Holy Bible - The World English Bible - ebook

1) Hypertext-based navigation Direct access to Books and Chapters Navigation through the Chapters of a Book Direct access to a single Verse 2) Additional reading resources Historical-theological introduction (hypertext) Paragraph titles 3) Theme indexes (hypertext) Analytical indexes Theme plans The Bible in a modern and reliable format, using the official, updated text of the WEB (World English Bible). The intuitive, simple internal navigation system will not only let the reader move deftly and easily among the various Books and Chapters but it also offers a unique option: direct link to any specific verse. The translation is supplemented by a rich corpus of additional critical material. The introduction analyzes contents, literary characteristics, topics and elements that led to the genesis and formation of the Bible texts and it also provides various historical and religious approaches and keys to interpretation. The book then explains, in a simple and clear language, of the meaning, the spiritual message and the various possible ways of encountering the Bible. The book also analyzes the languages the Bible Books were written in, the authors, the dating, the literary genres and the most ancient translations. In addition to that the material includes an analysis of the structure of the Bible, the differences between the Catholic and Protestant Canons, the Apocrypha. The book is further enriched by a set of theme indexes listing the main Biblical episodes of the Old and New Testament plus the Parables of the Gospels. Lastly, the book features a series of "theme plans", that is theme-based reading paths that are useful also as “starting points” for communal reading, for example in prayer groups or religious communities.

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How to use the Edimedia Bible

1) Hypertext-based navigation

a) Direct access to Books and Chapters via the System’s TOC (Table of Contents) and the ebook’s Contents section at the beginning of the book. The reader can reach directly the beginning of each book in the Old and New Testament as well as the beginning of each chapter, the Analytical Indexes and the Theme Plans.

b) Navigation through the Chapters of a Book At the beginning of each single Book the Title of the book links back to the General Index; the gray numbers in square brackets link to the respective chapters; the titles of each individual chapter instead link to the beginning of the Book.

c) Direct access to a single Verse To go directly to a verse just input the number of the verse in the search field (the one with the magnifying lens). For example typing Ge15:11 will take the reader immediately to the eleventh verse of Chapter 15 in the Genesis.

2) Additional reading resources

Historical-theological introduction (hypertext) This introduction describes, in a simple and clear language, the meaning, the spiritual message and the various possible ways of encountering the Bible. The introduction also analyzes the languages the Bible Books were written in, the authors, the dating, the literary genres and the most ancient translations. The introduction also includes an analysis of the structure of the Bible, of the differences between the Catholic and Protestant Canons, and of the Apocrypha. The text is further enriched by many links to external material for further research.

Paragraph titles The paragraph titles make it possible to arrange the contents in logical “segments” and to summarize and synthesize the topics of the chapters.

3) Theme indexes (hypertext)

Analytical indexes These indexes list the main Biblical episodes of the Old and New Testament plus the Parables of the Gospels.

Theme plans Theme plans are proposals and ideas for reading approaches focused on given topics or themes. The theme plans are useful also as “starting points” for communal reading for example in prayer groups or religious communities.

The text is the official and updated text of the World English Bible (WEB)

Introduction text by: Valentina Mosco 1Critical review and additional material: Beatrice Iacopini 1© 2013 Edimedia di Fabio Filippi e C. Sasvia Orcagna 66, 50121 Firenzewww.facebook.com/[email protected]: 9788867580057



An overview of The Bible

What does “Bible” mean?

What is the Bible?

The five faces of the Bible

What languages was the Bible written in?

When was the Bible written?

What physical materials was the Bible written on?

How was the Bible originally written?

Reading the Bible

Which literary genres does the Bible contain?

Which were the most important translations of the Bible over the course of history?

How do we cite the Bible?

The different ways of encountering the Bible

Approaching the Word of God

The Lectio Divina

The contents

The inspiration

Written by God or by men?

The authors

Can the Bible be wrong?

How can we understand the violence in the Old Testament?

What are the messages of faith found in the Bible?

The structure of the Bible

The canonicality of the Scriptures

The Jewish Biblical canon

The Protestant Biblical canon

The Catholic Biblical canon

The apocryphal books


GeThe Book of Genesis[50]

ExThe Book of Exodus[40]

LeThe Book of Leviticus[27]

NuThe Book of Numbers[36]

DeThe Book of Deuteronomy[34]

JoThe Book of Joshua[24]

Jdg The Book of Judges[21]

RuThe Book of Ruth[4]

1Sa The First Book of Samuel[31]

2Sa The Second Book of Samuel[24]

1Ki The First Book of Kings[22]

2Ki The Second Book of Kings[25]

1Ch The First Book of Chronicles[29]

2Ch The Second Book of Chronicles[36]

EzrThe Book of Ezra[10]

NeThe Book of Nehemiah[13]

EsThe Book of Esther[10]

JbThe Book of Job[42]

PsThe Book of Psalms[150]

PrThe Book of Proverbs[31]

EcThe Book of Ecclesiastes[12]

SoThe Song of Songs[8]

IsThe Book of Isaiah[66]

JeThe Book of Jeremiah[52]

LaThe Book of Lamentations[5]

EzThe Book of Ezekiel[48]

DaThe Book of Daniel[14]

HoThe Book of Hosea[14]

JoeThe Book of Joel[3]

AmThe Book of Amos[9]

ObThe Book of Obadiah[1]

JonThe Book of Jonah[4]

MiThe Book of Micah[7]

NaThe Book of Nahum[3]

HabThe Book of Habakkuk[3]

ZepThe Book of Zephaniah[3]

HagThe Book of Haggai[2]

ZecThe Book of Zechariah[14]

MalThe Book of Malachi[4]


MtThe Gospel according to Matthew[28]

MkThe Gospel according to Mark[16]

LkThe Gospel according to Luke[24]

JnThe Gospel according to John[21]

Ac The Acts of the Apostles[28]

RoThe Letter to the Romans[16]

1CoThe First Letter to the Corinthians[16]

2CoThe Second Letter to the Corinthians[13]

GaThe Letter to the Galatians[6]

EphThe Letter to the Ephesians[6]

PhpThe Letter to the Philippians[4]

ColThe Letter to the Colossians[4]

1ThThe First Letter to the Thessalonians[5]

2ThThe Second Letter to the Thessalonians[3]

1TiThe First Letter to the Timothy[6]

2TiThe Second Letter to the Timothy[4]

TitThe Letter to Titus[3]

PhmThe Letter to Philemon[1]

HeThe Letter to the Hebrews[13]

JaThe Letter of James[5]

1PetThe First Letter of Peter[5]

2PetThe Second Letter of Peter[3]

1JoThe First Letter of John[5]

2JoThe Second Letter of John[1]

3JoThe Third Letter of John[1]

JuThe Letter of Jude[1]

ReThe Book of Revelation[22]


Episodes of the Old Testament

Episodes of the New Testament

Miracles by Jesus

The Parables



From the Origins to God’s final victory... The Apocalypse

God is...

