• David McNitzky

Bible Basics 2

One way to think of the Bible is as a library. We have 66 books, numerous human authors, and a variety of literary genres included in the Bible. The Older Testament has 39 books while the New Testament has 27. These books were written over a period of around 1100 years. The earliest books were written down around the time of King David (about 1000 BCE) and the last book of the New Testament likely was written around 90 CE. The Old Testament covers a time period from 2000 BCE (Abraham) to 450 BCE (Daniel). The New Testament period starts with the birth of Jesus around 4 BCE and runs through the reign of the Emperor Domitian (who is likely alluded to in Revelation) which was from 81-96 CE.


The Old Testament books were written in Hebrew with a smattering of Aramaic included in the book of Daniel. The New Testament books were written in Greek even though most all of its authors were likely Jewish in background. This is where Bible translation comes in to play. The earliest translation of the Old Testament was from Hebrew into Greek. This translation is called the Septuagint. Later both the Old and New Testaments were translated into Latin in the late fourth century. This translation done by Saint Jerome is called the Vulgate. Today the best translations come from the oldest and most reliable manuscripts available. These of course would be in Hebrew for the Old Testament and in Greek for the New Testament. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1948 added important copies of ancient biblical manuscripts. The Revised Standard Version of the Bible released in 1952 takes advantage of some of these discoveries. Translation tends to involve at least three steps: the first step is to try to find the oldest best and most reliable manuscripts of the biblical texts available; the second step is to translate the Hebrew and Greek words found in the texts (decide what these words mean) and the last step involves trying to put these translated words into an understandable modern language (for us this would be English ). This is a challenging process involving not only trying to be accurate with the translation and meaning of individual words but also trying to put them in the modern sentences that will make sense to the reader.


By the way Kim, Mark, Chansin, and I all tend to use and prefer the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Many Bibles also have important footnotes to help us understand the passages that we are reading. It is important to not confuse the footnotes and those interpretations with the actual text that has been translated. In other words, the footnotes in our Bible are not considered the word of God, no matter how helpful they may be. The main thing is to try to find a Bible with which you feel comfortable. Whatever translation you choose is not a helpful translation if you rarely use it!


~David

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