Bible, The, I-III Introduction

bi'-b'-l, (biblia):


1. Bible

2. Other Designations--Scriptures, etc.

3. Old Testament and New Testament



1. The Jewish Bible

Josephus, etc.

2. The Septuagint

The Apocrypha

3. The Vulgate (Old Testament)

4. The New Testament

(1) Acknowledged Books

(2) Disputed Books


1. The Old Testament

(1) Indications of Old Testament Itself

(a) Patriarchal Age

(b) Mosaic Age

(c) Judges

(d) Monarchy

(e) Wisdom Literature--History

(f) Prophecy

(aa) Assyrian Age

(bb) Chaldean Age

(g) Josiah's Reformation

(h) Exilian and Post-Exilian

(i) Daniel, etc.

(j) Pre-exilic Bible

(2) Critical Views

(a) The Pentateuch

(b) Histories

(c) Psalms and Prophets

(3) Formation of Canon

(a) Critical Theory

(b) More Positive View

(c) Close of Canon

2. The New Testament

(1) Historical Books

(a) The Synoptics

(b) Fourth Gospel

(c) Acts

(2) The Epistles

(a) Pauline

(b) Epistle to Hebrews

(c) Catholic Epistles

(3) Prophecy

Book of Revelation

(4) New Testament Canon


1. Scripture a Unity

2. The Purpose of Grace

3. Inspiration

4. Historical Influence


1. Chapters and Verses

2. The King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American)

3. Helps to Study


General Designation:

This word designates the collection of the Scriptures of the Old Testament and New Testament recognized and in use in the Christian churches. Different religions (such as the Zoroastrian, Hindu, Buddhist, Mohammedan) have their collections of sacred writings, sometimes spoken of as their "Bibles." The Jews acknowledge only the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Christians add the writings contained in the New Testament. The present article deals with the origin, character, contents and purpose of the Christian Scriptures, regarded as the depository and authoritative record of God's revelations of Himself and of His will to the fathers by the prophets, and through His Son to the church of a later age (Heb 1:1-2). Reference is made throughout to the articles in which the several topics are more fully treated.

I. The Names.

1. Bible:

The word "Bible" is the equivalent of the Greek word biblia (diminutive from biblos, the inner bark of the papyrus), meaning originally "books." The phrase "the books" (ta biblia) occurs in Da 9:2 (Septuagint) for prophetic writings. In the Prologue to Sirach ("the rest of the books") it designates generally the Old Testament Scriptures; similarly in 1 Macc 12:9 ("the holy books"). The usage passed into the Christian church for Old Testament (2 Clem 14:2), and by and by (circa 5th century) was extended to the whole Scriptures. Jerome's name for the Bible (4th century) was "the Divine Library" (Bibliotheca Divina). Afterward came an important change from plural to singular meaning. "In process of time this name, with many others of Greek origin, passed into the vocabulary of the western church; and in the 13th century, by a happy solecism, the neuter plural came to be regarded as a feminine singular, and `The Books' became by common consent `The Book' (biblia, singular), in which form the word was passed into the languages of modern Europe" (Westcott, Bible in the Church, 5). Its earliest occurrences in English are in Piers Plowman, Chaucer and Wycliffe.

2. Other Designations--Scriptures, etc.:

There is naturally no name in the New Testament for the complete body of Scripture; the only Scriptures then known being those of the Old Testament. In 2 Pet 3:16, however, Paul's epistles seem brought under this category. The common designations for the Old Testament books by our Lord and His apostles were "the scriptures" (writings) (Mt 21:42; Mr 14:49; Lu 24:32; Joh 5:39; Ac 18:24; Ro 15:4, etc.), "the holy, scriptures" (Ro 1:2); once "the sacred writings" (2Ti 3:15). The Jewish technical division (see below) into "the law," the "prophets," and the "(holy) writings" is recognized in the expression "in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms" (Lu 24:44). More briefly the whole is summed up under "the law and the prophets" (Mt 5:17;, Mt 11:13; Ac 13:15). Occasionally even the term "law" is extended to include the other divisions (Joh 10:34; 12:34; 15:25; 1Co 14:21). Paul uses the phrase "the oracles of God" as a name for the Old Testament Scriptures (Ro 3:2; compare Ac 7:38; Heb 5:12; 1Pe 4:11).

