Christians consider the Bible to be the Word of God and to be our authority in living out our faith. The importance of the Bible in the life of the Christian can hardly be overstated. In this article I would like to look at some important dates in the history of the Bible . Many more important dates could be considered, such as the date that I began studying it diligently and the many times something I have learned from it changed my life, but let us look at five here.
King Josiah’s reforms
King Josiah was king of the southern kingdom of Judah from around 640-609 BC. When Josiah assumed kingship over Judah, the spiritual and moral climate was terrible:
“Judah had capitulated to gross idolatry during the reign of Manasseh (696-642 BC). Baalism, Moloch worship, and other pagan religions had invaded the land, as had occultism and astrology. A false altar even stood in the temple in Jerusalem, and human sacrifice to pagan deities was practiced near Jerusalem. The land was thoroughly corrupted” (BEB, Vol. 2: p. 1223).
Josiah became distraught over the idolatry he saw rampant around him. He launched a concerted effort to eradicate the kingdom of these practices. Josiah reinstated Godly men as priests and one of the priests discovered a previously lost “Book of the Law” while he was renovating the temple of the Lord (II Kings 22:3). Although the exact contents of this book are unknown, it can be gleaned from the effect it had on the people that it was more than likely part of what later came together as the Old Testament. The King commanded a public reading of this book, which apparently set out God’s standards for His people and, upon hearing the contents contained within its pages, the King and the people rededicated their lives to following God. The Christian today can pray this would be the case with our nation also; that upon hearing the Word of God great repentance would be the result, we would turn from our rebellious ways, and follow Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives.
Many more important dates could be considered, such as the date that I began studying it diligently and the many times something I have learned from it changed my life, but let us look at five here.
Invention of the printing press
The early texts of the Bible had to be hand copied. This was a tedious and time consuming task; it also limited the amount of copies available for the general public. It is difficult for Americans to imagine not being able to go the store and pick up any of a myriad different versions of the Bible, but it was not always so.
However, the invention of the movable type printing press change that. This machine was capable of printing multiple pages in a very short time. Thus, making it possible to print books (most notably the Bible) in a relatively short amount of time. This made more copies of the Bible available to more people. The invention of this printing press is most often attributed to Johann Gutenberg, who, “…probably played an important part in the production of the 42-line Bible (the “Gutenberg Bible”) which appeared in 1456 and is frequently considered to be the first book printed in Europe, and in the production of the Psalter of 1457 which apparently was the first dated book to appear in print in Europe” (TNIDCC, p. 444). The printing press helped increase the spread of God’s Word immensely.
Martin Luther’s 95 theses
The organized church of Martin Luther’s day had set themselves up as the way to forgiveness and eternal life. Anyone wishing to serve God was told they had to come to the church, fulfill the church’s obligatory duties, and allow the church to be the conduit of one’s faith. Martin Luther, convinced through his study of Scripture, believed that every individual had the ability to approach God in humbler repentance and receive salvation on that basis; the basis of faith alone, not an adherence to any group or religious system.
Luther was especially disturbed by the organized church’s practice of selling ‘indulgences’. In short, the church would sell what amounted to, in their opinion, forgiveness of sins…for a monetary sum. On October 31, 1517, Luther nailed his written objections to this practice on the door of the church at Wittenberg, Germany. Luther’s actions did much to turn the focus of the Christian’s salvation back to the Bible, and its authority, rather than the extra-biblical doctrines of a religious organization.
King James Bible commissioned and completed
The King James version of the Bible is arguably the most used, and loved, version of the Bible in existence. The language of, “The Authorized Version set a standard of “Bible English”…which has exercised a profound literary influence…” (TNIDCC, p. 128) and continues to do so today. Many Christians choose to memorize Bible verses from the King James Version because its words flow so smoothly from the page and tongue.
It would be difficult to overstate this version’s influence on the Christian community. Although published in 1611, the King James Version is still a trustworthy translation of the original Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Addressing the most recent manuscript evidence as it relates to the King James Bible, Alistair McGrath writes, “Not a single teaching of the Christian faith is affected by these variations, nor is any major historical aspect of the gospel narratives or early Christianity affected” (McGrath, p. 242). Many, including myself, glean much spiritual strength and teaching from the King James version of God’s Holy Word.
Dead Sea Scrolls discovered
A discovery in 1947, near the Dead Sea, of copies of parts of the Old Testament has done much to bolster our confidence in the transmission of the original texts of the Old Testament. The copies that were found have been dated from between 20 BC to AD 70 and, according to what I have read, the variations between these texts and later texts is minimal at most and non-existent at best. In other words, these copies tell us that the original texts of God’s Word have been copied with the utmost care and reverence and can therefore be trusted to be the Words that God intended to be in His written Word. Skeptics will say that this does not ‘prove’ that the Bible is true, and they would be right; however, it does go a long way to verify that we have the Words of those who spoke for God, and those who wrote down what He wanted written down. Every archeological find made further confirms the historicity of the biblical record. The Bible can be trusted.
I have presented only a fragment of the important history of the most important book every written. Many of you will have dates and events that you deem important also; however, I would say that most important date that you or I can connect with God’s Word is the day that we recognized the Bible as what it truly is…God’s Word to you and I.
[TNIDCC] The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church. J.D. Douglas, Gen. Ed., Zondervan Publishing, 1974, 1978.
[BEB] Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Book House, 1988.
In the Beginning: The Story of the King James Bible and How It Changed a Nation, a Language, and a Culture. Alistair McGrath, Doubleday, 2001.