History Pages

A Brief History of the Bible


ca. 1290 BC
Moses delivered the Ten Commandments and other laws to the Israelites. He later told the Israelites to keep "The Book of the Law" beside the Ark of the Covenant. (Deuteronomy 31:24-26)
ca. 623 BC
Josiah of Judah rediscovered the "Book of the Covenant" when the Temple at Jerusalem was being repaired. (II Kings 22:8, 23:1-3)
ca. 450 BC
Ezra read the "Book of the Law" to the Jews who had returned from Exile in Babylon
ca. 400 BC - 100 BC
The Apocrypha, or Deuterocanonical Books, such as the Books of the Maccabees, Judith, Tobit, were written, in Greek rather than in Hebrew
ca. 250 BC
The Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek, traditionally by 70 (or 72) scholars; hence the name for the translation - the Septuagint or LXX
ca. AD 50
The Peshitta begun: the Hebrew OT translated into Syriac Aramaic. The translation of the Greek NT into Aramaic, not until AD 400)
ca. AD 50 - AD 100
The Books of the New Testament were written, in Greek
Possible dates for the Epistles :
  • AD 49 : Galatians
  • AD 51 : I & II Thessalonians
  • AD 55 : I Corinthians & possibly Philippians
  • AD 56 : II Corinthians
  • AD 57 : Romans
  • AD 58-59 (Paul in prison in Rome or Caesarea) : Ephesians
  • AD 60-62 (Paul in prison in Rome) : Colossians, Philemon, possibly Philippians
  • AD 62 : possibly Epistle of James, written by the leader of Jerusalem Church
  • AD 64-95 : possible period for I Peter, written in Rome
  • AD 65 : I Timothy & Titus; possibly I Peter & James; possibly Hebrews
  • AD 66 (Paul in prison in Rome) : II Timothy
  • AD 80 : possibly Jude
  • AD 90 : possibly John's Epistles
  • AD 100 : possible date for Jude
AD 65
Possible date for "Q" - (German "Quelle", meaning "source") - a putative collection of Jesus' acts and sayings, written in Greek, and used by Matthew and Luke when writing their Gospels
AD 62-125
Period in which the Gospels, Acts, Revelation, and the remaining Epistles were written
AD 62-67, or AD 70
Possible dates for the Gospel according to St. Mark, written in Rome by Peter's assistant
AD 62-67, or AD 75-90
The Gospel according to St. Luke written, followed by the "Acts of the Apostles"
ca. AD 70
The "Signs Gospel" written, a putative Greek text used in the Gospel of John to show that Jesus is the Messiah
AD 80-85
The Gospel according to St. Matthew written, based on Mark and Q, most popular in the early Church
AD 81-96
Revelation written, by John, son of Zebedee
AD 90-100
Writing of the Gospel according to St. John, and 1, 2, & 3 John
AD 90
The Jewish Council of Jamnia decided against including the books of the Apocrypha in the "Canon of Scripture". Only the earlier Hebrew books were included in what became the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament)
AD 100-125
II Peter written (?),also the apocryphal Gospels of Thomas and James, and the Secret Gospel (of Mark)
AD 125
Probable date for Papyrus 52 - the oldest extant NT fragment, with parts of John 18:31-33,37-38
ca. AD 200
Sahidic Coptic Bible translations written in Alexandria
Latin Bible translations begun in Carthage
AD 254
Origen compiled his "Hexapla" : 6 versions of the Old Testament in parallel columns : Hebrew, Hebrew transliterated in Greek, Aquila's Greek translation, Symmachus' Greek translation, Origen's revised Greek translation, Theodotion's revised Septuagint
ca. AD 300
Bohairic Coptic Bible translations written in Alexandria
ca AD 340
Eusebius of Caesarea (260-340), theologian & church historian, wrote the "Ecclesiastical History". Recounts that John the Elder, a disciple of Jesus, told him that Mark "was the interpreter of Peter and wrote down carefully what he remembered of what had been said or done by the Lord, but not in the right order." Also recounted that "Matthew composed the sayings in Hebrew (more likely Aramaic) and each one translated them as he could."
ca. AD 350
Codex Sinaiticus (S or Aleph): one of the earliest existing Christian Bibles, containing some extra deuterocanonical books, from St. Catherine's Monastery near Mount Sinai, now in the British Museum;
Codex Vaticanus (B): one of the earliest Christian Bibles (some books missing)
Ulfilas, apostle to the Goths (Germans), translated Greek NT to Gothic
AD 360
Scrolls began to be replaced by books (the Codex form)
AD 363
The Council of Laodicea listed all the Books of the New Testament, except the Book of Revelation, as being canonical
