How Did We Get The Bible?
The bible has proven itself to me many times over. I was at a point in my own life where I was trying to decide if I could trust the things written in the bible. My views towards the book changed as my misconceptions about this book were discovered. Now after years of researching scriptures I want to take the time to share why I believe the bible, and where this book came from. On this page I will go into major detail about the books that were included and the ones that were excluded. The things I will share just blew my mind when I discovered them. Not only is the bible authentic, but the bible has predicted several things about future events. As I look around it amazes me for I see these things unfolding before my very eyes!
Where did the bible come from?
Before we jump into biblical origins let’s take some time to spell out some misconceptions about the bible. People have asked me on several occasions how I can trust a book that was written by a group of men 2000 years ago. The reality is that was not how we got the bible as we know it today. The bible was written over a period of some 2100 years. The Old Testament can date back way before Jesus. Many scholars believe the oldest book in the bible is Job. It goes back to the time of Abraham which is 2,000 years before Christ. Moses wrote the first five books of the bible and that goes back about 1,500 years before Christ. The book of Daniel goes back a little over 600 years before Christ.
So the bible is not one book. It is a collection of books that were written over a period of 2100 years, in three different languages, with over 39 different authors! It was written on three different continents! People who study Hebrew soon learn the difference in the style of writing between books like Jeremiah and Isaiah. So the bible is a library of separate books. The books used to make up the bible were assembled and chosen in the 4th century A.D. This makes it unique among the other religious books out there. Let’s talk about some of the things that lend credibility to the scriptures.
Skeptics and Scoffers
The bible has many skeptics and scoffers in the world today. There are many false statements that come from people who want to discredit the bible. So let’s take some time to consider a few things.
Let’s begin by talking about the first time Jesus came to earth. Some biblical commentaries list the amount of prophecies that were predicted in scripture the first time Jesus came and died for our sins. Prophecies like his place of his birth, his escape into Egypt, his ministry, and his death are found in the Old Testament. There are 300 prophecies listed in the Old Testament which address and talk about Jesus and his life on earth 2000 years ago. These prophecies describe his death before Rome was a nation. Rome invented the crucifixion as a form of punishment but the prophecies concerning the death of Jesus are found before Rome ever existed!
These prophecies are so accurate that some scoffers say that those prophetic sections of the bible were written after the events were fulfilled. This is not true. When Alexander The Great conquered a nation or kingdom he forced them to learn the Greek language. He forced the Hellenistic culture (Greek culture) on the people he conquered. When He died his kingdom was divided among his four generals. In 285 a translation of the Hebrew Old Testament into Greek was started. It was finished in 270 BC. This Old Testament in Greek is known as the Septuagint. Septuagint comes from the Latin and it means 70. This Greek Version was named after the number of scholars that worked on it. All the prophecies concerning Christ and his first coming can be found in the Septuagint version as well as the Hebrew Old Testament. The prophecies written about Christ’s death were around 300 years before his death in the Greek Septuagint version!
The Dead Sea Scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls are a vast collection of 981 texts discovered between 1947 and 1956 at Khirbet Qumran. The initial discovery was made by a Bedouin shepherd. They reveal history from the Second Temple period. (520 B.C.-70 A.D.) The scrolls were remnants of a library from a group of people known as the Essenes. These scrolls were discovered in a total of 11 different caves.
Most of the books found in the Old Testament are among the scrolls. They remain the oldest copies of the Old Testament. It is also very significant that several manuscripts of the Bible, including the Leviticus Scroll are inscribed not in the Jewish script dominant at the time but rather in the ancient paleo-Hebrew script. Some of the texts of Samuel from Cave 4 follow the Septuagint. As we stated earlier the Septuagint is the Greek version of the Old Testament translated in 285-270 B.C. Qumran has yielded copies of the Septuagint in Greek!
Today these scrolls are kept in Israel. They are in a museum called Shrine of The Book. Photographs and digital copies are available on line
Charles Bousfield Huleatt lived from 1863–1908. Huleatt was an Oxford Magdalen alumni. Later in life he was a missionary who was working in Luxor Egypt. In 1901 the Reverend Huleatt acquired three pieces of a New Testament manuscript from the antiquities market in Luxor. Nothing is known as to how he acquired these manuscripts. He donated these papyrus fragments to his alma mater, Magdalen College in Oxford, England. Papyrologist Dr. A. S. Hunt studied the manuscript and dated it to the early 4th century. Colin Roberts later re-dated the fragments to the later second century, (200 A.D.) a date he confirmed with Sir Harold Bell, Mr. T. C. Skeat and Professor Turner. The Manuscripts were re-dated again to 60 A.D. by Dr. Carsten Peter Thiede, Director of the Institute of Basic Epistemological Research in Paderborn in 1994
This is vigorously debated in scholarly circles and some scholars reject Dr. Thiede’s claim. Some Believe the new date. See links below
P52 is yet another gospel fragment. This one was discovered in Egypt as well. It is from the gospel of John
There are critics of the New Testament that claim that the Gospel of John was not written by John. They make the claim that most of the gospels appeared on the scene generations after the death of Christ. That is what makes these discoveries so important. If the analyses of the manuscripts are true then the gospels are eye-witness accounts of the events that happened in the New Testament. This would provide evidence not only to the existence of Jesus but to the events that happened concerning his life.
