Sunday, December 19, 2010

How Did We Get The Bible?

Adams points out students of the Bible should remember that the Bible we read today is not its original form.[1] The books contained in the Bible were written in Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek. What Christians today refer to as the Old Testament was formed by the Jews, likely about 400 years before the Incarnation.[2] The New Testament began to take shape after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. This process took several hundred years to complete. The chapter and verse subdivisions, the descriptive chapter headings and the use of italics did not exist in the original. These came later, probably in the thirteenth century by either Archbishop Langton or Cardinal Hug.[3] In the sixteenth century, Robert Stephens made the divisions into verses that have been passed down to us to this day.[4]

González states that when early Christians spoke of Scripture, what they were referring to was the Hebrew Scriptures, usually the Septuagint.[5] It was also the custom of the early Christians to read from the Gospels and epistles, especially those written by Paul.[6] Since there was no approved list, different Gospels and epistles were read in different churches.

During the second century, there were threats to Christianity from Gnostics in general and from Marcion in particular. The Gnostics had as their primary concern salvation.[7] Believing that all matter is evil, or at best unreal, Gnostics final goal was to liberate the spirit from the body and the material world. Early church leaders strongly opposed the Gnostics as their reinterpretation of critical Christian doctrines such as creation, incarnation, and resurrection were incompatible with orthodox Christianity.[8]

Marcion knew Christianity from an early age but his dislike of Judaism and the material world molded his understanding of Christianity into a faith that was decidedly against that material world and anti-Jewish.[9] The church in Rome came to see the doctrines being taught by Marcion as contradicting a number of key points of Christian doctrine and began to oppose him. Marcion went on to found his own church that would last for several centuries.[10]

Like the Gnostics, Marcion believed that the world was evil. Unlike them, he believed that God and Father of Jesus was different and above Jehovah, the Hebrew God. As such, Marcion set the Hebrew Scriptures aside believing it was inappropriate to use the words of an inferior god in church.[11] Marcion issued his own list of Scripture which consisted of an abbreviated Gospel of Luke and edited versions of ten Pauline epistles though he excluded the Pastorals.[12] It was the reaction to Marcion and his list of “approved” Scripture that lead to the formulation of the New Testament.[13] Though these events took place in the middle of the second century, it was not until the ecumenical council in Carthage in 397 A.D. that the first undisputed decision on the New Testament canon was reached.[14]


[1] Adams, A. Dana. 4000 Questions & Answers On The Bible. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 141.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 142.

[4] Ibid.

[5] González, Justo L. The Story of Christianity Vol 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation. (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1984), 62.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid, 59.

[8] Ibid, 61.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid, 61-62.

[12] Elwell, Walter A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 735.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid, 156.

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