In what languages was the Bible written?

The Bible was written with God's inspiration over about a fourteen-hundred-year period by about forty different authors to different people groups in different living situations. Therefore, it was not all originally written in the same language. The author, location, and intended audience determined in what language God's message was originally recorded.

The Old Testament, also called the Hebrew Bible or the Tanakh, was mostly written in Classical (or Biblical) Hebrew, which is an archaic form of the Hebrew language. These books of the Bible were written to the Jewish people who lived in Israel and the surrounding areas and spoke this form of Hebrew in their everyday lives. Portions of the books of Daniel and Ezra, written during and directly after Babylonian captivity (500s to 400s BC), were originally written in Imperial Aramaic, which was a dialect known in all parts of the Near East at that time.

When the Greek Empire came to power in that area and Jews started speaking Greek as well, the Jewish Scriptures were translated from Hebrew into Greek during the second or third century BC into what is now called the Septuagint. About seven hundred years later, with the Roman Empire then in control, Jerome translated the Bible, including the New Testament, into Latin in a translation known as the Vulgate. Somewhere around the seventh century AD, Jewish scribes known as the Masoretes standardized the original Hebrew and Aramaic texts of the Old Testament by adding vowels, fixing orthography, and adding divisions of the text into books, sections, paragraphs, and verses in a translation called the Masoretic Text. Modern translators today typically use the Masoretic Text as the basis for translating the Old Testament from Hebrew or Aramaic into current target languages.

The New Testament was mostly originally written in Koine Greek, also known as Alexandrian, Hellenistic, Common, or New Testament Greek. Some scholars believe parts of the New Testament may have originally been written in Hebrew (the Gospel of Matthew) or Aramaic as well. There are scattered Aramaic expressions throughout the New Testament, including individual sayings of Jesus. Also, the opening of the Gospel of John seems to be a Greek translation of an Aramaic hymn. Some scholars posit that the Gospel of Mark may have possibly been written in Latin. However, the Greek text is what translators use today as their source text when translating the New Testament into modern languages.

Translators today strive to render Scripture as accurate to the original text, accessible to those who do not speak or read the original languages, and understandable for the modern mind. Learning Biblical Hebrew and New Testament Greek can increase and deepen our understanding of biblical texts. Comparing several translations of a verse or passage can also highlight different ways to understand that passage as well. But even using only one modern translation, we can rest assured knowing that God's Word is "breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16), "living and active" (Hebrews 4:12), and "shall not return to [Him] empty, but it shall accomplish that which [God] purpose[s], and shall succeed in the thing for which [He] sent it" (Isaiah 55:11).

Related Truth:

Does the translation process affect the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible?

Are the translations of the Bible inspired?

What does it mean that the Bible is composed of different books?

When were the books of the Bible divided into chapters and verses? Who did the dividing?

Why should we study the Bible?

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