Sunday, December 2, 2007

Where did the Bible come from?

Where did the bible come from?

When looking at the basics of Christianity, I think that something we must be able to articulate is how we got the bible. All or most of us hold the bible to be scripture, the inspired word of God, but what do we really know about how this collection of books came to us. How do we know that this book is really the Word of God? So today we will address the issue of where the bible came from.

What were the writing tools that were used for transmission of both the Old and New Testament? The first form and most common substance that the Old Testament was written on, was papyrus. The oldest bible document that found on papyrus is dated to about 2,400 BC. Other substances that were used are parchment (dried and shaved animal skin) and vellum (which is dried calf skin) the oldest writings that were found on vellum were dated to about 1,500 BC. All three of these were written on by pen and ink. These pens and the type of ink changed with the area that they were written in. Ostraca is an unglazed pottery that is then written on with a metal stylus. Stone was also used and it was written on with a chisel. Clay tablets and wax tablets were also used and were written on with metal stylus.

How were ancient books and scrolls put together? Rolls/scrolls were glued sheets of papyrus that were wound around a stick. Normally the writings were on one side of the scroll. An opisthograph (Rev. 5:1) is a two sided scroll. These were very uncommon as they were more difficult to read from. The average scroll length was 20 to 35 ft. This is not the only form storing information. Codex form books were used for several reasons. They were easier to transport. One could have more information in a smaller area, a large scroll was difficult to handle, but because books were in leaf form they were far easier to have more information. The leafs were double sided and were made out papyrus.

In what ways did the Greek and Hebrew writers write? There were two types of writing, uncial and minusale. Uncial was deliberate and carefully executed letters, much like capital letters in English. Minusale were small letters written in ‘running hand’ and were used primarily for codex books. When looking at the spaces and vowels in the Greek and Hebrew, the term to remember is scriptio continua, which is continuous writing, no spaces were included. In Hebrew vowels were also excluded. This was not a problem for people of the day because reading was normally done aloud, even when alone. Vowels were added to the Hebrew sometime between the 5th and 10th century AD.

Where did the chapters and verses come from? There have been several different divisions of the Old and New Testament. The first divisions in the Old Testament were made prior to the Babylonian captivity in 586 B.C. The Pentateuch was divided into 154 groups called sedarim, that provided a three year reading and study cycle. Between 586 and 536 B.C. the Pentateuch was divided into 54 sections called parashiyyoth, which were later divided into 669 subsections. The prophetic books of scripture were divided into sections and subsections around 165 B.C. Standardized verse markings were made in about 900 A.D. these were done by putting spaces between words. The New Testament was divided into sections before the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., perhaps as early as 250 A.D. The earliest divisions were found in the manuscript named codex Vaticanus, these chapter divisions were far smaller than modern chapters, as the Gospel of Matthew was divided into 170 sections. Modern divisions were made by Stephen Langton, in 1551 and he divided the bible into 1227 chapters. These divisions were in the Greek New Testament; our modern markings are the same as the 1555 version of the Latin Vulgate.

Where did the cannon come from? The early church father Origen used,” Cannon to denote what we call the ‘rule of faith’ the standard by which we are to measure and evaluate.” When looking at scripture the word cannon applies to a list of books that are officially accepted by the Church. This is why Protestants and Catholic churches have different cannons, we accept different books. There are correct and incorrect ways to look at the cannon and the churches relationship to it.



The Church is determiner of the Cannon

The Church is discoverer of the Cannon

The Church is mother of the Cannon

The Church is child of the Cannon

The Church is magistrate of the Cannon

The Church is minister of the Cannon

The Church is regulator of the Cannon

The Church is recognizer of the Cannon

The Church is judge of the Cannon

The Church is witness of the Cannon

The Church is master of the Cannon

The Church is servant of the Cannon

There are five tests to see if a book belongs in the cannon. First, was the book written by a prophet? In other words, was the author a person who had the ability to speak for God? Second, was the writer confirmed by the Acts of God? Examples of this come from Exodus 4:1-9, 1 Kings 18, Acts 2:22. Third, did the message tell the truth about God? Keeping in mind 2 Corinthians 1:17-18 and Hebrews 6:18. Forth, did the book come with the power of God? The Word of God is transforming and anything that claims to be the word of God must therefore also be transforming. Consider Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:17 and 1 Peter 1:23. Lastly, was the book accepted by the people of God? Read 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul knew that the acceptance of the message was as important as the message itself.

What early Christians recognized the cannon of the New Testament? (Why only deal with the New Testament? Simple, in the New Testament, Christ defines the Old Testament, so if you accept one, you must accept both; References to follow.) Athanasius of Alexandria, author of the creed with his namesake, gave the earliest recorded list of the New Testament books, which is exactly the same as our modern New Testament; this was done in 367 A.D. Shortly after this was done both Jerome and Augustine did the same and included the same books. Polycarp (115 A.D.) the disciple of John, Clement of Alexandria ( about 200 A.D.) and the disciple of Polycarp, Irenaeus ( 180 A.D.) all accepted the 27 books of the New Testament. For references look in “Against Heresies, III, ii, 8” and Athanasius Letter 39. The New Testament has been divided in the following way, by both the ancient church fathers and modern scholars. Although there is some debate about who authored the book of Hebrews.

The Gospels

The History

The Pauline Epistles

The General Epistles

The Prophecy

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John


Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 &2 Thessalonians,

1&2 Timothy, Hebrews, Titus, Philemon

James, 1&2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude.


Christ himself was a witness to the accuracy of the Old Testament. Consider Luke 24:44, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you-that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms had to be fulfilled.” Also Consider Luke 11:49-51, “from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah” This was a reference to the Old Testament Cannon, when looking at Gen 4:8 and 2 Chronicles 24:21 in light of the construction of the Old Testament in Christ’s time.

The Law (Torah)

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

The Prophets (Nebhim)

Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings ( Former Prophets)

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, The Twelve ( Later Prophets)

The Writings (Kethubhim)

Psalms, Proverbs, Job ( Poetic Books)

Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Esther, Ecclesiastes ( Five Rolls)

Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles ( Historical Books)

These are only the beginnings of understanding how we got the bible and how we can know that it is indeed the word of God. When looking over this information I hope that you have learned something new about where the bible came from, and about its accuracy. I have heard it said that when looking at all the scripture quoted by the early church fathers that all but five verses of the New Testament could be compiled. The Early Church loved scripture, because they knew it was the word of God. I hope that when examining this brief look at the bible, it would inspire you to learn more. The information for this lesson came from the book The New Evidence that demands a verdict, by Josh McDowell.


James A. Ward said...

Now do you only know this stuff because it was taught to you? How do you know this to be the actual fact? Because it was taught to you, because everyone else before you and your teacher was taught that. But again who says its correct? Christians claim the bible to be the only correct 'book'. But all other religions believe/say theirs is the correct one. 'Cause they were after all taught that as well. Who's to say which one is correct?

Ken Cook said...

Interesting Questions - The book where this was taken from was basically a compiled source book from first hand research. The author used thousands of academic sources as well as his own first hand research. So it was not taught per se as much as it was disseminated as scholarly research. As far as comparing the bible to other texts, I KNOW that it is far more accurate, it contains no self-contradictions, that can not be attributed to scribal error, whereas every other major religious text is self contradictory, and this is from my own personal research. Of course every religion will say there book is correct, but the fact of the matter only one one them is truly correct, and through the use of some BASIC LOGIC we can determine which one it is. Just focus on the first law of Logic and then look for errors.

As an aside, I don't know any Christian who says the bible is the ONLY correct book, other books contain some truth, but none compare to the Truth that is contained within the bible.