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Bible The sacred scriptures of Judaism and Christianity. The Christian Bible consists of the Old Testament and the New Testament, with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox versions of the Old Testament being slightly larger because of their acceptance of certain books and parts of books considered apocryphal by Protestants. The Jewish Bible includes only the books known to Protestants as the Old Testament.

The Jewish scriptures are divided into three parts: the Torah ("Law"), or Pentateuch; the Nevi'im ("Prophets"); and the Ketuvim ("Writings"), or Hagiographa. The Pentateuch, together with the book of Joshua (hence the name Hexateuch) can be seen as the account of how Israel became a nation and of how it came to possess the Promised Land. The Nevi'im continue the story of Israel in the Promised Land, describing the establishment and development of the monarchy and presenting the messages of the prophets to the people. The Ketuvim include the books of Job and Ecclesiastes, the poetical works, and some additional historical books.

In the Apocrypha of the Old Testament, various types of literature are represented; the purpose for including the books of the Apocrypha seems to have been to fill in some of the gaps left by the indisputably canonical books and to carry the history of Israel to the 2nd century BC.

The Christian scriptures include the New Testament, which contains a variety of early Christian literature. The four Gospels deal with the life, the person, and the teachings of Jesus. The Book of Acts carries the story of Christianity from the Resurrection of Jesus to the end of the career of Paul. The Letters, or Epistles, are correspondence by various leaders of the early Christian church to the early Christian congregations. The Book of Revelation (the Apocalypse) is the only canonical representative of a large genre of apocalyptic literature that appeared in the early Christian movement.

The Jewish Bible was originally written almost entirely in Hebrew, with a few short elements in Aramaic. The New Testament books were probably all first written or recorded in Greek, though some may have been first written in Aramaic. By the mid-3rd century BC, Greek was the dominant language, and Jewish scholars eventually translated the Hebrew canon into that language, in a version known as the Septuagint. About 405 Saint Jerome completed translating a Latin version begun and based in part on the Septuagint; this version, the Vulgate, despite corruption introduced by copyists, became the standard of Christianity for more than a thousand years.

Notable translations in English include the unsurpassed King James (Authorized) Version (1611), the English Revised Version (1881-85), the Revised Standard [American] Version (1946-57), the New English Bible (1970), the [Catholic] Confraternity Version (1952-61; later issued as the New American Bible, 1970), and the Jerusalem Bible (1966).

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Publication:Merriam Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature
Date:Jan 1, 1995
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