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Did Bibles always look like Bibles?


Josh Applegate | CCO

Mark Haas - published on 01/14/19

It's incredible to think how our concept of Scripture is actually quite modern.

Many Christians have their favorite copy of the Bible sitting on a cozy shelf at home, always at the ready. Paperbacks, hardbacks, and leatherbounds alike. Perhaps they are filled with margin notes, highlighted verses, bookmarked chapters, etc.  But did our ancestors have the same luxury? Were they well versed with all of the verses? Did Bibles always look like Bibles?

In fact, the Bible took well over a millennium to write. There is about a 1,500-year writing span between the Book of Genesis and the Book of Revelation. After Christ’s Passion, death, and resurrection around 33 AD, no author begins to pen a piece of the New Testament until about 45 AD. That’s 12 years of Christians without any written authority.

The complete Bible was not officially compiled and canonized until the year 397, when the Catholic Church convened at the Council of Carthage.

Chapter numbers did not come about till 1080, assigned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langdon. Printed bibles were not available until 1,400 years after Christ. Indeed, verses did not appear until the Geneva Bible was printed in 1560. 

So what did Christians do?

Jesus promises that He will not leave His disciples as orphans (John 14:18). Jesus himself actually never writes anything down, and He never instructs His disciples to read scripture as a sole authority. Founding a visible church on the rock of St. Peter (Matthew 16:18), Jesus sends His Apostles into all nations to “teach them everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).  

In addition to God’s word in the Holy Scriptures, may we all cling to “the church, which is the pillar and foundation of truth” (2 Timothy 3:15).


Read more:
What is the best edition of the Bible for Catholics?

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