The Bible as scriptureThe books of the Bible were accumulated over some 1,300 years and are not set out in the order in which they appear to have been written. Although there are names attached to most of them (such as the OT Book of Job, the NT Gospel according to Mark), there is no firm evidence of authorship for most of them and little indication of how they were edited into their present forms. Since the 18c, however, there has been close scholarly scrutiny of the texts and their sources. The Bible is a miscellany of genres: story, history, law, prophecy, song, poetry, and letters, making up a sacred ‘encyclopedia’ which has for centuries been a prime source of reading throughout the world. For Christians, it is the foundation document of their faith; some admit no other authority, while others respect or insist on certain pastoral traditions and later documents. The books of the OT and NT have reached their present number and arrangement by a process of adjustment and elimination over centuries. As a selection from a larger number of texts, they constitute the Christian canon and stand in contrast with the deuterocanonical (secondary) or non-canonical works known as the Apocrypha (Greek: hidden), which may or may not appear as an appendix to the OT in Protestant Bibles. Following a longstanding tradition, The New English Bible (1970, Oxford and Cambridge University Presses) appends the 15 traditional apocryphal works to the 39 canonical books of the OT, but excludes the various apocryphal gospels from the NT, which are regarded as non-canonical by all mainstream Christian groups. Its successor, The Revised English Bible of 1989, excludes both.
The Bible as social archetypeFor cultures with their roots in medieval Western Christendom, the word bible is both symbolic and archetypal. The symbolism is explicit when the Longman Dictionary of Geography is reviewed as ‘the geographer's bible’ and Plain English campaigners describe Ernest Gowers's Complete Plain Words as ‘the bible of techniques for clear writing’. It is implicit in the use of the definite article in such expressions as the Dictionary and the telephone directory, as if such works were as fundamental as the Bible. Both name and object are associated in many places with the Christian missions that often paralleled European colonial and commercial expansion. The ties between missionaries and colonialism were lightly touched on by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa on a visit to the US in 1984: ‘When the missionaries first came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, “Let us pray.” We closed our eyes. When we opened them again we had the Bible and they had the land.’
The Bible as literatureThe Bible, whether in the original or in translation, both in itself and because of its influence, is among the great literary achievements of the world. As such, it can be considered in terms of both its genres (poetry, prose, prophecy, gospels, and epistles) and its many translations. In recent decades, a sense of the uniqueness and inviolability of the Bible has given way to scholarly inquiry and an interest in content for its own sake, and the study of the Bible as a text, apart from and/or in addition to its significance as a religious document, has increased. In addition, interest in its language and rhetoric has been stimulated by scholarly study of how this work relates to and has influenced the culture of the peoples who were once part of Western Christendom. As the Canadian critic Northrop Frye has put it:
My interest in the subject began when I found myself teaching Milton and writing about Blake, two authors who were exceptionally Biblical even by the standards of English literature. I soon realized that a student of English literature who does not know the Bible does not understand a great deal of what is going on in what he reads: the most conscientious student will be continually misconstruing the implications, even the meaning (The Great Code: The Bible and Literature, 1981).
Biblical poetryThe Bible's poetic aspect is most obvious in the Psalms, an anthology of pieces which have for centuries formed part of Jewish and Christian liturgies. There is also poetry in the prophetic books, the Book of Job, and elsewhere, but it has often been concealed by the prose form of the older English translations. The Song of Solomon is a cycle of love poems to which allegorical meaning was given by the early Church, and in the Authorized Version (AV) has the intensity of medieval and Tudor love lyrics (original spelling):13 A bundle of myrrhe is my welbeloued vnto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts.14 My beloued is vnto me, as a cluster of Camphire in the vineyards of Engedi.15 behold, thou art faire, my loue: behold, thou art faire, thou hast doues eyes.16 Behold, thou art faire, my beloued; yea pleasant: also our bedde is greene.17 The beames of our house are Cedar, and our rafters of firre.Classical Hebrew poetry depends not on rhyme and metre but on parallelism. The phonetic pattern is almost impossible to reproduce in English, but the parallelisms of thought can be seen in familiar versions (modern spelling):
Synonymous.The second half-line emphasizes the first: ‘The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament showeth his handywork’ (Psalms 19: 1).
Antithetical.The second half-line contrasts with the first: ‘I see that all things come to an end: but thy commandment is exceeding broad’ (Psalms 119: 96).
Synthetic.The second half-line supplements the first with a consequence or example: ‘I did call upon the Lord with my voice: and he heard me out of his holy hill’ (Psalms 3: 4).
Progressive.Building to a climax by repetition: ‘Hear the right, O Lord, consider my complaint: and hearken onto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips’ (Psalms 17: 1).
Stepped.Each statement reinforced by a refrain, similar to many Border ballads: ‘O give thanks unto the God of all gods: for his mercy endureth for ever. / O thank the Lord of all lords: for his mercy endureth for ever’ (Psalms 136: 2–3).The poetry of the Bible is expressed not only in formal structure. There is much use of imagery, usually direct and simple in keeping with the concrete thought and limited lexical range of OT Hebrew. It reflects the life of a people close to the wilderness, exposed to extremes of climate, and the constant threat of enemies. NT Greek imagery, however, shows a more settled life of agriculture. Much of the linguistic power of the Bible lies in the archetypal nature of its imagery: fire and water, night and day, wind and sun. Similes and metaphors are common and animals and birds are frequent sources of analogy: ‘He is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap’ (Malachi 3:2); ‘His truth shall be thy shield and buckler’ (Psalms 91: 4); ‘They were swifter than eagles, they were stronger than lions’ (2 Samuel 1: 23).
Biblical proseMuch of the Bible is narrative and its style immediate, like unadorned speech:
OT. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not (Genesis 4).
NT. And all the city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him (Mark 1).The force of the stories lies not in embellishment or subtle plotting but in sequential events moving to a climax. They can be exciting and dynamic, often moving to a violent or tragic end like the sacrifice of Jephthah's daughter or the death of Absalom, or to rescue by divine intervention like the story of Abraham and Isaac. There is little detail of characterization; people are described mainly in brief physical terms. The good and the bad, Moses, David, Jezebel, Elijah, Jonah, and the rest come to life as they are seen acting and responding to the consequences of action.
There are some more sophisticated compositions: the Book of Ruth is a compelling and well-knit novella, with a few interacting characters and the finale of a fruitful marriage after tribulation. The Book of Job has the qualities of epic drama as Job (with a background chorus of friends) wrestles with disaster and his changing attitude to God, who at the end intervenes like a classical deus ex machina. Even the historical books have tragic attributes: David is punished for his hubris in numbering the people; Samson wins great victories but a fatal weakness exposes him to the wiles of a false woman and the catastrophe of blindness and captivity, followed by triumph in death. The constant wars and feuds of the ancient world have the grim vigour of the heroic sagas.
The books of the NT were written with urgency and immediacy, to spread the good news (gospel) of recent events and in expectation of the end of the world. The parables of Jesus, based on a tradition of moral tales, contain many vignettes of contemporary life: the sower, the shepherd and his flock, the woman seeking a lost coin, the farmer hiring labourers. The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) are a genre without counterparts in the ancient world, written not so much as biography but to awake belief. Much of the NT is in the form of pastoral letters (the Epistles), written with conviction rather than in the forms of strict classical RHETORIC.
Literary and popular impactIn addition to its literary quality, the Bible has been an influence on ENGLISH LITERATURE and culture. Stories and characters from the Bible have been treated imaginatively by writers ranging from John Milton (Paradise Lost 1667, Paradise Regained 1671, Samson Agonistes 1671), to Christopher Smart (A Song to David 1763), Lord Byron (Cain 1821), and in the 20c James Bridie (Jonah and the Whale 1932) and Christopher Fry (A Sleep of Prisoners 1951). The style of the AV has influenced many, most noticeably John Bunyan's use of a Biblical style of narrative in The Pilgrim's Progress (1678–84). Swift praised the simplicity of Biblical English in A Proposal for Correcting the English Tongue (1712). The complex and eclectic style of Thomas Carlyle has the Bible as one of its strands. John Ruskin acknowledged the effect of frequent Bible reading in his early life and his prose sometimes echoes its more sonorous and stately passages. The language of hymnology has often been strongly biblical, especially in the compositions of John and Charles Wesley and Isaac Watts.
