Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Bible. The word Bible is derived through the ecclesiastical Latin term biblia, from the Greek term meaning books, which it is believed was first applied to the sacred volume by John Chrysostom, patriarch of Constantinople from 398 to 404 A.D. Biblia is the plural of biblion = (1) paper, a letter, (2) a book. It is a diminutive of biblos = the inner bark of the bublos or papyrus (Cyperus papyrus or Papyrus antiquorum), of which paper was anciently made. The general adoption by the Greek-speaking Christians of Chrysostom's word biblia, books, without any qualifying adjective, as a sufficient designation for the sacred writings, implies that they concurred with him in thinking that these alone were worthy of being called books; or, at least, stood pre-eminent, above all other literary productions. Whilst the Romans adopted the Greek term Biblia, they had also a word or words of their own, which, being more familiar, came better home to their hearts. Sometimes they said Scripturre, i.e. writings, and sometimes Scriptura, i.e. writing. Like Biblia these words implied the unique or pre-eminent value of the Bible above other writings, whilst Scriptura added to this a new idea absent from the Greek word. Biblia was a plural; Scriptura, a singular; the latter word, therefore, recognised that under the diversity of authorship there was an essential unity, produced by the controlling influence of One Directing Mind. The rich and copious English language deriving its names for the sacred writings from both the Greek and the Latin, recognises at once the diversity and the unity pervading the sacred writings, the terms Bible and Scripture pointing at the latter and Scriptures at the former. As, however, "Bible" is more frequently used than Scriptures, the ordinary English reader is continually in danger of forgetting the diversity and remembering only the unity. When note is taken of both, it is found that a remarkable phenomenon presents itself.

If the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch or of any part of it be admitted, and the approximate accuracy of the received Hebrew chronology be allowed to pass unquestioned, then the period during which the Bible was in process of production exceeded 1,500 years. The sacred writers differed greatly from each other in station, in education, and in various other respects. Yet when all their writings are brought together, they are found to be pervaded by an organic unity. If they were produced by the operation of One Directing Mind, then that mind, living and acting through fifteen consecutive centuries, cannot have been human but must have been Divine.

The Bible everywhere, directly or indirectly, claims to be a revelation from God, and it becomes at once the duty and interest of every human being to examine the evidence on which the claim is brought forward. The science instituted for the purpose is called Apologetics; but almost at the threshold of the inquiry questions arise which fall under the province not of Apologetics but of Biblical Criticism. They are these: What books are meant when the word Bible is used, and, when this point is settled, then what dependence can be placed on the text of these books, as we now have it, and if it has in any places become corrupt, are there means for bringing it nearer to its pristine purity? The Bible, as the word is understood in England, is generally held to consist of 66 books. These are naturally divided into two leading portions, the Old and the New Testaments. A third portion, the Apocrypha, intermediate between these two in date, is accepted as of Divine authority by the Church of Rome, but rejected by the Protestant churches; the term Bible is used in this article in the Protestant sense. The designation, Old Testament, is the rendering of Vetus Testamentum in the Latin Vulgate translation of 2 Cor. iii. 14. Testamentum in Latin means properly the solemn declaration of one's will; hence a will, a testament. The Greek Diatheke has two meanings: (1) a will and testament, (2) a covenant. Here it seems to mean covenant, and is so translated in the Revised Version. The Old and New Testaments, therefore, had better have been rendered the Old and New Covenants.

Nearly the whole of the Old Testament is written in Hebrew, the trifling exception being that a few passages in the later books are in Aramaic. They are Ezra iv. 8 to vi. 18, vii. 12 to 26; Jer. x. 11; and from Daniel ii. middle of verse 4 to vii. 28.

The Old Testament consists of 39 books; Josephus reduced them to 22. This, however, is done arbitrarily to conform them to the number of the primitive Hebrew letters. Probably he regarded the twelve minor prophets as one book, combined Ruth with Judges, 2 with 1 Samuel, 2 with 1 Kings, 2 with 1 Chronicles, Nehemiah with Ezra, and Lamentations with Jeremiah; this would take off 17 and make the number 22.

