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Luke Harley Gospels
The Bible is the sacred book of Christians. It was the first printed book and has been translated into more languages than any other written work. Described as the most influential book ever produced, it arguably addresses most issues that affect human beings and has been referred to in almost every imaginable situation. To consider oneself to be well read one must first be well versed in the Bible.

The Bible is generally divided into two books: the Old Testament and the New Testaments. Although version of the New Testament are available, it is unusual to find a Christian Bible with only the Old Testament. The Old testament has 5,800 different word, compared to 4,800 words in the New Testament. Hugo used 38,000 different words; Shakespeare 24,000; Homer 8,500.

After laboring for 17 years, Dr. Thomas Hartwell announced in 1862 that the Old Testament contained 22,214 Verses, 593,493 words and 2,728,100 letters and the New Testament contained 7,959 Verses, 181,253 words and 838,380 letters. He also found that the word "and" appeared 46,727 times in the entire Bible and word "girl" appeared only once (in the 3rd verse of the 3rd chapter of Joel).

Modern versions of Bible have almost 800,000 words, making it more than ten times longer than the Koran. Over the years a number of people have complained about what a chore it to read. Historian Edward Gibbon, author of the multi-volume Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire , complained about its “endless incoherent rhapsody of fable and precept,” Thomas Carlyle said it was “as toilsome reading as I ever undertook: a wearisome, confused jumble, crude, incondite.”

According to the BBC: The Bible is not just one book, but an entire library, with stories, songs, poetry, letters and history, as well as literature that might more obviously qualify as 'religious'. The Christian Bible has two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is the original Hebrew Bible, the sacred scriptures of the Jewish faith, written at different times between about 1200 and 165 BC. The New Testament books were written by Christians in the first century AD. [Source: John Drane, July 12, 2011 BBC |::|]

The English word "Bible" is from the Greek phrase ta biblia, "the books," an expression Hellenistic Jews used to describe their sacred books several centuries before the time of Jesus. Christians adopted the phrase "Old Testament" to refer to these sacred books they shared with Jews. Jews called the same books Miqra, "Scripture," or the Tanakh, an acronym for the three divisions of the Hebrew Bible: Torah ("instructions" or less accurately "the law"), Neviim ("prophets"), and Kethuvim ("writings," including Psalms, Proverbs, and several other books). Modern scholars often use the term "Hebrew Bible" to avoid the confessional terms Old Testament and Tanakh. As for the New Testament, its current twenty-seven book form derives from the fourth century CE, even though the constituent parts come from the first century. Christians did not agree on the exact extent of the New Testament for several centuries.

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ancient Byblos in present-day Lebanon,
the source of the word Bible
“The sheer diversity of literature in the Bible is one of the secrets of its continuing popularity through the centuries. There is something for all moods and many different cultures. Its message is not buried in religious jargon only accessible to either believers or scholars, but reflects the issues that people struggle with in daily life. Despite their different emphases, all its authors shared the conviction that this world and its affairs are not just a haphazard sequence of random coincidences, but are the forum of God's activity - a God who (unlike the God of the philosophers) is not remote or unknowable, but a personal being who can be known by ordinary people. |::|

Books: Oxford History of the Biblical World by Michael D. Coogan; Oxford Companion to the Bible by Bruce Metzger and Michael D. Coogan.; Eerdman's Dictionary of the Bible by David Noel Eerdman. How to Read the Bible by James Kugel (Free Press 2008) explains how the entire Bible was read as much as the texts themselves to determine how the text were canonized by Jews and Christians.

Websites and Resources: Christianity Britannica on Christianity ; History of Christianity ; BBC on Christianity ;Wikipedia article on Christianity Wikipedia ; Religious Tolerance ; Christian Answers ; Christian Classics Ethereal Library ; Early Christianity: Elaine Pagels website ; Sacred Texts website ; Gnostic Society Library ; PBS Frontline From Jesus to Christ, The First Christians ; Guide to Early Church Documents; Early Christian Writing ; Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins ; Early Christian Art ; Early Christian Images ; Early Christian and Byzantine Images ; Bible and Biblical History: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible ; King James Version of the Bible ; Bible History Online ; Biblical Archaeology Society ; Jesus and the Historical Jesus ; Britannica on Jesus Jesus-Christ ; Historical Jesus Theories ; Wikipedia article on Historical Jesus Wikipedia ; Jesus Seminar Forum ; Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ ; Jesus Central ; Catholic Encyclopedia: Jesus Christ

History of the Bible

The word Bible comes from Greek word byblos , meaning book, or papyrus. There is also a town in Lebanon called Byblos that used to ship the holy book. The Bible was written between the 13th century B.C. and the A.D. 3rd century.

The oldest manuscripts of the collected books of the Bible date back to around A.D. 350. One is a Vatican manuscript written in Greek. It is now in the Vatican Library. The other is the Sinaitic manuscript from the St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mt. Sinai. Also known as Codex Sinaiticus, it contains the earliest known complete copy of the New Testament . Handwritten on parchment in Greek, it was found in 1844 and 1859 and was split up into parts. Only 823 of an estimated 1,487 pages survive, with parts of it still at St. Catherine’s and large chunks of it in the British Museum and other parts in Russia and Germany. In the 2000s, the various parts were united at the Internet address

The oldest known individual books date back to around 100 B.C. and are part of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These include a few lines from Isaiah coped before 73 B.C. See Dead Sea Scrolls, Judaism.

Didache: the First Christian Document?

