The Stories Of Christ And His First Followers
Jesus and his earliest followers were Jewish, and so they used and quoted the Jewish Scriptures. After Jesus died and was raised to life around A.D. 30, the stories about Jesus, as well as his sayings, were passed on by word of mouth. It wasnt until about A.D. 65 that these stories and sayings began to be gathered and written down in books known as the Gospels, which make up about half of what Christians call the New Testament. The earliest writings of the New Testament, however, are probably some of the letters that the apostle Paul wrote to groups of Jesuss followers who were scattered throughout the Roman Empire. The first of these letters, probably 1 Thessalonians, may have been written as early as A.D. 50. Other New Testament writings were written in the late first century or early second century A.D.
Hyperspeed From John To James
I can see you starting to fade. Wake up. Stay with me. Were going to make the jump to lightspeed and fly through the next 700 years of Bible history. Ready? Punch it, Chewie!
For the vast majority of the Middle Ages, Jeromes Vulgate translation was the chief Bible engaged by followers of Jesus. But big changes began to occur in the late 1300s when a philosopher named John Wycliffe undertook a translation of Jeromes Vulgate into English. The motivation was similar to Jeromesto put the words of God into a language common men and women could understand. While portions had been translated before him, Wycliffes Bible was the first full text in the English language.
At this point in history, and since the first followers of Jesus, there had only been one hurchthe Catholic church . While the common man suffered through the Middle Ages, the Church grew rich and powerful. Wycliffe, along with getting the Bible into a common language, began to question the state of privilege, wealth and power afforded to the clergy and the Church. He argued that Scripture was the only authoritative guide to the truth about God. This put him into the bad graces of Church leadership, including the Pope.
Apparently, God did just that. Within four years of his death, four English translations of the Bible had been published in England at the kings behest. Each one was based on Tyndales work.
Brief Synopsis & Commentary
The book of Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, tells the story of the creation of the universe, the world, and humanity, the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, and the great flood which God sent on the world because of the evil of mankind. Following the flood, Noah‘s children repopulate the earth and the narrative then follows the stories of his descendents who are the Hebrew ancestors of the men who wrote the stories. The tale of Joseph and his coat of many colors brings the Hebrews from their land of Canaan to Egypt where, the Book of Exodus explains, they became slaves.
They were led from Egypt to freedom by the great lawgiver Moses who then passed his leadership to his second-in-command Joshua son of Nun whose army lay waste to the region of Canaan so the Hebrews could claim it as the land promised to them by their God . Following the establishment of the people who called themselves Israelites in the land, famous kings such as David and his son Solomon ruled and great prophets such as Jeremiah and Isaiah, Ezekial and Jonah preached the will of their God.
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What Are The Apocrypha And Pseudepigrapha
The word “apocrypha” comes from the Greek for “hidden” or “secret.” It’s a little confusing, because the word apocrypha is used in a couple of different ways when talking about books outside of the standard biblical canon.
First, there’s the category of “New Testament Apocrypha” which includes a long list of non-canonical texts written mostly in the second century C.E. and beyond that pertain to Jesus and his apostles. As Combs says, there are hundreds of these texts and we don’t have written specimens for all of them.
Then there’s a subset of Old Testament books that are included in the Roman Catholic Bible. These seven books, including Tobit, Judith and 1 & 2 Maccabees, are published between the Old and New Testaments in the Catholic Bible and called “the Apocrypha” or sometimes the “Deuterocanon” which means “second canon.”
And then there’s a third category called “pseudepigrapha” from the Greek for “false author.” This list includes more than 50 texts written between 200 B.C.E. and 200 C.E. by both Jewish and Christian writers expanding on stories and characters from the Old Testament. Notable Old Testament pseudepigrapha include 1 Enoch, Jubilees and the Treatise of Shem.
Do Americans Trust The Bibles On Their Bookshelves
Over the past few years, researchers and statisticians have been telling us that Americans feelings about the Bible arecomplicated.
Barna Groups 2017 State of the Biblereport gave Christians a reason to feel more hopeful about the spiritual state of their neighbors. They found that 87% of American households own at least one Bible. But Lifeway released a 2016 report about how Americans think about that Bible sitting on their bookshelf. Their report said that only 47% of Americans described the Bible as completely accurate.
Pew confirmed in its 2018 report that many Americans are unsure about the trustworthiness of their Bibles. The Pew report revealed that while 80% of Americans believe in God, only 56% believe God as described in the Bible.
It seems as though even if people are curious enough to buy a Bible , they still might not believe it. Hopefully understanding where the Bible comes from helps. Here are some snapshots throughout history about how the Bible came to be.