The order of the Old Testament books with which we are familiar is not quite the same as that which exists in the Hebrew Scriptures, and some of the names have been altered from those originally given. The following is the order in the Hebrew Bible, and where the ancient (Hebrew) names have been altered, the meaning which they bore is appended within parentheses: - 1. Genesis (In [the] beginning); 2. Exodus (And these are [the] names); 3. Leviticus (And he called); 4. Numbers (In [the] wilderness); 5. Deuteronomy (These [are] the words); 6. Joshua; 7. Judges; 8. 1 Samuel (Samuel, Aleph, (A.); 9. 2 Samuel (Samuel, Beth. (B); 10. 1 Kings (Kings, Aleph, (A); 11. 2 Kings (Kings, Beth, (B): 12. Isaiah; 13. Jeremiah; 14. Ezekiel; 15. Hosea; 16. Joel; 17. Amos; 18. Obadiah; 19. Jonah; 20. Micah; 21. Nahum; 22. Habakkuk; 23. Zephaniah; 24. Haggai; 25. Zechariah; 26. Malachi; 27. Psalms; 28. Proverbs; 29. Job; 30. Song of Solomon (Song of Songs); 31. Ruth; 32. Lamentations (How!); 33. Ecclesiastes (Preacher); 34. Esther; 35. Daniel; 30. Ezra; 37. Nehemiah; 38. 1 Chronicles (Daily Chronicles, Aleph, (A); 39. 2 Chronicles (Daily Chronicles, Beth, (B).

The names Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Lamentations, are either copied with or without modification, or are translated from those employed in the Greek Septuagint. The Hebrew designations of the same books are formed, as a rule, by taking the first two or three words with which each begins, and using them as a title. There are, however, two slight exceptions. In the case of Numbers, the words "In (the) wilderness," selected as a title, are not quite the first, though very nearly so; and in that of Lamentations, the initial clause, "How doth the city sit solitary," is cut down to the single word "How!" These books the Jews divided into three groups: - (1) The Torah, or law, containing the five books of the Pentateuch. (2) The Nebhim or prophets, divided into the earlier prophets, Joshua, Judges. 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings; the later prophets (the greater, viz. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel; and the lesser, viz. the twelve minor prophets). (3) The Kethubhim, or Sacred Books, called by the Greeks Hagiographa, including Psalms, Proverbs, Job, the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1 and 2 Chronicles.

In the prologue to the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus, 290 to 280, or 170 to 117 (?) B.C., mention is made of "the Law, the Prophets, and other books of our fathers." In the New Testament our Lord spoke of "the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms" (Luke xxiv. 44). More generally the three divisions were reduced to two, "the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew v. 17, vii. 12, xx. 40; Acts xiii. 15; Romans iii. 21).

To the Jews were committed "the oracles of God," and they showed themselves worthy of the trust; they never attempted to falsify the Hebrew Scriptures, and when the Septuagint translation into Greek, begun, apparently at Alexandria, in the third century B.C., and the Samaritan Pentateuch of more doubtful date, but apparently about the same time, had been made and diffused abroad, any tampering with the sacred text would soon have been detected.

Except perhaps the Gospel of St. Matthew, which may possibly have had a "Hebrew" or Aramaic original, the books of the New Testament are all but universally believed to have been composed, as we now find them, in Greek. The early Church carefully inquired into the claims of the several New Testament books. At an early period it accepted as canonical twenty, comprising, according to Gaussen, 7,059 of the 7,959 verses into which the modern New Testament is divided, or about eight-ninths of the whole. They were the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the thirteen epistles of St. Paul, 1 Peter, and 1 John. Five of the remaining seven, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude, were for a time considered doubtful, but were ultimately accepted, while the remaining two, Hebrews and Revelation, were received at first with unanimity, but subsequently for a time were regarded by some churches as doubtful, after which they again met with universal acceptance.

The Greek manuscripts of the New Testament are of two kinds, Uncials and Cursives. If the word Uncial is not corrupt, it must be derived from the Latin uncialis, in the sense of an inch high. It is used of manuscripts in which all the letters are capitals, and which in general have no spaces between the several words. Uncial Greek writing began to decline in the sixth, and died out in the tenth century. Cursive is from the Low Latin cursivus, running, which again is from the classical Latin verb curro, to run. The letters in cursive manuscripts are not capitals, and, as a rule, there are spaces between the several words.

