Biblical Literature

Biblical Literature

The Bible (from Koine Greek τὰ βιβλία ta biblia "the books") is any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the contents and the order of the individual books (Biblical canon) vary among denominations. The 24 texts of the Hebrew Bible are divided into 39 books in Christian Old Testaments, and complete Christian Bibles range from the 66 books of the Protestant canon to the 81 books of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Bible. The Hebrew and Christian Bibles are also important to other Abrahamic religions, includingIslam and the Bahá'í Faith, but those religions do not regard them as central religious texts.

The Hebrew Bible, or Tanakh, is divided into three parts: (1) the five books of the Torah ("teaching" or "law"), comprising the origins of the Israelite nation, its laws and its covenant with the God of Israel; (2) the Nevi'im ("prophets"), containing the historic account of ancient Israel and Judah focusing on conflicts between the Israelites and other nations, and conflicts among Israelites – specifically, struggles between believers in "the LORD God" and believers in foreign gods, and the criticism of unethical and unjust behavior of Israelite elites and rulers; and (3) theKetuvim ("writings"): poetic and philosophical works such as the Psalms and the Book of Job.

The Christian Bible is divided into two parts. The first is called the Old Testament, containing the (minimum) 39 books of Hebrew Scripture, and the second portion is called the New Testament, containing a set of 27 books. The first four books of the New Testament form the Canonical gospels which recount the life of Jesus and are central to the Christian faith. Christian Bibles include the books of the Hebrew Bible, but arranged in a different order: Jewish Scripture ends with the people of Israel restored to Jerusalem and the temple, whereas the Christian arrangement ends with the book of the prophet Malachi. The oldest surviving Christian Bibles are Greek manuscripts from the 4th century; the oldest complete Jewish Bible is a Greek translation, also dating to the 4th century. The oldest complete manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible (the Masoretic text) date from the Middle Ages.

During the three centuries following the establishment of Christianity in the 1st century, Church Fathers compiled Gospel accounts and letters of apostles into a Christian Bible which became known as the New Testament. The Old and New Testaments together are commonly referred to as "The Holy Bible" (τὰ βιβλία τὰ ἅγια). Many Christians consider the text of the Bible to bedivinely inspired, and cite passages in the Bible itself as support for this belief. The canonical composition of the Old Testament is under dispute between Christian groups: Protestants hold only the books of the Hebrew Bible to be canonical; Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox additionally consider the deuterocanonical books, a group of Jewish books, to be canonical. The New Testament is composed of the Gospels ("good news"), the Acts of the Apostles, theEpistles (letters), and the Book of Revelation. The Bible is the best-selling book in history with approximate sales estimates ranging from 2.5 billion to 6 billion.

Etymology

The English word Bible is from the Latin biblia, from the same word in Medieval Latin and Late Latin and ultimately fromGreek τὰ βιβλία ta biblia "the books" (singular βιβλίονbiblion).

Medieval Latin biblia is short for biblia sacra "holy book", while biblia in Greek and Late Latin is neuter plural (gen.bibliorum). It gradually came to be regarded as a feminine singular noun (biblia, gen. bibliae) in medieval Latin, and so the word was loaned as a singular into the vernaculars of Western Europe. Latin biblia sacra "holy books" translates Greek τὰ βιβλία τὰ ἅγια ta biblia ta hagia, "the holy books".

The word βιβλίον itself had the literal meaning of "paper" or "scroll" and came to be used as the ordinary word for "book". It is the diminutive of βύβλος bublos, "Egyptian papyrus", possibly so called from the name of the Phoenician port Byblos (also known as Gebal) from whence Egyptian papyrus was exported to Greece. The Greek ta biblia (lit. "little papyrus books") was "an expression Hellenistic Jews used to describe their sacred books (the Septuagint). Christian use of the term can be traced to ca. AD 223.

Jewish Canon

Development of the Jewish Canon

Tanakh (Hebrew: תנ"ך) reflects the threefold division of the Hebrew Bible, Torah ("Teaching"), Nevi'im ("Prophets") and Ketuvim ("Writings").

Torah

The Torah, or "Instruction", is also known as the "Five Books" of Moses, thus Chumash from Hebrew meaning "fivesome", and Pentateuchfrom Greek meaning "five scroll-cases". The Hebrew book titles come from some of the first words in the respective texts.

The Torah comprises the following five books:

  1. Genesis, Ge—Bereshith (בראשית)
  2. Exodus, Ex—Shemot (שמות)
  3. Leviticus, Le—Vayikra (ויקרא)
  4. Numbers, Nu—Bamidbar (במדבר)
  5. Deuteronomy, Dt—Devarim (דברים)

The Torah focuses on three moments in the changing relationship between God and the Jewish people. The first eleven chapters of Genesis provide accounts of the creation (or ordering) of the world and the history of God's early relationship with humanity. The remaining thirty-nine chapters of Genesis provide an account of God's covenant with the Hebrew patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (also called Israel)—and Jacob's children—the "Children of Israel"—especially Joseph. It tells of how God commanded Abraham to leave his family and home in the city of Ur, eventually to settle in the land of Canaan, and how the Children of Israel later moved to Egypt. The remaining four books of the Torah tell the story of Moses, who lived hundreds of years after the patriarchs. He leads the Children of Israel from their liberation from slavery in Ancient Egypt, to the renewal of their covenant with God at Mount Sinai and their wanderings in the desert until a new generation was ready to enter the land of Canaan. The Torah ends with the death of Moses.

The Torah contains the commandments of God, revealed at Mount Sinai (although there is some debate amongst traditional scholars as to whether these were all written down at one time, or over a period of time during the 40 years of the wanderings in the desert, while several modern Jewish movements reject the idea of a literal revelation, and critical scholars believe that many of these laws developed later in Jewish history). These commandments provide the basis for Halakha (Jewish religious law). Tradition states that there are 613 Mitzvot or 613 commandments. There is some dispute as to how to divide these up (mainly between the rabbis Ramban and Rambam).

The Torah is divided into fifty-four portions which in the Jewish liturgy are read on successive Sabbaths, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Deuteronomy. The cycle ends and recommences at the end of Sukkot, which is called Simchat Torah.

Nevi'im

The Nevi'im, or "Prophets", tell the story of the rise of the Hebrew monarchy and its division into two kingdoms, the Nevi'im ("prophets"), containing the historic account of ancient Israel and Judah focusing on conflicts between the Israelites and other nations, and conflicts among Israelites—specifically, struggles between believers in "the LORD God" and believers in foreign gods, and the criticism of unethical and unjust behavior of Israelite elites and rulers; in which prophets played a crucial and leading role. It ends with the conquest of the Kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians followed by the conquest of the Kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Portions of the prophetic books are read by Jews on the Sabbath (Shabbat). The Book of Jonah is read on Yom Kippur.

According to Jewish tradition, the Nevi'im are divided into eight books. Contemporary translations subdivide these into twenty-one books.

The Nevi'im comprise the following eight books:

  1. Joshua, Js—Yehoshua (יהושע)
  2. Judges, Jg—Shoftim (שופטים)
  3. Samuel, includes First and Second 1Sa–2Sa—Sh'muel (שמואל)
  4. Kings, includes First and Second, 1Ki–2Ki—Melakhim (מלכים)
  5. Isaiah, Is—Yeshayahu (ישעיהו)
  6. Jeremiah, Je—Yirmiyahu (ירמיהו)
  7. Ezekiel, Ez—Yekhezkel (יחזקאל)
  8. Twelve, Tre Asar (תרי עשר), comprising what some call the Minor Prophets
  • A. Hosea, Ho—Hoshea (הושע)
  • B. Joel, Jl—Yoel (יואל)
  • C. Amos, Am—Amos (עמוס)
  • D. Obadiah, Ob—Ovadyah (עבדיה)
  • E. Jonah, Jh—Yonah (יונה)
  • F. Micah, Mi—Mikhah (מיכה)
  • G. Nahum, Na—Nahum (נחום)
  • H. Habakkuk, Hb—Havakuk (חבקוק)
  • I. Zephaniah, Zp—Tsefanya (צפניה)
  • J. Haggai, Hg—Khagay (חגי)
  • K. Zechariah, Zc—Zekharyah (זכריה)
  • L. Malachi, Ml—Malakhi (מלאכי)