“The Didache (pronounced 'did ah kay') is a Christian manual giving unique details regarding baptism, eucharist and church leadership from an early period of Christian development. |Its name comes from the title, The Teaching (Didache) of the Lord, by the Twelve Apostles, to the Gentiles. At present scholars are still divided over the date and significance of the Didache. However, over the past few years there has seen a steady movement in favour of the idea that the Didache contains extremely ancient material. |::|


According to the BBC: “Christianity as a world religion began when St Paul persuaded Jesus's Disciples at a crisis meeting in Jerusalem that you didn't have to become a Jew to be a Christian. An Oxford academic, Alan Garrow, claims to have identified the record of that meeting in a section of a document called The Didache describes the process leading to the baptism of Gentiles wishing to convert to the (Jewish) Jesus movement. It does not require them to be circumcised - and thus does not require them to become Jews as a preliminary step. [Source: BBC, August 4, 2009|::|]

The Didache, also known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, is a brief anonymous early Christian treatise, dated by most modern scholars to the first century. The first line of this treatise is "The teaching of the Lord to the Gentiles (or Nations) by the twelve apostles". The text, parts of which constitute the oldest extant written catechism, has three main sections dealing with Christian ethics, rituals such as baptism and Eucharist, and Church organization. The opening chapters describe the virtuous Way of Life and the wicked Way of Death. The Lord's Prayer is included in full. Baptism is by immersion, or by affusion if immersion is not practical. Fasting is ordered for Wednesdays and Fridays. Two primitive Eucharistic prayers are given. Church organization was at an early stage of development. Itinerant apostles and prophets are important, serving as "chief priests" and possibly celebrating the Eucharist. Meanwhile, local bishops and deacons also have authority and seem to be taking the place of the itinerant ministry. The Didache is considered the first example of the genre of Church Orders. The Didache reveals how Jewish Christians saw themselves and how they adapted their practice for Gentile Christians The Didache is similar in several ways to the Gospel of Matthew, perhaps because both texts originated in similar communities. The opening chapters, which also appear in other early Christian texts, are likely derived from an earlier Jewish source. [Source: Wikipedia]

Oxyrhynchus Papyri

The Didache is considered part of the group of second-generation Christian writings known as the Apostolic Fathers. The work was considered by some Church Fathers to be a part of the New Testament, while being rejected by others as spurious or non-canonical. In the end, it was not accepted into the New Testament canon. However, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church "broader canon" includes the Didascalia, a work which draws on the Didache. Lost for centuries, a Greek manuscript of the Didache was rediscovered in 1873 by Philotheos Bryennios, Metropolitan of Nicomedia, in the Codex Hierosolymitanus. A Latin version of the first five chapters was discovered in 1900.

Oxyrhynchus Papyri

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri are a group of manuscripts discovered during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by papyrologists Bernard Pyne Grenfell and Arthur Surridge Hunt at an ancient rubbish dump near Oxyrhynchus in Egypt (modern el-Bahnasa). The manuscripts date from the time of the Ptolemaic (3rd century BC) and Roman periods of Egyptian history (from 32 BC to the Arab conquest of Egypt in 640 AD).

Only an estimated 10 percent are literary in nature. The lion’s share of the papyri found seem to consist mainly of public and private documents: codes, edicts, registers, official correspondence, census-returns, tax-assessments, petitions, court-records, sales, leases, wills, bills, accounts, inventories, horoscopes, and private letters. Although most of the papyri were written in Greek, some texts written in Egyptian (Hieroglyphic, Hieratic, Demotic, mostly Coptic), Latin and Arabic were also found. Texts in Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac and Pahlavi have so far represented only a small percentage of the total.

Since 1898 academics have puzzled together and transcribed over 5,000 documents from what were originally hundreds of boxes of papyrus fragments the size of large cornflakes. This is thought to represent only 1 to 2 percent of what is estimated to be at least half a million papyri still remaining to be conserved, transcribed, deciphered and catalogued. Oxyrhynchus Papyri are currently housed in institutions all over the world. A substantial number are housed in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University. There is an on-line table of contents briefly listing the type of contents of each papyrus or fragment.

Oxyrhynchus Papyri from AD 113

Among the Christian texts found at Oxyrhynchus, were fragments of early non-canonical Gospels, Oxyrhynchus 840 (3rd century AD) and Oxyrhynchus 1224 (4th century AD). Other Oxyrhynchus texts preserve parts of Matthew 1 (3rd century: P2 and P401), 11–12 and 19 (3rd to 4th century: P2384, 2385); Mark 10–11 (5th to 6th century: P3); John 1 and 20 (3rd century: P208); Romans 1 (4th century: P209); the First Epistle of John (4th-5th century: P402); the Apocalypse of Baruch (chapters 12–14; 4th or 5th century: P403); the Gospel according to the Hebrews (3rd century AD: P655); The Shepherd of Hermas (3rd or 4th century: P404), and a work of Irenaeus, (3rd century: P405). There are many parts of other canonical books as well as many early Christian hymns, prayers, and letters also found among them.

All manuscripts classified as "theological" in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri are listed below. A few manuscripts that belong to multiple genres, or genres that are inconsistently treated in the volumes of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, are also included. For example, the quotation from Psalm 90 (P. Oxy. XVI 1928) associated with an amulet, is classified according to its primary genre as a magic text in the Oxyrhynchus Papyri; however, it is included here among witnesses to the Old Testament text. In each volume that contains theological manuscripts, they are listed first, according to an English tradition of academic precedence (see Doctor of Divinity).

