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| The Bible is
The Hebrew Bible, composed between the 14th and 5th centuries BCE, is the main source for the history of ancient Israel. The five books of the Torah compromise the legal code and origins of the Israelite nation. The Prophets consist of prophetic and ethical teachings, as well as the historic account of Israel. The Writings such as Psalms and Job are poetic works. Israelite historians presented a picture of the ancient nation based on information that they viewed as historically accurate. Like modern historians, Hebrew writers provided historical explanations or background information of the events they describe (e.g., , , , , , ).
Judaism recognizes a single set of canonical books known as the Tanakh, also called Hebrew Bible, traditionally divided into three parts: the Torah ("teaching" or "law"), the Nevi'im ("prophets"), and the Ketuvim ("writings").
The Bible as used by Christians adopted the Jewish, or Hebrew Bible into its canon, classifying it as the "Old Testament". Soon after the establishment of Christianity in the first century, Church fathers compiled Gospel accounts, and letters of apostles into a Christian Bible, in addition to adopted Jewish Bible. This became known as the New Testament. The two together are referred to as "The Bible" by Christians. The canonical composition of the Jewish Bible is in dispute between Christian groups: Protestants hold only the books of the Hebrew Bible to be canonical; Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox additionally consider the deuterocanonical books, a group of Jewish books, to be canonical. The New Testament is comprised of the Gospels ("good news"), the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles (letters), and the Book of Revelation.
The term "bible" is sometimes used to refer to any central text of a religion, or a comprehensive guidebook on a particular subject.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word bible is from the Latin biblia, traced from the same word through Medieval Latin and Late Latin, as used in the phrase biblia sacra ("holy book"—"In the Latin of the Middle Ages, the neuter plural for Biblia (gen. bibliorum) gradually came to be regarded as a feminine singular noun (biblia, gen. bibliae in which singular form the word has passed into the languages of the Western world.") This stemmed from the Greek term τὰ βιβλία τὰ ἅγια (ta biblia ta hagia), "the holy books", which derived from βιβλίον (biblion), "paper" or "scroll," the ordinary word for "book", which was originally a diminutive of βύβλος (byblos, "Egyptian papyrus"), possibly so called from the name of the Phoenician port Byblos (also known as Gebal) from whence Egyptian papyrus was exported to Greece.
The Greek phrase Ta biblia (lit. "little papyrus books") was "an expression Hellenistic Jews used to describe their sacred books several centuries before the time of Jesus," and would have referred to the Septuagint. The Online Etymology Dictionary states, "The Christian scripture was referred to in Greek as Ta Biblia as early as c.223."
The Tanakh (Hebrew: תנ"ך) consists of 24 books. Tanakh is an acronym for the three parts of the Hebrew Bible: the Torah ("Teaching/Law" also known as the Pentateuch), Nevi'im ("Prophets"), and Ketuvim ("Writings," or Hagiographa), and is used commonly by Jews but unfamiliar to many English speakers and others (Alexander 1999, p. 17). (See Table of books of Judeo-Christian Scripture.)
The Torah comprises the following five books:
- Genesis, Ge—Bereshit (בראשית)
- Exodus, Ex—Shemot (שמות)
- Leviticus, Le—Vayikra (ויקרא)
- Numbers, Nu—Bamidbar (במדבר)
- Deuteronomy, Dt—Devarim (דברים)
The Hebrew book titles come from some of the first words in the respective texts.
The Torah focuses on three moments in the changing relationship between God and people. The first eleven chapters of Genesis provide accounts of the creation (or ordering) of the world, and the history of God's early relationship with humanity. The remaining thirty-nine chapters of Genesis provide an account of God's covenant with the Hebrew patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (also called Israel), and Jacob's children (the "Children of Israel"), especially Joseph. It tells of how God commanded Abraham to leave his family and home in the city of Ur, eventually to settle in the land of Canaan, and how the Children of Israel later moved to Egypt. The remaining four books of the Torah tell the story of Moses, who lived hundreds of years after the patriarchs. His story coincides with the story of the liberation of the Children of Israel from slavery in Ancient Egypt, to the renewal of their covenant with God at Mount Sinai, and their wanderings in the desert until a new generation would be ready to enter the land of Canaan. The Torah ends with the death of Moses.
The Torah contains the commandments, of God, revealed at Mount Sinai (although there is some debate amongst Jewish scholars as to whether this was written down completely in one moment, or if it was spread out during the 40 years in the wandering in the desert). These commandments provide the basis for Halakha (Jewish religious law). Tradition states that the number of these is equal to 613 Mitzvot or 613 commandments. There is some dispute as to how to divide these up (mainly between the Ramban and Rambam).
The Torah is divided into fifty-four portions which are read on successive Sabbaths in Jewish liturgy, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Deuteronomy. The cycle ends and recommences at the end of Sukkot, which is called Simchat Torah.
