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Sunday, February 01, 2015

Canonicity Of The Holy Bible

Click on this link for my post on the History of the Old Testament and this link for my post on the History of the New Testament. I did a study onWHY we should read the Bible. Today I want to discuss the history of the Bible and why we believe it is the Word of God. How did we get the Bible in it's present form? How do we know that the Bible today is God's Word?

As a Christian, before any "proofs", I believed the Bible as the Word of God. It's called faith. I began my reading and studies of the Bible with faith. And, today, I believe in the inerrant (without error) Word of God. I believe that God supernaturally and miraculously preserved His Word for us.


So how did these disparate manuscripts become the Holy Bible? The canon is an authoritative list of books accepted as Holy Scripture. How did the books become canon?

The canon had to be identified by religious leaders as God did not give a list of books to include.

Rabbinic Judaism recognizes the twenty-four books of the Masoretic Text, commonly called the Tanakh or Hebrew Bible. "Masoretic Text" means the authoritative Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism.

Deuteronomy 4: 1-2 (New American Standard Bible - NASB) "Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 2 You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you."

Matthew 4:17-20 (NASB) "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven

Determining the canon was a process conducted first by Jewish rabbis and scholars and later by early Christians. The complete canon of the Old Testament wasn't completed until after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, but parts had been recognized far earlier. The books of the law (also known as the Torah or Pentateuch—Genesis-Deuteronomy) were acknowledged as early as 2 Kings 22. The prophets were identified as Scripture by the end of the second century BC. The Psalms were accepted, but the remaining books varied depending on Jewish sect. The rabbinical school of the Pharisees in Jamnia arrived at a final list of twenty-four books, which equate to the thirty-nine books of the Christian Old Testament. Ten books interpreted in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) were rejected because of the strict guidelines for canon: books must have conformed to the Torah, and had to have been written in Palestine, in Hebrew, and not after the time of Ezra (about 400 BC).

Although the Catholic Bible today includes the Apocrypha, the vast majority of Hebrew scholars considered them to be good historical and religious documents, but not on the same level as the inspired Hebrew Scriptures.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in 1947, have a few minor differences, but they are remarkably similar to the accepted Hebrew Scriptures we have today.

Compared to the New Testament, there was much less controversy over the canon of the Old Testament. Hebrew believers recognized God’s messengers and accepted their writings as inspired of God. While there was undeniably some debate in regards to the Old Testament canon, by A.D. 250 there was nearly universal agreement on the canon of Hebrew Scripture.

The prophets' writings were not brought together in a single form until about 200 BC. The remaining Old Testament books were adopted as canonical even later. The Old Testament list was probably not finally fixed much before the birth of Christ. The Jewish people were widely scattered by this time and they really needed to know which books were the authoritative Word of God because so many other writings claiming divine authority were floating around. With the fixing of the canon they became a people of one Book, and this Book kept them together.

The book of 2 Maccabees, itself not a part of the Jewish canon, describes Nehemiah (c. 400 BC) as having "founded a library and collected books about the kings and prophets, and the writings of David, and letters of kings about votive offerings" The Book of Nehemiah suggests that the priest-scribe Ezra brought the Torah back from Babylon to Jerusalem and the Second Temple around the same time period. Both I and II Maccabees suggest that Judas Maccabeus (c. 167 BC) likewise collected sacred books, indeed some scholars argue that the Jewish canon was fixed by the Hasmonean dynasty. However, these primary sources do not suggest that the canon was at that time considered closed. The Great Assembly, also known as the Great Synagogue, was, according to Jewish tradition, an assembly of 120 scribes, sages, and prophets, in the period from the end of the Biblical prophets to the time of the development of Rabbinic Judaism, marking a transition from an era of prophets to an era of Rabbis. They lived in a period of about two centuries ending c. 70 AD. Among the developments in Judaism that are attributed to them are the fixing of the Jewish Biblical canon. - Wikipedia

The main criterion to become part of the canon (Old and New Testament) is the manuscripts were considered divinely inspired.

