The short answer is no.
The long answer is as follows:
Most people who read the Bible have little idea how complicated its origins, transmission, preservation, and history of compilation truly are.
The word Bible means “book,” but in reality, the Bible is comprised of many books. The exact number depends on one’s confessional identity.
For Jews the Bible (also called Tanak or Mikra—what Christians call the Old Testament) is made up of Hebrew and Aramaic books.
For Christians, the Greek New Testament is also part of the Bible.
Now, the Scripture certainly has more than enough content to be interrogated, considering that it's comprised of 66 books, 1,189 chapters, 31,173 verses, and 774,746 words. Therefore, this paper aims at exploring the history/origin of the Christian Bible with evangelical point of view.
Ancient Writing Materials
Thousands of years ago (when the Bible was being written), it was not very easy to write or print things. The following materials were used in writing the Scriptures:
1. Common Clay: Clay had many qualities that made it a good writing material. It was easy to write on. When clay is moist, it is soft and can be engraved easily using a stone or stick.
2. Stone: The Ten Commandments were written on stone (Ex. 31:18; 34:1, 28).
3. Wood: The tablets mentioned in Isaiah 30:8 and Habakkuk 2:2 were probably wooden.
4. Papyrus: After gluing many of the reeds together, a rock was needed to smooth the surface of the papyrus so that people could write on it just like paper. The ink, made from plants or dyes, would be applied to the finished sheet using a sharp stick, quill, or other “pen-like” instrument.
5. Leather: Many times the ancient writers dyed the skins purple and used gold ink to write on them.
6. Vellum or Parchment: The two most valuable New Testament manuscripts, the Vatican and Sinaitic manuscripts, are made of high-quality vellum.
7. Paper: The secrets of paper making, though, were not widely made known until the middle of the eighth century when Arabs captured some Chinese men who were skilled in making paper. By the time of the thirteenth century paper was being used in much of Europe.
The Four Main Links in the Revelatory Process
The study of How We Got Our Bible can be summarized into four main sections: Inspiration; canonization; transmission and translation
The word inspire comes from the Latin word inspirare. It means “to breathe upon. “Inspiration is a superintendence of God the Holy Spirit over the writers of the Scriptures, as a result of which these Scriptures possess Divine authority and trustworthiness and, possessing such Divine authority and trustworthiness, are free from error.4 “Inspiration is, therefore, usually defined as a supernatural influence exerted on the sacred writers by the Spirit of God, by virtue of which their writings are given Divine trustworthiness. If we say that the Bible is inspired, we simply mean that God breathed his word into His writers. The English word “inspiration” in its theological usage comes from 2 Timothy 3:16. The word is used to translate the Greek term theopneustos which means “God-breathed.”
“Inspiration may be then defined as the Holy Spirit’s superintending over the writers [of Scripture] so that while writing according to their own styles and personalities, the result was God’s Word written— authoritative, trustworthy, and free from error in the original autographs”.
3.0 CANONICITY OF THE SCRIPTURES
In regard to the Bible in theological usage, “canon” refers to authoritative Scripture. As Bruce says, “When we speak of the canon of scripture, the word ‘canon’ has a simple meaning. It means the list of books contained in scripture, the list of books recognized as worthy to be included in the sacred writings of a worshipping community. In a Christian context, we might define the word as ‘the list of the writings acknowledged by the Church as documents of the divine revelation.”
3.1 Which Books Belong in the Bible?
Evangelicals believe that there are 66 books in the Christian Bible. The Old Testament contains 39 books, and the New Testament contains 27 books. But many books other than these 66 were written during Bible times.
3.2 Non-Canonical Books: Books that don’t Belong
Since the apostles and prophets wrote things that were very popular, other people wanted to be like them. These other people wrote books that are not found in the Bible, even though they were written at the same time as books in the Bible. The Apocrypha contains “weird” teachings. One book talks about Jesus, as a child, playing with His friends. One boy bumped into Jesus while running, and Jesus killed him! But God’s Son would never do that.
Not all books written during the Old Testament era are Scripture. They can be classified into four categories.
