1

The Origins of the Old Testament

If God really did speak, we would expect to recognize his words as divine. That’s exactly what happened!

God began his story with the Jewish people. He chose them as a people to tell his story. He spoke to them through leaders and prophets about his plan and the people of Israel began to collect and treasure what he said. They recorded his word on clay tablets, parchment, and scrolls in collections they called the Tanakh, what we know as the Old Testament.

After many years, their story still unfinished, it ended on a cliffhanger as God’s voice became silent. God promised the Jewish people all throughout their Scriptures that he would send a rescuer to deliver not just their people, but also the whole world, from the curse of sin.

2

The Origins of the New Testament

God would deliver all of us from the sin in our hearts and the wedge it puts between us and our good Creator. Through the Christ (Messiah), God would invite the whole world into his plan, and make a way for all people to know the true God.

Just when the Israelites gave up all hope of a savior, the promised hero showed up—plot twist—as a baby. He is the reason for Christmas. He is the reason time is marked based on his birth — B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini, translated as, In the Year of Our Lord). The hero God sent to save the world was his own Son born in human flesh.

God spoke most clearly to us about himself through his Son, Jesus—through his life, death, and resurrection.

The books of the Bible were, over time, recognized by men and women for what they are—the precious self-disclosure of God himself.

Then, four of Jesus’ followers each wrote an account of Jesus’ life, and each book became recognized as an extension of the Hebrew Scriptures. They were called “Gospels” or “good news,” and are the first four books of what we call the New Testament.

Before Jesus left earth, he promised to write one last chapter of God’s story. Until the death of the apostle John, who wrote the last book of the Bible, God’s Spirit kept writing his story through a number of Jesus’ followers.

They explained the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and how he fulfilled the Jewish Scriptures. These authors explained the good news of how the God of Israel can become your God and my God.

In God’s wisdom, he used these select authors to tell us all we need to know about God, his plan, and how to live the way he intended for us until Jesus returns to judge the world. When Jesus does return, he will judge us based on whether we believed in him and his Word or not. Most importantly, he will judge us based on whether we believed in his Son, Jesus.

3

The Origins of the Bible

See, the books of the Bible weren’t just chosen by men. Instead, they were given by God. As they were given, they were treasured and recorded. Years after the apostle John died, it became apparent, as people studied the Scriptures, that God was done revealing himself, and we need not wait on a new revelation. All we need to do is return to what God has already given us—his complete story—to hear him speak.

God’s Word—his Old and New Testament—shines brighter than other books as something totally unique. The books of the Bible were, over time, recognized by men and women for what they are—the precious self-disclosure of God himself.

Article: 6 Min

How Did We Get the Old Testament Canon?

by Bibles.net

Article: 3 Min

Origins of the Bible

by Bibles.net

Articles: 10 Min

The Bible is divided into two parts...

So how did we get the Old Testament canon?

How did we get the

New Testament canon?

The Old Testament, for many, is a foreign document. Studying the Old Testament canon can help us to familiarize ourselves with this gift that is part of God’s Word. 

By Jesus’ time, the Hebrew “Scriptures” included all the books in our present-day Old Testament. We don’t know, however, exactly how these books were recognized as God’s Word and put into the canon.

Before considering one possible scenario, let’s look at the organizational differences between the Jewish Scriptures and the Christian Old Testament. While the content is exactly the same, the ordering of the biblical books is vastly different. Let’s look at the ordering of the Old Testament canon.

Ordering the Old Testament

The Christian Old Testament has 39 books ordered by book type: legal (5), historical (12), wisdom poetry (5), and prophetic (17). 

 Thus, the last book in the present-day Old Testament is the last prophet, Malachi.  

The Hebrew Scriptures take a different shape. The Hebrew Scriptures divide into 24 books, combining books like 1 and 2 Samuel into a single volume. This is also the case with 1 and 2 Chronicles, 1 and 2 Kings, as well as Ezra and Nehemiah. It also combines the last 12 prophetic books (commonly known as the Minor Prophets) into one. This 24-book collection is known as the Tanakh, which is an acronym for the three divisions: Torah (Law), Nevi’im (prophets), and Ketuvim (writings).

Because of this arrangement, the last book in the Hebrew Scriptures is Chronicles. 

In the New Testament, we see clear evidence of this threefold division, whenever we encounter the phrase “the Law and the Prophets” (e.g., Matthew 7:12; Romans 3:21). Jesus also specifically identifies these three divisions (Luke 24:44, where “Psalms” as the first book was commonly used to refer to the whole Writings). 

The Old Testament Canon’s Development

We have very little historical explanation for how exactly the books of the Hebrew Scripture came to be viewed as authoritative.  

Moses wrote the first portion of the Old Testament (Genesis to Deuteronomy) around 1500-1400 BC. Over the next millennium, many different people penned the rest of the Old Testament. These form two groups of books known as the Prophets and the Writings. But how did people know which of the Jewish writings were really God’s Word?

