How did we get the Bible?

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How did we get the Bible? Who preserved it for us to read? Who decided which writings were inspired or not? What was the original inspired order of the books?

Just before his death Moses wrote the book of Deuteronomy, which finalized the first major set of inspired books that would become part of the Bible. This set is known as the Pentateuch, or Law, and is composed of the following five books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Upon completion of the last book Moses, a Levite, gave them to the priests so that they may be preserved:

"So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished, that Moses commanded THE LEVITES, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying: 'Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there as a witness against you; . . .' " (Deuteronomy 31:24-26)

It was from the death of Moses that, according to The Holy Bible in Its Original Order - A Faithful Version, Second Edition (HBFV), the priest and Levites were made the official protectors of God's word. Their job was to make faithful copies and to preserve his revelations to man for future generations.

God, for many years after Moses, inspired others such as Samuel, King David, King Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel to write books. It wasn't until the late fifth century B.C., however, that these books were collected and compiled to form what we know as the Old Testament. Ezra, a priest at the temple who lived more than eight hundred years after Moses, led the effort to canonize the Old Testament.

What exactly is canonization? Canonization is the process by which a collection of writings comes to be considered authoritative, definitive and fixed by a religious authority. It was during the canonization process that the number of books in the Old Testament and their book arrangement was set.
 
 
 
 
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How did we get the Old Testament?

Ezra and the Great Assembly brought together all the writings inspired by God and produced an Old Testament made up of twenty-two (22) manuscripts (books). The number of finalized manuscripts (22) is the same as the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet.

The Old Testament canon was divided into three major divisions: 1) The Law, 2) The Prophets, and 3) The Writings (also known as "the Psalms" because the book of Psalms is listed first in this division).

It was this inspired division of the Bible that Jesus referred to when he said:

"Then He said to them, 'These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the LAW of Moses and the PROPHETS and the PSALMS (or Writings) concerning Me.'" (Luke 24:44)

How did we get the New Testament?

A generally accepted theory is that the New Testament canon was completed late in the fourth century A.D. This theory, however, is NOT true. According to the HBFV, many scholars have arbitrarily divided the canonization of the New Testament into five periods. The finalization of what would become our New Testament, they state, did not occur until the third Council of Carthage in 397 A.D.

The TRUTH is that God did not commit the collection and finalization of his books to men of questionable faith over a period of 300 years. He instead choose to canonize his word through the three Apostles who were the most prolific writers of New Testament books - Paul (14 books), Peter (2 books) and John (5 books).

Paul’s Epistles were completed by him beginning in 63 A.D. These initial Epistles were forwarded to Peter and John, who fully accepted them as Scriptures. Peter, in his second epistle, left no doubt that he and the apostle John were forming the official text of New Testament teachings. Peter also referred to this written remembrance as the 'prophetic word confirmed.'

"Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease . . .And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;" (2Peter 1:15, 19)

God choose the apostle John to set the order of the New Testament books and finalize the Bible.

"Although Paul and Peter had canonized their writings before they died, the official canonization with the final arrangement of the books of the entire New Testament was accomplished by the apostle John in 96-99 A.D. As one of the last living apostles and the last living eyewitness of Christ’s transfiguration, John was uniquely qualified and chosen by Jesus . . . " (HBFV, pages 70-71)

Inspired order of books

Ezra divided the manuscripts that compose the Old Testament into three major divisions - The Law, The Prophets and The Writings.

  • THE LAW: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy

  • THE PROPHETS: The books of Joshua and Judges (one book), 1Samuel, 2Samuel, 1Kings and 2Kings (one book), Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, plus one book containing all the minor prophets.

  • THE WRITINGS: Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther and the book of Daniel, plus Ezra and Nehemiah (one book), along with 1Chronicles and 2Chronicles (one book)

The original number of New Testament books (manuscripts) was twenty-seven (27). The apostle John grouped these books into four major divisions - The Gospels, The General Epistles, The Epistles of Paul and Revelation.

  • THE GOSPELS: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, plus the book of Acts

  • THE GENERAL EPISTLES: James, 1Peter, 2Peter, 1John, 2John, 3John, Jude

  • THE EPISTLES OF APOSTLE PAUL: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Hebrews,1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon

  • THE BOOK OF REVELATION

The Bible, as a whole, was originally divided into seven (7) major divisions. The total number of books was forty-nine (49), or seven times seven. The number seven symbolizes spiritual perfection.

The book arrangement of modern translations

The Table of Contents of almost any modern Bible will list thirty-nine (39) books for the Old Testament and twenty-seven (27) books for the New Testament for a grand total of sixty-six (66) books. Today's translations have seventeen (17) MORE Old Testament books than they originally contained. Modern copies of the Bible have no obvious division or logical pattern to them. For example, although the book of Job is the OLDEST writing (1700s B.C.) and therefore should be placed FIRST if the book order was from oldest to youngest book we find it listed as the 18th book listed in such translations as the KJV and NIV. More importantly, today's commonly accepted Old Testament book order is NOT the logical division endorsed by Jesus:

"Then He said to them, 'These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the LAW of Moses and the PROPHETS and the PSALMS (or Writings) concerning Me.'" (Luke 24:44)

It was Jerome, in the fourth century A.D., that changed the original format and order of the word of God to something very different (ibid. page 3).

In conclusion

Does it matter which writings are considered truly inspired by God and included in the Bible and which are not and rejected? Does the order of books, which boldly claim to be the very words of God, MATTER? It mattered enough for Ezra and the Great Assembly of 120 priests to spend countless hours laboring to collect and sort through manuscripts, determine which ones were and were not inspired by God, etc. It mattered enough for the apostle Paul and Peter to dedicate the time, before they were martyred, to editing and finalizing their writings so that MANY others could learn about God's way. And it mattered to Jesus who, in his very FIRST appearance to the disciples after his resurrection, reminded them that the three-fold testimony of the law, prophets and writings found in the Bible, concerning him, HAD to be fulfilled.

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