AD 367
Athanasias, bishop of Alexandria, first citing of modern 27 NT canon
AD 382-384
Pope Damasus I had Jerome revise and unify the Latin Bibles
AD 384
Jerome presented Pope Damasus I with new Latin translations of the Gospels
AD 397
The Council of Carthage listed all the Books of the New Testament as currently accepted
AD 400
Jerome completed his translation of the Bible into Latin - this translation was widely used in Europe, and was known as the Vulgate;
Jerome cites the expanded ending in Mark after Mark 16,14;
Jerome places the Pericope of the Adulteress in John's Gospel (John 7,53-8,11)
ca. AD 400
The Peshitta (Syriac/Aramaic translation of the Bible), excludes: 2Peter, 2 & 3 John, Jude, Revelation. The Peshitta became the standard Syrian Christian Bible
ca. AD 450
Codex Alexandrinus (A): "Alexandrian" text-type;
Codex Bezae (D): Greek/Latin Gospels + Acts, and Codex Washingtonianus (W): Greek Gospels; both of the "Western" text-type
ca AD 500
Codex Sangallensis vg: earliest extant Latin Vulgate, Gospels;
Codex Argenteus (got): earliest nearly complete Gothic (German), Gospels
AD 550
The Byzantine Greek Text of the Bible becomes the standard Bible of the Eastern Church. There was much smoothing and conflation of the text
ca AD 690
Earliest Bible translations into Anglo-Saxon, continued work by Bede and others from this point forward
AD 700
The Lindisfarne Gospels - illuminated book of manuscript Gospels - still in existence
ca. AD 735
The Venerable Bede, of Jarrow in northern England, translated parts of the New Testament into Anglo-Saxon, but there are no surviving manuscripts
AD 863
Cyril and Methodius, missionaries to the Slavs and Russians, translated the Bible into Slavonic, for which they had to design an alphabet (from which the Russian Cyrillic alphabet has developed)
ca. AD 880
King Alfred the Great translated some of the New Testament into Anglo-Saxon, but there are no surviving manuscripts; also translations by Aldhelm and Aelfric
AD 1236
Cardinal Caro divided the text into Chapters
AD 1380-1382
John Wycliffe, theologian and reformer at Oxford, makes NT (1380) and OT (1382, with the help of Nicholas of Hereford) translations in English. The first complete translation into English, included deuterocanonical books
AD 1408
The Council of Oxford forbade translations of the Scriptures into the vernacular unless and until they are fully approved by Church. "It neither forbiddeith the translations to be read that were already well done of old before Wycliffe's days, nor damneth his because it was new but because it was naught; nor prohibiteth new to be made but provideth that they shall not be read if they be made amiss till they be by good examination amended." - Sir Thomas Moore "A Dialogue against Heresies"
AD 1415
The Council of Florence condemns all of Wycliffe's works, but the actual Bibles continued to be used after having the heretical prologue removed, and were possessed by religious houses and the nobility; were generally accepted by Roman Catholics
AD 1456
The first printed Bible, by Guthenberg, (in Latin)
AD 1466-1536
Desiderius Erasmus, Dutch scholar, published the Greek NT used in many 16th century translations
AD 1516
The first printed edition of the Greek text of the New Testament, along with his Latin translation, by Erasmus. This Greek text became known as the "textus receptus", because of a claim that it was received by all as being correct, or as the "Byzantine text", because it was widely used by the Eastern (Byzantine) Church
AD 1521-1534
Martin Luther translated the Bible into German; used "elder" rather than "priest", and "congregation" rather than "church"
AD 1525-1534
Tyndale's translation of the New Testament, using the Greek text of Erasmus (1466), the Vulgate, the Hebrew Pentateuch, and Luther's German version (1530), first printed edition, with bitter attacks on the Church. Showed Luther's influence by using "elder" rather than "priest" and "congregation" rather than "church"
AD 1535
Miles Coverdale's English translation (based on Tyndale's work), included the Apocrypha, but put it at the end of the Old Testament. The 1537 edition received royal license, but it was banned in 1546
AD 1536
Tyndale was betrayed and executed for translating the Bible into English. He was strangled and his body was burned. His OT translation was left in manuscript. English ecclesiastical authorities ordered his Bible burned because it was thought to be too influenced by Lutheran reform