The Nevi'im, or "Prophets," tell the story of the rise of the Hebrew monarchy, its division into two kingdoms, and the prophets who, in God's name, warned the kings and the Children of Israel about the punishment of God. It ends with the conquest of the Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians and the conquest of the Kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians, and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Portions of the prophetic books are read by Jews on the Sabbath (Shabbat). The Book of Jonah is read on Yom Kippur.
According to Jewish tradition, Nevi'im is divided into eight books. Contemporary translations subdivide these into twenty-one books.
The Nevi'im comprise the following eight books:
- 6. Joshua, Js—Yehoshua (יהושע)
- 7. Judges, Jg—Shoftim (שופטים)
- 8. Samuel, includes First and Second 1Sa–2Sa—Shemuel (שמואל)
- 9. Kings, includes First and Second, 1Ki–2Ki—Melakhim (מלכים)
- 10. Isaiah, Is—Yeshayahu (ישעיהו)
- 11. Jeremiah, Je—Yirmiyahu (ירמיהו)
- 12. Ezekiel, Ez—Yekhezkel (יחזקאל)
- 13. Twelve, includes all Minor Prophets—Tre Asar (תרי עשר)
- A. Hosea, Ho—Hoshea (הושע)
- B. Joel, Jl—Yoel (יואל)
- C. Amos, Am—Amos (עמוס)
- D. Obadiah, Ob—Ovadyah (עבדיה)
- E. Jonah, Jh—Yonah (יונה)
- F. Micah, Mi—Mikhah (מיכה)
- G. Nahum, Na—Nahum (נחום)
- H. Habakkuk, Hb—Havakuk (חבקוק)
- I. Zephaniah, Zp—Tsefanya (צפניה)
- J. Haggai, Hg—Khagay (חגי)
- K. Zechariah, Zc—Zekharyah (זכריה)
- L. Malachi, Ml—Malakhi (מלאכי)
The Ketuvim, or "Writings" or "Scriptures," may have been written during or after the Babylonian Exile. According to Rabbinic tradition and superscriptions to the Psalms themselves, many of the psalms in the book of Psalms are attributed to David; King Solomon is believed to have written Song of Songs in his youth, Proverbs at the prime of his life, and Ecclesiastes at old age; and the prophet Jeremiah is thought to have written Lamentations. The Book of Ruth is the only biblical book that centers entirely on a non-Jew. The book of Ruth tells the story of a non-Jew (specifically, a Moabite) who married a Jew and, upon his death, followed in the ways of the Jews; according to the Bible, she was the great-grandmother of King David. Five of the books, called "The Five Scrolls" (Megilot), are read on Jewish holidays: Song of Songs on Passover; the Book of Ruth on Shavuot; Lamentations on the Ninth of Av; Ecclesiastes on Sukkot; and the Book of Esther on Purim. Collectively, the Ketuvim contain lyrical poetry, philosophical reflections on life, and the stories of the prophets and other Jewish leaders during the Babylonian exile. It ends with the Persian decree allowing Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple.
The Ketuvim comprise the following eleven books, divided, in many modern translations, into twelve through the division of Ezra and Nehemiah:
- 14. Psalms, Ps—Tehillim (תהלים)
- 15. Proverbs, Pr—Mishlei (משלי)
- 16. Job, Jb—Iyyov (איוב)
- 17. Song of Songs, So—Shir ha-Shirim (שיר השירים)
- 18. Ruth, Ru—Rut (רות)
- 19. Lamentations, La—Eikhah (איכה), also called Kinot (קינות)
- 20. Ecclesiastes, Ec—Kohelet (קהלת)
- 21. Esther, Es—Ester (אסתר)
- 22. Daniel, Dn—Daniel (דניאל)
- 23. Ezra, Ea, includes Nehemiah, Ne—Ezra (עזרא), includes Nehemiah (נחמיה)
- 24. Chronicles, includes First and Second, 1Ch–2Ch—Divrei ha-Yamim (דברי הימים), also called Divrei (דברי)
Hebrew Bible translations and editions
The Oral Torah
According to some Jews during the Hellenistic period, such as the Sadducees, only a minimal oral tradition of interpreting the words of the Torah existed, which did not include extended biblical interpretation. According to the Pharisees, however, God revealed both a Written Torah and an Oral Torah to Moses, the Oral Torah consisting of both stories and legal traditions. In Rabbinic Judaism, the Oral Torah is essential for understanding the Written Torah literally (as it includes neither vowels nor punctuation) and exegetically. The Oral Torah has different facets, principally Halacha (laws), the Aggadah (stories), and the Kabbalah (esoteric knowledge). Major portions of the Oral Law have been committed to writing, notably the Mishnah; the Tosefta; Midrash, such as Midrash Rabbah, the Sifre, the Sifra, and the Mechilta; and both the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds as well.
