At our Men’s Bible Study a couple of weeks ago there was a discussion of how and when we got the Bible that we were studying. I thought I would put together some quick facts about our Bible. I have no doubt that we can trust that the Bible we have today is trustworthy and reliable. Enjoy.
We have discovered no original autographs (handwritten by the author) of the New Testament documents. All that makes up the Bible that we use today came from hand-written manuscripts (more than 5,000 copies). All of these copies make the New Testament the best attested book from the ancient world (over 5,000 Greek manuscripts, plus over 8,000 other versions). Homer’s Iliad, for instance, only has around 650 manuscripts. The oldest of the biblical Greek manuscripts dates to A.D. 125. It is a fragment containing parts of the Gospel of John. Because of the overwhelming wealth of manuscripts, it is likely that 100% of the original survives.
The original biblical documents were written primarily in Hebrew (Old Testament) and Koine Greek (New Testament), with some Aramaic. From the time that the biblical books were written they were understood in their communities as documents that were inspired by God and that had authority over their lives. The books that make up our current Bibles were formally brought together at least by the 300’s AD, but were most likely gathered together much earlier.
By the late 300’s AD, all the books of the Bible had been translated into Latin by Jerome (the Vulgate). It was not until the late 1300’s AD that John Wycliffe translated the entire Bible by hand into English from the Latin Vulgate. Nearly 100 years later, Johann Guttenburg invents the printing press, eliminating the need for hand-written reproductions. The first book ever printed was Guttenburg’s Bible in Latin. In 1526, William Tyndale was the first person to create an English translation of the Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew. Though various people had played around with chapter divisions for a long time, our current verse divisions were forumulated by Robert Stephanus, a Parisian book printer, in the mid-1500’s.
The King James Bible was first printed in 1611. The American Standard Version was published in 1901. The New American Standard Bible was published in 1971. The New International Version was published in 1973. And there are translations in process too, even this one.