Books of the Jewish, Protestant and Catholic Old Testaments

Jewish — — Protestant — — Roman Catholic

The Law (Torah) Genesis — — — Genesis
— — — — — — Exodus — — — Exodus
Genesis — — — Leviticus — — — Leviticus
Exodus — — — Numbers — — — Numbers
Leviticus — — — Deuteronomy — — Deuteronomy
Numbers — — — Joshua — — — Josue (Joshua)
Deuteronomy — Judges — — — Judges
— — — — — — Ruth — — — — Ruth [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, <=>]

The Prophets (Nebhiim) — I Samuel — I Kings (=I Samuel)
The Former (Earlier) — II Samuel — II Kings (=II Samuel)
Prophets: — — — I Kings — — — III Kings (=I Kings)
Joshua — — — II Kings — — — IV Kings (=II Kings)
Judges — — — I Chronicles — — I Paralipomenon
I Samuel — — — II Chronicles — (= I Chronicles)
II Samuel — — Ezra — — — — II Paralipomenon
I Kings — — — Nehemiah — — (= II Chronicles)
II Kings — — — Esther — — — I Esdras (Ezra)
The Latter Prophets: Job — — — II Esdras (Nehemiah)
Isaiah — — — Psalms — — — ** Tobias (Tobit)
Jeremiah — — Proverbs — — — ** Judith
Ezekiel — — — Ecclesiastes — — Esther (with additions)
The Twelve: — Song of Solomon Job
Hosea — — — Isaiah — — — — Psalms
Joel — — — — Jeremiah — — — Proverbs
Amos — — — — Lamentations — Ecclesiastes
Obadiah — — — Ezekiel — — — Song of Songs
Jonah — — — — Daniel — — — ** Book of Wisdom
Micah — — — Hosea — — — — ** Ecclesiasticus
Nahum — — — Joel — — — — Isaias
Habakkuk — — Amos — — — — Jeremias
Zephaniah — — Obadiah — — — Lamentations
Haggai — — — Jonah — — — — ** Baruch (including the
Zechariah — — Micah — — — — Letter of Jeremiah)
Malachi — — — Nahum — — — Ezechiel
— — — — — — Habakkuk — — Daniel

The Writings — Zephaniah — — Osee (Hosea)
(Kethubhim) — — Haggai — — — Joel
— — — — — — Zechariah — — Amos
Psalms — — — Malachi — — — Abdias (Obadiah)
Proverbs — — — — — — — — — Jonas (Jonah)
Job — — — — — The Apocrypha — Micheas (Micah)
Song of Songs — * I Esdras (or III Esdras) Nahum
Ruth — — — — II Esdras (or IV Esdras)Habacuc
Lamentations — * Tobit — — — Sophonias (Zephaniah)
Ecclesiastes — — * Judith — — — Aggeus (Haggai)
Esther — — — — — — — — — Zacharias (Zechariah)
Daniel — — — — * Additions to Esther Malachias (Malachi)
Ezra — — — — * Wisdom of Solomon — **I Machabees
Nehemiah — — * Ecclesiasticus — ** II Machabees
I Chronicles — — * Baruch
II Chronicles — Letter of Jeremiah
* The Song of the Three Young Men
* Bel and the Dragon
Prayer of Manasseh
* I Maccabees
* II Maccabees

* Books accepted by The Eastern Orthodox Church but not included in the Jewish Canon. ** Books accepted by Roman Catholics but not included in the Jewish Canon.

Translations of the Bible

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Luke Codex Brixianus
The original Old Testament was written in Hebrew. The Torah, or Hebrew Bible, used by Jews today is a 10th century translation of Greek translation which in turn was based on translations of Hebrew and Aramaic text. By the A.D. 1st century few Jews--- which by that time had been dispersed around the Mediterranean---spoke Hebrew anymore. Aramaic was the dominant language in Palestine while Greek had been the language of culture since Alexander the Great conquests in the 4th century B.C.

Many modern translations of the Christian Bible are based on Greek translations of the Hebrew original. The Septuagint is a famous Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible made in the 3rd century B.C. It contains 13 documents not included in the original Hebrew Bible. The Septuagint became the Old Testament for Christians.

The Septuagint (from Latin for “70") is so named because according to tradition it was assembled by 72 Jewish translators called to Alexandria by the Greek-Egyptian ruler Ptolemy II (285-246 B.C.) to help put it together---an assertion that appears to be untrue based on research that indicates different parts of it were written at different times in different places. In any case the Septuagint remains the authoritative Old Testament of the Orthodox and Catholic churches. From Greek not Hebrew it has been translated into Old Latin, Coptic, Armenian, Arabic and a host of other languages. Protestants have used the Hebrew Bible for its translations into vernaculars.

The Masoretic (traditional Hebrew) texts---on which English translations of the Bible are based--- is in turned based on manuscripts of the Torah, the Hebrew Bible, transcribed in the beginning of the 11th century in what is known as the Leningrad Codex.

The Vulgate is the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church. It is an early translation of the Bible into Latin by St. Jerome, who lived around A.D. 400 and uses both Greek texts and Hebrew texts for his translations.

Many Protestant versions of the Bible have been translated into the vernacular languages of ordinary people. This tradition dates back to the time of Martin Luther. After the Diet of Worms in 1521 Luther was "abducted" by sympathetic knights and taken to Frederick the Wise's Wartburg Castle for protection. Disguised as a bearded squire he stayed there for a about year and made the most of his time translating the New Testament into vernacular German (which took only 11 weeks) and codifying his beliefs (which are the foundation of the Lutheran religion). While working on the translation Luther is said to have been tempted by the Devil and got rid of him by throwing an inkwell at him.

William Tynesdale, the King James Bible and Early English Translations of the Bible

Vaclav Bible
There are hundreds of translations of the Bible in English. Some of the earliest English translations were made in the 7th century date by Caedmom, the earliest English poet whose name is known. In A.D. 735 the venerable English monk St. Bede worked on a translation of the Gospel of St. John even though he was fatally ill. Upon finishing his task, it is said, he died. The first English Bible was translated from the Vulgate in 1382. It was thought to have been the work of some early scholars led by John Wycliffe. These scholars were branded as heretics because they dared to translate the word of God. These Bibles were widely circulated even though they were prohibited by Law.

