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The Bible refers to the primary sacred scriptures of either the Jewish or
Christian religions. These scriptures are compilations of what were
originally separate documents (called "books"); they were written over a
long period of time; later compiled to form first the Jewish Bible (Tanach)
and, with later additions, the Christian Bible.
The Jewish Bible (called the Tanach) consists of the five books of Moses
(the Torah), several books written by the Hebrew prophets (Neviim), and a
few books that do not fit in either of the previous two categories (the
Writings or Ketuvim); these are known as either the hagiographa or simply as
"the writings". The Jewish Bible was written predominantly in Hebrew but has
some small portions that were written in Aramaic.
The Christian Bible contains the entirety of the Tanach (there called the
Old Testament), along with a set of later writings known as the New
Testament. Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox (but not Protestants)
also include some additional works from in the Septuagint, an early
translation of the Old Testament into Greek. Within Christianity, there is
not complete agreement on what the Christian Bible contains, i.e. on the
Biblical canon. However, this only extends to a few books -- there is no
dispute as to the majority of books of the Bible.
The New Testament was written in koine Greek. Christian Bibles have texts of
the Old Testament dependent on the Septuagint sometimes differs in places
from the Hebrew Masoretic text; however, many of these variations pre-date
Christianity. Some modern editions of the Old Testament also adopt different
readings found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Contents: The Bible tells how the one God relates to the world and his
creations, especially mankind; and, it also details mankind's relationship
and obligations to God. It also includes a great deal of the history of the
Jews. Christians use the Bible as a source of religious beliefs and
doctrines. Most Protestant Christians advocate that it is the incomparably
authoritative guide in all matters of faith and practice, a principle called
Definition of Biblical Terms
The English word "Bible" means "book of books" (from the Greek word for
"books", biblia: βιβλια ). A book of the
Bible is an established group of writings. For example, the book of Psalms
consists of 150 songs (151 in the Septuagint), while the book of Jude is a
half-page letter. Canon refers to the accepted books of the Bible
differentiated from other sacred writings not accepted as part of the canon,
which are not accepted as part of the Bible. Catholics and Orthodox call
writings that they do not accept Apocrypha; Protestants call those writings
they do not accept but that Catholics and Orthodox do Apocrypha or
Deuterocanonical, and call other writings that neither accepts
Pseudepigrapha. The Protestant Bible consists of 66 books. The Roman
Catholic version, including the Deuterocanonical books, counts altogether 76
books, while the Eastern Orthodox version includes 77 or 78. (4 Maccabees is
sometimes included in an appendix, sometimes not.)
Description Of The Bible
The Hebrew Bible (Tanach) is divided into 3 sections, the Law (Torah), the
Prophets, the Writings. The Hebrew Bible is called the Old Testament in the
Christian Bible. The Christian Bible includes the Old Testament plus the New
Testament, which chronicles the doings of Jesus and the reaction to them.
The New Testament is divided into the four Gospels, History (Acts of the
Apostles), the Letters to Christian churches by Paul and other apostles, and
the Book of Revelation.
Bible Canon - Which books are biblical?
In addition to the diverse traditions concerning which books belong in the
Canon of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible, modern scholarship
proposes alternative views concerning the authenticity of books, and of
texts within books. See the entries on the Biblical canon, Higher criticism
and Textual criticism.
Biblical Versions and Translations
In scholarly writing, ancient translations are frequently referred to as
'versions', with the term 'translation' being reserved for medieval or
modern translations. Information about Bible versions is given below, while
Bible translations can be found on a separate page.
The oldest books of the Bible are the Pentateuch, also known as the Torah.
They are written in Hebrew and are also titled the 'Books of Moses'.
Traditionally Judaism and Christianity held that these books were actually
written by the prophet Moses; but many today believe that the current form
of the Torah came about by a redactor bringing together several earlier,
distinct sources. This idea is called the documentary hypothesis.
The original text of the Tanach was in Hebrew, with some portions in
Aramaic. From the 800s to the 1400s rabbinic Jewish scholars known as the
Massoretes compared the text of all known Biblical manuscripts, in an effort
to create a unified and standardized text; a series of highly similar texts
eventually emerged, and any of these texts are known as Masoretic Texts
(MT). The Masoretes also added vowel points (called nikud) to the text,
since the original text only contained consonants. This sometimes required
the selection of an interpretation, since words can differ only in their
vowels, and thus the text can vary depending upon the choice of vowels to be
inserted. In antiquity there were other variant readings which were popular,
some of which have survived in the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Dead Sea
scrolls, and other ancient fragments, as well as being attested in ancient
translations to other languages.
