Study “How We Got Our Bible”? Essay Example
Study “How We Got Our Bible”? Essay Example

Study “How We Got Our Bible”? Essay Example

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  • Pages: 18 (4934 words)
  • Published: October 21, 2017
  • Type: Research Paper
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The Bible clearly shows that God has been directing history to carry out his plan.

Although the Bible serves as a record of godly actions and has a turbulent history, our study concentrated on the Middle Ages until the Authorized or King James Version. Nonetheless, our goal was to unravel its complex past and explore profound inquiries.

Versions of the Bible

Despite the availability of more precise and modern translations today, the KJV remains influential in English-speaking nations. It continues to be extensively published and circulated compared to any other edition.

How did this unique work come about? Did King James personally create it? Actually, it was the result of over fifty scholars' efforts after more than two hundred years of translating the Bible into English.

The Wycliffe Bible King Alfred the Great (d. 901) initiated a translation of the Psal


ms, and in the 10th century, different regional languages had translations of the Gospels. However, theologian John Wycliffe is recognized for making the initial endeavor to translate the complete Bible into English in the fourteenth century.

Wycliffe, towards the end of his life, was expelled from Oxford University in 1381 for criticizing the established church. He found shelter at Lutterworth Church and attracted followers who started translating the Bible into English. This translation may have been influenced by Wycliffe's teachings and done upon his request. It is uncertain if Wycliffe himself directly participated in this translation endeavor. The objection of the church to this translation was not primarily because it was in English, as there were already other existing English translations of certain parts of the Bible. Furthermore, copies of Wycliffe's translation were legally owned by nobles and clergy.

The main

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responsibility of the Wycliffe Bible was to be distributed by the Lollards, who were considered "heretical", and it was used to challenge the teachings and practices of the church. Additionally, the church was worried about how Bible reading would affect the common and uneducated people. It believed that only the educated clergy should have access to the Bible since salvation was achieved through the teachings of the church and the sacraments led by the clergy. Copies of Wycliffe's books and his translated Bible were burned, along with some of his followers.

The desire for the Bible in English is evidenced by the survival of approximately 200 manuscripts of the Wycliffe Bible, despite attempts by the church to eradicate it and persecute its readers. However, it is important to note that the Wycliffe Bible was not flawless; it was translated from Latin rather than directly from Hebrew and Greek. In 1516, when Erasmus published his Greek New Testament, the conditions were favorable for an English translation from the original biblical languages.

Tyndale's translation
William Tyndale, who had received education at both Oxford and Cambridge universities, personally witnessed the lack of knowledge among certain local clergy members.

Tyndale reportedly stated to a churchman, "If God saves my life for many years, I will create a child who knows more of Scripture than you do if he drives the Big Dipper." Tyndale desired official support for his project and approached Bishop Tunstall of London, a scholar and friend of Erasmus, in 0523. However, with Protestantism becoming a threat, the church hierarchy was not willing to allow a common translation of the Bible. Tunstall informed Tyndale that there was no place in London's

castle or anywhere in England to translate the New Testament. Tyndale secured sponsorship from wealthy merchants and traveled to Germany, where he completed the New Testament within two years. The printing in Cologne was halted by the city senate after only a few pages had been printed. Tyndale quickly moved to Worms, where 6000 copies were printed.

By April 0526, they were selling in England. Of these 6000 transcripts, only two remain. This is partially due to Bishop Tunstall buying the remaining stock to have them burned, which ironically paid off Tyndale's debts and funded a new and improved edition. Tyndale reprinted his New Testament multiple times while working on the Old Testament. In 1530, he published his translation of the Pentateuch, with a revised edition of Genesis released in 1534.

Tyndale not only translated Jonah and all of the books from Joshua to 2 Histories, but he did not live to see them published. His translation was directly done from the Greek and Hebrew languages, with assistance from grammars and Latin and German translations. He is regarded as the originator of the English Bible: around 90% of his words are found in the King James Version, while approximately 75% can be seen in the Revised Standard Version. Additionally, Tyndale's translation faced criticism from church authorities due to being unauthorized and not based on the official Vulgate version.

