What is the Bible? The Bible is the Word of God revealed and recorded in a collection of books written over the centuries. The Bible is also the most widely read book in the world. However, it is not just any book. Readers of the Bible should know that it has two natures: human and divine.
The human nature of the Bible means that it was written by men. Its divine nature means that, although it was written by men, it was inspired by God Himself. So it is the divine Word of God in every sense.
The meaning of the word “Bible”
The word Bible means “book” and has a Greek origin. It is interesting to note that the way in which this term is applied conveys a very special meaning. It indicates that among millions of existing books, only one has sufficient importance and authority to be called simply “The Book”.
Before the term “Bible” was widely used, this collection of books was more often called “The Holy Scriptures”.
When was the Bible written and by whom?
The collection of books that make up the Bible was written by various authors over a period of time ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 years. The earliest books that were written probably date back to about 3500 years ago. The later ones were written about 2,000 years ago.
However, the history recorded in the Bible covers a much longer period. It goes back to the earliest possible date, as it recounts the very creation of the world. Learn more about who were the biblical authors.
Divisions or parts
The Bible is divided into two parts. The larger part (both in volume and in length of formation) is called the Old Testament, the smaller, the New Testament. The meaning of the Old Testament was best expressed by the apostle Paul, who called it the “teacher of Christ”.
There are many moral commandments in the Old Testament, but it is impossible to be saved, even by keeping them exactly. For salvation, we need Christ, whose coming is spoken of in the New Testament. The purpose of the Old Testament with its commandments is to bring a person to the state where he can accept and believe in Christ.
The purpose of the New Testament is to speak about the earthly life of Christ, His resurrection from the dead and the promises for those who believe in Him.
The books of the Old Testament were written in Hebrew and languages close to Aramaic. The earliest, most important and accurate translation of the Old Testament was made in the 3rd century B.C., when 72 translators invited from Palestine translated the Bible into Greek by order of the Egyptian king Ptolemy Philadelphus.
Therefore, the first translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek was later called the “Translation of the Seventy”, in Latin the Septuagint. The language of all the books of the New Testament is Greek, although their authors were Jews; Greek was then the “international” language of the eastern Mediterranean.
The oldest text found of the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments of the Mosaic Law, dates back to about 200 B.C. The oldest manuscript of the New Testament, a piece of papyrus with a fragment of the Gospel of John, dates from the beginning of the second century.
The Church not only created and preserved the Bible. It also formed what in science is called the “biblical canon”, that is, from many different texts it managed to select those that, without distortions or contradictions, speak of God and His relationship with the world He created.
By the nature of their content, the biblical books are divided into positive, historical, didactic and prophetic. The books that for one reason or another are not included in the canon are called apocryphal.
When the Roman Empire adopted Christianity under Constantine the Great, the New Testament had been partially translated into several languages of the ancient world: Latin, Syriac and Coptic. In the early 5th century, Jerome of Stridon, who settled in Bethlehem, translated the entire Bible into Latin.
This translation was called the “Vulgate” and subsequently served as the basis for translations into many other languages of the world. Subsequently, the Vulgate had the honor of becoming the first printed Bible; this was already done in the 15th century by the German Johannes Gutenberg.
In the second half of the 9th century, especially for the translation of the Bible, the Solun brothers Cyril and Methodius created the Slavonic alphabet and then translated the entire Holy Scriptures into Church Slavonic. Along with baptism, Russia also accepted this translation of the Bible. At the end of the 19th century, the Russian Orthodox Church approved and published a translation of the Bible into modern Russian, called “Synodal”.
For those who want to deepen their reading of the Holy Scriptures, it is necessary to remember that the Bible is not a historical treatise, not a simple instruction for all occasions, but a complex and multilayered text. You can understand it only if you are within the limits of the tradition of the church, of which the Bible is a part: the interpretation of the holy fathers in certain places of the Bible is the best help for all those who read this great book.
We must not forget that the Bible was written in co-authorship of God and man, so that the assistance of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in the Church, is necessary for a faithful and as complete an understanding of it as possible.
The Catholic Bible is composed of 27 books in the New Testament, but the Old Testament has 43. While the Protestant Bible does not include the books of Baruch, Maccabees I and II, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus.
Compilation of the original New Testament
The composition of the New Testament was officially established at the Council of Carthage in 397AD. However, most of the New Testament was accepted as authoritative much earlier. The first collection of New Testament books was proposed by a man named Marcion in 140AD.
Marcion was a docetist (docetism is a belief system that says everything spiritual is good and everything material is evil), so he excluded any book that spoke of Jesus being divine and human, and he also edited Paul’s letters to match his own philosophy.
Dated 170 A.D.
The next collection of New Testament books to be proposed, of which we have a record, was the Canon Muratori in 170 A.D. It included the four gospels, Acts, the 13 letters of Paul, 1, 2, 3 John, Jude and Revelation. The final canon of the New Testament was first identified by Athanasius, one of the church fathers, in 367 CE and ratified by the Council of Carthage in 397 CE.
However, history shows that the actual New Testament in the modern Bible was recognized much earlier and is a faithful reflection of the “autographs”. First, Scripture itself shows that the writings of the New Testament were considered inspired and equal to those of the Old Testament.