The word “Bible” is derived through Latin from the Greek word biblia (books), specifically the books that are acknowledged as canonical by the Christian church. The earliest Christian use of ta biblia (the books) in this sense is said to be 2 Clement 2:14 (c. a.d. 150): “The books and the apostles declare that the church . . . has existed from the beginning.” (Compare Dan. 9:2, “I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures,” where the reference is to the corpus of Old Testament prophetic writings.) Greek biblion (of which biblia is the plural) is a diminutive of biblos, which in practice denotes any kind of written document, but originally one written on papyrus.

A term synonymous with “the Bible” is “the writings” or “the Scriptures” (Greek hai graphai, ta grammata), frequently used in the New Testament to denote the Old Testament documents in whole or in part. For example, Matthew 21:42 says, “Have you never read in the Scriptures?” (en tais graphais). The parallel passage, Mark 12:10, has the singular, referring to the particular text quoted, “Haven’t you read this Scripture?” (ten graphen tauten). Second Timothy 3:15 (RSV) speaks of “the sacred writings” (ta hiera grammata), and the next verse says, “All Scripture is Godbreathed” (pasa graphe theopneustos). In 2 Peter 3:16 “all” the letters of Paul are included along with “the other Scriptures” (tas loipas graphas), by which the Old Testament writings and probably also the Gospels are meant.

This is an excerpt from The Origin of the Bible by F. F. Bruce, J. I. Packer, Philip Comfort, and Carl F. H. Henry. To read more, you can purchase this book from many Christian bookstores and online retailers, including

Bruce, F. F., et al. The Origin of the Bible. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2020.