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How long has the Bible been available? How has it impacted history?

Dr. Jeffrey Seif TLV Scholars Leave a Comment

Bible open in nature
Good questions, to be sure.

By way of response, and at the outset, the answer  depends on what one means by “available.” If availability entails hearing scripture uttered–aside from sporadic pronouncements going back to Moses, then to and through the various prophets–the systematic, weekly reading of biblical scrolls goes back to the post-exilic era of the Old Testament, as is attested in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.

In Ezra 7:6, for example, a post-exilic minister named Ezra is noted as a “scribe skilled in the Torah of Moses,” and then in v. 10 for his having applied himself toward its observance and communication. Relative to the latter, in Nehemiah 8:1, assembled Hebrews beckon this same Ezra to bring forth “the Torah Scroll of Moses,” to read from it to them and to then give its sense. Alas, a sermon! He complies. (See v. 2-12.) Among other things, spiritual energies unleashed through Ezra spurred Israelites to restore the Jerusalem Temple, a work completed in 516B.C.E. There’s an impact. 

Never mind 516 B.C.E. (or B.C.). Let’s fast forward to 1440C.E. (or A.D.) and to another noteworthy time and person: a goldsmith named Johannes Gutenberg. Gutenberg invented movable type and spurred printing in the process. Prior to the printing press, professional scribes and monks (like Ezra) pressed their quills to various types of materials, wrote out biblical verses one at a time and produced bibles one at a time. To be sure, bibles were produced one at a time by the press of their hands. They were mass-produced thanks to the movable type, however, enabling the masses to get a chance to read the Bible. “The rest is history,” as they say. Mass production brought the price down sufficient to get biblical literature into the hands of regular people–folk like us.

While the distance between the aforementioned dates spans two millennia, biblical pronouncements go back further, to around 1450B.C.E. or 1250B.C.E–depending on when one dates the Exodus from Egypt. Over time, there and then, Moses spelled out God’s will and ways for his Hebrew contemporaries to contemplate.

All in all, biblical text has been around for well over 3,000 years. How has its manufacture impacted history? Remembering Jesus’ statement that “you’ll know them by their fruits,” a consideration of the fruits of biblically-informed cultures attests to the Bible’s impact. Take Israel and America. Imperfect as both are, vestiges of biblical principles are found in the constitution of both countries. A certain vitality is found in both cultures, too, itself an attestation of the respective cultures’ biblically informed value systems.

Lastly, never mind world history; let’s think of our own story. As an individual, I remember vividly the day when someone opened up Isaiah 53 and read it to me. This Jewish boy’s world was turned inside and out as a result, and for the better. How so? Because someone opened the Bible and let the Bible impact me. I trust the TLV will continue the tradition of impacting others for the Kingdom’s sake.

About the Author
Dr. Jeffrey Seif

Dr. Jeffrey Seif

Dr. Jeffrey Seif serves as the Project Manager and Chief Theologian of the Tree of Life Version Translation. A college teacher since 1989, he teaches adjunct at Christ for the Nations Institute and currently holds the title "University Distinguished Professor of Bible and Jewish Studies" at The King's University.​ Professor Seif has authored many books and has appeared on many television programs, teaching from and about the Middle East. Dr. Seif is a graduate of the North Texas Regional Police Academy (BCAPS), holds a Th.B. from Trinity and an M.T.S. and D.Min. from Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX.

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