Materials and Methods (History of the Bible, part 2)

When discussing the history of the Bible, it is important that we all understand the terminology being used. Certain writing materials have certain names that set them apart from the others. Because the Bible was written over thousands of years, these writing materials changed several times. The Old Testament was mainly written onto scrolls made of animal skin. This kind of paper is called parchment, and when the animal is a calf it is called vellum. This parchment was rolled into scrolls and read in worship. Closer to the New Testament times, they used papyri plants and weaved them to make it thick. They squished them to get all of the water out, and let them dry. This writing material is called papyrus, the root word of paper. The papyrus sheets were either rolled into scrolls called a biblion or sewn together into stacks called a codex, similar to modern books. Later, when I reference specific papyrus manuscripts I will refer to them as p#.

Ink was usually made by mixing water with charcoal and some kind of gum as a binder. John actually references pen and ink in 3 John 3:13. Of course, they did not use pen and ink such as we have. Another important factor in the transcription of the Bible is the lighting. As we know, there were no electric light bulbs to illuminate their homes. Everything they did was lightened by the sun or candlelight. Can you imagine writing down God’s Word in a cold or hot room with only the light of a candle or sunlight from a small window? This was an arduous task that would have caused headaches and backaches.

And what if they made a mistake? The only options were to start over completely or to scratch through it and keep going. There was no eraser, and there certainly was no backspace key! The Masoretes, who we will discuss more fully later, were extremely picky about the manuscripts. Mistakes were not easily forgiven, and the accuracy of the Holy Scriptures was of upmost importance.

The Bible was written in three languages, which means three different alphabets, none of which use Roman letter like English. I will be talking about each language individually and in greater detail in the future, but I would like to point out a few things here first. Alphabets were not the first form of language. First was the pictogram, small pictures that stood for entire words instead of just one letter. For example, aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, was originally an ox head. It changed throughout the years until now we have the letter A. Each letter has a history such as this. The chart below is a good visual demonstration of the evolution of the alphabet:

 

alphabet evolution

This image is from the Biblical Archeology Society.

Now that you have a beginning knowledge of the materials, methods, and the alphabets used in the transcription of the Bible, we can begin talking about the long journey the Bible has made from Moses to your coffee table. Next, we will discuss the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages and their individual impacts on the Bible.

The main source for this history is The Books and the Parchments by F. F. Bruce. If you wish to read a fuller, more detailed history, I highly recommend this book. It is a bit dense, but not boring!

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The History of the Bible: There and Back Again.

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Have you ever wondered where the Bible came from? Did it fall out of the sky, bound and ready to read in English? Did a crazy man live alone in the woods and come up with it all? No, no, no… None of that! Our Holy Bible has a rich history of how it came to be in three languages with forty different authors and on three different continents! Now, how do we know that it is reliable?

Although mistakes are bound to happen in the tedious translation process, we can trust that it was translated most carefully. In the following chapters, I will take you on a journey from the basic writing materials and methods used in both Ancient Age Israel and Greece; the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages; the division of the Bible and the content; the Hebrew Old Testament; the Apocrypha; the Greek Old Testament; the Greek New Testament; the Early Church and its role in the formation of the Bible; the Latin Vulgate; the English Bible; modern translations; a defense of Jesus Christ; faith and the importance of scripture; a quick look at the Nicene creed; and why the history of the Bible is important in our Christian lives. This will be a process that takes several months to complete. I hope you will bear with me as we both explore the history of the Bible.

Please know that I will not be including every detail, nor will I be creating yet another dense theology-heavy book. I want to make an accurate history that everyone can understand and have access too. I don’t have a seminary degree in Biblical studies or theology (yet), and I am not an expert (yet). However, I can simplify what the top scholars say and make it easier to read, especially for those of you who have hectic schedules.

As a quick teaser to my last chapter, I will tell you in short why it is so important that we know our history. For the same reason that we learn American History and World History in high school, we must know the history of the Bible. (I realize that I have an international audience, but I am going to use American History for my example.) If you walked up to a person from a different country and told them that Abraham Lincoln never tells a lie, should you be surprised that they don’t know who you are talking about, where you got this information, and why they should trust you? I know Honest Abe because of the story of him returning money after taking incorrect change, but someone else might not. Why should they believe that Abe is honest unless you can tell them the story? This also applies to the Bible. As Christians, we believe that the Bible is God-breathed, Theopneustos. We make claims based on this belief. If someone has never heard of the Bible before, why should they believe that it has the authority to tell them how they should live? I wouldn’t believe it! We need to be able to explain why we trust the Bible, and this means knowing how it came to be a book.

Now, fasten your seatbelts! Because, here we go!

<a rel=”license” href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/”><img alt=”Creative Commons License” style=”border-width:0″ src=”https://i.creativecommons.org/l/by-nc-nd/4.0/88×31.png&#8221; /></a><br /><span xmlns:dct=”http://purl.org/dc/terms/&#8221; href=”http://purl.org/dc/dcmitype/Text&#8221; property=”dct:title” rel=”dct:type”>The History of the Bible: There and Back Again </span> by <a xmlns:cc=”http://creativecommons.org/ns#&#8221; href=”www.onegirlshonestopinion.wordpress.com” property=”cc:attributionName” rel=”cc:attributionURL”>Sara E. Jolley </a> is licensed under a <a rel=”license” href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/”>Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License</a>.<br />Based on a work at <a xmlns:dct=”http://purl.org/dc/terms/&#8221; href=”www.wordpress.com” rel=”dct:source”>www.wordpress.com</a>.

I attached a poll, and I would love your feedback as always!

 

 

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Soon to a Blog Near You!

Hi, everybody! I know I haven’t posted anything for the past two weeks. I have something big in the works for you! I am working on a post about Plato, but much more research is required. I usually have plenty of time for research, but a new friend of mine has asked me to present to her the complete history of the Bible. (scary right?) I am reading and writing out the history as best I can in a more reader friendly way. This will turn into a blog series all its own! Thanks for your patience! For those of you who are reading from Greece, I love getting notifications that tell me of your views! All of you please feel free to suggest topics, and I will eventually get around to writing about them. I’ve been on a theology tangent for a while now, and I am moving toward more philosophy. Hopefully, by the end of this week or beginning of next week I will have something for you to read!