Furthermore, Tyndale chose to abandon traditional terminology and instead used phrases like "repent" in place of "do penance", "congregation" instead of "church", and "elder" rather than "priest". He also introduced strongly Lutheran prefaces to certain books, some of which were translations by Luther himself. Additionally, he included Protestant margin notes

that often criticized the Catholic Church harshly. Tyndale resided with English merchants in Antwerp, a location considered relatively safe at the time. However, his safety was compromised in 1535 when he was betrayed by a fellow Englishman and subsequently arrested. After enduring imprisonment for eighteen months, he was eventually strangled and burned at the stake on October 6, 1536 in Brussels. According to accounts, his final words were reportedly a plea: "Lord! Open the King of England's eyes."

A significant development took place with Coverdale's Bible in 1534 as it coincided with the separation of the Church of England from Rome. In December of that same year, the Canterbury Convocation made a formal request to the king for an English Bible.

Miles Coverdale, who had previously collaborated with Tyndale, published it in 1535. The reason Coverdale's Bible was better received than Tyndale's is that it did not contain any confrontational prefaces or notes, and it included a flattering dedication to the king. Like other Christian bibles of the time, it also included the Apocrypha, but Coverdale was the first to compile these books separately from the Old Testament, a practice followed in all subsequent Protestant English Bibles. Some parts of Coverdale's Bible were revisions of Tyndale's work, while others were new translations from German and Latin. Although it was not without flaws, it was the first complete English edition of the Bible.

The Matthew Bible

In 0537, 1500 transcripts were printed at Antwerp as the work of “Thomas Matthew” . However, it was actually the work of John Rogers, a friend of Tyndale who became the first Protestant sufferer during Mary's reign. This translation

included approximately 2000 marginal notes, some of which were controversial (although not as sharp in tone as Tyndale's).

The Great Bible

This was the first officially commissioned English Bible. It was designed by Thomas Cromwell and approved by Archbishop Cranmer.

Miles Coverdale, the editor, was tasked with producing a Bible based on the Hebrew and Greek languages. This meant that he revised not his own translation, but rather the Matthew Bible. The few included notes were only for clarification. However, this Bible had a controversial beginning. When the first edition was being printed in Paris, the Inquisitor General seized the manuscripts. After negotiations, it was agreed that the manuscripts, paper, and type could be transferred to London, but the confiscated sheets were not returned. Therefore, the production of the Great Bible in England was delayed until 1539, and the transcripts were sold without being bound.

The Geneva Bible was produced in Geneva by Protestant exiles who fled the reign of Roman Catholic Mary in 1553. This new translation, published in 1560, greatly improved upon earlier translations. The translators were skilled linguists who carefully studied the original languages and utilized the best scholarly resources.

The fringy notes, while milder compared to Tyndale's, were firmly, some said passionately Protestant. Later versions were clearly anti-Catholic. This translation was reprinted in at least 140 complete or partial editions. It was the first Bible to be printed in Scotland (1579) and became the version designated to be read in the Scots churches.

The Bishop's Bible

When Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1558, she mandated that every parish church must possess an English Bible. The Geneva

Bible was not acceptable due to its controversial fringy notes.

In 1561, Archbishop Parker of Canterbury presented a new translation. It was finished in 1566 and was called the Bishop's Bible, as all the transcribers were bishops themselves. This version was essentially a modified form of the Great Bible, with some influence from the Geneva Bible. While it was an improvement on the former, it did not reach the same level as the latter. As a result, although it received official approval, it did not surpass the Geneva Bible in terms of popularity.

During the Protestant reign of Elizabeth, English Roman Catholics desired to challenge the Protestants in their own territory and avoid having to read Protestant translations. As a result, a translation project was initiated at a college in Douai, France in 1568. The project, initially conducted in Rheims and eventually returned to Douai, was led by Gregory Martin. Martin translated two chapters each day, beginning with the Old Testament. Subsequently, two other scholars revised his work.The New Testament appeared in print in 1582 at Rheims, followed by the Old Testament twenty years later. The Douai-Rheims translation was based on the Latin Vulgate and criticized the ignorance of the misbelievers of that time. It was considered more accurate than the vulgar Greek text and opposed the daring autonomy of translating by Protestants. However, it was unintelligible to those who did not know Latin.

