The 66 books which make up the Holy Bible were originally written in ancient languages; Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek by men who were inspired by God. The Bible itself tells us that all scripture is by inspiration of God.
The Pentateuch (the Law)
Geneses, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther.
Wisdom Literature (Poetry)
Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon.
The Major Prophets
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Lamentations, Daniel.
The Minor Prophets
Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.
The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew)
Written in the third century B.C. by Jewish scribes versed in Hebrew and Greek. Most Jews then did not understand Hebrew. Many of the Jews in the time of Jesus used the Septuagint as their Bible. Many of the New Testament Apostles quoted it when they wrote the Gospels and Epistles in Greek.
Not one of the original writings, called "the Autographs" exist today. However, the Jewish scribes made very accurate copies of the originals over the many centuries.
Certain European Jewish scribes called the Masoretes carefully transmitted it from copy to copy preserving and handing down their writings. Several of those "Masoretes" manuscripts still exist. Some of the more important ones are listed below:
The Cairo Codex of the Prophets (AD 895)
Containing the Prophets
The British Museum Codex Oriental 4445
(ninth or tenth century), containing a large portion of the Pentateuch.
The Leningrad Codex of the Prophets (AD 916)
Containing the Major Prophets.
The Leningrad Codex (AD 1008-1009)
The complete Old Testament text.
The Aleppo Codex (AD 900-925)
Originally containing the entire Old Testament text but now with a quarter of its text missing.
Until 1947 and 1948, at the time when Israel once again became a nation, the Masoretic manuscripts were the oldest known to exist.
Dead Sea Scrolls
Then the discovery of the "Dead Sea Scrolls". These scrolls date back to from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D.
Even though the Dead Sea Scrolls are nearly a thousand years older than the Masoretic manuscripts, there are no essential differences. This clearly demonstrates the extreme fidelity of the Jewish scribes for over a thousand years.
The Dead Sea Scrolls include:
At least a portion of every book except Esther. The largest portions come from the Pentateuch (especially Deuteronomy - 25 manuscripts), the major Prophets (especially Isaiah - 18 manuscripts), and Psalms (27 manuscripts). The Dead Sea Scrolls also have portions of the Septuagint, the Targums (an Aramaic translation of the Old Testament), some apocryphal fragments, and a commentary on Habakkuk. The scribes who made these scrolls were members of a community of ascetic Jews who lived in Qumran from the third century B.C to the first century A.D..
The New Testament
Though the Old Testament took hundreds of years to write, the New Testament was written in about 50 years, between 50 A.D. to 100 A.D..
The Gospel of Mark is thought to be the first of the four Gospels about 50-55 A.D.. Matthew around 70 A.D., Luke around 60 A.D., Luke also wrote the book of Acts. John's Gospel was written around 85-90 A.D..
After the four Gospels and Acts, are Paul's 13 epistles: Romans 58 A.D., 1 and 2 Corinthians 56-57 A.D., Galatians 49 or 56 A.D., Ephesians 61 A.D., Philippians 62 A.D., Colossians 62 A.D., 1 and 2 Thessalonians 51 A.D., 1 and 2 Timothy 63-66 A.D., Titus 65 A.D., and Philemon 61 A.D..
Epistles to specific churches prior to Paul's Imprisonment in Rome are Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
Epistles written during Paul's imprisonment in Rome are called Prison Epistles; Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.
Epistles written to individuals giving advice concerning the care of particular local churches are called the Pastoral Epistles; 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus.
A few scholars think Paul wrote Hebrews, but it is unlikely because of a completely different writing style. It may have been Apollos, Barnabas or Priscilla, or even some other of Paul's co-workers.
Following Paul's epistles are the General Epistles and Revelation.
James, the older brother of Jesus, wrote an epistle to the Christian Jews who had fled from Jerusalem due to persecution. His letter was written around 45 A.D. making it the earliest writing in the New Testament. Jude, the brother of James and Jesus wrote a brief letter 75 A.D., and John penned the last book, Revelation 90-95 A.D.. (note- it is Revelation, not Revelations)
During most of the first century, the Christians still had apostles present who passed along the teachings of Jesus. As the apostles began to die, the early Christians began to depend more and more on the writings and began to collect them in groups such as the four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Also Acts and Paul's epistles, 1 Peter, and 1 John.
During the second century there was much debate on which were divinely inspired. Before the death of the apostles the Old Testament was considered as Scripture. Once the issues were resolved about the middle of the fourth century, all the books were accepted by the church as being divinely inspired and worthy of inclusion in the New Testament cannon.
Even before the end of the first century, the early Christians began to make copies of what was to be known as the New Testament. They were among the first to use a form of a book called a codex instead of a scroll. A codex was much more like our present books where it had folded pages or sheets of papyrus or vellum (treated animal hide). Obviously there were many advantages to a codex over a scroll.
Not one of the original writing (autograph) of any New Testament book still exists. According to most scholars, the closest copy to an autograph is a papyrus manuscript designated P52, which contains a few verses of John 18, from around 110 to 125.