We find some evidence in the Old Testament itself (e.g., Exodus 24:3-7; Deuteronomy 31:26; 2 Kings 23:1-3; Nehemiah 8:1–9:38), some evidence in the New Testament as mentioned earlier, and some evidence from extra-biblical writings such as the works of the first-century Jewish historian Josephus. 

We also know that after Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70 by the Romans, the Jews had a council at Jamnia in AD 90 to discuss, among other things, the canon. At this council, they “closed” the canon, determining the final list of which sacred writings, dated before Jesus, were truly God’s Word.  

F. F. Bruce, a Christian scholar, suggests the following:   

A common, and not unreasonable, account of the formation of the Old Testament canon is that it took shape in three stages, corresponding to the three divisions of the Hebrew Bible. The Law was first canonized (early in the period after the return from the Babylonian exile), the Prophets next (late in the third century BC). When these two collections were closed, everything else that was recognized as holy scripture had to go into the third division, the Writings, which remained open until the end of the first century AD, when it was ‘closed’ at Jamnia. (36)

Bruce notes that, although this is a popular view, there really is no solid evidence for it. We do know for a fact that the Jews debated about which books to include in the canon. For instance, they questioned both Esther and the Song of Songs because both books do not mention the name of God, and, at first glance, look to be non-religious. 

Other Jewish writings (the Apocrypha), written a few centuries before Jesus’ time, weren’t canonized by the Jews. Christians didn’t canonize them either, as Jesus never cited them as Scripture in the Gospels.

Reading the Old Testament

The Old Testament, like the New Testament, according to Christians, is a gift from God. Though it can feel difficult at times, we encourage you to read the whole Bible. Here at Bibles.net, we want to help you learn how to read the Bible for yourself.

Bibliography:

Bruce, F. F.. The Canon of Scripture. United States: InterVarsity Press, 1988.

History of the CanoN

First Five Books
Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible (Genesis-Deuteronomy), known as the Law, the Torah, or the Books of Moses.
Prophets and Writings
Over the next millennium, various authors wrote the rest of the Old Testament. These books were ultimately collected into two groups of books known as the Prophets and the Writings.
Greek Old Testament
A group of about 70 Jewish scholars translated the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament. It became the basis for many future translations of the Old Testament. It’s also the source text for numerous New Testament quotes of the Old Testament.
Apocrypha
Many other Jewish writings were in circulation, known collectively as the Apocrypha, but these were not canonized by the Jews. While often read by Christians, these books were never quoted as Scripture by Jesus.
Hebrew Scriptures
By Jesus’ time, all of our current Old Testament was compiled in a collection and known as the Hebrew Scriptures (e.g., Luke 24:45), commonly referred to as the Law, Prophets, and Writings/Psalms (e.g., Luke 24:44).
New Testament Books
All 27 books of the New Testament were written over roughly 55 years. Most likely James was written first and Revelation, last.
Authority of NT Books
Various early church fathers like Polycarp (66-155), Irenaeus (130-202), Tertullian (160-220), and Origen (185-254) quote from, or authoritatively reference, most of the New Testament books.
The Muratorian Fragment
The Muratorian Fragment lists 23 of the current 27 books of the New Testament as canonical.
Four Great Codices
The “four great codices” were produced—Codex Vaticanus, Codex Sinaiticus, Codex Alexandrinus, and Codex Ephraemi—which serve as the oldest existing manuscripts to contain the entire Bible.
27 Books Affirmed by Athanasius
In his Easter letter, the bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius (296-373), listed the official 27 books of the New Testament recognized by the Eastern church. In it he also condemned the use of Apocryphal books.
66 Books Affirmed
The Synod of Rome confirmed the 66 books of the Bible as canon for the Western church.
The Vulgate
Early church father Jerome (347-420) completed the Latin translation of the Bible, known as the Vulgate (updating the Old Latin Vetus Latina), a translation that dominated Western Christianity for over 1000 years and remained the official Catholic translation of the Bible until the 1960s.
The Gothic Bible
The missionary Ulfilas translated the Gothic Bible, using a Gothic alphabet he created (311-383). This was one of the first Bible translations used specifically for missionary endeavors.
Canon Closed
The Council of Carthage confirmed the canon of Scripture for the entire Church as the 66 books in our present Bible, declaring the canon “closed,” meaning not open to the addition of new books.
Worldwide Translation
Various translations of the Bible appeared as Christianity continued to spread, including Syriac, Coptic, Armenian, Old Nubian, and Classical Ethiopic. These translations are especially important as they show us which biblical books were considered canonical by different areas of the worldwide church.
Masoretic Text
Jewish scholars produced the authoritative Hebrew text of the Old Testament, known as the Masoretic Text. It served as the basis for the Old Testament translations of the King James Version (1611) and the American Standard Version (1901).
English Bible Translation
John Wycliffe (1330-1384) translated the Bible into Middle English, from the Latin Vulgate, for which he was executed by the Catholic Church.
Gutenberg Bible
Using the Latin Vulgate, the first Bible was printed (known as the Gutenberg Bible) using the new technology of Gutenberg’s printing press and revolutionizing Bible production, which previously had been painstakingly done by hand.
Greek New Testament
Dutch scholar Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536) produced the Textus Receptus, a rendering of the Greek New Testament that was used as a foundation for most Protestant Bible translations including Tyndale’s English Bible (1526), Luther’s German New Testament (1522), and the Spanish Reina-Valera Bible (1602).
First Complete English Bible
Myles Coverdale (1488-1569) translated the first complete Bible into Modern English.
Apocrypha Added
At the Council of Trent, the Roman Catholic Church confirmed the inclusion of 7 Apocryphal books into its canon of Scripture, something that had been rejected earlier by Martin Luther in his complete German translation of the Bible in 1534, on the basis that Jesus never refers to them as sacred Scripture.
Geneva Bible
The Geneva Bible was published, complete with study notes and cross references, becoming the dominant English Bible translation of the 16th century, used by such famous people as William Shakespeare, John Bunyan (author of Pilgrim’s Progress) and Oliver Cromwell.
The KJV Bible
The King James Version of the Bible was completed. This translation dominated the English-speaking world for nearly four centuries.
Dead Sea Scrolls
Hundreds of ancient Jewish religious manuscripts, known as the Dead Sea Scrolls (dated 200 BC-100 AD), were discovered in a cave in the Judaean Desert. Containing copies of all the Old Testament books except Esther, these scrolls confirmed the accuracy of Old Testament transmission through the centuries.
New International Version
The first edition of the New International Version (NIV) of the English Bible was published. Today the NIV (revised 2011) is the world’s most popular version of the Bible.
1500-1400 BC
1400-400 BC
250-150 BC
200-50 BC
1 AD
40-95
100-300
170
325-450
367
382
382-405
370-380
397
400-600
800s
1382
1455
1516
1535
1546
1560
1611
1947
1978
Verse
John 21:25 NLT

Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.

Quote

We should not
expect any further “revelations” until
Christ returns,
for God has laid
the theological foundation
of the church through his
holy “apostles and prophets”
(Ephesians 2:20),
and we are not to add to
that foundation,
but build on it.

Verse
Hebrews 1:1-2 ESV

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

Quote

God’s faithfulness
to his people
convinces us that
there is nothing missing
from Scripture that God
thinks we need to know
for obeying him and
trusting him fully.

Rap

Gotta Know the Books

by Shai Linne
Article: 12 Min

Why Were Some Books Left Out of the Bible?

by Clint Arnold at The Good Book Blog

Article: 30 Min

Where Did the Bible Come From?

by Wayne Grudem at Zondervan

Video: 6 Min
Video: 1 Min
by Michael Kruger at Ligonier Ministries
Short Content

Origins of the Bible

If God really did speak, we would expect his words to be recognized as divine. That’s exactly what happened!

God began his story with the Jewish people. He chose them as a people to tell his story. He spoke to them through leaders and prophets about his plan and the people of Israel began to collect and treasure what he said. They recorded his word on clay tablets, parchment, and scrolls in collections they called the Tanakh, what we know as the Old Testament.

After many years, their story still unfinished, it ended on a cliffhanger as God’s voice became silent. God promised the Jewish people all throughout their Scriptures that he would send a rescuer to deliver not just their people, but also the whole world from the curse of sin.

God would deliver all of us from the sin in our hearts and the wedge it puts between us and our good Creator. Through the Christ (Messiah), God would invite the whole world into his plan, and make a way for all people to know the true God.

Just when the Israelites gave up all hope of a savior, the promised hero showed up—plot twist—as a baby. He is the reason for Christmas. He is the reason time is marked based on his birth — B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini, translated as, In the Year of Our Lord). The hero God sent to save the world was his own Son born in human flesh.

God spoke most clearly to us about himself through his Son, Jesus—through his life, death, and resurrection.

Then, four of Jesus’ followers each wrote an account of Jesus’ life, and each book became recognized as an extension of the Hebrew Scriptures. They were called “Gospels” or “good news,” and are the first four books of what we call the New Testament.

Before Jesus left earth, he promised to write one last chapter of God’s story. Until the death of the apostle John, who wrote the last book of the Bible, God’s Spirit kept writing his story through a number of Jesus’ followers.

They explained the significance of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and how he fulfilled the Jewish Scriptures. These authors explained the good news of how the God of Israel can become your God and my God.

In God’s wisdom, he used these select authors to tell us all we need to know about God, his plan, and how to live the way he intended for us until Jesus returns to judge the world. When Jesus does return, he will judge us based on whether we believed in him and his Word or not. Most importantly, he will judge us based on whether we believed in his Son, Jesus.

See, the books of the Bible weren’t just chosen by men. Instead, they were given by God. As they were given, they were treasured and recorded. Years after the apostle John died, it became apparent, as people studied the Scriptures, that God was done revealing himself, and we need not wait on a new revelation. All we need to do is return to what God has already given us—his complete story—to hear him speak.

God’s Word—his Old and New Testament—shines brighter than other books as something totally unique. The books of the Bible were, over time, recognized by men and women for what they are—the precious self-disclosure of God himself.

by Bibles.net