Orthodox Judaism continues to accept the Oral Torah in its totality. Masorti and Conservative Judaism state that the Oral Tradition is to some degree divinely inspired, but disregard its legal elements in varying degrees. Reform Judaism also gives some credence to the Talmud containing the legal elements of the Oral Torah, but, as with the written Torah, asserts that both were inspired by, but not dictated by, God. Reconstructionist Judaism denies any connection of the Torah, Written or Oral, with God.
The article Jewish commentaries on the Bible discusses the Jewish understanding of the Bible, including bible commentaries from the ancient Targums to classical Rabbinic literature, the midrash literature, the classical medieval commentators, and modern day Jewish bible commentaries.
Christian canons of the Bible
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The Christian Bible consists of the Hebrew scriptures, which have been called the Old Testament, and some later writings known as the New Testament. "Testament" is a translation of the Greek διαθηκη (diatheke), also often translated "covenant." It is a legal term denoting a formal and legally binding declaration of benefits to be given by one party to another (e.g., "last will and testament" in secular use). Here it does not connote mutuality; rather, it is a unilateral covenant offered by God to individuals.
Some groups within Christianity include additional books as part of one or both of these "Testaments" of their sacred writings—most prominent among which are the biblical apocrypha or deuterocanonical books.
In Judaism, the term Christian Bible is commonly used to identify only those books like the New Testament which have been added by Christians to the Masoretic Text, and excludes any reference to an Old Testament.
The Old Testament consists of a collection of works composed at various times from the twelfth to the second century B.C. It was written in classical Hebrew, except some brief portions ( Much of it, such as genealogies, poems and stories, are thought to have been handed down by word of mouth for many generations. Very few manuscripts are said to have survived the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.and , , ) which are in the Aramaic language, a sister language which became the lingua franca of the Semitic world.
The Old Testament is accepted by Christians as scripture. Broadly speaking, it is the same as the Hebrew Bible. However, the order of the books is not entirely the same as that found in Hebrew manuscripts and in the ancient versions. and varies from Judaism in interpretation and emphasis (see for example Isaiah 7:14). Several Christian denominations also incorporate additional books into their canons of the Old Testament. A few groups consider particular translations to be divinely inspired, notably the Greek Septuagint, the Aramaic Peshitta, and the English King James Version.
Apocryphal or deuterocanonical books
The Septuagint (Greek translation, from Alexandria in Egypt under the Ptolemies) was generally abandoned in favour of the Masoretic text as the basis for translations of the Old Testament into Western languages from St. Jerome's Bible (the Vulgate) to the present day. In Eastern Christianity, translations based on the Septuagint still prevail. Some modern Western translations make use of the Septuagint to clarify passages in the Masoretic text, where the Septuagint may preserve a variant reading of the Hebrew text. They also sometimes adopt variants that appear in other texts e.g. those discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
A number of books which are part of the Peshitta or Greek Septuagint but are not found in the Hebrew (Rabbinic) Bible are often referred to as deuterocanonical books by Roman Catholics referring to a later secondary (i.e. deutero) canon. Most Protestants term these books as apocrypha. Evangelicals and those of the Modern Protestant traditions do not accept the deuterocanonical books as canonical, although Protestant Bibles included them in Apocrypha sections until around the 1820s. However, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches include these books as part of their Old Testament.
The Roman Catholic Church recognizes the following books:
- 1 Maccabees
- 2 Maccabees
- Wisdom of Solomon
- Sirach also called Ecclesiasticus
- The Letter of Jeremiah (Baruch Chapter 6)
- Greek Additions to Esther
- The Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children
- Bel and the Dragon
In addition to those, the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches recognize the following:
Some other Eastern Orthodox Churches include:
- 2 Esdras i.e., Latin Esdras in the Russian and Georgian Bibles
There is also 4 Maccabees which is only accepted as canonical in the Georgian Church, but was included by St. Jerome in an appendix to the Vulgate, and is an appendix to the Greek Orthodox Bible, and it therefore sometimes included in collections of the Apocrypha.
The Anglican Churches uses some of the Apocryphal books liturgically. Therefore, editions of the Bible intended for use in the Anglican Church include the Deuterocanonical books accepted by the Catholic Church, plus 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh, which were in the Vulgate appendix.
The New Testament is a collection of 27 books, of 4 different genres of Christian literature (Gospels, one account of the Acts of the Apostles, Epistles and an Apocalypse). Jesus is its central figure. The New Testament presupposes the inspiration of the Old (2 Timothy 3:16). Nearly all Christians recognize the New Testament (as stated below) as canonical scripture. These books can be grouped into:
General Epistles, also called Jewish Epistles
The order of these books varies according to Church tradition. The New Testament books are ordered differently in the Catholic/Protestant tradition, the Slavonic tradition, the Syriac tradition and the Ethiopian tradition.
