How Did The Bible Come To Be

A Study of History

The Bible is one of the most famous works in history, and its oldest parts reach back to the second millennium BC in the form of ancient texts written in Hebrew. But what is the story behind it? How did the Bible come to be? Many books have been written and countless debates have occurred through the years on this very topic, but here is an attempt at an overview of the process in which the Bible was formed.
Though, as mentioned, ancient texts written in Hebrew were present all the way back to the second millennium, the Bible was a gradual process of compilation and editing, especially in terms of the Old Testament. Over the years different parts were added and removed to form the current version which is known as the Jerusalem Bible. The influence of the Jews was key in this process, as they displayed their faith as essayed in different parts – these can be found nowadays in the Hebrew Bible and rely on works such as the Tannach or Tanakh, meaning “teaching” which is composed of the same books that would later form the Old Testament.
In addition, the number of books that were originally included in the Hebrew Bible are not the same as those of the Christian Bible. The Christians on their part, accepted works that weren’t written in Hebrew, such as those comprising the so called deuterocanonical books, and then divided them into two testaments. The Old Testament was comprised and written by different authors for some 1200 years between the Middle Bronze Age to the period of Persian and Hellenistic rule (about 1550-332 BCE).

The Arc of History: Canonization and Reformation

The compilation of these works included experiences and understanding of the time they were written in, therefore the presence of different cultures, such as those of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Hittites and many more is greatly visible in these texts.
Coming up to the period of 65-133 AD sees the Roman contribution to the Bible’s canonization which was done by early Christian authorities in different centuries throughout history with the purpose of setting up a credible literature that represented the beliefs of the Catholic and Orthodox denominations. From here came forth the first generation of Christian books, some of them being so called “apocriphal” ones, which were eventually left out in what is known as the Protestant’s canon. Since then, the Bible has been divided by Protestants into two parts separated in a different way than the Catholics’.
On the other hand the Protestant Reformation had a substantial contribution to the Bible since it led to the printing of new versions of the Scriptures and to the incorporation of the 3 languages used in the Bible; Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The Reformation is thus a major reference source for the current canonical books that are accepted in Christianity and for the way in which these books were divided into two separate sets of texts.

Authors and Translations

It is widely accepted that the majority of books included in the Bible are written by some 40 authors throughout the fifth century BC, to the middle of the first century AD, authors who have made the Bible the cornerstone of many religions. These authors vary vastly, and range between prophets, priests, kings and other traditionary writers and attest to the great number of cultures and mythology combined together in this work.
Moreover, the Bible has been translated into an immense number of languages over the years, in an attempt to make the divine teaching available to everyone. Although the most commonly used versions nowadays are those of the King James Bible, the Septuagint and the Vulgate ( by St. Jerome) translations, this is not the end of the story. Through the Albigensian Bible (13th century), Luther’s Bible (1534), and the English Revised Version of the Bible (1880-85) down to the New American Bible (1996-2011) the various translations keep appearing.

Political Pressure: Controversies and the Growth of Religious Freedom

Controversies regarding the Bible are not something new and this has been the case all through the centuries; both in terms of its interpretations and its credibility. Certain groups of people and church authorities have, through time, called for nothing less than changes and even prohibition of certain of its parts due to considerations such as heresy, blasphemy, and to prevent proof as to the validity of different analogous texts. Most of these controversies had the purpose of maintaining certain religions in the public arena and demonstrating the ‘’God-given’’ truths under the form of the Biblical infallibility.
In the 18th and 19th centuries a great rise in religious freedoms occurred in many countries such as the USA and resulted to dramatic changes in many religious and political cultures. The original separation of powers of the government and the church and the subsequent rise in individual liberties, were two of the many consequences of this change. Such was the impact of this change that it resulted in the development of new spiritual awarenesses, communities and new forms of religion which pushed forward the issue of religious liberty and freedom of speech.

Interpretation and Contradiction

A great part of the religious freedom of the 18th century state was brought about through the belief in an absolute truth versus an individual interpretation of a text. This meant that faiths had to be taken as a whole, not as a single text – contrary to the old interpretations, where certain verses of the Bible were accepted while certain others weren’t. This approach can be seen in the Modern Christian movement where a ‘’questioning interpretation’’ is present; an interpretation that is not brought about by a specific text, but an ‘’overview’’ of a text and a focus on the aspects that are linked more to personal experience, than religious obedience. This is perhaps the one which brings about the greatest reinterpretation of what formerly was believed to be the ‘’infallible’’ Bible.

Technological Advancement: Digital Study and Analysis

Technology has also been key in Bible-related researches and studies, by offering the possibility to analyze and compare the texts themselves and investigate the depth and complexity they hold. Several Bible study applications and websites are present nowadays, and they offer the ability to cross examine texts, see original vs transliterated versions, and generate a ‘’big picture’’. Many of these applications are free and open to everyone, even non-believers, evidence that many are now more interested in the multi- religious and cultural understanding of the various authors and texts of the Bible rather than a religious one.

Gospel and Community Outreach

The development of technology and the emergence of the internet not only marked the way of Bible research and study but gave a whole new perspective and shape to the religious realm. Various projects, such as the Bible Project, saw daylight where the translation of the Scriptures to a larger online audience was the main aim. In addition, conversations regarding the Bible have also shifted from a rather individualistic self-reflection to a public collaborative analysis. For example, platforms, such as Bible Talk, provide a space and cultural safe discussion, geared towards understanding and pursuing the Gospel in the public sphere.

Open Challenges, New Opportunities

Overall, the scholars and religious figures of our days and the technological evolution of our times have created a new way of approaching the Scriptures, one that challenges the traditional understanding of the Bible and opens the door to a more multi-religious analysis of it. The Bible, although it remains an ancient text, with its origins and evolution in the very far past still remains relevant today, as people come across a plethora of challenges ahead of them. It is thus believed that it will continue to live and teach us how to embrace our modern world amidst ancient words and stories.

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

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