The Bible, of course is not just one book, it is a library. It is not only a history of a people in their struggle from slavery to freedom. It is war and peace; poetry and drama; despair and hope; cowardice and courage; compassion and cruelty; love and hate; celibacy and polygamy; love and marriage; birth and death; the forgiveness of sins, and the promise of everlasting life.
Acknowledged the best seller of all time, it is the best seller of best-sellers in modern times. Hundreds of millions of Bible have been printed and distributed. Millions of Bibles and parts are sold, given away and otherwise distributed each year. It has been translated into more than a 1,500 different languages and dialects. Most every book in the New Testament ends with the word AMEN, except the book of Acts, because the Acts of the Holy Spirit are not finished yet and will not be until the plan of Salvation is finished.
The thirty-nine Old Testament books were translated from the Hebrew into the Greek in 277 B.C., by seventy scholars at Alexandria, Egypt, so we know they were in the present complete form by that time. We do not have any of the original manuscripts, but we have many copies of them. Some of the original may have been found in Palestine, Egypt or Syria, but if so no release of them has surfaced yet. We can understand the difficulty of preserving the originals when we realize that they were written on Papyrus, which becomes brittle when wet and so not much papyrus survived the ravages of time. In the end of the fourth century, Constantine the Emperor of Rome had fifty copies of the Bible made, some of which may still be in existence. We have more than 2000 manuscripts of the Bible books, but of all these there are three that stand out far above the others. Considered the greatest and best of these is the Codex Siniaticus, found at the foot of Mount Sinai in 1844. Written in Greek capital letters on antelope skins. It contained all the Bible except for a very small portion of the Old Testament. The New Testament is complete. Found by a German scholar, Tischendorf, this manuscript is considered the most complete of all.
CODEX VATICAN US
The second is the Codex Vaticanus, so named because it has rested in the Vatican since 1475, it has portions of Genesis, Psalms and Hebrews missing. Many scholars accept this as one of the fifty written in the fourth century.
Another of the best manuscripts is the Codex Alexandria. Written about the fifth century, it is now in the British Museum.
THE METICULOUS JEWISH SCRIBES
Extreme accuracy by the scribes in writing and rewriting the manuscripts was assured by the sacredness with which the Jewish scribes held to Scriptures. One Rabbi warned “Take heed how thou doest thy work for it is the work of heaven - -do not drop or add a letter lest thou become a destroyer of the world.” The scribes would not trust their memory, counting every word and every letter and if when compared with the original, one mistake was found, the whole page was destroyed. They pronounced each word aloud before writing it, they wiped the pen before writing “GOD” and washed their bodies before writing “JEHOVAH.” Scholars have marveled at the accuracy of their manuscripts.
MANUSCRIPTS AND VERSIONS
Bear in mind that a manuscript is the copying or rewriting in the same language. A version is from one language into another. This is called “translation.” Translation is much more difficult as there are few if any words in any language that have a word in another language meaning exactly the same. Therefore the translator must translate the thought or the intent of the original language. This leads to almost as many versions as there are translators, each attempting to express the thought, which, in his honest opinion, is expressed in the original. The Bible has been translated into more languages than all other books together. Pilgrim’s Progress was translated into 111 languages; Shakespear’s drama into 33 and Homer’s Iliad into 20. But the Bibles leads them all, being translated into over 1500 languages and dialects.
The Old Latin Version was translated from the Greek into Latin about the close of the second century.
Translated from Greek into the Egyptian about the same time.
This was translated about 375 by Uifilas for the Goths in the northern borders of the Roman Empire.
This was revision of the second century Old Latin Version.
The first hand-written English language Bible manuscripts were produced byJohn Wycliffe, an Oxford professor, scholar, and theologian. Wycliffe produced dozens of English language manuscript copies of the scriptures. They were translated out of the Latin Vulgate, which was the only source text available to Wycliffe. Wycliffe believed that the Bible ought to be the common possession of all Christians, and needed to be made available for common use in the language of the people. National honor seemed to require this, since members of the nobility possessed the Bible in French. Portions of the Bible had been translated into English, but there was no complete translation. Wycliffe set himself to the task. From him comes the translation of the New Testament, which was smoother, clearer, and more readable than the rendering of the Old Testament by his friend Nicholas of Hereford. Wycliffe’s greatest influence was through the Bible that he translated. The New Testament was completed in 1380 and the Old Testament in 1382, just two years before he died. The whole was revised by Wycliffe's younger contemporary John Purvey in 1388. Thus the mass of the people came into possession of the Bible (thanks to early innovations in printing and more traditional bookmaking workshops).
In 1525 Tyndale finished and had printed 15,000 copies, most of them were burned at the cross of St. Paul and in 1535 he himself was burned at the stake, and in dying cried “Lord open the eyes of the King of England.
In the year of his death Coverdale finished translating the entire Bible into English.
By 1550 the demand for the Bible was so great that nothing could stem the tide against keeping the Bible confined to coffin of the dead Latin language. The Catholic Church, in 1582 finished the Old Testament and in 1610 the New Testament. This is called the Rhemis-Douay version.
KING JAMES VERSION
So named because James, King of England authorized 48 of the world’s best scholars to translate the Bible into English.
In 1885, 101 American and English scholars gave to the world the Revised Version and the translators from then until now are both too current and too numerous to mention.
ABOUT THE BIBLE