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What Language Is The Original Bible Written In

How Do You Understand Gods Word When Its Written In A Foreign Language


In reality, though, this question is never far away. In fact its very likely that if you are reading this, you are someone who reads the Bible primarily in English, as opposed to its original languages. This illustrates the point literacy and linguistic shifts are realities that biblical educators have always had to navigate. The situation after the return from Babylon forced the Jewish leadership to develop new models of religious instruction. Perhaps this creates some questions for you?

For example, what languages were originally involved in the production of the Bible? What is the connection between Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek anyway? What about the language spoken by Jesus and the Apostles? Did they preach in the same language in which they read the Torah, or in the language of the hearing audience? And what language was that? Perhaps you have wondered, Why did the Jewish authors of the New Testament produce it in Greek? Or, Since the Roman Empire was in control of Judea during the time of Christ, was Latin a factor? These are questions that will be addressed below, as well as in Part 2 next week.

Along the way, well see how the problem of the language barrier was addressed during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. In turn, that will inform us as to the connection between Moses, the Torah, and instructional models for an illiterate public. But first, lets consider the question of what were the original language of the Bible.

Here Are The Languages First Used To Write The Bible

As Wycliffe Bible Translators reports, the Bible has been translated into the world’s major first languages English, Mandarin, Spanish, etc. and so many of the world’s minor ones that, for four in five of the world’s people, the sacred text is available to them in their mother tongue. Of course, this excludes issues such as persecution and the illegality of possessing certain religious texts in select parts of the world a matter that won’t be discussed here.

For centuries, however, being able to read and understand the Bible was a privilege reserved only for a select few: those who had spent years, if not decades, learning ancient languages. Bible translation into the local language didn’t really begin in earnest until the middle of the second millennium, and even so, it was often done at great cost to the translator.

Meanwhile, the languages in which the Bible was originally written occupy a unique place in the study of linguistics. One of them died out, was revived, and is today spoken by millions of people one survived the centuries and is spoken by a small community and one remains an academic discipline that, centuries later, is still studied to this day.

When It Comes To The Original Languages Of The Bible

it seems that people

  • think they know
  • know

Our knowledge is basically a sum total of what we have learned and experienced in life.

Whatever your sum total includesthe mating practices of oysters, whether or not going to Wal-Mart on Saturday afternoon is a good idea, or some knowledge of the original languages of the Biblesthe valuable info in this post will be useful at some time or another.

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Original Language Of The Bible

Two books of the Old Testament – Wisdom and II Machabees – were written in Greek. The rest of the Old Testament was written in the Hebrew language. The New Testament was written in Greek, with the exception of St. Matthew’s Gospel which – according to the unanimous testimony of Christian antiquity – was written in Hebrew or Aramaic.

The books of the Bible were very likely written in the cursive style of writing. The cursive style joins the letters of a word together as when we write today. In addition, the ancients had two other styles of writing: the lapidary and the uncial . The lapidary style was followed in inscriptions on stone monuments and used only capital letters. The uncial style was used in fine editions of books and in elaborate Bibles and employed large disconnected letters resembling the capitals. In “uncial” writing there were no spaces between the words or sentences and punctuation marks were used rarely. The word “uncial” comes from St. Jerome’s description of some Bibles of his time as being written in “letters an inch high.”

Material taken from

The Bible Was Written In Hebrew Aramaic And Greek

Rare original leaf from the Coverdale Bible

The Bible was not written down all at once by one person. It was written and according to some accounts, copied and edited and compiled over centuries by different people living in different places and in different cultures. The majority of the words of the Bible were written in Hebrew. In fact, according to Word Counter, the King James Bible contains just over 3 million letters, or about 73% of the Bible’s text. In other words, according to this over-simplified mathematical thought experiment, nearly three-fourths of the Bible was written in Hebrew.

However, a few passages in the Old Testament were written in a companion language to Hebrew: Aramaic. A linguistic cousin of Hebrew, this language accounts for a few passages in Daniel, Ezra, and Jeremiah. According to TruthOnlyBible, these passages were possibly added by later editors decades after the rest of those books were written. Further, a few Aramaic words and phrases also pop up here and there in the New Testament, according to Baker Publishing Group.

Finally, the overwhelming majority of the New Testament save for the aforementioned Aramaic bits was written in Ancient Greek, according to the International Bible Society.

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Did King James Change The Bible

Not only was it the first peoples Bible, but its poetic cadences and vivid imagery have had an enduring influence on Western culture. In 1604, Englands King James I authorized a new translation of the Bible aimed at settling some thorny religious differences in his kingdomand solidifying his own power.

