Wednesday, January 22, 2014

In what language was the Bible originally written?

It may shock us to learn that the Bible was not originally written in English. In fact, the Bible was not written in its entirety at one time. It is actually 66 books written by about 40 authors over a period of 1600 years. The Bible was not written in just one language. There are 3 different languages originally used in the Bible. Those languages are as follows:

Hebrew: Hebrew is the language used in most of the Old Testament. Hebrew, as a language was very suitable for the purpose of the Old Testament. Geisler and Nix point out, 
The Old Testament was primarily the biography of a people and God’s dealings with them. Hebrew was the primary language in which the Old Testament was written, and it was particularly suited for this kind of biographical expression for at least two reasons.
  • It is a pictorial language, speaking with vivid, bold metaphors that challenge and dramatize the story...
  • Further, Hebrew is a personal language. It addresses itself to the heart and emotions rather than merely to the mind or reason. (328).
Aramaic: Is a minor language of the Old Testament, it has scattered occurrences in a few books, and large portions of the book of Daniel and Ezra are also written in Aramaic. 

Greek: Greek is the language of the New Testament. Like Hebrew, it was well-suited for its role. Geisler notes:

The foundation of God’s revelation of Christ was laid in the biography of the Old Testament. The interpretation of the revelation of Christ was made in the theological language of the New Testament. New Testament Greek was appropriately adapted to the end of propositionalizing and propagating the truth about Christ for two basic reasons.
  • Greek was an intellectual language. It was more a language of the mind than of the heart, a fact to which the great Greek philosophers gave abundant evidence...It was a language that could more easily render the credible into the intelligible than could Hebrew. It was for this reason that New Testament Greek was a most useful medium for expressing the propositional truth of the New Testament, as Hebrew was for expressing the biographical truth of the Old Testament.
  • Greek was nearly a universal language. (329).

A study of the languages of the Bible can be very rewarding. One can clearly observe God’s hand at work in the formation of Bibles, even down to the very languages it was written in.

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Quotes from Geisler, Norman and William E. Nix  A General Introduction to the Bible. Chicago: Moody Press, 1986.
Post Author - Cliff Sabroe