The King James Version: The Crown of translations
Queen Elizabeth was succeeded in 1603 by James I (who was already King James VI of Scotland). The Puritan party in the English Church, aiming for a more Reformed approach, met with the bishops and the new

king at the Hampton Court Conference within a year.

One of their petitions was for a new translation of the Bible "because those which were allowed in the reign of Henry VII and Edward VI [and used in the Book of Common Prayer] are not accurate to the original". The bishops initially opposed this, but the king supported it. The bishop of London, Richard Bancroft, argued that if there was to be a new translation, it should not include any marginal notes.

Upon agreement, the male monarch voiced his objection to the Geneva Bible due to its incendiary notes. Unlike its predecessors, the King James Version was a collaborative effort involving approximately 50 scholars from six groups. The text, including the Apocrypha, was divided among these groups, with each member responsible for working on their assigned portion. The scholars were instructed to revise the Bishops' Bible, making changes only when necessary based on the original Hebrew or Greek texts and referring to earlier translations that were closer to the original.

When the King James Bible was created, the transcribers relied heavily on the Tyndale and Geneva Bibles, as well as the Rheims New Testament. They worked together to produce a unified translation after completing their individual versions. Afterwards, a panel of two members from each group carefully reviewed the entire Bible. This meticulous process, combined with advancements in scholarship at that time, guaranteed that the King James Bible was the most precise translation available. Nonetheless, it did have its imperfections as there was no system of textual criticism during that era which resulted in relatively poor text choices for translation.

Despite the limited understanding of everyday Greek during New

Testament times and imperfect knowledge of Hebrew, the transcribers had good comprehension of classical Greek. They compensated for these deficiencies by consistently maintaining neutrality in their marginal notes, offering explanations only for difficult words. Additionally, they invested considerable effort in ensuring a superbly written English translation. It is worth noting that although commonly known as the "Authorized Version," the King James Bible did not immediately replace the Geneva Bible, which continued to be printed for over thirty years.

Despite opposition from Puritanism, the Geneva Bible remained popular for a period of time, although it was considered "hotter." However, the King James Version eventually became the standard for English-speaking Protestants and later got replaced by the Revised Version in the 1980s. Both Shakespeare and the King James Version had a significant impact on the English language.

The Influence of Translation

Please take note of the differences in these translations of Psalm 23:

The New Testament

The Rise of the New Testament

"But Jesus sat down and began to write on the ground with his finger" (John 8:6). This passage illustrates that Jesus possessed writing abilities.

Although Jesus did not write, he was a teacher. Others were responsible for recording his teachings. However, Jesus did not have to worry about literacy because it was common in ancient Israel. The skill to write fluently and clearly was prevalent, just like the ability to memorize lengthy and complex texts. Hence, Jesus could rely on his followers to not only memorize his teachings but also write them down. Additionally, Jesus and those around him were proficient in multiple languages.

Aramaic was commonly spoken for daily activities, while Hebrew was primarily used for religious practices, particularly in

worship and reading scripture (e.g. Luke 4:16-30). However, there was also knowledge of a third language, Hellenic, which was spoken in the eastern Roman Empire. Recent studies have revealed that even Orthodox Jews conversed in Greek for everyday interactions among themselves.

Jesus himself used Greek in the dialogue with the Greek-speaking Syrian Phoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30), and in the discussion about paying taxes to Caesar (Mark 12:13-17), which relies on a pun that only works in Greek. Writing materials were scarce: leather or parchment was highly valued; papyrus had to be imported. Writers often had to use pot shards or wax tablets, which had limited space for detailed texts. Shorthand writing was the most practical solution.