Much of what we read in English Bibles today was written by William Tyndale (1494-1536), an Englishman who first translated the Bible into English from the original Greek and Hebrew texts and gave us the words and expressions: “Jehovah,” “scapegoat,” “the salt of the earth,” “Am I my brother’s keeper”,” “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” and “Ask and it shall be given you. Seek and ye shall find. Knock and it shall be opened unto you.” Much of the King James Bible was derived directly or indirectly from Tyndale’s work.

Tyndale was a priest from Gloucester, Englamd. To translate the entire Bible took him about 20 years. Because he couldn’t find anyone to publish his work in England his work was published mostly in Germany and smuggled to Britain. He too was regarded as a heretic and was threatened with being burned at the stake.

Miles Covendale produced an authorized English version of the Bible in 1535 that was based in part of Tyndale’s translation. “The Great Bible” ordered by Henry VIII in 1538 was based on Covendale’s work.

The King James Bible is one of the most popular versions of the Bible in print today. It was published in 1611, helped bring an end to the dominance of Latin as the language of Christianity and provided readers with a self-explanatory text. It was assembled by a group of 54 churchmen and scholars who met a conference at Hampton Roads. When came across problems they did their best and moved on. Much of it was derived directly or indirectly from Tyndale’s work.

King James Bible

Adam Nicolson wrote in National Geographic: “First printed 400 years ago, it molded the English language, buttressed the “powers that be”—one of its famous phrases—and yet enshrined a gospel of individual freedom. No other book has given more to the English-speaking world...Here is the miracle of the King James Bible in action. Words from a doubly alien culture, not an original text but a translation of ancient Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, made centuries ago and thousands of miles away, arrive in a dusty corner of the New World and sound as they were meant to—majestic but intimate, the voice of the universe somehow heard in the innermost part of the ear. [Source: Adam Nicolson, National Geographic, December 2011 <=>]

“You don't have to be a Christian to hear the power of those words—simple in vocabulary, cosmic in scale, stately in their rhythms, deeply emotional in their impact. Most of us might think we have forgotten its words, but the King James Bible has sewn itself into the fabric of the language. If a child is ever the apple of her parents' eye or an idea seems as old as the hills, if we are at death's door or at our wits' end, if we have gone through a baptism of fire or are about to bite the dust, if it seems at times that the blind are leading the blind or we are casting pearls before swine, if you are either buttering someone up or casting the first stone, the King James Bible, whether we know it or not, is speaking through us. The haves and have-nots, heads on plates, thieves in the night, scum of the earth, best until last, sackcloth and ashes, streets paved in gold, and the skin of one's teeth: All of them have been transmitted to us by the translators who did their magnificent work 400 years ago. <=>

Origin of the King James Bible

Title page of the first edition of the King James Bible in 1611

Adam Nicolson wrote in National Geographic: “The extraordinary global career of this book, of which more copies have been made than of any other book in the language, began in March 1603. After a long reign as Queen of England, Elizabeth I finally died. This was the moment her cousin and heir, the Scottish King James VI, had been waiting for. Scotland was one of the poorest kingdoms in Europe, with a weak and feeble crown. England by comparison was civilized, fertile, and rich. When James heard that he was at last going to inherit the throne of England, it was said that he was like "a poor man?…?now arrived at the Land of Promise." [Source: Adam Nicolson, National Geographic, December 2011 <=>]

“In the course of the 16th century, England had undergone something of a yo-yo Reformation, veering from one reign to the next between Protestant and anti-Protestant regimes, never quite settling into either camp. The result was that England had two competing versions of the Holy Scriptures. The Geneva Bible, published in 1560 by a small team of Scots and English Calvinists in Geneva, drew on the pioneering translation by William Tyndale, martyred for his heresy in 1536. It was loved by Puritans but was anti-royal in its many marginal notes, repeatedly suggesting that whenever a king dared to rule, he was behaving like a tyrant. King James loved the Geneva for its scholarship but hated its anti-royal tone. Set against it, the Elizabethan church had produced the Bishops' Bible, rather quickly translated by a dozen or so bishops in 1568, with a large image of the Queen herself on the title page. There was no doubt that this Bible was pro-royal. The problem was that no one used it. Geneva's grounded form of language ("Cast thy bread upon the waters") was abandoned by the bishops in favor of obscure pomposity: They translated that phrase as "Lay thy bread upon wette faces." Surviving copies of the Geneva Bible are often greasy with use. Pages of the Bishops' Bible are usually as pristine as on the day they were printed. <=>

“This was the divided inheritance King James wanted to mend, and a new Bible would do it. Ground rules were established by 1604: no contentious notes in the margins; no language inaccessible to common people; a true and accurate text, driven by an unforgivingly exacting level of scholarship. To bring this about, the King gathered an enormous translation committee: some 54 scholars, divided into all shades of opinion, from Puritan to the highest of High Churchmen. Six subcommittees were then each asked to translate a different section of the Bible.

Compilers of the King James Bible

Adam Nicolson wrote in National Geographic: “Although the translators were chosen for their expertise in the ancient languages (none more brilliant than Lancelot Andrewes, dean of Westminster), many of them had already enjoyed a rich and varied experience of life. One, John Layfield, had gone to fight the Spanish in Puerto Rico, an adventure that left him captivated by the untrammeled beauty of the Caribbean; another, George Abbot, was the author of a best-selling guide to the world; one, Hadrian à Saravia, was half Flemish, half Spanish; several had traveled throughout Europe; others were Arab scholars; and two, William Bedwell and Henry Savile, a courtier-scholar known as "a magazine of learning," were expert mathematicians. There was an alcoholic called Richard "Dutch" Thomson, a brilliant Latinist with the reputation of being "a debosh'd drunken English-Dutchman." [Source: Adam Nicolson, National Geographic, December 2011 <=>]

King James

“Among the distinguished churchmen was a sad cuckold, John Overall, dean of St. Paul's, whose friends claimed that he spent so much of his life speaking Latin that he had almost forgotten how to speak English. Overall made the mistake of marrying a famously alluring girl, who deserted him for a presumably non-Latin-speaking courtier, Sir John Selby. The street poets of London were soon dancing on the great man's misfortune:

