Apocrypha, Aramaic, Bible, Canon, Codex, Jewish Bible, "Law and Prophets", Papyri, Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, "Writings"

Apocrypha - From the Greek "things hidden away". Old Testament books of doubtful authority included in the later Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate versions, but not in the original Jewish Bible. Written mostly in the four centuries before the birth of Christ, they include:

Tobit - Judith - parts of Esther - First and Second Book of Macabees - Book of Wisdom - Ecclesiasticus (as distinct from the "canonical" Ecclesiastes) - Baruch - parts of Daniel collected together as the Old Testament Apocrypha

The term is also applied to gospels, acts, letters and apocalypse of the early Christian era that were not included in the New Testament canon

Aramaic - Ancient Semitic language related to Hebrew. It became the common language across the Middle East from the 6th century BC. By the time of Jesus, it had partly replaced Hebrew as the language of Palestine especially in Galilee

Bible - From the Greek "biblia" for books, a form of "biblos" = papyrus. Byblos was a port in Phoenicia which exported papyrus

Canon - From the Greek "a rule". Books of the Old and New Testaments accepted as authentic by the Christian Church.

The "Canon" of the Protestant church does not include the "Deuterocanonical" Old Testament Apocrypha of the Catholic and Orthodox churches. However their historical value is accepted

Codex - Any ancient manuscript cut and assembled to open up as a conventional book; plural "codices"

Jewish Bible - The Books of the "Law and Prophets" and the "Writings" of Judaism that also became the Christian Old Testament. Most were originally written in Hebrew with some parts in Aramaic

"Law and Prophets" - The "Law", or Jewish Torah, or five Books of Moses, or Pentateuch - the Old Testament Books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.

The "Prophets" are the Books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets from Hosea to Malachi

Papyri (plural) - A document written on papyrus

Septuagint (LXX) - From Latin for "seventy". A Greek translation of the Jewish Bible and Apocrypha made for the growing number of Greek-speaking Jews scattered throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East area. The work started in c 250BC in Alexandria, Egypt with the translation of "The Law", traditionally made by 72 (or 70 = LXX) Jewish scholars

Syriac - Aramaic language spoken in ancient Syria

Vulgate - From Latin "vulgata", "to make public" = in common use. Latin translation of the Christian Bible made in the 4th century by Jerome, much of it in Bethlehem. The Vulgate was in wide use until the Reformation, and is still the official text of the Catholic church

"Writings" - The Jewish Bible and Old Testament Books of Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles


c AD27, The Bible of Jesus - Two versions of the Jewish Bible existed - the original Hebrew and the Greek Septuagint translated in Egypt.

Map - Ancient and Early Translations of the Holy Bible; Some of the Locations in its Early History


OLD TESTAMENT from HEBREW - Greek Septuagint (LXX) - from c 250BC; Syriac later called the the Peshitta ("simple" or "in common use") - probably from 1st cen AD; Latin Vulgate - from 390-405AD

NEW TESTAMENT - Syriac, Old Latin, Coptic, Gothic - all from the Greek from 2nd to 4th cen; Latin Vulgate - from Greek 390-405AD;

Armenian - from Greek or Syriac early 5th cen; Georgian - possibly from Syriac or Armenian from 5th cen; Ethiopic - from Greek possibly from 5th cen; Old Arabic - probably from 8th cen; Slavonic - from Greek from mid 9th cen


Portions of Scripture from the Latin Vulgate - Anglo-Saxon, German - from 8th cen; French, Hungarian - from 12th cen; Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Polish, Bohemian - from 13th cen

from c AD30, The first Christian "Bible" - The Greek Septuagint, soon to become the Christian Old Testament, was probably used by most early Christians as their "Bible"

from c AD50-100, Books of the New Testament - Some scholars date some books of the New Testament to c AD150. In this 50 to 100 year period, the 27 books of the New Testament were written, completed and preserved:

Four Gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John;

One Acts - the Acts of the Apostles;

21 Letters or Epistles - 13 from Paul, one to the Hebrews, one from James, two from Peter, three from John, and one from Jude;

One Apocalypse - Book of Revelation.

Although no originals have been found, more than 5,000 Greek manuscripts from the next few centuries - complete, in part, or fragments - still exist, a few of the oldest and most important being illustrated in the following Map. They all help to confirm how accurately the Bible has come down to us. They also show the Greek was not a special religious language, but the common "koine" spoken by ordinary people throughout the Greek-speaking world.