What Was The Language Of The Old Testament

Ancient Hebrew was the tongue of the ancient Israelites and the language in which most of the Old Testament was penned. Isaiah 19:18 calls it the language of Canaan, while other verses label it Judean and language of the Jews .

Ancient Hebrew is a Semitic language that dates back past 1500 B.C. Its alphabet consists of 22 characters, all consonants , and is written from right to left.

While Hebrew remained the sacred tongue of the Jews, its use as a common spoken language declined after the Jews return from exile . Despite a revival of the language during the Maccabean era, it was eventually all but replaced in everyday usage by Aramaic. Modern Hebrew can trace its ancestry to Biblical Hebrew, but has incorporated many other influences as well.

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Greek Dialect And Style

While Greek was considered the language of the learned, the New Testament writers did not write in elevated or classical Greek, but in the common parlance of the day. Todays scholars refer to the language of the Gospels and Epistles as koine Greek, set apart from both the Ancient Greek used by the likes of Plato and Aristotle and the Modern Greek spoken in Greece today. The term “koine” comes from the Greek word, , which means “common”. Most of the early Christian theological writings by the Church Fathers were also written in koine Greek, and it continues to be used as the liturgical language in the Greek Orthodox Church to this day.

Why The Hebrew Language Tapered Off After The Bar Kochba Revolt

Learn the Bible’s Original Language with eTeacherBiblical

It is estimated that ½ million Jews died in the Bar Kochba revolt from war, famine, and disease. Numerous cities and villages were completed destroyed. The majority of the remaining Jewish people were either exiled or sold into slavery.

Moreover, the particularly evil Roman emperor Hadrian, attempted to eradicate Judaism by forbidding its practice. Hadrian even forbid the Jews to enter Jerusalem except on Tisha BAv . Tisha BAv is a day of mourning set aside to remember the numerous tragedies that the Jewish people have suffered on or around this day.

However, from this time, all the way through the Middle Ages, Hebrew remained the language of Jewish liturgy and rabbinic literature.

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Is The Bible Today What Was Originally Written

The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic , and Greek . The Bibles we use today are translations from the original languages into English . Jesus most likely taught in Aramaic , so that the Greek NT itself represents a translation of Jesus teaching from the Aramaic into Greek.

The question, Is the Bible today what was originally written? involves two important questions: Are the available manuscripts of the Bible accurate representations of the original mss. of the respective books of the Bible ? This is an issue of textual transmission. Are the available translations faithful renderings of the Bible in the original languages? This is an issue of translation.

With regard to the first question, no original autographs exist of any biblical text only copies are available. The word manuscript is used to denote anything written by hand, rather than copies produced from the printing press. Textual evidence constitutes anything written on clay tablets, stone, bone, wood, various metals, potsherds , but most notably papyrus and parchment .

Most ancient books were compiled and then rolled into a scroll. Since a papyrus roll rarely exceeded 35 feet in length, ancient authors divided a long literary work into several books .

The minuscules compose the largest group of Greek mss., but they are dated considerably later.

The Greek New Testament

Luke 23:8-23, 25 from Miniscule 28, 12th century

This is a miniscule of Luke 23:8-23,25 from a late Byzantine codex of the Gospels. The majority of the codex is now in Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. The manuscript was used for many important printed Greek New Testaments. Catalogued as Codex 28.78 in Gregory Alands catalog.

Lectionary Reading from John 13:31-38. 1500

A Lectionary is a book with Scriptures organized for reading on specific days. This lectionary was used in the Orthodox church for Passion Week. It is the first lesson of the Twelve Accounts of the Passion which was read on Holy Friday. The lesson begins with a title and illuminations made with brown ink: The reading is from the according to John.

Aland L2434.

Nouum Iesu Christi D.N. Testamentum. Ex Bibliotheca Regia . Robert Estienne , Paris, 1550

Printer Robert Estienne, known by his Latin name Stephanus, printed four editions of the Greek New Testament. This third edition became normative for most biblical translations into the twentieth century.

Stephanus fourth edition of the Greek New Testament, printed in 1551, was the first New Testament with verse numbers.

. Jacob Wettstein, Amsterdam, 1751

The New Testament in Greek and English. Daniel Mace, 1729.

