This article, recently published in four newspapers, describes the fascinating journey the Bible traveled over 1,500 years before it was completed. Our research also reveals some very interesting facts that many Christians don’t know!
The Christian Bible is the world’s best-selling and most-widely distributed book. The full Bible has been translated into 700 languages—more than any other book! Seven billion copies have been disseminated worldwide. In fact, the United Bible Societies reported 184 million full Bibles were distributed between 2015-2019 which set a new record, 25% of which were downloaded on the Internet. Bible in Latin means books or scrolls, so it is a collection of writings assembled together. The Bible was written over a period of 1,500 years, beginning with the creation of the world in Genesis. Today’s Protestant version contains 66 books written by 40 divinely-inspired authors separated into the Old and New Testaments. Wikipedia noted, “The Bible has done more to shape literature, history, entertainment, and culture than any book written.” According to the World History Encyclopedia, “The Common thread in all the collected Biblical works is the existence of an all-powerful Deity who is the Creator of the universe and has an interest in the personal lives and final fate of human beings.” The Book includes a wide range of stories, prophecies, hymns, poetry, proverbs, parables, laws, history, and sayings that are intended to serve as spiritual guidance on how God desires us to live. Biblical writers (fishermen, shepherds, farmers, doctors, prophets, priests, musicians, royalty, and ordinary people) came from diverse backgrounds and cultures using different writing styles in developing these books.
The Old Testament, similar to the Hebrew Bible, has its origins in the ancient religion of Judaism. It contains 39 books from Genesis to Malachi completed in 435 BC and documents the history and religion of the Jewish people of Israel. According to sparknotes.com, “The books represent a unified narrative about God and His relationship with humankind…” It appears that the Jews, Jesus, and His disciples were in full agreement with the Old Testament as the spoken word of God. Jesus and the New Testament writers quoted the Old Testament 295 times. The New Testament focuses on the life and teaching of Jesus, in addition to the early days of Christianity. It contains 27 books written by nine authors and was completed in the late first century by Jesus’ last surviving disciple, John, who wrote the book of Revelation. Jesus’ Apostle, Paul, wrote thirteen of the 27 New Testament books. He, the other apostles, and followers spread Jesus’ teachings which are the foundation and beliefs of the Christian church. Christians believe that Jesus was the Son of God and born to the Virgin Mary. His examples taught mankind how to live a Godly life and He performed many miracles during his lifetime, including raising people from the dead and healing the sick. He was crucified as a human sacrifice for our sins by the Romans, was buried, and then resurrected on the 3rd day after His death. He appeared before hundreds of believers before His ascension into Heaven. Jesus now sits at the right hand of God so that those who believe in Him will have eternal life. There are 50 versions of the Bible in print today with the top five best sellers being: New International, King James, New Living Translation, English Standard, and New King James. The Bible, believed by Christians to be guided by the Holy Spirit, has taken a fascinating journey of undergoing changes over the years being formed into what it is today.
49 Interesting Biblical Facts
The largest producer of the Bible is China and the Bible is “the most shoplifted and stolen book in the world!” Here are other Biblical facts our research revealed! While our information comes from reliable sources, like history, all aren’t certain! The centermost verse in the Bible is “It is better to trust in the Lord than put confidence in men.” The word “testament” means contract or covenant. The Old Testament book of Job may have been written before the other books by an unknown Israelite in 1500 BC. While 93 women speak in the Bible, only two books are written by women: Ruth and Esther (who never references God). The oldest person mentioned is 969-year-old Methuselah. Two people, who never died, were taken by God directly into Heaven: Enoch and Elijah. The Bible references are used by three main religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The Bible has inspired more songs and lyrics than any other book. The Byrd’s Turn! Turn! Turn! is one of the most famous music pieces referencing the Bible. There are 31,173 verses in the Bible and 185 songs. The longest book is Psalms with 150 chapters. The shortest is 3 John with one chapter and the briefest verse is “Jesus wept.” The longest word is Mahershalalhashbaz (who was Isaiah’s son). The world’s largest Bible weighs 1,094 pounds! There are 21 dreams described in the Bible and nearly all by different men named Joseph. While God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are clearly defined, the subject, “Holy Trinity” is never mentioned. Moses authored most of the Old Testament (5 books) and Paul wrote more than 30% of the New Testament. Noah’s Ark only contained one window and, unlike most think, more than two of some animal species were brought into the Ark. Famous phrases that began in the Bible included: “Escape by the skin of one’s teeth,” “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” “A drop in the bucket,” “A scapegoat,” “To everything a season,” and “Jumping Jehoshaphat.” The Bible contains 365 verses that tell us “To fear not!” (One for every single day of the year).