A few scholars believe there is even an older manuscript (P46) known as the Chester Beatty Papyrus II which contains all of Paul's epistles except the Pastorals. These writings have been recently dated in the late first century. If this dating is accurate, we have an entire collection of Paul's epistles that would have been made only 20 to 30 years after Paul wrote them.
Some of the important early New Testament papyrus manuscripts are:
The Oxyrhynchus Papyri;
Matthew 1, John 1; 16, Hebrews 2-5; 10-12, and John 15-16.
The Chester Beatty Papyri;
Portions of all four Gospels and Acts, almost all Paul's epistles and Hebrews, and Revelation 9-17.
The Bodmer Papyri;
Almost all of John, all of 1 and 2 Peter and Jude, large parts of Luke 3 and John 15.
During the twentieth century, nearly a hundred papyrus manuscripts containing portions of the New Testament were discovered, several of which date in the fourth and fifth centuries.
The most noteworthy of these are:
Discovered in St. Catherine's Monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai and dates to around 350 A.D. and contains the entire New Testament.
This manuscript had been in the Vatican's library since at least 1481, but had not been made available to scholars until the middle of the nineteenth century. This codex is dated slightly earlier than Sinaiticus and has both the Old and New Testament in Greek, excluding the last part of the New Testament from Hebrews 9:15 to the end of Revelation, and the Pastoral Epistles. For the most part, scholars accept Codex Vaticanus for being one of the most trustworthy witnesses to the New Testament text.
From around the fifth century, having nearly all the New Testament, this Codex is known to be a very reliable witness to the General Epistles and Revelation.
Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus:
Fifth century containing much of the New Testament which was partially erased and written upon with the sermons of St. Ephraem and later deciphered again.
Another fifth century manuscript containing the Gospels and Acts, but with a much different text.
Codex Washingtonianus, or - "The Freer Gospels".
Fifth century manuscript containing all four Gospels. This document is now located in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C..
Before the fifteenth century when Gutenberg invented the printing press, all copies of literature were made by hand, thus called manuscript.
We now have over 6,000 manuscript copies of the Greek New Testament or portions.
Today, our New Testament textual scholars have a great advantage over the classical textual scholars. These New Testament scholars have the resources to construct the original text of the New Testament with great accuracy.
Although there are minor differences in many of the New Testament manuscripts, there is not one fundamental doctrinal difference. The Christian of today can take the Bible in his/her hand with great confidence that he/she is reading the very Word of God, as handed down from generation to generation, without any significant loss.
The English Bible
As the Word spread and new churches ushered in to Christian Era, people began wanting to read the Bible in their own language. Other language translations began as early as the second century.
There were Coptic for the Egyptians, Syriac for those who spoke Aramaic, Gothic for the Germanic people - the Goths, and in Latin for the Romans and Carthagenians.
The most well known is the is the Latin Vulgate (meaning "common") translated by Jerome around 400 A.D..
Around the sixth century the Vulgate began showing up in England, brought in by missionaries from Rome. In those early years people would have to depend on monks in order to get instruction from the Bible. The monks read and taught in Latin.
After a few centuries, a need for an English translation of the Bible began to be realized. The first one is thought to have been translated by a seventh century monk named Caedmon who translated parts of the Old and New Testament.
An English churchman named Bede is thought to have translated much of the Bible into English and was still working on the Gospel of John at the time of his death in 735.
Alfred the Great (871 - 899) translated parts of the Ten Commandments which he included in his laws. He also translated Psalms.
Prior to Tyndale, all English Bibles were translated from the Latin text. Some Latin versions of the Gospels with word-for-word English translations written between the lines are called Interlinear translations. Some survive from the tenth century. The most well known from that era is the Lindisfarne Gospels - 950 A.D..
Around 955 to 1020, Aelfric, an abbot of Eynsham, made idiomatic translations of various parts of the Bible. Idiomatic simply means an attempt to translate thought for thought rather than word for word. It is difficult, if not impossible, to translate word for word from one language to another without loosing much of the "meaning" of the text. Two of these translations still exist today.
John Wycliffe, 1329 - 1384
The first hand-written English language manuscripts of the Bible were written in the 1380's by John Wycliff or Wycliffe. Wycliff spent much time demonstrating the Roman Catholic's were teaching contrary to the
It was directly because of Wycliff's efforts that the English Speaking people were finally able to read the Word of God in their own language.
After Wycliff's death, his close associate John Purvey, continued Wycliff's work by writing a revision of his translation in 1388. Within a century, Purvey's translation had replaced Wycliff's Bible.
It should be pointed out that both translations were actually translations from the Latin and not from the original languages.
Tyndale who had studied the scriptures in Greek and Hebrew translated the New Testament in 1522. Both he and Martin Luther used the same Greek text, one compiled by Erasmus in 1516. Luther, of course, translated the text into German.
The Latin that Erasmus translated from the Greek revealed enormous corruptions in the Vulgate's integrity.
Tyndale spent his life dedicated ...