2 Timothy 3: 16 (New Living Translation - NLT) All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.

2 Timothy 3: 16 (New International Version - NIV) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

2 Timothy 3: 16 (Young's Literal Translation - YLT) every Writing is God-breathed, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for setting aright, for instruction that is in righteousness,
2 Peter 1: 20-21 (New American Standard Bible - NASB) But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

2 Peter 1: 20-21 (American King James Version - AKJV) Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

That God would provide and preserve a Canon of Scripture without addition or deletion is not only necessary, but it is logically credible. If we believe that God exists as an almighty God, then revelation and inspiration are clearly possible. If we believe in such a God, it is also probable that He would, out of love and for His own purposes and designs, reveal Himself to men. Because of man’s obvious condition in sin and his obvious inability to meet his spiritual needs (regardless of all his learning and technological advances), special revelation revealed in a God-breathed book is not only possible, logical, and probable, but a necessity. - TheBible.org

Apostolic preaching was for many years the only form used and held a place of high importance throughout the Apostolic era. Luke wrote that his writings "were delivered . . . unto us (Luke and his contemporaries) which from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word" (Luke 1:1-4). Jude also wrote that when he was eager 'to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). Paul wrote, "stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle" (2 Thess. 2:15). As the church grew and expanded in further and further circles, the Apostles could keep in contact with churches by writing. Also it was inevitable that the apostles would die one by one. These two factors made the certainty that the apostles' oral traditions would be written.

The letters (called epistles) from the Apostles were circulated among the early churches. The books of the New Testament were written mostly in the 1st century AD and complete by 150 AD. The Pauline epistles (letters written by the Apostle Paul) were already in a collected form and circulating the churches as early as the 1st century AD.

As we learned in the history of the New Testament, the first book in the New Testament that was written was James written in 49-50 AD. It is known that Jesus Christ was crucified in 33 AD or very close to then. This means James was written just 16-17 years after Christ's death and resurrection. The book of Revelation was written around 94-96 AD which means it was written just 63-65 years after Christ's death and resurrection. All the other books of the New Testament were written between James and Revelation. So most of the books of the New Testament were written soon after Jesus' death and resurrection and well within the life span of witnesses who knew Jesus and/or the Apostles. If there had been mistakes written, these witnesses would have refuted these manuscripts.

So the books of the New Testament were written and circulating in the first century AD. Justin Martyr, in the mid 2nd century, mentions "memoirs of the apostles" as being read on "the day called that of the sun" (Sunday) alongside the "writings of the prophets." A four gospel canon (the Tetramorph) was asserted by Irenaeus, c. 180, who refers to it directly. -Wikipedia

Titus Flavius Josephus (37 AD – c. 100 AD), born Joseph ben Matityahu (Hebrew: Yosef ben Matityahu), was a first-century Romano-Jewish scholar, historian and hagiographer {hagiographer -a writer of the lives of the saints} who was born in Jerusalem—then part of Roman Judea—to a father of priestly descent and a mother who claimed royal ancestry. He initially fought against the Romans during the First Jewish–Roman War as head of Jewish forces in Galilee, until surrendering in 67 to Roman forces led by Vespasian after the six-week siege of Jotapata. Josephus claimed the Jewish Messianic prophecies that initiated the First Roman-Jewish War made reference to Vespasian becoming Emperor of Rome. In response Vespasian decided to keep Josephus as a slave and interpreter. After Vespasian became Emperor in 69, he granted Josephus his freedom, at which time Josephus assumed the emperor's family name of Flavius. Flavius Josephus fully defected to the Roman side and was granted Roman citizenship. He became an advisor and friend of Vespasian's son Titus, serving as his translator when Titus led the Siege of Jerusalem, which resulted—when the Jewish revolt did not surrender—in the city's destruction and the looting and destruction of Herod's Temple (Second Temple). Josephus recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the first century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, including the Siege of Masada. His most important works were The Jewish War (c. 75) and Antiquities of the Jews (c. 94). The Jewish War recounts the Jewish revolt against Roman occupation (66–70). Antiquities of the Jews recounts the history of the world from a Jewish perspective for an ostensibly Roman audience. These works provide valuable insight into first century Judaism and the background of Early Christianity. - Wikipedia ({} are mine)

He was born a priest and of the best of the stock, for he belonged to the first of the priestly courses. Indeed, he was descended from the great Jonathan, the Maccabaean high priest, and so was of royal as well as of sacerdotal blood. Theology runs with the blood, and according to Josephus this was particularly true of the divinely appointed Jewish priesthood those, as he says, who 'had the main care of the Law' (Apion. 2, 21) At the age of 16 he tried the various schools of his religion: Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Essenes. At the age of nineteen he made his choice and became a convinced Pharisee. Like the Apostle Paul, he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, a Jew of the Jews.

Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, written around 93–94 AD, tells about the biblical Jesus Christ in Books 18 and 20 with a reference to John the Baptist in Book 18.

Philippians 3: 5 (NIV) circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee

Marcion of Sinope was the first Christian leader in recorded history (though later, considered heretical) to propose and delineate a uniquely Christian canon (c. 140 AD). St. Irenaeus (early 2nd century – c. AD 202) quote: "It is not possible that the gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four-quarters of the earth in which we live, and four universal winds, while the church is scattered throughout all the world, and the 'pillar and ground' of the church is the gospel and the spirit of life, it is fitting that she should have four pillars breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh… Therefore the gospels are in accord with these things… For the living creatures are quadriform and the gospel is quadriform… These things being so, all who destroy the form of the gospel are vain, unlearned, and also audacious; those [I mean] who represent the aspects of the gospel as being either more in number than as aforesaid, or, on the other hand, fewer."

Here are a few more examples of other writings that confirm the New Testament writings. There are thousands of manuscript copies, as well as thousands more fragments or portions of the New Testament. I found some of these on EarlyChristianWritings.com.

Hegesippus wrote his notes on the history of the church c. 165-175.

In the Passing of Peregrinus by Lucian of Samosata (Estimated Range of Dating: 165-175 A.D.), Lucian makes fun of Christians. But this paragraph implies that the Christians are following some writings:
"These deluded creatures, you see, have persuaded themselves that they are immortal and will live forever, which explains the contempt of death and willing self-sacrifice so common among them. It was impressed on them too by their lawgiver that from the moment they are converted, deny the gods of Greece, worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws, they are all brothers. They take his instructions completely on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods and hold them in common ownership. So any adroit, unscrupulous fellow, who knows the world, has only to get among these simple souls and his fortune is quickly made; he plays with them."

The Diatessaron (Estimated Range of Dating: 170-175 A.D.) is a harmony of the four gospels, created in the second century, and attributed to Tatian.

The Muratorian fragment is a copy of perhaps the oldest known list of the books of the New Testament. Estimated Range of Dating: 170-200 A.D due to it's mention of Pope Pius. The fragment, consisting of 85 lines, is a 7th-century Latin manuscript bound in a 7th or 8th century codex from the library of Columban's monastery at Bobbio; it contains features suggesting it is a translation from a Greek original written about 170 or as late as the 4th century. Both the degraded condition of the manuscript and the poor Latin in which it was written have made it difficult to translate. The beginning of the fragment is missing, and it ends abruptly. The fragment consists of all that remains of a section of a list of all the works that were accepted as canonical by the churches known to its anonymous original compiler. It was discovered by Fr. Ludovico Antonio Muratori in the Ambrosian Library in Milan, the most famous Italian historian of his generation, and published in 1740. You can see the translation here.

Origen Adamantius (184/185 – 253/254) may have been using—or at least were familiar with—the same 27 books found in modern New Testament editions, though there were still disputes over the canonicity of some of the writings. He was an early scholar involved in the codification of the Biblical canon, had a thorough education both in Christian theology and in pagan philosophy, but was posthumously condemned at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553. Origen's canon included all of the books in the current Catholic canon except for four books: James, 2nd Peter, and the 2nd and 3rd epistles of John.

In his Easter letter of 367, Patriarch Athanasius of Alexandria gave a list of exactly the same books that would become the New Testament–27 book–proto-canon,[25] and used the phrase "being canonized" (kanonizomena) in regard to them.