Map - Some of the Earliest Surviving Manuscripts


1a/1b RYLANDS PAPYRI (P52) - early 2nd cen, fragments of John's Gospel verses 18:31-33,37-38. Found in Egypt c 1920. Now in John Rylands Library, Manchester, England

2a/2b BODMER PAPYRI (P66) - 2nd/3rd cen, part of John's Gospel. From Egypt. In Bodmer Library, Geneva, Switzerland

3a/3b/3c CHESTER BEATTY PAPYRI (P45, P46, P47) - 3rd cen, much of New Testament. Found in Egypt. Mostly in Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, Ireland; parts in University of Michigan Library, Ann Arbor


4a/4b CODEX VATICANUS (B) - 4th cen, almost entire Holy Bible in Greek with New Testament missing beyond Hebrews 9:14. Written in Alexandria, Egypt. In the Vatican Library since 1481

5a/5b/5c/5d CODEX SINAITICUS (aleph) - 4th/5th cen, entire New Testament and parts of Old, all in Greek. Written in Alexandria. Found 1844-59 by German scholar Tischendorf at St Catherine's Monastery near Mount Sinai, Egypt. Went to Russia, bought from the Soviet Union by Britain in 1933. Now in British Library, London

6a/6b/6c CODEX ALEXANDRICUS (A) - 5th cen, entire Greek Bible with some leaves missing. Written in Alexandria. Later presented by Patriarch of Constantinople to Charles 1 of England in 1627. Now in British Library, London

from 1st Cen, Writings of the Church Fathers - Many thousands of scripture references from the New Testament were included in the writings of the "Church Fathers" - often brilliant bishops, scholars, doctors, theologians, and historians of the early Church through to the 5th century. Such famous men as:

Clement, bishop of Rome, end of 1st century;

Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, end of 2nd century;

Justin Martyr, philosopher, 2nd century;

Tertullian, theologian, 2nd/3rd century;

Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, 4th century;

Jerome, Biblical scholar and translator of the Latin Vulgate, 4th/5th century; and

Augustine, bishop of Hippo and theologian, author of "Confessions" and "The City of God", 4th/5th century.

New Testament apocrypha - Also over this period many other gospels, letters, apocalypse and acts circulated within the Christian communities. Amongst the most valued were the:

Epistle to the Corinthian church by Clement, bishop of Rome (c AD96)

The Didache or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (c 120)

The Epistle of Barnabas (c 130), and

The Shepherd of Hermas (c 140).

from 2nd Cen, First Translations - Although written in Greek, the rapid spread of Christianity meant the need to translate all or part of the New Testament into other languages starting with Syriac (Map above) and Old Latin.

mid 2nd Cen, The Marcion Canon - The first canon was probably drawn up by Marcion in c 150. He only included Luke's Gospel and ten of Paul's letters, heavily edited to remove Jewish influence. In reaction to Marcion's heresy, and to control the growing number of New Testament apocrypha, an accepted and authoritative canon became necessary. This happened gradually as it came to meet the needs of the universal Church and its members. The criteria for the acceptance of a book into the New Testament were:

Was the author an apostle, or did he have close associations with an apostle - men such as Mark, Luke, the author of Hebrews?

Was the subject and its treatment acceptable as Holy Scripture?

Did the book have universal appeal to the Church? and

Was the book unmistakably inspired by God?

3rd and 4th Cen, Development of the New Testament Canon - Irenaeus, Tertullian, and other Church Fathers had confirmed by this time that only the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were approved. Also that the Acts of the Apostles, Paul's thirteen Letters, and the First Letters of Peter and John were accepted as scripture. Thus 20 of the present 27 books were "canonical" within 150 years or so of Jesus' death and resurrection. The main arguments against the seven that were eventually included are:

Hebrews - The author was not known, and although often attributed to Paul, it differed in style and vocabulary to his other writings;

James - The author refers to himself as a "servant of Christ", not an apostle. Also the Letter was written to early Jewish converts and not to the Universal Church;

Second Peter - Differs from First Peter in style and vocabulary;

Second and Third John - The author refers to himself as a "presbyter" or "elder", and not an apostle;

Jude - The author calls himself a "servant of Christ" not an apostle, and quotes from the apocryphal Old Testament book of Enoch;

Revelation - John calls himself servant and brother.

In this period, the disputes over these seven books was settled in their favour, and the canon finally confirmed by the Church. The New Testament apocrypha were not accepted as "canonical"

4th Cen, The Latin Vulgate - In AD382, Pope Damascus I commissioned Jerome to produce a Latin Bible complete with Apocrypha to replace the poorly translated Old Latin versions. He worked in Bethlehem. A thousand years later, the Latin Vulgate Bible (Map above) was the first book to be printed, on the Gutenberg press. In a revised form, it remains the standard and official Bible of the Catholic church

5th-10th Cen, Hebrew Bible - Jewish scholars produced the authoritative "Masoretic" text of the Hebrew Bible


8th, 10th and Later Cen, Early Translations of the Latin Vulgate - In Western Europe, religious works and small portions of the Vulgate were translated into a number of languages, including Anglo-Saxon. Examples of Anglo-Saxon works are John's Gospel by the Venerable Bede in the 8th century; also the translations of King Alfred in the 10th century (Map above)

