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This English Bible History Article & Timeline is ©2002
by author & editor: John L. Jeffcoat III. Special thanks
is also given to Dr. Craig H. Lampe for his valuable contributions
to the text. This page has been freely reproduced in whole, electronically,
with credit and appreciation given to www.GreatSite.com.
- English Bible History
- The Pre-Reformation History of
From 1,400 BC to 1,400 AD
- Original Article: http://www.greatsite.com/timeline-english-bible-history/pre-reformation.html
story of how we got the English language Bible is, for the most
part, the story of the Protestant Reformation which began in
the late 14th Century AD with John Wycliffe. Indeed, if we go
back more than just one thousand years, there is no language
recognizable as English that even existed anywhere.
The story of the Bible is much older than that, however.
- Editorial Note:
- Let us state at this point, that it is not our intent to
offend or bash Roman Catholics. It is unavoidable
that every historical account has its good guys and
its bad guys. Just as it is impossible to accurately
tell the story of World War Two without offending the Germans
and the Italians who were undeniably the enemies of world peace
at that time
it is equally impossible to accurately tell
the story of the English Bible without unintentionally offending
those who continue to revere the Roman Catholic and Anglican
- Moses and the Ten Commandments
- The first recorded instance of Gods Word being written
down, was when the Lord Himself wrote it down in the form of
ten commandments on the stone tablets delivered to Moses at the
top of Mount Sinai. Biblical scholars believe this occurred between
1,400 BC and 1,500 BC
almost 3,500 years ago. The language used was almost certainly an ancient
form of Hebrew, the language of Old Covenant believers.
- The earliest scripture is generally considered to be the
Pentateuch, the first five books of the Moses: Genesis,
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy
is some scholarly evidence to indicate that the Old Testament
Book of Job may actually be the oldest book in the Bible. The
Old Testament scriptures were written in ancient Hebrew, a language
substantially different than the Hebrew of today. These writings
were passed down from generation to generation for thousands
of years on scrolls made of animal skin, usually sheep, but sometimes
deer or cow. Animals considered unclean by the Jews,
such as pigs, were of course, never used to make scrolls.
- When the entire Pentateuch is present on a scroll, it is
called a Torah. An
entire Torah Scroll, if completely unraveled, is over 150 feet
long! As most sheep are only about two to three feet long, it
took an entire flock of sheep to make just one Torah scroll.
The Jewish scribes who painstakingly produced each scroll were
perfectionists. If they made even the slightest mistake in copying,
such as allowing two letters of a word to touch, they destroyed
that entire panel (the last three or four columns of text), and
the panel before it, because it had touched the panel with a
mistake! While most Christians today would consider this behavior
fanatical and even idolatrous (worshiping the scripture, rather
than the One who gave it to us), it nevertheless demonstrates
the level of faithfulness to accuracy applied to the preservation
of Gods Word throughout the first couple of thousand years
of Biblical transmission.
has one thing in common with English: they are both picture
languages. Their words form a clear picture in your mind.
As evidence of this; the first man to ever print the scriptures
in English, William Tyndale, once commented that Hebrew was ten
times easier to translate into English than any other language.
Tyndale would certainly be qualified to make such a statement,
as he was so fluent in eight languages, that it was said you
would have thought any one of them to be his native tongue.
- By approximately
500 BC, the 39 Books that make up the Old Testament were completed,
and continued to be preserved in Hebrew on scrolls. As we approach
the last few centuries before Christ, the Jewish historical books
known as the Apocrypha were completed, yet they were
recorded in Greek rather than Hebrew. By the end of the First
Century AD, the New Testament had been completed. It was preserved
in Greek on Papyrus, a thin paper-like material made from crushed
and flattened stalks of a reed-like plant. The word Bible
comes from the same Greek root word as papyrus. The
papyrus sheets were bound, or tied together in a configuration
much more similar to modern books than to an elongated scroll.
- These groupings of papyrus were called a codex
(plural: codices). The oldest copies of the New Testament
known to exist today are: The Codex Alexandrius and the Codex
Sinaiticus in the British Museum Library in London, and the Codex
Vaticanus in the Vatican. They date back to approximately the
300s AD. In 315 AD, Athenasius, the Bishop of Alexandria,
identified the 27 Books which we recognize today as the canon
of New Testament scripture.
