Titles of the Bible.
In the ecclesiastical writings of the four first Christian centuries we have the Bible frequently referred to as "The Scriptures," or "the Sacred Scriptures"; another common enough title by Jewish and Christian writers was, "The Books."
From about the beginning of the fifth century the whole of the sacred writings as in our English version was spoken of as The Bible, from the Greek word biblos, meaning book; previously they were spoken of as "The Books." The pre-eminent dignity of the Word of God as the book of books is thus signified in the title, "The Bible." But there was yet wanting a word to denote its Divine character, hence "The Holy Bible," which is the chosen title of the Sacred Scriptures throughout the known world; in England the title has been in general use for about 600 years. Under the pontificate of Julius II. — the military and profligate head of the Romish Church — the title "The Holy Bible" first received papal sanction.
It is interesting to trace also how the terms Old and New Testament arose. The expression, "the old testament," applied in 2 Cor. 3:14 to the law, led gradually to the extension of the expression so as to include the whole of the Jewish Scriptures — 39 books in all; while "the New Testament" (Matt. 26:28) would as naturally embrace the 27 books of the later revelation. "The Oracles of God" (Rom. 3:2); "The Holy Scriptures," or, "The Sacred Letters" (2 Tim. 3:15); and "The Word of God," are scriptural and beautifully expressive titles of the Bible as a whole. The first intimates its authoritative character; the second is the expression of its Divine origin; while the third refers to its object — which is God's revelation of Himself to the race — His voice to the soul of man.
St. Jerome, who flourished during the latter half of the fourth century, beautifully styled the whole collection of sixty-six sacred books, "The Divine Library."
St. Jerome and the Vulgate.
A few particulars about St. Jerome, one of the most distinguished and learned Fathers of the Latin Church, may not be uninteresting. He was born, about A.D. 340, on the borders of the ancient country of Pannonia, one of the provinces subject to the Roman sway. Jerome's father was named Eusebius, not the celebrated ecclesiastical historian of that name. Eusebius, being a Christian and in affluent circumstances, provided his son with a liberal secular and theological education. Jerome was early sent to Rome, where he studied for several years under various masters, the most noted of whom was Donatus, perhaps the most accomplished grammarian of his age. Jerome seems to have been brought to the Lord when a young man, probably when prosecuting his studies in Rome. He soon gave himself up almost wholly to the study of the sacred Scriptures, and produced a number of commentaries on separate books of the Bible, besides numerous other works. Books in those days were exceedingly expensive. It is said that Jerome ruined himself by purchasing the works of Origen. Having gone to Palestine to make himself personally acquainted with the localities mentioned in Holy Writ, he resolved to become master of the Hebrew language, so as not to be dependent upon translations in the study of the earlier oracles of God — the Old Testament. In a few years he acquired an intimate knowledge of the language, which he soon turned to good account
From the second century till the days of Jerome, the Bible in use in Western Christendom was a translation from the ecclesiastical tongue — the Greek. The Septuagint, or Greek version of the Old Testament, executed about three centuries before Christ, was in common use even in Palestine in the days of our Lord and of His apostles. From the fact of this old and venerable document being frequently cited by the Lord and writers of the New Testament, it would have been regarded almost as a sacrilegious act to have questioned its exactness; besides which, Hebrew was only known comparatively to the few. The Greek New Testament and the Greek version of the Old, formed the basis of all Latin and other versions of the Bible till the days of Jerome, who was the first Christian scholar who attempted a translation direct from the original tongues. This valuable work, styled the Vulgate, was bitterly opposed at the time, and it was only after a lapse of 200 years that it was accorded general favour. Jerome's version was commonly spoken of as "The New Translation," to distinguish it from the Septuagint, the Old Translation. Pope Gregory — the best of the Roman Pontiffs — officially sanctioned the Vulgate of Jerome, who was certainly one of the most pious, and probably the most learned, of the Latin Fathers.
Chrysostom, the Distinguished Greek Bishop.
We may also add a few particulars of another of the Fathers and an ardent lover of the Scriptures. We refer to John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople. This Greek Father was for many years contemporary with the learned Jerome of the Latin Church. John was surnamed Chrysostom, meaning the golden-mouthed, because of his matchless eloquence. He was not only an indefatigable preacher — daily attracting thousands by his burning words — but he was a most fearless one, regardless alike of the frown or smile of the Emperor Arcadius or his godless consort, Eudoxia. The bishop, in the course of his familiar discourses styled "Homilies" — of which there are about a thousand extant — spoke of the Bible as "The Divine Books." Chrysostom was much beloved by the people of Constantinople, but hated by many of the clergy, and ladies and nobles of the court, whose ways and lives he unsparingly condemned. He died after much suffering, repeating his favourite words, "Glory be to God for all events."
It is somewhat singular that both these distinguished Fathers (Jerome and John) voluntarily secluded themselves for several years, the former in the deserts of Syria, and the latter in a mountain cave near Antioch. The study of the "Divine Library" and of the Hebrew language were the objects of the former; while the latter made such good use of the "Divine Books" that he committed them entirely to memory. Both Fathers were truly eminent men; both loved the Lord Jesus, and both were renowned for their devotion to the Word of God. If Jerome was the more learned, Chrysostom was the more eloquent of the two.
