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Bible


Bi’ble. The Bible is the name given to the revelation of God to man contained in sixty-six books or pamphlets, bound together and forming one book and only one, for it has in reality one author and one purpose and plan, and is the development of one scheme of the redemption of man.

I. Its Names.—(1) The Bible, i.e., The Book, from the Greek “ta biblia,” the books. The word is derived from a root designating the inner bark of the linden tree, on which the ancients wrote their books. It is the book, as being superior to all other books. But the application of the word Bible to the collected books of the Old and New Testaments is not to be traced farther back than the fifth century of our era. (2) The Scriptures, i.e., the writings, as recording what was spoken by God. (3) The Oracles, i.e., the things spoken, because the Bible is what God spoke to man, and hence also called (4) The Word. (5) The Testaments or Covenants, because it is the testimony of God to man, the truths to which God bears witness; and is also the covenant or agreement of God with man for his salvation. (6) The Law, to express that it contains God’s commands to men.

II. Composition.—The Bible consists of two great parts, called the Old and New Testaments, separated by an interval of nearly four hundred years. These Testaments are further divided into sixty-six books, thirty-nine in the Old Testament and twenty-seven in the New. These books are a library in themselves, being written in every known form of literature. Twenty-two of them are historical, five are poetical, eighteen are prophetical, twenty-one are epistolary. They contain logical arguments, poetry, songs and hymns, history, biography, stories, parables, fables, eloquence, law, letters, and philosophy.

There are at least thirty-six different authors, who wrote in three continents, in many countries, in three languages, and from every possible human standpoint. Among these authors were kings, farmers, mechanics, scientific men, lawyers, generals, fishermen, ministers and priests, a tax-collector, a doctor, some rich, some poor, some city bred, some country born—thus touching all the experiences of men—extending over 1500 years.

III. Unity.—And yet the Bible is but one book, because God was its real author, and therefore, though he added new revelations as men could receive them, he never had to change what was once revealed. The Bible is a unit, because (1) It has but one purpose, the salvation of men. (2) The character of God is the same. (3) The moral law is the same. (4) It contains the development of one great scheme of salvation.

IV. Original Languages.—The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, a Shemitic language, except that parts of the books of Ezra (5:8; 6:12; 7:12-26) and of Daniel (2:4-7:28), and one verse in Jeremiah (Jer. 10:11), were written in the Chaldee language. The New Testament is written wholly in Greek.

V. Ancient Manuscripts of the Original.—There are no ancient Hebrew manuscripts older than the tenth century, but we know that these are in the main correct, because we have a translation of the Hebrew into Greek, called the Septuagint, made nearly three hundred years before Christ. Our Hebrew Bibles are a reprint from what is called the Masoretic text. The ancient Hebrew had only the consonants printed, and the vowels were vocalized in pronunciation, but were not written. Some Jewish scholars living at Tiberias, and at Sora by the Euphrates, from the sixth to the twelfth century, punctuated the Hebrew text, and wrote in the vowel points and other tone-marks to aid in the reading of the Hebrew; and these, together with notes of various kinds, they called Masora (tradition), hence the name Masoretic text.

Of the Greek of the New Testament there are a number of ancient manuscripts. They are divided into two kinds, the Uncials, written wholly in capitals, and the Cursives, written in a running hand. The chief of these are—(1) the Alexandrian (codex Alexandrinus, marked A), so named because it was found in Alexandria in Egypt, in 1628. It dates back to a.d. 350, and is now in the British Museum. (2) The Vatican (codex Vaticanus, B), named from the Vatican library at Rome, where it is kept. Its date is a.d. 300 to 325. (3) The Sinaitic (codex Sinaiticus), so called from the convent of St. Catherine on Mount Sinai, where it was discovered by Dr. Tischendorf in 1844. It is now at St. Petersburg, Russia. This is one of the earliest and best of all the manuscripts.

VI. Translations.—The Old Testament was translated into Greek by a company of learned Jews at Alexandria, who began their labor about the year b.c. 286. It is called the Septuagint, i.e., the Seventy, from the tradition that it was translated by seventy (more exactly seventy-two) translators. The Vulgate, or translation of the Bible into Latin by Jerome, a.d. 385–405, is the authorized version of the Roman Catholic Church. The first English translation of the whole Bible was by John de Wickliffe (1324–1384). Then followed that of William Tyndale (1525) and several others.

As the sum and fruit of all these appeared our present Authorized Version, or Kings James Version, in 1611. It was made by forty-seven learned men, in two years and nine months, with a second revision which took nine months longer. These forty-seven formed themselves into six companies, two of whom met at Westminster, two at Oxford and two at Cambridge. The present English edition is an improvement, in typographical and grammatical correctness, upon this revision, and in these respects is nearly perfect. [See Versions.]

A Revised Version of these authorized edition has been in process of preparation by eighty American and English scholars, of various denominations, the English committee having been appointed in 1870 and the American in 1871. This revision was necessary because of the changes in the English language during the last 270 years, and because much light has been thrown upon the original Scriptures, and upon all matters pertaining to biblical studies. The Revised New Testament was published simultaneously in this country and in England in May, 1881, and in less than six months more than four million copies had been issued.

VII. Divisions into Chapters and Verses.—The present division of the whole Bible into chapters was made by Cardinal Hugo de St. Cher about 1250. The present division into verses was introduced by Robert Stephens in his Greek Testament, published in 1551, in his edition of the Vulgate, in 1555. The first English Bible printed with these chapters and verses was the Geneva Bible, in 1560.

VIII. Circulation of the Bible.—The first book ever printed was the Bible; and more Bibles have been printed than any other book. It has been translated into 226 different languages. The British and Foreign Bible Society (founded in 1804) has issued (1881) 91,014,448 Bibles and portions of the Bible; and the American Bible Society (founded in 1816) has issued (1881) 38,882,814 copies. In all, so far as known, there have been issued by all the Bible societies since 1804 one hundred and sixty-five million copies; but it is said that probably as many more copies have been issued by private publishers.—Ed.