Saturday, April 02, 2005

Where did the Bible come from?

Who wrote the Bible?

The world’s all time bestseller, the Christian Bible, has been translated in part into over 3000 languages. A closer examination reveals that none of the writers of the 66 ‘books’ claim authorship, i.e., they acknowledge penmanship without claiming to be the authors of the material. While most contemporary books identify their authors by name, the Holy Bible makes its own internal collective affirmation that the primary author of the text is none other than the God who made the universe.

What does this mean and why is the answer thus far seemingly unsatisfactory to most of us? This is because we are creatures of habit and culture, in their historical contexts. It is the habit within living memory that anything published in documentary form usually identifies the author/s or if not, evidence can point to the writers, always of human origin.

The astonishing claim of the Bible is that the author is non-human (in fact, divine). Furthermore, the books were written over a great span of time and geography. Is it reasonable to accept that the writers (human agents) of the Bible, who wrote largely in ignorance of each other, converge on a united theme which stands the test of time as well as it does? Let us examine some of the objections to this claim.


1) No known book or work of literature exists which spans such vast stretches of time and geography.
Answer: This absence of comparable collections is no obstacle to the possible existence of such a work. It is like saying that because machines which can travel faster than the speed of sound did not exist in 1920 must mean that the Concorde airplane cannot now exist.

2) There is no externally corroborative claim to support the internal claim of the Bible.
Answer: In every other field of intellectual inquiry, scholars always look to internal evidence of documents to establish their character and thereby privilege what the document says of its identity. To disallow this methodology for one of the world’s oldest known collections of literature is disingenuous.

3) The Bible does not explain how it came about, mechanically. Answer: According to our best scholarship, history and tradition show that the textual materials were inherited from an ancient oral tradition which dates back to at least the twentieth century B.C. with the earliest written forms emerging around 1500 BC. While the collection of the Hebrew Bible was more or less completed by 200 B.C., the texts of the New Testament became a fixed compilation only in the fourth century A.D. Over time, various translations have been effected to accommodate the changing speech and literary patterns of human languages.

If these objections hold, they pose compelling arguments against the Bible’s own claim. If not, the objections are exposed for what they are - mere prejudices!

Bible Tidbits: Did you know that ...
Before the invention of mass-produced printing (c.1455 A. D.), the Bible was transmitted by anonymous monks who patiently copied biblical manuscripts by hand.

It would take months to copy a single book such as Jeremiah.
Today, there are about

2300 surviving Bible manuscripts copied from 300 to 1500 A.D.
55001 Greek manuscripts that contain portions of the New Testament
8000 in Latin and
1000 in other ancient languages2 .

Most copies are about 100 years later than the autographs (originals).
Hand copying was tedious and errors invariably crept in due to the frailties of human effort. The invention of spectacles in 1375 A.D. helped greatly, as did the invention of the movable printing press in 1455 A.D. The earlier the document used, the closer to the original. The KJV used Greek and Hebrew manuscripts from the 12th and 13th centuries. Modern translators use New Testament manuscripts from as far back as the 3rd century and Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts from the time of Jesus

The Need for a Complete Bible
The last great persecution of Christians under the Roman Empire came under Emperor Diocletian in February, 303 A.D. Its failure to eradicate the faith completely led to the victory of the church. In 306 A.D., General Constantine was declared ‘Augustus’ by his troops at York in ‘England’ and in 312 A.D., was so affirmed by the Senate at Rome, (becoming sole emperor in 324). In 313 A.D., Constantine issued the Edict of Milan which declared Christianity a legitimate religion (it became the official religion of the empire in 381). The new capital of the empire was now Byzantium, later called Constantinople (modern day Istanbul in Turkey). In 332, Emperor Constantine himself ordered from bishop Eusebius, 50 copies of the Bible in vellum.

The Greek New Testament was written as a series of unbroken letter formations. One had to determine from the context, where one word ended and another started. Chapter divisions were created in the 1200s A.D. by a lecturer at the University of Paris and its current verse divisions were completed in 1551 A.D.

For example, the Gospel according to Mark in early documents might be written something like

or rather

which had to be broken up into discrete words, like so
????- ??? - ??????????? - ?????- ???????- ????- ????
which transliterate into English as

“Beginning - the - Gospel - (of) Jesus - Christ - Son - (of) God”
and translate into
“The beginning (of the) Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God”

Today, we know it in the modern Greek form (UBS4) as
???? ??? ??????????? ????? ??????? ???? ????
and in English

“The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God”

Learn more about the canonization of the Bible from the ACT Seminars or from the ACT Canonization Manual.
ACT, Box 20376, New York, NY 10001

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