How The Bible Came Down to Us

By Edward D. Andrews

We have a young man, who is a has been on the run from the Catholic church for many years, all the while working as a printer and a translator of the English Bible. Many times there was a pounding at the door, only to find that this translator and his apprentice has left moments earlier. The Catholic Church viewed the Bible in the language of the common people as illegal literature, because the people were too illiterate to understand the Word of God.The Bible had been locked up in the dead language of Latin for almost a thousand years. Who was the translator? He was William Tyndale, i.e., “God’s Outlaw,” who had been pursued by the false friend of the Catholic Church, as though he were the worst criminal on the planet in the early 16th-century. While King James is credited with the most popular Bible that has ever been published, it was actually William Tyndale who should be credited, because the 1611 King James Version was 97 percent Tyndale’s English translation. The Word of God has had many enemies since the first book, Genesis, was published, some 3,500 years ago.

Ancient Copyists and Translators

When we think of Jesus, most are not aware that he referenced over 120 Old Testament Scriptures in the Gospels that  have come down to us. (Matt 4:4; 5:18; Lu 24:44; John 5:39) If one were to read all that Jesus said, just in the gospels, it would come to about a three-hour lecture. If a pastor gave a three-hour lecture today, with over 120 Scriptural references in it, we would view it as biblical in the extreme. The New Testament authors, Jesus disciples, followed his example, as there are 320 direct quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures in their books. Westcott and Hort list a combined total of quotations and references at some 890. Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:15-17

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None of this would have been possible if it were not for 1,500 years of copying the Old Testament books prior to the arrival of Jesus. We are fortunate that many of the caretakers of the Hebrew Old Testament were like ‘Ezra, a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses,’ who was a priest, as well as “the scribe of the Law of the God.” (Ezra 7:6, 11-12) However, after the days of Ezra, who had penned several Bible books himself in the late 5th-century B.C.E., an unexpected need arose.

In the 4th-century B.C.E., Alexander the Great conquered the then known world, and in time, the people adopted Greek as a common language between speakers whose native languages were different. The four dialects of Greek became just one, Koine Greek, i.e., common Greek, the universal language throughout the Middle East. The Jews were spread all throughout the then known world, facing the threat of having their children not know the Scriptures, they gather Hebrew scholars into Alexandria, Egypt, tasking them with making the first translation, from Hebrew into Koine Greek. It became known as the Septuagint (Latin for seventy), a Greek translation began in about 280 B.C.E. and was not completed until about 150 B.C.E.

While the Jews in Palestine still spoke Hebrew in Jesus’ day, the common language was Koine Greek. Therefore, other than Matthew initially penning his Gospel in Hebrew (Later translating it to Greek), the twenty-seven New Testament books were written in Koine Greek. Moreover, most of those 890 quotes and references from the Old Testament came from the Septuagint

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How The Bible Came Down to Us | Bible Translation