FAQ on The Origin of the Bible


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Home Base 7) What were the languages used in the original Bible?
E-mail Bellgamin 8) Do we still have the original Bible as given to us by God?
1) Why did God decide we need the Bible? When did He make that decision? 9) People wrote the Bible. Why then should it be called the word of God?
2) Did God write the Bible? 10) Did God inspire only the main ideas of the Bible?
3) How many people did God use to write the Bible? 11) Does Biblical inspiration mean that God temporarily transformed the Bible's human writers into living word processing machines?
4) What were the backgrounds of the people God used to write the Bible? 12) Since there are so many ancient copies of the Bible, how was it decided which of them should be selected for my English language translation?
5) When was the Bible written? How long did it take to write it? 13) I have heard that there are many ancient scriptural writings that have been excluded from the Bible. Who made this decision?
6) Where was the Bible written? 14) What are the names of some of the ancient manuscripts of the Bible?


1) Why did God decide we need the Bible? When did He make that decision?

Known to God from eternity are all His works.

(Acts 15.18, NKJV)

  In the beginning God planned everything that He would create, including the universe, angels, and humans.

Under His plan, God chose to give angels and humans the ability to make choices between right and wrong, love and hate, obedience and disobedience.   (God said:) "... I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him ..." (Deu 30.19b-20a, NKJV)

The plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. (Ps 33.11, NIV)   God knew ahead of time that some of the angels would choose to hate rather than love; and they would rebel against Him. Even so, that did not change His plan.

After all, to be free to love, one must be equally free to hate. Unless love is freely given, it is meaningless.   Jesus said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment." (Mt 22.37-38, NKJV)

Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite. Ps 147.5, NKJV)   God also knew ahead of time that the first humans, Adam and Eve, would yield to being tempted by the rebel angel, Satan, and become sinners.


This would mean that all of Adam and Eve's descendents would inherit their sinful nature. This includes you and me.   Through one man (Adam) sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. (Rom 5.12, NKJV)
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Ps 51.5, NIV)

The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." (Jer 31.3, KJV)   But, ahead of time, God knew and loved every descendent of Adam and Eve. This includes you and me!

Knowing ahead of time that the people He loved would be sinners, God's plan made advanced provision for saving them from their sins.

  • Thus Jesus Christ, who is God manifested in the flesh, was ordained to die for our sins even before the foundation of the world!
  • And so also did God foreordain the writing of His Bible, so that we might know the way of salvation.
  ... You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold ... but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Pet 1.18-21, NKJV)


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2) Did God write the Bible?

God didn't write the Bible by His own hand.

God is the Author of the Bible, but He used people to do the actual writing.

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3) How many people did God use to write the Bible?

God used about 40 people to write the Bible. Some parts of the Bible identify who wrote them.

For example, many of the Psalms name David as their writer. The book of Romans identifies its writer as Paul. The book of First John identifies its writer as the Apostle John. The book of Genesis does not name its writer, but Jesus Christ stated that the writer was Moses (Mk 12.26). For many Bible books, God did not see fit to identify the writers He used. It makes me wonder why so many folks feel compelled to argue about who the unidentified writers of these books were. Seems to me that this is something like asking Leonardo da Vinci what kind of brushes he used to paint the Mona Lisa.

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4) What were the backgrounds of the people God used to write the Bible?

The people God used to write His Bible were not professional writers or "religious fanatics." Instead, God used people from all walks of life including farmer, carpenter, fisher, prophet, tax collector, doctor, tentmaker, soldier, shepherd, priest, and king.

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5) When was the Bible written? How long did it take to write it?

  • There has never been a time when the entire Bible did not exist in the mind of God. The Bible is the eternal word of God (Ps 119.89, 119.152; 1 Pet 1.25a).
  • As to when "pen was put to paper," the oldest book (Job) was written c. 2150 BC.
  • The youngest book (Revelation) was written c. 90 AD.
  • Thus, it took about 2200 years to write the 66 books of the Bible.
  Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven. (Ps 119.89, NKJV)

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6) Where was the Bible written?

I don't want to harp on this, but remember -- the Bible was authored in heaven by God. On earth, it was written on three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe.

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 7) What were the languages used in the original Bible?

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, with a few short passages in Aramaic. Aramaic is a language closely related to Hebrew.   The New Testament was written in a form of Greek known as Koine. Koine Greek was the language of regular everyday folks. It was a simplified form of Attic or classical Greek.

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8) Do we still have the original Bible as given to us by God?

The answer to question 8 is "yes and no." Yes, we still have the Bible given to us by God. No, we don't have the "autographs" of the Bible. Please be patient with me as I explain.

No, we don't have the autographs...

Yes, we still have the Bible given to us by God...