Death is...

The women in the Bible

God loves the humble and the poor

The Prayer

The meaning of pain

The Holy Spirit

Sin and Salvation

The men and women called by God


An overview of The Bible

What does “Bible” mean?

“Bible” comes from the Greek word byblos, which originally meant scroll or papyrus, as a tribute to the Phoenician commercial port Byblos (on the coasts of Lebanon), one of the main trading centers of this precious plant; the word biblion (book, booklet) came later, through the same route. In some OT texts the plural ta biblìa (the books) was used from the very beginning to indicate all the writings believed to have been inspired by God; later, in the 2nd and 3rd century AD, the time of the Ancient Masters of Christian Faith, ta biblìa commonly used as a synonym of Sacred Scriptures (the oldest document where this expression is used is a 150 AD letter by Clement of Alexandria). In the 5th century AD it was common for Greek speaking Christians to use “ta biblìa” to indicate all of the books of the Old and New Testament together. The plural form was appropriate since the Bible consists of many Books, different from each other in type, style and age and this diversity and “plural” nature is indeed its core, its essence, for the Bible is not a single book but God’s “Library”. From the Greek ta biblìa migrated to Latin, changing stress and becoming bìblia. In the beginning the Latin word was plural as well, but in the Middle Ages it gradually came to be used in the singular form in Latin and in all other languages including English.

The singular form stresses the Bible’s unity: although it is composed by different Books written in over than a thousand years the Bible, for all Christians, is not just a collection of writings but “The Book”.

What is the Bible?

The Bible is the world’s most popular and most translated book: with about 6 billion printed copies translated in more than 2400 languages the Bible is beyond doubt the Best Seller of all Best Sellers, and the most thoroughly analyzed, commented and researched book of all times. It is also one of the most ancient Sacred Text in the world.

But the Bible is also, first and foremost, the cornerstone of Judaism and Christianity. Both Judaism and Christianity are Revealed religions, based on the concept of God manifesting Himself directly to humanity. According to Christians and Jews God revealed (from Latin revelare, “remove the veil”) Himself to Man over the ages through His words and works which were interpreted by “special” messengers and prophets driven by the Holy Spirit. The Bible is, therefore, the Lord’s Word that has resonated over the centuries through the words of the hagiographers (the people who compiled the various Books of the Bible). The Word was first delivered to the Israelites then to the Church and, through the Church, to humanity as a whole.

Faith aside, the Bible is invaluable for everyone, even non-believers: it has inspired many works of art, literature, philosophy, music, cinema and plays. The characters, events, symbols and themes of the Bible have provided material for the highest works of creation of the Western Civilization whose roots dig deep not just in the humus Ancient Greece but also in the world of the Old and New Testament.

The Bible’s main focus is not on God but rather on the multifaceted human universe, whose complexity and variety it thoroughly describes and analyzes. The Bible contains pages about history, ethics, anthropology but also about death, grief, betrayal, salvation and love. All of these topics are close and dear to our everyday life and that is why the Bible is an infinite wealth of contents that inspire, elevate and prompt humanity to question their deeds and life.

In the Bible I have found words for my inmost thoughts, songs for my joy, utterances for my hidden griefs, and pleadings for my shame and my feebleness.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The five faces of the Bible

1) The Bible is the “Sacred Scripture”

The Bible is first of all a “Scripture”, from Latin scriptura means “writing” or “written work”. For the Christians it is “Sacred” as its writing was inspired by the Holy Spirit.

2) The Bible is “The Word of God”

Since the Sacred Scriptures have been inspired by the Holy Spirit, they impart the word of God Himself without change, and make the voice of the Holy Spirit resound in the words of the prophets and Apostles. The inspired Word, once put in writing, remains forever imbued with the Holy Spirit, making it alive and vivifying for eternity: it is a Living Word that, like St. Gregory the Great said, grows with the reader. In the Gospel the Word is compared to a seed sown on good ground that lets life blossom in the listener (Mk4:1-20). When a Christian approaches the Sacred Scriptures he or she knows that «the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and is able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart» (He4:12). The Word is «a lamp to my feet» (Ps119:105), «and a light for my path» (Ps119:105), «a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns, and the morning star arises in your hearts» (2Pet1:19).

3) The Bible is “Literature”

The Bible is also a collection of various literary genres: it contains historical narratives, lamentations, oracles of the prophets, law, poems, hymns, prayers, epistles, apocalypses, parables, liturgical hymns, genealogies and more. This wide array of literary genres serves different purposes, different functions of the language: historical tales, for example, provide information, victory hymns move the readers’ souls, wisdom literature passes on to the new generations the experience and knowledge of the sages and of those who lived before.

4) The Bible is “History”

The Bible is the “living memory” of the Children of Israel and of the early Church, at first passed down verbally and later on fixed in a written form. The Bible is the tale of a God that acts within history and not outside of it, as the Bible was formed along with the history of Israel.

The Bible, however, is history also in another sense of the word: it is the history of God’s Love for His people and for Humanity. This history is made of countless acts of Love: God seeks Man, beckons Man to come to Him and extends His hand to him, offering man His Plan of Salvation as a gesture of Love.

