The Birth of the Bible, Part 1

Around 180 AD, the New Testament, first composed in Koine Greek, was translated into Latin, Syriac, and Coptic.

Approximately fifteen years later, the Vetus Latina, the Old Latin Bible, was also translated from the Greek that preceded it, and in 300 AD, additional translations of Syriac and four Coptic versions were written, followed in the centuries afterward by translations into Armenian, Ethiopic, Georgian, and others.

In the early years of that century, particularly from 303 to 306 AD, the early Christians faced terrible opposition from the Emperor Diocletian. Not only did he overseen what was historically one of the most intense periods of hatred against the followers of Christ, seeing several thousand believers executed for their faith, but also he made great efforts toward confiscating and destroying the valuable New Testament Scriptures circulating across the land. In spite of this, the faith – and the Scriptures – persisted.

Within just a few years, perhaps as late as 310 AD, Lucian of Antioch – a faithful believer and eventual martyr – would complete his Greek revision of the Septuagint and the New Testament Scriptures, paving the way for what would eventually lead to our modern Bibles. After the rise of Constantine to the Roman throne, Christians across the empire finally saw an ease to the oppression they had long faced. With the 313 AD Edict of Milan, Emperor Constantine decriminalized and validated Christianity. In 325 AD, claiming to be a convert himself, Constantine assembled a group of 318 bishops from across the empire in Nicea, Turkey, in order to review that which was already accepted and in practice across Christendom, in effect settling persistent questions about the faith, all the while unifying the Roman Empire in the process. This was the first general council of the Christian Church, otherwise known as the Council of Nicea.

Over the years there has been much confusion, and subsequently much debate, over the actual proceedings of that council. Skeptics hold that Constantine used the opportunity to destroy manuscripts that contained positions that would hinder the rule of the Empire, effectively instating only those beneficial to his rule. In truth, the council’s main focus was on dismissing contradictory teachings that had appeared and threatened to cause disorder across the empire. In fact, contrary to the skeptics’ assertions, neither Constantine nor the Nicean council had much to do with the establishment of Scriptural canon. The council ultimately responsible for that came decades later in the city of Carthage.

“The Birth of the Bible” continues next time…

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