“The dean of St. Paul's did search for his wife And where d'ye think he found her? Even upon Sir John Selby's bed, As flat as any flounder. <=>

“This was a world in which there was no gap between politics and religion. A translation of the Bible that could be true to the original Scriptures, be accessible to the people, and embody the kingliness of God would be the most effective political tool anyone in 17th-century England could imagine. "We desire that the Scripture may speake like it selfe," the translators wrote in the preface to the 1611 Bible, "that it may bee understood even of the very vulgar." The qualities that allow a Brother Rome Wager to connect with his cowboy listeners—a sense of truth, a penetrating intimacy, and an overarching greatness—were exactly what King James's translators had in mind. <=>

“They went about their work in a precise and orderly way. Each member of the six subcommittees, on his own, translated an entire section of the Bible. He then brought that translation to a meeting of his subcommittee, where the different versions produced by each translator were compared and one was settled on. That version was then submitted to a general revising committee for the whole Bible, which met in Stationers' Hall in London. Here the revising scholars had the suggested versions read aloud—no text visible—while holding on their laps copies of previous translations in English and other languages. The ear and the mind were the only editorial tools. They wanted the Bible to sound right. If it didn't at first hearing, a spirited editorial discussion—extraordinarily, mostly in Latin and partly in Greek—followed. A revising committee presented a final version to two bishops, then to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and then, notionally at least, to the King.

Success of the King James Bible

Adam Nicolson wrote in National Geographic: “The new translation of the Bible was no huge success when it was first published. The English preferred to stick with the Geneva Bibles they knew and loved. Besides, edition after edition was littered with errors. The famous Wicked Bible of 1631 printed Deuteronomy 5:24—meant to celebrate God's "greatnesse"—as "And ye said, Behold, the Lord our God hath shewed us his glory, and his great asse." The same edition also left out a crucial word in Exodus 20:14, which as a result read, "Thou shalt commit adultery." The printers were heavily fined. [Source: Adam Nicolson, National Geographic, December 2011 <=>]

Second oldest King James Bible, from 1612

“But by the mid-1600s the King James had effectively replaced all its predecessors and had come to be the Bible of the English-speaking world. As English traders and colonists spread across the Atlantic and to Africa and the Indian subcontinent, the King James Bible went with them. It became embedded in the substance of empire, used as wrapping paper for cigars, medicine, sweetmeats, and rifle cartridges and eventually marketed as "the book your Emperor reads." Medicine sent to English children during the Indian Mutiny in 1857 was folded up in paper printed with the words of Isaiah 51 verse 12: "I, even I, am he that comforteth you." Bible societies in Britain and America distributed King James Bibles across the world, the London-based British and Foreign Bible Society alone shipping more than a hundred million copies in the 80 years after it was founded in 1804. <=>

“The King James Bible became an emblem of continuity. U.S. Presidents from Washington to Obama have used it to swear their oath of office (Obama using Lincoln's copy, others, Washington's). Its language penetrated deep into English-speaking consciousness so that the Gettysburg Address, Moby Dick, and the sermons and speeches of Martin Luther King are all descendants of the language of the English translators. <=>

“But there was a dark side to this Bible's all-conquering story. Throughout its history it has been used and manipulated, good and bad alike selecting passages for their different ends. Much of its text is about freedom, grace, and redemption, but those parts are matched by an equally fierce insistence on vengeance and control. As the Bible of empire, it was also the Bible of slavery, and as such it continues to occupy an intricately ambivalent place in the postcolonial world. <=>

“Pious Rastafarians read the King James Bible every day. Lorne has read it "from cover to cover." Evon Youngsam, who is a member of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, a Rastafarian "mansion" in Kingston, its headquarters opposite Bob Marley's old house in the city, learned to read with the King James Bible at her grandmother's knee. She taught her own children to read with it, and they, now living in England, are in turn teaching their children to read with it. "There is something inside of it which reaches me," she says, smiling, the Bible in her hand, its pages marked with blue airmail letters from her children on the other side of the ocean.” <=>

Devil’s Bible?

Devil's Bible

Candida Moss wrote in the Daily Beast, What is the secret to the longevity and brilliance of the largest surviving medieval manuscript? Lucifer himself is said to have made it. We have all heard that the Bible is the Word of God—but what if it were actually the work of Satan? Sure, there are various heretical groups throughout history that have thought that parts of the Bible were false, but in the case of the world’s largest surviving medieval manuscript some believe that Satan himself is the book’s scribe. [Source: Candida Moss, Daily Beast, May 29, 2016 /=/]

“While the technical name for the manuscript is Codex Gigas (literally “giant book” in Latin), it is better known as the ‘Devil’s Bible.’ It is currently housed in the National Library in Stockholm, but it was created in the twelfth century in Bohemia (the modern Czech Republic), possibly at the Benedictine monastery of Podlažice. It was transported to Sweden as part of the booty seized at the conclusion of the Thirty Years’ war in 1648. It would have taken two men to steal it, as the book is around a meter tall and weighs almost 165 pounds. /=/

“It’s not just the scale of the book that make it unusual, but also its contents. In addition to the Vulgate (the Latin version of the Bible), it contains a copy of the Jewish historian Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities, Isidore of Seville’s Etymologies, ancient medical texts, and a copy of The Chronicle of Bohemia by Cosmas of Prague (1050). Ten pages are missing, however, and as all of the works contained in the codex are complete, there’s some speculation about what they contained. Some say they held a transcription of a prayer to Satan, while scholars—the spoilsports—hypothesize they held the rules of the monastic community from which the book originated. /=/

