The Bible as we have it today wasn't simply handed to man by God; people had to decide what books did and didn't make it into what's called the "canon" (e.g., Official Collection of Writings) of the Bible.

Among the most important in the long history of such people are the seventy-two Judean scholars (six from each of the twelve tribes of Israel) who, according to legend, came together around 250 B.C. in Alexandria, Egypt (then one of the world's greatest centers of learning) to translate the Pentateuch -- that is, the Torah, or Five Books of Moses -- from its original Hebrew into Greek. (Ptolemy, the Greek ruler of Egypt, requested this translation because by the time of his reign so few Jews throughout the vast Greek empire spoke Hebrew. "The laws of the Jews are worth transcribing," Demetrius, librarian of the renowned Museum of Alexandria, is reported to have said to Ptolemy. "But they need to be translated, for in the country of the Jews they use a peculiar alphabet." Ptolemy, presumably, answered, "Let's do it! Let's translate the Torah!")

The resultant volume -- which ultimately took at least one hundred years to finish, and included the entire Old Testament -- is known as the Septuagint (from the Latin word for seventy, for the seventy or so scholars who are said to have launched the work; the book is also known as "LXX," the Roman numeral for seventy).

The Septuagint is a pivotal book in the history of Christianity, because it quickly became the Old Testament for Jews throughout the Greek empire, and because it opened up the Bible -- and with it, the idea that a saving Messiah just might be in everyone's future -- to the non-Jewish world. In the time of Christ, the Septuagint was accepted as the hands-down authoritative translation of the Hebrew Bible; the writers of the New Testament relied almost exclusively upon it for their quotations from the Old Testament.

When you hold a modern-day Bible in your hand, you're holding the direct result of work done well over 2,000 years ago by preeminent spiritual leaders from the twelve tribes of Israel. These scholars labored to translate God's language into man's on the island of Pharos, just off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt, in a learning complex that also contained the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, whose light was said to be so bright it could burn up enemy ships before they ever reached the shore.