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Sunday, 26 August 2012

The Bible


The word Bible comes from the Greek word for "papyrus plant" (biblos), since the leaves of that plant were used for paper.

The New Testament canon originated when due to many false gospels being produced. The church leaders of about AD200 decided to get together in one book all the known writings of the original apostles. This was also done as a true statement of faith to refute the criticisms of those who misunderstood Christianity. Around this time Tertullian was writing of the ‘New Testament’ which he placed on a level with the Old as regards divine inspiration.

The oldest surviving copy of the four Gospels date back to 350. Cynics would need to move forward 500 years to approximately 850 to find the date of the oldest surviving copy of the supposedly more historically sound Caesar’s account of the Gallic War.

The first evidence for a canonical list which completely matches that widely accepted for the New Testament today is the 39th Easter letter of Athanasius written in 367, which designated 27 books of the New Testament alongside the canon of the Old Testament.

In 397 At the Council of Carthage the western church agreed on the same New Testament canon as the Eastern church.

The Goths in Germany were introduced to Christianity by Roman prisoners, whom they had taken captive during raids into the Empire. In 375AD Ulfilas, a missionary bishop to the Goths, translated the Bible into their everyday speech, a monumental task as in order to achieve this task, he had to first of all devise a Gothic alphabet. He omitted the books of Kings as he was concerned the accounts of the military campaigns of the Hebrews in those books would urge the warlike Gothic tribes to acts of war. This was the first barbarian translation of the Bible and the first done specifically for missionary purposes.

Rather than copying from any one source, The Venerable Bede researched from several sources to create single volume bibles, a practice which was highly unusual for the time: previously, the bible had circulated as separate books.

It was Stephen Langton, a professor in Paris, who the first person to divide the Bible into defined chapters. In the early 13th century he inserted chapter divisions into a Vulgate edition of the Bible. Langton later became the Archbishop of Canterbury.

During the Middle Ages the medieval church walls were covered in paintings of Biblical scenes, which, in a period of almost universal illiteracy were thought to be the poor man’s Bible. Though reformers such as John Wycliffe and Jan Hus advocated the importance of the Bible, throughout the Middle Ages the clergy were afraid to let the common people have any knowledge of the Scriptures and in most of Europe it was dangerous to possess or even to be found reading the Bible. In England, for instance, in 1399 the death penalty became the punishment for heresy and many Lollards were burnt alive with their Bibles around their necks.

In the 1490s, Oxford Professor John Colet began a public reading of the New Testament in Greek, translating it into English, in St. Paul's Cathedral in London. People were so hungry to hear the Word of God in the language they could understand, that within six months the cathedral was filled with 20,000 standing packed inside and another 20,000 outside. Colet only avoided execution for this crime because he had powerful friends in high places.

Around the same time an Oxford professor, Thomas Linacre, learnt Greek in order to compare the original Greek text with the many, many corrupted manuscripts of the church's Latin translations. When he read the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles in the original Greek, Linacre was so shocked with what he found, he wrote in his diary, "Either this (the original Greek) is not the gospel or we are not Christians!" What he meant was if the church is right, then the Greek New Testament was a lie! If the Greek New Testament is right, then the church is wrong. That was an incredible statement, but the church's teaching at the time of the reformation was so far from the scripture. 

The first section of the Complutensian Polyglot (the world's first multi-language Bible) was printed at Alcala, Spain in 1514. (The complete translation was published in 6 volumes in 1517.)

William Tyndale's English New Testament was the first complete translation from the original Hebrew and Greek text. After being forced to flee, he completed it clandestinely in Worms in 1526. When it was read in English churches its popular reception was the 16th century equivalent of the popular soaps of today. The common people flocked to hear the humor, violence and suspense of the Biblical stories. Despite its popularity the Bishop of London ordered all copies to be seized and burned but those were soon replaced and copies continued to circulate.

William Tyndale's translation of the New Testament introduced some of the most familiar phrases to the English language, such as ‘filthy lucre’, and ‘God forbid.’

The Coverdale Bible, compiled by Myles Coverdale, was published on October 4, 1535. It was the first complete translation of the Bible and the Apocrypha to be printed in English. When Henry VIII, at Archbishop Cranmer’s request, authorized that it can be bought and read by all his subjects there was a tremendous widespread excitement. So much the English King was forced to draw back and issue new regulations restricting the reading of the Bible to wealthy merchants and aristocrats.

Title page of Coverdale Bible

John Marbeck, an English theologian, published the first English Concordance in 1550. Seven years previously an earlier version, which he’d been working on, was confiscated and destroyed after he’d been arrested for heresy.

Whilst Jewish Masoretes divided the Old Testament Hebrew text into verses, the New Testament was not divided into verse numbers until Robert Stephens’ Greek and Latin versions in 1557.

