This past Sunday evening we kicked off our Missions Emphasis Series with my presentation on the history of the English Bible. We covered briefly how the canon of the New Testament came about, and then focused on the early beginnings of the Bible in Old English, and its progression forward to our day.
I said Sunday evening that we English speakers own a “bloody Bible.” By that I simply meant to say that many men and women gave up their lives as martyrs for their conviction that the word of God should be available in the language of the people. According to most in America, that means a Bible in the vernacular of the English-speaking world. To believe such a thing was very dangerous for the better part of the Middle Ages. To express your opinion publicly, or worse, to undertake the task of translating from the original Greek or the early Latin versions was downright deadly. It was a sure ticket to losing weight very quickly in the most unpleasant manner. Nevertheless, a few were brave enough, and intelligent and educated enough, to do just that.
If you have the time and patience to listen to an hour-long lecture, followed by forty-five minutes or so of question and answer, the event is available at under the missions tab on our website. I won’t go into more detail here, but I do want to provide some good resources for those who would like to study the matter in a more in-depth manner. So, here are some resources I would recommend:
How We Got the Bible by Timothy Paul Jones. This is a very readable overview starting with the compilation of the Old and New Testament canon and the progression toward the Bible in English. Lots of pictures and captions for fans of books with less narrative and more snapshots.
The Canon of Scripture by F.F. Bruce. This is an excellent overview of the process of bringing together the Old and New Testament canon. More in-depth than Jones’s book, and alas! Less pictures. Bruce also has a condensed version of this book entitled: The New Testament Documents, Are They Reliable? which is wonderful!
Understanding Scripture: An Overview of the Bible’s Origin, Reliability and Meaning by Wayne Grudem and C. John Collins. The title says it all. A very good and informative read.
How We Got the Bible: A Visual Journey by Clinton E. Arnold. Much like Jones’s book, only more pictures!
The Question of Canon by Michael J. Kruger. A good resource that challenges many of the attacks leveled against the Scriptures, including their origin, reliability, and the translation process.
www.danielbwallace.com: The website of Dr. Daniel Wallace, Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. Excellent resources on the canon of Scripture, the reliability of Scriptures, and other interesting tidbits about translation work, biblical studies, etc.
www.timothypauljones.com: The website of Dr. Timothy Paul Jones, author of How We Got the Bible. Like Dr. Wallace’s website, full of great information on everything Bible and Family Ministry.
https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_canon_nicole.html: Here is a link to a very good, short article on the canon of the New Testament by Dr. Roger Nicole. An excellent 15-minute read. You’ll also find links to other very good articles on the topic of Biblical canon, and related issues.
These resources are far from exhaustive but may help get you started on a journey of discovery as it relates to how we received the word of God, both in the autographs of the Old and New Testaments, and more directly, in our own heart language of English. We are blessed in amazing ways to have so many Bibles and biblical resources available to us in English, more than any other people who have ever lived in the history of this planet. Do not take this blessing for granted!
Grace and peace,