This is important because I have read the works from skeptics, critics and scoffers who claim the gospels were written long after Christ. There are several factual proofs that goes against this belief. Let me give you just one example, Jesus took his disciples to Caesarea Philippi. In 61 A.D. king Agrippa II renamed the city and called it Neronias in honor of the Roman emperor Nero. This name was discarded several years later, in 68 A.D. In his Antiquities of the Jews, Flavius Josephus refers to the city as Caesarea Paneas. Later it is called Banias. The gospels of Mark and Mathew do not mention the city by its name change in 61 A.D. or by later names. This seems to imply an earlier date for the gospels.
Let’s take some time to explore other books outside of the bible. There are 400 years of silence between the Old Testament and the New Testament. During this time no canonical books were written. As The bible says in Amos 8:11
“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine through the land– not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.” (NIV)
There were books written during these 400 years of silence. These books are not thought to be inspired of God. They do have an important historical reference. The time span on these books is from 300 B.C. to 70 A.D. This collection of books is called the Apocrypha. Thirteen of these books are found in the Septuagint version but they were not considered to be canonical or inspired of God by the early Church. They were officially added to the bible at the Council of Trent in 1546. They can be found in the first King James Translation. They were removed in later translations.
The Pseudepigrapha books are a collection of books that are false. There are 54 of these books and they were all written under pseudo names. These books were not taken seriously by the early church. One reason is because they were attributed to authors who did not actually write them. Some of these books are Gnostic in origin.
Gnosticism traces its roots back just after the beginning of the Christian Church. The word “Gnosticism” comes from the Greek word “gnosis” which means “knowledge.” Gnosticism teaches that salvation is only achieved through special knowledge (gnosis). This knowledge usually dealt with the individual’s relationship to the transcendent Being. As a result of these false teachings fake gospels were written to help support this belief. The early church had to deal with this. It is a probability that 1 John was written against some of the errors that Gnosticism promoted. The Pseudepigraphical collection contains some Gnostic writings.
A lost book or a lost writing is a book that the bible itself gives as a reference and lists the name of the book but these books are now lost. We have no idea what they said or what was in them. They are lost. Here is the collection of lost books that the bible mentions
- Book of the wars of the Lord (Num 21:14)
- Book of The Just (Josh 10:13, 2Sam 1:18
- Book of the Acts of Solomon (1Kings 11:41)
- Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel (1Kings 14:19, 2Chron 33:18)
- Book of the Annals of the kings of Judah (1Kings 14:29, 15:17)
- Annals of Samuel the Seer (1Chron 29:29)
- History of Nathan the Prophet (2Chron 9:29)
- Annals of Shemaiah the prophet of Iddo the Seer (2 Chron 12:15)
- Annals of Jehu Son of Hannani (2 Chron 20:13)
- Annals of Hosai (2Chron 33:18)
- Jerimiah’s Lament for Josiah (2 Chron 35:25)
Early Christian writings
There are many letters and writings from the early church. The Apostolic Fathers are a group of early Christian authors who lived and wrote in the second half of the 1st century and the first half of the 2nd century. The title “Apostolic Fathers” has been applied to them since the 17th century. This is to designate that they were thought of as being of the generation that had personal contact with the twelve Apostles. They are acknowledged as official leaders in the early church.
There are Historians from the time of Jesus that documented events. These writers did not give a religious account. They only documented events and they viewed Christianity as a troublesome sect of people. Jesus is mentioned 42 times outside of the bible by groups of people who were opposed to Christianity. These people were the ones responsible for keeping written records. 4 of these people were Historians
As we can see at this point the bible is not a single book that a group of men decided to write 2000 years ago. It is a complex narrative that took millenniums to create. When we see the final product today I am amazed at the details. One minute I am looking at a book that is 3500 years old and the next minute I am cross-referencing with another book that is 2600 years old under the very same cover. This is one of the things that make the bible unique from all other books.
“2Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” (NIV)
So now that we know this information about the bible, let’s explore biblical history a little more. The books that were chosen to be what is known as the bible today were chosen in the 4th century. This collection of books is referred to as the canon. In 367 AD the church father Athanasius first provided the complete listing of the 66 books belonging to the canon. The 66 books that make up the bible were the ones, and the only ones, universally accepted as being God inspired by everyone.