5) The Bible is a “Food”

In Mt4:4 Jesus says: «Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God». The Word of God is regarded as true spiritual food just like the Body of Christ. Once the Spiritual Life has seen the Light it shall be kept well nourished. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the Bible is compared to milk; indeed, the Apostle Peter addresses the Christians as follows: «As newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the Word, that with it you may grow,» (1Pet2:2).

The Bible is the only book whose author is also the author of the readers.

Roberto Benigni

What languages was the Bible written in?

The Books of the Bible have been written in three languages: Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, corresponding to three radically different settings and cultural contexts.


Biblical Hebrew was the Semitic language spoken by nomadic Jews from Palestine. Biblical Hebrew is attested since the 10th Century BC and its alphabet features 22 consonant signs; vowels are added by the reader after devising them from the context.

Biblical Hebrew is a simple language, lacking the rich and varied lexicon and syntax of our modern languages, this means that, for example, a single word may be used to indicate different similar concepts. The lexicon consists mainly of concrete terms while abstract words are very rare, unlike in Greek. It is therefore a highly expressive language whose short sentences and simple conjunctions convey momentum, drama and expressiveness to each sentence, imbuing theme with a fast, lively rhythm. Verb usage too is different than in other languages: it is not easy to understand whether an action occurs in the past, present or future as Hebrew verbs have only two tenses: perfect and imperfect. The moment in time an action occurs is not very important for the mentality of the Hebrews of the time: all it matters is the status of an action, in particular its being completed or incomplete. The perfect tense is used for a completed action. For example, in Ge1:1 it is written «In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth». The action is a completed one: God completed the creation of heavens and earth. The imperfect tense is used for an incomplete action or one being completed. In Ex15:1it is written «Then Moses and the Children of Israel sang», and their action was still in progress and had not been completed. The context indicates whether the completed action (perfect tense) has occurred in the past, is occurring in the present or will occur in the future.

➜ For further research material and curiosities on the hebrew alphabet and on the Hebrew Text of the Old Testament:111

➜ The Biblical texts in Hebrew are available at the following links:11


After being exiled to Babylon the Jews started to speak Aramaic (a Semitic language attested as common in the Assyrian Empire lands in the 8th Century BC) and at the same time they gradually abandoned Hebrew. As the Persian empire expanded, Aramaic became an international language and indeed a small part of the Old Testament (some chapters of the Book of Daniel and of Ezra) is written in this language. In Jesus’ days Hebrew was no longer the people’s language: it was still used in the Saturday Liturgy in the Synagogue (while the “preaching” was done in Aramaic) in school education, in the prayers and for reading the sacred texts. Conversely, Aramaic was the language spoken in the villages and small towns (Nazareth, Capernaum and so on) where Jesus was educated and spent most of His life (the Gospels indeed report some Aramaic expressions used by Jesus).

➜ For further information: 11


All of the New Testament Books, plus a score of Old Testament writings have been written in Greek. Bible Greek is, however, different from Classical Greek: this type of Greek was spoken in the Mediterranean Basin from the 4th century BC, and is commonly referred to as Koiné (“common language”) Greek. This language spread after Alexander The Great’s conquests and became the language of culture and commerce. Koiné Greek was a sort of Lingua Franca (much like present day English) in the Roman Empire territories.

The hegemony of Greek language and culture prompted the need to translate the Sacred Scriptures in Greek, as in the Jewish communities scattered across the Mediterranean Basin and in the Middle East only the most educated people and the religious could still speak and understand Hebrew. Because of this, in the 3rd Century BC, the holy books were translated from Hebrew to make them readable by Greek-speaking Jews. This translation was made in Alexandria and called “Septuagint” or “(translation) of the Seventy” or simply “LXX” (70 in Roman numerals).

When was the Bible written?

The Bible, as we have explained previously, is a collection of heterogeneous writings from different ages: the writing and drafting of the Bible texts as we know them today took about ten centuries (one thousand years).

The Oral Tradition

The oral tradition originally included many tales, based on actual events of the history of the Children of Israel, like their stay in Egypt, the Exodus, the wandering in the desert and the conquest of Canaan. The events regarding Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were recounted orally as the tribes moved from a place to another, as well as during celebrations or by fathers and grandfathers at night when the family gathered outside their tent. The style of these narrations was direct and simple. The importance of keeping the memory of the ancestors and of their deeds alive fueled the flourishing of whole sagas, literary cycles, epic tales, songs of heroic deeds, sayings and proverbs and tales on the origins of customs and laws. Orally transmitted tales are the source material of many Old Testament writings and they also show the strong link these tales had with everyday life in the tribe or clan.

The Holy Scriptures are the highway signs. Christ is the way.

Søren Kierkegaard

From Oral Tradition to writings

According to the tradition, the first five Books of the Old Testament, collectively referred to as Pentateuch by the Christians and Torah by the Jews were allegedly written around 1200 BC directly by Moses, who held a high authority as a judge and legislator. However, critical studies proved that the books have actually been drafted much later. The literary tradition of Israel actually began in the days of the Davidic Monarchy. It was in this age (from 10th to 6th century BC) that the first epic and poetic chants and some oral tradition historical tales on the origin of Israel were put in writing. Unity was a core value at that time as it was necessary that all tribes accepted and respected the King, and that made it necessary to reinforce the idea of a common identity and therefore developing and providing a synthesis and a summary of the past events became an utmost priority. So the Court Scribes started drafting an “official” history in order to prove the legitimacy of the monarchy basing on real archives and chronicles. The Kingdom of Solomon (about 970 to 931 BC) in particular witnessed the flourishing, among the intellectual circles of the King’s court, of an intense literary production of historical but also theological nature that focused on the various steps of the Children of Israel’s long path, and on God’s constant instances of helping His people.

It was during the Persian age (6th - 4th century BC) that the Pentateuch’s final draft saw the light, followed by other Old Testament Books in the centuries that came, with the last books, close to the New Testament, being written at the times of the Roman rule (the latest Old Testament Book is the Book of Wisdom, written in the 1st century BC ).

The history of the writing of the New Testament is different: all the texts have been drafted in a very short time span, from about 50 AD to 100 AD.

