A Short History of the Bible

Have you ever wondered how the Bible came to be as we know it today? To be very honest with you, I never really thought to much about that in the past. All I really knew was, that the Old Testament was translated from the Hebrew text, and the New Testament was translated from the Greek. Well this will be a short history of the Bible, so we can better understand it’s origins for the purpose of this study.

I will start around the time period third century B.C., with the Septuagint. The Septuagint arose in the 3rd and 2nd B.C, when the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament was translated into the Greek language. The name Septuagint comes from the Latin word for seventy. The tradition is that 70 or (72) Jewish scholars were the translators behind Septuagint. The Septuagint is also known as LXX ( which is the Roman numeral “70”). The scholars worked in Alexandria during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus (283-247 BC). According to the Letter of Aristeas, called so because it was a letter addressed from Aristeast to his brother Philocrates. They assembled to translate the Hebrew Law and books of the Testament, into the Greek language because Kione Greek began to supplant Hebrew as the language most commonly spoken by the Jewish people during the Hellenistic Period. I will be covering the Hellenistic Period latter in this study. The Septuagint was often used by New Testament writers when they quoted from the Old Testament. The Septuagint was the translation of the Old Testament that was used by the early congregation of believers.

The New Testament (45 -95 AD) was written in Greek. Here is the time periods of some of the books in the New Testament, the Epistles of Paul, the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Luke, and the book of Acts are all dated from 45-63 AD. The Gospel of John and the book of Revelation may have been written as late as 95 AD.

Early translations of the New Testament. Here I will now jump up in time to around 380 AD, The Latin Vulgate. The Latin Vulgate was translated by St. Jerome. He translated into Latin the Old Testament from the Hebrew and the New Testament from the Greek. The Latin Vulgate became the Bible of the Western Church until the Protestant Reformation in the 1500’s. It continues to be the authoritative translation of the Roman Catholic Church to this day, and is not authoritative scripture and should not be read by anyone, I apologize if you are Catholic and reading this, my intent is not to offend anyone, my intent with this study is to inform people of the truths of scripture. If you are of the Catholic faith I urge you to research the history of your faith, and draw your own conclusions about the Catholic Church, not what you are being told. However this study is not about the Catholic Church so I will move on.

Now we will jump ahead to 1380 A.D. The first English translation of the Bible was by John Wycliffe. He translated the Bible into English from the Latin Vulgate. This was a translation from a translation and was not a translation from the Hebrew or the Greek. Wycliffe was forced to translate from the Latin Vulgate because he did not know Latin or Greek. In 1456 A.D. Gutenberg produced the first printed Bible in Latin. Printing revoultionized the way books were made. From now on books could be published in great numbers and at a lower cost. Notice the English translations began right around the close of the Middle Ages (the Dark Ages), I believe God had His hand in that for sure, it began a new time of learning, which is what we are still doing to this time. Moving forward to 1514 A.D. The Greek New Testament was printed for the first time by Erasmus. He based his Greek New Testament from only five Greek manuscripts, the oldest of which dated back only as far as the twelfth century. With minor revisions , Erasmus’ Greek New Testament came to be known as the Textus Receptus or the “received texts.” In 1522 A.D. Polyglot Bible was published. The Old Testament was in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin and the New Testament in Latin and Greek. Erasmus used the Polyglot to revise later editions of his New Testament. Tyndale, which many will recognize this name from Tyndale House Publishing, a publisher of many Bibles we read today, he made use of the Polyglot in his translation on the Old Testament into English which he did not complete because he was martyred in 1534. Then we get to 1611 A.D. The King James Version into English from the original Hebrew and Greek. The King James translators of the New Testament used the Textus Receptus as the basis for their translations. The Bible I use today.

I will be talking more about the early English translations throughout this study, but that should give everyone who did not know the history behind the Bible’s we have today, a better knowledge now. I did not cover the New translations available today, because I do not use them for study. So now when I may refer to, example, the Septuagint everyone will now know what I’m referring to. So that concludes this post, until next time.