When Was The Bible Completed?

When was the original Bible completed?

When Was The Bible Completed
When Was The Bible Completed?

There is some debate on when the Bible was completed. Some claim that the Bible was completed when the various 'councils' held across the Roman Empire during the 4th century AD 'picked' the books to include in the Bible, but this is incorrect. Those councils, held after Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the new official religion of the Roman Empire in AD 325, merely affirmed what Christians already had been reading as the completed Bible for three centuries. In fact, the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John began to be stitched together in the first century AD to distinguish them from the many dubious writings that had begun to circulate (see below).

The Bible was completed in late 1st century AD when God used John, the last surviving Apostle, to close the last book of the Bible with this stern warning:

“For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19).

Why weren’t other writings included in the original Bible?

Recognizing a writing as the word of God wasn’t done on someone’s whim or personal preference but was based on whether or not it met the criteria of “canon”: the writer had to have been one of Jesus' Apostles or their note taker; the writer at least had to claim to have written from divine inspiration (which then needed to be confirmed); and the content could neither contradict what already had been recognized as the word of God nor contain any other error.

For example, contrast John’s closure in Revelation above with Maccabees’ closure of the Maccabees 2: “If it is well told and to the point, that is what I myself desired; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that was the best I could do.” Since the author doesn’t even claim divine inspiration, there is no need to confirm it.

Or consider the following passage from the so called “gospel” of Thomas, one of the many writings that various people, cults and sects through the centuries have put forth as the “lost” or “newly discovered” word of God: “Simon Peter said to them, “Make Mary leave us, for females don't deserve life.” Jesus said, “Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (gospel of Thomas 114) “Jesus said, “Lucky is the lion that the human will eat, so that the lion becomes human. And foul is the human that the lion will eat, and the lion still will become human” (gospel of Thomas 7). The only thing such writings call into question is the mental soundness of their proponents.

Why were so many epistles of Paul included in the Bible?

Jesus chose Paul as His Apostle to the gentiles (see Acts 9:15), who will comprise the vast majority of His church; Paul opened his epistles by identifying himself as an “apostle,” “bondservant” and/or “prisoner” of Jesus Christ; Paul's epistles neither contradicted what already had been recognized as the word of God nor contained any other error; and Peter affirmed Paul's epistles as “Scriptures” in 2 Peter 3:16.

How do we know today’s Bible accurately represents the original?

The New Testament was originally written in Greek. The earliest Greek manuscripts of the New Testament discovered date to about two centuries after Jesus' earthly ministry, and the number of ancient Greek manuscripts or fragments of the New Testament discovered thus far exceeds 5,800.

Two points can be made. Firstly, what we know about the history of the Roman Empire is based largely on The Annals of the Roman Empire, written by the Roman historian Tacitus in 116 AD. In the entire world, there are only two manuscripts of The Annals of the Roman Empire in the original language: one dates from the 9th century and the other dates from the 11th century. Therefore, the details of the history of the Roman Empire stand on two manuscripts written about 1,000 years after the original, while the details of the New Testament stand on over 5,800 manuscripts that date from only about 200 years after the original. In other words, there is far stronger written evidence for the New Testament than for the history of the Roman Empire.

Secondly, these 5,800+ manuscripts of the New Testament in the original Greek were discovered over a vast geographic region encircled by the Middle East, Ethiopia, Spain, Ireland and Germany. Imagine a kindergarten class playing a game of whisper telephone. The teacher whispers, “Johnny played with Mary near the swings yesterday,” to two children, who each whisper what they heard to two other children, and so on. If after ten relays, a child in one corner of the room reports, “Johnny played with Mary near the swings yesterday,” while a child in another corner reports, “Johnny fought with Mary on the slide,” the children won’t know what the teacher originally had whispered. But if two children in distant corners say exactly the same thing, the original message can be deduced without having been heard by all.

What's the point? The copies of the Gospels penned by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have not been and are unlikely to ever be found since they most likely disintegrated long ago from having passed from hand to hand to be read and copied. But almost all (95-99%) of the 5,800+ manuscript copies all say in effect, “Johnny played with Mary near the swings yesterday.” So what was originally written can be logically deduced as what is in those 5,800+ copies.