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Q. Whose Bible is it? A. Whose isn't it?

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In Judaism, the written scriptures are called the Tanakh, and include the Torah (the Pentateuch), the prophets, and other writings (Psalms, Proverbs, etc.).

The canon was fixed in the first century CE. Yet Jews living in Egypt had earlier translated the Hebrew scriptures into Greek, making them a part of world literature.

It was this Greek translation (the Septuagint) that became the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, with Christians appropriating the Jewish scriptures as their own. Viewing Christianity as the fulfillment of biblical promise, and emphasizing an allegorical interpretation, they found references to Jesus where Jews saw other meanings.

"Yet at some point, this 'stupendous claim' of prophecy and fulfillment could no longer function with the combination of written Tanakh and oral tradition ... but had to develop its own written authority ... what we now call 'the New Testament,' " Pelikan writes.

In shaping this testament, disputes arose over the written gospels. The first agreement came in the mid-4th century, and the canon was formally settled in 692, incorporating books seen as connected to the apostles.

While the Greek Bible remained the text of Eastern Orthodoxy, the Latin translation from the Greek - the Latin Vulgate - became the Roman Catholic scripture, dominant in Western Europe for 1,000 years.

Rich traditions of scriptural commentary developed in a parallel manner within Judaism and Christianity. With the Jewish diaspora, Hebrew was replaced in various locales by Arabic, Yiddish, and Ladino.

Jewish medieval scholarship produced the Kabbalah, the mystical systems of reflection on the Divine Name revealed to Moses - the "I Am that I Am" - which is seen as the key to the mystery of all being and to the meaning of the Bible.

During the Middle Ages, Bible study became the highest form of learning, giving rise to four kinds of interpretation: literal, allegorical (often called spiritual sense), moral, and eschatological.

With the coming of the Renaissance, for the first time European interpeters gained access to original texts in Hebrew and Greek, and the printing press made the Bible widely available.

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