The Origin of the Bible

Although the Bible nowadays takes on several different forms and translations, all versions of the Bible originated from the same initial manuscripts. Unfortunately, the only surviving manuscripts available that were used as sources for the Bible are copies of copies of copies of copies. But nonetheless, we are reassured that biblical writings are not complete fiction because of the massive amounts of writings about Jesus and the church produced in that time period. In fact, the life of Jesus and the beginnings of the christian church are written about almost more than any other event in history.

During the time of Jesus, the only christian sacred text was the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament. Christian texts developed after the death and resurrection of Jesus, following a generation of oral accounts. The earliest written were Paulís letters of advice and exhortation, which were written between A.D. 48 and A.D. 64. At the beginning of the 70s, the first gospel was produced, Mark. The other Gospels would later come at nearly ten-year intervals as late as the production of John in A.D. 90. The Gospels were written after the destruction of the Jewish Temple, and along with later epistles like James and Timothy, marked a shift from belief in the imminent return of Jesus to not knowing when he would come back. This uncertainty strengthened the need to write down the stories and teachings of Jesus.

The process of canonization, which is compiling the books that will be included in the Bible, took place during the 4th century when those communities that became known as orthodox came close to agreeing on an authoritative collection of scriptures. As far as we know, Athanasius was the first person to name in 367 the 27 books of the New Testament accepted by most Christian groups today.

Constantine played a significant role in the canonization of the Bible. His desire for and actions to create unity and uniformity contributed to the process of deciding upon a fixed canon. In addition, he financed fifty copies of the scriptures to be produced for use in Constantinople. Presumedly, these scriptures were the complete New Testament but some scholars think they consisted only of the four gospels.

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