Just about every US bookstore and library has a Bible. Eighty-two percent of American households possess at least one Bible. Sixty-six percent of American’s have “expressed at least some curiosity to know more about what the bible says.” The Bible covers a lot of ground, yet it says the same things over and over from the very start, all the way to the very end. It starts at a time before Adam and ends pointing to a time that is still yet to come. The Bible is a book that is very rarely read or understood, yet is in almost every US household. What path has the Bible taken to what is so readily available today? Why should you read it?
The Bible is a compilation of sixty-six different books. The word “bible” is from the Latin and Greek word “biblia”, which means “books.” The word “biblia” comes from the Egyptian word “bublos”, which means “paper”, “scroll” or “papyrus.” The sixty-six books of the Bible are split into an Old and New Testament. The division of Testaments coincides with the time of Jesus. The Old Testament books were originally Hebrew and Aramaic texts. New Testament books were predominantly Greek texts. In some cases, the New Testament text came from Aramaic oral or written sources. The books have all gone through several translations over the years to get to the English versions available today.
A Catholic Bishop named Jerome heavily influenced the translation of the books from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek into Latin. Jerome lived from 347 AD until 420 AD. It was at this time that the Catholic Church was trying to establish itself as the “Holy See”, the seat or authority. Jerome was commissioned by Pope Damasus I to “impose unity on the diversity of Latin manuscripts and to harmonize them with the Greek tradition.” 1Canonizing Paul: Ancient Editorial Practice and Corpus Paulinum by Eric Scherbenske,p 181-182.
Damasus was concerned that the multiple Latin translations could “seriously compromise insistence upon unanimous church doctrine” and therefore, his authority. Even more alarming was the “harmonization with Greek tradition”, which should be read as insertions. The harmonization brought pagan beliefs into the Bible, primarily into the New Testament. Jerome’s translation is the Vulgate. It is the basis for Catholic Bibles up to the present day.
A Banned Book
The Latin Vulgate Bible dominated Christianity from the time of Jerome. The Roman Catholic Church dictated that have the sole authority regarding the translation and publicizing of the Bible. They still maintain this belief to this day.
“Books of the Sacred Scriptures cannot be published unless they have been approved either by the Apostolic See or by the conference of bishops;Code of Cannon Law 825 § 1. (c) 1983
Translators started to convert the Bible into languages other than Latin in order to facilitate broader access to the Scriptures. It was translated into French, German, English as well as other languages. Parishioners began to wake up to the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church and broke away. The Catholic Church took drastic actions through crusades against “heresy” and “heretics” which they defined as those who had beliefs contrary to their teachings. Crusades, which were actually crimes of genocide, specifically addressed those who questioned the authority and teachings of the Church. Beside Muslims and
Pope Innocent III initiated the Albigensian crusades in France. They were supported by kingdoms looking to expand their own lands and a military told they were committing an act of penance and would receive forgiveness for sins, and the assets of those whom they killed to boot. During the Albigensian Crusade, the Council of Toulouse issued twenty articles dealing with heretics which included the prohibition of possessing the Bible.
“We prohibit also that the laity should be permitted to have the books of the Old or New Testament;… we most strictly forbidCanon 14. Council of Toulouse, 1229 A.D.
theirhaving any translation of these books.”
Many people were killed for translating or owning the Bible. Besides the thousands killed during the Inquisitions, some of the notable figures in history include John Wycliffe, William Tyndale
The King James Bible
The King James Bible was published in 1611. This translation is considered “more faithful to the original languages of the Bible and more scholarly than any of its predecessors.” The King James Bible is the one you will find cited on this website and is recommended for your own reading and research.
New to Reading the Bible
Are you one of the 82% of American households that owns a Bible, but most likely doesn’t read it? One way to get started is to just read one of the books. Consider who says what and the context in which it is said. Don’t just read a single verse, consider the entire chapter.
Another way is to do a word search. For example, do a word search for “the firmament” to learn what or who it is. In what context is it mentioned? What books cover “the firmament” and what is said about it?
Another starting point is regarding who is in the Bible and who is not. For example, do a word search for “Israel”, “Israelites”, “Catholic” and “Muslim”. Which ones do you find and which ones are not there. Which ones are in both the New and Old Testament? Interesting!
Many people do word searches in the Bible for things that pertain to their personal lives, such as “divorce”, “adultery” or “success.” The Bible is not about the day to day nuances of your personal life. It is about a much bigger picture. Your day to day understanding of these things, though, can help you understand the Bible.
History as Motivation
The Bible has gone through a long and winding road to get to where it is today. The controversies that surround it should be motivation enough to pick it up and read what it is all about. What were those hypocrisies that caused so many to turn against the very church that still claims authority over the books? What else do you want to learn about the Bible?