Despite the ongoing debate about the exact Reconstruction of the earliest phases, it is known from the prologue of Luke's Gospel that there were other writings available for him to draw upon, in addition to the completed Gospels of Matthew and Mark: "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word" (Luke 1:1-2). In essence, while there are theological theories about the gradual development of the Gospels in certain ancient communities, some historical evidence suggests that Jesus' first followers may have transmitted his teachings in written form.

Christian libraries

Early Christians quickly collected such writings, as they had a deep interest in the literary world. Occasionally, they even jest about it: "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the

whole world would not have room for the books that would be written" (John 21:25).

The text below emphasizes the use of literature in biblical passages. It demonstrates a familiarity with literary tradition through references to composing items and the act of writing. These references include bringing a cloak and coils to Troas, requesting to write on a coil and send it to the churches, and describing the sky as receding like a coil. This highlights the symbolic use of literature in these passages.

The act of composing texts had a significant impact, resulting in the need for archives, libraries, and even shops where copies could be ordered and provided. Christians with a Jewish background would have been familiar with the collected scrolls of the Torah, Nebiims, Psalms, and similar texts. Those from a Greco-Roman background would have been aware of collections of philosophers and poets such as Aratus, Cleanthes, Menander, Euripides, and others, which Paul references in his letters and speeches. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls gives us insight into how Jews and Judaic Christians organized their libraries. These libraries contained three types of books: copies of Holy Scripture (now known as the Old Testament), commentaries on the Bible, and theological writings.

Christians initially relied on the Law and the Prophets as their primary source of scripture. These texts were copied and distributed because they foretold the suffering and salvation of Jesus the Messiah many centuries before.

Letters compiled

The question arises as to how we should understand and apply these foundational texts. The interpretation was primarily given in significant speeches, such as Peter's at Pentecost, Stephen's, and Paul's, all

of which were recorded and edited by Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, a sequel to his Gospel. Additionally, the letters play a crucial role in interpreting Old Testament narratives, characters, and prophecies.

Some of the letters in the New Testament, such as Paul's letter to the Romans, an anonymous letter to the Hebrews, and the two letters of Peter and the letter of Jude, require a good understanding of the Old Testament and other Jewish texts. These early Christian letters were actually the first documents distributed as collections. This is mentioned in the New Testament itself. At the end of Peter's second letter, we are reminded, "Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him."

He writes in the same manner in all of his letters, discussing these matters within them. This statement assumes the existence of a collection of Paul's letters, although it may not be complete. Recent scholarship suggests that 2 Peter should be dated to Peter's lifetime, rather than being considered a second-century work authored by one of Peter's followers. If we follow this dating, an initial collection of letters would have existed in the 60s of the first century. This is logical since all of Paul's surviving letters had already been written by then. A few years ago, Young-Kyu Kim, a papyrologist at Gottingen University, definitively established that p46 (an early collection of Paul's letters) should no longer be dated to around A.D.

200, as it has typically been. On the other hand, Kim presented various reasons to suggest that it should be dated

to the late first century - in other words, during the lifetime of individuals such as John and other “survivors” from the early Christian era.

The Final Four

Martin Hengel, a renowned New Testament scholar from Tubingen University, offered fresh insights into the compilation of the Gospels. When looking at a contemporary book on a library shelf, you can extract the author's name from the spine.

During the time of the New Testament, books were in coil form instead of having spinal columns. Regardless of how these coils were stored, only the top part with a grip would be visible. To identify the contents, small strips of parchment or leather, known as sittiboi, were attached to the grip. Due to limited space, if there was only one book on a particular topic, only the title would be provided. For the Gospels, as long as there was only one, the sittibos would say "Euangelion," meaning "Good News" or "Good News of Jesus Christ." However, as soon as a second Gospel emerged, distinctions became necessary. The first and second Gospel would be labeled according to their respective writers - "according to Mark," "according to Matthew," and so on. Therefore, well before the end of the first century, both the number of Gospels and their author names had become well-established.