The books of the New Testament were written in Koine Greek, the language of the earliest extant manuscripts, even though some authors often included translations from Hebrew and Aramaic texts. Certainly the Pauline Epistles were written in Greek for Greek-speaking audiences. See Greek primacy. Some scholars believe that some books of the Greek New Testament (in particular, the Gospel of Matthew) are actually translations of a Hebrew or Aramaic original. Of these, a small number accept the Syriac Peshitta as representative of the original. See Aramaic primacy. The study of the Greek New Testament, not least the synoptic gospels, has been said to present undergraduates "with a more demanding set of interlocking intellectual challenges than any other subject in the university".
When ancient scribes copied earlier books, they wrote notes on the margins of the page (marginal glosses) to correct their text—especially if a scribe accidentally omitted a word or line—and to comment about the text. When later scribes were copying the copy, they were sometimes uncertain if a note was intended to be included as part of the text. See textual criticism. Over time, different regions evolved different versions, each with its own assemblage of omissions and additions.
The autographs, the Greek manuscripts written by the original authors, have not survived. Scholars surmise the original Greek text from the versions that do survive. The three main textual traditions of the Greek New Testament are sometimes called the Alexandrian text-type (generally minimalist), the Byzantine text-type (generally maximalist), and the Western text-type (occasionally wild). Together they comprise most of the ancient manuscripts.
While individual books within the Christian Bible present narratives set in certain historical periods, most Christian denominations teach that the Bible itself has an overarching message.
The Bible has always been central to the life of the Christian church. Bible scholar N.T. Wright says Jesus himself was profoundly shaped by the scriptures—the ancient Hebrew and Aramaic texts whose stories, songs, prophecy and wisdom permeated the Jewish world of his day. He adds that the earliest Christians also searched those same scriptures in their effort to understand what their living God had accomplished through the brief earthly life of Jesus. They regarded the ancient Israelites' scriptures as having reached a climactic fulfillment in Jesus himself, generating the "new covenant" prophesied by Jeremiah.
There are wide differences of opinion among Christians as to how particular incidents as described in the Bible are to be interpreted and as to what meaning should be attached to various prophecies. However, Christians in general are in agreement as to the Bible's basic message. A general outline, as described by C. S. Lewis, is as follows:
- At some point in the past, humanity chose to depart from God's will and began to sin.
- Because no one is free from sin, people cannot deal with God directly, so God revealed Himself in ways people could understand.
- God called Abraham and his progeny to be the means for saving all of humanity.
- To this end, He gave the Law to Moses.
- The resulting nation of Israel went through cycles of sin and repentance, yet the prophets show an increasing understanding of the Law as a moral, not just a ceremonial, force.
- Jesus brought a perfect understanding of the Mosaic Law, that of love and salvation.
- By His death and resurrection, all who believe are saved and reconciled to God.
Many Christians, Muslims, and Jews regard the Bible as inspired by God yet written fallibly by imperfect men. Many others, who identify themselves as biblical literalists, regard both the New and Old Testament as the undiluted Word of God, spoken by God and written down in its perfect form by humans. Still others hold the Biblical infallibility perspective, that the Bible is free from error in spiritual but not scientific matters. "Bible scholars claim that discussions about the Bible must be put into its context within church history and then into the context of contemporary culture."
Belief in sacred texts is attested to in Jewish antiquity, and this belief can also be seen in the earliest of Christian writings. Various texts of the Bible mention Divine agency in relation to prophetic writings, the most explicit being: "All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness."
In their book A General Introduction to the Bible, Norman Geisler and William Nix wrote: "The process of inspiration is a mystery of the providence of God, but the result of this process is a verbal, plenary, inerrant, and authoritative record."
Most evangelical biblical scholars associate inspiration with only the original text; for example some American Protestants adhere to the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy which asserted that inspiration applied only to the autographic text of Scripture. However, some adherents to the King James Only view attribute inerrancy to a particular translation.
The word "canon" etymologically means cane or reed. In early Christianity "canon" referred to a list of books approved for public reading. Books not on the list were referred to as "apocryphal" — meaning they were for private reading only. Under Latin usage from the fourth century on, canon came to stand for a closed and authoritative list in the sense of rule or norm.
The New Testament refers to the threefold division of the Hebrew Scriptures: the law, the prophets, and the writings. Pentateuch), the "prophets" which include certain historical books in addition to the books now called "prophets," and the psalms (the "writings" designated by its most prominent collection). The Hebrew Bible probably was canonized in these three stages: the law canonized before the Exile, the prophets by the time of the Syrian persecution of the Jews, and the writings shortly after AD 70 (the fall of Jerusalem). About that time, early Christian writings began being accepted by Christians as "scripture." These events, taken together, may have caused the Jews to close their "canon." They listed their own recognized Scriptures and also excluded both Christian and Jewish writings considered by them to be "apocryphal." In this canon the thirty-nine books found in the Old Testament of today's Christian Bibles were grouped together as twenty-two books, equaling the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. This canon of Jewish scripture is attested to by Philo, Josephus, the New Testament, and the Talmud.refers to the "law of Moses" (
The New Testament writers assumed the inspiration of the Old Testament, probably earliest stated in , "all Scripture is inspired of God."
