The process by which the English Bible, as it is known to the English culture today, was compiled is an extraordinary thing to see. The Bible consists of two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The process by which both Testaments were written and then canonized into one book transpired over a period of many years.
Once the canonization of the Bible officially came to an end, it was translated into English. Since then, many versions of the modern Bible have been made. Since the individual books of the Bible became scattered as they were written, people set forth to preserve God’s Word by compiling them into one book.This development began with the writing and canonization of the individual books of the Bible which were then translated into the English language.“The Christian Bible is not really one book at all, but a collection of books written over thousands of years.
” It was written by a large sum of various authors.The canonization of the Bible is the procedure by which the books that would become part of the Bible were chosen. This process did not take place all at once, nor was it done by one group of people. The word canon is derived from the word rod (measure) in the Greek language.
The books were chosen by resolving which ones met the given standard (Stotesberg).The canonization of the Old Testament took place over a period of many years. Overall, the books of the Old Testament were written from 1000-1050 BC. The first translation of the Bible was the Septuagint or the LXX which in the end consists of forty-six books (“Development of the Difficult Canon”).At this time, only the Torah (the Pentateuch), which were the first five books of the Bible, were translated (Kalvesmaki).
There are two different theories as to the exact details of this process.One is that it was translated by rabbis in 200 BC (“Development of the Difficult Canon”). The other is that six translators out of each of the twelve tribes of Israel were chosen to translate the Scripture in 282 BC. During the three centuries that followed, the two other canons of the Old Testament were translated from Hebrew to Greek (Kalvesmaki). These two canons are the Prophets and the Writings.The Prophets are composed of the following books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I and II Samuel, I and II Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
The Writings are I and II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Daniel (Stotesberg).The Christians compared the canon which they had been using, the Old Testament, to the Septuagint (which consists of the Apocrypha also), choosing it over their Old Testament canon. This angered the Jews who therefore made and distributed more copies of the Old Testament canon. In the end though, the Christians still embraced the Septuagint, and the Jews refused it (Kalvesmaki).As a result of this dispute, the Jewish rabbis held the Council of Jamniah in AD 100 at which they choose to take out seven of the books that were not originally part of their Hebrew Old Testament, named the Apocrypha (“Development of the Difficult Canon”), also called the Deuterocanonical books (Kalvesmaki).This resulted in the canon only having thirty-nine books ((“Development of the Difficult Canon”)).
From AD 400 to 1546, the Bible was translated and rearranged until finally, the official canon of it was determined.In AD 400, Jerome began a new translation of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew to Latin. In this canon, called the Vulgate, he left out the Apocrypha since these books are not contained in the Jewish Old Testament. In the end though, he leaves the Apocrypha in the Vulgate, because Pope Damascus wishes it. In AD 1536, Luther carries out his translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek to German.He holds to the belief that the Jewish Old Testament is right, because they were the original authors of it.
He therefore separates the Apocrypha from the main part of the Bible, putting it in an appendix. In AD 1546, the Council of Trent convenes and settles once and for all that the Old Testament consists of all forty-six books (“Development of the Difficult Canon”).The New Testament was canonized over a period of approximately four hundred years (Stotesberg). From AD 50-125, the books which in the end constitute the New Testament were written.
Simultaneously, other books, which did not end up being included in the final canon, were produced.These books are the Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache, I Clement, the seven letters of Ignatius of Antioch, etc. (“Development of the Difficult Canon”). As more and more books were written, Christians realized that it was imperative that they gather and consolidate this material before it became lost.
Sometime before AD 100, ten of Paul’s letters were gathered and combined into their own canon.The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) were combined to form another canon soon after the canonization of Paul’s letters. The Gospels and Paul’s letters became the main body of a new group of Scriptures that would soon become the New Testament. Soon Acts, I Peter, I John, and Revelation were inserted into this body of Scripture. Following this, the rest of the books were added to the New Testament (Barker).