Our first literary beginning is Papias, composing at about A.D. 110. None of the subsequent alleged Gospels existed yet - neither the Gospel of Thomas, nor that of Nicodemus, of James, nor whomever. Papias knows and accepts the earliest Gospels, and he gives us some anecdotal information about their writers. For example, he calls Mark “stubble-fingered” -

what on Earth does that mean? What does he mean when he tells us that Mark was the hermeneutes of Peter? The brief quotation marks from Papias's works leave many a question unanswered. The impact of it, however, remains: Papias of Hierapolis knew about a collection of Gospels as early as the beginning of the 2nd century - and this implies the existence of such a collection at an even earlier stage.

In essence, he confirms the information about Paul's letters from the redating of the papyrus codex p46. Roughly seventy years later, around 180, Irenaeus presents a point that has sparked scholarly debate. He provides the chronological order of the four Gospels as we know them today: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Additionally, he states that Mark's Gospel was written after the "exodus" of Peter and Paul. This term has been used to determine the Gospel's timeline; if "exodus" refers to their deaths, as most critics believe, then the earliest possible date for Mark would be A.D. 67, when Paul and Peter were likely martyred.

Exodus can also mean "departure," which is the title of the second book of the Old Testament. Does Irenaeus suggest that Peter and Paul left Rome at some point before their eventual return and martyrdom? A few years ago, E. Earle Ellis, an American scholar, provided a significant part of the answer. He examined every work of Irenaeus and found that Irenaeus never uses "exodus" when he means "death."

For the word "death," he always uses the equivalent Greek word Thanatos. Thus, it is likely that Mark's Gospel was written after the deaths of both Peter and Paul, but before their

departure from Rome.
Other New Testaments
Similar to today, early Christians had their preferred texts, and at times certain parts of letters or even entire Gospels were still widely read. In the case of Second Peter, it was mainly read in its designated region of northern Asia Minor. Clement of Rome, writing around A.D.

The first known writer to quote from this letter is possibly 96 (maybe even several decades earlier). Communities in other parts of the Roman Empire hadn't even heard of it, let alone read it from the beginning. When it finally reached them, some had doubts about its authorship by an apostle. However, Origen, a theologian and philologist from the third century, claimed that Peter had proclaimed the Gospel of Christ in "the double hunter's horns of his two letters." Therefore, it is not surprising that some people began collecting and arranging Christian writings in unique ways. Around A.D. 140, a man named Marcion arrived in Rome and developed a pseudo-Christian belief in God and Christ.

That led him to accept those early apostolic Hagiographas that emphasized the physical Resurrection of Christ and Jewish roots of Christianity. In the end, all he accepted was a poorly condensed version of Luke (without the Nativity scenes and the elaborate Resurrection visuals), and 10 of Paul's letters. Soon enough, he and his followers were condemned as heretics, and their movement eventually dwindled away.

Narrowing the list

Marcion, however misguided, did force the church to officially consider which books should make up the New Testament. In the process, the church never succumbed to the temptation to "harmonize" the documents.

The four Gospels - with their different accents, narrations, and addresses - were not

seen as an awkward battalion, but as complementary. They were seen as a comprehensive study by human beings with their individualisms, given by God. They were never seen as contradictory, and therefore did not require editing, as Marcion believed. For example, early Christians noticed that the letter of Jude had taken over big balls from 2 Peter (or vice-versa), but they also recognized that this provided insight into how letters were used and applied during the first generations. Martin Luther was not the first to observe that Paul, with his emphasis on faith, seemed to see things differently from James, who stressed the importance of works. The early Christians preferred to view these themes as complementary.

"Unity in diversity" describes the concept behind the compilation of the New Testament. It raises the question of how large the diverse collection should be. In the early 4th century, Eusebius of Caesarea examined this matter and largely affirmed the contents of a fragmented list dating back to around A.D.