St. Jerome (c.  347 – 30 September 420) was born with the Latin name of Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon. He is best known for his many Christian writings and the translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate), and his commentaries on the Gospel of the Hebrews. He is recognised as a saint by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Church of England (Anglican Communion). He was baptized between 360-366 AD when he went to Rome. As a student he was a little wild but would visit the sepulchers of the martyrs and the Apostles in the catacombs of Rome. He traveled and studied with different teachers. Seized with a desire for a life of ascetic penance, he went for a time to the desert of Chalcis, a habitation for hermits. During this period, he seems studied and wrote. He made his first attempt to learn Hebrew under the guidance of a converted Jew; and he seems to have been in correspondence with Jewish Christians in Antioch. Fragments of the Book of Hebrews are preserved in his notes, and is known today as the Gospel of the Hebrews. Returning to Antioch in 378-379, he was ordained by Bishop Paulinus. Soon afterward, he went to Constantinople to study Scripture under Gregory Nazianzen. He seems to have spent two years there, then left, and the next three (382–385) he was in Rome again, as secretary to Pope Damasus I and the leading Roman Christians. He was given duties in Rome, and he undertook a revision of the Latin Bible, to be based on the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. He also updated the Psalter containing the Book of Psalms then at use in Rome based on the Septuagint. Though he did not realize it yet, translating much of what became the Latin Vulgate Bible would take many years and be his most important achievement Following Jerome's Veritas Hebraica, the Protestant Old Testament consists of the same books as the Hebrew Bible, but the order and numbering of the books are different.

False teachers arose and questioned the authority of certain of the writings that did not agree with their ideas. This forced the Christian brotherhood to gather together the individual apostle(s) writings and assemble them into a canon. The first council that accepted the present Catholic canon (the Canon of Trent) may have been the Synod of Hippo Regius in North Africa (393 AD); the acts of this council, however, are lost. A brief summary of the acts was read at and accepted by the Councils of Carthage in 397 and 419. These councils were under the authority of St. Augustine, who regarded the canon as already closed

A synod is an assembly of the clergy and sometimes also the laity in a diocese or other division of a particular church. Councils of Carthage, also referred to as Synods of Carthage were church synods held during the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries in the city of Carthage in Africa. The Council of Carthage, called the third by Denzinger, issued a canon of the Bible on 28 August 397. "It was also determined that besides the Canonical Scriptures nothing be read in the Church under the title of divine Scriptures. The Canonical Scriptures are these: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua the son of Nun, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two books of Paraleipomena, Job, the Psalter, five books of Solomon, the books of the twelve prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezechiel, Daniel, Tobit, Judith, Esther, two books of Esdras, two books of the Maccabees. Of the New Testament: four books of the Gospels, one book of the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen Epistles of the Apostle Paul, one epistle of the same [writer] to the Hebrews, two Epistles of the Apostle Peter, three of John, one of James, one of Jude, one book of the Apocalypse of John. Let this be made known also to our brother and fellow-priest Boniface, or to other bishops of those parts, for the purpose of confirming that Canon. Because we have received from our fathers that those books must be read in the Church. Let it also be allowed that the Passions of Martyrs be read when their festivals are kept." The first council that accepted the present Catholic canon (the Canon of Trent) may have been the Synod of Hippo Regius in North Africa (393); the acts of this council, however, are lost. A brief summary of the acts was read at and accepted by the Councils of Carthage in 397 and 419. In 405, Pope Innocent I sent a list of the sacred books to a Gallic bishop, Exsuperius of Toulouse. When these bishops and councils spoke on the matter, however, they were not defining something new, but instead "were ratifying what had already become the mind of the Church." - Wikipedia

The point is that the formation of the canon did not come all at once, but was the product of centuries of reflection. Many writings were circulating among the Christians. Some of the churches were using books and letters in their services that were spurious. Gradually the need to have a definite list of the inspired Scriptures became apparent. Heretical movements were rising, each one choosing its own selected Scriptures, including such documents as the Gospel of Thomas, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Epistle of Barnabas. It is important to note that religious councils at no time had any power to cause books to be inspired, they simply recognized that which God had inspired. Jews and conservative Christians have recognized the 39 books of the Old Testament as inspired. Evangelical Protestants have accepted the 27 books of the New Testament as inspired. Roman Catholics have 80 books because they recognize the Apocrypha as semicanonical.

The Bible is self-authenticating. There are references within different books to other prior books. The Apostles oftened quoted and referenced Old Testament scriptures. Other references such as King David's story is in the Old Testament and he is referenced in the first chapters of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke in the human genealogy of Jesus Christ. He is also the author of many of the Psalms such as the parallel between his story with Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11 and Psalm 51 written by him or for him during this same time.

Psalm 51 - For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba. 1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

1 Kings 10: 1 (King James Version - KJV) And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions.

Matthew 4:22 (KJV) The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.