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The Translations Of The Bible

The many translations are necessary for spreading the word of God without any obstacles in communication. However, this should not diminish the significance of the original languages of the Bible, the Hebrew of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament, and the language of the era when the books of the Scriptures were written. The study of the original languages is imperative for the correct understanding of the meaning of the Bible. The knowledge of the original languages is also imperative in order to translate the Scriptures into the vernacular. The knowledge of the original language is especially necessary for the doctrinal teaching of the Bible.

The individual Christian is urged to read the Bible in his own language for his spiritual enrichment, but not to use the translation in arriving at personal conclusions. One should read the Bible against the background of the interpretation given it by the Church as a whole, not on one’s own interpretation. It is profitable, however, for one who studies the Bible to use short commentaries of the Church and to leave the dogmatic and systematic teaching to the Church, which is the authoritative and infallible body. Taking a Biblical verse out of context often is misleading and is the basic cause of the Christian Church being separated into many parts, each interpreting according to their own opinions and thoughts.

The Need to Know the Original Languages

The Translation of the Bible into English

Is King James The Most Accurate Bible

The First Bible Ever Written!

That venerable old standard the King James Version also shows up very high on the list of most accurate Bibles. The KJV was made before some of the best texts were found like the Textus Siniaticus. But in spite of the outdated language- the KJV remains the most popular Bible in the English-speaking world.

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Who Wrote The Bible God Or Man

The ultimate author of the Bible is God Himself, the Creator of all things, visible and invisible.

Through the process of inspiration, the Lord inspired human writers such as Moses to physically write the Living Word of God over the course of around 1,500 years.

The Bible itself tells us that all Scripture is God-breathed:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV

In essence, God superintended human authors so that each writers individual style was intact while at the same delivering exactly what the Lord intended.

We see this on full display across Scripture with the four gospels of the New Testament being a great example.

Trying to study the Bible without knowing the original languages is like trying to play Beethoven on a mouth organ. Its just not going to be huge You may get something of the tune, but it wont be what the guy actually had in mind.

N.T. Wright

Each gospel carries the specific vocabulary and style of the writer while delivering precisely what God intended.

Yet, the process of inspiration is quite difficult to understand for our puny human brains. And thats perfectly normal.

Thankfully, God sheds some light on how inspired writing works through His servant Peter:

Even though the human author of some Scripture books is unknown thats irrelevant.

Final Thoughts

How Many Languages Is The Bible Written In

Its generally accepted that the original Biblical texts were written in 3 languages:

  • Hebrew
  • Aramaic
  • Koine Greek

The Old Testament Scripture was primarily written in Hebrew and partially Aramaic .

The New Testament was written in Koine Greek with a few occasional Aramaic phrases like Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani? that Christ uses from the cross.

However, note that Hebrew and Aramaic are considered sister languages. Think of Spanish and Italian extremely similar.

Basically, if you know Hebrew, learning Aramaic would be a walk in the park and vice versa.

So one may argue that only 2 languages were used, but technically the Bible was written in 3 languages.

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When Was The New Testament Compiled

To compile intimates an intentional time and place in which various documents or fragments are united into one. The New Testament nor the Old came about this way. Rather, the books of the New Testament were received by the Church as Gods Word by numerous quantitative and qualitative factors.1 Chapter one of the Westminster Confession of Faith summarizes those factors in its article 5 :

We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church to a high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole , the full discovery it makes of the only way of mans salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.

Cyrus And The Persian Era

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In 538 BC, Cyrus the Great conquered Babylon and established the Achaemenid Empire , which at the time was the largest empire the world had ever seen. However, this had no effect on the language of the Hebrews. Cyrus quickly issued the Edict of Restoration , which allowed the repatriation of various peoples conquered by the Babylonians to return home .

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When Was The New Testament Written

Since the New Testament books of the Bible are younger than the Old Testament collection, we naturally have more understanding about how the New Testament was written. The astounding feature of this knowledge actually helps us to understand how the Old Testament was collected and compiled. There is little difference in method. The books of the New Testament were recognized in time as the divine Word of God moving through His Apostles and disciples. From A.D. 33 until approximately A.D. 80, the Holy Spirit breathed out His Word in twenty-seven books and nine authors. Among the authors used by God were those who actually walked with Jesus and had seen Jesus in His post-resurrection form . The New Testament may be simply divided into Gospels and Epistles. Paul wrote most of the Epistles. These letters to churches were primarily concerned with clarifying doctrinal truths about Jesus and the way to be saved and ethical goals for the life of believers in the Church. Misunderstanding, contextualization problems, persecution, and false teachers became the forces that caused the writings and led to clarity, faithfulness, and further revelation about the mission of God in the world through Jesus Christ.


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