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Original form and languages of the Scripture

Initially, the books of the Old Testament were written in a Jewish tongue. Later books of the Babylonian era contain many Assyrian and Babylonian words and phraseologies, while “deutero-canonical” books written during the Greek reign — with the exception of the 3rd book of Ezra which is in Latin — were authored in Greek.

        Books of the Holy Scripture did not leave the hands of their holy authors in the format we are seeing them now. They were initially written on parchment or on papyrus (a paper-reed that grew prolifically in Egypt and Israel) using a sharpened bamboo stick dipped in ink. In effect, what was being written were not books but papyrus or parchment scrolls that resembled long ribbons, coiled on to a wooden spool. These rolls were written on one side only. Consequently, in order to make them more manageable, instead of gluing together these papyrus or parchment ribbons into huge rolls, they were stitched into books.

        The original text of these scrolls was written in bold capital letters with no spaces between the words so that one sentence resembled one word. The reader himself had to divide the sentence into words and naturally enough, occasionally made mistakes. At the same time these ancient manuscripts did not contain any commas nor full-stop or emphasis signs. As well, the ancient Jewish language did not employ vowels but only consonants.

        In the 5th century, the division of sentences into words in the Holy Books was undertaken by Deacon Evlaly, of the Alexandrine Church. Slowly but surely, the Bible began to take on its current format. Because of its contemporary division into chapters and verses, the reading and locating of specific passages in the Bible is quite an easy matter.

How to Read the Bible by Archimandrite Justin Popovich Return to the first page

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