Because the Bible was for so long a part of the common cultural heritage of English-speaking people, ALLUSIONS and direct quotations are frequent in all literary genres. The speech of fictional characters includes many such references, often incidentally and naturally, but sometimes satirically exaggerated, as in Dickens's Bleak House (1853) and the Evangelical Cambridge group in Samuel Butler's The Way of All Flesh (1903).
Popular usage continues to incorporate biblical allusions such as coals of fire, a soft answer, a broken reed, the root of all evil, a word in season, the eleventh hour, a thorn in the flesh, cover a multitude of sins, the old Adam, riotous living. Page headings in the AV have contributed the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, the latter adopted in part by the helping organization, the Samaritans. Many English forenames are derived from the Bible: the continuingly popular John, Mary, Peter, James, Elizabeth, Thomas, David, and the less frequent or once fashionable Abraham, Isaac, Daniel, Rebecca, Enoch, Nathaniel, Martha. The less virtuous characters of the Bible, like Jezebel, Herod, and Judas, have not been adopted, but Thomas Hardy introduces a character christened Cain in Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), because his mother got confused and thought that it was Abel who killed Cain.
TranslationMuch of the literary quality of the Bible is lost in translation, even in the ‘biblical’ prose of the King James Version. English cannot reproduce the cadence of Hebrew poetry, such puns as the comparison of Peter to a rock (Greek Pétros/pétra), or the acrostic in the closing verses of Proverbs. However, in the 1611 version and other translations, writers have created a Bible tradition native to English, in which such themes as conflict and triumph, suffering and joy, can seize the imagination of readers with no knowledge of Hebrew or Greek, just as translation has served, in secular terms, to pass on through English the epics of Homer. The vigour and simplicity of OT Hebrew and NT Greek have to a great extent been successfully conveyed in biblical English, especially in narrative. Both often had a direct paratactic style, with strong, concrete images and vivid, physical metaphors. There is often repetitive and incremental emphasis, as in: ‘Hast thou not knowen? hast thou not heard, that the euerlasting God, the Lord, the Creatour of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is wearie?’ (Isaiah 40: 28), and balanced antithesis, as in: ‘The Lord will not suffer the soule of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked. Hee becommeth poore that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich’ (Proverbs 10: 3–4).
TranslatorsThe early translations were made at a time of change, as the language moved from its ‘Middle’ to its ‘Modern’ phases, when printing and standardizing were becoming central elements in the spread of literacy, and when religious protest then reformation inspired the translators. They preferred the vernacular to a high Latinate style, because they wished their work to reach, and be understood by, the mass of the people. In the view of the martyred 16c translator William TYNDALE, ordinary English was better suited to translate both Hebrew and Greek than Latin and German, because: ‘In a thousand places thou needest but to translate it into English word for word’ (in ‘Obedience of a Christian Man’, 1528). Like the originals, Tyndale's style was paratactic and immediate. His frequent use of ‘and’ (following the Hebrew) may have influenced later generations of writers of English prose (compare the AV rendering of Mark, on p. 70). The early translators also influenced general vocabulary: the common word nowadays goes back to WYCLIFFE, and Tyndale's use of beautiful rather than the earlier and commoner belle and fair helped establish the word. Peacemaker, long-suffering, and scapegoat are other examples of his inventiveness. The vocabulary of the AV is relatively small, some 6,000 words of which a high proportion are vernacular.
Quotation and allusionFor centuries, the Bible was read both aloud and silently, and people were used to hearing long excerpts from it in sermons and speeches. After the establishment of lectern Bibles in all churches in 1538 and then the publication of the AV in 1611, the Bible was so well known that even unattributed quotations and allusions were instantly recognized. When Sir Richard Grenville said, ‘Let me fall into the hand of God not the hand of Spain’ (1591), he was adapting David's words in 2 Samuel (24: 14). The style of the AV directly influenced many writers, most prominently John Bunyan in The Pilgrim's Progress (1678), which opens:
As I walked through the wilderness of this world I lighted on a certain place where was a den, and laid me down in that place to sleep; and, as I slept, I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold I saw a man clothed with rags standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back.
The early translationsThe translations of the Bible in the 15–17c have been a powerful influence on the development of English. The entire corpus of Modern English prose has grown up since, and been influenced by, the works of Tyndale and Coverdale, and during the formative period of the early translations there was little other widely available reading matter. Through private and public reading, the successive early translations introduced the general population to a range of genres, styles, and subjects distinct from song, folk-tale, and popular romance. The 16c Bible in particular provided a model of expression which was the chief written source of formal English for many people well into the 19c. There were translations of parts of the Bible in Anglo-Saxon times, associated with ALFRED and AELFRIC. Between the 11c and 13c, when Norman French was the dominant language and Latin the language of religious authority, translation into English lapsed, and though copies of earlier translations appear to have circulated, they have not survived. The translation into the 14c dialect of the East Midlands and London by John Wycliffe and such helpers as Nicholas Hereford and John Purvey was the first attempt to produce the complete Bible in English. It was hugely popular and widely circulated by itinerant bible-men, with manuscript copies of the NT selling for six months’ wages; one copy of a few chapters sold for a load of hay. This translation was also important in helping to fix the dialect used as standard and spread it through England. Wycliffe's Bible was more often heard and listened to than read privately, and so influenced both those who could and those who could not read. Despite its being proscribed with severe penalties, some 170 manuscripts have survived.
Sixteenth-century BiblesWycliffe's translation was from the Vulgate and was not printed until after it had been superseded by the translations of Tyndale and Coverdale. These were made under the influence of the ‘new learning’ from Greek and Hebrew; Coverdale's was the first published translation into English and both translations had to be printed abroad, being at first smuggled into England as ‘waste paper’. The first translation printed in England, in 1536, was a reprint of Tyndale's NT of 1534. Once Bible printing in England was legalized in 1537, publishing enterprise resulted in fresh editions such as Matthew's Bible (a synthesis of Tyndale and Coverdale with a commentary) and Taverner's Bible, a revised printed version of Matthew's.
The Great Bible of 1539 was the first officially authorized version, produced by a group headed by Coverdale and based on Matthew's. Largely printed abroad, where the technology was more advanced, this work went into seven editions in two years, because it was required in all churches and other versions were proscribed by law. The division of the Bible into chapters dates from the 13c, attributed both to Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1228), and Hugo de Sancto Caro, who produced a concordance of the Vulgate in 1244. OT verses were numbered in the early 16c in Hebrew and in Latin, and Robert Estienne numbered the verses in his French NT in 1551. The numbering of verses was adopted in the English NT of 1557, the work of refugees in Geneva who undertook the revision of the entire English Bible, culminating in the Geneva Bible of 1560, which had both chapter and verse numbered. This work was also known as the Breeches Bible, because it described Adam and Eve as sewing themselves breeches. It included marginal notes which commended it to the Puritans, who wished to study it without need of priestly interpretation.
The King James Bible(also The Authorized Version; short forms KJB, AV). The popularity of the Geneva Bible prompted Archbishop Parker to revive a long-discussed project for an authorized revision approved by the English bishops. The Bishops' Bible was first published in 1568, a revision of Coverdale's Great Bible of 1539. One of the first acts of James VI King of Scots, on accession to the throne of England in 1603 as James I, was to approve a suggestion for a new translation, ‘as consonant as can be to the original Hebrew and Greek … and only to be used in all churches of England’. He apparently appointed 54 ‘learned men’ to work on the project, 50 of whom have been identified. They included scholars from Oxford, Cambridge, and Westminster (prominent among them Lancelot Andrewes, John Hardinge, John Harmer, John Reynolds, Henry Saville, Miles Smith, and Robert Spalding), working in five committees which invited comment and observations from the clergy in general as the work progressed. The rules for the project included: (1) Following the 1572 edition of the Bishops' Bible so far as fidelity to the original sources would allow. (2) The division into chapters to be altered only where strictly necessary. (3) Where specially difficult passages occurred, consultation to follow with ‘any Learned Man in the Land, for his Judgement of such a place’ (Rules to be Observed in the Translation of the Bible). (4) Where a Hebrew or Greek word admitted of more than one possible meaning, one to be in the text, the other in the margin. (5) Any words that had to be inserted for colloquial reasons to be printed in italics. The new work appeared in 1611.