Old and New Testaments
The Old Testament canon entered into Christian use in the Greek Septuagint translations and original books, and their differing lists of texts. In addition to the Septuagint, Christianity subsequently added various writings that would become the New Testament. Somewhat different lists of accepted works continued to develop in antiquity. In the fourth century a series of synods produced a list of texts equal to the 39-to-46-book canon of the Old Testament and to the 27-book canon of the New Testament that would be subsequently used to today, most notably the Synod of Hippo in AD 393. Also c. 400, Jerome produced a definitive Latin edition of the Bible (see Vulgate), the canon of which, at the insistence of the Pope, was in accord with the earlier Synods. With the benefit of hindsight it can be said that this process effectively set the New Testament canon, although there are examples of other canonical lists in use after this time. A definitive list did not come from an Ecumenical Council until the Council of Trent (1545–63).
During the Protestant Reformation, certain reformers proposed different canonical lists than what was currently in use. Though not without debate, see Antilegomena, the list of New Testament books would come to remain the same; however, the Old Testament texts present in the Septuagint, but not included in the Jewish canon, fell out of favor. In time they would come to be removed from most Protestant canons. Hence, in a Catholic context these texts are referred to as deuterocanonical books, whereas in a Protestant context they are referred to as Apocrypha, the label applied to all texts excluded from the biblical canon which were in the Septuagint. It should also be noted, that Catholics and Protestants both describe certain other books, such as the Acts of Peter, as apocryphal.
Thus, the Protestant Old Testament of today has a 39-book canon—the number varies from that of the books in the Tanakh (though not in content) because of a different method of division—while the Roman Catholic Church recognizes 46 books as part of the canonical Old Testament. The term "Hebrew Scriptures" is only synonymous with the Protestant Old Testament, not the Catholic, which contains the Hebrew Scriptures and additional texts. Both Catholics and Protestants have the same 27-book New Testament Canon.
Ethiopian Orthodox canon
The Canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is wider than for most other Christian groups. The Ethiopian Old Testament Canon includes the books found in the Septuagint accepted by other Orthodox Christians, in addition to Enoch and Jubilees which are ancient Jewish books that only survived in Ge'ez but are quoted in the New Testament, also Greek Ezra First and the Apocalypse of Ezra, 3 books of Meqabyan, and Psalm 151 at the end of the Psalter. The three books of Meqabyan are not be confused with the books of Maccabees. The order of the other books is somewhat different from other groups', as well. The Old Testament follows the Septuagint order for the Minor Prophets rather than the Jewish order.
Marcion, an early Christian heretic, and his followers, had a Bible that excluded the Old Testament. It consisted of an edited Gospel of Luke (excluding what Marcion considered Jewish additions), and the Epistles of Paul (excluding Titus, the two epistles to Timothy, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and passages rejected as Jewish additions).
Bible versions and translations
Bible versions are discussed below, while Bible translations can be found on a separate page.
The original texts of the Tanakh were in Hebrew, although some portions were in Aramaic. In addition to the authoritative Masoretic Text, Jews still refer to the Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, and the Targum Onkelos, an Aramaic version of the Bible. There are several different ancient versions of the Tanakh in Hebrew, mostly differing by spelling, and the traditional Jewish version is based on the version known as Aleppo Codex. Even in this version by itself, there are words which are traditionally read differently from written (sometimes one word is written and another is read), because the oral tradition is considered more fundamental than the written one, and presumably mistakes had been made in copying the text over the generations.
The primary biblical text for early Christians was the Septuagint or (LXX). In addition, they translated the Hebrew Bible into several other languages. Translations were made into Syriac, Coptic, Ge'ez and Latin, among other languages. The Latin translations were historically the most important for the Church in the West, while the Greek-speaking East continued to use the Septuagint translations of the Old Testament and had no need to translate the New Testament.
The earliest Latin translation was the Old Latin text, or Vetus Latina, which, from internal evidence, seems to have been made by several authors over a period of time. It was based on the Septuagint, and thus included books not in the Hebrew Bible.