The leading Uncial Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, entire or somewhat incomplete, are the following five: - a, the Alexandrian; b, the Vatican; c, the Ephraem; d, Beza's and Aleph, the Sinaitic manuscripts. Of these, b is not more recent than the fourth century, and is perhaps older. Aleph is also of the fourth century, a and c of the fifth, and d of the sixth. Adding other uncials and the cursives, about 1,760 manuscripts of the New Testament, some complete, others defective, are known. Essentially agreeing, they yet differ in minute points so that the various readings amount to 150,000. Most of them are of no importance, and the remainder are most helpful in settling the original text. Ancient versions are also of use, especially the Syriac Peshito (simple) made in the second century, and the Latin version, revised by Jerome, in the fourth century; this is now called the Vulgate.

The division of the Bible into chapters is attributed to Cardinal Hugo in the thirteenth century, and that into verses was borrowed, it is believed, from the Jewish "Masorites" of the ninth. The verses of the New Testament as they now stand are due to Robert Stephens, the printer (1548 and 1551). The Geneva Bible is the first English one with the present divisions of chapter and verse.

During the period when Anglo-Saxon was the language of England, viz, from the time of the earliest Saxon settlement in the island till about A.D. 1150, and again subsequent to that period, when Middle English had become the language of the country, translations from the Latin into the vernacular of Scripture portions, especially the Gospels, but occasionally also the Psalms, and even the Pauline epistles, were made from time to time, but no translation of the whole Bible seems to have been attempted till Wycliffe appeared. He was born about 1324, and died on December 31st, 1384. About 1382 or 1383 he published a translation of the Bible and the Apocrypha made from the Latin Vulgate. That of the New Testament seems to have been his own, but that of the Old Testament with a part of the Apocrypha appears to have emanated from a coadjutor of his, Nicholas de Hereford. The language of Wycliffe's Bible was close to the original, but somewhat unpolished. A second edition, not so literal as the first, but with more flowing language, was issued about 1388, the chief agent in its production being John Purvey. The work did much good at the time, but being written in Middle English, which prevailed till about 1500 A.D., it did not greatly affect the language of the modern English Bible. It was different with the next version. In 1525 William Tyndale published at Wittenberg a translation which he made from Greek into English of the New Testament, An improved edition appeared in 1534. In 1530 he issued a translation from the Hebrew of the Pentateuch, and next year one of Jonah, both being printed at Hamburg. In 1534 he was cruelly put to death at Vilvorde in Belgium, closing his life of piety and usefulness by a martyr death. By this time Henry VIII.'s quarrel with the Papacy had reached an advanced stage. In 1529 Cardinal Wolsey had been deposed from the chancellorship, in 1531 Henry had been declared supreme head of the Church of England, and in 1533 he had married Anna Boleyn, about whom the quarrel with the Papacy had arisen. In 1535 Miles Coverdale, on whom the mantle of Tyndale had fallen, published the first complete English Bible, Lord Thomas Cromwell lending his patronage to the work. It was not translated from the original, but made from previous versions, Tyndale's five books of Moses, an unpublished manuscript of his extending from Joshua to 2 Chronicles, his published, Jonah, and his New Testament being embodied in the work. It was dedicated to Henry VIII., who allowed it to pass into circulation. The version of the Psalms which is still retained in the Prayer Book is from the translation of Coverdale's, slightly modified by the Bishops' Bible afterwards to be mentioned. To Coverdale we were indebted for some felicitous renderings in the modern English Bible. In 1537 there appeared another version of the English Bible dedicated, like Coverdale's, to the king. It was translated nominally by "Thomas Matthew," really, it is believed, by John Rogers, who afterwards became the first martyr in Queen Mary's reign. It was made up of Tyndale's and Coverdale's translations, though the former had never obtained legal sanction. It had introductions, summaries of contents, and marginal notes, notwithstanding which it obtained the royal licence to be circulated, nay, more, a proclamation was issued requiring a copy to be placed in each church. It was thus the first Authorised Version. It was a huge folio, and was often called the Great Bible.

It appeared in 1537. It is the basis of the English text, both of the A.V. and the R.V., one reason of the respect paid to it being that the translation was made not from previous versions, but from the Hebrew and Greek originals. The statements of "Matthew" were exceedingly bold, so much so that he himself modified them in a second edition issued in 1539. The same year Taverner issued his Bible, which was founded on those of Tyndale's, Coverdale's, and Matthew's, especially on that of the last-named translator, whose views, however, when adopted, were more cautiously expressed.