Bible publicationIn England, the publishing rights of the AV are vested in the Crown and in practice limited to the printing house holding the royal appointment, together with the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, whose privilege under their 16c charters allowed them to publish bibles. This exclusive right of printing the Bible had earlier come into being in the reign of Elizabeth I. Since 1769, the Royal Printers have been Eyre and Spottiswoode, in London. In Scotland, the Lord Advocate, representing the Crown, holds the patent and approves the choice of publishers, in practice the Glasgow publisher William Collins (now part of HarperCollins). In the US, no such restrictions have been placed on the publishing of the Bible; many publishers have brought out editions of the AV, amending it on their own initiative and responsibility.
Later translationsThe publication of the AV, though intended to be definitive, did not put an end to Bible translation, especially by Protestant nonconformists and would-be popularizers: for example, John Wesley, founder of Methodism, who in 1755 published his own NT for ‘unlettered men who understand only their mother tongue’. Subsequent translations, from the Revised Version (1884) through to late 20c versions, have not had the aim of producing work in an improved literary style, but of claiming greater fidelity to the original Hebrew or Greek as understood by the most recent scholarship. Some of these claims have been contested and the translations have made no special impact on the language. The Revised Version was the result of over ten years' work by Protestant scholars in the UK and US, following a decision in the Church of England in 1870 to set up a group of its members to work with others, irrespective of nation or religious affiliation. The revised OT was based on virtually the same Hebrew text as the AV, but the NT translators worked on a considerably reconstructed Greek text (itself the subject of controversy) and adopted the plan (rejected by the 1611 translators) of always translating the same Greek word by the same English word, which it was claimed preserved the meaning more faithfully. This version was less well received than had been hoped.
The Presbyterian scholar James Moffat brought out a colloquial translation in 1913 and the Anglican priest J. B. Phillips produced a NT in contemporary English in 1958. By contrast, The New English Bible (1961), The Good News Bible (1976), and the New International Version (1978) were produced by panels of scholars, each with the aim of a Bible in the language of the present day. NEB resulted from an interdenominational conference initiated by the Church of Scotland and had the aim of aiding private study and scholarship rather than reading aloud. GNB was produced by William Collins and the United Bible Societies, based on the latter's simplified and colloquial versions originally aimed at the mission field, where users were mostly not speakers of English as a first language. NIV was intended to attract readers without prior religious commitment. All three followed the precedent of the RV in relying to an increasing extent on reconstructed or rediscovered texts unavailable to, or rejected by, the translators of the KJB.
Inclusive languageIn the last two decades, efforts have been made to produce ‘non-sexist’ versions of the Bible in English, to meet the theological and social contention of feminists and others that male terms for the Deity are inadequate and inappropriate, for example Give thanks unto the Lord; call upon his name: make known his deeds (Psalm 105: 1), because they attribute maleness to a being believed to be above considerations of gender. The problems of reconciling fidelity to the original Hebrew and Greek with inclusive late 20c usage have proved considerable and controversial, relating not only to specific biblical texts but also to general assumptions in Christianity and other religions about the nature and naming of Divinity.
ConclusionThe existence of vernacular Bibles was important for the growth, enrichment, and even preservation of many of the languages of Europe, and the early translations into English were profoundly important for the development of the language. In English, both the established churches and nonconformists in 17–18c Britain, Ireland, and North America emphasized Bible study and reading aloud, and so encouraged a culture focused on the printed word. Bible translation in its most active stage coincided with both the development of printing and the need for STANDARD LANGUAGES in the nation-states of late medieval and Renaissance Europe. Because the Protestant nonconformists took the Bible (Geneva or AV) as their standard, it strongly influenced such writers as John Milton, George Fox, John Bunyan, and Richard Baxter, and through them later polemical and political writers in the UK, USA, and elsewhere. Its influence is also evident in the works of 19–20c writers as diverse as John Betjeman, George Eliot, T. S. Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Sean O'Casey, Dylan Thomas, Mark Twain, Evelyn Waugh, and P. G. Wodehouse. At least three factors contributed to the vast influence of the Bible on English from the 16c to the 20c century: the 16–17c legal requirement that all should attend the parish church, later transmuted into a widely respected social custom; the use of the Bible in legally required school assemblies till well after the Second World War; and compulsory church parades in the armed services of the British Empire until the 1950s. These ensured that vast numbers of people for generation after generation were exposed to the English of the King James Bible as a living variety. It is to these factors, as much as to studies and use by scholars and writers, that the widespread survival of biblical usage and allusion can be attributed.
See AMERICAN ENGLISH, ARCHAISM, BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER, CHAUCER, INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE, KRIO, LETTER 2, PROSE, PROVERB, PUN, RASTA TALK, SAXONISM, SHIBBOLETH.
WELL-KNOWN QUOTATIONS FROM THE KING JAMES BIBLE
The AV has been acclaimed as a landmark in both religious literature and the evolution of the English language, an achievement that comprises all earlier Bible translation and that has served for many as a standard against which all subsequent Bible translation must be judged. Many also consider that its verbal beauty is unsurpassed in the whole of English literature. It has provided many quotations and allusions which have become proverbial, and has been quoted, knowingly and unknowingly, in literature and in conversation at every level for centuries, from pubs to Parliament. Well-known quotations include:
Genesis.And the evening and the morning were the first day; Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth; bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.
Ruth.For whither thou goest I will go.
Job.Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.
Proverbs.Go to the ant thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.
Ecclesiastes.Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
Isaiah.For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.
Jeremiah.Is there no balm in Gilead?
Matthew.Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord (quoting Isaiah).
Mark.My name is Legion; Suffer the little children to come unto me.
Luke.Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; For the labourer is worthy of his hire.
John.In the beginning was the Word; I am the way, the truth, and the life.
Paul(I Corinthians). Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels; For now we see through a glass darkly.
Revelation.And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away.
THE STRATA OF BIBLICAL TRANSLATION INTO ENGLISHThe following translations of the Gospel of Matthew (25: 14–15) show how language, style, and interpretation have changed over six centuries of translation from Greek into English.
1380.Sothely as a man goynge fer in pilgrimage, clepide his seruauntis, and bitoke to hem his goodis; And to oon he ʒaue fyue talentis, forsothe to an other two, but to an other oon, to eche after his owne vertu; and went forth anoon. ( Wycliffe)
1526.Lykewise as a certeyne man redy to take his iorney to a straunge countre, called hys seruantes to hym, and delyvered to them hys gooddes; And vnto won he gave v. talentes, to another ij, and to another one, to every man after his abilite; and streyght waye departed. ( Tyndale)
1611.14 For the kingdome of heauen is as a man trauailing into a farre countrey, who called his owne seruants, and deliuered vnto them his goods. 15 And vnto one he gaue fiue talents, to another two, and to another one, to euery man according to his seuerall ability, & straightway tooke his iourney. ( King James)
1913.For the case is that of a man going abroad, who summoned his servants and handed over his property to them; to one he gave twelve hundred pounds, to another five hundred, and to another two hundred and fifty; each got according to his capacity. Then the man went abroad. ( Moffat)
1941.14. For it is as when a man, about to take a journey, got his servants together, and gave them his property. 15. And to one he gave five pounds, to another two, to another one; to everyone as he was able; and he went on his journey. (Basic English)
1983.Or again, it is like this. A man at wis gaein out of the kintra ca's up his servans an haundit his haudin owre tae them tae gyde. He lippent ane wi five talents, anither wi twa, an a third wi ane—ilkane wi the soum confeirin til his capacitie. Syne he gaed his waas out o the kintra. ( William L. Lorimer, The New Testament in Scots)
1989.14‘It is like a man going abroad, who called his servants and entrusted his capital to them; 15to one he gave five bags of gold, to another two, to another one, each according to his ability. Then he left the country.’ (The Revised English Bible)
1958.It is just like a man going abroad who called his household servants together before he went and handed his property over to them to manage. He gave one five thousand pounds, another two thousand and another one thousand—according to their respective abilities. Then he went away. ( Phillips)
1970.‘It is like a man going abroad, who called his servants and put his capital in their hands; to one he gave five bags of gold, to another two, to another one, each according to his capacity. Then he left the country.’ (New English Bible)
1982.‘For it will be as when a man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away.’ (Reader's Digest Bible)
"BIBLE." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bible
"BIBLE." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Retrieved February 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bible
The Bible has connoted different texts within different religious communities. For literate laypeople in the later Middle Ages it meant the edited Bible stories of Petrus Comestor's Historia scholastica, first published around 1170 and later translated into the vernacular all over Europe. After the Reformation the Bible could connote the canonical Bible in any of its many translations, with or without the Apocrypha; Bible excerpts in prose or verse; single books such as Ecclesiasticus or Psalms; children's Bibles; the Hebrew Scriptures for Jewish readers; or from the nineteenth century onward, often the New Testament by itself. Bible reading in the Middle Ages and sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was carefully guided by richly interpretive marginal glosses, which aided the understanding of texts of early publications of Luther, Geneva, and King James translations. This entry uses the text of The New English Bible with the Apocrypha, first published in 1970 by Oxford University Press.
