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Introducing the Bible

What is the Bible?

  • Biblia (βιβλία): the plural Greek term for “books”
  • A variety of genres: historiography, biography, epics, law codes, prophecy, proverbs, parables, songs, poetry, letters, and apocalyptic texts!
  • The Hebrew Bible was mainly written in Hebrew with parts in Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Koine (“common”) Greek.
  • The Vulgate was a fourth century Latin translation of the Bible mainly based on the work of Saint Jerome.
  • Testament: older term for “covenant” or agreement between two parties.
  • John 3:16 = “John” is the name of the book, 3 is the chapter number, and 16 is the verse number. Chapter and verses are a later addition to the biblical texts.
  • See Larry Hurtado’s video on “Scrolls and the Early Codex.”

What does the term “canon” mean?

  • A kanōn reed was used as a standard of measurement.
  • The rule or criterion used to make a judgment (“rule of faith”) or a list of authoritative writings (canonical or non-canonical books).

Different Names and Versions of the “Old Testament”

  • Old Testament: the Christian name for the Hebrew Bible, which carries the implication that it was fulfilled in the story of Jesus in the New Testament.
  • Tanakh: Jewish Scriptures consisting of the Torah (Law), Nevi’im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings).
  • Hebrew Bible: a neutral designation for the collection of texts referred to as the Tanakh or the Old Testament by Jews and Christians respectively.
  • Septuagint (LXX): a translation of the Hebrew Bible in Greek beginning around 250 BCE. The legend is that Ptolemy II Philadelphus asked 72 elders to translate the Law into Greek to be included in the library of Alexandria (cf. The Letter to Aristeas)
  • Masoretic text: the Masoretes were Jewish scribes working between the 6th and 10th century CE who added vowel markings, punctuation, accents, and other textual notes. See the Leningrad Codex dating around 1010 CE.
  • Dead Sea Scrolls: collection of texts discovered in the caves of Qumran beginning in 1947 and dating between the 200s BCE to the late 60s CE. Just over 200 of the 800 scrolls found were copies of all the books of the Hebrew Bible except for Esther.

Different Canons of Scripture

  • The content of the Protestant Old Testament and the Jewish Tanakh is identical, though it is in a different order. Both exclude Greek Jewish texts found in the LXX, classified by Protestants as part of the “Apocrypha” (hidden books).
  • Catholics accept a number of books in the LXX (e.g. Tobit, Judith, 1-2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Baruch, Additions in Daniel and Esther) as “deutero-canonical.”
  • The Orthodox Bible has a few extra books not in the Catholic Bible (e.g. 1 Esdras, 3-4 Maccabees).
  • See Felix Just, “Jewish and Christian Bibles: A Comparative Chart

Translation Theory


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