- In 382 AD, the
early church father Jerome translated the New Testament from
its original Greek into Latin. This translation became known
as the Latin Vulgate, (Vulgate meaning
vulgar or common). He put a note next
to the Apocrypha Books, stating that he did not know whether
or not they were inspired scripture, or just Jewish historical
writings which accompanied the Old Testament.
- The Apocrypha was kept as part of virtually every Bible scribed
or printed from these early days until just 120 years ago, in
the mid-1880s, when it was removed from Protestant Bibles.
Up until the 1880s, however, every Christian
embraced the Apocrypha as part of the Bible,
though debate continued as to whether or not the Apocrypha was
inspired. There is no truth to the popular myth that there is
something Roman Catholic about the Apocrypha, which
stemmed from the fact that the Roman Catholics kept 12 of the
14 Apocrypha Books in their Bible, as the Protestants removed
all of them. No real justification was ever given for the removal
of these ancient Jewish writings from before the time of Christ,
which had remained untouched and part of every Bible for nearly
two thousand years.
- By 500 AD the Bible had been translated into over 500 languages.
Just one century later, by 600 AD, it has been restricted to
only one language: the Latin Vulgate! The only organized and
recognized church at that time in history was the Catholic Church
of Rome, and they refused to allow the scripture to be available
in any language other than Latin. Those in possession of non-Latin
scriptures would be executed! This was because only the priests
were educated to understand Latin, and this gave the church ultimate
a power to rule without question
a power to
a power to extort money from the masses. Nobody could question their
Biblical teachings, because few people other than
priests could read Latin. The church capitalized on this forced-ignorance
through the 1,000 year period from 400 AD to 1,400 AD knows as
the Dark and Middle Ages.
- Pope Leo X established a practice called the selling
of indulgences as a way to extort money from the people.
He offered forgiveness of sins for a fairly small amount of money.
For a little bit more money, you would be allowed to indulge
in a continuous lifestyle of sin, such as keeping a mistress.
Also, through the invention of Purgatory, you could
purchase the salvation of your loved-ones souls. The church
taught the ignorant masses, As soon as the coin in the
coffer rings, the troubled soul from Purgatory springs!
Pope Leo the Tenth showed his true feelings when he said, The
fable of Christ has been quite profitable to us!
- Where was the true church
of God during these Dark Ages?
- On the Scottish Island of Iona, in 563 AD, a man named Columba
started a Bible College. For the next 700 years, this was the
source of much of the non-Catholic, evangelical Bible teaching
through those centuries of the Dark and Middle Ages. The students
of this college were called Culdees, which means
certain stranger. The Culdees were a secret society,
and the remnant of the true Christian faith was kept alive by
these men during the many centuries that led up to the Protestant
fact, the first man to be called a Culdee was Joseph
of Arimathea. The Bible tells us that Joseph of Aremethia gave
up his tomb for Jesus. Tradition tells us that he was actually
the Uncle of the Virgin Mary, and therefore the Great-Uncle (or
half-Uncle at least) of Jesus. It is also believed
that Joseph of Aremethia traveled to the British Isles shortly
after the resurrection of Christ, and built the first Christian
Church above ground there. Tradition also tells us that Jesus
may have spent much of his young adult life (between 13 and 30)
traveling the world with his Great Uncle Joseph
the Bible is silent on these years in the life of Jesus.
- In the late 1300s, the secret society of Culdees chose
John Wycliffe to lead the world out of the Dark Ages. Wycliffe
has been called the Morning Star of the Reformation.
That Protestant Reformation was about one thing: getting the
Word of God back into the hands of the masses in their own native
language, so that the corrupt church would be exposed and the
message of salvation in Christ alone, by scripture alone, through
faith alone would be proclaimed again.
- This concludes our overview of the Pre-Reformation history
of the Bible. You should now click here to return to the main
English Bible History Page, to pick
up this story with John Wycliffe in the 14th Century, and continue
on to the 21st Century.
- Created: 01.09.2009 Updated: