Bible and Western Culture
Mr. Sean Ross
Week 1, Class 1: Introduction
Bible: The Bible (Greek: "the books") is a canonical collection of texts considered sacred in Judaism as well as
in Christianity. There is no single "Bible": many Bibles exist with varying contents.
The term Bible is shared between Judaism and Christianity, although the contents of each of their collections
of canonical texts is not the same.
Different religious groups include different books within their canons, in different orders, and sometimes
divide or combine books, or incorporate additional material into canonical books.
Examples: Tanakh (Jewish Bible), The New American Bible (for catholics), King James Version, Orthodox Bible.
Canon: Authoritative list of books that comprise the Bible. Reed, ruler, measuring stick…
Religion authorized list of books that are said to make up the Bible, Scriptures.
Bible consists of several sections working together to form a comprehensive whole.
These have been written by different people, in different times, in different places, but are brought together
into a canon.
Each religious group has its own Canon.
Jewish Canon: Christian Canon:
Written before Christ, telling the story of the people Jewish Canon + New Testament, written in Greek, AD.
of Israel and their relation to god. Tell the story of the emergence and development of
the Christian church. Jesus, his disciples and
immediate followers. Order is also different. Sets the
stage for the arrival of Jesus.
Note: Catholic Bible contains more books from the Old Testament than Protestant Bible.
How was the Canon determined?
Process of Canonization.
Very slow process. Bible and Christian groups developed together over the centuries.
Before the Common Era: Books that will form the Old Testament are written and edited.
• Did not make up any official canon.
• Before the common Era, books
• By the first century, they were considered sacred by Jews and
• However, there was no official “Bible Concept".
nd o Not part of any official canon.
2 – 5th Cent. CE: Rabbis develop Jewish canon of Hebrew Bible
• Takes several centuries to “stick”:
o Canon for Judaism was only established by the 5th century,
and some groups/people still didn't know of this.
Late 2nd Cent. CE: Concept of “New Testament” arises; debate over what books belong
• New Testament" starts to be considered as sacred.
• Much debate. A formative period, different ideas clash.
o Christians and Jews discuss canon in parallel.
4th‐‐5th Cent. CE: Church councils discuss and fix the New Testament canon
16th Cent. CE: • Protestant churches debate and fix canons
• Catholics officially fix canon (Council of Trent, 1546)
o Emergence of Protestant churches with their own Canon.
Bible came in three main languages: Arabaic, Hebrew and Greek. These get translated.
Translation is a form of interpretation. You must decide what it means:
• Translation is influenced by politics, theology, social pressures.
• Causes conflict leading to different translations.
• This can cause a big difference.
3rd Century BCE: Jewish scribes begin translating Hebrew Bible into Greek—the Septuagint (aka the 70)
Creation of the Septuagint:
Emergence of the Hellenistic Empires.
• Alexander the Great Conquers a wide slot of the Eastern World,
o Introduction of Greek ideas to the Eastern World.
o Jews begin to speak Greek, their scriptures get translated.
Ptolemei invites Jewish Sages to Egypt to translate their scripture.
70 Sages write 70 different translations, all identical.
• Extremely popular belief, especially among Christians.
Late 4th Cent. CE: Jerome translates Bible into Latin
• Forms basis for the Vulgate
o (Official Roman Catholic Latin Version)
• Translation of the Bible into the common tongue.
1604 CE: King James commissions English translation of Bible
• King James version made a great contribution to English Literature.
1662 CE: This English version is officially recognized as the Authorized Text
• (aka The King James Bible)
Differences in translation:
• NIV 2011 has “gender‐neutral language” (As opposed to NIV 1984)
• NIV translates “virgin”, NRSV uses “Young Woman”
• NRSV preferred by academia. Bible sales are increasing.
A lot of Bibles have been sold by Zondervan.
• NIV. Sold by Zonderman, an Evangelical Christian group.
o Owned by HarperCollins (Publishing Conglomerate).
HC also publishes the NRSV
• (More popular with progressive community)
• Note it also publishes the Satanic Bible.
HC is owned by News Corporation.
• Owns Fox, Wall Street Journal, Hulu, National Geographic, etc.
Conclusion: The Bible is also a commodity.
• Different Bibles, Different communities, different sales tactics, etc.
• Revolve: Has biblical text, aimed at teen girls, has other features. Modeled as a Magazine.
• Refuel: Appeals to teen boys.
• Green Bible (Ecological Perspective)
First Objective: Be familiar with the Bible! Stories, context, themes, etc.
Second Objective: How people interpret the Bible
Third Objective: How do they apply the interpretation to the World around them.
Class 2: The Hebrew Bible, Creation, Genesis.
Jewish Bible: Torah: Nevi’im: Ketuvim:
• Law/Instruction • Prophets • Writings
T TORAH • 5 books: • Former Prophets: • Books:
A o Genesis o Joshua o Psalms
N NEVI’IM o Exodus o Judges o Proverbs
A o Leviticus o Samuel o Job
K KETUVIM o Numbers o Kings o Song of Songs
H o Deuteronomy • Latter Prophets: o Ruth
o Isaiah o Lamentations
o Jeremiah o Ecclesiastes
o Ezekiel o Esther
o Scroll of the 12 o Daniel
• Some are poetry, some