On September 26, 1569, the printing of the fully translated Spanish Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew languages was completed. This Bible was called the “Bear Bible” (named after the bear that appears on the cover). It was translated by Casiodoro de Reina. On that occasion, 260 copies were released in Basel, Switzerland. It has been 452 years since that event.
The Bible is the name we use to refer to the Word of God. This Bible is not a single book, but a collection of ancient writings. 66 separate books, written over approximately 1,600 years, by at least 40 different authors.
“Bible” comes from the Greek word (plural) Biblión / Biblos, which means “The books” or “The Little Books”. Byblos was a major trading port in the Eastern Mediterranean where papyri and other writing materials were purchased.
In the first century it was written on papyrus, which was obtained from the plant of the same name. Papyrus scrolls were the most important mediums for the transmission and preservation of human knowledge.
Only centuries later parchment would begin to be used, made up of animal skins, which, properly treated, were reduced to thin and smooth sheets. At first, papyri were used in the so-called “roll” format. It was only written on one side and it had to be unrolled until the desired place to read it. The Jewish people had the Torah written on scrolls.
The story of “the Bible” begins with the Jewish Scriptures. The historical record of the Jewish people was written on leather scrolls and tablets throughout the centuries, and the authors include kings, shepherds, prophets, and other leaders.
Later, Christians began to use the codex format, which is like current books. It is written on both sides, binding the papyri like current books. The practical advantages were obvious: it saved papyrus, since it was written on both sides; it had a compact format and would often fit in a pocket; it was easy to use with the ability to quickly browse for a reference; it was easy to store and also to hide in times of persecution.
The Bible was written over a period of nearly 1,600 years by 40 authors. The authors wrote from 1,500 years before Christ to 95 years after Christ.
The first five books are called the Law, and were written and/or edited primarily by Moses in the early 1400s BC. Soon after, other books of scripture were written and compiled by the Jewish people for the next 1,000 years. Around 450 BC, the Law and other Jewish Scriptures were organized by councils of rabbis (Jewish teachers), who later recognized the entire body as the inspired and sacred authority of God (Elohim).
It is important to note that most of the authors did not know each other, because they lived in different times and places. Despite that, the theme of the Bible is the same. For example, Moses, the author of Genesis, did not know David, the author of the Psalms, and David did not know Paul, who lived some 30 years after Christ.
One could say that the central theme of the Bible is found in the words of Jesus described in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son …”.
Although the Jewish Scriptures were copied by hand, they were extremely faithful copy by copy. The Jewish people had a phenomenal system of scribes, who developed intricate and ritual methods for counting letters, words, and paragraphs, to ensure that they did not make copying errors. These scribes dedicated their entire lives to preserving the accuracy of the holy books. A single copy error required immediate destruction of the entire roll. In fact, the tradition of Jewish scribes was maintained until the invention of the printing press in the mid-1400’s. As for the accuracy of the manuscripts, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has confirmed the extraordinary reliability of this scribe system over thousands of years.
The Bible as we know it now, has two main divisions, the Old Testament, or old covenant, which has 39 books of five divisions and the New Testament or new covenant with 27 books of four divisions; a total of 66 books make up the Bible.
The Old Testament
Originally written in the Hebrew language. It has five divisions by subject or type of literature:
- The Law or Law of Moses, which are instructions from God to the people of Israel regarding how to live and worship God. The books of this Law are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
- History, which refers to the history of the children of Israel after Moses, until the reign of Esther. The books that make up this division are: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. The History of the Bible is very important to understand the principles and truths of the Bible, and to know God.
- Poetry is a collection of books regarding the type of literature, written in the original language, Hebrew. This division is made up of: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Songs. Many of these books were written in a sense of worship to God through prayers and songs.
- The Major Prophets, are books about Israel’s problems in not obeying God, and regarding the future times of Jesus, and the church. The books that make up this division are: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel.
- The Minor Prophets, adress the same topics as the books of the Major Prophets, the division is only due to the size of the books, and it does not mean that some books are more important than others. The books of the Major Prophets are larger in content than those of The Minor Prophets. This division is made up of the books of: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
When reading the books of these prophets it is very important to understand the times in order to understand the message. The biggest problem with reading the prophets is applying their message to times when the prophecies do not apply.
The New Testament
Originally written in the Greek language. This division is split into four sections, by subject or type of literature. These sections are: The Gospels, The History, The Letters, and The Prophecy.
- The Gospels tell the story of the life and works of Jesus. The purpose is to prove that Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior, and God with us. The books of the Gospels are: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These books were written to different people in different places, but the message was always the same.
- The History tells about the preaching of the gospel to the world, the early Christians, and the beginning of the church of Christ. There is only one history book in the New Testament, it is the book of Acts [of the Apostles]. If you want to know how to become a Christian it is very important to read the book of Acts.
- The Letters are the books written to the congregations of the church of Christ in different places and by people in various places. The purpose of these Letters is to teach Christians how to lead a life of worship to God. There is a main author of this section, due to the large amount of letters written by him, we refer to Paul. The letters written by Paul are: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. The other letters (that other authors wrote) are: Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John, and Judas.
- The last section of the New Testament is Prophecy, and we refer to Revelations, written in a figurative language.
- Our Bible as a whole group together 66 books written in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, and in three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe.
- It was written by about 40 authors who lived at different times, in a span of 1600 years, from 1513 BC. until about 98 A.D.
- The Bible contains 1,189 chapters, 929 chapters in the OT and 260 in the NT.
- The center of the Bible is Psalm 118: 8. Chapter 29 of the Book of Job is the center of the OT and chapter 8 of Romans is the center of the NT.
- The Bible contains 3566480 letters, 773693 words, 31102 verses, and approximately 3573 promises.
- The shortest book in the entire Bible is the epistle of 2 John; it contains a single chapter with thirteen verses. On the contrary, the longest is the book of Psalms with 150 chapters, and the second is Isaiah with 66 chapters.
- The largest chapter is Psalm 119 and Psalm 117 is the smallest chapter.
- The largest verse in the whole Bible is found in the book of Esther, in chapter 8, verse 9; and the smallest is Exodus 20:13 and John 11:35.