14th Cen, Translation of the Latin Vulgate into English - The first translation was made by John Wycliffe. He finished the New Testament about 1380, and started on the Old Testament, friends completing the work

First Printed Bible - The Gutenberg Bible, the Latin Vulgate printed by Johannes Gutenberg in Mainz, Germany c 1452


15th-19th Cen, Translations after the Reformation - With the Protestant Reformation of the 15th and 16th centuries, and the desire for people to read and understand the Bible in their own language, an increasing number of translations appeared in Europe. Although some were made from the Latin Vulgate, increasingly the original Hebrew and Greek texts were used.

With the rise of European trade and colonisation, and Christian missionary work, translations were made into many of the languages and dialects of Africa, the Americas, Asia, and the Pacific. Starting in the 17th century, the work shows no signs of diminishing. Both modern European and world translations are illustrated in the two Maps following.

Map - Modern European Translations of the Holy Bible 15th-19th centuries

Translations in approximate date order within each century:
15th cen
- German, Italian, Catalan, Czech
16th cen - Dutch, French, English, Swedish, Danish, Spanish, Polish, Slavonic, Icelandic, Slovenian, Welsh, Hungarian
17th cen - Finnish, Irish, Rumanian, Latvian
18th cen - Lithuanian, Estonian, Portuguese
19th cen - Gaelic, Serbo-Croat, Slovak, Norwegian, modern Greek, Bulgarian, Basque, Russian


Map - Some of the Modern World Translations of the Holy Bible excluding Europe 17th-19th centuries

Translations complete or part in approximate date order by century and continent:
17th cen America - Massachusetts Indian (Mass.)
18th cen Asia - Tamil, Malay
19th cen Africa - Malagasy, Amharic, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Yoruba, Sudanese, kiSwahili - America - Cree Indian, Labrador Eskimo, Sioux/Dakota - Asia - Bengali, Chinese, Turkish, Hindi, Burmese, Persian, Urdu, Armenian, Javanese, Thai, Japanese, Taiwanese, Kashmiri - Pacific - Tahitian, Hawaiian, Samoan, Maori, Tongan, Fijian


16th and 17th Cen, Major Translations in the English Language - As part of the Reformation, a series of increasingly authoritative and official translations were made within the English Protestant church. This started with the 1525 "Tyndale Bible", and ended in 1611 with the "King James" or "Authorized Version", which reigned supreme in the English-speaking world well into the 20th century. The Catholic translation from the Latin Vulgate at this time was the 1610 "Douay Bible".

Over this period, and later, various translations and revisions were made by Protestant scholars, but failed to gain acceptance over the King James Version. The Catholic Douay Bible was officially revised in the 18th century as the Challoner versions.

19th and early 20th Cen, The First Modern English and American Versions - In 1885, a revision of the King James Bible, the "Revised Version" was published in England, followed by the "American Standard Version" in 1901. Up to the Second World War, a number of individual authors translated the New Testament into modern speech. During this period the Catholic Bible remained the Douay-Challoner version.

from 1947, The Dead Sea Scrolls - The first Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered around Qumran in Israel in 1947; others further south of Qumran. These Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts and parts of the Old Testament, dating from the time of Jesus, are more than 1,000 years older than any previously known manuscripts. Until then, the earliest Hebrew documents in existence were 9th century AD copies of the Pentateuch. The Dead Sea Scrolls helped to confirm just how accurate the translations of the Jewish Bible have been over the centuries

latter half of 20th Cen, Further American and English Versions - A number of major translations and revisions have been made since World War 2. All attempt to get even closer to the original texts, while being more readable and understandable by contemporary society. Well-known titles, mostly American with the dates of publication of the entire Bible - New and Old Testament, include:

1952 - "Revised Standard Version"
1965 - "Amplified Bible"
1966 - "Jerusalem Bible" (British Catholic version)
1970 - "New English Bible" (British)
1971 - "New American Standard Bible"
1971 - "The Living Bible" (a paraphrase)
1976 - "Good News Bible"
1978 - "New International Version"
1982 - "New King James Version"
1989 - "Revised English Bible" (British)
1990 - "New Revised Standard Version"

Many of these versions are recorded on CD-ROM discs for computer use. Yet nearly 400 years on, the 1611 “King James Version" is usually included along with its modern equivalents

end of 20th Cen, Translations of the Holy Bible - The Bible, in whole or part, has been translated into some 1,750 languages and dialects and the work continues. By continent, the totals with numbers of complete Bibles in brackets are:

Africa 500 (100)
Americas 400 (15)
Asia and Pacific 800 (125)
Europe 50 (over 40 complete)

World total 1,750 (280 complete Bibles)

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