Ketuvim

The Ketuvim, or "Writings" or "Scriptures," may have been written or compiled during or after the Babylonian Exile. Many of the psalms in the book of Psalms are attributed to David; King Solomon is believed to have written Song of Songs in his youth, Proverbs at the prime of his life, and Ecclesiastes at old age; and the prophet Jeremiah is thought to have written Lamentations. The Book of Job is the only biblical book that centers entirely on a non-Jew. The Book of Ruth is the only book to focus on a convert to Judaism. It tells the story of a Moabitess who married a Jew and continued to follow the ways of the Jews after her husband's death; according to the Bible, she was the great-grandmother of King David. Five of the books, called "The Five Scrolls" (Megilot), are read on Jewish holidays: Song of Songs on Passover; the Book of Ruth on Shavuot; Lamentations on the Ninth of Av; Ecclesiastes on Sukkot; and the Book of Esther on Purim. Collectively, the Ketuvim contain lyrical poetry, philosophical reflections on life, and the stories of the prophets and other Jewish leaders during the Babylonian exile. It ends with the Persian decree allowing Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple.

The Ketuvim comprise the following eleven books, divided, in many modern translations, into twelve through the division of Ezra and Nehemiah:

  1. Psalms, Ps—Tehillim (תהלים)
  2. Proverbs, Pr—Mishlei (משלי)
  3. Job, Jb—Iyyov (איוב)
  4. Song of Songs, So—Shir ha-Shirim (שיר השירים)
  5. Ruth, Ru—Rut (רות)
  6. Lamentations, La—Eikhah (איכה), also called Kinot (קינות)
  7. Ecclesiastes, Ec—Kohelet (קהלת)
  8. Esther, Es—Ester (אסתר)
  9. Daniel, Dn—Daniel (דניאל)
  10. Ezra, Ea, includes Nehemiah, Ne—Ezra (עזרא), includes Nehemiah (נחמיה)
  11. Chronicles, includes First and Second, 1Ch–2Ch—Divrei ha-Yamim (דברי הימים), also called Divrei (דברי)

Hebrew Bible Translations and Editions

The Tanakh was mainly written in Biblical Hebrew, with some portions (notably in Daniel and Ezra) in Biblical Aramaic.

Oral Torah

According to some Jews during the Hellenistic period, such as the Sadducees, only a minimal oral tradition of interpreting the words of the Torah existed, which did not include extended biblical interpretation. According to the Pharisees, however, God revealed both a Written Torah and an Oral Torah to Moses, the Oral Torah consisting of both stories and legal traditions. In Rabbinic Judaism, the Oral Torah is essential for understanding the Written Torah literally (as it includes neither vowels nor punctuation) and exegetically. The Oral Torah has different facets, principally Halacha (laws), the Aggadah (stories), and the Kabbalah (esoteric knowledge). Major portions of the Oral Law have been committed to writing, notably the Mishnah; the Tosefta; Midrash, such as Midrash Rabbah, the Sifre, the Sifra, and the Mechilta; and both the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds as well. It may have even influenced early Christianity.

Orthodox Judaism continues to accept the Oral Torah in its totality. Masorti and Conservative Judaism state that the Oral Tradition is to some degree divinely inspired, and that rabbis today must adapt and apply its principles to changing conditions, even if this results in changes in Jewish practice. Reform Judaism also gives some credence to the Talmud containing the legal elements of the Oral Torah, but, as with the written Torah, asserts that both were inspired by, but not dictated by, God. Reconstructionist Judaism denies any connection of the Torah, Written or Oral, with God, viewing it instead as the nation's literary and moral genius. Karaite Judaism holds strictly to the Written Torah but not the Oral Torah, maintaining that all of the divine commandments handed down to Moses by God were recorded in the written Torah, without additional Oral Law or explanation.

The article Jewish commentaries on the Bible discusses the Jewish understanding of the Bible, including Bible commentaries from the ancient Targums to classical Rabbinic literature, the midrash literature, the classical medieval commentators, and modern day Jewish Bible commentaries.

Septuagint

The Septuagint was a Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures. The Septuagint included books and additions not found in the Hebrew Bible. Modern Jewish Bibles follow the Masoretic Text rather than the Septuagint. The Septuagint splits certain books in two, so that the book of Kings, for example, became First Kings and Second Kings. Christian Bibles maintain these divisions. The Septuagint was adopted as the Christian Old Testament.

Christian Canons

The Christian Bible consists of the Hebrew scriptures of Judaism, which are known as the Old Testament; and later writings recording the lives and teachings of Jesus and his followers, known as the New Testament. "Testament" is a translation of the Greek διαθηκη (diatheke), also often translated "covenant". It is a legal term denoting a formal and legally binding declaration of benefits to be given by one party to another (e.g., "last will and testament" in secular use). Here it does not connote mutuality; rather, it is a unilateral covenant offered by God to individuals.

Groups within Christianity include differing books as part of one or both of these "Testaments" of their sacred writings—most prominent among which are the Biblical apocrypha or deuterocanonical books.

Significant versions of the English Christian Bible include the Douay-Rheims, the RSV, the KJV, the ESV, the NKJV, and the NIV.

In Judaism, the term Christian Bible is commonly used to identify only those books like the New Testament which have been added by Christians to the Masoretic Text, and excludes any reference to an Old Testament.

Old Testament

The books which make up the Christian Old Testament differ between Protestants and the Catholic and Orthodox faiths, the Protestant movement accepting only those books contained in the Hebrew Bible, while Catholics and Orthodox have a wider canon. The books were written in classical Hebrew, except for brief portions (Ezra 4:8–6:18 and 7:12–26, Jeremiah 10:11, Daniel 2:4–7:28) which are in the Aramaic language, a sister language which became the lingua franca of the Semitic world. Much of the material, including many genealogies, poems and narratives, is thought to have been handed down by word of mouth for many generations. Very few manuscripts are said to have survived the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

The Old Testament is accepted by Christians as scripture. Broadly speaking, it contains the same material as the Hebrew Bible. However, the order of the books is not entirely the same as that found in Hebrew manuscripts and in the ancient versions and varies from Judaism in interpretation and emphasis. Christian denominations disagree about the incorporation of a small number of books into their canons of the Old Testament. A few groups consider particular translations to be divinely inspired, notably the GreekSeptuagint, the Aramaic Peshitta, and the English King James Version.

Apocryphal or Deuterocanonical Books

The Septuagint (Greek translation, from Alexandria in Egypt under the Ptolemies) was generally abandoned in favour of the 10th centuryMasoretic text as the basis for translations of the Old Testament into Western languages. In Eastern Christianity, translations based on the Septuagint still prevail. Some modern Western translations since the 14th century make use of the Septuagint to clarify passages in the Masoretic text, where the Septuagint may preserve a variant reading of the Hebrew text. They also sometimes adopt variants that appear in other texts e.g. those discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

A number of books which are part of the Peshitta or Greek Septuagint but are not found in the Hebrew (Rabbinic) Bible (i.e., among theprotocanonical books) are often referred to as deuterocanonical books by Roman Catholics referring to a later secondary (i.e. deutero) canon, that canon as fixed definitively by the Council of Trent 1545-1563. It includes 46 books for the Old Testament (45 if we count Jeremiah and Lamentations as one) and 27 for the New.

List of the Canonical Scriptures.

But if anyone receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema.
—Decretum de Canonicis Scripturis, Council of Trent, 8 April 1546

Most Protestants term these books as apocrypha. Evangelicals and those of the Modern Protestant traditions do not accept the deuterocanonical books as canonical, although Protestant Bibles included them in Apocrypha sections until the 1820s. However, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches include these books as part of their Old Testament.

The Roman Catholic Church recognizes:

  • Tobit
  • Judith
  • 1 Maccabees
  • 2 Maccabees
  • Wisdom
  • Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus)
  • Baruch
  • The Letter of Jeremiah (Baruch Chapter 6)
  • Greek Additions to Esther (Book of Esther, chapters 10:4 – 12:6)
  • The Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children verses 1–68 (Book of Daniel, chapter 3, verses 24–90)
  • Susanna (Book of Daniel, chapter 13)
  • Bel and the Dragon (Book of Daniel, chapter 14)

In addition to those, the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches recognize the following:

  • 3 Maccabees
  • 1 Esdras
  • Prayer of Manasseh
  • Psalm 151

Russian and Georgian Orthodox Churches include:

  • 2 Esdras i.e., Latin Esdras in the Russian and Georgian Bibles

There is also 4 Maccabees which is only accepted as canonical in the Georgian Church, but was included by St. Jerome in an appendix to the Vulgate, and is an appendix to the Greek Orthodox Bible, and it is therefore sometimes included in collections of the Apocrypha.

