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How We Got the Bible


Koine Greek and the Septuagint

The term Koine, also known as Hellenistic Greek refers to the Greek as spoken and written from around the 4th century B.C. through about the 4th century A.D. The Hellenistic period is the period of ancient Greek history between the death of Macedonian king Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of ancient Rome. After Alexander's ventures in the Persian Empire, Hellenistic kingdoms were established through south-west Asia and north-east Africa which resulted in the export of Greek culture and language to these new areas. Koine Greek became the standard language of commerce and government. It was also adopted as a second language by the native people in these regions.

The Classic Greek (Attic) language was considered very beautiful, rich and harmonious and was used for both vigorous thought and religious devotion. It was characterized by strength and vigor and was used as a language of argument with a vocabulary and style that could penetrate and clarify phenomena rather than just describe it. Koine was considered simpler and less elegant than earlier dialects of Classic Greek but retained much of the strength, beauty, clarity and logical rhetorical power. This would prove to be an excellent linguistic tool in explaining the specifics behind much of the doctrine that will be written in what would become the New Testament.

One of the earliest representatives we have of written Koine Greek is the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Jewish scribes started this translation at the request of Ptolemy II Philadelphus of Egypt for use by many of the Alexandrian Jews who were not fluent in Hebrew but fluent in Koine Greek. It is dated as early as the late 2nd century B.C. and was the version of the Old Testament that was used by Jesus, the Apostles and the Early Church.

The Septuagint derives its name from the Latin versio septuaginta interpretum, "translation of the seventy interpreters," but it was not until the time of Augustine of Hippo that the translation came to be called by the Latin term Septuaginta. It is abbreviated as the Roman numeral LXX (seventy).

The New Testament

The term "new testament" or "new covenant" first occurs in Jeremiah 31:31 and encapsulates who Jesus was and what He came to do:

31 "Behold, days are coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the Lord. 33 "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the Lord, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the Lord, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

The same Greek phrase is also found elsewhere in the New Testament (Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25, 2 Corinthians 3:6, Hebrews 8:8, and Hebrews 9:15; cf. 2 Corinthians 3:14).

Use of the term New Testament to describe a collection of first and second-century Christian Greek Scriptures can be traced back to Tertullian, an early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. In Against Marcion book 3 (written in the early 3rd century, c. AD 208), chapter 14, he writes of

...the Divine Word, who is doubly edged with the two testaments of the law and the gospel...
And in book 4, chapter 6, he writes that
...it is certain that the whole aim at which he [Marcion] has strenuously laboured, even in the drawing up of his Antitheses, centres in this, that he may establish a diversity between the Old and the New Testaments, so that his own Christ may be separate from the Creator, as belonging to this rival god, and as alien from the law and the prophets.
By the 4th century, Lactantius, another Christian author of the 3rd and 4th century wrote in his Divine Institutes, book 4, chapter 20:
But all scripture is divided into two Testaments. That which preceded the advent and passion of Christ - that is, the law and the prophets - is called the Old; but those things which were written after His resurrection are named the New Testament. The Jews make use of the Old, we of the New: but yet they are not discordant, for the New is the fulfilling of the Old, and in both there is the same testator, even Christ, who, having suffered death for us, made us heirs of His everlasting kingdom, the people of the Jews being deprived and disinherited. As the prophet Jeremiah testifies when he speaks such things: ...Quotes Jeremiah 31 ...For that which He said above, that He would make a new testament to the house of Judah, shows that the old testament which was given by Moses was not perfect; but that which was to be given by Christ would be complete.

The 27 books of the New Testament were compiled within one lifetime and documented the life of Jesus, Early Church history, ecclesiology and the foretelling of the Second Coming of Christ. Modern research shows that all of these books were written well before the end of the 1st century. All of the books were written by Jewish Christians (Jewish Disciples of Christ, other writers who were later followers and those who were acquainted with the apostles and their teachings).

The Gospels

The term gospel derives from the Old English god-spell, meaning "good news." The gospel was the good news of the coming Kingdom of God and the redemption through the life and death of Jesus Christ.