Before the advent of nineteenth-century textual criticism, Bible readers commonly understood the Bible as a single coherent text manifesting the word of God. The Bible as we know it today, however, is a compilation of texts of varying antiquity, some of which are themselves based on older oral or written traditions. The Bible's most ancient components reflect the values of nomadic herding cultures and their conflicts with settled agrarian communities (e.g., God's preferring Abel's animal offering to Cain's vegetable ones). As Israelites became urbanized, Biblical texts excoriated their continuing service to alien gods such as Ba'al and Molech, as well as their devotion to city fleshpots such as Sodom and Gomorrah. Late mystical texts used striking end-of-days imagery that lived on in the writings of early Christian writers who were well-versed in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Children's Bibles and the Invention of Bible Children
With an eye to fostering Biblicity among young readers, early modern editors of the Bible's histories revised children's ages downward. Noah's grown son Ham became a disrespectful child, and Isaac was gradually made younger, from a medieval thirty-seven (derived from Josephus's estimate) to a frightened but obedient child of seven or eight.
Petrus Comestor altered Bible narratives significantly in his Latin Historia scholastica. In his telling, Ham's report to his brothers of their father's drunken nakedness became punishable filial impiety by the addition of the adjective ridens ("laughing"). Later redactors of Bible histories for children attempted to account for Absalom's rebellion by transforming his Biblical handsomeness into an external ugliness that automatically connoted internal sinfulness, despite the fact that David's paternal neglect and personal failings accounted for many of Absalom's rebellious acts. In a reverse direction, the "fine" baby Moses, Israel's heroic leader, took on ever greater handsomeness in children's Bibles between the seventeenth and twenty-first centuries.
Obedience gradually emerged as the primary virtue among children in children's Bibles, joined by hard work from 1750 onward in Bibles for children of the laboring classes; Bible stories were changed or invented to accommodate obedience and industry. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Catholic authors of devotional literature for children created biographies describing Mary's (Biblically nonexistent) childhood and vastly expanded the few facts of Jesus' early years. School religious dramas also expanded popular acquaintance with Biblical figures' fictive childhoods. Such dramas existed in the Middle Ages, but the genre gained impetus as a form of educational exercise in France in the seventeenth century and in England in the eighteenth.
The descriptions of children and childhood that are widely believed to exist in the Bible are largely the product of Bible stories in prose or dramatic form, each of which reflects the values of the age that produced it: nineteenth-century awareness of a child such as Samuel, for example, resembles a nineteenth-century childhood as its author envisioned it.
Girls and Boys in the Canonical Bible
Childhood in the canonical Bible presents different images altogether. Biblical girls were married to close relatives to form advantageous alliances that consolidated family networks by marrying a daughter to a close relative. Outside the family, fathers used daughters' marriages to forge political bonds, as when Solomon betrothed his daughter to "Pharaoh King of Egypt" (1 Kings 3:1). Beauty, modesty, and virginity comprised a daughter's most valuable attributes. A Biblical girl appeared in the role of sister only rarely and then problematically: Lot's daughters cooperated actively to carry out their plan to perpetuate their father's lineage by intoxicating him, lying with him, and mothering the Moabites and Ammonites (Gen. 19). Dinah and Tamar, each of whom suffered a sexual assault, were both avenged by a full brother for the sake of family honor and personal outrage respectively (Gen. 34; 2 Sam. 13).
Biblical boys are far more numerous than Biblical girls, consistent with the Bible's predominant male-centeredness. Generational succession followed male lineage, hence a son's name lived on far more often than a daughter's. For example, Adam (and Eve) had Cain, Abel, Seth, and "other sons and daughters" (Gen. 5:3-4). That listing heralds the Bible's numerous genealogical listings through male lines, which continue into the New Testament Gospel of the Jewish evange-list Matthew.
A dark side of generational succession appeared in Old Testament scriptures of more ancient provenance, namely that Jehovah would punish "sons and grandsons to the third and fourth generation for the sins of their fathers" (Exod. 34:7); the illness and subsequent death of the son born of David's adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12) provides a dramatic example. The secular world pragmatically adopted the same ethic, when seven grandsons of Saul (some of them no doubt adolescent or younger) were hurled to their deaths to appease the anger of the Gibeonites against Saul (2 Sam. 21), and "Zedekiah's sons were slain before his eyes" after Nebuchadnezzar defeated him (2 Kings 7; Jer. 52:10). The ethic of transferring a father's guilt to his issue shifted in later prophetical literature: Ezekiel preached that "a son shall not share his father's guilt" (Ezek. 18:20).
The stages of a Biblical boy's early life–birth, circumcision, and weaning–provided occasions for rejoicing, and in Isaac's case, "for a great feast" (Gen. 20:8). A strict hierarchy among sons granted primacy to the first born, which– according to Deuteronomy 21:16-17–had to be respected even if that son had been born to an unloved wife. Occasionally, however, primogeniture was overridden by emotion, as when Sarah forced Abraham to drive out his first-born son Ishmael (Gen. 21:9-21), when Jacob exploited Esau's hunger and Isaac's blindness to secure his brother's birthright for himself (Gen. 25:29-34; Gen. 27), or when Jacob knowingly conferred his blessing on the younger of Joseph's two sons (Gen. 48:14-20). Predictably, the Bible enjoins a son to pay attention to his father's instruction, as well as to his mother's teaching (Prov. 1:8-9; Prov. 4:1-5). Earlier texts had harshly prescribed death for such physical disobedience as striking a father or mother (Exod. 21:15, 17).
The Old Testament is filled with dramatic instances of adult fraternal strife, but only two take place between certifiable boys: Ishmael taunted Isaac (Gen. 21:9), and seventeen-year-old Joseph's brothers cast him into a pit from which he was sold into Egyptian servitude (Gen. 38:28-30). All other episodes detail strife between brothers who had attained the full or semi-independent status of economic production (herding, farming) or separate domicile: Cain versus Abel, further strife between Jacob and Esau, and Absalom versus his half-brother Amnon. Even the friendship of David and Jonathan was an adult one, as Jonathan already was a father at the time and David was long gone from the protection of his parental home.
The Bible's few sustained narratives of children and childhood–particularly those of Moses, Samuel, and David–are told quickly. Moses' infancy was recorded in emotive language: "When [his mother] saw what a fine child he was, she hid him for three months" (Exod. 2:1-2). Afterward his older sister Miriam guarded him until Pharaoh's daughter found the crying child. "Filled with pity for it, she said, 'Why, it is a little Hebrew boy.'" "Thereupon the sister," devising a clever ruse to protect her brother, "said to Pharaoh's daughter, 'Shall I go and fetch one of the Hebrew women as a wet-nurse to suckle the child for you?'" (Exod. 2:4-8). Directly afterward, Moses was "grown up" (Exod. 2:11). A small detail from the life of the boy Samuel communicates maternal care: Samuel was "a mere boy with a linen ephod fastened round him. Every year his mother made him a little cloak and took it to him.… " (1 Sam. 2:18-19). Wefurther learn that "the child Samuel was in the Lord's service under his master Eli" and that God spoke to him (1 Sam. 3:1-4). The boy David lives on as "handsome, with ruddy cheeks and bright eyes" (1 Sam. 16:11-12; 1 Sam. 17:43), a "lad" (1 Sam. 17:56) who served Saul as armor-bearer and harp-player (1 Sam. 16:21-23). When he hung around the battlefield, however, his older brother called him an "impudent rascal" (1 Sam. 17:28).
In a variety of texts, irresistible adolescent urges push aside the Bible's general sobriety. "Will a girl forget her finery?" Jeremiah asked rhetorically (Jer. 2:32). Worse was Ezekiel's inculpation of Oholah and Oholibah, two sisters who "played the whore in Egypt, played the whore while they were still girls; for they let their breasts be fondled and their virgin bosoms pressed" (Ezek. 23:3). In the New Testament Herodias's daughter danced before Herod and gained John the Baptist's head for her efforts (Mark 6:21-28), another testimony to the effective power of an adolescent girl's sexuality.
