The Holy Bible is the name given to the revelations of Yahweh to man contained in sixty-six books or pamphlets, bound together and forming one book and only one, for it has in reality one author and one purpose and plan, and is the development of one scheme for the redemption of humankind.
I. Its Names.
(1) The Bible, that is, 'The Book' . . . from the Greek "ta biblia", the books. The word is derived from a root designating the inner bark of the linden tree, on which the ancients wrote their books.
It is 'The Book' as being superior to all other books. But the application of the word BIBLE to the collected books of the Old and New Testaments is not to be traced farther back than the fifth century of our era.
(2) The Scriptures, that is, 'The writings', as recording what was spoken by Yahweh.
(3) The Oracles, that is, The things spoken, because the Bible is what Yahweh spoke to man, and hence also called:
(4) 'The Word'.
(5) 'The Testaments or Covenants', because it is the testimony of Yahweh to man, the truths to which Yahweh bears witness; and is also the covenant or agreement of Yahweh with man for his salvation.
(6) 'The Law', to express that it contains Yahweh's commands to men.
II. Composition. — The Bible consists of two great parts, called the Old and New Testaments, separated by an interval of nearly four hundred years.
These Testaments are further divided into sixty-six books, thirty-nine in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New. These books are a library in themselves being written in every known form of old literature.
Twenty-two of them are historical, five are poetical, eighteen are prophetical, twenty-one are epistolary. They contain logical arguments, poetry, songs and hymns, history, biography, stories, parables, fables, eloquence, law, letters and philosophy.
There are at least thirty-six different authors, who wrote in three continents, in many countries, in three languages, and from every possible human standpoint.
Among these authors were kings, farmers, mechanics, scientific men, lawyers, generals, fishermen, ministers and priests, a tax-collector, a doctor, some rich, some poor, some city bred, some country born — thus touching all the experiences of men extending over 1500 years.
III. Unity. — And yet the Bible is but one book, because Yahweh was its real author, and therefore, though he added new revelations as men could receive them, he never had to change what was once revealed.
The Bible is a unit, because
(1) It has but one purpose, the salvation of men.
(2) The character of Yahweh is the same.
(3) The moral law is the same.
(4) It contains the development of one great scheme of salvation.
IV. Original Languages.
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, a Shemitic language, except that parts of the books of Ezra Ezr_5:8; Ezr_6:12; Ezr_7:12-26 and of Daniel Dan_2:4-7; Dan_2:28 and one verse in Jeremiah Jer_10:11 were written in the Chaldee language.
The New Testament is written wholly in Greek.
V. Ancient Manuscripts Of The Original. — There are no ancient Hebrew manuscripts older than the tenth century, but we know that these are in the main correct, because we have a translation of the Hebrew into Greek, called the Septuagint, made nearly three hundred years before Yahshua.
Our Hebrew Bibles are a reprint from what is called the Masoretic text.
The ancient Hebrew had only the consonant printed, and the vowels were vocalized in pronunciation, but were not written. Some Jewish scholars living at Tiberias, and at Sora by the Euphrates, from the sixth to the twelfth century, punctuated the Hebrew text, and wrote is the vowel points and other tone-marks to aid in the reading of the Hebrew; and these, together with notes of various kinds, they called Masora (tradition), hence the name Masoretic text. Of the Greek of the New Testament, there are a number of ancient manuscripts
They are divided into two kinds, the Uncials, written wholly in capitals, and the Cursives, written in a running hand.
The chief of these are
(1) the Alexandrian (codex Alexandrinus, marked A), so named because it was found in Aiexandria in Egypt, in 1628. It date back to A.D. 350, and is now in the British Museum.
(2) The Vatican (codex Vaticanus, B), named from the Vatican library at Rome, where it is kept. Its date is A.D. 300 to 325.
(3) The Sinaitic (codex Sinaiticus) so called from the convent of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai, there it was discovered by Tichendorf in 1844. It is now at St. Petersburg Russia. This is one of the earliest best of all the manuscripts.
VI. Translations. — The Old Testament was translated into Greek by a company of learned Jews at Alexandria, who began their labor about the year B.C. 286. It is called the Septuagint, that is, the seventy, from the tradition that it was translated by seventy (more exactly seventy-two) translators. The Vulgate, or translation of the Bible into Latin by Jerome, A.D. 385-405, is the authorized version of the Roman Catholic Church.
The first English translation of the whole Bible was by John Deuteronomy Wickliffe (1324-1384). Then followed that of William Tyndale (1525) and several others. As the sum and fruit of all these appeared our present Authorized Version, or King James Version, in 1611. It was made by forty-seven learned men, in two years and nine months, with a second revision which took nine months longer.
These forty-seven formed themselves into six companies, two of whom met at Westminster, two at Oxford and two at Cambridge. The present English edition is an improvement, in typographical and grammatical correctness, upon this revision, and in these respects is nearly perfect. See Versions, Authorized.
A Revised Version of this authorized edition was made by a group of American and English scholars, and in 1881 the Revised New Testament was published simultaneously in the United States and England. Then followed the Revised Old Testament in 1885, and the Apocrypha in 1894.
The American revision committee was permitted to publish its own revision, which appeared in 1901 as the American Standard Version. Modern-speech translations have been made from time to time between 1898-1945.
Among these were Moulton's Modern Reader's Bible, the Twentieth Century New Testament, Weymouth's, Moffatt's, and the American translation. As a result of the modern-speech translations that have appeared and been widely received, the American Revision Committee set to work again, and in 1946 the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament was published.
VII. Divisions Into Chapters And Verses.
The present division of the whole Bible into chapters was made by Cardinal Hugo Deuteronomy St. Gher about 1250. The present division into verses was introduced by Robert Stephens in his Greek Testament, published in 1551, in his edition of the Vulgate, in 1555. The first English Bible printed with these chapters and verses was the Geneva Bible, in 1560.
VIII. Circulation Of The Bible. — The first book ever printed was the Bible; and more Bibles have been printed than any other book. It has been translated, in its entirety or in part, into more than a thousand languages and dialects and various systems for the blind. The American Bible Society (founded in 1816) alone has published over 356 million volumes of Scripture.