The Syriac Orthodox tradition includes:

  • Psalms 151–155
  • The Apocalypse of Baruch
  • The Letter of Baruch

The Ethiopian Orthodox tradition includes:

  • Jubilees
  • Enoch
  • 1–3 Meqabyan

and some other books.

The Anglican Churches uses some of the Apocryphal books liturgically. Therefore, editions of the Bible intended for use in the Anglican Church include the Deuterocanonical books accepted by the Catholic Church, plus 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras and the Prayer of Manasseh, which were in the Vulgate appendix.

Role in Christian Theology

The Old Testament has always been central to the life of the Christian church. Bible scholar N.T. Wright says "Jesus himself was profoundly shaped by the scriptures." He adds that the earliest Christians also searched those same scriptures in their effort to understand the earthly life of Jesus. They regarded the ancient Israelites' scriptures as having reached a climactic fulfillment in Jesus himself, generating the "new covenant" prophesied by Jeremiah.

New Testament

The New Testament is a collection of 27 books, of 4 different genres of Christian literature (Gospels, one account of the Acts of the Apostles, Epistles and an Apocalypse). Jesus is its central figure. The New Testament presupposes the inspiration of the Old Testament (2 Timothy 3:16). Nearly all Christians recognize the New Testament (as stated below) as canonical scripture. These books can be grouped into:

The Gospels

  • Synoptic Gospels
  • Gospel According to Matthew, Mt
  • Gospel According to Mark, Mk
  • Gospel According to Luke, Lk
  • Gospel According to John, Jn
  • Acts of the Apostles, Ac (continues Luke)

Pauline Epistles

  • Epistle to the Romans, Ro
  • First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1Co
  • Second Epistle to the Corinthians, 2Co
  • Epistle to the Galatians, Ga
  • Epistle to the Ephesians, Ep
  • Epistle to the Philippians, Ph
  • Epistle to the Colossians, Co
  • First Epistle to the Thessalonians, 1Th
  • Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, 2Th

Pastoral Epistles

  • First Epistle to Timothy, 1Ti
  • Second Epistle to Timothy, 2Ti
  • Epistle to Titus, Ti
  • Epistle to Philemon, Pm
  • Epistle to the Hebrews, He

General Epistles, Also Called Catholic Epistles

  • Epistle of James, Jm
  • First Epistle of Peter, 1Pe
  • Second Epistle of Peter, 2Pe
  • First Epistle of John, 1Jn
  • Second Epistle of John, 2Jn
  • Third Epistle of John, 3Jn
  • Epistle of Jude, Jd

Revelation, or The Apocalypse Re

The order of these books varies according to Church tradition. The New Testament books are ordered differently in the Catholic/Protestant tradition, the Slavonic tradition, the Syriac tradition and the Ethiopian tradition.

Original Language

The consensus scholarly view is that the books of the New Testament were written in Koine Greek, the language of the earliest extant manuscripts, even though some authors often included translations from Hebrew and Aramaic texts. Other minority views hold that the original language of the books of the New Testament are Aramaic, Hebrew, or both.

Historic Editions

When ancient scribes copied earlier books, they wrote notes on the margins of the page (marginal glosses) to correct their text—especially if a scribe accidentally omitted a word or line—and to comment about the text. When later scribes were copying the copy, they were sometimes uncertain if a note was intended to be included as part of the text. Over time, different regions evolved different versions, each with its own assemblage of omissions and additions.

The autographs, the Greek manuscripts written by the original authors, have not survived. Scholars surmise the original Greek text from the versions that do survive. The three main textual traditions of the Greek New Testament are sometimes called the Alexandrian text-type (generally minimalist), the Byzantine text-type (generally maximalist), and the Western text-type (occasionally wild). Together they comprise most of the ancient manuscripts.