“It is known as the Devil’s Bible for two reasons. The first is apparent to anyone who visits it: the recto of folio 290 (that’s the reverse side of the 290th leaf in the book) is blank except for a large half-meter tall illustration of the devil. The Devil is pictured with a green face, talons, and horns, crouching in a squat, almost as if he were in a yoga pose. /=/

“The second reason for its name is due to the story of its composition. According to legend, the enormous book was the work of a single monk who had been sentenced to death by inclusion (being walled up alive). In an effort to delay or forestall his execution, the monk promised to produce in a single night a manuscript that would bring glory to the monastery. The task, it is said, was too enormous, and he turned to Satan for help. The Devil completed the manuscript, presumably in exchange for the monk’s soul, and out of gratitude to Satan the monk added the large illustration of the Prince of Darkness. The monk survived but became remorseful and turned to the Virgin Mary, asking her for help. The Virgin agreed, but just as he was on the verge of being freed from his pact, he died. /=/

The Devil in the Devil's Bible

“Legend has it that ill fortune befalls anyone who possesses the manuscript. A nineteenth-century collection of anecdotes tells a macabre version of Night at the Museum in which a porter at the national library where the book was housed was locked in for the night after falling asleep in the main reading room. When he woke up he saw the books moving around of their own accord and dancing. A large broken clock suddenly sprang back to life and started to chime the hours. In the morning the porter was found crouched under a table in terror and spent the rest of his days in an asylum. /=/

Scientific testing of the book revealed that it does appear to be the work of a single scribe: the handwriting is remarkably consistent and uniform throughout. As you might expect, it’s unlikely to have been produced in a single night: a National Geographic study concluded that a single person working 24 hours a day (without the help of a malevolent demon) would take five years to complete it. Assuming that that person also ate and slept, it is estimated that it would take approximately 25-30 years to complete. /=/

“The origins of the story of the monk who sold his soul to the Devil are unknown, but it is remarkably similar to the medieval tale of Theophilus the Penitent. Theophilus was a sixth-century archdeacon who, with the help of a necromancer, made a pact with the devil that allowed him to become bishop. He later repented of his decision, beseeched the Virgin Mary for help, fasted for seventy-three days, and died (from joy, or perhaps starvation) once his contract with the Devil was burned. /=/

“The story was popular in medieval art from the eleventh century onward and served as the inspiration for the legend of Dr. Faustus. And it’s likely that the same thing has happened with the Devil’s Bible. The application of this legend to Codex Gigas is really a sign of how inspiring the book is: it is so remarkable that people imagined that it must have been made with supernatural help. /=/

“Satanic inspiration doesn’t stop here. There are numerous other pieces of art for which he is rumored to have served as a muse. While he has yet to receive a shout-out in an Academy Award speech, rumors of demonic influence often surround exceptional pieces of work. For example, in 1713 the composer Giuseppe Tartini told a friend that his Sonata in G minor was composed after a dream in which he made a pact with the devil. In the dream, he handed the Devil his violin and the Prince of Darkness began to play a haunting melody. Tartini awoke and recaptured the melody on his violin, dubbing it the Devil’s Trill. The Sonata was Tartini’s favorite, but he said that it was vastly inferior to the one he heard playing in his dream.” /=/

Modern Translations of the Bible

There are about 900 English translations of the Bible. The trend in recent years has been to produce Bibles that are easy to read and understand and are full of modern idioms. These include a hip-hop version called Rappin With Jesus . One version by the American Bible Society has Jesus being wrapped "in baby clothes" and laid in "a bed of hay" instead of wrapped "in swaddling clothes" and laid in "a manger." There is also a “Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Life of Christ” and a “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Judaism.”

A politically-correct version of the Bible refers to God as the "Parent" rather "Father" and starts the Lord prayer with "Father, Mother." The book calls Jesus the "child" of God rather than the "son" of God. References to "darkness" (an affront to Blacks) and right-handedness have also been removed.

Religious publishing is big business backed by skillful marketers that produced things like waterproof outdoor Bibles for cowboys and camouflage version for war zones as well as Jesus dolls that recite passages, Bible bingo games and coloring books, Bible-zines for teenagers; and the---God’s Little Princess Devotional Bible--- for four-year-old girls. Such materials are nothing new. A comic-book-like version of the Bible, called Bible for the Poor , was printed during the Reformation.

The scholar Robert Alter has called the tendency to modernize the language of Bible a "trap" because the original Hebrew Bible had "spare and verb-centered diction," which "has a unique feel that is not easily captured in a modern tongue" and "is quite varied in style and sometimes unclear."

Bible Records

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the Bible is the world's best selling book. An estimated 2.5 billion copies in 337 languages have been sold since the beginning of the 19th century. Today, Bible publishing is a $425 million to $650 million business in the United States alone. It is estimated that about 100 million copies are sold or given away worldwide every year.

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Ethiopian Tana Bible
The British and Foreign Bible Society was established in 1804. Its goal was to translate the Bible into every language. As of 2006, the Bible had been translated into 2,426 languages (covering 95 percent of the world’s population), up from 2,123 languages in 1996. There include 601 languages and dialects in Africa, 527 languages in Asia, 191 in Europe, 527 in North and South America and 355 in Oceania. Among the more recent ones added to the list are Yami, spoken by a people on an island off the coast of Taiwan, and Borana, spoken by a nomadic tribe in Kenya. A couple of Star Trek geeks have even translated parts of it into Klingon.

The highest price ever paid for a book was $11.9 million paid for a 226-leaf manuscript The Gospel Book of Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony at a Sotheby's of London auction in 1983. The 13½-by-10 inch book was illuminated in 1170 by the monk Herimann of Halmershansen Abbey, Germany.

