How We Got Our Bible 101
Contributed by Samuel Fulkerson on Mar 14, 2013 (message contributor)
Summary: The process by which we got our Bible is both complex and amazing. The Word of God is truly a wonderful thing and should be cherished.
"Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about." --Benjamin Lee Whorf (Hebrew Linguist, 1897-1941)
The written Word:
The Word of God is truly wonderful and beautiful. It is a life changing/giving force.
Exodus 34:27 records God's words to Moses, "Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel."
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew with the exception of:
Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26; Daniel 2:4-7:28; Jeremiah 10:11
Which were written in Aramaic.
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (1958 first edition) said Hebrew "ceased to be a spoken language around the fourth century BC".
Now because of Archaeological Evidence, The Dead Sea Scrolls and Josephus, who was a first century Jewish historian which recorded Jewish life and sentiment during the time of the New Testament; In his work Antiquity of the Jews he writes "I have also taken a great deal of pains to obtain the learning of the Greeks, and understanding the elements of the Greek language although I have so long accustomed myself to speak our own language, that I cannot pronounce Greek with sufficient exactness: for our nation does not encourage those that learn the languages of many nations". (Josephus, Ant.20.11.2)
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (1997 third edition) has been changed to say, Hebrew "continued to be used as a spoken and written language in the New Testament period".
We also now know that the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew and translated into Greek.
With the exception of the book of Matthew written in Hebrew (Shem Tov) we only have Greek manuscript copies (over 6,000 of them including fragments).
Some of the evidence that the New Testament was originally written in Hebrew are things such as Flavius Josephus quote above.
Archaeological Evidence: such as Shimon Ben Kosiba (Simon Bar Kockba) fragment. Kosiba lead the final revolt against the Romans in 135 CE. This fragment is from a letter he wrote to his leaders began by saying, “From Shimon Ben Kosiba to Yeshua Ben Galgoula and to the men of the fort, peace…" This letter was written in Hebrew.
All the coins minted in Israel during the second Temple period include inscriptions written in Hebrew.
Approximately 90% of all the Dead Sea Scrolls are written in Hebrew.
Ancient writings give evidence to the Book of Matthew being originally written in Hebrew:
Papias (150-170 CE) - Matthew composed the words in the Hebrew dialect, and each translated as he was able. [A quote by Eusebius; Eccl. Hist. 3:39]
Ireneus (170 CE) - Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect. [Against Heresies 3:1]
Origen (210 CE) - The first [Gospel] is written according to Matthew, the same that was once a tax collector, but afterwards an apoltle of Jesus Christ who having published it for the Jewish believers, wrote it in Hebrew. [A quote by Eusebius; Eccl. Hist. 6:25]
Eusebius (315 CE) - Matthew also, having first proclaimed the Gospel in Hebrew, when on the point of going also to the other nations, committed it to writing in his native tongue, and thus supplied the want of his presence to them by his writings. [Eccl. Hist. 3:24]
Epiphanius (370 CE) - They [The Nazarenes] have the Gospel according to Matthew quite complete in Hebrew, for this Gospel is certainly still preserved among them as it was first written, in Hebrew letters. [Panarion 29:9:4]
Jerome ( 382 CE) - Matthew, who is also Levi, and from a tax collectore came to be an Apostle first of all evangelists composed a Gospel of Christ in Judea in the Hebrew language and letters, for the benefit of those of the circumcision who had believed, who translated it into Greek is not sufficiently ascertained. Furthermore, the Hebrew itself is preserved to this day in the library at Caesarea, which the martyr Pamphilus so diligently collected. I also was allowed by the Nazarenes who use this volume in the Syrian city of Borea to copy it. In which is to be remarked that, wherever the evangelist.... makes use of the testimonies of the Old Scripture, he does not follow the authority of the seventy translators, but that of the Hebrew. [Lives of Illustrious Men, Book 5]
Isho'dad (850 CE) - His [Matthew's] book was in existence in Caesarea of Palestine, and everyone acknowledges that he wrote it with his hands in Hebrew. [Isho'dad Commentary on the Gospels]
In the Greek text of the New Testament are many Hebrew words and phrases that have been transliterated from the Hebrew language into the Greek language. For example: Matthew (27:46) is a transliterated phrase.
We have no original manuscripts. To-date they are all copies that go back to the originals.