I have had three teachers: the street, the school and the Bible; and at the end of the day the Bible is the one that matters most. It is the only book we all really must have.

Duke Ellington

What physical materials was the Bible written on?

The earliest writing media

What was the Word written on in the ancient times? A very common technique involved writing by scratching the words on an ostracon, a piece of pottery (usually broken off from an earthenware vase). The writing was made with an iron “pen”. Another technique that produced durable writings involved using a stylus (a pointed writing “pen”) to trace words and signs on fresh clay tablets and then let them dry. Maybe the first Biblical writings were made on these handy yet inadequate “notebooks” but the most ancient writings that survived to our age are papyrus rolls.

Papyrus: from the roll to the codex

The papyrus plant has a long stem and a bushy top: it needs a hot climate and a lot of water, and this is why it flourishes on the Nile Delta. In Egypt the use of papyrus as a writing media dates back to 3000 BC, and from the end of the 12th century BC it was mass-exported in Phoenicia.

The Old Testament texts and the earliest New Testament ones have been written on rolls made from processed papyrus fibers. How were papyrus rolls made?

First the papyrus piths were cut in thin, long stripes that were soaked in water and placed side by side. Another layer of similarly arranged piths wan placed on the other, with the fibers perpendicular to the lower layer’s. The substances contained in the piths soaked out and solidly glued the piths together.

The roll, (called volumen, the verb volvere, roll up) contained about twenty sheets glued one after another: writing was made on the inner face of the sheet (recto) the one with horizontal fibers while the face with the vertical fibers was used as the outer face (verso). The first sheet contained a description of the document content and was called protokollon (from which the English “protocol” derives).

A reed pen (kalamos) was used to write with an ink that was a mix of water, pitch and carbon black. The text was divided in columns and only the inner side of the sheet was used to prevent the text from being ruined when the roll was opened. The papyrus was rolled around a stick, and as reading proceeded the reader would unwind the roll with one hand and rewind it with the other. On the border of every roll there was a label with the title of the work and the name of the author; a cylindrical container, called capsa, was used to collect several rolls of variable length (usually no more than 10 meters).

The scarcity of Jewish manuscripts is due to the special reverence the scribes paid to the rolls: any roll that was or became flawed, even if just because of wear and tear, was discarded. Since a papyrus could remain in good conditions for no more than 300 years, only very few original manuscripts survived (the most famous being the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered by chance in 1948 and dated from 150 BC to 70 AD).

From the early 2nd century onwards the roll was gradually replaced by the codex (a book consisting of individual papyrus sheets stitched on the side and written on both faces). The codex was cheaper, easier to handle and easier to read (it did not require two hands to keep it open once it had been opened); references were much simpler as the pages were numbered and codices could contain more text as both sides of the page were written on.

Although some noticed these advantages immediately most people were reluctant to change and stop using the old method. It was only a matter of time, however, before the codex supplanted the roll.

➜ You can find further information on this writing media, as well as explanatory drawings and images at the following web page:11


When the codex became popular, the papyrus sheet had to be folded in four, an operation that made the media more fragile: parchment was much more resistant and soon replaced papyrus.

According to the legend parchment was invented by King Eumenes II of Pergamon (from whence the name parchment derived) who was driven to research new materials because of the shortage of papyrus supplies from the land of the Pharaohs. The reason behind parchment’s success was in the fact that, in addition to being more durable and resistant, parchment allowed writing on both sides of the page and was easier to clean and reuse: the text was removed with a scraper or washed away with milk and a sponge, then the sheet was covered with flour and smoothed with a whetstone.

These books, written on “recycled” parchments were called palimpsests, from Greek pàlin psestòs (“scraped again”) or, in Latin, codices rescripti (rewritten codices): a famous Biblical palimpsest is the Codex Ephraemi Syri rescriptus, dating back to the 5th century.

Parchment was not without defects, the first of all being its high cost. It was produced from the skin of animals, mostly sheep, goat or calf, soaked in a water and limestone solution, then mounted on a frame to dry. A medium sized book needed fifteen such skins. Since parchment was very expensive, all the available writing surface was used and also writing was always in capitals and without space between words.

Beginning with the 5th century this material became gradually more common and in the Middle Ages it was the main writing media. Parchment was used as a writing media for the Bible up until the 10th century AD, when paper made from linen, hemp and cotton, introduced by Arabian merchants that had contacts with the Chinese culture, became one of the main writing media.

➜ For further information on the history of parchment, its manufacturing and storage please visit the following link: 11

How was the Bible originally written?

If a reader looked at one of the ancient Hebrew Biblical manuscripts they would see an endless sequence of letters. The writing method used was called scriptio continua: there was little or no space between the written words. This, of course, was done with the aim of avoiding wasting available space on writing material. The scriptio continua method of course required loud reading of the text.

In addition to that, in ancient Hebrew writing there was no punctuation, the text wasn’t divided in chapters and vowels were omitted (the Hebrew text of the Old Testament dating back to before the 5th century AD used a consonantal alphabet). Because of this it often occurred that some letters of a word could be read as being part of either the previous word or the following one, leading to the forming of completely different yet meaningful sentences. Vowels had to be added by the reader, further multiplying the possible interpretations.

This is an example of how the Biblical texts might look to the eyes of the “poor” readers of the time:


Luckily, between the 8th and 10th Century AD, a group of Jewish scholars, the Masorets, added vowels to the original Hebrew text via a series of signs above and below the lines, an operation that simplified the work of future scholars and copiers. At last, a version of the text suitable for reading aloud and liturgical cantillation was available. Thanks to the work of these patient scholars, that vocalized the text, corrected the mistakes and added other corrections, the form and interpretation of the Biblical text was fixed once and for all.

Everything is explained by the Gospels, and everything confirms the Gospels.

Alessandro Manzoni

Reading the Bible

Which literary genres does the Bible contain?

The Bible contains a huge array of literary genres (i.e. different types of literary works, written in different times and places, each having their specific communication types), but how can we tell a genre from another? The genres can be classified according to three features: the content or theme; the style and literary structures (vocabulary, images and so on); and the setting or context.