The Bible was written by authors from three continents in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages. While the Old Testament was written over 1,500 years, the New Testament took less than 75 years. Babylon is modern-day Baghdad, Iraq. The Bible mentions “going up to Jerusalem” because it was located on top of a hill. The word “love” is quoted more than 4 times than “hate.” Paul, while a profound disciple of Jesus and major contributor to the New Testament and early church, never met Jesus except through visions. Christ or Messiah is not a name but a title meaning “The Anointed One.” Jesus had four maternal brothers (James, Joses, Simon, and surprisingly, Judas—not the disciple who betrayed Him); His two sisters aren’t mentioned. While we celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25th the exact date is not known. The shepherds being in the field suggests Spring. Three gifts were given by the wise men to Joseph and Mary in celebration of Jesus’ birth. The actual number of wise men is unknown. There is no description of Jesus in the Bible but we know he was Middle Eastern with darker skin, a beard, and short hair conforming with Jewish law. The Gospels, written by the four disciples who were witnesses, record 31 separate miracles by Jesus, including bringing dead people to life and healing the sick, disabled, and blind. On the third day after His death, He was resurrected and appeared to His disciples and hundreds of other people before ascending to Heaven.
The Old Testament, that comprises 39 books, experienced vigorous debate over 1,500 years. It guided the Jewish faith (called Judaism) which outlined ways people should behave and treat one another, worship and moral standards, and ethical guidelines. Both today’s Jews and Christians believe that the Old Testament was inspired by God. Smith and Bennett noted in their book, How the Bible Was Built, “There is unity in the Bible, just as there is unity in a well-designed house. But the rooms differ in size, purpose, and perspectives.” Scholars have determined that the book of Job, which describes the battle between God and Satan for our souls, was written early in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy scrolls were found in the great temple in Jerusalem during its reconstruction. It was considered a popular book by the early Jews and was the foundation of the Old Testament because it outlined how to revere God. In the 200 years following the discovery of Deuteronomy, the first four books of the current Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers) were found. Moses and other writers are credited as being the authors. The books were considered of great importance to the Jewish faith and life. Combined with Deuteronomy, the five books are considered “The Law” or The Jewish Torah.
The Bible contains books by major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel) and minor Prophets (Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Obadiah, and Joel). Jeremiah was considered to be the greatest Prophet and one of the most often-quoted Prophets in the Bible. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” This has been the foundation for our family.
These Prophets’ writing styles are different in many ways, but they claimed to speak for God, and their messages were powerful and intense. Surprisingly, Smith and Bennett reported that they were considered poets (some were very good) and their content has become part of our language and culture. They wrote about the righteousness of God, what He expects of us, and His love for everyone. Some of these Prophets were considered to be “minor” not because they were insignificant, but because their books were shorter in length. They were so relevant that early Jews thought of their writings as one book. Psalms was very important to Jewish religious life and contained hymns, prayers, and poetry. Smith and Bennett noted that many of us can relate to the Psalms because they deal with the highs and lows of life, the feelings of anguish, hope, and despair, along with the great feelings of knowing God. Proverbs and Ecclesiastes illustrated the teachings of life, followed by the books of Ruth, Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah.
Apocrypha—The Hidden Books
Few Christians know there was a group of books called “The Apocrypha,” which is contained in the Roman Catholic Church Bible but not in Protestant Bibles. Martin Luther (a German monk who changed Christianity when he nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in 1517, beginning the Protestant Reformation) considered the Apocrypha as good reading, but not Holy Scripture. He did include the Apocrypha in his German-translated Bible. Many Biblical writers saw the Apocrypha as a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. These books, referred to as Wisdom Literature, are described as moral stories which teach us lessons about divinity and virtue. The Apocrypha was written between the time the Hebrew Bible was completed and the creation of the New Testament. Some of these books included Wisdom of Solomon, Letter of Jeremiah, Esther (additional volumes), Judith, Susanna, and Ecclesiasticus. The Apocrypha had such an impact on literature that Shakespeare named his two daughters (Susanna and Judith) from its books. Christopher Columbus read the Apocrypha and mistakenly determined that water covered 15% of the Earth (versus 70%) and used this reference to convince King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to finance his voyage to America! Smith and Bennett reported that while none of the New Testament Writers quoted the Apocrypha, they were aware of the books and were influenced by its content.
