The word “Bible” ultimately comes from the Greek word biblia (ßιßλιa), meaning “books.” The word biblia is derived from a form of the name of the ancient Phoenician sea port city, Byblos, which was known for exporting Egyptian papyrus to the Greek world. This papyrus was used for many things, but especially for making a flexible writing material, very much like rough paper. In fact, we actually derive our word “paper” from the word “papyrus.” This writing material was first used in books in the form of a scroll and then, later, in codex form, or books as we know them today.
While the Romans were already using the codex to record secular legal matters, it was Christians who adopted and popularized the use of the codex in spreading the word of God. While scrolls were bulky and cumbersome, the codex was much easier to manage and transport, thus making the fulfillment of the great commission by carrying the gospel to various parts of the world much easier. The expression “the books” or, simply, “The Book,” came to refer to the sacred scriptures. This very expression (“ταις βύβλοις”) is found in the Septuagint version of Daniel 9:2.
Also, Paul requested of Timothy “the books and the parchments” (II Tim. 4:13). What these were no one now knows exactly, but I have suggested that Paul might then have been collecting the various inspired New Testament works into one, complete volume of sacred writings. These sacred writings were also known simply as “the scriptures,” (II Pet. 3:16; John 5:39; Rom. 15:4; etc.).
The Bible–The Book–is thus a remarkable collection of books. These various documents were written and collected over a period of around 1600 years, from c. 1500 B.C. to about 70 A.D., by about 40 different authors from all walks of life. Some of these men were kings, like David and Solomon. Others were priests, like Samuel, and yet others were simple fishermen, like Peter. Some were doctors of medicine, like Luke, and others were doctors of the law, like Saul of Tarsus. They came from sundry places in Egypt, Palestine and Asia minor. They wrote history and poetry and biography and prophecy. Some wrote while they were in prison and captivity. Some wrote to inform, others wrote to condemn, and still others wrote to warn. Sometimes we find previous writings encompassed in another.
But in all this great diversity of authorship and origination, there is an unmistakable and undeniable, divine unity about it. It is composed “with a unity like the connectedness of a dramatic plot” (Van Dyke). While the books of the Bible were written by very different men under extremely different circumstances and at completely different times, their completion was always under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (II Pet. 1:19-21). Thus, they are profitable for doctrine, correction and instruction in righteousness, fully furnishing us for all that we need in life and godliness (II Tim. 3:16,17; II Pet. 1:2).
“No other book ever had such a strange vitality and inspiration as the Bible. It has set new ideas for civilization, new models for character and new conceptions of virtue and deeper hopes for happiness. It is a provoker of literature . . . a book-making Book. No other ever caused so much discussion about itself and its teaching. It has begotten a peculiar beauty in literature and all other arts, due to the new and quickening impulse it has given to the imagination of the whole world . . . What unutterable loss the world would suffer artistically if deprived of the masterpieces inspired by the ideas . . . the emotions . . . the visions of the Bible! In sculpture there is Donatello’s “David” and Michaelangelo’s “Moses;” in painting, Raphael’s “Sistene Madonna” and Murillo’s “Holy Family;” in music, Bach’s “Passion” and Handel’s “Messiah;” in poetry, Dante’s “Divine Comedy” and Milton’s “paradise Lost.”
“. . . The influence of the Bible on literature is literally universal. Although it arose in the East and is clothed in Oriental form and imagery, like the sun it enters all lands and speaks to the heart of the world in hundreds of languages. It has an appeal for kings and peasants; for wise men and children. If it should be destroyed, it could be replaced with the quotations on the shelves of our school libraries. There are many great works written showing to what extent the Book has influenced the great masters of literature.”1
More than six billion copies of the Bible have been published, making the Bible the best selling and most distributed book of all time. It has been translated into 2,454 languages of the world’s estimated 6,500 total languages.2
“That book [King James Bible], sir, is the rock upon which our republic rests.” – Andrew Jackson, 7th President of the United States
“The King James Version is a Magna Carta for the Poor and Oppressed: the most democratic book in the world.” – Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States
“Indeed, it is an incontrovertible fact that all the complex and horrendous questions confronting us at home and worldwide have their answer in that single book [King James Bible].” – Ronald Reagan, 40th President of the United States
“There is no doubt in my mind that the King James Bible not Shakespeare set this language on its path to become a universal language on a scale unprecedented before or since.” – Melvyn Bragg, British Broadcaster and Author
“The King James Bible is a cornerstone of our culture and our language. Whatever our faith, whatever we believe, we have to recognise that the rhetorical power of this book, and in particular its power to fuse history with poetry, connects at the most fundamental level with our own history and poetry.” – Andrew Motion, British Author and Poet Laureate
Let us go back to this most magnificent volume in the history of mankind, let us go back to the only book which reveals the mind of God, let us go Back To The Bible!
Eric L. Padgett
1. Cled Wallace, The Influence of the Bible on Literature, The One Book, Analyzed and Outlined, 1987: Dehoff Publications, pp. 507,508