Paul quotes from the book of Deuteronomy (25:4), and the Gospel of Luke (10:7), and classifies both of these as “scripture” (1 Tim. 5:18). There are so man instances of this that I will ask you to study them for yourself.

Although there were debates on the canonicity of the books of the Bible,

Some believe the Bible was created by a select few in order to gain power. Given the adversity faced by the Hebrew people, and later, the suffering of early Christians, this is not possible. For instance, rather than gaining power, the early Christians were severely oppressed, persecuted, killed – martyred for believing the message of the gospel. Who would risk being burned at the stake or crucified or killed in the arenas of Rome for a word they did NOT believe in? All additional "gospels" appear in the historical record long after the New Testament manuscripts, making these "lost" gospels highly suspect not only in reference to their content therefore they are not considered canon.

The document in question had to conform to the rule of faith; the document had to be written by someone who was or who was close to an Apostle; and it had to be generally accepted as genuine by the church. External evidence has to do with the testimony of those who had access to the documents originally. Internal evidence was whether it was consistent and in harmony with the other books accepted as canon. It had to be factual. I.e. It one claimed Julius Caesar as President of the USA and this is NOT factual, it would not be considered eligible for canonicity. The writings of the New Testament were so profusely quoted by the ante-nicene “fathers” (AD. 325 AD and back), that it is said that if the whole New Testament were destroyed, it could be reproduced entirely from their citations — with the exception of about a dozen verses.

Long before the printing press of the 15th century, copies of Scripture had to be preserved by painstaking copying, one letter at a time. Some copies were made individually. Others were made in scriptoriums where someone read the text. In these locations, many copies were made at once as several scribes listened and wrote. Those copies were not perfect, but the fact we have so many manuscripts of these texts allows us to reproduce the text with a high level of certainty. Where we are not sure, we do know what the likely options are. Good Bible translations signal the options to you with a note in the margin. There are over 5800 Greek manuscripts that support the Bible as we know it. When the Dead Sea scrolls were found a manuscript of Isaiah 1000 years older than any other version of Isaiah showed the text was virtually identical.

Today one hears many claims about errors or contradictions in the Bible. But with serious Bible studies, you find that what is thought at first to be contradictions are not after all. We have been amazed at the spiritual understanding and insight of people who may have had a meager education, but who have been in attendance in the school of the Holy Spirit. These were divinely guided godly people that were supernaturally able to judge what was spiritually true and what was false in the books that circulated among them and to detect the evidences of inspiration.

If our current Holy Bible is not true, thise would imply God has allowed a faulty revelation of His plan of salvation. How could an all-knowing God "breathe" words that contain errors or faulty information? He couldn't. He would, and has, protected His Word for us to use as our standard. We come to know Him and His revealed Will through His Word. I trust my God, that He would preserve and protect His Word in such a way that I could trust it. I put my complete faith in the Word of God as presented in the Holy Bible. And having done that, one more proof is given. My life has been changed by His Word. The supernatural works in my own life and the testimony of others proves to me the validity of the scriptures. The more I study them, the more I learn from them and the deeper God takes me. I encourage anyone to begin indepth Bible studies by believing teachers and preachers in order to find your own confidence in the truth of scripture.

Latin was the language of the area known as Latium (modern Lazio), and Rome was one of the towns of Latium. The earliest known inscriptions in Latin date from the 6th century BC and were written using an alphabet adapted from the Etruscan alphabet. Rome gradually expanded its influence over other parts of Italy and then over other parts of Europe. Eventually the Roman Empire stretched across a wide swathe of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Latin was used throughout the empire as the language of law, administration and increasingly as the language of everyday life. Literacy was common among Roman citizens and the works of great Latin authors were read by many. Even after the collapse of the western Roman Empire in 476 AD, Latin continued to be used as a literary language throughout western and central Europe. It was the language of the educated. It was the language of theology and science well into the 17th and 18th Centuries. The common people were uneducated, illiterate and could not make reasonable judgments on truth. They were vulnerable to heresy. The 1,000 years of the Dark & Middle Ages had the Word trapped in only Latin. The Catholic Church fought to keep the Bible in Latin even though it could not be understood by most people of the time. There were several reasons. One was because the people were uneducated, they depended on the Catholic Church representatives in their villages to teach them truth. The Church was very worried that people would be influenced by these heresies and end up spending eternity in hell. This was a beneficial view. But it also had it's obvious drawback. This gave power to the Catholic church. They could just about say anything and the people would believe it because the didn't know any better and had no other way to determine the truth. Those who cared for their flock as good shepherds were careful with the souls of those dependent on them for God's revelations. But there were many who took advantage of the power granted them with illiteracy.