In 1539 a great Bible was issued with a prologue by Archbishop Cranmer. It was a huge folio, printed in excellent type, and with a fine engraving by Holbein on the title page. Three subsequent editions had the Archbishop's name, and those of two episcopal coadjutors. The work was well executed, but the expense of the great volume put it quite beyond the means of ordinary people, and a smaller and cheaper production was required. This was supplied by the publication in 1557 of the New Testament, and in 1560 of the whole Bible at Geneva, prepared by the English exiles, the veteran Coverdale among the number, who were there as refugees during the Marian persecution. The Geneva Bible was a small quarto; it discarded black letter and adopted Roman type, borrowing at the same time from the Hebrew Scriptures the convenient division into verses. It was the first Bible which omitted the Apocrypha, It had explanatory and dogmatic notes. It became extraordinarily popular, especially among the English Puritans and the Scottish Presbyterians, and during the succeeding half-century ran through eighty editions.

The Geneva Bible not in all respects pleasing some of the higher Anglican dignitaries, Archbishop Parker planned a new version, which came out in 1568 as a great folio, with engravings, and a map. There was an elaborate preface, and the division into verses was retained. Its size and expensiveness limited its circulation, and notwithstanding its publication, the cheaper Geneva Bible held its ground.

In the controversies of the Reformation the taunt was often thrown out that the Church of Rome declined to put the Bible into the hands of the people. As a reply to the charge, an English translation of the New Testament was published at Rheims in a quarto volume in 1582. In 1609 the Old Testament and Apocrypha were published at Douay, completing the work. There were explanatory and dogmatic notes.

When the seventeenth century opened, the dignitaries still held to the Bishops' Bible and the common people to that issued at Geneva, while a few Hebrew and Greek scholars were dissatisfied with both, and wished a new translation. The Puritans, having Dr. Reinolds, of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, as their spokesman, brought the subject of revision forward at the Hampton Court Conference in 1604, King James after a time supporting their views. Action being resolved upon, fifty-four eminent Hebrew or Greek scholars were invited to undertake the work, and forty-seven actually did so. They were divided into six classes, two to sit at Westminster, two at Oxford, and two at Cambridge Each member of a class was to give his translation of all the portion of the Bible committed to that class. Then the translations were to be compared, and one more perfect than any of them taken separately to be made by selection from them all. Then other classes were to see if they could improve it, so that nothing should be published till it had received the imprimatur of the revisers as one body. They worked for four years, from 1606 to 1610. The patentee, Robert Barker, paid all expenses, and in 1611 issued from the press what ultimately became "the Authorised Version of the English Bible." A revision nominally of the Bishops' Bible, its pages were enriched by accurate or felicitous renderings from the previous versions, from that of Tyndale onwards. Though sanctioned, it was not enjoined to be read in churches, but gradually it made way, displacing at last every other rival, not excepting even the popular Geneva Bible. It owes its success to its own great merits. It has become the first English classic, and helped to fix the English language, as Luther's Bible did that of Germany. Its praise is throughout the world. But no human production is perfect, and from time to time during the present century wishes for revision began again to be expressed. In February, 1870, therefore, the Convocation of the Province of Canterbury resolved to take action in the matter. On the 3rd and 5th May principles and rules were agreed upon, one of which ran thus: - "That it is desirable that Convocation should nominate a body of its own members to undertake the work of revision, and shall be at liberty to invite the co-operation of any eminent for scholarship to whatever nation or religion they may belong." The greater part of two companies, the one for the revision of the Old and the other for that of the New Testament, was at once made up from members of the English Church, the remainder being composed of scholars belonging to the British denominations, the whole number of the revisers varying at different times from twenty-seven to twenty-four. The actual work of revision was commenced June 22nd, 1870. After a time, the cooperation of American Biblical scholars was sought and obtained. The Revised New Testament was published on May 17th, 1881. On May 15th, 1885, the first complete copy of the Revised Bible, containing now both Testaments, was presented to the Queen, the publication of the work following on the 18th. It is a great improvement on the Authorised Version, everywhere surpassing it in accuracy, though some of the new sentences are less beautiful and less musical than the old. Its publication was a conservative rather than a revolutionary act. After all changes which were required have been carried out, it is found that no doctrine has been imperilled by all this revision; the foundations of the faith stand just as they did.