A. Homologoumena — Books accepted by all
B. Antilegomena — Books disputed by some
C. Pseudepigrapha — Books rejected by all
D. Apocrypha — Books accepted by some
3.3 The Old Testament
3.3.1 How We Get the Old Testament
Moses began to write the first books of the Old Testament almost 3,500 years ago. All of the original documents that Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the other Old Testament writers produced have been destroyed. We have only copies of their writings. So, how do we know that the original books were copied correctly? Can we be sure that the book of Genesis that we are reading in the 21st Century is the same book that God inspired Moses to write 3,500 years ago? Yes, we can be sure that the Old Testament that we read today has been copied accurately. Let’s look at the reasons why.
Scribes Copied the Documents: Scribes copied almost any type of document imaginable. They took their jobs very seriously because the slightest mistake could make making sure that each letter of a word was spaced exactly a hairsbreadth (the thickness of one hair) from its neighbour, and never writing even the smallest letter from memory. One group of scribes, who were known as the Masoretes, made stricter rules. They counted every single verse, word, and letter of the Old Testament books that they copied. They also counted how many times a letter was used and which verse, word, and letter should be exactly in the middle of the book. The Masoretes were some of the world’s greatest perfectionists.
Where did All the Copies Go?: The ancient Jewish scribes made thousands of copies of the Old Testament. With so many scribes working on the Old Testament, it would seem that we should find thousands of ancient copies. But that is not exactly the case. Although we do find many copies of the Old Testament, thousands of the copies that were produced have been lost. The scribes were very particular about their copies of the Old Testament books. If one of their copies began to get older, or its pages began to fade, they would take it and bury it in the ground or burn it. They did not want to take the chance of the faded copy being misread or recopied incorrectly. Furthermore, the scribes greatly respected the name of God. Any document that had God’s name written on it was viewed as holy and had to be kept in good shape. Once a holy document became old or worn, it was given a proper burial.
For these reasons, many of the copies of the Old Testament no longer exist.
3.3.2 Texts and Manuscripts of the Old Testament
1) The Old Testament Canon era (1450-400 B.C.): No copies of this era are extant today.
2) The Talmudic era (c. 400 B.C.—A.D. 500).
4) The Cairo Codex (A.D. 895);
5) The Leningrad Codex of the Prophets (A.D. 916)
7) Leningrad Codex (A.D. 1008)
8) Aleppo Codex (c. A.D. 950)
11) Septuagint (c. 250 B.C.)
12) Aramaic Targums
14) Latin Vulgate (A.D. 390-405)
14) Biblical quotations from the Talmud (A.D. 200-500); and
15) Origen’s Hexapla (3rd century A.D.)
3.3.3 Books of the Old Testament
During Old Testament times, Jews used two rules to determine if a book was from God. First, it had to come from a prophet, or someone to whom God had spoken. Second, the writing had to be recognized as coming from God and had to be used widely by the Israelites.
The 39 books of the Old Testament are divided into five sections as follows:
The Books of the Law (5 books) —Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
The Books of History (12 books) —Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, 1&2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.
The Books of Poetry (5 books) — Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.
The Books of the Major Prophets (5 books) — Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel.
The Minor Prophets (12 books) —Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
3.4 The New Testament.
3.4.1 How Did We Get the New Testament?
… God inspired the writers of the New Testament. The actual letters and books written by these men were known as “autographs.” Unfortunately, we do not have any of the original documents that these men wrote. Why didn’t God preserve these original documents so that we could see and possibly touch them? We cannot be sure of why God did not preserve the original documents. Maybe He knew that some people might value the actual piece of papyrus and not the words and ideas written on it. Or maybe He knew that some people might think themselves to be more holy than others just because they had an original autograph. For whatever reasons, God did not preserve the original documents that the New Testament writers produced.
3.4.2 Texts and Manuscripts of the New Testament
New Testament manuscripts are made up of three major types: 1) Papyrus; 2) Codices and 3) Minuscule.
3.4.3 Books of the New Testament
The New Testament was completed about 500 years after Malachi. However, the New Testament picks up right where the Old Testament left off. All of the prophets had been telling about the coming Messiah Who would save the world and establish a spiritual kingdom. The entire Jewish nation was waiting for the Messiah. The four gospels tell the story of Jesus and prove by His miracles and teachings that He was the coming Messiah. The 27 books of the New Testament are divided into 4 major parts. Viz:
The Gospels (4 books): Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
The Historical Literature (1 book): Acts.
The Epistolatory Literature (21 books)
The Prophetical Literature (1 book): Revelation.
