How Did We Get The Bible?

I’m a Bible nerd and I think you should be too. In my years as a pastor, I have often heard people trying to distance themselves from the “nerdy” stuff when it comes to studying the Bible. Sure, reading the Bible is for the normal, everyday church member. But Greek? Translation differences? The history of how the Bible has been passed down to us from earlier centuries? Leave that nerdy, academic stuff to the professionals!

I think it’s high time we call out this thinking for the foolishness that it is. I want to challenge the everyday church member to consider the confidence and the increased faith they could be forfeiting by not digging into details like these. To that end, I think all believers would benefit from reading John Meade and Peter Gurry’s new book Scribes and Scripture: The Amazing Story of How We Got the Bible (Crossway, 2022).

The book is divided into three parts. Part one (Text) focuses mainly on scribes. For many of us, when we hear the word Scribe we immediately think of the hypocritical religious leaders that Jesus often spoke against in the gospels. But, as Meade and Gurry show us, we owe a great debt to the anonymous scribes across the centuries who painstakingly, and meticulously, and reverently copied long portions of the Bible by hand before the invention of the printing press.

Part one also highlights the work of textual critics, to which we should also feel a significant debt of gratitude. While many of us today have the luxury of not giving a second thought to an academic discipline such as this, we must acknowledge that it is only by their crucial and difficult work that we can have such confidence in our modern translations. Most of us have no clue how much slogging toil and exertion it took to give us the Bibles we have today.

Part two (Canon) addresses how the collection of books that make up our Old and New Testament came to be agreed upon and standardized. This has been a topic of heated debate and controversy in my lifetime, especially since the release of Dan Brown’s wildly popular The DaVinci Code, in which he claimed that a group of powerful men met in the fourth century to prevent certain books from being included in the Bible so their power and position would not be threatened. This could not be farther from the truth, as Meade and Gurry convincingly show.

Finally, in part three (Translation), the authors take us on a journey through the history of Bible translation, with a larger focus on English translations. I think most readers will especially enjoy the insights into the King James Version and its influence on so many modern translations and even our modern use of the English language itself.

If you have never spent the time to gain an appreciation to the centuries worth of rigorous labor that has gone into producing the Bible on your shelf or desk today, I would sincerely encourage you to get a copy of Scribes and Scripture and read it soon. And as you do, thank the Lord that we live in a time when we have such abundant access to solid Bible translations. If you are a Christian, this history is your history. If God’s word has impacted your life, this story is part of your story. The story of the Bible and those who have labored to supply it to us is truly amazing.

Photo credit: Crossway

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