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How the Bible Came to Us. The Birth of the Bible. Some General Comments about the Bible. “Bible” comes from the Greek bibli,a meaning “books.” The Bible is indeed a collection of books: written over a period of 1500 years by 40 different human authors

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How the bible came to us

How the Bible Came to Us

The Birth of the Bible

Some general comments about the bible
Some General Comments about the Bible

  • “Bible” comes from the Greek bibli,a meaning “books.”

  • The Bible is indeed a collection of books:

    • written over a period of 1500 years

    • by 40 different human authors

    • including various types of literature such as narrative, poetry and song, wisdom sayings, prophecy, gospel, and epistolary.

  • Each book has a message of its own, but the books also flow together to present a unified story of redemption that runs through the whole of the Bible.

The form of ancient books
The Form of Ancient Books

The earliest forms of Bible books were written on scrolls.

Papyrus scrolls were made by gluing sheets end to end.

The writing was usually done on one side and arranged in columns 3 to 4 inches wide.

These scrolls varied in size, but were usually no longer than 35 feet and about 10 inches high.

Scrolls gave way to the codex.

This was a book with leaves or pages, the forerunner of books as we know them today.

The codex was much easier to read from than the scroll.

One book could now contain the four gospels or Paul’s letters...and eventually the whole Bible.

Christians were some of the first to make extensive use of the codex for their scriptures.

The early form of the bible
The Early Form of the Bible

  • While God’s initial communication with mankind was through the spoken word, it is easy to see how the written word was necessary to preserve such revelation for future generations.

  • Moses (c. 1525-1405 B.C.) was the first Bible writer and authored the Pentateuch and one of the Psalms.

  • Subsequent leaders and prophets wrote the OT books over time, though we don’t always know who wrote each book.

  • The canon grew over time and was assembled into an accepted collection around the time of Ezra in c. 400 B.C.

    • Josephus confirms that no book was added to the Hebrew Scriptures after Malachi.

The early form of the bible1
The Early Form of the Bible

  • The NT came into being gradually also, though over a much shorter period of time.

    • James in 45 A.D. till Revelation in 95 A.D.

  • Several of the Epistles came first, providing apostolic instruction to the churches.

  • The Gospels followed, as eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry began to die.

    • Acts provided a bridge between these two time periods of Jesus’ ministry and the early church.

    • The Apocalypse (Revelation) was written as the climax of the NT and closed the canon.

Arrangement of the english and hebrew scriptures


Pentateuch (Genesis to Deuteronomy) - 5

History (Joshua to Esther) - 12

Poetry (Job to Song of Solomon) - 5


Major (Isaiah to Daniel) – 5

Minor (Hosea to Malachi) – 12

This arrangement is derived from the Latin Vulgate and LXX.

Hebrew (TaNaK)

Law (Genesis to Deuteronomy) - 5

Prophets - 21

Former (Joshua, Judges 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings)

Latter (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve)

Writings - 13




Song of Solomon







1 and 2 Chronicles

Arrangement of the English and Hebrew Scriptures

Different order, same books!

Arrangement of the nt
Arrangement of the NT

  • History – 5

    • Gospels – “Good News” – life and ministry of Christ

    • Acts of the Apostles – 2nd volume of Luke/Acts – Birth and development of the church

  • Epistles – apostolic instruction to the church – 21

    • 13 Pauline letters; includes Pastoral Epistles

    • 8 Non-pauline letters, including Hebrews

  • Apocalypse – prophetic book climaxing with the triumphant return of Christ – 1

Languages of the bible
Languages of the Bible

  • Old Testament

    • Aramaic

      • Ezra 4:8 – 6:18; 7:12-26; Daniel 2:4b – 7:28

      • A kindred language to Hebrew; became the common tongue in Palestine after the exile.

        • And they read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading (Neh 8:8).

      • The spoken language at the time of Christ; some Aramaic is preserved in the NT.

      • (Ezr 4:18) ym'd"q' yrIq/ vr:p'm. an"yl,[] !WTx.l;v. yDI an"w"T.v.nI

    • Hebrew

      • Remainder of the OT

      • A semitic language related to Aramaic, Syriac, Akkadian, and Arabic

      • Initially without vowels; Masoretes later added vowel pointing as an aid in pronunciation.

      • #r<a'h' taew> ~yIm;V'h; tae ~yhil{a/ ar"B' tyviarEB.

  • New Testament

    • Koine Greek, the common written language of the Roman Empire

    • VEn avrch/| h=n o` lo,goj( kai.o` lo,goj h=n pro.j to.n qeo,n( kai. qeo.j h=n o` lo,gojÅ

The work of the scribe
The Work of the Scribe

  • “It is scarcely possible to overstate the importance of early scribes. In Mesopotamia and Egypt, the trained scribe was highly prized. In Palestine, professional scribes were responsible for writing and copying most Hebrew documents” (Lightfoot, p. 30).

  • Scribes copied manuscripts both by reading an exemplar and by dictation.

  • It was painstaking work, and biblical scribes were extremely careful about their accuracy.

  • See “In Praise of Ancient Scribes” by Alan R. Millard for more details.

Next time

Next Time:

Overview of the OT