There is a BUNCH of cool stories about the bible. There are many great sites out there that can take you step-by-step through the history of the book. But I thought I’d just tell you a few of the cool things I’ve learned about the bible since I graduated High School that I wish I knew…
The book we now call the bible is actually a compilation of many smaller books. Even the word “bible” comes from the Latin word “biblia” which means “books”. The books of the bible were all written at different periods of time by multiple authors. Today’s bible contains text that was written over a span of 1,500 years by over 40 authors. But they didn’t all know each other, and there were many books that were written about God (and Jesus) that are not in our modern-day bible.
Around the time when the Old Testament was being written, the common form of writing was a tablet. People would write in wax or clay. The majority of the Old Testament was written on tablets in the language of Ancient Hebrew. In those days, when someone wrote a book, the only way for them to share it, was to write multiple copies by hand. For a village to have a copy of any of these books was a very big deal. The time and talent it took to write a copy was incredible. If the writer messed up (missed a word, or even let two characters touch) the entire tablet was destroyed!
People didn’t just write about God during this time period. We have many other documents that have been placed in this time period as well. The Epic of Gilgamesh was written around the time when the first books of the bible were written and even has reference to Noah. There were many people who wrote about Jesus as well. The four first books of the current New Testament are not the only accounts of the life of Jesus. Recently, historians have found references to Jesus in personal journals of Roman military officers and government records from the time period when Jesus was alive.
Around 500 years before Jesus, the 39 books that make up our Old Testament were completed and widely accepted as ordained texts (inspired by the Holy Spirit, written by man). These texts were distributed to many major cities of that day.
Many people could not read or write, so many people dedicated themselves to memorizing the words of these books. Most Jewish boys around the time of Jesus could recite the entire first four books of the Bible. The first four books were referred to as the books of The Law. In the New Testament we see Paul refer to the “law” that the Jews hold in high regard. He is referring to the first four books of the Old Testament. Jews refer to these books today as the Torah. So if someone says they are quoting the Torah, they are quoting from the first four books of the bible. Even Jesus himself quoted from the first 39 books of the bible.
About 200 years before Jesus walked the earth, there were 14 books written that were added to the first 39 books. These 14 books would later be stricken from our current bible, and be referred to as Apocrypha.
Around 300 AD people were writing on papyrus. Papyrus is pounded fibers rolled flat to make paper like surfaces. The word bible comes from the same Greek word as “papyrus”. Multiple pieced of papyrus are called codex. The oldest codices of the New Testament are in a museum and in the Vatican.
Around 300 years after Jesus, new writings were introduced that covered the life of Jesus and His teachings. While the old books were all written in Hebrew, these new books were all in Greek. These books were combined with the original 39 books of the Old Testament and the 14 Apocrypha books and all translated into Greek to make the first 80-book bible.
Around 380 years after Jesus, all of these 80 books were translated into Latin. Latin was a language mainly used by priests in those days, and by 600AD it was the only allowed language for any scripture to exits in.
Soon, the first bible to be written with Greek and Latin side by side was hand written and bound. Later, in 1535, the very first English version of the bible (all 80 books) was printed by Myles Coverdale. It wasn’t till 1611 that The King James translation appeared, and it wasn’t till 1782 that it was printed in America.
Pretty soon after that, many translations appeared with all 80 books. It wasn’t till 1885 that the Apocrypha was taken out or many bibles (some Roman Catholic bibles still retain 12 of the 14 books that were taken out).
I hope these few facts inspire you to search more into the history of our bible.
What are you learning about the book?