The English word “Bible” comes from the Greek word “biblia,” which is the plural form of “biblos,” meaning “book” or, more specifically, “papyrus.” Papyrus (from which we get the English word “paper”) is a large, broad-leafed plant that was used in ancient times for making paper, and then the paper was used for making scrolls, books and other written records. In ancient times, papyrus was shipped from Egypt, where it grew in abundance along the Nile, to the Phoenician port city of Byblus.
As applied to the Scriptures, the Greek term is first used by the prophet Daniel:
Dan. 9:2 …in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures (Gk. Biblois), according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.
The historical record of 1 Maccabees (2nd Century B.C.) also uses the term at least three times in referring to the Scriptures (1 Macc. 1:56; 3:48; 12:9). In both Daniel and 1 Maccabees the plural Greek word means “the books” of the Old Testament.
Because the Bible in its completed form is a collection of 66 books, Daniel’s term gradually became a popular way to refer to the Scriptures as a whole. The earliest written record we have so far of “ta biblia” (“the Books”) as a term for the Scriptures used by Christians is by Clement of Alexandria, about 150 A.D. (2 Clem. 14:2). The more common terms in the early church were “the Scriptures”:
Matt. 21:42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures (“tais graphais”): “ ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
Or “the Writings”:
2 Tim. 3:15 …and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures (“ta hierra grammata,” i.e., "the holy writings"), which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
By the 5th century A.D., “Biblia,” as a plural noun (i.e., “Books), was used regularly by the early Church leaders as a common name for the Scriptures. The term then moved into Latin as the Church moved westward throughout Europe, changing from plural to singular in the process. The “Books” became the “Book” (Latin: Biblia) in Latin speaking churches or, as we say in English, “the Bible.”
The beauty of the word “Bible” as it has come down to us through the ages is that it accurately reflects the truth that the 66 books that make up the entirety of the Scriptures are indeed one book, God’s complete revelation in the written word, and the revelation of His Son, Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh to take away the sins of the world.
* Greek New Testament—T
* LXX 1
* The New Bible Dictionary, Eerdmans, Douglas, 1962
* The New International Dictionary Of The Bible, Douglas, Merrill, Tenney, Zondervan, 1987