In what language was the Bible first written?

I once had a disgruntled adult student complain that there is too much confusion today over various translations of the Bible. She angrily blurted out, “we should just go back to the original English manuscripts to see what Jesus really said!”  I’m sure it broke her heart when I explained to her that Jesus did not speak English!

The truth is, most of the books of the Bible were written in Hebrew or Greek. In the Old Testament, 39 of the 46 books were originally written in Hebrew (with some portions written in Aramaic). 7 other books, called the deuterocanonicals (Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and First and Second Maccabees. ) were written in Greek. This explains, in part, why Catholic Bibles have 46 books in the Old Testament and Protestant Bibles have only 39 – Protestants do not recognize those 7 books as part of the canon of the Bible.

All 27 books of the New Testament were originally written in Greek. By the third century, the Old Testament books originally written in Hebrew were translated into Greek, and by the fifth century, the entire Bible was translated into Latin. As centuries progressed, the Bible was translated into dozens of languages, including English. One of the earliest and best known English translations of the Bible was the King James Bible (completed in 1611). Suffice to say that, when someone gets upset about “contemporary” translations of the Bible, insisting that we use the “original” text, they had better be prepared to read either Hebrew or Greek because there is no such thing as the original English text.


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