order to avoid the spread of false information about Christianity, church authorities developed the basis for canonization of the New Testament.
The church delegated the responsibility to the church councils who canonized the New Testament based on several guiding principles. First, the author of every book considered had to be an apostle or an associate of a disciple. Mark for instance was not an apostle, but a friend of Apostle Peter.
Secondly, the message of the book had to act as a divine revelation of the Old Testament and reflect Jesus’ Character. For example, the gospel of Matthew is a fulfillment for the prophecy of Isaiah on birth of Jesus Christ and the salvation of the world. Thirdly, the council had to consider the universality of the book; all the books had to communicate the message of God, which all the Churches would practice.
All the epistles of Paul provide hope, encouragement and love to the world, which were teachings of Jesus Christ. Finally, the council had to consider whether the books provided inspiration to the church. They had to ensure that all the books had spiritual character of God to inspire the believers.
Historians note that there were three major councils: Laodicea (A.D. 363), Carthage (A. D 397) and Hippo (419 A. D). “Laodicea accepted all the New Testament books except Revelation; the other two councils endorsed the 27 books” (Mazar 1992, 39). However, throughout the canonization process, the council members disputed several books including Philemon, Hebrews, II Peter, Jude, John’s epistle, and Revelation.
The book of Philemon did not measure up to the canonization protocols for as per the priests of that time, this book was simply another personal letter if not secular manifesto. The council could not figure out the authorship of the book of Hebrews, whether the author was an apostle or a friend to the apostle. The Epistle of John was not universal to the church and it was very brief while Jude and II Peter were not original; they seemed to contain borrowed information.
Finally, Revelation was the center for dispute since very few Christians comprehended its message up to A. D 400. Its apocalyptic imagery of the judgment and the end of the world proved confusing to most council members and the church. Finally, by 450 A. D the church had reached a consensus of a New Testament with 27 books, which is the composition of the modern bible. The council did not include texts such as Maccabaeus and Enoch simply because they did not meet the canonization criterion.
Translation of the Bible
During the 3rd century BC, Greek was the first language for Jewish communities who lived in the Diaspora. Since Greek had written the New Testament, there was no need for Bible translation until five centuries later when people developed the urge to read the Old Testament.
This was therefore the first reason for translation of the bible (Lemche1998, 32). Due to spread of Christianity all over the world, scholars and theologians shifted their focus on bible translation into major languages such as English. John Wycliffe was the first scholar and theologian to translate the bible from Latin into English.
However, the church opposed severely his teachings. In his translated bible, Wycliffe argued that the bible should be available in all the languages for all people to read. Wycliffe further taught that, the church should not continue to perpetuate oppression among the Christians. The church was so infuriated such that it murdered all the Wycliffe’s followers.
Through the invention of translation, the spread of the canonized bible against the will of the early church became possible. This invention further resulted into making of a beautiful bible, used by the modern Christians. Translation increased understanding of scriptures to many Christians. This further enhanced the interpretation of the biblical messages. Interpretation of the bible by many Christians enhanced further translations into native languages.
For instance, Professor Colet’s translation of the Greek New Testament into English resulted into increase in Christians in London. Historians note that after this translation, Christians increased beyond the capacity of the church of London; a clear indication that translation increased the scripture knowledge among the Christians, which further led into translation of the bible into the modern languages.
During the translation, there were alterations in the content of the original bible. These alterations meant to reduce the powers of the church and this is the reason for existence of varied versions of the English bible. Comparison of verses for different versions of the bible would clearly evidence this argument. Therefore, changes made by reformers during the translation era, contributed significantly into the development of the modern bible.
The making of the modern bible started before the 3rd century B. C, with the teachings of the early scholars. These scholars expressed their thoughts through diverse writings some of which became the basics for writing of the bible. Beginning with the Celsum’s criticism to the teachings of Irenaeus and finally to the contribution of the translators, the collection of the modern bible came into realization.
The important stage of modern bible making is the canonization stage whereby, the council of the church selected the books for inclusion in the bible. The canonization criterion had three important guiding principles viz. universality of the books, the nature of the message contained in the book, and inspiration of the book to the Christians. Paul’s authorship of the epistles is widely accepted by the modern scholars. The messages in these epistles characterize Paul’s personality.
Theologians refer to Paul as the message for hope, encouragement, and peace. Because these characters form the messages in the epistle books, it is justifiable that Paul is the author of these books. Translation of the bible on its part played a very crucial role in the development of the modern bible. Alterations in the content of the original bible during the translation process resulted into the different versions of the modern bible.
Lemche, Niels P. 1998. The Israelites in History and Tradition. London: John Knox Press.
Mazar, Amihai.1992. Archaeology of the Land of the Bible: 10,000-586 B.C.E. New York: Doubleday.
Mykytiuk, Lawrence J. 2010. Strengthening Biblical Historicity vis-vis Minimalism: Introducing a Bibliographic Essay in Five Parts. Journal of Religious and Theological Information 9, no. 3 (January): 71-83.
Young, Frances M. 1990. Making of the creeds. London: SCM Press.
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Introduction The history of Bible making is an unclear subject to most people. Majority, especially Christians, blindly believe in the bible teachings without seeking to understand how it came about […]