3. Old Testament and New Testament:

Special interest attaches to the names "Old" and "New Testament," now and since the close of the 2nd century in common use to distinguish the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures. "Testament" (literally "a will") is used in the New Testament (the King James Version) to represent the Greek word diatheke, in classical usage also "a will," but in the Septuagint and New Testament employed to translate the Hebrew word berith, "a covenant." In the Revised Version (British and American), accordingly, "testament" is, with two exceptions (Heb 9:16,27), changed to "covenant" (Mt 26:28; 2Co 3:6; Ga 3:15; Heb 7:22; 9:15, etc.). Applied to the Scriptures, therefore, "Old" and "New Testament" mean, strictly, "Old" and "New Covenant," though the older usage is now too firmly fixed to be altered. The name is a continuation of the Old Testament designation for the law, "the book of the covenant" (2Ki 23:2). In this sense Paul applies it (2Co 3:14) to the Old Testament law; "the reading of the old testament" (the Revised Version (British and American) "Covenant"). When, after the middle of the 2nd century, a def inite collection began to be made of the Christian writings, these were named "the New Testament," and were placed as of equal authority alongside the "Old." The name Novum Testamentum (also Instrumentum ) occurs first in Tertullian (190-220 AD), and soon came into general use. The idea of a Christian Bible may be then said to be complete.

II. Languages.

The Old Testament, it is well known, is written mostly in Hebrew; the New Testament is written wholly in Greek, the parts of the Old Testament not in Hebrew, namely, Ezr 4:8 through Ezr 6:18; 7:12-26; Jer 10:11; Da 2:4 through Da 7:28, are in Aramaic (the so-called Chaldee), a related dialect, which, after the Exile, gradually displaced Hebrew as the spoken language of the Jews (see ARAMAIC; LANGUAGES OF THE OLD TESTAMENT). The ancient Hebrew text was "unpointed," i.e. without the vowel-marks now in use. These are due to the labors of the Massoretic scholars (after 6th century AD).

The Greek of the New Testament, on which so much light has recently been thrown by the labors of Deissmann and others from the Egyptian papyri, showing it to be a form of the "common" (Hellenistic) speech of the time (see LANGUAGE OF THE NEW TESTAMENT), still remains, from its penetration by Hebrew ideas, the influence of the Septuagint, peculiarities of training and culture in the writers, above all, the vitalizing and transforming power of Christian conceptions in vocabulary and expression, a study by itself. "We speak," the apostle says, "not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth" (1Co 2:13). This is not always remembered in the search for parallels in the papyri. (For translations into other languages, see VERSIONS.)

III. Compass and Divisions.

The story of the origin, collection, and final stamping with canonical authority of the books which compose our present Bible involves many points still keenly in dispute. Before touching on these debatable matters, certain more external facts fall to be noticed relating to the general structure and compass of the Bible, and the main divisions of its contents.

1. Jewish Bible

Josephus, etc.:

A first step is to ascertain the character and contents of the Jewish Bible--the Bible in use by Christ and His apostles. Apart from references in the New Testament itself, an important aid is here afforded by a passage in Josephus (Apion, I, 8), which may be taken to represent the current belief of the Jews in the 1st century AD. After speaking of the prophets as writing their histories "through the inspiration of God," Josephus says: "For we have not myriads of discordant and conflicting books, but 22 only, comprising the record of all time, and justly accredited as Divine. Of these, 5 are books of Moses, which embrace the laws and the traditions of mankind until his own death, a period of almost 3,000 years. From the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes, the successor of Xerxes, king of Persia, the prophets who followed Moses narrated the events of their time in 13 books. The remaining 4 books consist of hymns to God, and maxims of conduct for men. From Artaxerxes to our own age, the history has been written in detail, but it is not esteemed worthy of the same credit, on account of the exact succession of the prophets having been no longer maintained." He goes on to declare that, in this long interval, "no one has dared either to add anything to (the writings), or to take anything from them, or to alter anything," and speaks of them as "the decrees (dogmata) of God," for which the Jews would willingly die. Philo (20 BC-circa 50 AD) uses similar strong language about the law of Moses (in Eusebius, Pr. Ev., VIII, 6).

