The original hand written manuscripts of the Bible no longer exist, but what does remain are carefully hand-written copies. Hebrew scrolls, including one of the entire book of Isaiah, were discovered in 1947 in a cave near the Dead Sea. These are a thousand years older than any previously known Hebrew manuscripts of the Bible, and are known as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The oldest complete Hebrew manuscript was the Aleppo Codex thought to be very close to the work of ben Asher, of which a considerable portion has disappeared in the twentieth century. The oldest surviving complete Hebrew manuscript is the Leningrad Codex, dated to c1008 AD, which is the basis of the Bible Societies text.

Alexander the Great built a new Greek speaking city in Egypt called Alexandria. This soon became an important centre of learning and many Jews came to live there. About 200 BC, as more and more Jews outside the holy land began to speak Greek instead of Hebrew, learned Jewish scholars in Alexandria were commissioned to translate their Scriptures into Greek. According to tradition there were 72 translators, 6 from each tribe, and the work was called the Septuagint (LXX), from the Greek word for seventy. The Septuagint also included the books now known as the Apocrypha.

After the Septuagint several other Greek translations of the Scriptures were made for the Jews e.g. Theodotian, Aquila and Symmachus.

The New Testament was written in Koine Greek. The oldest Greek manuscripts of large parts of the New Testament are the Codex Sinaiticus, now in the British Library in London, and the Codex Vaticanus, in the Vatican Library in Rome, both from the fourth century AD. But many older papyrus fragments of the New Testament in Greek do exist. There is also a lot of evidence of the contents of the original Greek manuscripts from quotations in the early Christian writers (known as the Church Fathers).

In about 400 AD the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew into Latin and the New Testament from Greek into Latin by Jerome mostly in Bethlehem. His work was based on manuscripts available to him them, none of which survive in full.

The first Greek New Testament manuscript to be printed was that of Erasmus in 1516. This ran to many editions and the third edition printed by Robert Estienne came to be known as the Textus Receptus, (the received text). This was the text which was largely used for the King James Version of the English Bible and other European Reformation Bibles.

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