The modern exegesis has produced several different classifications of the literary genres of the Bible while some scholars still divide the genres in macro-genres (prophecy, wisdom, gospel, law, history, epistle and apocalypse) and micro-genres (preaching, battle song, myth, hymn, funeral and thanksgiving song, allegory, wisdom saying, proverb, vocation story and so on).

Why is knowing the literary genres so important? It is because literature has its styles and forms of expression, each unique to the time or country in which it originates. While it is true that each writer has their own personality, it is also true that they cannot help but use the literary genre most appropriate for the context they live in, mixed with their personality and skills. The literary genre is, therefore, the key to understand a text because it provides it with a specific reference framework.

If, for example, we read a text intended to provide a religious message thinking it contains historical or scientific truths we might be misled, and the same would happen if, reading a parable, we mistook it for the recounting of an event actually occurred in history. A story is one thing, but the message, the idea or the lesson underlying it is an altogether different matter. At the same time, when we study a biblical passage, for example one about creation, we cannot regard it as a chronicle, a historical tale: the Old Testament is not supposed to give scientific information or data on the origin of the Universe. A reader of the Bible must be able to recognize the literary genre of a given passage, in other words they must be able to tell reality from fiction, separating the facts that actually occurred from the literary form they are “wrapped” in. The importance of the various literary genres in the Sacred Scriptures was underlined also by Pius XII, in the Encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu: «what they wished to express is not to be determined by the rules of grammar and philology alone, nor solely by the context; the interpreter must, as it were, go back wholly in spirit to those remote centuries of the East and with the aid of history, archeology, ethnology, and other sciences, accurately determine what modes of writing, so to speak, the authors of that ancient period would be likely to use, and in fact did use. For the ancient peoples of the East, in order to express their ideas, did not always employ those forms or kinds of speech which we use today; but rather those used by the men of their times and countries».

We have provided here a brief outline of the most recurring genres, divided into simple and easily identifiable categories.

Recognizing the literary genres

As a means to test our genre-recognizing skills we may start from some excerpts of the Bible which belong to one or another specific literary genre, for example:

Ge1-11: these chapters contain mainly didactic and wisdom tales; focus is on the main issues of life.

Ge12-36: these chapters contain manly sagas, that is tales which explain the most peculiar characteristics of a place, a custom or a character related to the origin of a people.

Ex1-15: mainly epic tales, where actual historical facts are exalted and explained as being due to a series of acts of God.

Historical genre

This literary genre is found in those Bible Books that tell the main events of the history of Israel and contain accurate descriptions of characters or events (The Samuel and Kings Books, Exodus, Joshua, Judges, Maccabees, Gospels). These writings mention real historical contents and also information validated by non-biblical sources. It is any case necessary to remember that at that time history did not comply with the scientific accuracy criteria of today. In the genealogies, for example, Semitic peoples only mentioned the most famous names and testimonies and reports about events or characters contained no indication of the sources. Historiography was based on annals, and actual events were often mixed up with legends and oral tradition (folklore) and it lacked the documentary accuracy of today.

➜ For further information and research please visit the following link: 1

Law genre

This genre contains laws that regulated the social and religious life of the people and it is particularly common in the Pentateuch (Leviticus, for example, is mainly a law Book).

Prophetic genre

This is the genre used by the prophets, men that acted as envoys of God, to pass down their discourses, visions and dreams to the posterity.

Prophetic texts contain dreams, oracles and moral exhortations addressed to people whom, with their behavior, had strayed from the path of righteousness: a prophet is a man animated by the Holy Spirit that voices God’s judgment on the deeds of a king or of the whole people of Israel; when a prophet addresses a king he offers him the advice the king needs to rule in agreement with God’s Will, or he criticizes the king’s doing if it does not comply to the principles of the Sinaitic Covenant or even announces a future punishment for a wrongdoing that has been committed. The prophet also reveals whether the worshippers are sincere or merely pretending.

Prophecy is the main (but not the only) genre of the Books of Prophets in the OT; it is also found in the Epistles of the New Testament.

➜ For further information and research on the prophetic genre please visit the following link: 1

Apocalyptic genre

Apocalyptic literature was very popular among the Jews from the 2nd Century BC to the 3rd Century AD, and it is quite similar to the prophetic genre. It features dreams, symbols, visions and quite vivid, suggestive scenes portraying God’s victorious triumph at the end of times, plus revelations on the events that occurred before God’s intervention. It includes a wide range of allegoric messages that the celestial beings deliver to a recipient which is often a figure of high spiritual standing (Moses, Abraham and so on). These texts appear frequently in times when faith falters and the worshippers feel that the Lord has forsaken them: French exegete Paul Beauchamp wrote «Apocalyptic literature was created to help bearing what is unbearable».

Usually the texts in this literary genre were addressed to worshippers suffering from persecution and oppressed by the rule of a foreign culture (e.g. traditional Judaism being oppressed by Hellenism). Apocalyptic literature is found in the Books of Daniel, in some parts of Isaiah and Ezekiel); in the NT it is found in chapter 13 of the Gospel of Mark and in the Book of Revelation).

➜ For further information and research on the Apocalyptic genre please visit the following link: 111

Wisdom genre

The literary form of the wisdom genre is the mashal from which comes meshalim which is the Hebrew name of the Book of Proverbs, the oldest text of the Wisdom genre that contains concise, easy-to-remember and instructive moral and religious maxims. These maxims summarize centuries of reflections on life, family, society, justice, politics, business, work and leisure, joy and suffering and so on.

How do we acquire Wisdom? By listening to the teaching of our father, whom in turn had listened to his father and so on, climbing back the family tree. Wisdom is not intelligence but rather Man’s ability to establish a relationship with something “other”, something “beyond” and to respect God and His laws; those who live with respect will reach success and happiness, while those who pursue foolishness will dramatically fall into ruin.

The Books of Proverbs, Wisdom and Sirach belong to the Wisdom genre. Jesus’ Parables too can be regarded as belonging to this peculiar genre.

➜ Further information is available at the following link:11

Which were the most important translations of the Bible over the course of history?