In the 3rd century, Eusebius mentioned a list called "Canon Muratori" that included texts that were still disputed among some churches. These texts included the letters of James and Jude, 2nd Peter, the 2nd and 3rd letters of John, and Revelation. Eusebius himself did not express any uncertainty about these texts, but he firmly believed that the Shepherd of Hermas, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Acts of Paul, the Letter of Barnabas, and the Didache were not authentic, meaning they did not have a genuinely apostolic origin. However, in later centuries, different versions of the New Testament emerged. The Codex Vaticanus, which contained both the Old and New Testaments, had the

complete New Testament as we know it today. However, the Codex Sinaiticus still included the Letter of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas. Later on, in the 4th century, the Codex Alexandrinus did not include the Shepherd and Barnabas but included two letters of Clement instead. This shows that even official codices that were costly to produce and therefore had regional approval continued to have some degree of freedom in choosing which writings to include beyond the agreed upon core of 27 writings.

It was an individual who eventually helped clarify things. Firm consensus In 367, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, took the opportunity of his one-year Easter Festal Letter (a missive to all the churches and monasteries under his jurisdiction) to explain what the Old Testament and the New Testament should consist of. In terms of the New Testament, he listed the same 27 texts we have today, and he wrote, "These are the 'springs of redemption,' so that anyone who is thirsty may be satisfied with the message contained in them. Only in them is the teaching of true faith proclaimed as the 'Good News."

'Let no one subtract from or add to these." Athanasius states that the Shepherd of Hermas and the Teaching of the Apostles (the Didache) are "indeed not included in the canon." However, he does acknowledge that they are beneficial readings for new converts. Athanasius's list did not settle the matter everywhere. In the West, variations remained possible, and as we have seen, a codex like Alexandrinus could, decades after the Festal Letter, happily include two letters that the bishop did not even mention. But by the early 400s, the consensus of

tradition was more or less established. In a letter in 414, Jerome seems to accept the New Testament books listed by Athanasius - a list that corresponds to today's New Testament.

Jerome believes that the Letter of Barnabas should also be included in the canon of the New Testament. This is because Barnabas was a companion of Paul and an apostle. However, despite his personal opinion, Jerome acknowledges that the consensus had established a fixed position on the canon by the beginning of the 5th century. This means that the canon could not be changed, even if individuals held different beliefs. Since Jerome's time, the canon of the New Testament has been affirmed by history, tradition, and worship.

Despite some scholarly efforts to exclude or include certain books, these 27 books have remained an essential core of Christianity worldwide.

How did we receive our Old Testament?

There are four phases in the development of the Old Testament canon:

Addresses and expressions:

God inscribed the Ten Commandments in stone (Deut. 5:22). Moses placed the Book of the Covenant, which included the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-23:33), where they were recognized as important by the people. For example, the prophet Micah preserved in Micah 3:9-12 initially caused King Hezekiah to atone (Jer.

Most of the books of the Old Testament consist of significant vocalizations. The Book of the Covenant became part of the Book of Exodus and was immediately recognized as the Word of God by Moses. In Deuteronomy, Moses instructed, "Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the Ark

of the covenant... There it will remain as a witness against you" (Deut. 31:24-26).

The book was later transferred to Solomon's temple and suffered decades of neglect. In 625 B.C., those repairing the temple rediscovered it. After hearing it read, King Josiah and all the people repented (2 Kings 22-23). Occasionally, books were later expanded through new vocalizations or writing. The obituary of Moses was surely added to Deuteronomy, for example. As a result of these additions, some books have come down to us in two forms. For instance, there is both a shorter version of Jeremiah preserved in the Greek translation, the Septuagint, and a longer version preserved in the standard Hebrew text.

There are also two editions of Ezekiel, Proverbs, and parts of other Old Testament books.

Collection of books: The five books of Moses - the "Books of the Law" - were likely edited throughout the time of Ezra - Nehemiah (ca. 400 B.C.). During the exile (587-539 B.C.), Deuteronomy through 2 Kings (excluding Ruth) were added.

The text states that in Daniel 9:2, Jeremiah is mentioned as being cited in "the books," which refers to the sacred writings later known as "The Prophets." This does not include the writings found in the Law (Genesis through Deuteronomy). Additionally, the Psalms consist of five books containing collected Psalms.

The establishment of a definitive collection:

Following the Antiochene persecution, possibly led by Judas Maccab, a fixed canon was formed.

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