We must remember that each Bible had to be copied by hand and that it took many years of a monk working behind the walls of a monastery, called a scriptorium, to do this. Each Bible was made on vellum (sheep hide), it took 250 sheep and 1000's of hours to make every Bible. According to standards today, each one of these Bibles would be worth about $100,000. Being so valuable both monetarily and spiritually, there was the chance of Bibles being stolen. Which would deprive the population of an entire area. Records have been compiled which show that there were 5,000 chained books in 11 Protestant and 2 Catholic libraries. The Reformers, likewise, chained their Bibles in their churches for at least 300 years. Therefore, Catholics were not alone in chaining Bibles.

The first hand-written English language Bible manuscripts were produced in the 1380's AD by John Wycliffe, an Oxford professor, scholar, and theologian. With the help of his followers, called the Lollards, and his assistant Purvey, and many other faithful scribes, Wycliffe produced dozens of English language manuscript copies of the scriptures. They were translated out of the Latin Vulgate, which was the only source text available to Wycliffe. The Pope was so infuriated by his teachings and his translation of the Bible into English, that 44 years after Wycliffe had died, he ordered the bones to be dug-up, crushed, and scattered in the river!

One of Wycliffe’s followers, John Hus, actively promoted Wycliffe’s ideas: that people should be permitted to read the Bible in their own language, and they should oppose the tyranny of the Roman church that threatened anyone possessing a non-Latin Bible with execution. Hus was burned at the stake in 1415, with Wycliffe’s manuscript Bibles used as kindling for the fire. The last words of John Hus were that, “in 100 years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform cannot be suppressed.” Almost exactly 100 years later, in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses of Contention (a list of 95 issues of heretical theology and crimes of the Roman Catholic Church) into the church door at Wittenberg.

Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1450's, and the first book to ever be printed was a Latin language Bible, printed in Mainz, Germany. Gutenberg’s Bibles were surprisingly beautiful, as each leaf Gutenberg printed was later colorfully hand-illuminated. With the invention of the movable-type printing press meant that Bibles and books could finally be effectively produced in large quantities in a short period of time. This was essential to the success of the Reformation.

In 1496, John Colet, another Oxford professor and the son of the Mayor of London, started reading the New Testament in Greek and translating it into English for his students at Oxford, and later for the public at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in London. The people were so hungry to hear the Word of God in a language they could understand, that within six months there were 20,000 people packed in the church and at least that many outside trying to get in! - GreatSite.com

William Tyndale was the Captain of the Army of Reformers, and was their spiritual leader. Tyndale holds the distinction of being the first man to ever print the New Testament in the English language. Tyndale was a true scholar and a genius, so fluent in eight languages that it was said one would think any one of them to be his native tongue. He is frequently referred to as the “Architect of the English Language”, (even more so than William Shakespeare) as so many of the phrases Tyndale coined are still in our language today.

The more the King and Bishop resisted its distribution, the more fascinated the public at large became. The church declared it contained thousands of errors as they torched hundreds of New Testaments confiscated by the clergy, while in fact, they burned them because they could find no errors at all. One risked death by burning if caught in mere possession of Tyndale's forbidden books.
With the death of Queen Elizabeth I, Prince James VI of Scotland became King James I of England. The Protestant clergy approached the new King in 1604 and announced their desire for a new translation. The leaders of the church desired a Bible for the people, with scriptural references only for word clarification or cross-references. This "translation to end all translations" (for a while at least) was the result of the combined effort of about fifty scholars. They took into consideration: The Tyndale New Testament, The Coverdale Bible, The Matthews Bible, The Great Bible, The Geneva Bible, and even the Rheims New Testament. The great revision of the Bishop's Bible had begun. From 1605 to 1606 the scholars engaged in private research. From 1607 to 1609 the work was assembled. In 1610 the work went to press, and in 1611 the first of the huge (16 inch tall) pulpit folios known today as "The 1611 King James Bible" came off the printing press.

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