In this enumeration of Josephus, it will be seen that the Jewish sacred books--39 in our Bible--are reckoned as 22 (after the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet), namely, 5 of the law, 13 of the prophets and 4 remaining books. These last are Ps, Prov, Song and Eccl. The middle class includes all the historical and prophetical books, likewise Job, and the reduction in the number from 30 to 13 is explained by Jgs-Ruth, 1 and 2 S, 1 and 2 K, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezr-Neh, Jer-Lam and the 12 minor prophets, each being counted as one book. In his 22 books, therefore, Josephus includes all those in the present Hebrew canon, and none besides--not the books known as the APOCRYPHA, though he was acquainted with and used some of these.

Other Lists and Divisions.

The statement of Josephus as to the 22 books acknowledged by the Jews is confirmed, with some variation of enumeration, by the lists preserved by Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica, vi.26) from Melito of Sardis (circa 172 AD) and Origen (186-254 AD), and by Jerome (Pref to Old Testament, circa 400)--all following Jewish authorities. Jerome knew also of a rabbinical division into 24 books. The celebrated passage from the Talmud (Babha' Bathra', 14b: see CANON OF THE OLD TESTAMENT; compare Westcott, Bible in Church, 35; Driver, LOT, vi) counts also 24. This number is obtained by separating Ruth from Judges and Lamentations from Jeremiah. The threefold division of the books, into Law, Prophets, and other sacred Writings (Hagiographa), is old. It is already implied in the Prologue to Sirach (circa 130 BC), "the law, the prophets, and the rest of the books"; is glanced at in a work ascribed to Philo (De vita contempl., 3); is indicated, as formerly seen, in Lu 24:44. It really reflects stages in the formation of the Hebrew canon (see below). The rabbinical division, however, differed materially from that of Josephus in reckoning only 8 books of the prophets, and relegating 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezr-Neh, Esther, Job and Dan to the Hagiographa, thus enlarging that group to 9 (Westcott, op. cit., 28; DB, I, "Canon"). When Ruth and Lam were separated, they were added to the list, raising the number to 11. Some, however, take this to be the original arrangement. In printed Hebrew Bibles the books in all the divisions are separate. The Jewish schools further divided the "Prophets" into "the former prophets" (the historical books--Josh, Jgs, Sam and Ki), and "the latter prophets" (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets as one book).

New Testament References.

It may be concluded that the above lists, excluding the Apocrypha, represent the Hebrew Bible as it existed in the time of our Lord (the opinion, held by some, that the Sadducees received only the 5 books of the law rests on no sufficient evidence). This result is borne out by the evidence of quotations in Josephus and Philo (compare Westcott, op. cit.). Still more is it confirmed by an examination of Old Testament quotations and references in the New Testament. It was seen above that the main divisions of the Old Testament are recognized in the New Testament, and that, under the name "Scriptures," a Divine authority is ascribed to them. It is therefore highly significant that, although the writers of the New Testament were familiar with the Septuagint, which contained the Apocrypha (see below), no quotation from any book of the Apocrypha occurs in their pages, One or two allusions, at most, suggest acquaintance with the Book of Wisdom (e.g. The Wisdom of Solomon 5:18-21 parallel Eph 6:13-17). On the other hand, "every book in the Hebrew Bible is distinctly quoted in the New Testament with the exception of Josh, Jgs, Chronicles, Cant, Eccl, Ezr, Neh, Esther, Ob, Zeph and Nah" (Westcott). Enumerations differ, but about 178 direct quotations may be reckoned in the Gospels, Acts and Epistles; if references are included, the number is raised to about 700 (see QUOTATIONS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT). In four or five places (Lu 11:49-51; Jas 4:5; 1Co 2:9; Eph 5:14; Joh 7:38) apparent references occur to sources other than the Old Testament; it is doubtful whether most of them are really so (compare Westcott, op. cit., 46-48; Eph 5:14 may be from a Christian hymn). An undeniable influence of Apocalyptic literature is seen in Jude, where Eph 1:14,23 are a direct quotation from the Book of Enoch. It does not follow that Jude regarded this book as a proper part of Scripture.

