(fr Gr, biblos, " book " ) The Christian sacred book. Actually a collection of books, the Holy Bible, as it is often called, is divided into two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The former contains thirty - nine books, according to the Protestants, with a supplement of fourteen books known as the Apocrypha; other churches include part or all of the Apocrypha in the Old Testament. The New Testament contains twenty - seven books.
The Old Testament was compiled from the 13th to the 1st century bc. No original manuscripts have survived, and present versions are based on two primary sources: the Septuagint, a Greek translation from the Hebrew, made in Alexandria about 250 bc, and the Massoretic Text, the work of a group of trained Jewish scholars, beginning in the 6th century after Christ, whose purpose was to correct and preserve the Hebrew versions then available. The Massoretic Text was completed by the end of the 10th century. The Septuagint became the accepted Christian version of the Old Testament, while the Massoretic Text has remained the Hebrew canon. Other important versions of the Old Testament are the Samarian Pentateuch, a 4th-century bc text preserved by the Samaritan community, and the Vulgate, a Latin translation by St. Jerome begun in ad 382. The Vulgate is still the authorized Roman Catholic version.
The New Testament was written, probably in Greek, during the 1st century; however, the earliest manuscripts date from the 3rd and 4th centuries. There is no doubt that, in the years between the date of its original composition and those of extant manuscripts, numerous textual changes were made through poor copying and interpretive additions or subtractions. There are five general types of text identifiable in early manuscripts. When the New Testament canon was defined in ad 367, an attempt was made to standardize the texts. Of the 150,000 variants of New Testament text, only 50 are significant, and no essential doctrine is affected by any of them.
The greatest number of New Testament texts are in Greek, but there are early Latin texts, parts of which were incorporated into the Vulgate. The New Testament is by far the best - preserved document from the ancient world; there are about 175 papyri from the 2nd to the 4th centuries and close to 3,000 manuscripts that date from before the invention of printing.