Telling the story of the Christian Bible as if it were a biography, came to me as I was thinking about how best to acquaint both novice and mature Christians with the scarcely understood history for how we obtained this book of books. I discovered over the past two years that my learned colleagues who teach Bible prophecy and biblical history had only heard the term Septuagint tossed about without knowing what it teaches us about the history of the Bible. In short, few of my friends understood why this “ancient relic” of Bibles used in the Greek Orthodox Church might be necessary for Protestants to better appreciate the message of the New Testament. Why would this be so? Simply put: Because the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible says things differently – often more favorably to the Christian Gospel.
To explain for those that don’t know: The Septuagint is the Hebrew Bible, aka Biblia Hebraica, translated into Greek as the Hebrew stood 2,300 years ago. This took place in Alexandria, Egypt. Jewish scholars familiar with both Hebrew and Greek performed the translation, initially of only the Pentateuch, and completed it circa 282 B.C.
I believe the Bible is the Word of God, and it speaks to us. But like any other believer, I perceive that what the Bible says to us may vary from time-to-time based upon our circumstances and our need. For, despite its age, it’s alive and active (Hebrew 4:12). So the Bible stays relevant. Moreover, this factor ought to cause us to ask questions that most of us don’t. I contend we know far too little about the foundation of our faith and how it was handed down to us. Understanding the Bible is a vitamin shot to a meaningful Christian experience. Likewise, knowing about the Bible is also conducive to our spiritual well-being. It increases our confidence in why we believe. Hence, it’s pivotal we understand the truth about the Bible and why we should trust it.
So, why call this book a biography? It hit me that enabling Christians to get better acquainted with the Bible’s background as you would a person you wish to build a relationship with, might be a vibrant way to induce learning and make its history more personal to each of us. Armed with this conviction, the outline came to me like a bolt out of the blue. Here’s how I saw it:
- Ancestry and Family of Origin – The Prologue
- Growth and Development – Chapters 1 and 2
- The Early Challenge – Chapter 3
- Key People and Places of Influence – Chapter 4
- An Unexpected Impact – Chapter 5
- A Test of Character – Chapters 6 and 7
- A Test of Time – Chapter 8
- Overcoming Accusations and Impersonators – Chapter 9
- Evidence of the Life Well-lived – Chapter 10
- Withstanding False Witnesses – Postscript
[Note: This outline constitutes a metaphor only – these are not
Just recently, I have been writing articles for my website, defending the value of the Greek Septuagint. I have shown the fact that the Bible’s history is far different than what Protestants typically know. Most of my articles were tackling the Fundamentalist notion that the King James Bible alone is the only Bible we should use. While the less educated may suppose that the King James Bible was the original language of the Bible (I’ve heard stories that some think that), most know that the Old Testament was almost entirely Hebrew and the New Testament Greek. But very few Evangelicals are aware that the New Testament quotes the Greek Septuagint rather than the Hebrew when it quotes the Old Testament. Experts state that two-thirds of the time, the citations are easily discernible as the way the Septuagint words the Old Testament passage. My research bears this out.
Furthermore, as I methodically wrote about in Rebooting the Bible, Part 1, few Christians or Jews know the Hebrew Old Testament was altered early in the second century A.D. to discourage Jews from converting to the Christian faith. Rabbinical leaders changed Old Testament passages targeted by Christian evangelists which were being used as proof-texts supporting their claim that Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah. This led the newly recast rabbis (previously we knew them as Pharisees) to obscure several dozen messianic passages and, not-so-obviously, the Old Testament’s primeval chronology disclosed in Genesis 5 and 11. This is not a topic here. But it will be discussed several times in this book and was meticulously argued in “Rebooting.” Consequently, this lack of historical insight among Evangelicals led me to realize why it’s a primary issue when speaking with Jews today.