Pope Damasus I assembled the first list of books of the Bible at the Council of Rome in AD 382. He commissioned Saint Jerome to produce a reliable and consistent text by translating the original Greek and Hebrew texts into Latin. This translation became known as the Latin Vulgate Bible and in 1546 at the Council of Trent was declared by the Church to be the only authentic and official Bible in the Latin Rite.
|6,909||number of languages spoken in the world today|
|200,000,000||number of people who speak the 2,393 languages where translation projects have not yet begun|
|1,998||number of translation programs currently in progress for languages without adequate Scripture|
|nearly 80%||world’s remaining Bible translation needs that are located in the three areas of greatest need|
|1,168||number of language communities which have access to the New Testament in their heart language|
|438||number of language communities which have access to the entire (Protestant Canon) Bible in the language they understand best|
|6,500,000,000||population of the world|
|2,479||number of bible translation is available|
The work of Bible translation continues, including by Christian organisations such as Wycliffe Bible Translators, New Tribes Mission and the Bible Societies. Of the world's 6,900 languages, 2,400 have some or all of the Bible, 1,600 (spoken by more than a billion people) have translation underway, and some 2,500 (spoken by 270 million people) are judged as needing translation to begin.
Biblical criticism refers to the investigation of the Bible as a text, and addresses questions such as authorship, dates of composition, and authorial intention. It is not the same as criticism of the Bible, which is an assertion against the Bible being a source of information or ethical guidance.
The traditional view of the Mosaic authorship of the Torah came under sporadic criticism from medieval scholars including Isaac ibn Yashush, Abraham ibn Ezra, Bonfils of Damascus and bishop Tostatus of Avila, who pointed to passages such as the description of the death of Moses in Deuteronomy as evidence that some portions, at least, could not have been written by Moses.
In the 17th century Thomas Hobbes collected the current evidence and became the first scholar to conclude outright that Moses could not have written the bulk of the Torah. Shortly afterwards the philosopher Baruch Spinoza published a unified critical analysis, arguing that the problematic passages were not isolated cases that could be explained away one by one, but pervasive throughout the five books, concluding that it was "clearer than the sun at noon that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses…." Despite determined opposition from Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, the views of Hobbes and Spinoza gained increasing acceptance amongst scholars.
Scholars intrigued by the hypothesis that Moses had not written the Pentateuch considered other authors. Independent but nearly simultaneous proposals by H. B. Witter, Jean Astruc, and Johann Gottfried Eichhorn separated the Pentateuch into two original documentary components, both dating from after the time of Moses. Others hypothesized the presence of two additional sources. The four documents were given working titles: J (Jahwist/Yahwist), E (Elohist), P (Priestly), and D (Deuteronomist). Each was discernible by its own characteristic language, and each, when read in isolation, presented a unified, coherent narrative.
Subsequent scholars, notably Eduard Reuss, Karl Heinrich Graf and Wilhelm Vatke, turned their attention to the order in which the documents had been composed (which they deduced from internal clues) and placed them in the context of a theory of the development of ancient Israelite religion, suggesting that much of the Laws and the narrative of the Pentateuch were unknown to the Israelites in the time of Moses. These were synthesized by Julius Wellhausen (1844–1918), who suggested a historical framework for the composition of the documents and their redaction (combination) into the final document known as the Pentateuch. This hypothesis was challenged by William Henry Green in his The Mosaic Origins of the Pentateuchal Codes (available online). Nonetheless, according to contemporary Torah scholar Richard Elliott Friedman, Wellhausen's model of the documentary hypothesis continues to dominate the field of biblical scholarship: "To this day, if you want to disagree, you disagree with Wellhausen. If you want to pose a new model, you compare its merits with those of Wellhausen's model."
The documentary hypothesis is important in the field of biblical studies not only because it claims that the Torah was written by different people at different times—generally long after the events it describes— but it also proposed what was at the time a radically new way of reading the Bible. Many proponents of the documentary hypothesis view the Bible more as a body of literature than a work of history, believing that the historical value of the text lies not in its account of the events that it describes, but in what critics can infer about the times in which the authors lived (as critics may read Hamlet to learn about seventeenth-century England, but will not read it to learn about seventh-century Denmark).
The critical analysis of authorship now encompasses every book of the Bible. In some cases the traditional view on authorship has been overturned; in others, additional support, at least in part, has been found.
The development of the hypothesis has not stopped with Wellhausen. Wellhausen's hypothesis, for example, proposed that the four documents were composed in the order J-E-D-P, with P, containing the bulk of the Jewish law, dating from the post-Exilic Second Temple period (i.e., after 515 BC); but the contemporary view is that P is earlier than D, and that all four books date from the First Temple period (i.e., prior to 587 BC). The documentary hypothesis has more recently been refined by later scholars such as Martin Noth (who in 1943 provided evidence that Deuteronomy plus the following six books make a unified history from the hand of a single editor), Harold Bloom, Frank Moore Cross and Richard Elliot Friedman.
The documentary hypothesis, at least in the four-document version advanced by Wellhausen, has been controversial since its formulation. The direction of this criticism is to question the existence of separate, identifiable documents, positing instead that the biblical text is made up of almost innumerable strands so interwoven as to be hardly untangleable—the J document, in particular, has been subjected to such intense dissection that it seems in danger of disappearing.
