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People's Dictionary of the Bible


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Scripture, writing, and Scriptures, writings. The name given in the Bible to portions of the recorded will of God; called also "Holy Scriptures," Romans 1:2; 2 Timothy 3:16, and once "the Scripture of truth." Daniel 10:21. The more common title in the Bible is "Law," and "Law of Moses." Christ refers frequently to passages in the Old Testament in this way, and once designates the entire collection by the three divisions known to the Jews, "the Law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalms." Luke 24:44. The term Scripture occurs 52 times in the A. V., only once in the Old Testament; but compare 2 Kings 22:13; Psalms 40:7, and Psalms 119:1-176. "Law," "Law of Moses," occur 426 times, and "Gospel" in the New Testament only 101 times. The prophets frequently used the phrase, "the word of the Lord." Isaiah 1:10; Jeremiah 2:4; Ezekiel 12:17; Daniel 9:2; Hosea 1:1; Joel 1:1. Scripture is called in the New Testament "the word of God," "oracles of God," and "God's words." Acts 4:31; Acts 6:7; Acts 12:24; Romans 3:2; and John 8:47. In the New Testament Paul's epistles are classed with the Old Testament as "Scripture." 2 Peter 3:16. The term Bible comes from the Latin Biblia, and Greek Biblos or Biblion, meaning book. It was used by Josephus—70-100 a.d., and Philo, to designate single books of the Old Testament; and later by Chrysostom—350-407 a.d.—for the whole collection. "The Jews have the books—biblia— "... "Provide yourselves with books,... at least procure the new, the Apostolos, the Acts, the Gospels." Hom. 2 and 9. He also called them "the divine books." It was applied to the Holy Scriptures by Chaucer—1400, and Wyckliffe—1384, and used as a title by Coverdale—1535. Since then the "Holy Bible" has become the common English title for the collection of 66 sacred books, accepted by all Christians as the authoritative word of God. The Bible is divided into the Old and the New Testaments, a name based upon 2 Corinthians 3:14; testament referring there to the old covenant. Thus we read of the "book of the Covenant," Exodus 24:7; 2 Kings 23:2, a phrase which was transferred in time to the entire Hebrew Sacred Scriptures, and the New Testament or Covenant to the Christian. There are 39 separate books in the Old Testament, and 27 in the New Testament, making 66 books in the Bible. They are called "holy" or "sacred" because they are the written revelations of God. "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of men; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." 2 Peter 1:21 A. V., or in R. V., "for no prophecy ever came by the will of man; but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost." Comp. 2 Timothy 3:16, and 2 Peter 3:16. The Jews, besides dividing the Old Testament into the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, or the writings, as before noted, made other divisions in toe text of separate books for convenience in reading in public worship. For example, they divided the "Law, the five books of Moses, into 54 portions, and these were subdivided into smaller sections. From these grew the modern division of the Old Testament into chapters and verses. The New Testament was divided into chapters and verses by Stephens in 1551, and likewise first appeared in the Genevan English Bible in 1557-1560. The chronological dates were first inserted by Lloyd in 1701, and are from Ussher. The marginal references to facilitate finding texts on the same or similar topics, were greatly improved by Drs. Paris and Blayney, 1762, 1769. The italics in the English versions do not indicate emphatic words, but are inserted by the translators to complete the sense and to show that there are no words in the original Hebrew or Greek to correspond with these English words in italics. The original text of the Old Testament is Hebrew (except a small portion in Chaldaic); the New Testament was written in Greek. The text of the Hebrew Bible has been carefully preserved by the labors of men who regarded it with great reverence. The Massoretic text of today is the work of a body of scholars living at Tiberias, in Galilee, and at Sora in the Euphrates valley, who added the vowel points. The oldest extant Hebrew Old Testament manuscripts date from the tenth century. The entire Hebrew Bible was first printed in 1488. Besides the Jewish Massoretes, able Hebrew scholars have carefully and conscientiously compared various Hebrew copies with the old Greek translations, to give us a more accurate Hebrew text than could be gained from a single ancient manuscript. The New Testament Greek text has received greater critical study than even the Old Testament text. Copies of the gospels and epistles were early multiplied in great numbers. These manuscripts are of two classes—uncials, written in capitals and with no division of words or sentences and very few marks of punctuation, and cursives, written in running band. The former are the older, dating from the fourth to the tenth century. The material used, the style of writing, and other peculiarities, enable experts to tell very nearly to what century any given manuscript belongs. The first printed New Testament text that was published was that of Erasmus in 1516. What is called the Received Text (Greek) is that of the Elzevir Edition, 1633. The toils of a long succession of scholars have sufficed to furnish a text that satisfactorily represents the original. Chief among these scholars were Beza, Mill, Bengel, and Bentley in the centuries that followed the Reformation. They were followed by Griesbach—1754-1812, Lachmann—1793-1851, Tischendorf—1815-1874, Tregelles—1813-1875, Westcott, and Hort, and through their labors we have a satisfactory and pure text of the Greek Testament.

