|The Family Bible with Its Record of Birhts, Deaths and Marriages|
Did you learn this song in Sunday School or Vacation Bible School? "The B-I-B-L-E...It's the only book for me..." Go ahead, sing the rest. It'll feel good.
Today we’re going to talk about the Bible. A recent survey indicated that 93% of American households own a Bible. As a matter of fact, the average family has between three and four. The secularization of Europe is apparent when we compare that figure with numbers from the European nations. It drops to 85% percent in Poland, 75% in Italy, 74% percent in Germany, 67% in both the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, 65 % in Russia, 61% in Spain and just 48% in France.
The complete Bible has been translated into 392 languages; the New Testament into 1,012 languages and an additional 883 languages have at least one book or parts from the Bible. That’s a total of 2,287 languages and dialects into which at least some portion of the Bible has been translated. As we all know, it continues to be a perennial bestseller.
BIBLICAL KNOWLEDGE SADLY LACKING
The George Barna Research Group has documented the level of Biblical knowledge in the United States. Only half of adults interviewed could name any of the four Gospels and just 37% of those interviewed could name all four. Less than half — 42% — of adults were able to name as many as five of the Ten Commandments correctly. Seven in ten (70%) were able to name the town where Jesus was born, but just 42% could identify him as the person who delivered the Sermon on the Mount. It’s hard not to laugh when told that 12% of adults believe Noah's wife was Joan of Arc. And nearly half believe that the Bible teaches that money is the root of all evil. How many times have you heard that misquoted?
THE KJV CELEBRATES ITS 400TH BIRTHDAY
In 2011 the King James Version of the Bible — sometimes known as the Authorized Version —celebrates its 400th birthday. With this in mind, it seemed like the appropriate time to take an in-depth look at the Bible. True, the King James Bible has little or nothing to do with the Life and Times of the Early Church. However, it has had an enormous impact on our society, language, and the way we as society view the word of God. And the development of the Bible as we know it today is quite an interesting story. So, we’ll be examining various aspects of the Bible in this series.
|"How Sweet are your Words..." A Bible Cake|
The Bible is not a single book, but a library of books. It was written over a 1500-year period in three languages by forty authors living in ten different countries. Its books contain history, poetry, prose, mystery and romance. It features a cast of nearly three thousand depicted in over 1500 different locations.
From our vantage point it’s easy to forget that Jesus, the Apostles and the Early Christians did not have a good chunk of the Scripture that we take for granted. When Peter, Paul and the rest went abroad preaching, they referenced the sacred writings of the Hebrew Bible…what many people call the Old Testament.
DEVELOPING A CANON OF SCRITPURE
The content of the Bible is defined by the Canon of Scripture. The word Canon is derived from the Greek meaning rule or order. It’s also interesting to realize that in the first centuries of the Church this canon, or standard, was somewhat fluid. The Hebrew Bible also went through a process of canonization and the Dead Sea Scrolls shed light on that process.
What constituted the deposit of sacred writings varied from time to time and place to place. Writings by some of the Early Church Fathers such as Ignatius, Polycarp and others were regularly read alongside the familiar letters of Paul, Peter, John, James and others.
It was only when heresies began to arise within the Church that they recognized the need for a hard and fast definition of what was, and was not, part of Scripture. Surprisingly, Marcion was the first person to make a list of the books he thought were depositories of truth. Now you’re probably saying to yourself, “Wait a minute. Wasn’t Marcion a heretic?” Yes, he was. He’s responsible for what has come to be known as the Gnostic heresy. He believed the God of the Old Testament was evil and so he rejected the entire Hebrew Bible. He accepted parts of Luke’s Gospel and ten of Paul’s epistles as true. In setting out his list of the books he thought were right and those he thought were wrong, he inadvertently performed a great service. He forced the Church Leaders to examine all the books in use to create their own list.
|It Took 300 Years to Dvelop a Uniform Canon|
Around AD 180, the Church Father, Irenaeus, countered Marcion’s list with one of his own…which included the Hebrew Bible, by the way. Despite his work, the canon continued to vary for the next hundred or so years. Then, in AD 303, Roman Emperor Diocletian began the last Empire-wide persecution of Christians. His edict demanded that churches be burned along with all their sacred writings. A number of Christians died rather than relinquish their sacred writings.
Less than a generation later, Constantine ascended to the throne, legalized Christianity, and eventually made it the official religion of the Roman Empire. He then set about organizing and codifying to bring order to chaos. He also convened the Council of Nicaea which developed the Nicene Creed that is still in use today. Recognizing the need for, and benefit of, a unified cannon, Constantine charged Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, with the task of developing the first one.
We’ll examine the structure and development of the Bible and its various translations in the coming posts. I should mention that the Bible Series, like our serial posts on Foods of the First Century and Ancient Games will be taking a short hiatus in November-December as we turn our attention to Advent and Christmas. However, they’ll all be back in January.
Until next time, we wish you Peace and Blessings.