According to the Barna Research group, nine out of every ten American homes have a Bible and the median number of Bibles per American family is four. Additionally about 20 million new Bibles are sold every years. But despite this many Americans are ignorant of the Good Book’s contents. A Gallup poll found that less than half knew the first book of Bible (Genesis), only a third knew who gave the Sermon on the Mount (Billy Graham was a popular answer), a quarter did not know what Easter celebrates (the resurrection of Christ, the central act of Christianity) and 12 percent thought Noah was married to Joan of Arc. [Source: The Economist]

Old Testament

Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The Old Testament is a collection of selected writings composed and edited by members of the Hebrew-Jewish community between the twelfth century B.C. and the beginning of the Christian era. It includes such diverse materials as prophetic oracles, teachings of wise men, instructions of priests and ancient records of the royal courts. Some material is historical, some is legendary; some is legalistic, some is didactic. For the most part the literature was written in Hebrew, but a few passages were written in Aramaic, a kindred language which came into common usage among the Jews during the post-Exilic era (after the sixth century B.C.). The Aramaic portions include Dan. 2:4b-7:28; Ezra 4:8-6:18, 7:12-26; Jer. 10:11; and one phrase in Gen. 31:47 "Jegar-sahadutha," translated "Heap of Witness."[Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,”1968, <=>]

“The term "Old Testament,"1 or more properly "Old Covenant," is a Christian designation, reflecting the belief of the early Christian Church that the "new covenant" mentioned in Jer. 31:31-34 was fulfilled in Jesus and that the Christian scriptures set forth the "new covenant," just as the Jewish scriptures set forth the "old covenant" (II Cor. 3:6-18; Heb. 9:1-4). Jewish scholars prefer the term "Tanak," a word formed by combining the initial letters of the three divisions of the Hebrew Bible: Torah (Law), Nebhiim (Prophets), and Kethubhim (Writings). <=>

Development of the Christian Old Testament

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Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The contents of the Law and the Prophets had been determined by usage in the Jewish community prior to the LXX translation, but the limits of the Kethubhim had not been defined and books were included that were not to achieve canonical status among all Jews.4 When the Christian Church began to move into the Greek-speaking world during the first century A.D., the scripture used by the missionaries was the LXX. The authors of the New Testament Gospels drew upon the LXX to prove that Jesus was the Messiah and the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy, using some passages which the Jews argued had been inadequately translated from the Hebrew to the Greek (particularly Isaiah 7:14; compare with Matt. 1:23). The destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. gave Judaism a new direction, centering in scripture rather than sacrificial rites, so that it became imperative to define the limits of the authoritative writings. Consequently, in 90 A.D. at Jamnia (Jabneh) , situated west of Jerusalem near the Mediterranean, a council met under the leadership of Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai to determine the Jewish canon. Long debates ensued over the Song of Songs, Esther, Ecclesiastes, and Ezekiel. The books agreed upon by the Council constitute the Jewish canon of today. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, <=>]

Concerning other writings, both Jewish and Christian, the Council stated: “The Gospel and the books of the heretics are not Sacred Scripture. The books of Ben Sira and whatever books have been written since his time, are not Sacred Scripture. (Tosef Yadaim 2:13).“Meanwhile the Christians continued to use the LXX including books of the Apocrypha rejected by the Jamnia Council. There was, however, some uneasiness among Christian scholars concerning certain of the books and just prior to the Protestant Reformation questions were being raised about the authority of the Apocrypha. Seeking to go back to ancient sources, Protestant reformers accepted the Jewish canon and relegated the Apocrypha to the status of writings without authority for doctrine, partially, no doubt, because certain unacceptable doctrines were based upon these writings. For Protestants, the writings of the Apocrypha are separated from canonical scriptures and held to be non-authoritative for doctrine.<=>

“The Roman Catholic Church took the opposite stand at the Council of Trent held in Tridentum, Italy from 1545 to 1563 and, partially on the basis of traditional usage among Christians, declared the books of the Apocrypha, with the exception of I and II Esdras and the prayer of Manasseh, to be canonical and pronounced anathema upon all who denied their status. The accepted books are labeled "Deuterocanonical"6 by Roman Catholic scholars who restrict the use of the term "Apocrypha" to designate writings purporting to be inspired but not accepted into the Roman Catholic canon. The latter writings are labeled "Pseudepigrapha" (False Writings) by Protestant scholars. Later, in 1672, at the Council of Jerusalem, the Eastern Orthodox Church accepted I Esdras, Tobit, Judith, the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch, the Prayer of Azariah and The Song of the Three Young Men, Bel and the Dragon, and I and II Maccabees into the canon, for reasons that are not completely clear.7<=>

“Thus, the term "Old Testament" has a wider and a narrower meaning, depending upon who uses it. This book will discuss the literature common to Jewish, Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, and the writings called the "Apocrypha" by Protestants and Jews or "Deuterocanonical" by Roman Catholics.

From Many Books to the One Book

Mark Hamilton, a Biblical scholar at Harvard University, wrote: “How did these various pieces come to be regarded as Scripture by Jewish and, later, Christian communities? There were no committees that sat down to decree what was or was not a holy book. To some degree, the process of Scripture-making, or canonization as it is often called (from the Greek word kanon, a "measuring rod"), involved a process, no longer completely understood, by which the Jewish community decided which works reflected most clearly its vision of God. The antiquity, real or imagined, of many of the books was clearly a factor, and this is why Psalms was eventually attributed to David, and Proverbs, Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes (along with, by some people, Wisdom of Solomon in the Apocrypha) to Solomon. However, mere age was not enough. There had to be some way in which the Jewish community could identify its own religious experiences in the sacred books. [Source: Mark Hamilton, Harvard University Biblical scholar, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]

“This occurred, at least in part, through an elaborate process of biblical interpretation. Simply reading a text involves interpretation. Interpretative choices are made even in picking up today's newspaper; one must know the literary conventions that distinguish a news report, for example, from an op-ed piece. The challenge becomes much more intense when one reads highly artistic texts from a different time and place, such as the Bible. <>