Order of the Books.— The order of the various books differs in Hebrew manuscripts, according as they are Talmudic or Massoretic. The Talmudic order is: the Law, or five books of Moses; the Prophets, viz., Joshua, Judges 1:1-36 and 2 Samuel 1:1-27 and 2 Kings, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, the twelve minor Prophets; the Writings, viz., Ruth, Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Daniel, Esther, Ezra with Nehemiah 1:1-11 and 2 Chronicles. The Massoretes order is: the Law, the earlier Prophets, then Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel; and the kʿthubim or Writings are thus arranged: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, the five megilloth, viz., Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, then Daniel, Ezra with Nehemiah 1:1-11 and 2 Chronicles. The order in the Septuagint varies considerably from that of the Hebrew. The books of the New Testament may Declassed as historical, doctrinal, and prophetical. The historical, viz., the four Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles, always stand first. Of the doctrinal class, some leading manuscripts—including the Alexandrine and Vatican—make the catholic epistles precede those of Paul; the Hebrews following 2 Thessalonians. The Western church has generally placed the Pauline epistles first, namely, those to churches, then those to individuals, with the Hebrews last, the author being, according to many, uncertain. The prophetical book, Revelation, always closes the sacred volume. See Rice's Our Sixty-six Sacred Books for further account of the text, versions, etc.

Ancient Translations.— 1. The oldest translation of the Old Testament is the Greek, made about two centuries before Christ. It is called the Septuagint—i.e., seventy, a round number for the more exact seventy-two—from a tradition that the work was executed by 72 Jewish scholars. It was in universal use among the Jews in Christ's day, and is continually quoted by the New Testament writers. This translation instead of the Hebrew was translated into Latin by the early Christian fathers, and is the authority in the Greek Church today. The Jews, however, abandoned it, and returned to the study and use of the original Hebrew. 2. A translation into Syriac was made by Christians, direct from the Hebrew, called the Peshittâ (simple), because it was literal, and not paraphrastic, was in common use in the fourth century. 3. Of Latin translations are the Itala, made from the Septuagint, and the translation by Jerome, the most learned Christian of his day, directly from the Hebrew, a.d. 385-405, which is called the Vulgate. All Roman Catholic versions must be conformed to it.

Modern Translations.—Only a few leading modern versions can be noticed: 1. German, by Luther, New Testament, in 1522, and Bible, 1534; revised version, 1892. 2. French, by Le Fevre, at Antwerp, 1530; Olivetan, 1535, and Segonds, 1880. 3. Dutch, synod of Dort, 1637, Staats Bibel. 4. Italian, Diodati, 1607. 5. Spanish, by Valero, and by San Miguel, 1602, 1794. 6. Arabic, by E. Smith and Van Dyck, 1866. Many translations have been made by missionaries.

English Translations.— Translations of portions of the Bible were made into Anglo-Saxon in the eighth century and into early English in the thirteenth or earlier. The chief translations are: Wyckliffe's New Testament, from the Latin in 1380, and his followers also translated the Old Testament; these were written. Tyndale's, from the Greek, first English New Testament, printed 1526. Coverdale's Bible, 1535, chiefly from the Latin. This was the first entire Bible printed in English, and probably at Zurich. Matthews' Bible, a fusion of the translations by Tyndale and Coverdale, and made by John Rogers, the martyr, under the name of Matthews. 1537. It was published with the English king's license, and hence was the first authorized version in English. Taverner's Bible was a revision of Matthews' issued in 1589. Cranmer's, or the Great Bible, was simply a new edition of Matthews', issued under the sanction of and with a preface by, Cranmer, also in 1539. The Genevan New Testament, 1557, and Genevan Bible, 1560, were made by English refugees at Geneva, during the persecution under the English queen, Mary, who was a Roman Catholic. It was the first complete English translation from the original Hebrew and Greek texts, and the first English Bible divided into modern chapters and verses. The Bishops' Bible, 1568-1572, a revision of the Great Bible, made by 15 scholars, eight of whom were bishops. The Rheims, New Testament, 1609, and Douai Bible, 1610, made by Roman Catholic scholars at Douai. The King James', or so-called Authorized Version, made from the Hebrew and Greek by 47 scholars, under sanction of James II., king of England, 1611. The Anglo-American revised Bible, New Testament, 1881, Old Testament, 1885. This is a revision of the so-called A. V. made by a company of 67 British and 34 American scholars appointed by a Committee of the Church of England, through the Convocation of Canterbury, in 1870.