Boys' sexuality, though castigated, seems to have been more part of the daily scene. A foolish lad was easy prey for a practiced prostitute, who seduced him at twilight (Prov. 7:6-29). Paul's warning to Timothy to "turn from the wayward impulses of youth" (2 Tim. 2:22) seems part of an early warning system that included freewheeling sexuality among other dangers to adolescent virtue.
In the seventeenth century Ecclesiasticus, a now largely forgotten apocryphal book of the Bible, counted as a child-rearing manual. Often published separately for children's use, it was equally often the only part of the Bible known by the young. Ecclesiasticus offered a wealth of practical advice for living a safe and sober life. It began by urging a son to respect his parents and continued by recognizing parents' fears for their daughters' virtue and well-being (Ecclus. 22:3-5 and passim).
Differences between Old and New Testament Imagery of Children and Childhood
In a New Testament reprise of Old Testament ferocity, Herod massacred "all children in Bethlehem" (Matt. 1:16) just as Pharaoh had instigated an indiscriminate murder of Jewish boys (Exod. 1:15-22). Similarly present in both testaments were child healings. The Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha each had restored a boy to life (1 Kings 17:17-23; 2 Kings 4:18-37). In the New Testament, however, Jesus cured and revived girls and boys alike: the twelve-year-old daughter of the synagogue president Jairus (Matt. 9:25; Mark 5:42; Luke 8:40-42, 49-56), a "young daughter" possessed by an unclean spirit (Mark 7:25-30), a "boy" possessed by a "deaf and dumb" spirit (Mark 9:17-27), and an officer's son in Capernaum (John 4:43-53), while Paul and Silas together cured an Israelite slave girl possessed by an oracular spirit (Acts 16:16-18).
Jesus repeatedly used the word "children" to mean "adherents" (as in "children of the Kingdom," Matt 13:38) and to indicate spiritual advancement ("the Kingdom of God belongs to children," Mark 10:14-15). Jesus identified himself as a little child and proclaimed that whoever received "one of these children in my name… receives me" (Mark 9:36-37; Luke 9:46-48). Jesus also treated children as representations of innocence, simplicity, and helplessness in some of his preaching (Matt 18:1-6; Matt 19:14).
New Testament writing assumed that parents would lovingly nurture their children (Luke 11:11-13). Paul, for instance, referred allegorically to providential parenting to represent the relationship between divinity and followers of Jesus: "Parents should make provision for their children, not children for their parents" (2 Cor. 12:14). The first letter of John actually addressed one verse to real rather than metaphorical "children" (1 John 2:13), a rarity in the New Testament and in John's own letters, where "my children" generally refers to adults who are spiritual children.
In most respects New Testament depictions of and references to childhood differ fundamentally from those in the Old Testament. Portrayed overwhelmingly in their vulnerability, Old Testament children fall victim to war and oppression and communicate Jewish suffering as men and women also experienced it. The seventy children of Ahab who remained behind in Samaria with their tutors were beheaded, their heads transported in baskets to Israel and dumped on the ground at the city gate (2 Kings 10:1-11). Equally savage, "the Medes… have no pity on little children and spare no mother's son" (Isaiah 13:17-18). Suffering the effects of siege, "children and infants faint in the streets of the town and cry to their mothers,… gasping out their lives in their mothers' bosom" (Lam. 2:11-12); "the sucking infant's tongue cleaves to its palate from thirst; young children beg for bread but no one offers them a crumb" (Lam. 4:4). Doing Saul's bidding, Doeg "put to the sword every living being, men and women, children and babes in arms" (1 Sam. 22:19).
Even within their own families danger lurked. Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac to demonstrate his fidelity to Jehovah (Gen. 22), and later fathers returning from Exile dismissed the children they had fathered with foreign wives (Ezra 10). Even a grandmother might turn murderous, although six-year-old Joah escaped Athalial's wrath by hiding with his nurse in the house of the Lord for six years (2 Kings 11:1-3).
Old Testament children were parental possessions of the father who had sired them; they comprised his personal worth and added to his individual wealth. This understanding echoes in Jacob's declaration that his two grandsons Ephraim and Manassah counted as his own (Gen. 48:5). Ownership implied the right of disposal: on occasion hungry parents pledged their children to pay their own debts (Neh. 5:1-6). In the worst case, children became food for their starving parents. The statement that "tender-hearted women with their own hands boiled their own children, their children became their food in the day of my people's wounding" (Lam. 4:10) was followed by the anguished cry, "Must women eat the fruit of their wombs, the children they have brought safely to birth?" (Lam. 2:20). Of all children, orphans who lacked familial protection were the most vulnerable. Hence, already in the Pentateuch the people of Israel were adjured not to ill treat "a fatherless child" (Exod. 22:23).
Various prophetical authors of the Old Testament drew on metaphors of childhood to describe Israel's eventual restoration: Israel would suck the milk of nations (Isa. 60:16) and be fed from the breasts that give comfort (Isa. 66:11). In Isaiah's vision, "a little child shall lead [the calf and the lion]… the infant shall play over the hole of a cobra, and the young child shall dance over the viper's nest" (Isa. 11:6, 8). Isaiah's infantine image was meant to communicate safety within a mortally threatening environment, but it also communicates a sense of utter vulnerability among the young. Prophetical authors often used metaphors of childhood to convey devastating fear: death "sweeps off the children in the open air" (Jer. 9:21), while the people of Israel were characterized as the most vulnerable of the young, "fatherless children" (Jer. 49:11; Jer. 51:22) and "babes [who] will fall by the sword and be dashed to the ground" (Hos. 13:16).
Joseph and his brothers generated an enormous literature, both fictional (e.g., Thomas Mann) and scholarly, including linguistic analysis. The sacrifice of first-born sons in the context of Mediterranean Moloch rituals and requirements in later texts to dedicate a child to God, as well as investigations of birth order comprise the principle research subjects addressed to date.
See also: Theories of Childhood.
Bottigheimer, Ruth B. 1996. The Bible for Children: From the Age of Gutenberg to the Present. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Daube, David. 1942. "How Esau Sold his Birthright." Cambridge Law Journal 8: 70-75.
Hayward, R. 1981. "The Present State of Research into the Targumic Account of the Sacrifice of Isaac." Journal of the Study of Judaism 32: 127-150.
Heider, George C. 1985. The Cult of Molek: A Reassessment. Sheffield England: JSOT Press.
Levenson, Jon. 1993. The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Longacre, Robert E. 1989. Joseph: A Story of Divine Providence. A Text Theoretical and Text Linguistic Analysis of Genesis 37 and 39-48. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns.
Mendelsohn, Isaac. 1959. "On the Preferential Status of the Eldest Son." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 156: 38-40.
Weinfeld, Moshe. 1972. "The Worship of Molech and of the Queen of Heaven and Its Background." Ugarit-Forschungen 4: 133-154.
Ruth B. Bottigheimer
"Bible, the." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bible
"Bible, the." Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. . Retrieved February 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/children/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bible
BIBLE. No book has influenced American history and culture more than the Bible. For legions of American Protestants, who inherited the Reformation's slogan of "Scripture alone," the English Bible functioned not only as a working text but as the icon of a word-centered piety that supposedly transcended superstition and built religion on solid empirical foundations. To the extent that Protestants once dominated American religious culture, this veneration of vernacular Scripture influenced other groups, including Roman Catholics and Jews, who published their own biblical translations partly as a statement of their American identity. Indeed, for Americans of many denominations, the Bible was long the wellspring of national mythology, although the prevailing biblical stories and imagery changed with time and circumstance.
The Puritan colonies of seventeenth-century New England were arguably the most biblically saturated culture America has ever known. America in Puritan eyes was the New Israel, although this Old Testament image always coexisted with the New Testament image of the primitive, gathered church, uncorrupted by the accretions of "invented" human traditions. Puritan emphasis on Scripture as the antidote to Catholic "superstition" led to much higher rates of literacy in the New England colonies than in any other part of British America or most of England. Probate records reveal that Puritan families who could afford only a few books invariably owned a copy of the Scriptures, either the Geneva Bible (a copiously annotated version begun during the reign of Mary Tudor and published in 1560, or the King James, or Authorized, Bible (a new translation published in 1611 that preserved the verse-numbering system introduced by the Geneva version but eliminated the heavily Calvinist doctrinal glosses).
