“The Bible” & Papyrus

Papyrus

The word “Bible” is used in several ways.  Let’s look at some background to the word.

Egyptian writing in the 2000s BCE was done on the pith of a plant called “papyrus”. Paper, on the other hand (developed in China around 100 BCE).  The Egyptians called the plant “paperaa” which meant “of the Pharaoh” since apparently he owned a monopoly on its production.

Papyrus RouteThe Greeks, in importing papyrus products, called the food products of this plant “papuros” but the nonfood products (scrolls, baskets …) they called “bublos” after the Phoenician city of Byblos from where it was exported.  But “Byblos” was the Greek slaughtering of the Phonecians real city name of “Gubal” (currently Jubayl) which meant “well” or “origin”.

The Greek word word “book” comes from their name for Gubal, where they got their material (papyrus) to write on.

“Paper”, interestingly, also comes from the greek work “papuros” even though the papyrus plant is not used to make paper but instead, paper production was developed in China around 100 BC and only made it to Europe in the 1200 CE to eventually replace both papyrus and parchment (animal skins) .

Returning to the word “Bible”, since Christianity has a book they value above all others, that book was simply called “The Bible” or “The Book”.  So the phrase “the Bible” means:

  1. sacred collection of books used by Christians and Jews
  2. and by extension: the sacred collection of books of any religion

Since the Bible is the source of Christian theology, doctrine and authority,  the word “Bible” eventually was enlarged to also mean:

3. any authoritative book (Oxford dictionary)

    • a book considered authoritative in its field
      (The Free Dictionary)
    • a publication that is preeminent especially in authoritativeness or wide readership
      (Merriam-Webster)
    • any book, reference work, periodical, etc.,accepted as authoritative, informative, or reliable
      (Dictionary.com)

Reader Challenge:  Give some examples of this general use of the word “bible”.

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See other “Word!” posts, here.

4 Comments

Filed under Linquistics

4 responses to ““The Bible” & Papyrus

  1. I’ve heard a collection of all the information needed for a project called the production bible (for a film etc). And also with coding and other reference works, a definitive guide can be referred to as a bible.

  2. The CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics is called the “rubber Bible” because it’s extremely thick, printed on extremely thin paper, and is authoritative.

  3. When I was in trade school for carpentry, the code book was referred to as ‘the Carpenter’s Bible’.

  4. Great examples, thanks folks! Post coming with “Bible of …” in the title.

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