By the beginning of the common era, most Jews no longer spoke Hebrew, but
spoke Greek or Aramaic instead. Thus they made translations or paraphrases
into these languages. The most important of the translations into the Greek
was the Septuagint, though other translations were made as well. The
Septuagint contains several additional passages, and whole additional books,
compared to what was eventually compiled as the masoretic texts. In some
cases these additions were originally composed in Greek, while in other
cases they are translations of Hebrew books or variants that the Masoretes
did not accept. Recent discoveries have shown that more of the Septuagint
additions have a Hebrew origin than was once thought. While there are no
surviving manuscripts of the Hebrew text on which the Septuagint was based,
many scholars believe that it was a different textual tradition than the one
that eventually became the basis for the Masoretic texts.
The Jews also produced non-literal translations known as targums, primarily
in Aramaic. Targums were not literal translations but paraphrases. They
frequently expanded on the text with additional details taken from Jewish
Early Christians produced translations of the Hebrew Bible into several
languages; their biblical text was the Septuagint, which had been translated
by the Jews into Greek in about the second century B.C. Translations were
made into Syriac, Coptic and Latin, among other languages. The Latin
translations were historically the most important to the Church in the West,
while in the Greek-speaking East, they continued to use the Septuagint
translation of the Old Testament and had no need to translate the New
The earliest Latin translation was the Old Latin text, or Vetus Latina.
Exactly who translated it is unknown, but internal evidence suggests it is
the product of several authors over a period of time. It was based on the
Septuagint, and thus included the Septuagint additions.
As a translation the Old Latin was far from ideal, and so Jerome was
commissioned to produce the Vulgate translation as a replacement. Jerome
based his translation on the Hebrew rather than the Septuagint. He was of
the opinion that the Septuagint additions were of doubtful value, but he
included them due to the demands of the church. He did not, however,
translate the additional books anew; the Vulgate for these books is
identical to the Old Latin. The Vulgate became the official translation of
the Roman Catholic church.
The New Testament was originally composed in Greek. There are a number of
different textual traditions of the New Testament. The three main traditions
are sometimes called the Western text-type, the Alexandrian text-type, and
Byzantine text-type, which comprises the majority of New Testament
manuscripts. There are also several ancient translations into other
languages, most important of which are the Syriac (including the Peshitta
and the Diatessaron gospel harmony) and the Latin (both the Vetus Latina and
The textual tradition in the earliest printings of the Greek New Testament
is called the 'Textus Receptus' (Latin for 'received text'), and is largely
Byzantine in character. This text was the main one known for centuries,
until the discovery of manuscripts such as the Codex Sinaiticus and the
For a more detailed account of the New Testament's development, see the
relevant section of Biblical canon.
Chapters and Verses
Stephen Langton was the first person to divide the New Testament into
standard chapters, while Robert Estienne was the first to divide it into
The Old Testament is divided into chapters and verses in the Masoretic
(Jewish, Christian, Islamic opinion of the text. Eastern. Western, influence
of philosophy, fundamentalism, patristic interpretation, medieval
interpretation, Reformation, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, inerrancy, biblical
theology, inspiration, rationalism, translations , hermeneutics )
A wealth of additional stories and legends amplifying the accounts in the
Tanach (Hebrew Bible) can be found in the Jewish genre of rabbinical
exegesis known as Midrash.
The Dead Sea scrolls contain many examples of the pesher method of
interpretation, in which biblical texts were interpreted as prophecies
concerning the authors of the scrolls.
Throughout antiquity and the medieveal periods, allegorical methods of
interpretation where popular. The earliest use of these was probably Philo
Judaeus, who attempted to make Jewish halakah palatable to the Greek mind by
interpreting it as symbolising philosophical doctrines. Allegorical
interpretation was adopted by Christians, and continued in popularity until
a reaction against it during the Reformation, and it has not since found
much favour in Western Christianity.
The Eastern Orthodox Church generally follows a patristic method of
interpretation, attempting to interpret scripture in the same way that the
early church fathers did. It also interprets scripture liturgically. This
means that the passages that are publicly read on certain days of the
liturgical year are significant, especially on feast days, and are intended
to guide people in their interpretation as they are praying together. Since
it was members of the Church who wrote the New Testament and a series of
church councils that decided the biblical canon, the Orthodox believe that
the Church should also be the final authority in its interpretation. This
often includes allegorical interpretations.
The Bible and history
The absence of independent evidence confirming some of the biblical
narratives has caused some scholars to question the accuracy or even the
historicity of these accounts. For instance, many historians view the
Biblical patriarchs, Moses, King David, and King Solomon as little more than
legendary figures, though possibly based on historical events and persons.
Today there are two loosely defined schools of thought with regard to the
historicity of the Bible (biblical minimalism and biblical maximalism) with
many in between, in addition to the traditional religious reading of the
Bible. This subject is discussed in its own entry, The Bible and history.
The supernatural in monotheistic religions
Many modern skeptical readers of the Bible hold that its authors gradually
reinterpreted historical and natural events as miraculous or supernatural.
The article on The supernatural in monotheistic religions thus concerns
itself with the junction between monotheistic religions, such as Judaism,
Christianity and Islam, and the supernatural.