Even outside of New England, the Bible's influence in the American colonies was considerable. Biblical passages against adultery, blasphemy, sodomy, witchcraft, and other practices influenced legal codes across the American colonies. European settlers also tended to draw on the Bible in the encounter with the Native Americans, whom they variously interpreted as existing in a state of Edenic innocence or as resembling the Canaanites who had to be driven out of the Promised Land.
The first complete Bible printed in America originated in the English encounter with Native Americans. John Eliot's Indian Bible (1663), a translation into the Massachusett language, was one of a number of non-English Bibles published during the colonial period, including several editions of Luther's German translation, printed in Germantown, Pennsylvania, in the 1740s. The English Bible was not printed in America until 1777, when the war with England, which curtailed international trade and halted importation of British Bibles, prompted Robert Aitken of Philadelphia to print an American edition of the King James New Testament.
The Bible market in the early republic would soon include other English versions as well. After Aitken published the entire King James Bible in 1782, the Irish Catholic printer Mathew Carey printed the Catholic Douay Bible in Philadelphia in 1790. Most Protestant Bibles lacked the Apocrypha, or Deuterocanonical books, which Catholics regarded as authoritative, and Carey's edition filled this void. The Protestant King James Version, however, continued to be required reading in many public schools, leading to periodic conflicts between Catholics and Protestants, especially during the 1840s when large numbers of Catholic immigrants arrived in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, and other cities. Riots in Philadelphia in 1844 over which Bible to use in the public schools left thirteen people dead and whole blocks of Irish homes in ruins.
Yet the presence of Catholics, and Catholic Bibles, did not deter antebellum American Protestants, who entertained sweeping visions of a Protestant America founded on the rock of Holy Writ. The American Bible Society, founded in 1816 by the consolidation of over one hundred local societies, distributed millions of Bibles in successive campaigns to put a copy of the King James Bible in every American home. Scores of other antebellum reform societies invoked the Scriptures to combat perceived ills such as intemperance and Sabbath breaking. Meanwhile, the Bible was a touchstone for a variety of antebellum religious prophets, from Latter-day Saints founder Joseph Smith, who penned The Book of Mormon (1830) in the familiar idiom of the King James Version, to the lay preacher William Miller, who calculated from biblical evidence that the Second Coming of Christ would occur in 1843.
The Civil War
Perhaps nowhere did the Bible loom larger in the nineteenth century than in the debate over slavery, which revealed as never before the difficulties of forging a universally acceptable civil religion based on Scripture. As President Abraham Lincoln said of North and South in his second inaugural address, "Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other." For its opponents, slavery called into question the old Puritan identification of America as the New Israel. America instead appeared as Egypt, the land of bondage, which could only be escaped by crossing the "Red Sea of war," as the prominent Brooklyn preacher,
Henry Ward Beecher, put it in a famous 1861 sermon. African American Christians used the biblical Exodus motif extensively in preaching, political oratory, and spirituals, even as Southern white supporters of slavery appealed to the "curse of Ham" (Genesis 9:25) as a divine warrant for keeping dark-skinned peoples in perpetual servitude. The New Testament also admitted of conflicting interpretations on the slavery question. Slavery's opponents frequently invoked Paul's declaration that "there is neither bond nor free … for ye are all one in Jesus Christ" (Galatians 3:28), while slavery's supporters cited Paul's admonition to servants to "obey in all things your masters" (Colossians 3:22).
The exegetical impasse over slavery contributed indirectly to future ideological divisions among American Protestants. On the one hand, it hastened the advent of modern Protestant liberalism, which tended to relativize biblical texts that were not amenable to a progressive ethic. This liberal theology, in turn, provoked a reaction within Protestant denominations from conservative parties determined to uphold the authority of Scripture as a timeless moral and doctrinal standard.
The Bible and Modern Scholarship
The greatest challenge to traditional biblical authority, however, would come from American colleges and theological seminaries, where a generation of antebellum scholars had pioneered critical biblical studies in America. These antebellum scholars included the Unitarians Andrews Norton and George Rapall Noyes and the Congregationalists Edward Robinson and Moses Stuart. After the Civil War, as American scholars looked to the German model of the research university, American biblical studies developed rapidly on two fronts, known popularly as higher and lower criticism.
Higher or historical critics tended to question the accuracy of biblical history as well as traditional assumptions about biblical authorship (for example, that Moses wrote the Pentateuch). Among the most celebrated higher critics was Charles Augustus Briggs, who was suspended from the Presbyterian Church in 1893 but retained on the faculty of Union Theological Seminary in New York City, which severed its Presbyterian ties because of the affair. Historical criticism also influenced the female authors of The Woman's Bible (1895–1898), an early feminist Bible commentary whose chief contributor, the woman suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, argued that the Scriptures "bear the impress of fallible man." Meanwhile, opponents of higher criticism, including the Princeton Seminary professors Archibald Alexander Hodge and Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, were constructing elaborate defenses of biblical infallibility and inerrancy, arguing that apparent historical, geographic, or scientific errors in Scripture stemmed from incomplete knowledge or misunderstandings on the part of interpreters.
Lower or textual critics were concerned with the most accurate reconstruction of the biblical text from the immense array of surviving manuscript variants. Their work assisted Bible translators, who drew on new manuscript discoveries to improve the English text of Scripture. The Revised Version (1881–1885), a British American translation and the first major new English Bible since 1611, was a transatlantic publishing sensation that provoked criticism from Americans still committed to the cherished language of the King James Bible. Opposition to modern translations reached a climax with the Revised Standard Version (1952), which many fundamentalist Protestants vilified as a symbol of the liberal church establishment. By the latter half of the twentieth century, however, the American publishing market was awash in Bibles of every denominational and ideological stripe, even as polls showed relatively low levels of biblical literacy among Americans. The Catholic New American Bible (1970), the evangelical Protestant New International Version (1978), and the Jewish Publication Society Tanakh (1985) were among dozens of translations and annotated editions in print.
The Bible's continuing influence in twentieth-century American culture was particularly evident in American politics. In crafting his philosophy of nonviolent resistance during the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr. drew on themes of social justice in the Hebrew prophets as well as Jesus' radical demands for love in the Sermon on the Mount. Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1963 outlawed Bible reading in the opening exercises of public schools. This was one of a series of legal cases that helped galvanize political conservatives, who accused liberals of seeking to dethrone Scripture as the standard of American morality. By the 1980s, a powerful new religious right, led by Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell, Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson, and other advocates of biblical norms in public and private morality, helped Ronald Reagan win two terms as president. The Bible remained a presence in politics at the turn of the twenty-first century, particularly in battles over gay and lesbian rights, with conservatives citing Leviticus 20:13 and Romans 1:24-32 to condemn homosexuality, and liberals echoing biblical refrains about justice and the equality of all persons in Christ.
Armory, Hugh, and David D. Hall, eds. A History of the Book in America. Volume 1: The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Barlow, Philip L. Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.
Brown, Jerry Wayne. The Rise of Biblical Criticism in America, 1800–1870: The New England Scholars. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1969.
Fogarty, Gerald P. American Catholic Biblical Scholarship: A History from the Early Republic to Vatican II. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989.
Gaustad, Edwin S., and Walter Harrelson, eds. The Bible in American Culture. 6 vols. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982–1985.
Gutjahr, Paul C. An American Bible: A History of the Good Book in the United States, 1777–1880. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999.
Hatch, Nathan O., and Mark A. Noll, eds. The Bible in America: Essays in Cultural History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.
Noll, Mark A. Between Faith and Criticism: Evangelicals, Scholar-ship, and the Bible in America. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1986.
———. "The Bible and Slavery." In Religion and the American Civil War. Edited by Randall M. Miller, Harry S. Stout, and Charles Reagan Wilson. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Thuesen, Peter J. In Discordance with the Scriptures: American Protestant Battles over Translating the Bible. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Wimbush, Vincent L., ed. African Americans and the Bible: Sacred Texts and Social Textures. New York: Continuum, 2000.
Wosh, Peter J. Spreading the Word: The Bible Business in Nineteenth-Century America. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994.
"Bible." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bible
"Bible." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved February 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bible
Bible [Gr.,=the books], term used since the 4th cent. to denote the Christian Scriptures and later, by extension, those of various religious traditions. This article discusses the nature of religious scripture generally and the Christian Scriptures specifically, as well as the history of the translation of the Bible into English. For the composition and the canon of the Hebrew and Christian Bible, see Old Testament; New Testament; Apocrypha; Pseudepigrapha.