2. The Septuagint:

Hitherto we have been dealing with the Hebrew Old Testament; marked changes are apparent when we turn to the Septuagint, or Greek version of the Septuagint current in the Greek-speaking world at the commencement of the Christian era. The importance of this version lies in the fact that it was practically the Old Testament of the early church. It was used by the apostles and their converts, and is freely quoted in the New Testament, sometimes even when its renderings vary considerably from the Hebrew. Its influence was necessarily, therefore, very great.


The special problems connected with origin, text and literary relations of the Septuagint are dealt with elsewhere (see SEPTUAGINT). The version took its rise, under one of the early Ptolemies, from the needs of the Jews in Egypt, before the middle of the 2nd century BC; was gradually executed, and completed hardly later than circa 100 BC; thereafter spread into all parts. Its renderings reveal frequent divergence in manuscripts from the present Massoretic Text, but show also that the translators permitted themselves considerable liberties in enlarging, abbreviating, transposing and otherwise modifying the texts they had, and in the insertion of materials borrowed from other sources.

The Apocrypha.

The most noteworthy differences are in the departure from Jewish tradition in the arrangement of the books (this varies greatly; compare Swete, Introduction to Old Testament in Greek,II , chapter i), and in the inclusion in the list of the other books, unknown to the Hebrew canon, now grouped as the Apocrypha. These form an extensive addition. They include the whole of the existing Apocrypha, with the exception of 2 Esdras and Pr Man. All are of late date, and are in Greek, though Sirach had a Hebrew original which has been partly recovered. They are not collected, but are interspersed among the Old Testament books in what are taken to be their appropriate places. The Greek fragments of Esther, e.g. are incorporated in that book; Susanna and Bel and the Dragon form part of Daniel; Baruch is joined with Jeremiah, etc. The most important books are Wisdom, Sirach and 1 Maccabees (circa 100 BC). The fact that Sirach, originally in Hebrew (circa 200 BC), and of high repute, was not included in the Hebrew canon, has a weighty bearing on the period of the closing of the latter.

Ecclesiastical Use.

It is, as already remarked, singular that, notwithstanding this extensive enlargement of the canon by the Septuagint, the books just named obtained no Scriptural recognition from the writers of the New Testament. The more scholarly of the Fathers, likewise (Melito, Origen, Athanasius, Cyprian, Jerome, etc.), adhere to the Hebrew list, and most draw a sharp distinction between the canonical books, and the Greek additions, the reading of which is, however, admitted for edification (compare Westcott, op. cit., 135-36, 168, 180, 182-83). Where slight divergencies occur (e.g. Est is omitted by Melito and placed by Athanasius among the Apocrypha; Origen and Athanasius add Baruch to Jer), these are readily explained by doubts as to canonicity or by imperfect knowledge. On the other hand, familiarity with the Septuagint in writers ignorant of Hebrew could not but tend to break down the limits of the Jewish canon, and to lend a Scriptural sanction to the additions to that canon. This was aided in the West by the fact that the Old Latin versions (2nd century) based on the Septuagint, included these additions (the Syriac Peshitta followed the Hebrew). In many quarters, therefore, the distinction is found broken down, and ecclesiastical writers (Clement, Barnabas, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Basil, etc.) quote freely from books like Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, Tobit, 2 Esdras, as from parts of the Old Testament.