How The Bible Came To Be:
Part 1, A Testament Is Established
Gifts of Sacrifice and Love
A certain Christian man laboring in India offered to give interested natives a copy of the Bible. After hearing of its message, many eagerly responded. One old man, looking upon the Bible with reverence, asked, âHow long has this book been in the world?â When he learned it had existed for centuries, he sorrowfully shook his head. âI am an old man. All my friends have died hopeless. â¦ And all this time the book was here and nobody brought it to me.â1 How quickly he sensed the worth of his new possession: a record of Godâs dealings with man from the time of the Creation.
The Bible is indeed a book of immense consequence. Book of Mormon prophets who in visions saw it come forth testified of its great value. For Lehi, the word of God was the physical reality behind the iron rod that led unwaveringly to the tree of life. For Nephi, the Jewish record was the âbook of the Lamb of Godâ , not fully whole nor pure, but nevertheless of great worth. Indeed, the record was so vital that Lehi was commanded to take a copy of one record as then compiledâthe brass platesâwith him to the promised land, in spite of jeopardy to his sonsâ lives and the ultimate cost of Labanâs.
But Latter-day Saints have a different understanding. By revealing to the Prophet Joseph Smith the writings of Moses, the Lord revealed anew to mankind when and how the record began.
Books Of The Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew canon contains 24 books, one for each of the scrolls on which these works were written in ancient times. The Hebrew Bible is organized into three main sections: the Torah, or Teaching, also called the Pentateuch or the Five Books of Moses the Neviim, or Prophets and the Ketuvim, or Writings. It is often referred to as the Tanakh, a word combining the first letter from the names of each of the three main divisions. Each of the three main groupings of texts is further subdivided. The Torah contains narratives combined with rules and instructions in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The books of the Neviim are categorized among either the Former Prophetswhich contain anecdotes about major Hebrew persons and include Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kingsor the Latter Prophetswhich exhort Israel to return to God and are named for Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the 12 Minor Prophets . The last of the three divisions, the Ketuvim, contains poetry , theology, and drama in Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs , Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Chronicles.
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How Did We Get The Old Testament
There wasnt much debate about what books were considered part of the OT because the Jewish people already accepted and organized those Scriptures. Leaders read them in the Temple and later in synagogues all over Israel and the Roman Empire.
But if you feel doubt about our modern leather-bound OTs, what people discovered in 1946 just might settle it for you. Eric Metaxas talks about this in his video for The Curiosity Collective.
We live in a time where you keep hearing stuff like, Oh the Bible was changed in the Middle Ages by the monks, and that we dont know what really says. Upon investigation, thats not true, he said.
Books Written By Associates Of The Apostles
The details of the historical process by which these books came to be counted as part of Scripture by the early church are scarce, but Mark, Luke, and Acts were commonly acknowledged very early, probably because of the close association of Mark with the apostle Peter, and of Luke with the apostle Paul.
Paul even calls a portion of Lukes gospel Scripture in 1 Timothy 5:17-18:
Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching for the scripture says, You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain, and, The laborer deserves his wages.
The first quotation from Scripture is found in Deuteronomy 25:4, but the second quotation, The laborer deserves his wages, is found nowhere in the Old Testament. It does occur, however, in Luke 10:7 .
So here we have Paul apparently quoting a portion of Lukes gospel and calling it Scripture. We see evidence that very early in the history of the church the writings of the New Testament began to be accepted as part of the canon.
Similarly, Jude apparently was accepted by virtue of the authors connection with James and the fact that he was the brother of Jesus.
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Biblical Understanding & 19th
The stories which the Bible relates were considered to be historically accurate and entirely unique until the mid-19th century CE when archaeologists discovered the civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. The Bible, in fact, was considered the oldest book in the world until much older literature was discovered which told the same stories, in an earlier form, than those found in the Bible. Scholars had long known that the Bible was a compilation which had been gathered from earlier works and authorized under the Bishops of Rome but no one seemed to be aware that those works were drawn from even earlier pieces. No one could read Egyptianhieroglyphics until Jean Jacques Champollion deciphered them and the literature of Sumer was completely unknown to the modern world.
In the mid-19th century CE museums and publications sent archaeologists from the west to the region of Mesopotamia to find physical evidence that would substantiate biblical narratives. The 19th century CE was an interesting period for religion in the west, especially Christianity, in that people became more vocal in their criticism of the faith and new ideas and philosophies provided for acceptable alternatives to religious belief. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection was published in 1859 CE and challenged the traditionally held belief in the creation of humanity by an all-powerful God.