  • The original Bible writings as given directly by inspiration of God are called "autographs."
  • The Jewish custodians of the autographs lived in the area called Israel.
  • During Bible times, Israel was often invaded and overrun by enemies such as Philistia, Syria, and Babylon.
  • In periods of war the autographs were easily lost or destroyed.
  • Moreover, there were no word processors or ball point pens when the autographs were written.
  • Therefore, the Bible's autographs were chiseled in stone, etched in metal or clay, or written on animal skins or papyrus.
  • The materials used in writing the autographs have short life spans at best.
  • In summary, the autographs were lost, destroyed, or simply disintegrated.
  • God did NOT choose to miraculously preserve the Bible's autographs. Had He done so, they would have become objects of worship and idolatry.
  • Instead of preserving the Bible by miracle, God did it by ... copies, copies, copies!
  • In ancient times, Bible copies had to be made by hand.
  • The copies were made by scribes who were professional copiers, and religious to boot. Thus, they made copies with meticulous precision.
  • At first, the scribes copied the autographs. Then other scribes copied the copies. Then other scribes copied the copies of the copies. Many scribes. Many, many copies.
  • Professionals or not, did the scribes make errors? They were human, so of course they did. But amazingly few.
  • God knew the scribes would make errors. What was His solution? Again ... copies, copies, copies. PLUS something new -- "Lower Critics."
  • Lower Critics are professional analysts of Bible manuscripts. They ensure we have the Bible God gave us by comparing and analyzing all the copies as illustrated below.

Hypothetical Example of How Lower Critics Ensure We Have the Bible God Gave Us

Nine copies of a certain passage read "The cow gave milk." Analysis of the manuscripts indicates each of the 10 copies was written by a different scribe.
One copy reads, "The cow gave silk." Which reading is correct? Based on context and on majority reading, draw your own conclusions.

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9) People wrote the Bible. Why then should it be called the word of God?

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, (2 Tim 3.16, NKJV)

No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Pet 1.20-21, NKJV)
 
  • The writers of the Bible's autographs had the exact words they were to write breathed into their hearts and minds by God.
  • They were moved by the Holy Spirit so that the words they wrote were God's, and not their own private interpretation.

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10) Did God inspire only the main ideas of the Bible?

In Mt 5.18 Jesus said that even the "jots" and "tittles" of the Bible will fulfill God's purpose. A "jot" is a single letter. A "tittle" is a tiny punctuation point.

Gal 3.16 draws a distinction between the singular and plural of "seed" as used in Gen 22.18.

This means that every word of the Bible is inspired, down to and including the tiniest details of punctuation, and singular versus plural.
  (Jesus said:) "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled." (Mt 5.18, NKJV)

Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to
seeds,'' as of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed,'' who is Christ. (Gal 3.16, NKJV)

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11) Does Biblical inspiration mean that God temporarily transformed the Bible's human writers into living word processing machines?

No way! God loves people. Moreover, He loves each person's distinct individuality and quirks.

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12) Since there are so many ancient copies of the Bible, how was it decided which of them should be selected for my English language translation?


The selection of ancient copies for translation is done by
Lower Critics.

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13) I have heard that there are many ancient scriptural writings that have been excluded from the Bible. Who made this decision?

God decided which books would and would not be in the Bible. God's decision is called the "canon."

  • The canon is an official list of those particular ancient writings that belong in the Bible as inspired by God.
  • For example, Genesis is one of the 66 books on the canon.
  • A book called "Tobit" is not included in the canon. Neither is the Book of Mormon. Neither is Batman comics.
  • How did we get the canon? As the world looks at the process, it was voted upon by people on a committee.
  • Granted, they were very religious people and they used very good criteria for making their selections, but they were still a committee. Which brings us to the camel -- often called "a horse put together by a committee."
  • To put it bluntly, how do we know these folks picked the RIGHT books? Didn't leave out an inspired book? Didn't include a junk book?
  • These are good questions, but are we forgetting who is in charge here? God, not a committee, is in charge of the canon.
  • It was God who decided the canon. The committee merely discovered what God had ordained.
  • The canonicity of the Old Testament was approved by God the Son, Jesus Christ (Lk 24.44). The canonicity of the New Testament was pre-approved by Him (John 14.26, 16.13).
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14) What are the names of some of the ancient manuscripts of the Bible?


Major Old Testament manuscripts include: The Cairo Codex, the Aleppo Codex, the British Museum Codex, the Leningrad Codex, the Reuchlin Codex of the Prophets, the Dead Sea Scrolls. Another important OT resource is the Septuagint or LXX, a translation of the Hebrew text into Greek.

Major New Textament manuscripts include: Codex Vaticanus (B), Codex Sinaiticus (Aleph), Codex Alexandrinus (A), Chester Beatty Papyri (P45, 46, 47).

More information on manuscripts and text types is provided under a separate FAQ topic on Bible translations. Check Home Base for its availability.

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