We conclude our article with the New Testament, which is the story of the Messiah, Jesus, who was predicted in the Old Testament to come to Earth as both God and human to serve as a sacrifice for our sins so believers will have eternal life. Smith and Bennett said early Christians were Jews and revered the Jewish scriptures. They believed Jesus would return during their lifetimes and didn’t see the need for separate Christian scriptures. As generations passed, however, leaders wanted to create a new book that reflected both the Jewish scriptures as well as Jesus’ teachings. Up until 70AD, there were mainly verbal accounts of Jesus. Experts believe that the book of Mark is the oldest, action-filled Gospel (which means Good News) and describe it as blunt and powerful. Ten years later, Matthew’s book, which focused on saving the Jews, appeared and contained many of Mark’s accounts. The Gospel of Luke (a Greek physician and superb writer) relied on Mark, came a decade later, and stated that Jesus was a Savior to all people. He emphasized Jesus’ compassionate healing powers with the sick, disabled, and diseased. Thirty years after Mark’s book (100AD), John’s book emerged with different accounts of Jesus and His teachings. During this time, the accepted Gospels were being transcribed and distributed amongst the churches. Thus, the Gospels were written over a 30-year period and became the foundation of the early church.
Paul’s letters to the churches were written before the four Gospels. As noted earlier, Paul never met Jesus yet he is responsible for writing 30% of the New Testament. In the early church, there were many debates and inaccurate interpretations about Jesus’ teachings. Smith and Bennett reported, “Paul’s letters are a mixture of practical counsel on how to handle problems in the church, judgments on how Christians should behave, and passages dealing with theological questions such as the motive and mission of Jesus Christ.” Scholars believe he wrote other letters but only ten survived which are part of the New Testament. The book of Acts tells of Paul’s action-packed missionary journeys which were very popular readings for early Christians who wanted to know more about him. Christian leaders recognized the importance of Paul’s letters and retrieved them from all ten churches to preserve them in one collection. Today’s scholars are able to run computer analysis of Paul’s letters to their writing styles and have determined that others may have played a silent role in their development such as Paul’s companions Barnabas and Timothy. In some books, like Hebrews, the author is unknown, but it was so well written, it inspired a Christian faith renewal when later generations were less spiritual. While there are other New Testament books and letters not mentioned here, the last book of Revelation was written by John (the only disciple who wasn’t martyred) which tells of the end times when God’s true purpose will be revealed.
Some early Christians proposed to develop a New Testament and disengage from the Hebrew scriptures. They were overruled since Jesus and His disciples quoted the Hebrew scriptures hundreds of times, believed them to be inspired by God, and found the writings too valuable to disregard. The Old Testament was finalized about 150-200 years after the birth of Jesus. Jewish scholars were concerned about the rise of Christianity and decided the Hebrew scriptures were divinely inspired and widely accepted. Christians continued to debate the content of the future New Testament for hundreds of years. Different Christian leaders and scholars kept trying to decide which books were divinely inspired for the New Testament. In 150AD the Christian church didn’t have a New Testament but used the four Gospels, Jewish scriptures, and Paul’s ten letters in their worship services. Hundreds of years passed until Jerome translated the Bible into Latin, followed by Martin Luther, who wrote the German Bible and is credited with beginning the Protestant Movement. He too included the Apocrypha, mentioned in our earlier articles, as a third part to his version. He didn’t believe it to be God-inspired but good Christian readings. As time passed, different leaders tried to assemble a New Testament list. Christian scholar Origen separated the known books and letters into two categories: accepted as scripture and disputed books. Surprisingly, John, Jude, and 2 Peter were on the disputed list! Then, in 325AD, Roman Emperor Constantine favored Christianity and convened the Council of Nicaea. One of the scholars named Eusebius drew up the list of books of the New Testament exactly as we have today, although like Luther, he questioned Revelation. So, by the end of the fourth century, the New Testament had reached its final form, although debates continued. The invention of the printing press in 1456 created the first printed Bible. The Roman Catholic Church leaders met in 1516, called the Council of Trent, to declare the Old Testament as Holy Scripture but also accepted the 12 books of the Apocrypha that aren’t in the Protestant Bible. In 1525, Tyndale translated the Bible from Greek to a very popular English version. The Roman Catholic Church was so upset about this translation, it destroyed all of his Bibles and only one exists today! Another tidbit of information is that the original Old and New Testaments were not separated by chapters and verses. When they were broken into sections, flows often were disjointed. During the reign of King James, there was fierce debate in the Church of England. He selected 54 scholars to re-write and translate the Bible over a six-year period into what we know today as the King James Bible. Smith and Bennett noted a famous atheist who stated: “It’s probably the most beautiful piece of writing in all the literature in the world.” Since then, 50+ versions of the Bible have been written!
The Bottom Line: Regardless of your religion, the Protestant Bible is a great resource on how to live one’s life and spells out a clear pathway to seek eternal life through the Messiah, Jesus Christ, “The Anointed One.” We conclude our fascinating journey with the final word in the Bible is — “Amen.”
Mike DuBose has been an instructor for USC’s graduate school since 1985 when he began his family of companies. He is a contributing guest author for Midland's Biz and is the author of The Art of Building a Great Business. Please visit our blog for additional published business, travel, and personal articles, as well as health articles written with Surb Guram, MD.
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