Although biblical archaeology has confirmed the existence of many people, places, and events mentioned in the Bible, many critical scholars have argued that the Bible be read not as an accurate historical document, but rather as a work of literature and theology that often draws on historical events—as well as upon non-Hebrew mythology—as primary source material (see The Bible and history). For these scholars, the Bible reveals much about the lives and times of its authors and compilers.
Archaeological and historical research
Biblical archaeology is the archaeology that relates to, and sheds light upon, the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. It is used to help determine the lifestyle and practices of people living in biblical times.
There are a wide range of interpretations of the existing Biblical archaeology. One broad division includes Biblical maximalism that generally take the view that most of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible is essentially based on history although presented through the religious viewpoint of its time. It is considered the opposite of biblical minimalism which is strictly secular and does not allow any consideration of the Bible as documentary evidence or as a framework of history.
One example of the dispute involves biblical accounts of Israelite bondage in Egypt, wandering in the desert, and conquest the Land of Israel in a military campaign, the accounts of the land being passed on to the 12 tribes of Israel, and David's and Solomon's conquests, and other key elements described in the biblical narratives as occurring in the 10th century BC or before. So far, there is a lack of archaeological evidence to independently support this, which has led some archaeologists, such as Israel Finkelstein, Neil Silberman, and William Dever to believe that these events never happened, and that the ancestors of the Hebrews and the Jews are either nomads who had become sedentary, or people from the plains of Canaan, who fled to the highlands to escape the control of the cities. Others disagree sharply.
Another example involves the story of Noah's Ark. Biblical literalists support a theory of a worldwide flood as described in the story and are looking for archaeological evidence in the region of the mountains of Ararat in north-east Turkey where Genesis says Noah's Ark came to rest. Mainstream scientists (and many Christians and Jews) discount a literal interpretation of the Ark story, on the basis of geology and other sciences.
According to recent theories, linguistic as well as archaeological, the global structure of the texts in the Hebrew Bible were compiled during the reign of King Josiah in the 7th century BC. Even though the components are derived from more ancient writings, the final form of the books is believed to have been set somewhere between the 1st century BC and the 4th century AD.
Biblical scholarship and analysis
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Perspectives on the Bible
History and the Bible
See Biblical exegesis.
- ↑ Halpern, B. the First Historians: The Hebrew Bible. Harper & Row, 1988, quoted in Smith, Mark S.The early history of God: Yahweh and the other deities in ancient Israel. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.; 2nd ed., 2002. ISBN 978-0802839725, p.14
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Harper, Douglas. "bible". Online Etymology Dictionary. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=bible.
- ↑ http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02543a.htm The Catholic Encyclopedia.
- ↑ Biblion, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, at Perseus.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Stagg, Frank. New Testament Theology. Nashville: Broadman, 1962. ISBN 0-8054-1613-7.
- ↑ "From Hebrew Bible to Christian Bible" by Mark Hamilton on PBS's site From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians.
- ↑ Dictionary.com etymology of the word "Bible".
- ↑ "Bible Study, Bible Facts". http://www.csbbc.net/bible.html. Retrieved 2007-11-05.
- ↑ Accuracy of Torah Text.
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 Sir Godfrey Driver. "Introduction to the Old Testament of the New English Bible." Web: <http://www.bible-researcher.com/driver1.html> 30 Nov 2009
- ↑ Evans, Christopher. King's College London. Quoted in Wright, N.T. "New Testament Scholarship and Christian Discipleship." 5 Jun 2008. Web: 27 Feb 2010 [http://www.ridley.cam.ac.uk/documents/moulemem.pdf N.T. Wright on NT Scholarship and Christian Discipleship
- ↑ 12.0 12.1 Wright, N.T. The Last Word: Scripture and the Authority of God—Getting Beyond the Bible Wars. HarperCollins, 2005. ISBN 0060872616 / 9780060872618
- ↑ A Summary of the Bible by Lewis, CS: Believer's Web.
- ↑ Philo of Alexandria, De vita Moysis 3.23.
- ↑ Josephus, Contra Apion 1.8.
- ↑ "Basis for belief of Inspiration." Biblegateway
- ↑ Norman L. Geisler, William E. Nix. A General Introduction to the Bible. Moody Publishers, 1986, p.86. ISBN 0-8024-2916-5
- ↑ For example, see Leroy Zuck, Roy B. Zuck. Basic Bible Interpretation. Chariot Victor Pub, 1991,p.68. ISBN 0-89693-819-0
- ↑ Roy B. Zuck, Donald Campbell. Basic Bible Interpretation. Victor, 2002. ISBN 0-7814-3877-2
- ↑ Norman L. Geisler. Inerrancy. Zondervan, 1980, p.294. ISBN 0-310-39281-0
- ↑ International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (1978) (pdf). The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. http://www.churchcouncil.org/ccpdfdocs/01_Biblical_Inerrancy_A&D.pdf.
