The History of the Book
by David Trexler
In 1790, eight Englishmen from the ship "Bounty" and six Tahitian men, some with wives and families, made their new home on a small island that had no people. The Island was called Pitcairn and is about 3,000 miles west of South America. The men from the ship wanted to start a new life on the island. Pitcairn was a safe hiding place to keep from being caught by the British Navy. The men had taken control of the ship by mutiny (taking control by force). Often the punishment for mutiny was death. So the people were trying to escape from punishment.
The sailors were not all bad persons. Some sailors had good characters. Then why did they cause trouble on the ship? The sailors suffered much because Captain Bligh was a very cruel captain. The sailors had suffered so much and they did not want to suffer any more so they decided to mutiny (take control of the ship by force).
Fletcher Christian was the leader of the mutiny group on Pitcairn. One day Fletcher Christian found a Book under his clothes in his sea chest. That Book was put in his chest by his thoughtful mother before he left on the ship. The Book was the only thing that Fletcher had to read. Fletcher read his Book in a cave. There he found peace and joy in knowing Christ who was changing his life. Fletcher shared his new faith in God with his close friend, John Adams. This experience was very important for John Adam's future needs and for the people of the island.
Sad to say, the happy life they were hoping for did not continue long. Some of the men had bad characters and weaknesses for alcoholic drinks. There were no alcoholic drinks on the island. But one person knew how to make alcoholic drinks. Then there was five years of fighting on the island. The Tahitian men hated the Englishmen because some of the men who drank alcoholic drinks had bad characters and made the lives of Tahitian men unhappy. The hatred made them fight and kill each other. Almost all the men were killed. Sadly, Fletcher Christian was killed when he was working in his garden.
After the fighting was over, 13 of the men who first came to the island were dead. Only John Adams and Young were alive. One year later Young died naturally. John Adams was the only man alive on the island. Adams realized his great responsibility to take care of the living women and children on the island. Because of Adam's friendship with Fletcher before Fletcher died, Adams decided to change his life and the lives of his people by following Fletcher Christian's Book. Later alcoholic drinks were not allowed on the island.
Today almost all the people on Pitcairn are Christians who are worshipping and following God.
Do you know what Fletcher Christian's Book was? You may guess it easily - it was the Bible. The Bible is the world's best seller. For many years, the people of Pitcairn have depended only on the Bible. Their lives truly showed that they had learned to be very good Christians. Many people from all over the world visited Pitcairn after the island was discovered during the early 1800's. The visitors were surprised to find that the people of Pitcairn were good Christians.
This is a story about the Bible. Where does the Bible get its power to improve and change the lives of many people? Where does the Bible come from? Who is the author? How did Fletcher Christian's mother get the Bible and secretly hide the Bible in Fletcher's sea chest?
First, the word "Bible" comes from the Latin word, biblia. Biblia comes from the Greek word biblos, meaning "book." The Bible is a Book of many books. The Bible is 66 books written by about 35 authors from different backgrounds and cultures. There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament. Not all of the books in the Bible are really books. Some of the "books" are letters, messages, and poems.
The Bible was written during a period of 1,600 years. Many people believe that the book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible and that the book of Revelation was the last book written. The book of Job was written about 1,500 B.C. The book of Revelation was written about 96 A.D.
Second, why was the Bible written for us? God wants us to know His ways. God wants to keep in touch with us in spite of sin causing a barrier between God and man. In the beginning God made the earth and man. The first man and woman were Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve were created perfectly in God's image. Adam and Eve had face to face communication with God who taught them the truths of life. After sin Adam and Eve could not communicate face to face with God. Sin separated all men [people] from God.
But God had already made a plan to save sinners. "He has communicated with men by His Spirit, and divine light has been given to the world by revelations to His chosen servants. 'Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.'" 2 Peter 1:21 (G.C. 7).
There was no Bible from the time of Adam and Eve until the time of Moses. The first book of the Bible written was Job. Moses wrote the book of Job. The time between creation and Moses was about 2,500 years. During the first 2,500 years men learned about God and God's will by word of mouth, passing down from father to son.
During the first 2,500 years the number of people grew larger and larger. The people were moving further apart making it difficult for the truths of God to reach everyone. Also, men's memory became weaker and weaker and men began to forget God. The more people forgot God the more sinful man became.
Men need the word of God written so they could preserve (keep) the knowledge and will of God. God does not want His truths forgotten in this sinful world. So, God chose godly persons in different times and places to write what they had seen in visions, dreams from God, and in real life. God's word in writing would help meet the spiritual needs of the people. The writers of the Bible were "inspired" to write the scriptures.
