WHAT LANGUAGE DID GOD SPEAK; from the burning bush
This is a history book about the Bible, not a religious work, based on the studies of Bible scholars: the Hebrew Scriptures from the work of the ancient priests and Hebrew Masoretes in the 5th through 10th centuries C.E. (all modern Bibles use the findings of that group) and the New Testament discussions, primarily from monks and Christian scholars from the 18th century to the present. More
This is a history book, not a religious work, although much of it seems that way because the story behind this magnificent book involves Jewish and Christian doctrine. Many events affected the Bible including wars, geographical, geological, climatic, religious (other than Hebrew and Christian), social, the invention of writing, and numerous historical influences. It is impossible to understand the Bible without understanding the influences of these events.
The first Hebrew writings were about 1230 B.C.E. and were patterned after the Phoenician alphabet. Those early writings were about secular matters, mainly the activities of the kings, until about 950 B.C.E. when Hebrews began committing their scriptures into writing. Before that, the stories had been passed down orally. They originally wrote on clay tablets with a stylus. When the Hebrew were conquered by the Babylonians and exiled in 597 B.C.E., they tried to figure out why Yahweh (God) abandoned them. They began rewriting their scriptures on the new medium of animal skins and, sadly, they destroyed all the old clay tablets.
When they returned to Judah in about 727 B.C.E. after 70 years in exile, very few, outside the priesthood, still spoke Hebrew. It had become a dead language of ceremony much as Latin was for Christians and the Babylonian Aramaic became their new language. The last Old Testament document was written about 165 B.C.E. By this time they were writing on a new medium, parchment, and again had tragically destroyed all their old animal skin scriptures.
When the Romans conquered Judah in the first century B.C.E., there were numerous versions of the scriptures. That was not acceptable to the priesthood so, between the 5th and 10th centuries C.E. they formed a team of Hebrew scholars, called Masoretes, to determine which versions of the Hebrew Scriptures were the most accurate. This was no easy job. It took them 500 years and they never reached a consensus. The old Testaments of all modern Bibles use the findings of that group. However, about 20% of those texts are still in dispute by Hebrew scholars.
The New Testament had its own problems. Most of Jesus’ audiences were comprised of illiterate peasants. The writings about what Jesus said were based upon the recollections of his audiences that were orally transmitted to others. As a result, numerous portions of the Old Testament have the same stories (parallel verses) told by Matthew, Mark, and Luke but they differ, sometimes drastically. (Mark was written about 40 years after Jesus' death, Matthew about 50 years and Luke about 55 years).
The first reasonably complete Bible was published by King Constantine about 360 C.E. (See http://codexsinaiticus.com for a copy with English translation). Not all Christian leaders agreed with all the books included in that Bible. It was not until 397 C.E. that most Bishops agreed on what should be the official books of the Christian Bible.
There were relatively few challenges to the New Testament until the middle of the 20th Century when some very brave Christian scholars began to study New Testament Scriptures. Their problem was that most were monks, priests, or scholars employed by religious universities. They risked their jobs publishing their findings. What Language did God Speak taps into the work of these brilliant and brave scholars from the Mazoretes to the present scholars. Our understanding of Hebrew and Christian history is increasing by the day.
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