Today we are fortunate to be able to read and learn from the Bible for ourselves in our own language. It is probably the one book that has been translated into the most languages in the world! This is an amazing feat, considering the fact that there are currently over 6000 living languages in the world, many of which do not even have a written form! Indeed, for thousands of years, the Bible was not so easy for everyone to read because it only existed in only a few languages, such as Medieval Latin or the three original languages in which the Bible was written. These original Bible languages are Hebrew, Aramaic (or Chaldee), and Greek.
So, why is it important to consider the language of the Bible? Firstly, language is a God-given gift to humanity, which is not to be taken for granted because it is so vital to the transmission of knowledge and wisdom from one generation to the next. Secondly, knowing where the Bible came from is crucial to understanding and believing it! When God created the Earth, he did so using language – His language – creating things by simply speaking them into existence. For example, in Genesis 1:3, God said, “Let there be light,” and it appeared! Amazingly, God used the same language in writing the Bible as He did in creating the universe!
But if God uses one language to create, why was the Bible originally written in three different languages? Firstly, God did not write the Bible all at once; he wrote it over a period of several thousand years – and a lot of change can happen in that amount of time! Secondly, God did not write the Bible by Himself; He translated His word through the Holy Spirit to men who physically transcribed it for Him (Hebrews 1:1) so that it could be shared with others. These men were separated not only by time, but space as well. They were from different parts of the ancient Mediterranean world, in which different languages were spoken. For example:
1. Moses, the author of the first five books of the Bible, was raised in Egypt under the Pharaohs (about 1300 B.C.) but spoke Hebrew, the language of his people – God’s chosen people. Much of the Old Testament of the Bible, including Moses’ writings, was written in Hebrew because it was meant to teach the ancient Hebrews of their heritage and faith in God.
2. Daniel, another Bible author, was also a Hebrew who was brought to Babylon as a slave (about 600 B.C.). In addition to Hebrew, he also spoke Aramaic, which was the official language of the vast Babylonian Empire. He wrote part of his book in his native Hebrew, but also wrote part of it in Aramaic because it was such an important and widely spoken language world at his time (much like English is today!).
3. The Apostle Paul, who wrote a large portion of the New Testament, lived in Jerusalem, when it was part of the Roman Empire (1 A.D.). As in the long gone Babylonian Empire, there were popular languages used among the people, such as Ancient Greek, which was the language of philosophers, scholars and writers. Being one of these types of men, Paul wrote in Ancient Greek, as did the other writers of the New Testament.
These men, and all the other authors of the Bible wrote this wonderful book in the language of the people it was sent to for them to identify with it, and we can still identify with it today! Though it has been complete for almost 2000 years now and God no longer inspires men to add to the Bible in more modern languages, He has graciously made sure that it be translated into many of these languages so that we can all come to understand its message and have hope for a life in His future kingdom! What a loving God we have!
“But,” you may be wondering, “Can I be sure that what it says now is the same as what God intended it to say so many years ago?” Stay tuned for our next blog post, which will address this very important question…
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