This Site has Renamed the Category “Biblical Translation and Interpretation” to “Scriptural Translation and Interpretation, The Development of the Word “Bible”

This is a simple change to more accurately reflect how the Scriptures handle the concept of scriptures. While the scriptures do use the collective word “scriptures”, there simply is no concept in the Scriptures of a collective book called a Bible or anything else that reflects the sum and substance of exactly what is and what is not Scripture.

Scripture is a term used in scripture itself to point out its divine origins.

Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that each person who belongs to God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2Ti 3:16-17 WEB)

The word “bible” today is taken by many to mean the officially sanctioned set of sacred scriptures that is to be recognized as the word of God, no more and no less. And while there are men who make compelling arguments toward that proposition, God has not sent prophets that have made that declaration.  So, the doctrine that the 66 books of the protestant bible, in their original form,  precisely contain the sum and substance of God’s revelation to man is actually a man-made doctrine.  The selection of those sixty-six books was not done by prophets, it was done by theologians who don’t have the authority to make that statement.

The History of The Word “Bible” and its Acceptance

In Christianity today, there are preachers who say that the scriptures and the bible are synonymous.  Some go on to say that the scriptures equal the bible and also equal the word of God. I’ve heard many a Christian rattle off that terminology and like wording without a second thought.  But this is not what happened in original Christianity.  In Original Christianity each book was handled distinctly and separately unless the terms the Law and Prophets (sometimes with “writings”) were the collective terms used (See LP0.1 Only The Law and the Prophets Had Divine Status for more).

The scriptures is a general term used in scripture for the collection of inspired writings but it is nowhere near as precise as the definition of “bible” has come to mean.

Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner. This was from the Lord. It is marvelous in our eyes?’ (Mat 21:42 WEB)

Jesus himself used the term “scriptures”, but there is no scriptural source that defines the term “Scripture” to be the 39 books in the protestant bible Old Testament.  The Septuagint, a Greek collection of Old Testament-era writings, was available and it is believed to be the basis for the Christian Old Testament. But Jesus never precisely points to the Septuagint and there is no conclusive evidence that the Septuagint was the exclusive, authoritative source of Old Testament writings to Jesus, especially considering that Jesus and the Apostles were not in an area where Greek was the predominant language. The predominant language in Jesus’ part of the world is believed to be Aramaic although Jesus probably read scrolls like Isaiah in Hebrew.

The way that “scriptures” is used, being undefined in number, does not disallow the possibility that there might be more or less divinely inspired books in existence than we currently recognize and that there might be more that will be written.  The latter was certainly the case as the scriptures that we call the New Testament were yet to be written when Jesus was referring to the scriptures.

The word “bible” dates to the late fourth century. Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate, the scriptures translated in the common language of the time(Latin), is credited as the first to use the word Bible as the collective book of the scriptures.[1] Bible is a generic Latin term for books(plural).

The Bible takes its name from the Latin Biblia (‘book’ or ‘books’) which comes from the Greek Ta Biblia (‘the books’) traced to the Phoenician port city of Gebal, known as Byblos to the Greeks. Writing became associated with Byblos as an exporter of papyrus (used in writing) and the Greek name for papyrus was bublos.[2] So it looks like a slang term for a bunch of books in ancient times gradually became this venerated name “the Bible” which has this precise meaning of the one and only collection of divinely inspired sacred writings.

The Vulgate was commissioned by Pope Damascus in 382 AD. Previously, “scriptures” was pretty much exclusively used to refer to the book now commonly referred to as the bible although “books” and “writings” are seen as generic terms. Now we have a reference to the scriptures as the Bible.

The Vulgate was not immediately accepted and it took centuries and was accepted in gradual steps.[3] By the sixth century, a complete bible was commonly used and came mainly from the Vulgate.  It had the Vulgate Old Testament but had other translations of the Psalms, Tobias, Judith, and the New Testament.  Notice that Tobias and Judith are in this bible.  Still, we have a lot of people using and accepting the “bible” as the scriptures at that time.