Times, Persons, and Places where the Scriptures were Written.
The 66 sacred books comprising the Bible were written at different times, by various persons, and in distant places.
We entertain but faint hope of convincing the sceptic or silencing the caviller, but we submit the following statement of facts as demonstrating that the Bible is, indeed, the voice of God to man; that He has imprinted on it Divine unity; that God only could have secured such remarkable agreement, such precision of statement, such oneness of mind and plan as are revealed in the Scriptures. Here are sixty-six books, the work of from forty to fifty writers, and their composition occupying a period of about 1600 years, written in the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe, and in courts, deserts, and dungeons; under circumstances, too, of gladness, sorrow, poverty, pain, and pressure.
Of the writers we number the most illustrious monarchs of Israel, as David and Solomon; two distinguished prime ministers at the court of the Gentiles. Mordecai and Daniel; a cup-bearer — a highly honourable position — in personal attendance on the Persian monarch, as Nehemiah; the adopted Hebrew, Moses, brought up amidst the splendours of the Egyptian court and educated in the wisdom and learning of that truly remarkable people; the learned and pious scribe, Ezra, whose name and deeds are engraven on the memories of the past and present Jewish people; a farm servant Amos, whose charming simplicity (Amos 7:14-17) accords so fitly with his humble occupation; the prophet and judge, Samuel; many prophets, grand as Isaiah, touching as Jeremiah, vigorous as Ezekiel, powerfully descriptive as Joel; illiterate Galilean fishermen (Acts 4:13); a despised and degraded tax collector in the employment of the Romans, Matthew; the tentmaker of mighty intellect, Paul; the highly educated Gentile physician, Luke; the loving John, the energetic Jude, the fervent Peter, and the practical James.
Of the writings, the first was the Pentateuch, completed fifteen centuries before Christ — that is, 700 years before Rome was founded, and about 1000 years before the work of Herodotus, the first authentic history, was published — centuries, too, before the prince of Greek poets, Homer, flourished, or Hesiod, more ancient still, sang his verses. The Pentateuch and the book of Job are by far the oldest writings in existence. The historical and chronological boasted records of China and Egypt are unworthy of a moment's serious consideration. The former gives the age of the world as some hundreds of thousands of years, while the Chaldean records, equally unreliable as those of China and Egypt, carry back the age of the world to nearly half a million of years. It has been shown that even were the annals of the Hindoos — which exceed in absurdity those of China and Egypt — reliable, the arbitrary mode of computation (months of fifteen days, and years of sixty days), would reduce the chronologies of these peoples to a near agreement with the Biblical chronology. The first recorded date in Scripture is found in that highly important chronological chapter — Genesis 5:3. Neither science nor Scripture determines the antiquity of this globe. All Scripture dates refer to human history.
There is neither book nor monument to which you can refer within several centuries of the time when Moses wrote the first portion of the Bible. Then, after a quarter of a century, Joshua, the second inspired penman, wrote the book to which his name is attached. Then comes another interval, a lengthy and sorrowful one, of more than 300 years, covering the times of the Judges, and well termed "the dark ages" of Israelitish history, when Samuel, the third inspired writer, brought up the Jewish annals to the times of David — the sweet Psalmist of Israel — his co-adjutors in the work being the prophets Gad and Nathan (1 Chron. 29:29). Another interval of 300 years, and we listen entranced to the grand and glowing strains of Isaiah — the prince of Hebrew prophets; perhaps the most magnificent piece of writing ever penned is the sixtieth chapter of Isaiah, and of course divinely inspired like every other line and word of Scripture. Yet another period of nigh 300 years, during which the voices of the prophets were lifted up in the land of Immanuel, or amongst the captives in Babylon and Mesopotamia — when their tears bedewed the sacred soil, and their sufferings and exercises are written on high, and Malachi closed the inspired records of the Old Testament; the editor of the whole being Ezra. A long and dreary blank of 460 years, unwritten in the pages of God's most holy Word — save in a few prophetic passages (Dan. 8, 10, 11) — brings us to a few years at most after the death of Jesus, when Matthew wrote of Christ — His messianic rights, glories, and sufferings. Within thirty years after, the whole of the New Testament was completed, save the Revelation, which was written about A.D. 96. Thus the whole Bible was finished and in the hands of the Christian, and in the keeping of the Church, or rather of God, ere the first Christian century closed.
Of the places where the various parts of the Bible were written, Babylon, the capital of the Chaldean monarchy; Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom of Israel; Rome, the capital of the fourth Universal Empire; and Ephesus, the capital of Asia Minor, may be instanced. Take Jerusalem as a centre, and you have Daniel the calm and measured historian, and Peter the warm-hearted and fervent apostle, both writing in Babylon, 660 miles distant, and Paul penning his prison epistles in the imperial city of Rome, 1450 miles distant. The greater number of the sacred books were of course written in Palestine — regarded by the ancients as occupying the central situation in the known world (Ezek. 5:5).