The Nature of Scripture
The sacred writings of the religions of the world exhibit a variety of genres—prayers, visions, ritual, moral codes, myths, historical narratives, legends, and revelatory discourses. Such works have tended to be transmitted orally at first and committed to writing at a later date. This is true of much of the content of the Christian Bible as well as of the Hindu Vedas and the Jewish Mishnah.
The sacred character of such writings is accorded them by communities that have come to value the traditions they embody. Scripture is also perceived in some sense as heavenly in origin—the Qur'an and the Book of Mormon are good examples of this. Religious communities value highly those who interpret their scriptures at both the scholarly and popular levels. Translation of scripture into the vernacular, though resisted in some religious traditions, is a common phenomenon. However, the original Arabic of the Qur'an is regarded as the actual words of God, and therefore as sacrosanct, and is printed alongside its translation. Translations can assume the status of inspired text, as did the Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures (the Septuagint) in Hellenistic Jewish and Christian communities. The process of canonizing scripture has been an extended one in many religious traditions, e.g., the Jewish, Christian, and Buddhist faiths. Other traditions authorized their respective bodies of scripture early, e.g., the Sikhs, Muslims, and Manichaeans. Inspiration is an adjunct of the idea of the divine authority of scripture.
The role of scripture in the life of the community involves its public recitation or reading at worship, its veneration as a cult object, and its citation in public prayer and in prescribing appropriate rituals. In the private devotional life of the faithful, scripture is the focus of meditation. The use of scripture to function as a charm to ward off evil or to induce healing is also common. Scripture is also the inspiration for cultural expression in art, music, and literature.
The Bible as Christian Scripture
The traditional Christian view of the Bible is that it was written under the guidance of God and that it therefore conveys truth, either literally or figuratively. In recent times the view of many Christians has been influenced by the pronouncements of critics (see higher criticism); this has produced a counteraction in the form of fundamentalism, whose chief emphasis has been on the literal inerrancy of the Bible. The interpretation of the Bible is one of the traditional points of difference between Protestants, who believe that the Scriptures speak for themselves, and Roman Catholics, who hold that the church has ultimate authority in the interpretation of the Scriptures.
English Translations of the Christian Bible
John Wyclif was one of the first to project the publication and distribution of the Bible in the vernacular among the English people, and two translations go by his name. In the 15th cent. the Lollards did much to extend the use of the Wyclifite translation. The next name in the history of the English Bible is that of William Tyndale, whose translation was not from the Latin Vulgate, like Wyclif's, but from the Hebrew and Greek. Its quality is attested by its use as a basis of the Authorized Version. Tyndale's New Testament (1525–26) was the first English translation to be printed. Contemporary with Tyndale was Miles Coverdale. The second version of Coverdale and the translation of Thomas Matthew closely followed Tyndale. In 1539 the English crown issued its first official version, in the name of Henry VIII. This, the Great Bible, was done principally by Coverdale. The Geneva Bible, or Breeches Bible, was a revision of the Great Bible, financed and annotated by the Calvinists of Geneva. The Bishops' Bible (1568) was a recasting of Tyndale.
The greatest of all English translations was the Authorized Version (AV), or King James Version (KJV), of 1611, made by a committee of churchmen led by Lancelot Andrewes and composed of many of the finest scholars in England. The beautiful English of this version has had great influence and is generally ranked in English literature with the work of Shakespeare. The phraseology of much of it is that of Tyndale. The Douay, or Rheims-Douay, Version was published by Roman Catholic scholars at Reims (New Testament, 1582) and Douai, France (Old Testament, 1610); it was extensively revised by Richard Challoner. In the 19th cent. the project of revising the Authorized Version from the original tongues was undertaken by the Church of England with the cooperation of nonconformist churches. The results of this revision were the English Revised Version and the American Revised Version (pub. 1880–90).
Many scholars, either cooperatively or independently, have translated the Bible into English. In other literatures, also, the translation of the Bible has had a formative effect on the literary language, notably in the case of Martin Luther's German translation. Occasionally translation of the Bible has been the first or the only notable work in a language, e.g., the translation by Ulfilas into Gothic.
In the 20th cent., American biblical scholars combined to produce the Revised Standard Version (RSV), published in 1952 and immediately adopted by many churches. A completely new translation, the work of a joint committee of representatives of all Protestant denominations in Great Britain, aided by Roman Catholic consultants, was begun in 1946. The New Testament was first published in 1961, and the entire Bible, called The New English Bible, appeared in 1970. New Roman Catholic translations were also undertaken, the Westminster Version in England, and a complete revision of the Rheims-Douay edition sponsored by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine in the United States. The latter, after undergoing several major revisions and retranslations, was finally published as the New American Bible (1970). In addition, an English translation of the French Catholic Bible de Jerusalem (1961) appeared as the Jerusalem Bible (1966). A revision of the RSV was published in 1989 as the New Revised Standard Version.
See The Cambridge History of the Bible (3 vol., 1963–70); F. F. Bruce and E. G. Rupp, ed., Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition (1968); F. M. Denny and R. L. Taylor, The Holy Bible in Comparative Perspective (1985); H. M. Orlinsky and R. M. Bratcher, A History of Bible Translation and the North American Contribution (1991); J. Miles, God: A Biography (1995); J. L. Kugel, The Bible as It Was (1997); R. E. Friedman, The Hidden Book of the Bible (1998); C. Murphy, The Word According to Eve (1998); D. H. Akensen, Surpassing Wonder: The Invention of the Bible and the Talmuds (1999); A. Nicolson, God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible (2003); B. Chilton et al., ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Bible (2007); H. Hamlin and N. W. Jones, ed., The King James Bible after Four Hundred Years (2011).
"Bible." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bible
"Bible." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved February 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bible
The first English translations were patchy and spasmodic—paraphrases attributed to Cædmon (c.680), Bede's translation of part of John's Gospel (673–735), 9th–10th-cent. glosses, free translations of Genesis 1–12, Psalms 1–50, the gospels (10th cent.), and Middle English metrical versions. The first full versions were 14th-cent. NT translations from the Vulgate, made under lollard influence. Illicit MS translations continued to appear, until a powerful impetus was provided by printing of the Vulgate (1456), the Hebrew text (1488), and Erasmus' Greek NT (1516), which inspired Tyndale to make the first English NT translation from the original Greek in Worms (1526) and of the Pentateuch from the original Hebrew (1529–30). Coverdale, whose first complete English Bible (1535) was partly based on Tyndale, superintended publication of the Great Bible (1539–40), which Thomas Cromwell ordered to be placed in churches. A new version (1557), issued in Geneva—the first with verse-divisions—formed the basis of the so-called Geneva Bible, dedicated to Elizabeth (1560) and widely read at all levels in her reign. Parker, however, authorized yet another, this time more Latinate, revision of the Great Bible, the Bishops' Bible (1568)—also with verse-divisions, but ‘incompetent, both in its scholarship and verbosity’. Meanwhile exiled English catholics in Rheims translated their own NT from the Vulgate (1582), followed by the OT at Douai (1609–10). At the Hampton Court conference (1604) James I commissioned a panel of 54 to produce the King James (or so-called Authorized) Version of 1611, a comprehensive revision of previous translations, using the Latinate Bishops' Bible as the basis. In fact, the translators wisely relied heavily on the Geneva version and therefore Tyndale (without attribution), though with some unfortunate Latinized-English amendments. Its superb quality enabled it to supplant all previous versions, and for 250 years it was the only one used. It supplied the epistles and gospels for the 1662 Prayer Book, though Coverdale was retained for the psalms. The next two centuries saw little new, except for slight revisions in John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the New Testament (1755) and in the catholic Rheims–Douai version (1749–50). Though new scholarship led to a conservative Revised Version (1881–5), translations proliferated in the 20th cent.: James Moffatt (1922, 1924), Ronald Knox (1945, 1949), followed by the Revised Standard Version (1952)—embodying modern scholarship and meaning, but retaining the Tyndale–King James style—the New English Bible (1961, 1970), Jerusalem Bible (catholic) (1966), and others. The influence of the Bible, especially of the 1611 version and thus Tyndale, on English culture and language has been incalculable, not only in literature, but in daily aphorisms and forms of thought. This version spread to America and round the growing British empire. It has been admired for ‘its simplicity, its dignity, its power, its happy turns of expression … the music of its cadences, and the felicities of its rhythm’. For Victor Hugo England had ‘two books, the Bible and Shakespeare; England made Shakespeare, but the Bible made England.’ The emphasis placed on Bible reading was a great incentive to book publication. Though protestant fundamentalists regard it as literally inspired, most Christians, catholic, evangelical, or liberal, for whom Christianity is a religion of a person not a book, use it as a basic source. Politically too it has been rummaged for causes both revolutionary and reactionary. It can be all things to all men. As William Blake put it, ‘Both read the bible day and night, but thou read'st black where I read white.’ For Macaulay, ‘if everything else in our language should perish, [the Bible] would alone suffice to show the whole extent of its beauty and power’.