The Bible has been translated in about 2000 languages, with the earliest translations dating back to the 3rd century BC, although translation in the world’s most important languages of the modern age started in the 16th century. Each of these translation aimed at conveying, as accurately as possible, the meaning of the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Koine Greek texts.

Greek translations

The Bible of the Seventies, also known as Septuagint or “LXX” (250-150 BC)

The Septuagint is the Greek version of the Old Testament and dates back to the 3rd Century BC. Its name is a tribute to the 72 scholars that worked on it according to the legend. In a 2nd Century AD text a Jewish scholar called Aristaeus recounts the origin of the LXX as follows: the Egyptian monarch Ptolemy Philadelphus wanted a Greek translation of the Sacred Scriptures to be kept in the legendary library of Alexandria and for this reason he asked 72 erudite rabbis from Jerusalem to come to Egypt and translate. The rabbis moved to the island of Pharos were each one of them worked alone and completed the translation in the same number of days. When they compared their translations they were amazed to discover that all of them were identical.

The truth is that Alexandria at that time hosted a thriving Jewish community that decided to translate the Bible in Greek as the Diaspora Jews no longer understood Hebrew so the translation was needed both for worship and proselytism. At first only the Torah (or Pentateuch, that is the first five books of the Scriptures) were translated, with the other canon books being translated later. This version of the Old Testament was used also by the early Christian communities to the point that quotes from the Jewish Scriptures in the New Testament are taken from the Seventies version.

This version was the most commonly used for evangelization in the earliest centuries after Christ; it was the Greek Fathers’ bible and therefore it had a massive influence on early Christianity; it was also the base for further translations of the Bible, including Saint Jerome’s Vulgate. Today, it is the Old Testament version used for liturgical purposes by the Greek Orthodox churches.

➜ The Septuagint is available online at the following links:1

➜ Septuagint text in Greek published by the Church of Greece:1

➜ Translation of the Septuagint in English:1

Aquila, Symmachus and Theodotion (140-200 AD)

• Aquila was a Pontus Greek who translated the Old Testament, basing on an official Hebrew text, on and around 140 AD. His translation is a strictly literal one.

• Symmachus was a Samaritan who converted to Christianity and who, around 200 AD translated the Old Testament in Greek. However, only fragments of his translation have survived. Symmachus’ version was less literal compared to Aquila’s since he wanted to rephrase the original Hebrew concepts in a smooth-flowing text.

• Theodotion was a Hellenistic Jewish scholar, likely from Ephesus, whose translation is dated around 180 AD. His version is not a true translation but rather a revision of the Septuagint text. Indeed Theodotion’s version was often used alongside the LXX or as an alternative to it, and in some cases even replaced it (the Primitive Christian church, for example, preferred the Theodotion version of the Book of Daniel to the “LXX” version).

Latin translations

The Vulgate (5th century AD)

In the 4th century AD there were countless Latin translations of the Bible, either anonymous or made by various authors; these translations differed greatly one from each other both in style and contents. A unified Latin text was necessary to end this confusion once and for all and for this reason the Vetus Latina (the ancient Latin translation) was replaced by Saint Jerome’s Vulgate: at the end of the 4th century Jerome was appointed by Pope Damasus I to translate all of the original texts of the Bible in Latin. Jerome had lived for a long time in Rome and in Syria where he received his training in Biblical exegesis at the best schools of the East; he also learned Hebrew from rabbis. In 386 AD Jerome moved to Bethlehem where he directed a monastery, a position that gave him a chance to study the Scriptures in the Library created by Origen and Eusebius in Cesarea (the largest library of the time, with more than 30,000 manuscripts).

Vulgate is a shortened form of vulgata editio (Latin, “edition for the people”) which indicates both the simple style of the Bible that common people could understand and the immense popularity the Vulgata gained. Jerome did not translate literally, but rather sense-for-sense, that is preserving the original meaning of the text and conveying in Latin the thoughts originally written in Hebrew while keeping an elegant style. During the 8th and 9th centuries the Vulgate completely replaced the Vetus Latina and became the official version on the Latin-speaking Church: The Council of Trent confirmed the Vulgate as the only official version of the Bible and drafted a standard version to eliminate the many alternate versions found in the Christian world; this version was later reviewed by Pope Sixtus V and later by Clement VIII (and thus was called the Sixto-Clementine Vulgate); this version became the official translation of the Bible for the Catholic Church from 1592 to the Second Vatican Council (1962-65).

In 1965 Pope Paul VI ordered that a review of the Vulgate be made according to the modern philological an exegetic criteria (the drafting of the Nova Vulgata, “New Vulgate” was completed in 1979). Today, the Nova Vulgata is the liturgical text used in Latin mass.

In German

Luther’s Bible (1534)

An extremely important and immensely famous Bible is the translation from the original Hebrew and Greek texts in German curated by Martin Luther (1522-34), the initiator of the Reformation. Before Luther’s version there were at least 17 different versions of the Bible in German. Luther wanted to draft a new version, that was closer to the German people and that would make “sense “ to them. Luther’s ingenious work was almost contemporary to the invention of the press and thanks to this the new Bible quickly reached every corner of Germany. Luther’s Bible had a major moral influence and contributed also to the unification of written vernacular German and to the building of the German identity. The new Bible was a colossal success: hundreds of thousands copies were printed, and these figures are even more amazing if we consider that in that century most of the Germans were illiterate! One of the reasons for the Bible’s success was the use of vernacular German (in his 1530 Open letter on translating Luther invited the scholars to listen to the language spoken by the common people). This way the Bible became a book for all people, and such was its success that no less than ten editions were made, with each edition containing amendments and further refining to the original materials. The Word of God is for everyone, and everyone should be able to understand it; as Luther said, the point was not transposing the Latin into German, but rather speaking with «the mother in the home, the children on the street, the common man in the marketplace».

Luther’s translation of the New Testament was based on the second edition of the Greek text curated by Erasmus of Rotterdam, published in 1519. He also used the Vulgate as reference and maintained the same order of the books. In the contemporary age the Luther Bible was revised in 1986.