In AD 140, Marcion, a heretical teacher who discarded the Old Testament as Scripture, took parts of Luke and also ten of Paul’s letters, infiltrated with his theories, and compiled the first canon of the New Testament (Bruce). This made it a necessity for the church to choose what the main body of the New Testament canon would be. They decided on the letters of Paul and the four Gospels (“Development of the Difficult Canon”).In AD 200, the final content of the New Testament was still undecided and would be debated for many years to come. According to the Muratorian Canon of AD 200, the New Testament contained thirteen of the letters of Paul, the Gospels, Acts, I and II John, I and II Jude, and theApocalypse of Peter.In 367, the Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria wrote an Easter letter that included the books that the final canon would consist of.
This is the first exact replica of the Bible which is now in use (“Development of the Difficult Canon”). In AD 393, this canon, including the books of the Septuagint, was commended by the African Synod of Hippo. This choice was endorsed by the Councils of Carthage in 397 and 419 (Barker).Pope Damascus wrote a letter to a bishop of France in which he gave his approval of the present content of the New Testament in AD 904. The church also gave their approval at the Council of Florence in AD 1442 but did not finalize their decision.
When Luther translated the Bible into German in AD 1536, he took and placed Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation at the end of the New Testament, because he did not view them as meeting the canonical standard.“At the Council of Trent, the Catholic Church reaffirms once and for all the full list of 27 books as traditionally accepted.” (“Development of the Difficult Canon”). Once the Biblical canon was established, there arose a need for the translation of the Bible into English (Stotesberg).
So far, it had only been translated into Greek, Latin, and German ((“Development of the Difficult Canon”)).A few centuries following the translation of the Vulgate, people with extensive education were the only ones capable of reading the Bible anymore. People who had little education had no alternative but to depend upon the church’s translation of the Scriptures. The church wished to make this situation permanent, because they were afraid that false teachings would evolve from people being able to read the Bible for themselves.The first translation of the Bible into English was in 1382 by the teacher, John Wycliffe.
He was “the first real reformer,” and the world was not yet ready for this man and his progress. He lost his place as a teacher and was then persecuted along with his disciples for his work and beliefs. His translation of the Bible into English marked the beginning of the drive to make the Bible available to the common people. The next attempt at the translation of the Bible into English was by William Tyndale in the 1520’s.
Shortly thereafter, his translation was in the hands of many people throughout England, but people began to find errors in them. King James therefore brought together an assembly of Biblical intellectuals to re-translate the Bible. This translation became known as the King James Version of 1611. Since then, many translations have been derived from the KJV such as the New King James Version, the New International Version, and the Revised Standard Edition.The Living Bible and the Good News Bible are examples of more liberal derivatives of the KJV that were designed to be more understandable (Stotesberg). As the books of the Bible were written, they became endangered of being lost; therefore, people sought to preserve them by combining them to form one book, instead of many individual copies.
This process consisted of canonizing the books as they were written and then translating them into the language of the English people. The development of writing and canonization of the Old and New Testaments into the Bible took place over a long period of time. Following this process, the Bible was then translated into English, and thereafter, many versions were formed from it. It is truly an amazing thing to see the development of how the English Bible was formed.Works CitedBarker, Lane, and Michaels. The New Testament Speaks.
New York: Harper & Row, 1969. Web. 13 Nov. 2009.
Bruce, F. F. “The Canon of Scripture.” Inter-Varsity. Autumn 1954: 19-22.
BiblicalStudies.org. uk. March 2008.
Web. 06 Nov. 2009. “Development of the Biblical Canon.
” Augustine Club at Columbia Univrsity. Apologetics Toolkit. Web. 06 Nov.
2009. Kalvesmaki, Joel, comp. “The History of the Septuagint and its Terminology.” The Septuagint Online. Web.
16 Nov. 2009. Stotesberg, Cheryl. “Christianity: history of the modern Bible.” Essortment. Web.
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