Bible Lecture One
Have you every studied the Bible in class? If you've only attended public schools in the United States, chances are you almost certainly haven't. This is because the secular government bans the Bible (and other religious materials) from the classroom, despite the fact that the Bible is the most important (and best selling) book ever written, and it contains information about much more than just religion and history. In fact, until the 20th century, most of the world's famous scientists, such as Newton, studied the Bible and were inspired by it. Everyone should be familiar with the Good Book, and this course will hopefully not only teach you the basics, but also inspire you to do more study on your own. Students are also encouraged to help complete Conservapedia's Bible translation.
What does the Bible contain?
The Bible consists of two main parts - the Old Testament and the New Testament. There are some additional books that some branches consider to also be sacred parts of the Bible, and those are referred to as the Apocrypha.
The Old Testament
The Old Testament (known as the Tanakh by Jews) can be divided into a few major parts. The first 5 books are often referred to as the Torah. The majority of the Old Testament consists of the "Prophets", which can be further divided into major prophets, minor prophets, and historical books (like Joshua, Judges, and Chronicles). Finally, we have the "Writings" (known as Ketuvim to the Jews), which contain books like Psalms and Proverbs. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, with the earliest books written during the time of King David around 1000 BC. Most of the Prophets were written during the Babylonian exile in the 6th & 7th centuries B.C. Some books were written later, during the Hellenistic period in the 3rd and 4th centuries B.C. All the books were combined together sometime around the 2nd century B.C. The first major translation into a non-Hebrew language (Greek) was the so-called Septuagint, completed in the 2nd century B.C.
The New Testament
The New Testament is the Christian part of the Bible. Whereas the Old Testament concerns itself with the history of Israel, and predicts the coming of Jesus, the New Testament is all about the life of Jesus and the early church that developed after his resurrection. It, too, can be divided into various parts. The most important part is the Gospels. There are 4 gospels (by Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John), which describe the entire life of Jesus, each doing so independently. This is one of the reasons we know the Bible is accurate - four separate and independent accounts reveal the same story (although each goes into slightly different details). Another part of the New Testament is the books of Acts - technically "Acts of the Apostles." It describes what the followers of Jesus did in the years immediately after the resurrection, and provides insight into how the Christian faith spread around the Roman world. Next, we have a section that contains many letters, which were all written by early church leaders. The majority of the letters are by the Apostle Paul. The title of the letter is the audience. For example, "Romans" was a letter written to the church in Rome. "Timothy" was a letter written by Paul, to Timothy. There are also letters by other apostles - notably by Peter and John. Finally, the New Testament (and thus the Bible), ends with the Book of Revelation, also commonly known as the Apocalypse. It was written by the Apostle John and essentially describes the end of the world, when Jesus will return to judge everyone, and all the believers will be taken to the Kingdom of Heaven, whereas sinners will be cast into the fires of Hell. The New Testament was written primarily in Greek (although parts were likely in Aramaic - an ancient language common to Judea at the time). It's important to realize that the Greek the Bible was written in is not the modern Greek spoken in the country of Greece today - it was so-called "Koine Greek", which was a bit different (much like Old English is different from modern English). The New Testament was written in a much shorter time period than the books of the Old Testament. All the books were written in the 1st century A.D. - approximately between the years 35 A.D. and 85 A.D. There were also many other book related to Christianity written in the same time period (and in the first few centuries), but the Church Fathers rightfully rejected many of them as heresy, as they were not compatible with Jesus' views, and were often written by liars who claimed to be apostles, but really weren't. By the 3rd century A.D. the contents of the Bible were pretty much set.
I already mentioned the first translation of the Old Testament that was made - the so-called Septuagint, which translated it from Hebrew into Greek. It is called the Septuagint from the Greek word for "seventy" - supposedly 72 translators were gathered, and each made an independent translation. It then turned out that all of the translations were identical! This proved that the translation was as divinely inspired as the original texts, and thus accurate. Accuracy of translating the Holy Bible has always been a concern. The first translation into a non-Greek language happened at the end of the 4th century, when the scholarly St. Jerome translated the entire Bible into Latin - the common language of the Roman Empire. This translation was known as the "Vulgate", which comes from the Latin word for "common" - meaning the text was finally available in a language that was common to everyone. Since then, the Bible has been translated into virtually every language known to man. In fact some systems of writing were invented specifically for translating the Bible! For example, the Cyrillic alphabet was invented by missionaries so that they would be able to write the Bible in the language understood by those living in what is now Russia. The first English translations were developed in the 16th century. However, the first accurate and reliable translation into English didn't get completed until 1611 - this is the so-called "Authorized King James Version," since it was commissioned by King James. This version remains one of the most accurate English translations to this day - but it can be difficult to understand because the language used is 400 years old. Also, some of the complex vocabulary needed to fully grasp the meaning of the Bible didn't exist yet back then. For these reasons, many further English translations have been developed over the past few hundred years. However, many of these translations are biased - particularly those made in the past hundred years or so. One attempt to eliminate the bias is the ongoing Conservapedia Bible Translation project.
1. What is your favorite book of the Bible? Why?
2. List all books contained in the Torah. Who are they traditionally considered to have been written by?
3. Why do you think the Bible is translated? Why don't we just keep it in the original Hebrew and Greek?
4. Can a citizen of Greece today understand the original New Testament? Why or why not?
5. How is the process used in translating the Conservapedia Bible different from the process used for other translations? How do you think this improves the final product?
EXTRA CREDIT: Translate at least 5 verses for the Conservapedia Bible Translation project.
Please post your answers here.