Luther’s false kidnapping and the Bible

Luther was excommunicated on January 3, 1521. In the Edict of Worms Luther was banished and denounced as a criminal and a public enemy. This put him in great jeopardy, and some feared that he could end up being burned on the stake. For this reason Frederick of Saxony staged a false kidnapping to hide Luther and keep him out of reach from the Emperor’s justice. On the road back from Worms Luther was kidnapped by Frederick’s men and hidden in a far away castle in Wartburg, Thuringia: it was here that he set down to translate the New Testament in German, basing on Erasmus of Rotterdam’s translation from Greek to Latin (1516). Here is how Giovanni Luzzi (one of the most important Italian reformed theologians of the 20th century and author of a translation of the Bible) tells this part of Luther’s story: «Soon after passing Altenstein, in a solitary forest, Luther was suddenly ambushed by five well armed men. The men surrounded his coach, and while Luther’s companions ran away in fear the attackers had Luther climb on a horse and ride to the Castle of Wartburg, the ancient residence of the Landgraves of Thuringia. At the castle Luther was asked to remove his priestly clothes and dress in a knight’s garb, with a sword at his belt and a golden chain around his neck, to grow a beard and let his hair grow long. This disguise and changes in appearance made it difficult to recognize him and indeed his identity was such a well kept secret that only a few of the people who lived with him and served him ever suspected who this gentleman, known to everyone as “the Knight George” really was. Luther remained in hiding for ten months, and in that time he translated the New Testament from Erasmus’ Greek text» (Giovanni Luzzi, Storia della Bibbia, Florence 1927).

How do we cite the Bible?

Each Book of the Bible is divided in chapters and Verses to simplify referencing and identification of each passage. The current arrangement of the Bible in chapters was introduced by the English Bishop Stephen Langton, while the division in verses was made in Lucca by the Dominican Santes Pagnino in 1528. The first edition of the Bible with chapters and verses was in French and it was published in 1533 by Robert Estienne. The system was used since then and today it is used also by the Jews because it is very practical. If we want to simplify the searching and citation of Biblical passages and move swiftly through the Bible, we must learn to “read” the abbreviations normally used for Books, chapters and Verses. Let us have a look at them together.

• First of all each Book is indicated by an abbreviation: Ge for example means Genesis.

• A colon separates the chapter and the verse: Ge4:6 for example, means Genesis, chapter 4, verse 6. The first number after the shortened Book name indicates the chapter; The number after the colon indicates the verse.

• One f (“f”) after a number means “and following”, two fs (“ff”) mean “and the following verses “: Ge4:6f means Genesis, verse 6 and the next verse; Ge4:6ff means Genesis, verse 6 and the following verses.

• A dash indicates a group of chapters or verses: Ge4:6-8 means Genesis chapter 4, verses from 6 to 8 (included).

• A dot after a verse indicates individual verses (Ge22:3.13 means Genesis, chapter 22, verse 3 and verse 13).

• Some rather long verses are cited only partly. For this purposes, a letter is added as in the following example: Ge4:6a means the first part of verse 6.

Citations from two or more chapters

The chapter and verse where the cited passage starts are separated by a dash from the chapter and verse where the passage ends: Mt8:22-8:24 means from Matthew, chapter 8, verse 22 to Matthew, chapter 8, verse 24.

Citations from the same Book

A semicolon is used to separate references from two or more different chapters of the same book: Ge6;8 means: Genesis, chapter 6 and chapter 8.

Whole chapters

Indication of verses is omitted. For example: Mt8-9: Matthew, from chapter eight to nine (included).

Citation of non-consecutive verses from the same chapter

Non-consecutive verses are separated by a dot:

Mt7:2-5.17-19 Matthew, chapter 7 from verse 2 to 5 and from verse 17 to 19;

Mt7:2-5.17.26 Matthew, chapter 7 from verse 2 to 5 and then verses 17 and 26.

Here are some examples:

Mt5:13 shall be read as “Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5, verse 13”;

Mk2:3.7 shall be read as “Gospel of Mark, chapter 2, verses 3 and 7”;

Lk1:1.5 shall be read as “Gospel of Luke, chapter 1, verses from 1 to 5 included”;

Jn7:4-6.9 shall be read as “Gospel of John, chapter 7, verses from 4 to 6 and 9”;

Ex6:7.10.21 shall be read as “Exodus, chapter 6, verses 7, 10 and 21”;

Re4:20.22-27 shall be read as “Book of Revelation, chapter 4, verse from 20 and verses from 22 to 27”;

Ac8:2-4.9-12 shall be read as “Acts of the Apostles, chapter 8, verses from 2 to 4 included and from 9 to 12 included”;

Ge1:1-2:4 shall be read as Genesis, from chapter 1, verse 1 to chapter 2, verse 4;

Jn1:1f shall be read as “Gospel of John, chapter 1, verse 1 and following”;

Ge3:4-6.8; 4:6ff; 3:2-7:9 shall be read as Genesis, chapter 3, verses from 4 to 6 (included) and chapter 8; then Genesis, chapter 4, verse 6 and the following verses; then chapter 3, from verse 2 to chapter 7, verse 9.