Indeed, the outside world thinks committed Christians are uneducated and anti-intellectual. For the most part, this is certainly not the case. Those believers that do fit the bill, I label Fundamentalists. And the basis of the Fundamentalist faith, an unreasoned reliance upon Fundamentalist tradition, is different from the rest of Conservative Evangelicals, with whom I number myself. But distinguishing what sets Conservative Evangelicals apart from Fundamentalists remains nuanced to the secular mind. Despite any clarification we make, from that vantage point, both are lumped together as weak fools who rely upon superstitions to get us by.
Nevertheless, to help set the record straight, it’s essential to ask ourselves what the Bible is and isn’t – how we know it’s true, and how our faith has changed over the past few decades in America. This leads us to the ultimate question about whether there is one and only one English translation of the Hebrew and Greek scriptures that Christians must adopt. It’s still a hot topic.
Therefore, this book, A Biography of the Christian Bible, seeks to familiarize the reader – at a 30,000-feet level – concerning the Bible’s message, how and when it was written down, how it evolved during several significant stages of transition and translation (from Hebrew to Greek to Latin to English), and what its key influencers were in the early life of the Church shaping the Bible we have today. Lastly, I hope to shed some light on how we know essential biblical truth has remained the same for 2,000+ years.
One of my areas of study in my theological education was what philosophers call epistemology, i.e., the study of knowledge – “how we know” and “how we know we know.” This mental inspection can easily entangle the intellectual. Happily, for Christians, what we know and how we know it is concrete. Specifically,
- What does the Bible say?
- Can we trust what it says to be what it always said?
- What processes ensure that what has come down to us (what has been transmitted) is reliable?
- Is our faith purely subjective? Is just having faith preferable to having confidence in what we believe?
- Do we believe in the Bible because our heart tells us that it is the Word of God? Do we believe because it’s the way we were raised – or, that it’s what keeps us “in the club”?
- What does objective truth have to do with what the Bible tells us about the history and the supernatural world?”
For most of us, to develop trust, we must have a good deal of confidence we know what a person’s story is. We need to know about their worldview and what they value. Eventually, we dig deeper to learn about their background and what their family is like. We also might want to ask questions like, “How have they changed during recent years?” Lastly, “Will having a relationship with this person benefit me?” And even, “What do they expect from me?” and “What do I expect from them?”
Getting to know God requires we get to know the Bible by asking these kinds of questions. Knowing more about the Bible also tells us an enormous amount about who God is. Conversely, to the extent we have limited knowledge about the Bible, we have a similar shortfall in our appreciation for who God is.
For those who know the Bible as a Fundamentalist, you likely assume that the King James Bible is the only permissible Bible. For those who consider themselves an Evangelical, but not particularly conservative in either theological or political matters, your view of the Bible is much more lassie-fare. You might not care much which Bible you rely upon because you don’t rely upon it much at all. Or, you may think that all Bibles are pretty much the same. The message doesn’t change. Its meaning for me doesn’t demand I know much about how it came to be. Maybe I’m curious – or maybe, not so much.
However, if you are like me, a Conservative Evangelical, you can agree that what we believe about the Bible has vast implications. Our Christianity is vitally impacted based upon what we know about God’s Word. Selecting a Bible is crucial because we want to get the most authentic wording possible from our Bible, as well as words we can understand. Hopefully, for more than a few, we know that digging into the Scriptures – be they English, Hebrew, Greek, or Latin – has a dramatic impact on what we know about God and the standard by which He holds us accountable. We may even be eager to learn more about the Bible in another language if it genuinely enhances the meaning of the words of the Bible. For most of us, we’ve experienced teachers that reference the Bible in these ancient languages, which increases our understanding. The strengthened knowledge influences how we live our lives, our relationships, how we raise our children, and how well we sleep at night. God communicates to us in many ways, but language remains the most essential.
So, it’s to the message of the Bible, how it has been written down, and how it has been handed down, that we turn. I pray my words increase your understanding of the Bible, and it deepens your knowledge and love for Him too.
S. Douglas Woodward
July 25, 2019