"God is the author of the Bible, but the Bible was written by men. The men who wrote the Bible wrote God's message in their own words. The truths in the Bible are 'given by inspiration of God.' 2 Timothy 3:16 but they are written in the words of men." (Adapted from G.C. 7)
Some of the writers who wrote the epistles (letters), the poems, and some of the books in the Bible are: Moses - the first five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and also Job); Paul - all thirteen epistles (letters) (Romans through Philemon and possibly Hebrews); David - many Psalms. Solomon - Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon; Luke - the books of Luke and Acts; John - the book of John, 1,2,3 John and Revelation; and Daniel - the book of Daniel.
Interestingly, there are many writers of different backgrounds and times during the 1,600 years. But the words in the Bible link together perfectly like a chain. God is the only Author of the Bible; God is responsible for the perfect unity in the Bible.
The writers wrote in their own languages of their places and times so that their people could understand the messages from God. During the Old Testament times, most of the scriptures were written in Hebrew. Later, part of the scriptures were translated into Greek. The first translation of the scriptures from Hebrew into Greek was made during the second and third centuries B.C. The work was "called Septuagint, because of the seventy Jewish scholars who were supposed to have prepared it." (YBY, 33) The New Testament scriptures appeared many years after the life of Jesus Christ. The New Testament was written in Greek.
To preserve the truth, the Bible was copied again and again. The paper was papyrus that decayed in years. Copying the Bible helped to spread the messages of God to different people. Copying the Bible required patience and faithfulness so that the words and meaning would not be changed. Translating the Bible from one language to another language required very careful work.
What happened to the Bible since the great Christian movement shook the Roman world? About 200 A.D. the first Latin Bible was translated for the Latin-speaking people. A man named Jerome revised the Latin version of the New Testament. Jerome also translated the Old Testament from the Hebrew language during A.D. 382-405. Jerome's version was called the Vulgate. But in the following years, the truth was lost in the "Christian World" because the Bible was handwritten. A handwritten Bible was too expensive for common people to buy. The Roman church had tried to keep the common people from owning and reading the Bible. Most of the people in Europe could not read the Latin language. So there was a period of ignorance of the truths in the Bible when errors, superstitions and apostasy prevailed over (influenced) the minds of many people.
Despite the darkness that lasted for about 1,000 years, many faithful people kept the truths of the Bible and refused to follow the Roman church. They had copies of the scriptures that they secretly used to spread the truths among the people. Around the 1380's in England, John Wycliffe a reformer, translated the Bible from Latin into the English language for his common people to read. However, Wycliffes work was condemned by the church. But many English people learned the truths through Wycliffe's brave efforts. During the 1500's Tyndale and Cloverdale, other English reformers, translated a more modern English Bible from the original Greek language. Today, the King James Version of 1611 contains about 90 percent of Tyndale's work. About the same time, Martin Luther successfully translated the Bible into the German language for the German people. When the Bible began to be printed by machine, the Bible became cheaper so more people could own a Bible. Printing helped spread the truths of the Bible all over Europe quickly. So, more and more people learned the truths of God. There have been many versions and translations of the Bible since these reformers died. The Bible became a popular book as the years passed. Now, because of those brave reformers and translators, the Bible is read all over the world. Truly, the Bible is the world's best seller.
You can be sure the Holy Bible is for you to read. God is speaking to you today. The same as a school teacher using a textbook, God is your teacher and your Bible is your textbook of life. The Bible is more than just a Book of many books. The Bible is also a book of history, psychology, science, religion, sociology and other topics. The Bible is God's love letters to you to guide you to heaven. God wants you to know He has offered His plan of salvation through Jesus Christ to all who want to know Him. God wants everyone to be saved and be a part of the family of God.
Jesus invites you to, "Search the scriptures [Bible]; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me," John 5:39. "These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me." Luke 24:44.
Christ is the center (theme) of the Bible. Christ is also the author of the Bible. The Bible is the book above all books ever written. God has kept His words from destruction and false teachings since the time of Adam to today. It is important for you to accept Christ's invitation to study His life through reading the Bible. Through Jesus, you can have eternal life and happiness. I invite you to open your Bible and study Bible truths. You will be happy if you study the Bible.
Bible Readings for the Home, Washington (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1958).
Ferris, Norman A., The Story of Pitcairn Island, Washington (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1958).
Maxwell, Arthur S., Your Bible and You, Mountain View (Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1959).
White, Ellen G., The Great Controversy, Mountain View (Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1950).