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You Should Know About the Bible
1001 Surprising Things You Should Know About the Bible
35. We get our word paper from the papyrus plant—a tall weed that could be cut into strips, flattened, then woven together and dried to form sheets of paper. It is incredibly resilient, and scraps of paper with Scripture on them date back to the early second century. Writing done on sheepskin was known as “parchment.”
36. In ancient times when parchment was too expensive to possess, peasants would use fragments of pottery to write (scratch) memoranda of business transactions. Many of these have been uncovered by archaeologists, and they reveal much about ancient history. These fragments are called ostraca.
37. The word translated “took” in your Bible is really the word for “scroll.” The words of Scripture were written onto pieces of parchment or papyrus; then those pieces were glued together to form scrolls. It wasn’t until the second century that the notion of “pages” was invented, when a “codex” was created by gluing several flat sheets to a wooden spine.
38. The Bible wasn’t translated into English until the seventh century A.D. The translations weren’t precise at that point—they read more as a paraphrasing of the original manuscripts. The copies were known as “manuscript Bibles,” and few have survived.
39. Florilegia were popular with the masses before the invention of movable type. Artists would create a collection of Bible verses and pictures, often on one particular topic, and produce them in quantities. These small booklets (which get their name from the Latin phrase “to gather flowers”) were then used to teach basic Christian doctrine to groups of people.
40. The Glosses were Latin Bibles in which a scholar had taken a pen and written a translation into another language. This was generally done in secret because the Roman Catholic Church had banned Bibles in any language but Latin. By writing a literal translation of each word, those who did it were “glossing” or “explaining” foreign words to future readers. Their notes, written above each line of Latin type, gave rise to the expression “reading between the lines.”
41. The Lindisfarne Gospels are one such manuscript Bible that has survived. It was written in Latin around A.D. 700, but it has an English interlinear translation that was added into the original 250 years later.
42. The earliest known fragment of a New Testament papyrus manuscript was recovered from the ruins of a Greek town in ancient Egypt. A mere 2-1/2 inches by 3-1/4 inches, the fragment dates from about A.D. 115 or 125 and contains a portion of John 18:31—33, 37—38. It is commonly called the Rylands Fragment because it is housed in the John Rylands Library of Manchester, England.
43. The Codex Sinaiticus is the oldest copy of the complete New Testament. Housed in the British Museum in London, it contains handwritten pages bound to a spine on one side. Written in Greek, it dates from about the year A.D. 350.
44. Count Constantine von Tischendorf discovered the Codex Sinaiticus at the Monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai in 1859. It was written in large Greek letters (uncials) on vellum sheets that measured fifteen by thirteen inches wide. It had been copied in the fourth century A.D., making it the earliest complete copy of the New Testament in existence. Many other manuscripts were written earlier, but they were not complete copies.
45. The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript—that is, a lavishly decorated, handwritten copy—of the four Gospels in Latin. Produced in Ireland, it is generally regarded as the most beautiful handcrafted book of all time.
By Jerry MacGregor & Marie Prys
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