In 1546, over 15 centuries after the birth of the Christian Church, the Council of Trent decreed the Vulgate as the only authoritative set of scriptures (the language of the following quotes is the actual language of the decree):

“But if any one receive not, as sacred and canonical, the said books entire with all their parts, as they have been used to be read in the Catholic Church, and as they are contained in the old Latin vulgate edition; and knowingly and deliberately contemn the traditions aforesaid; let him be anathema.”[4]

The Vulgate is here pronounced “sacred and canonical “. There it is, the official affirmation, fifteen centuries after Christ, that the bible contains the sacred scriptures and that this is the sacred set that is to be recognized.  Notice that the listing of this official recognition includes what is called apocryphal.

They are as set down here below: of the Old Testament: the five books of Moses, to wit, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; Josue, Judges, Ruth, four books of Kings, two of Paralipomenon, the first book of Esdras, and the second which is entitled Nehemias; Tobias, Judith, Esther, Job, the Davidical Psalter, consisting of a hundred and fifty psalms; the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Canticle of Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Isaias, Jeremias, with Baruch; Ezechiel, Daniel; the twelve minor prophets, to wit, Osee, Joel, Amos, Abdias, Jonas, Micheas, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggaeus, Zacharias, Malachias; two books of the Machabees, the first and the second. Of the New Testament: the four Gospels, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles written by Luke the Evangelist; fourteen epistles of Paul the apostle, (one) to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, (one) to the Galatians, to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, (one) to Titus, to Philemon, to the Hebrews; two of Peter the apostle, three of John the apostle, one of the apostle James, one of Jude the apostle, and the Apocalypse of John the apostle.[5] [bold = Apocryphal books]

So, speaking in “biblical” terms as opposed to “scriptural” terms this council decree appears to affirm the Vulgate as the sacred “bible”, but it includes the Apocrypha as part of the bible.  However, the word bible is not in the Council decree as far as I could find.  There are many references to “books” meaning what we call “the bible”.

This council affirmed its view that the Roman Catholic Church is the only authority on earth that can interpret the scriptures:

Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall,–in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, –wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,–whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,–hath held and doth hold;[6]

This council went on to condemn and make it illegal for any printer to print any version of the scriptures other than their approved version.

There it is, the use of the word “Bible” has slowly grown to mean a book that is the collection of books that are sacred scripture.  But it is not a scriptural term.  Different Bibles have different collections of Books.  The Vulgate, the first set of scriptures to be called the bible, is the recognized bible of the Catholic Church.

I don’t have any problem calling a set of books a bible. It’s much more convenient to have what used to be a large collection of scrolls printed in one volume.  But, when the word bible is equated with the word of God then we have questions because there are different sets of books all called the bible.  Furthermore, there are serious questions about books like Jude, believed to authored by Jesus’ brother, but not by an actual apostle or his agent and including references to books not believed to be scripture, i.e., The Book of Enoch. and perhaps, the Assumption of Moses.

Only prophets can speak God’s words.  Only prophets are recognized in the scriptures as ones to be able to recognize whether something is a true prophecy.

Still, believers are called to “rightly divide” the scriptures which means that we must have some ability to understand the meanings of scripture and to recognize when scriptures are not rightly divided.

In Scripture on Determining which Writings are Scripture, we read how it is tradition to proclaim the canon of Scripture as godly despite it not actually being a part of Scripture. That article discusses how books like Tobit and Judith were part of the original canon but were later removed.  Prior to the canonization process, books like Hebrews, James, 2nd Peter, 2 John, 3rd John, Jude, and Revelation were disputed for hundreds of years after the apostles and seemed like last-minute invitees to the party. And, remember the Ethiopian Church has included Enoch as well as other unique books in its canon for some fifteen centuries now.

Rather than relying on one committee after another to debate the merits of a book of Scripture, we do have Scripture that talks about recognizing whether something written is a commandment of the Lord.

 If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him recognize the things which I write to you, that they are the commandment of the Lord. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant. (1Co 14:37-38 WEB)

In fact, Jesus prophesied that there would be a process where we would be taught.

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you. (Joh 14:26 WEB)

These verses are our scriptural mandates for our use in determining which writings are sacred Scripture.




[3] Vulgate, Brittanica Online,

[4] The Council of Trent The canons and decrees of the sacred and oecumenical Council of Trent,,_Concilium_Tridentinum,_Canons_And_Decrees,_EN.pdf

[5] ibid

[6] ibid

© copyright 2023 Mark William Smith, All rights reserved. Last revised 10/6/23

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