The Story of the Bible
Would you like to know more about the Bible? Keep reading.
When was the Bible written? The Bible is composed of a set of books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. The first book, Genesis, was written about 1,500 years before Jesus was born. The last book of the Bible, Revelation, was written about 100 AD.
Who wrote the Books of the Bible? Many of the authors of the Bible books are clearly identified. Moses wrote the first five from Genesis to Deuteronomy. David’s name is attached to many of the psalms and the names of prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah are clearly identified. The history of the nation of Israel was written by Jewish historians who passed them down to the people of Israel. All of the authors of the New Testament books are clearly identified except the author of the Letter to the Hebrews.
Why do we believe the Bible is God’s Word? The Bible clearly teaches in many places that the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, breathed God’s words into the authors’ minds. The authors wrote in their own language (primarily Hebrew and Greek) with their own writing style and described events from their own perspective; the Holy Spirit did not dictate to the authors. St. Peter wrote that the Bible’s authors, “though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
What is the difference between the Bible’s ancient writings and other ancient writing? There are many ancient writings from ancient cultures. In fact, there are many books written by believers which are not in the Bible. Over time, the leaders of the Church in both the Old and New Testaments developed the Canon, that set of books which everyone believed were written by inspiration of the Spirit. Some valuable books, although not part of the Canon, are published in some Bibles and are called the Apocrypha. The Lutheran Church confesses no teachings found only in the Apocrypha.
When were the books of the Bible gathered into one book? The books the Old Testament had been gathered together by expects already at Jesus’ time. The New Testament letters were gathered together over the span of several hundred years. We can say with certainty that the first edition of the entire Bible was produced in a Latin translation by the church father Jerome about 400 AD.
How were copies of the Bible distributed? Before the invention of the printing press in 1453, copies of the Bible were made by hand. Careful copyists copied from one copy to produce a new copy. Because copyists sometimes made mistakes, we can find several thousand minor variations in the many ancient copies that exist. Yet not one teaching of the Bible is affected by these variants.
Were the books of the Bible always divided into chapters and verses? Originally, the Old and New Testaments were not divided into chapters and verses. They consisted of God’s Word written on scrolls as history, poetry, prophecy, or even letters. The chapter divisions were developed by the Archbishop of Canterbury around 1227. A Jewish rabbi divided the Old Testament into verses in 1448. A printer named Stephanus first divided the New Testament into verses in 1555. Since then, most versions of the Bible keep those established divisions. The obvious benefit of having chapters and verses is that the passage you’re looking for is easier to find.
What about Bible translations? Recent statistics claim that the entire Bible has been translated into 717 languages which are able to be read by 5.75 billion people. The New Testament appears in 1,582 languages which can be read by an additional 830 million people. Martin Luther translated the entire Bible into German between1521 and 1539. His translation established the modern German language still used in Germany today. That translation was also used by our German ancestors. When Lutheran churches began to transition to English, they adopted the translation used by the Church of England, the King James Version. WELS began using the New International Version in the 1970s, and that version, now in its third edition, remains the translation of choice in our churches.