AD 1537
Matthew's Bible, by John Rogers (1500-1555), based on Tyndale's, received royal license but was not authorized for use in public worship
AD 1539
The "Great Bible" (so-called because of the size of its pages, 9 x 15 inches) - a revision of Matthew's Bible by Thomas Cromwell. The first English Bible to be authorized for public use in English churches
AD 1543
Parliament bans Tyndale's translation
AD 1551
Robert Stephens divided the text into verses
AD 1556
Beza's Latin NT
AD 1560
The Geneva Bible - the first English Bible to have verse numbers, appointed to be read in Scotland (but not England)
AD 1572-1606
The Bishop's Bible, the first to be published in England by episcopal authority
AD 1582
The Rheims NT, based on Coverdale, Bishops', Geneva, Wycliffe
AD 1609-1610
The Rheims-Douay Bible - the first Roman Catholic English translation
AD 1611
The "King James" or "Authorized Version" (so-called because it was "authorized to be read in churches") - included the Apocrypha. King James I of England appointed a panel of scholars to translate the Hebrew and Greek texts into English, in an attempt to produce a Bible which would be acceptable to all the various religious parties of that time
AD 1644
The "Long Parliament" directed that only the Hebrew canon of the Old Testament be read in the Church of England (removed the Apocrypha and Deuterocanonical books from public reading)
AD 1660
Restoration of the English Monarchy; reversed the decision of the Long Parliament, reinstated the Apocrypha and Deuterocanonical books, but the reversal was not accepted by the non-conformists (those who refused to accept Parliament's Act of Conformity)
AD AD 1718
Catholic English version of NT by Dr. Nary, much less bulky than the Reims-Douay
AD 1730
Catholic English version of NT, revision of Reims NT by Dr. Robert Witham
AD 1738-1816
The New Catholic English versions of the NT by Dr. Richard Challoner and Francis Blyth, Bernard MacMahon, Dr Troy
AD 1881-1894
The Church of England makes the "Revised Version" of the Bible, including the Apocrypha and Deuterocanonical Books, intended to be more accurate than the Authorized Version
AD 1898-1904
The Twentieth Century NT, put the books in chronological order
AD 1901
The "American Standard Version", a rescension of the Revised Version, using words and phrases more familiar to Americans
AD 1913-1924
The "James Moffat Bible", the first one-man translation in almost 400 years
AD 1936
The "Westminster New Testament", an unofficial Roman Catholic version
AD 1944-1955
The "Knox Version", from the Vulgate
AD 1946-1952
The "Revised Standard Version" (RSV) a revision of the King James' Version, with the aim of bringing the language up to date
AD 1949
The Basic English Bible, using a vocabulary of only 1000 words, and a simple and direct style
AD 1949
Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which contain copies of Books of the Old Testament, as well as Essene literature
AD 1958
J.B. Phillip's New Testament, with a vocabulary restricted to commonly spoken language
AD 1961
The "New English Bible", easy to read, but a slightly less accurate translation
AD 1966
The RSV Catholic Edition, a joint effort between Roman Catholics and the Church of England, a step towards a common Catholic/Protestant Bible
AD 1966
The Jerusalem Bible, produced by Roman Catholic scholars. A translation from the original languages based on the "Bible de Jerusalem"
AD 1966
Today's English Version produced by the American Bible Society, using "common English"
AD AD 1970
Confraternity Version, a new Catholic translation from the originals which began before 1939 as a translation from the Vulgate, but ended up as a new translation from the Hebrew (OT) and Greek (NT)
AD 1971
New American Standard Bible, updated the ASV using recent Hebrew and Greek textual discoveries
AD 1978
New International Version, using current English style
AD 1979-1982
The New King James Bible, complete revision of 1611 KJV, updates archaisms while retaining style

Main Sources : Smithsonian Timelines of Ancient History, The Timetables of History (Bernard Grun)

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Dr. Rollinson

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Portales, NM 88130

Last Updated: June 30, 2017

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