Revd Dr William M. Marshall
"Bible." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bible
"Bible." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Retrieved February 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bible
See also 53. BOOKS ; 69. CATHOLICISM ; 80. CHRISTIANITY ; 183. GOD and GODS ; 203. HELL ; 205. HERESY ; 231. JUDAISM ; 332. PROTESTANTISM ; 349. RELIGION ; 392. THEOLOGY .
- 1 . religious writings of disputed origin, regarded by many author-ities as uncanonical.
- 2 . (capitalized) a group of 15 books, not part of the canonical Hebrew Bible, but present in the Septuagint and Vulgate and hence accepted by some as biblical. —apocryphal , adj.
- a strict following of the teachings of the Bible.
- 1. an expert in biblical text and exegesis.
- 2 . a person who strictly follows the teachings of the Bible.
- the destruction of books, especially the Bible. —biblioclast , n.
- bibliolater, bibliolatrist
- a person who respects the Bible excessively and interprets it literally.
- a form of divination using books, especially the Bible, in which passages are chosen at random and the future foretold from them.
- a doublé reading or interpretation, especially of a Bible passage.
- the introduction by an interpreter of his own ideas into a text under explication.
- the author of part of the first six books in the Old Testament, so named because of references to God as Elohim. Cf. Yahwist.
- critical explication or interpretation of Scripture.
- the branch of theology that specializes in interpretation, or exegesis, of Biblical literature. Historically, exegetes have recognized four levels of meaning in the Bible: the historical or literal, the allegorical, the moral, and the anagogical or mystical, putting emphasis on the necessity of a foundation for the latter three in the literal sense. —exegete, n.
- exegetist, exegist
- an exegete; one skilled in exegesis.
- the rationale of conservative American Protestants who regard the Bible as free of errors or contradictions and emphasize its literal interpretation, usually without reference to modern scholarship. Also called literalism . —fundamentalist, n., adj.
- the science of interpretation and explanation, especially the branch of theology that deals with the general principles of Biblical interpretation. —hermeneut, hermeneutist, n.
- Higher Criticism
- the analysis of Biblical materials that aims to ascertain, from internal evidence, authorship, date, and intent. Cf. Lower Criticism.
- 1. the theories of John Hutchinson, an 18th-century Yorkshireman, who disputed Newton’s theory of gravitation and maintained that a system of natural science was to be found in the Old Testament.
- 2. the tenets of the followers of Mrs. Anne Hutchinson, an antinomian who lived in the early days of the Massachusetts Colony. —Hutchinsonian, adj.
- the belief in inspiration arising from the Scriptures. —inspirationist, n. —inspirative, adj.
- a branch of theology that is introductory to actual exegesis, empha-sizing the literary and cultural history of Biblical writings. —isagogic, adj.
- a reading from a text, especially a reading from the Bible as part of a church service.
- a list of the lections, or texts, to be read in church services through-out the canonical year.
- 1. fundamentalism.
- 2. Scripturalism. —literalist, n., adj.
- Lower Criticism
- the study of Biblical materials that intends to reconstruct their original texts in preparation for the tasks of Higher Criticism. Cf. Higher Criticism.
- the spurious writings (other than the canonical books and the Apocrypha) professing to be biblical in character, as the Books of Enoch. —pseudepigraphic, pseudepigraphical, pseudepigraphous, adj.
- a strict compliance with the literal interpretation of the Bible. Also called literalism.
- a Biblical scholar who arranges side-by-side excerpts from the first three Gospels to show their resemblances in event, chronology, and language. —synoptic, adj.
- 1. the writer of a Targum, a translation or paraphrase into Aramaic of a portion of the Old Testament.
- 2. an authority on Targumic literature. —Targumic, Targumistic, adj.
- the practice of adhering strictly to the Scriptures. —textualist, textuary, n.
- a textualist.
- a person who explains the Scriptures in terms of tropes, or figures of speech.
- a method of interpreting biblical literature emphasizing the moral implications of the tropes, or figures of speech, used in its composition. —tropological, adj.
- the analysis of symbolism, especially of the meaning of Scripture types. —typologist, n. —typological, adj.
- the author of part of the first six books in the Old Testament, so named because of numerous references therein to God as Yahweh (Jehovah). Cf. Elohist.
"Bible." -Ologies and -Isms. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bible
"Bible." -Ologies and -Isms. . Retrieved February 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bible
The earliest Hebrew term for the Bible was ha-seferim (the books), the Greek translation of which is ta biblia. The notion of a canon of scripture is distinctively Jewish, and the Jews saw themselves as separate from other people in their devotion to the Bible (cf. the aphorism of BEN GURION).
The Christian Bible consists of two parts, the Old and the New Testaments. The Christian Old Testament corresponds to the Hebrew Bible. Roman Catholic and Orthodox Bibles also include other books and parts of books which belonged to the Septuagint version of the Jewish scriptures. Until recently Roman Catholics usually cited the names of books in the Vulgate form. Protestant Bibles restrict the Old Testament to the Hebrew canon, segregating these other writings as the Apocrypha, or omitting them.
The New Testament was formed as the second part of the Christian Bible when at an early date churches began to regard certain of their own writings in Greek, especially if of apostolic origin, as of equal authority and inspiration to those inherited from Judaism. It attained its present form in the 4th cent., comprising four Gospels, Acts, thirteen epistles of Paul, seven catholic epistles, and Revelation. By the 5th cent. there were translations of the New Testament into Syriac, Armenian, Coptic, Latin (see VULGATE), and Ethiopic. See also CANON.
Christian understandings of the provenance of the Bible are unlike that of Muslims of the Qur'ān. While recognizing the initiative of God (especially through (the agency of) the Holy Spirit) in bringing these words into being, they have largely abandoned theories of ‘divine dictation’, as though the human author/poet/prophet, etc., simply ‘took down’ the words dictated. The process is seen as one in which the work is concursive, with God not by-passing, or overruling, the human competence and social circumstances of the writer. For this reason, Muslims, who acknowledge Jews and Christians as ‘people of the Book’ (ahl al-kitāb), regard the Bible as defective and compromised when compared with the Qur'ān.
"Bible." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bible
"Bible." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved February 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bible
Bi·ble / ˈbībəl/ • n. (the Bible) the Christian scriptures, consisting of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. ∎ (the Bible) the Jewish scriptures, consisting of the Torah or Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa or Writings. ∎ (also bible) a copy of the Christian or Jewish scriptures: clutching a large black Bible under his arm. ∎ a particular edition or translation of the Bible: the New English Bible. ∎ (bible) inf. any authoritative book: “Larousse Gastronomique,” the bible of French cooking. ∎ the scriptures of any religion. ORIGIN: Middle English: via Old French from ecclesiastical Latin biblia, from Greek biblia ‘books,’ from biblion ‘book,’ originally a diminutive of biblos ‘papyrus, scroll,’ of Semitic origin.
"Bible." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bible-1
"Bible." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved February 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bible-1
The Bible is traditionally regarded by Christians as having divine authority, though they disagree on how it should be interpreted. The medieval Catholic Church suppressed translations of the Latin text into the vernacular, and only at the Reformation did they become widely available; among English translations the Authorized or King James Version of 1611 made a lasting impression on English culture. Since the 19th century, the methods of critical scholarship have been applied to the Bible as a historical text, though fundamentalist belief in its literal truth has become prominent in the 20th century.
Bible Belt those areas of the southern and middle western United States and western Canada where Protestant fundamentalism is widely practised.
"Bible, the." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bible
"Bible, the." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved February 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bible
"Bible." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bible
"Bible." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved February 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bible
"Bible." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bible-2
"Bible." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved February 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bible-2
This entry includes two subentries:INTERPRETATION TRANSLATIONS AND EDITIONS
"Bible." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bible-0
"Bible." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. . Retrieved February 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bible-0
"Bible." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 26, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bible-0
"Bible." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved February 26, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/bible-0