Evidences of Scripture.—Concerning the evidences, external and internal, of the truth of Scripture, it may briefly be said that no books have been subjected to such severe critical examination into every statement, and clause, and particular, as the Bible, and never have the arguments for its integrity and authority been as strong as they are today. The fulfillment of prophecy, the minute accuracy of descriptions, formerly supposed to be inaccurate, but which later and more thorough researches have found to be true, sustain the historic verity of the Scriptures. For instance, a searching examination of Paul's shipwreck has proved it to be minutely accurate. The explorations made of late years in Nineveh and Babylon, Egypt and Palestine, have tended to confirm the credibility of Scripture in many hitherto disputed points. It is true that we must receive the evidence so produced with care. Inscriptions and monumental records are more likely to exaggerate the successes than to chronicle the disasters of the people by whom they were made. We could not reasonably expect to find in Egyptian monuments any detail of the judgments which forced the release of Israel. Neither was it likely that Sennacherib would record the fatal overthrow of his vast army at Jerusalem. But much information has been obtained by incidental notices. Thus it had been questioned whether such a king as Nebuchadnezzar ever reigned. His name, it was said, did not appear in Herodotus: and objectors, if they did not deny the existence of the conqueror, at least insinuated that a petty satrap had been magnified into a great king. But now bricks in abundance have been found inscribed with Nebuchadnezzar's name, proving that he had built and adorned a magnificent capital. Daniel 4:30. Yet more serious doubt was expressed in regard to Belshazzar; and consequently the narrative of his feast and the awful sign which interrupted it was pronounced a fable. But it is now distinctly proved by the discovery of unquestionable records that a sovereign of that name was associated in power with his father during the last days of Babylon's independence. These instances could be multiplied many times, from the discoveries at Tanis, Lachish, Nineveh, Memphis, and from the recovery of inscriptions and letters, and from the mummies of the Pharaohs, of priests, and princes, almost without number. The results of Christianity, its effects on individuals, families, nations; its wonderful missions, are an unanswerable proof of the verity of this one Book, the Bible. The Scriptures are the only written revelation of God, and the only authoritative record of his plan of salvation. The Old Testament was given specially at first to the Jews, and the New Testament to the disciples of Christ. The Old Testament is fulfilled in the New. There are not less than 265 direct quotations from the Old Testament in the New, and 350 further allusions in the New Testament to the Old Testament, which imply that the latter was the word of God. Again and again Christ and his apostles cited and approved of the Old Testament as the truth of God, and the New Testament expressly declares: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." 2 Timothy 3:16-17, A. V. (The E. V. modifies, but on the whole rather strengthens this, as a proof text on the subject.) God's word is not to be diminished, or added to, see Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 12:32; Revelation 22:19; nor is God's plan of salvation to be modified: "If any man preach any other gospel unto you... let him be accursed." Gat 1:9. The Scriptures from the beginning to their end point to and reveal the living "Word made flesh," even the Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal life in him. John 1:1-14; Colossians 1:12-20; Hebrews 1:1-3. From the Mosaic book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament Jesus quoted texts to withstand the awful conflict in the temptations of the devil. Matthew 4:4. It was from the Old Testament books that Jesus talked on the way to Emmaus with two disciples, "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself." Luke 24:27. These scriptures are sufficient to guide and persuade any who will be reasonably persuaded to salvation. When the rich man in torment plead with Abraham for his five brethren, saying: "If one went unto them from the dead, they will repent," the answer was, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." Luke 16:30-31. They make a fatal mistake who do not so study the Bible as to find Christ in it from beginning to end, a personal Saviour through whom comes eternal, spiritual life.

Circulation of the Bible.—The following statements are from Rice's Our Sixty-six Sacred Books: The Bible and portions of the Scriptures are printed in 367 versions and 287 dialects, according to the American Bible Society reports (founded 1816). The reports of the British and Foreign Bible Society (founded 1804) show that over 60 new versions of the Bible were added to its list in eleven years, and that the Scriptures are now published in 510 versions in upwards of 300 languages. A conservative estimate is that the Bible, or portions, are now issued in 450 languages and dialects by the Bible and mission societies and private publishers of the world. It is computed that 60,000 copies of the gospels were circulated among Christians before the end of the second century after Christ. Over 100,000 copies of Luther's German version were sold within 40 years of its issue. Between 1524 and 1611 not less than 278 editions of English Bibles and Testaments wore printed. In the first 15 years of 18th century private publishers in America issued 131 editions of the Bible and 65 of the New Testament. Not less than 1000 editions, some having a very large circulation, were issued in the first 65 years of 19th century in America alone. The total circulation of the Scriptures and portions, for the nineteenth century, is placed at 300,000,000 copies. Never was the annual circulation greater than now. Bible and mission societies of the world circulate yearly about 6,500,000 copies, and private publishers swell tills number to more than 10,000,000 annually, The copies of the Scriptures circulated in heathen lands, in this century, are believed to exceed in number all that there were in the world from Moses to Martin Luther. "This word of God has held a thousand nations for thrice a thousand years spell-bound," says F. W. Robertson, "held them by an abiding power, even the universality of its truth." "Blessed are" they.. "who walk in the law of the Lord." Psalms 119:1. Rice, Our 66 Sacred Books.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Rice, Edwin Wilbur, DD. Entry for 'Scripture'. People's Dictionary of the Bible. 1893.

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