Music floated across the valley on the chilly night air. A young man, in his teens, sat by a campfire. Across his lap lay his instrument. From its strings, he plucked a few notes trying to give voice to his emotions – fear, dread, confusion and the hope that it would all work out for the best.
The notes he played began to form a melody. He added some words. Slowly, the frustrations of the day found expression. And slowly, he began to see the solution to his problems – it was right there in the words of his song. “The Lord is my shepherd,” he sang. “I shall not want.”
He sang it one more time to etch it into his memory. Tomorrow he would write it down with his other songs. But for now, he wanted sleep. He lay his instrument aside, pulled his blanket close and gazed for a while at the dying embers.
In a few moments, David, the son of Jesse and soon king of Israel, slept soundly under the starry skies.
God may have given David an inkling of what would become of his songs, he may have shown David that these songs would one day be included in the most important book ever written. No doubt if He did, David was dumbfounded! He must have found it hard to believe that God would use the songs of a teenager to help reveal His plan.
Since David’s day, the Bible has become the world’s all-time best-seller. Through the years more than 2,000,000,000 copies have been printed. It has been translated into nearly 300 languages and dialects.
If the Bible is so widely available, why do so few people know much about it? Where did it come from? How did it get to us here in 2017?
Does the Bible have a purpose? What is it? Do you know who its authors were or what languages they wrote in? Did David really talk like Shakespeare?
But the biggest question of all: Does the Bible have any relevance to us today? We’ll look at that last question first.
From the beginning of time God has had a plan. He has created a way that will allow Him to share with humanity the joy and happiness that He Himself enjoys.
But He gave us only one record of what that plan is-- the Holy Bible. Nowhere else can you find the details of His plan.
Only in the Bible can you find record of God’s creation of the universe, the specifics of His law and His ultimate purpose for humanity. The Holy Bible is the most important book ever to be copied or printed. That is why it is important to have a good understanding of how the book itself came to be, of how God used humans to preserve His Word through the centuries.
In the beginning, God created quite a few things. He did not, however, create the English language. Even Hebrew, the language in which the Old Testament was written in, wasn’t in use until about 1600 B.C.
In the mid-1400s B.C., God inspired Moses to begin writing the first parts of the Bible as the nation of Israel journeyed through the Sinai Peninsula. In those long years, Moses composed the first five books of the Bible, today known as the Pentateuch (Greek for “five books”). The Pentateuch is the first of the three traditional divisions of the Old Testament. It is called the Torah in Hebrew, meaning “the law,” since it is here that God first reveals His law.
By 400 B.C. God had inspired His servants, including many prophets, to write the remaining books of the Old Testament. These have traditionally been lumped into two groups, the prophets and the writings. The prophets include books like Ezekiel and Isaiah that reveal what will happen in the future. The writings include more poetic works like Psalms and Job.
Between about 400 B.C. and A.D. 40, no new books were added to Scripture. But this doesn’t mean that things stood still in the history of the Bible.
In these years, the Greek language had become the universal language of the Mediterranean world. By 285 B.C., so many Jews in scattered areas had forgotten Hebrew and had begun speaking Greek that it became necessary to translate the Old Testament into Greek. That translation, the first major translation of a part of the Bible, was called the Septuagint (Greek for “70” because tradition had it that 70 translators worked on it). It seems the Septuagint is the translation that Jesus and His disciples quoted from.
It was this Greek translation of the Bible that was to help spread Christianity throughout the Mediterranean area. Had the Scriptures remained in Hebrew, only a few religious scholars would have been able to understand them. The Septuagint made it possible for the apostles to explain the Scriptures in a language most people knew well.
When the New Testament books were added to the Bible after A.D. 40, they were written in Greek.
The Bible is in other languages today, though. A good thing too, since hardly anybody speaks Greek anymore. Today the Bible, or portions of it, is available in nearly every language.
The Bible began making its way into English in the A.D. 1300s, but none of the translations pleased everybody.
Finally, in 1611, King James I authorized the printing of a translation today called the Authorized or King James Version. It became the most popular English translation ever, largely because of its careful approach to the Scriptures. Its grand, Shakespearean language is considered some of the most beautiful ever written in English. Even today, this is the best-selling version of the Bible in the world.
Best-selling? Yes. Only selling? No. since 1900, the world has been flooded with new English-language versions of the Bible. The Revised Standard Version, the New International Version, the New English Bible and the Moffatt translation are some of the most respected of these.
In the late 1970s, the Authorized Version was updated with modern English. This revision is called the Revised Authorized Version (RAV) in England and known as the New King James Version in the United States.
Even as David was singing on that night many years ago, God went to work. He wanted this teenager’s song preserved forever. God watched over that song, kept it safe through the generations. He knew that someday we too, like David, would be tired and frustrated and confused. We would look for the answer to our problems and find it – right there in the words of Psalm 23:
“The Lord is my shepherd,” David sang. “I shall not want.”