Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 2, 1956

A Brief History Of The Bible

Luther W. Martin, Rolla, Missouri

In this 20th century, numerous peoples have very little or no information as to the manner in which the sixty-six books of the Bible were originally given. Due to this lack of knowledge (although it is readily available for those who desire to learn), some schools of religious thought tend to belittle the scriptures and give diminishing amounts of attention to the teachings of the Bible. Therefore, the following material is compiled for the convenience of those willing to read enough to merely `skim the surface' of the subject.

The Old Testament

The Old Testament was, of course, originally written and given to the Jewish people, the children of Israel. It was, naturally, written in the Hebrew language. One of the peculiarities of the ancient languages of Syria, Chaldes, Phoenicia and Arabia, was the fact that they were written without vowels and diacritical markings.

The most prominent Jewish historian was Flavius Josephus (born A.D. 37) who, although not a Christian, can be quoted as to the books of the Old Testament. In his "Antiquities of the Jews," page 861:

"For we (the Jewish nation, L.W.M.) have not an innumerable multitude of books among us, disagreeing from and contradicting one another (as the Greeks have), but only twenty-one books, which contain the records of all the past times; which are justly believed to be divine; and of them five belong to Moses, which contain his laws and the traditions of the origin of mankind till his death. This interval of time was little short of three thousand years; but as to the time from the death of Moses till the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, who reigned after Xerxes, the prophets, who were after Moses, wrote down what was done in their times in thirteen books. The remaining four books contain hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life."

Thus, in the century in which Christianity began, we have testimony to the effect that the Jewish nation in general held twenty-two books to be divine in origin.

The five books of Moses were and are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

The prophets to whom Josephus refers, as having written thirteen books, included a total of thirty books, as counted and divided in modern times. They were and are: Joshua; Judges and Ruth in one book; First and Second Samuel in one book; First and Second Kings in one book; First and Second Chronicles in one book; Ezra and Nehemiah in one book; Esther; Isaiah; Jeremiah and Lamentations in one book; Ezekiel; Daniel; the twelve `minor' prophets, in one book, viz.: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi; and the last book of the thirteen referred to by Josephus was and is Job.

The remaining four books, according to Josephus, "Containing hymns to God, and precepts for the conduct of human life," were and are: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.

Therefore, in the days of the first century A.D., the foremost Jewish historian gives evidence that the Old Testament of the Hebrews contained identically and exactly the same writings as to canon or books, as does the Old Testament with its thirty-nine books today.

The Septuagint Version

The first known translation of the Old Testament from its original Hebrew to another language began approximately 280 years before Christ, although it was some century and a half in the making. This version, called the `Septuagint' was written in the Common Dialect of the Greek Language, that had been spoken from the time of Alexander the Great (4th Century, B.C.). When the Septuagint was first written, it too, contained the same books as does the Old Testament of the 20th century, namely thirty-nine. However, by the second century A.D., additional writings began to be quoted by the theologians, and a number of `apocryphal' writings were added to the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. These uninspired books were never accepted by the Jewish religion, but were originally written in Greek and in some parts of the world, were included with the original books of the Greek Septuagint version.

Origen's Catalogue Of O. T. Books

Writing in the first part of the third century (A.D.), Origen stated: "There are twenty-two books according to the Hebrews, corresponding to the number of the letters of their alphabet." He lists the twenty-two books of the Hebrews, and then adds: ". . besides these, the Books of Maccabees." So, by the first part of the third century after Christ, for some obscure reason, extra books began to be added to the Old Testament.

Hilary Of Poitiers ... His Catalogue

About 365 A.D. Hilary of Poitiers listed the twenty-two books of the Jews as being the Old Testament, but Hilary did not include Maccabees. He added, "Some add Tobias and. Judith." Thus gradually, more and more reference was made to extra books for the Old Testament.

The Catalogue Of Athanasius

In 373 A.D. Athanasius made a list of Old Testament books. In it he rejected the book of Esther and added the Book of Baruch and the Epistle of Jeremiah. Again, more new books which the Jews before Christ had never read.

Various of the ancient scholars listed exactly the same books which non-Roman Catholics now have in their Old Testament. Such men as Gregory Nazianzen, Epiphanius, and Cyril of Jerusalem.

The Catalogue Of Jerome

Possibly the foremost Latin theologian was Jerome, who subsequently made the second greatest translation from the Hebrew Old Testament and the Septuagint version, into the Latin language. Jerome did NOT accept the apocryphal writings on a par with the canonical. In his catalogue he lists the Old Testament books, but counts them still differently from the ancient Jews. Jerome wrote: "Thus the books of the ancient law are twenty-two: five of Moses, eight of the prophets, and nine of the Hagiographa; (Sacred writings) although some often insert Ruth and the Lamentations in the Hagiographa ... and thus the books of the ancient law would be twenty-four." (Preface of Jerome's Translation to the two Books of Samuel and Kings.)

Thus, the translator of the Latin Vulgate did not even accept the seven apocryphal books as canonical, although many of his contemporaries did. I have specified seven apocryphal books, because that is the number accepted today by the Roman church.