- ↑ ,
- ↑ Catholic Encyclopedia: Canon of the New Testament: "The idea of a complete and clear-cut canon of the New Testament existing from the beginning, that is from Apostolic times, has no foundation in history. The Canon of the New Testament, like that of the Old, is the result of a development, of a process at once stimulated by disputes with doubters, both within and without the Church, and retarded by certain obscurities and natural hesitations, and which did not reach its final term until the dogmatic definition of the Tridentine Council."
- ↑ Paula Fredriksen, Augustine and the Jews, ISBN 978-0-385-50270-2 (2008), pp. 67-68, 391.
- ↑ Wycliffe Bible Translators, Inc. (WBT) Translation Statistics. August 14, 2009: http://www.wycliffe.org/About/Statistics.aspx
- ↑ http://www.vision2025.org www.vision2025.org
- ↑ Richard Elliott Friedman, "Who Wrote the Bible?," HarperSanFrancisco, 1997 (2nd edition).
- ↑ Joel Rosenberg, 1984 "The Bible: Biblical Narrative" in Barry Holtz, ed Back to the Sources New York: Summit Books p. 36; Nahum Sarna, 1986 Understanding Genesis New York:Schocken Books pp. xxi-xxiii.
- ↑ Wellhausen adopted the idea of a post-Exilic date for P from Eduard Reuss.
- ↑ Although the bulk of all four documents date from before 587 BC, the strand of D known as Dtr2 dates from the following Exilic period.
- ↑ Finkelstein, Israel; Neil Silberman. The Bible Unearthed.
- ↑ Dever, William. Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come from?.
- ↑ Kurinsky, Samuel (August 2008). "Nomadic Jews, Never". Hebrew History Foundation. http://www.hebrewhistory.info/factpapers/fp014_nomadic.htm.
- ↑ Did Noah really build an ark?, BBC.
References and further reading
- Anderson, Bernhard W. Understanding the Old Testament. ISBN 0-13-948399-3.
- Asimov, Isaac. Asimov's Guide to the Bible. New York, NY: Avenel Books, 1981. ISBN 0-517-34582-X.
- Berlin, Adele, Marc Zvi Brettler and Michael Fishbane. The Jewish Study Bible. Oxford University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-19-529751-2.
- Finkelstein, Israel; Silberman, Neil Asher (2001), The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts, New York: Simon and Schuster, ISBN 0-7432-2338-1, http://books.google.com/books?lr=&q=Finkelstein+Bible+Unearthed+Exodus+unoccupied&btnG=Search+Books .
- Finkelstein, Israel; Silberman, Neil Asher (August 2002), "Review: "The Bible Unearthed": A Rejoinder", Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 327: 63–73, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1357859?seq=1
- Herzog, Ze'ev (October 29, 1999), Deconstructing the walls of Jericho, Ha'aretz, http://mideastfacts.org/facts/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=32&Itemid=34
- Dever, William G. (March/April 2007), "Losing Faith: Who Did and Who Didn’t, How Scholarship Affects Scholars", Biblical Archaeology Review 33 (2): 54, http://creationontheweb.com/images/pdfs/other/5106losingfaith.pdf
- Dever, William G. Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did they Come from? Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2003. ISBN 0-8028-0975-8.
- Ehrman, Bart D. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005. ISBN 0-06-073817-0.
- Geisler, Norman (editor). Inerrancy. Sponsored by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. Zondervan Publishing House, 1980, ISBN 0-310-39281-0.
- Head, Tom. The Absolute Beginner's Guide to the Bible. Indianapolis, IN: Que Publishing, 2005. ISBN 0-7897-3419-2
- Hoffman, Joel M. In the Beginning. New York University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8147-3690-4
- Lienhard, Joseph T. The Bible, The Church, and Authority. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1995.
- Lindsell, Harold. The Battle for the Bible. Zondervan Publishing House, 1978. ISBN 0-310-27681-0
- Masalha, Nur, The Bible and Zionism: Invented Traditions, Archaeology and Post-Colonialism in Palestine-Israel. London, Zed Books, 2007.
- McDonald, Lee M. and Sanders, James A., eds. The Canon Debate. Hendrickson Publishers (January 1, 2002). 662p. ISBN 1565635175 ISBN 978-1565635173
- Miller, John W. The Origins of the Bible: Rethinking Canon History Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1994. ISBN 0-8091-3522-1.
- Riches, John. The Bible: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2000. ISBN 0-19-285343-0
- Siku. The Manga Bible: From Genesis to Revelation. Galilee Trade (January 15, 2008). 224p. ISBN 0385524315 ISBN 978-0385524315
- Taylor, Hawley O. "Mathematics and Prophecy." Modern Science and Christian Faith. Wheaton: Van Kampen, 1948, pp. 175–83.
- The Brick Testament http://www.thebricktestament.com/
- Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, s.vv. "Book of Ezekiel," p. 580 and "prophecy," p. 1410. Chicago: Moody Bible Press, 1986.
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