Development of Christian Canons

The Old Testament canon entered into Christian use in the Greek Septuagint translations and original books, and their differing lists of texts. In addition to the Septuagint, Christianity subsequently added various writings that would become the New Testament. Somewhat different lists of accepted works continued to develop in antiquity. In the 4th century a series of synods produced a list of texts equal to the 39, 46(51),54, or 57 book canon of the Old Testament and to the 27-book canon of the New Testament that would be subsequently used to today, most notably the Synod of Hippo in AD 393. Also c. 400, Jerome produced a definitive Latin edition of the Bible, the canon of which, at the insistence of the Pope, was in accord with the earlier Synods. With the benefit of hindsight it can be said that this process effectively set the New Testament canon, although there are examples of other canonical lists in use after this time. A definitive list did not come from an Ecumenical Council until the Council of Trent (1545–63).

During the Protestant Reformation, certain reformers proposed different canonical lists to those currently in use. Though not without debate, the list of New Testament books would come to remain the same; however, the Old Testament texts present in the Septuagint but not included in the Jewish canon fell out of favor. In time they would come to be removed from most Protestant canons. Hence, in a Catholic context, these texts are referred to as deuterocanonical books, whereas in a Protestant context they are referred to as the Apocrypha, the label applied to all texts excluded from the Biblical canon but which were in the Septuagint. It should also be noted that Catholics and Protestants both describe certain other books, such as the Acts of Peter, as apocryphal.

Thus, the Protestant Old Testament of today has a 39-book canon—the number of books (though not the content) varies from the Tanakh because of a different method of division—while the Roman Catholic Church recognizes 46 books(51 books with some books combined into 46 books) as the canonical Old Testament. The Orthodox Churches recognise 3 Maccabees, 1 Esdras, Prayer of Manasseh and Psalm 151 in addition to the Catholic canon. Some include 2 Esdras. The Anglican Church also recognises a longer canon. The term "Hebrew Scriptures" is often used as being synonymous with the Protestant Old Testament, since the surviving scriptures in Hebrew include only those books, while Catholics and Orthodox include additional texts that have not survived in Hebrew. Both Catholics and Protestants have the same 27-book New Testament Canon.

The New Testament writers assumed the inspiration of the Old Testament, probably earliest stated in 2 Timothy 3:16, "all Scripture is inspired of God".

Ethiopian Orthodox Canon

The Canon of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is wider than the canons used by most other Christian churches. There are 81 books in the Ethiopian Orthodox Bible. The Ethiopian Old Testament Canon includes the books found in the Septuagint accepted by other Orthodox Christians, in addition to Enoch and Jubilees which are ancient Jewish books that only survived in Ge'ez but are quoted in the New Testament, also Greek Ezra First and the Apocalypse of Ezra, 3 books of Meqabyan, and Psalm 151 at the end of the Psalter. The three books of Meqabyan are not to be confused with the books of Maccabees. The order of the other books is somewhat different from other groups', as well. The Old Testament follows the Septuagint order for the Minor Prophets rather than the Jewish order.

Divine Inspiration

The Christian Bible contains paragraphs indicating that "All scripture given by inspiration of God". (2 Timothy 3:16-3:17)  Almost all Christians believe that the Bible consists of the inspired Word of God, where God intervened and influenced the words of the Bible. For many Christians the Bible is also infallible, in that it is incapable of error within matters of faith and practice. For example, that the bible is free from error in spiritual but not scientific matters. A related, but distinguishable belief is that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, without error in any aspect. spoken by God and written down in its perfect form by humans. Within these broad beliefs there are many schools of hermeneutics. "Bible scholars claim that discussions about the Bible must be put into its context within church history and then into the context of contemporary culture." Fundamentalist Christians are associated with the doctrine of Biblical literalism, where the Bible is not only inerrant, but the meaning of the text is clear to the average reader.

Belief in sacred texts is attested to in Jewish antiquity, and this belief can also be seen in the earliest of Christian writings. Various texts of the Bible mention Divine agency in relation to its writings. In their book A General Introduction to the Bible, Norman Geisler and William Nix wrote: "The process of inspiration is a mystery of the providence of God, but the result of this process is a verbal, plenary, inerrant, and authoritative record." Most evangelical Biblical scholars associate inspiration with only the original text; for example some American Protestants adhere to the 1978 Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy which asserted that inspiration applied only to theautographic text of Scripture. A minority even within adherents of Biblical literalism extend the claim of inerrancy to a particular translation, e.g. the King-James-Only Movement.