Old Testament

New Testament

The Book of Genesis


The Gospel according to Matthew


The Book of Exodus


The Gospel according to Mark


The Book of Leviticus


The Gospel according to Luke


The Book of Numbers


The Gospel according to John


The Book of Deuteronomy


The Acts of the Apostles


The Book of Joshua


The Letter to the Romans


he Book of Judges


The First Letter to the Corinthians


The Book of Ruth


The Second Letter to the Corinthians


The First Book of Samuel


The Letter to the Galatians


The Second Book of Samuel


The Letter to the Ephesians


The First Book of Kings


The Letter to the Philippians


The Second Book of Kings


The Letter to the Colossians


The First Book of Chronicles


The First Letter to the Thessalonians


The Second Book of Chronicles


The Second Letter to the Thessalonians


The Book of Ezra


The First Letter to the Timothy


The Book of Nehemiah


The Second Letter to the Timothy


The Book of Esther


The Letter to the Hebrews


The Book of Job


The Second Letter of Peter


The Book of Psalms


The First Letter of John


The Book of Proverbs


The Second Letter of John


The Book of Ecclesiastes


The Third Letter of John


The Song of Songs


The Letter of Jude


The Book of Isaiah


The Book of Revelation


The Book of Jeremiah


The Book of Lamentations


The Book of Ezekiel


The Book of Daniel


The Book of Hosea


The Book of Joel


The Book of Amos


The Book of Obadiah


The Book of Jonah


The Book of Micah


The Book of Nahum


The Book of Habakkuk


The Book of Zephaniah


The Book of Haggai


The Book of Zechariah


The Book of Malachi


The different ways of encountering the Bible

Approaching the Word of God

In the Acts of the Apostles Philip asks to an Ethiopian official who was reading the Bible: «Do you understand what you are reading?». The man replied: «How can I, unless someone explains it to me?» (Ac8:30-31). All sacred texts can be read in many different ways: for the sake of knowledge alone or, like a believer does, to dig deep into them and finally meet the Maker. The 18th century bishop Tikhon of Zadonsk explained it very well: «Christ himself is speaking to you. And when you read, you pray and speak with Him».

Over the centuries several ways to deeply listen to the Word of God have been developed and tested. As regards solitary reading, the Tradition transmitted us the ancient monastic method called Lectio Divina (see below), while for what regards collective reading all churches regard liturgical reading as its most important form though collective reading can also occur in prayer groups or during a spiritual retreat. The core of reading, in any case, is to make the Word our own until it becomes part of us, like the Deuteronomy teaches: «For this commandment which I command you today is not too hard for you or too distant... But the word is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.» (De30:11-14).

The Lectio Divina

The Lectio Divina (spiritual reading or divine reading) is an ancient method of reading the Sacred Scriptures that seeks not knowledge but rather communion with God and approaches the texts like they were the Living Word. It is the most ancient and best known method of approaching the Bible in all the history of Christian spirituality. In the 12th century Carthusian monk Guigo II, following what he himself called an “enlightenment” formalized the process in his writing Scala claustraluim and described the four steps of the process as follows:

1) lectio: slow, careful reading of the passage;

2) meditatio: meditation, reflection on the passage;

3) oratio: prayer that originates from the inspiration that the biblical passage provoked in the reader;

4) contemplatio: silent contemplation of the Mistery of God contained in the passage.

The Lectio Divina is comprised of four moments: «This [the Lectio Divina] begins with the reading (lectio) of the text, which provokes the question of true knowledge of its real content: what does the biblical text say in itself? Then follows meditation (meditatio) where the question is: what does the Biblical text say to us? This path leads to prayer (oratio), which presupposes this other question: what do we say to the Lord in answer to his word? The road ends with contemplation (contemplatio) during which we receive God’s own gaze in judging reality as a gift from Him and ask ourselves: what kind of conversion of the mind, the heart and life does the Lord ask of us?».

The present day spiritual masters add also a fifth step, actio (action), that is operating in the world according to the inspiration received from the Scriptures.

These stages are not rigidly settled: although one shall follow the other, they may as well overlap. Sometimes we might, for example, reflect on the same passage with meditatio on one day and with contemplatio on another day.

1) Lectio (reading)

A passage of the Bible, not a very long one, shall be read and read again carefully, further researching about a single word or sentence by reading the notes on the Bible itself, other parallel passages and Biblical concordances (where all passages are indexed by their theme and by specific words). Other helpful reading tools are Biblical vocabularies or exegetic commentaries and in addition to that comparing the Synoptic Gospels (Mk, Mt and Lk) may also be useful when we are reading one of said Gospels.

A very ancient rule of Biblical interpretation is that the Bible is understood with the help of the Bible as each passage is enlightened by the other texts of the Sacred Scriptures.

The passage should be read calmly, asking ourselves some questions: When did the author write the passage? Where? Whom it was addressed to? Which was the historical context? How was this message received at the time by its intended targets? And the most important question: What does the biblical text say in itself?

In other words, this is the moment of the deep listening.

2) Meditatio (meditation)

If reading brings the food to the mouth, meditation chews it: meditation is the “slow rumination” of the Word. Sometimes it will take days to fully “digest” a Biblical passage: as the hours pass a deeper understanding grows within the reader, an awareness that modifies the way he or she thinks. David, about he who meditates on the Word of God, says that «He will be like a tree planted by the streams of water, that produces its fruit in its season, whose leaf also does not wither. Whatever he does shall prosper.» (Ps1:3). In ancient times meditatio was something different from what we call meditation today (a Yoga technique, an exercise to calm the mind) as it was basically an exercise in which the words were repeated (sometimes even aloud) until they became engraved in the mind and became one with the reader, speaking to each reader in a unique, personal way.

This second step has the purpose of bringing the Word of God closer to the life of the reader. The question in this step is: What does the Biblical text say to me? We read the text because it says something about our life. How do the values underlying the text I have meditated on provoke me?

Scriptura crescit cum legente (the Scripture grows with the reader).

Saint Gregory the Great

3) Oratio (prayer)

What we “ruminated” with the meditation blooms into a prayer and becomes an opportunity for thanksgiving, offering, requesting. The Biblical passages, the words that have become our own with reading and meditation can now turn into prayers. This is the moment where man, after having listened, answers to God and speaks to Him.

In this step, for example, the prayer may very well be a short excerpt from the passage we have read, for example «don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.» (Ro12:21); the sentence will be repeated like a mantra during all our daily activities to give us strength, comfort us or drive our mind away from evil or from what distracts us or makes us suffer.

The method we are analyzing here shows that the best prayer is not the one that blossoms from our inner self but the very Word of God made our own.

➜ For further information: 1

4) Contemplatio (contemplation)

Contemplation here means neither a mystic experience of ecstasy or “visions” nor, of course, philosophical speculations or psychological introspection, but rather an experience of adoration and praise. From the “ruminated” and prayed Word He who pronounced it shall spring out. In this silence only the Spirit of the Word remains. All of our being is “taken” by God.