Factors contributing to the recognition of certain books as canonical
The following factors contributed to the recognition of certain books of the Scriptures as canonical: tradition; spiritual authority of the books themselves; recognition in the Temple as sacred; conviction of leaders and people; they must have been written by an Apostle or a prophet; they must be inspired by God; apostolic authority; universal church recognition and no works could be canon that contradicted the apostolic faith.
God Decides, not Man; God Determines, Man Discovers
Some people think that men chose the books that are in the Bible. They think this because it is a fact that hundreds of years ago, certain groups of men held meetings to vote on the books they thought belonged in the Bible. But the truth of the matter is, no book could get into the Bible unless God inspired the book. When the groups of men met to discuss the Bible, they did not have the power to vote some books in and others out. The councils merely made it clear that they recognized the books God had inspired. God inspired the books of the Bible, and no vote by any council could change that fact.
4.0 TRANSMISSION OF THE HOLY BIBLE
The Bible has frequently been translated into multiple languages and distributed throughout the world. As Christianity spread, it is certainly true that people desired to have the Bible in their own language which required translations from the original Hebrew and Aramaic languages of the Old Testament and the Greek of the New Testament. Not only did the work of translators provide an opportunity for error, but publication, which was done by hand copying until the printing press arrived ca. A.D. 1450, also afforded continual possibilities of error. In fact, the number of existing biblical manuscripts dramatically outdistances the existing fragments of any other ancient literature. By comparing text with text, the textual critic can confidently determine what the original prophetic/apostolic, inspired writing contained. Although existing copies of the main, ancient Hebrew text (Masoretic) date back only to the tenth century A.D. The tenth century A.D. Hebrew Old Testament can be compared to the Greek translation called the Septuagint. There is amazing consistency between the two, which speaks of the accuracy in copying the Hebrew text for centuries. Second, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls proved to be monumentally important. After comparing the earlier Hebrew texts with the later ones, only a few slight variants were discovered, none of which changed the meaning of any passage.
5.0 TRANSLATION OF THE HOLY BIBLE
In regard to the Bible it involves taking the Bible message, written originally in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, and putting it into other languages. By 1989, according to the American Bible Society, there were complete Bible translations in 314 languages. Every year between 16 and 20 new languages receive their own Bible translations” (Readers Digest ABC’s of the Bible, p.300). John Wycliffe (c.1320-84), the ”Morning Star of the Reformation,” was responsible for the first full translation of the Bible into English. Clashing often with the Pope and Rome, Wycliffe believed that English speaking people needed their own version of the Scriptures. He said, “Englishmen learn Christ’s law best in English.” With the assistance of some of his Students.
The last part of the twentieth century seems to be a time for new revisions, not new translations. The general consensus among the consumers is, ‘We have enough translations, don’t give us anymore.’ Most of the publishers seem to be getting the message. Therefore, instead of publishing new translations, they are issuing new, revised editions of existing translations.
5.1 Different Bile Versions
In theological context, a version is a translation of the Bible that was made by reading the Bible in its original language. The best way to translate the Bible would be to read from the original languages in which it was written. However, that did not always happen. Sometimes translators did not have a copy of the Bible in its original languages, or they could not read the original languages. When this happened, they had to make a translation from another translation. For instance, the first Bible that was translated into English was made by reading from a Latin translation. But we have learned that Latin was not the original language of either the Old or the New Testament.
5.2 The Deal is Sealed
No new books will ever be added to the 66 books found in the Bible that we have today.
Scripture texts warn that no one should delete from or add to Scripture (Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Prov. 30:6).
Revelation 22:18,19 says, “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Throughout the ages, men and women from many different time periods and many different countries have put their lives in danger so that we can read the Bible in our own language. We have seen how the Bible started out on materials such as stone tablets, clay, wood, leather, parchments, vellums, papers and scrolls of papyrus. It was originally written mostly in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic languages that very few of us who speak English can understand. Yet careful scribes copied and translated the Bible so that it could be passed from one generation to the next. Many of these ancient copies have been preserved until now, and we can compare them to ensure that we have the words of the inspired writers. Each book in the Bible has been carefully examined to make sure that it was inspired by God, rather than being written by an uninspired person. Without a doubt, the Bible that we have today is the Word of God.
I hope you find this helpful.