  • Gospel of Matthew:
    Ascribed to the Apostle Matthew. This gospel begins with a legal genealogy of Jesus through Joseph. It includes the story of his birth, which involves the magi and flight into Egypt and it ends with the commissioning of the disciples by Jesus after his resurrection.
  • Gospel of Mark:
    Ascribed to Mark the cousin of Barnabas, companion of Peter. It is written like a movie script, rapidly moving through a series of visual images and emphasizing action. This gospel begins with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist and has two different secondary endings. Some scholars believe that the last 12 verses were not in the original and were added later. However, it has become increasingly understood that these verses were censored from the Alexandrian codices but were included in the original.
  • Gospel of Luke:
    Ascribed to Luke the evangelist, companion to the Apostle Paul and referred to as a physician in the epistle to the Colossians. It includes the bloodline genealogy of Jesus through Mary. This gospel begins with parallel stories of the birth and childhood of John the Baptist and Jesus and it ends with the appearance of Jesus after the resurrection and subsequent ascension into heaven.
  • Gospel of John:
    Ascribed to the Apostle John. This gospel begins with the divine explanation of who Jesus is, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." It ends with appearances from Jesus after the resurrection and his ascension into heaven.

The Book of Acts (or Acts of the Apostles)

This is a narrative ascribed to Luke the evangelist that details the apostles' ministry after the death and resurrection of Jesus and is considered to be the sequel to the Gospel of Luke. It is sometimes called the Acts of the Apostles but there are only two apostles that are prominently featured in the book. The first twelve chapters feature Peter, while Chapters 13-28 feature Paul.

The Pauline Epistles

The Epistles of Paul or Letters of Paul are 13 New Testament books which are ascribed to the Apostle Paul. They provide insight into the beliefs and some controversies of early Christianity and are foundational to Christian theology. The epistle to the Hebrews can also be included here but it does not have a definitive author ascribed to it.

  • Romans - A systematic theological explanation of law, faith, etc. One of the most important books in the Bible.
  • First and Second Corinthians - Exhortation and instruction on many key doctrines: Gifts of the Spirit, worship, resurrection, etc.
  • Galatians - Avoidance of hollow religious externalism.
  • Ephesians - Our ultimate inheritance.
  • Philippians - Joy through suffering.
  • Colossians - The Preeminence of Christ.
  • First and Second Thessalonians - Key New Testament prophetic passages: the rapture, great tribulation and Second Coming of Christ.
  • Philemon - Deals with a runaway slave and is an example of intercession.
  • First and Second Timothy - Instructions to a young pastor and care of the church at Ephesus.
  • Titus - Teaching on elders and leadership.
  • Hebrews - The ultimate commentary on the Old Testament. Christ is presented as the Mediator of the New Covenant. It is key in understanding that "the just shall live by faith."

The “General” Epistles

  • James - Ascribed to James the brother of Jesus. Describes how the role of works testifies to faith.
  • First and Second Peter - Ascribed to the Apostle Peter. Deals with the Second Coming, persecution and the coming apostasy.
  • First, Second and Third John - Ascribed to the Apostle John. Deals with the knowledge of eternal life and the command to love others as God loves us.
  • Jude - Ascribed to Jude, the brother of Jesus and James. Deals with apostasy and contending for the faith. Also includes some interesting information that fleshes out parts of the Old Testament.

The Book of Revelation

Take note that this book is not called The Book of Revelations.

The final book of the New Testament, also known as the Apocalypse is ascribed to Apostle John. It was written while John was exiled to the island of Patmos. The book opens with letters to the seven churches and thereafter takes the form of an apocalypse.

The key to understanding this book is having a good working knowledge of the Old Testament. Everything that was begun in Genesis is consummated in Revelation. It deals with the catastrophic end-crisis of the present age, the spectacular reappearance of the King of Kings in His global empire (can I get an AMEN?), the internment of Satan in the Abousso (the Abyss), the millennial earth-reign of Christ, the final insurrection and the abolition of sin (can I get another AMEN?) and the establishment of a new heaven and new earth. It promises something that no other book of the Bible does – a special blessing to those that read and hear what this book has to say...

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near. Revelation 1:3 (NASB)
I know this book seems tough to understand and a daunting task to study but I assure you it is worth it.

Final Word...

This is just barely scratching the surface of the New Testament. There are over 5,000 Greek New Testament manuscripts that range from the whole testament to scraps of papyri which contain as little as one verse that we have today to validate the integrity of the New Testament. A few of those fragments date back to within 20-50 years of the original writing. New Testament scholars have concluded that 99.99 percent of the original writings have been reclaimed and that of the remaining one hundredth of one percent, there are no variants that substantially affect any Christian doctrine. As was with the Old Testament, God has preserved his Word and completed His Word with the addition of the New Testament.