The 1560 Geneva Testament was the first English Bible to be divided into chapter and verses. The Geneva Bible was the Bible taken to America by the Pilgrim Fathers.

The King James Bible was published for the first time in London, on May 2, 1611 by printer Robert Barker.

Many common expressions were taken from the King James Bible. These include:
Casting pearls before swine (Matthew 7.v6)
Pride goes before a fall (Proverbs 16 v 18)
Go from strength to strngth (Psalm 84 v 7)
In the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15 v51-52)
The eleventh hour (Matthew 20 v 6)

One thousand bibles printed in 1631 left the "not" out of "Thou shall not commit adultery"—most were burned, but a handful still exist.

In 1646 The Massachusetts Bay Colony passed a law making it a capital offence to deny that the Bible is the Word of God. Any person convicted of the offence was liable to the death penalty.

The ‘Unrighteous’ Cambridge Bible is published in England in 1653. It included the following two mistakes: 1 Corinthians 6 v 9 “know yet not that the unrighteous shall inherit the kingdom of God”. And Romans 6 v 13 “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of righteousness unto sin.”

John Eliot (1604-1690), an American who was called the "Apostle to the Indians," was the first translator of the Bible into an Indian tongue — the first Bible to be printed in America.

The Robert Aitken Bible was printed by Philadelphian Printer, Robert Aitken in 1782. This first ever published English language Bible in America was printed due the lack of new Bibles available in the United States. The supply of English language Bibles has been cut off as a result of the Revolutionary War.

The British and Foreign Bible Society was formed on March 7, 1804 when a group of Christians sought to address the problem of a lack of affordable Bibles in Welsh for Welsh-speaking Christians.
It was to be the first of many similar organizations throughout the world.

The Pennsylvania Bible Society, the oldest in the United States, was founded in 1808. 

The American Standard Version, a revision of the Revised Version was published in 1901. It was the first ever major Bible to be written in American English.

The Gideon organization was founded in 1898 by three travelling businessman in Boscobel, Wisconsin, as an interdenominational group dedicated to evangelism. Ten years later, they begun distributing free Bibles with the aim of placing a Bible in every hotel room on the planet. The first Gideon Bible was placed in a room in the Superior Hotel in Iron Mountain, Montana.

The Revised Standard Version New Testament was published on February 11, 1946.  It was intended to be a readable and literally accurate modern English translation and was the first serious challenge to the popularity of the Authorized King James Version. The Old Testament (and thus the full Protestant Bible) was completed six years later.

Title page to the first edition of the RSV Bible

In 1965 a group of academics met at Palos Heights, Illinois and agreed on the need for a trustworthy and readable translation in modern English. Over one hundred scholars from English-speaking countries were enlisted on the project. On  October 27, 1978 the complete New International Version (NIV) of the Bible was published by Zondervan of Grand Rapids Michigan. It became one of the most popular and widely used translations in the English language.


Paul McCartney’s song “Uncle Albert” was about a real uncle of his, who when drunk would quote and read from the Bible, but when sober would not be seen near one.

In the Authorised version of the Bible there are 66 books, 1189 chapters, 31173 verses, 774746 words and 3566480 letters.

The middle verse in the Old Testament is 2 Chronicles 10 v17 and in the New Testament is Acts 17 v17.

The shortest verse in the Old Testament is 1 Chronicles 1 Chronicles 1 v25 (Eber, Peleg, Reu) and in the New Testament is John 11 v35 (Jesus Wept).

Ezra 7 v 21 “And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily.” (King James), contains all the letters of the Bible except J.

The word ‘and’ occurs 35,543 times in the Old Testament and 10,684 times in the New Testament.

There are 8,674 different Hebrew words in the Bible and 5,624 different Greek words translated into 12,143 different English words in the King James version.

If you disregard words that are articles, conjunctions and prepositions such as "the", "and", "a" etc, the most common is "Lord". It occurs somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 times depending on the translation.

Esther is the only book in the Bible that does not mention the name of God.

An American linguist spent six months translating the New Testament into Klingon, the language created for Star Trek movies.

The most-shoplifted book in the United States is the Bible.

The Bible was translated at the beginning of the 21st century into Hawaiian pidgin English. Da Jesus book features characters such as “da bad guy” (Satan) and renders verses such as “Our Father who art in Heaven” as “God you our Fadda You stay inside da sky.”

Among the plethora of market-serving "versions" of the Bible made to please sub-groups and consumerist niche markets are the following: . A magazine-style Bible for teenage girls, Revolve, which has tips on cosmetics and boys and it counterpoint, the Refuel edition for boys, the African-American Woman's Study Bible, the Promise Keeper's Bible for Men, the Twelve-Step Bible. and the Green Bible with its green-inked verses having to do with the environment.

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