Bible Versions and Translations

The original texts of the Tanakh were in Hebrew, although some portions were in Aramaic. In addition to the authoritative Masoretic Text, Jews still refer to the Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, and the Targum Onkelos, an Aramaic version of the Bible. There are several different ancient versions of the Tanakh in Hebrew, mostly differing by spelling, and the traditional Jewish version is based on the version known as Aleppo Codex. Even in this version by itself, there are words which are traditionally read differently from written (sometimes one word is written and another is read), because the oral tradition is considered more fundamental than the written one, and presumably mistakes had been made in copying the text over the generations.

The primary Biblical text for early Christians was the Septuagint or (LXX). In addition, they translated the Hebrew Bible into several other languages. Translations were made into Syriac,Coptic, Ge'ez and Latin, among other languages. The Latin translations were historically the most important for the Church in the West, while the Greek-speaking East continued to use the Septuagint translations of the Old Testament and had no need to translate the New Testament.

The earliest Latin translation was the Old Latin text, or Vetus Latina, which, from internal evidence, seems to have been made by several authors over a period of time. It was based on the Septuagint, and thus included books not in the Hebrew Bible.

Pope Damasus I assembled the first list of books of the Bible at the Council of Rome in AD 382. He commissioned Saint Jerome to produce a reliable and consistent text by translating the original Greek and Hebrew texts into Latin. This translation became known as the Latin Vulgate Bible and in 1546 at the Council of Trent was declared by the Church to be the only authentic and official Bible in the Latin Rite.

Since the Protestant Reformation, Bible translations for many languages have been made. The Bible has seen hundreds of English language translations.

The Bible continues to be translated to new languages, largely by Christian organisations such as Wycliffe Bible Translators, New Tribes Mission and the Bible society.

Biblical Criticism

Biblical criticism refers to the investigation of the Bible as a text, and addresses questions such as authorship, dates of composition, and authorial intention. It is not the same as criticism of the Bible, which is an assertion against the Bible being a source of information or ethical guidance, or observations that the Bible may have translation errors.

Higher Criticism

In the 17th century Thomas Hobbes collected the current evidence to conclude outright that Moses could not have written the bulk of the Torah. Shortly afterwards the philosopher Baruch Spinoza published a unified critical analysis, arguing that the problematic passages were not isolated cases that could be explained away one by one, but pervasive throughout the five books, concluding that it was "clearer than the sun at noon that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses . . ." Despite determined opposition from Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, the views of Hobbes and Spinoza gained increasing acceptance amongst scholars.

Archaeological and Historical Research

Biblical archaeology is the archaeology that relates to and sheds light upon the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament. It is used to help determine the lifestyle and practices of people living in Biblical times. There are a wide range of interpretations in the field of Biblical archaeology. One broad division includes Biblical maximalism which generally takes the view that most of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bibleis based on history although it is presented through the religious viewpoint of its time. It is considered the opposite of Biblical minimalismwhich considers the Bible a purely post-exilic (5th century BC and later) composition. Even among those scholars who adhere to Biblical minimalism, the Bible is a historical document containing first-hand information on the Hellenistic and Roman eras, and there is universal scholarly consensus that the events of the Babylonian captivity of the 6th century BC have a basis in history.

The historicity of the Biblical account of the history of ancient Israel and Judah of the 10th to 7th centuries BC is disputed in scholarship. The Biblical account of the 8th to 7th centuries BC is widely, but not universally, accepted as historical, while the verdict on the earliest period of the United Monarchy (10th century BC) and the historicity of David is unclear. Archaeological evidence providing information on this period, such as the Tel Dan Stele, can potentially be decisive. The Biblical account of events of the Exodus from Egypt in the Torah, and the migration to the Promised Land and the period of Judges are not considered historical in scholarship. Regarding the New Testament, the setting being the Roman Empire in the 1st century AD, the historical context is well established. There has been some debate on thehistoricity of Jesus, but the mainstream opinion is that Jesus was one of several known historical itinerant preachers in 1st-century Roman Judea, teaching in the context of the religious upheavals and sectarianism of Second Temple Judaism.

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