The Original Texts of the Bible   

The books of the Bible were originally individual books, written by some author at some time in some place for some purpose.  It is hard for us to imagine what it took for someone to produce a book of any length during the times and in the places the books of the Bible were written.  We take the production of a written document for granted.  It is so easy to do.  We have used millions of tons of paper and ink and think nothing about it (except in terms of conservation and costs).  And now, with the aid of computers and the Internet, we can produce written documents without the use of paper and ink.  But how did the ancients do it?  

The history of writing is an absolutely fascinating subject.  Earliest humans undoubtedly had a means of communicating verbally, but they had no written language.  First attempts at doing that were in the form of pictographs.  This was followed by symbols representing syllables of a word.  The next logical step was for a symbol to represent a “letter” of a word. Click here for more information.

The 26 letters [21 consonants and 5 vowels] of the English alphabet come directly from the 24 letters [19 consonants and 5 vowels] of the Latin alphabet.  The 24 letters of the Latin alphabet were direct adaptations of the 24 letters [17 consonants and 7 vowels] of the Greek alphabet.  The ancient Greeks adapted their alphabet from the Phoenician alphabet.

Having pictures, symbols, and letters is one thing; having the means to record them is another.  Originally, the primary things on which to record writing of any kind were stone and wood, and the “pens” for doing that were chisels and hammers.  Then someone created “stones” on which to write—clay tablets.  These were little cylindrical globs of clay molded for the purpose of recording data on them (cuneiform writing).  Then someone realized you could use a stick and some kind of writing substance on the skin of an animal.  And, then, some creative persons learned to make a writing surface out of papyrus, learned to make an ink substance, and learned to use quills and to make reed-stalk pens with which to write the words on papyrus.

By the time the books of the Bible were written, vellum or parchment (animal skins) and papyrus were the principal means used to produce a scroll or book.  Writing was done, of course, strictly by hand.  That is why we call such writings “manuscripts” (i.e., literally, “written by hand”).  For a good sample of ancient manuscripts, click here.

The earliest manuscript of any part of the New Testament is a small fragment dating back to about 125 CE.  See a picture of it by clicking here.



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