The Memoirs Of The Apostles Were Considered As Important To The Teaching Of The Church As The Writings Of The Prophets
After Jesus Ascended to heaven, the church would gather to read Scripture together and pray. As the gospels, Pauls letters, and other NT books were written, the church would read those in gatherings as well. Justin Martyr, a Christian apologist, wrote about these gatherings in 150 A.D. By this early date, the memoirs of the apostles were considered as important to the teaching of the church as the writings of the prophets, according to a BibleStudyTools.com article, Who Decided What Went into the Bible?
But over time, some churches didnt like reading Hebrews, and another church didnt like reading Revelation. There were even influencers who completely rejected the OT or tried to add new prophecies. Controversies like these pushed church leaders to question and settle which books were truly inspired by God. They used a set of guidelines to recognize which books belonged in the NT canon. Lifeways article, Establishing the New Testament Canon, talks about three guidelines:
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The Spread Of Literacy And Origins Of Biblical Literature
The invention of alphabetic writing was a pivotal development in the history of writing, but it alone did not encourage the spread of writing beyond the palace and the temple. Recent discoveries at Wadi el-Hol in Egypt date the invention of the alphabet back to 2000 B.C., and for centuries after, writing likely remained the province of the elite. So what allowed the alphabet to spread beyond religious and literary elites to be used by soldiers, merchants, and even common workmen? It was the urbanization and globalization of society. This process began in the eighth century B.C. with the rise of the Assyrian Empire, which encouraged urbanization as part of a plan for economically exploiting its growing territory.
Biblical literature became a tool that legitimated and furthered the priests’ political and religious authority.
The evidence of archeology and inscriptions suggests a spread of writing through all classes of society by the seventh century B.C. in Judah. This allowed for a momentous shift in the role of writing in society that is reflected in the reforms of King Josiah at the end of the seventh century writing became a tool of religious reformers who first proclaimed the authority of the written word. This new role of the written word is particularly reflected in the Book of Deuteronomy, which commands the masses to write down the words of God, to read it and treasure it in their hearts, and to post the written word on the entrance to their homes.
Who Wrote The Bible: The New Testament
Wikimedia CommonsA depiction of Jesus delivering the Sermon on the Mount.
Finally, the question of who wrote the Bible turns to the texts dealing with Jesus and beyond.
In the second century B.C. with the Greeks still in power, Jerusalem was run by fully Hellenized kings who considered it their mission to erase Jewish identity with full assimilation.
To that end, King Antiochus Epiphanes had a Greek gymnasium built across the street from the Second Temple and made it a legal requirement for Jerusalems men to visit it at least once. The thought of stripping nude in a public place blew the minds of Jerusalems faithful Jews, and they rose in bloody revolt to stop it.
In time, Hellenistic rule fell apart in the area and was replaced by the Romans. It was during this time, early in the first century A.D., that one of the Jews from Nazareth inspired a new religion, one that saw itself as a continuation of Jewish tradition, but with scriptures of its own:
Wikimedia CommonsPaul the Apostle
While the writings attributed to John actually do show some congruity between who wrote the Bible according to tradition and who wrote the Bible according to historical evidence, the question of Biblical authorship remains thorny, complex, and contested.
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Storyline Of The New Testament
Whereas the Old Testament prepares us for the arrival of Gods Son through prophetic glimpses, the New Testament shows Him to us plainly.
The Gospels explicitly reveal Jesus of Nazareth as the long-awaited and promised Savior. They focus particularly on His crucifixion and resurrection through which He works to rescue humanity from the problems of sin and death. The Book of Acts recounts the founding of the early church and the spread of the gospel to various nations. The remainder of the New Testament includes various letters written to teach, encourage and correct wrong beliefs and behaviors . It closes by revealing things that will happen when Jesus returns.
Origins Of The Written Bible
In the modern era, we take for granted that the Hebrew Bible is a textwritten words, displayed in chapters and verse. Yet biblical scholar William Schniedewind, the Kershaw Chair of Ancient Eastern Mediterranean Studies at UCLA, has a different view. In How the Bible Became a Book , he explores when and why the ancient Israelite accountsonce conveyed only orallycame to be written down and attain the status of Scripture. Here, Schniedewind offers an overview of his findings.
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In writing How the Bible Became a Book, I began with a different question than scholars usually ask. Namely, why did the Bible become a book at all? This question began to haunt me more and more as I studied the archeology of ancient Palestine and the early history of Hebrew writing. Scholars agree that early Israel was an oral society of pastoralism and subsistence farming. So how and why did such a pastoral-agrarian society come to write down and give authority to the written word? How and why did writing spread from the closed circles of royal and priestly scribes to the lay classes? It was this spread of Hebrew writing in ancient Palestine that democratized the written word and allowed it to gain religious authority in the book we now call “the Bible.”
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