3. The Vulgate (Old Testament):

An important landmark is reached in the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) or Latin version of Jerome. Jerome, on grounds explained in his Preface, recognized only the Hebrew Scriptures as canonical; under pressure he executed later a hasty translation of Tobit and Judith. Feeling ran strong, however, in favor of the other books, and ere long these were added to Jerome's version from the Old Latin (see VULGATE). It is this enlarged Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) which received official recognition, under anathema, at the Council of Trent (1543), and, with revision, from Clement VIII (1592), though, earlier, leading Romish scholars (Ximenes, Erasmus, Cajetan) had made plain the true state of the facts. The Greek church vacillated in its decisions, sometimes approving the limited, sometimes the extended, canon (compare Westcott, op. cit., 217-29). The churches of the Reformation (Lutheran, Swiss), as was to be expected, went back to the Hebrew canon, giving only a qualified sanction to the reading and ecclesiastical use of the Apocrypha. The early English versions (Tyndale, Coverdale, etc.) include, but separate, the apocryphal books (see ENGLISH VERSIONS). The Anglican Articles express the general estimate of these books: "And the other books (as Jerome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine" (Art. VIII). Modern Protestant Bibles usually exclude the Apocrypha altogether.

4. The New Testament:

From this survey of the course of opinion on the compass of the Old Testament, we come to the New Testament. This admits of being more briefly treated. It has been seen that a Christian New Testament did not, in the strict sense, arise till after the middle of the 2nd century. Gospels and Epistles had long existed, collections had begun to be made, the Gospels, at least, were weekly read in the assemblies of the Christians (Justin, 1 Apol., 67), before the attempt was made to bring together, and take formal account of, all the books which enjoyed apostolic authority (see CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT). The needs of the church, however, and very specially controversy with Gnostic opponents, made it necessary that this work should be done; collections also had to be formed for purposes of translation into other tongues. Genuine gospels had to be distinguished from spurious; apostolic writings from those of later date, or falsely bearing apostolic names. When this task was undertaken, a distinction soon revealed itself between two classes of books, setting aside those recognized on all hands as spurious: (1) books universally acknowledged--those named afterward by Eusebius the homologoumena; and (2) books only partially acknowledged, or on which some doubt rested--the Eusebian antilegomena (Historia Ecclesiastica, iii.25). It is on this distinction that differences as to the precise extent of the New Testament turned.

(1) Acknowledged Books.

The "acknowledged" books present little difficulty. They are enumerated by Eusebius, whose statements are confirmed by early lists (e.g. that of Muratori, circa 170 AD), quotations, versions and patristic use. At the head stand the Four Gospels and the Acts, then come the 13 epistles of Paul, then 1 Peter and 1 John. These, Westcott says, toward the close of the 2nd century, "were universally received in every church, without doubt or limitation, as part of the written rule of Christian faith, equal in authority with the Old Scriptures, and ratified (as it seemed) by a tradition reaching back to the date of their composition" (op. cit., 133). With them may almost be placed Revelation (as by Eusebius) and He, the doubts regarding the latter relating more to Pauline authority than to genuineness (e.g. Origen).

(2) Disputed Books.

The "disputed" books were the epistles of James, Jude, 2 John and 3 John and 2 Peter. These, however, do not all stand in the same rank as regards authentication. A chief difficulty is the silence of the western Fathers regarding James, 2 Peter and 3 John. On the other hand, James is known to Origen and is included in the Syriac Peshitta; the Muratorian Fragment attests Jude and 2 John as "held in the Catholic church" (Jude also in Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen); none of the books are treated as spurious. The weakest in attestation is 2 Pet, which is not distinctly traceable before the 3rd century (See CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT; articles under the word) It is to be added that, in a few instances, as in the case of the Old Testament Apocrypha, early Fathers cite as Scripture books not generally accepted as canonical (e.g. Barnabas, Hermas, Apocrypha of Peter).

The complete acceptance of all the books in our present New Testament canon may be dated from the Councils of Laodicea (circa 363 AD) and of Carthage (397 AD), confirming the lists of Cyril of Jerusalem, Jerome and Augustine.

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