Bible Development Timelines

“The earliest examples of interpretation we have appear in the Bible itself. Zechariah reinterprets Ezekiel, Jeremiah often refers to Hosea and Micah, and Chronicles substantially rewrites Kings. These reinterpretations are in themselves evidence that the older books were already becoming authoritative, canonical, even as the younger ones were still being written. <>

“But some of the oldest extensive reinterpretations of our Bible come from the third or second centuries BCE. For example, the book of Jubilees is a rewriting of Genesis, now arranged in 50-year periods ending in a year of jubilee, or a time for forgiveness of debts. A related work is the Genesis Apocryphon, also a rewriting of Genesis. Ezekiel the Tragedian wrote a play in Greek based on the life of Moses. And the Essenes, the sect that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, composed commentaries (peshers) on various biblical books: fragments of those on Habakkuk, Hosea, and Psalms survive. From the first century BCE or so, come additional psalms attributed to David and the Letter of Aristeas (about the miraculous translating of the Bible into Greek), among others. And during the life of Jesus himself, Philo of Alexandria wrote extensive allegorical commentaries on the Pentateuch, all with a view toward making the Bible respectable to philosophers influenced by Plato. <>

“Despite their great variety of outlook and interests, all of these works shared certain common views. They all believed the author of the Bible was God, that it was therefore a perfect book, that it had strong moral agendas and that it was abidingly relevant. Interpretation had to show how it was relevant to changing situations. They also thought the Bible to be cryptic, a puzzle requiring piecing together. The mental gymnastics required to make the old texts ever new is one of the great contributions of this era to the history of Judaism and Christianity, and therefore Western civilization itself. <>

Example of Interpretation: Genesis 11

Mark Hamilton, a Biblical scholar at Harvard University, wrote: “Genesis 11 is the story of how humans soon after the Flood built a city centered around a tower "with its top in the heavens." The purpose of the Tower of Babel was to allow its builders to "make a name" for themselves. God, in a pique of anger, alters the builders' languages so that they cannot understand each other. In its original form, the story is an explanation of why not everyone speaks Hebrew, as well as a comment on the huge temple-towers (ziggurats) of Mesopotamian cities. [Source: Mark Hamilton, Harvard University Biblical scholar, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]

“For later interpreters, however, this story cried out for explanation. Why was God afraid of these people? How high was the tower? Who led the construction, and did anyone voice objections? What did the builders expect to do when they reached the heavens? What moral lessons should one learn from the story? <>

“To answer these questions and others, Jubilees 10 says that the builders worked for 43 years (50 years of the Jubilee period minus the mystical number seven) and built a structure one and a half miles high! Their purpose was to enter into heaven itself. Pseudo-Philo's Biblical Antiquities (first century CE) adds a story about Abraham, a model of courage, refusing to cooperate with the builders and so being thrown into a fiery furnace, much like the three young men in Daniel 3. God sends an earthquake to destroy the furnace, and then he changes both the builders' languages and their appearance, so that no one can recognize even his or her own brother. Other traditions think that the builders of the tower were either giants (Pseudo-Eupolemus), or were humans led by the mighty hunter and city-builder Nimrod mentioned in Genesis 10 (Josephus). Each interpreter imaginatively builds on some chance word or phrase in the biblical text to try to answer reasonable questions about it. Meanwhile, the first-century philosopher and biblical interpreter writes an entire book on this chapter, which he interprets as an allegory about human morality: the builders represent greed and venality. <>

Addressing the Messiah Issue

Mark Hamilton, a Biblical scholar at Harvard University, wrote: “Like their Jewish predecessors and Jewish contemporaries, early Christians believed that the Hebrew Bible was God's book, and therefore a book that should cast light on current events and moral conundrums. For Christians, of course, the most important issue was the true import of Jesus and the story of his life, death, and resurrection. Since they believed him to be the messiah ("anointed one"), God's savior and the harbinger of a new and perfect age, they sought to find mention of him in the Hebrew Bible itself. This is why so much of the story of Jesus in the gospels quotes the Bible. [Source: Mark Hamilton, Harvard University Biblical scholar, Frontline, PBS, April 1998 <>]

“This move was not without precedent. The Dead Sea community also believed that the prophets had predicted their movement and their leader, the Teacher of Righteousness, as well as the political events of their time. They go so far as to claim that the prophets did not know what they were saying, but God, the true author of the text, used them to speak of the (to them) distant future. <>

“Christians, however, had a different set of questions than the Dead Sea sect, and so they found different texts to cite. Any texts that refer to a time of a future deliverance, or the coming of a future king, were fair game. So the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 becomes the suffering Jesus of the gospels. And Luke's quotation from Isaiah 61 becomes a reference to Jesus's ministry of healing and reconciliation. Yet in every case, as far as we can tell, the Christian reading comes after the fact. That is, they first believed in Jesus and then tried to find his life in Scripture. They then could shape their telling of stories about his life to fit the scriptures. This process may seem very circular, but given their assumptions -- namely, that Jesus is central to God's plan, that God spoke through prophets who might not understand their own words, and that the Bible was a cryptic puzzle needing solving -- this belief in prophecy and fulfillment is not incomprehensible. So Luke can have Jesus say, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your presence!" Jesus saw himself as the deliverer that the prophets had foreseen long before. When his followers drew the same conclusion, they could then retain the ancient Scriptures, transforming them into something new, a Christian Bible. <>

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons except Bible Development Timelines, Relevancy 22 and New Testament Canon, Bible Diagrams

Text Sources: Internet Ancient History Sourcebook: Christian Origins “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); King James Version of the Bible,; New International Version (NIV) of The Bible,; “Egeria's Description of the Liturgical Year in Jerusalem” ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, , Metropolitan Museum of Art, Frontline, PBS, “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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