What are the origins of the typically used names of the Bible books and writers (ex. Luke, Jeremiah, Daniel, etc.)?

  • Most of the Old Testament books’ names come from the Greek translation of the bible called the Septuagint, which was the version of the bible most people knew during the Roman Empire. It’s pretty clear that the writers of the gospels who were Jewish, like the author of Matthew, had read the Hebrew Bible only in Greek.
  • For example, Genesis comes from the Greek word for beginning or creation. Deuteronomy comes from the Greek word for copy; it means second law (I guess because they thought Exodus was the first law). Exodus comes from the same word as our modern “exit”; it’s also Greek in origin.
  • Leviticus comes from one of the Hebrew words for priest, Levite.
  • Most of the Hebrew prophetic writings took their names from the actual prophets: Jeremiah and Ezekiel were real people, and Isaiah was a school of prophecy.
  • Many of the Writings were named after central characters in those works (Job, Esther, Ruth).
  • The New Testament gospels were generally named for disciples of Jesus, but they were attributed to those people only in the second or third century. So we really don’t know who wrote those works.
  • Revelation is an English translation of the Greek word “apocalypse,” which means revelation.
  • Paul’s works (Paul wrote most of the letters attributed to him) were named for the communities he addressed them to. For example, 1 and 2 Corinthians were addressed to the religious communities he had established in Corinth. These letters addressed questions that came up after Paul moved on to found new communities.

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