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To understand who wrote the Bible, it’s helpful to understand what the Bible actually is.
The word “Bible” actually comes from the Greek word “ta biblia” which means “the books”. So the Bible isn’t just one book, but instead is a collection of books with writings from as many as 40+ contributors in several languages over the course of several thousand years.
The Bible consists of 66 books in total and is split into two major sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The Old Testament contains 39 books and of these books, the earliest ones are estimated to have been set down nearly 3500 years ago.
The New Testament contains 27 books written roughly between AD 40 – AD 90. So, the Bible as a whole is estimated to have been written over the course of roughly 1400 BC to AD 90.
Of course, for Christians, the Bible isn’t just any book, it is the authoritative, written Word of God. However, it is also unmistakably of human authorship, written from their perspectives, personalities, and writing styles. To the average Bible reader, you might not notice this, but amongst scholars and linguists this is extremely evident.
The authors of the Bible also lived at different times in history, and some were separated by hundreds, even thousands of years. This means that their culture and government structures varied greatly. The authors came from all walks of life, some businessmen, shepherds, kings, fisherman, doctors, prophets, etc.
So, in reality, it’s actually quite amazing how God used average, every day people to tell a much larger story of redemption and renewal through God’s love. Not only that, but God’s message is consistent and fulfilled throughout the texts from Genesis to Revelation and has transcended language, culture, and time.
Read more: Bible Overview: A Summary of the Entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation
Furthermore, the fact that these writings, the earliest ones estimated to have been written around 1400 BC, have been collected, compiled, and beautifully and divinely preserved throughout the ages is nothing short of a miracle.
It really gives you a whole new perspective on the famous verse from Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words remain forever”.
So, with all of that said, I hope you now have a basic understanding of the Bible. Throughout the rest of this post, my goal is to address the question of who wrote the Bible and when was the Bible written.
Let’s do this!
Who Wrote the Bible?
When was the Old Testament Written?
The Old Testament consists of 39 books. They were not written all at once but instead were written over a thousand-year period of time.
Moses’ books were written around 1400 BC while the youngest books of the Bible were written around 450 BC. So, there was around a thousand-year gap (BC 1400 and BC 450) between Moses’ authorship and the authors of the younger books of the Bible like Malachi and other later prophets.
It is widely accepted that Job is the oldest book of the Bible, however Job is notoriously difficult to date. The language in Job is unlike any other found in the Bible, or outside the Bible for that matter. It was written in Hebrew, but in very strange archaic Hebrew that would indicate its age. However, it also has Aramaic influences, which indicate it to be more modern.
Who Wrote the Old Testament?
The books of the Old Testament were not written by the same person but instead were written by approximately 40+ different authors.
There are Five Main Divisions of the Old Testament (39 Books)
- The Law (Pentateuch) – 5 books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)
- History (Historical) – 12 books (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther)
- Poetry (Wisdom) – 5 books (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs)
- Major Prophets – 5 books (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel)
- Minor Prophets – 12 books (Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi)
Note: It’s important to note that a minor prophet wasn’t any less important that a major prophet. Instead their books were just shorter in length in comparison to the books of the major prophets.
The first five books of the Old Testament called “The Law” or the “Pentateuch” (Greek for the “five scrolls”) are attributed to Moses.
Although Moses is estimated to have lived around BC 1500 to BC 1300, his books recount events long before his time such as the story of creation. It is estimated that the earliest writings of the Bible were written around BC 1400. Remember that Moses was raised and taught by the Egyptians, so he would have been familiar with the writing system of his time.
For the other books in the Old Testament, God used priests and prophets such as Samuel, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel to write Scripture. In addition, other men who were not priests or prophets, such as King David and Solomon, also wrote parts of the Old Testament.
Some books of the Bible don’t specifically name its author, but scholars have guessed at who some of these likely candidates could be. For example, the author of the book of Ruth is unknown, however according to Jewish tradition it was the prophet Samuel. The same goes for the book of Job. We do not know who wrote this book, but many suggest it could have been Moses.
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Other books of the Old Testament are a compilation of many different authors, such as the Book of Psalms. David is considered the main author; however, we also know that there were other contributors too.
The minor prophets in the Bible each wrote their own book.
Many scholars believe that the writings of the Old Testament were collected and canonized over the years and officially made part of the Word of God by the Jewish priest and scribe, Ezra as early as the 5th century BC.
When was the New Testament Written?
The New Testament was written in a much shorter period of time compared to the Old Testament, in around 70 years or less. The New Testament texts are estimated to have been written around AD 50 – AD 90. It’s important to remember that Jesus died somewhere around AD 30 – AD 33, and not the year 0.
The texts of the New Testament spread out across the Roman Empire very quickly with the earliest texts being written by Paul, estimated to have been written around AD 50 – AD 62. Paul’s texts were written as letters, or Epistles, to the various early Christian churches.
The first three Gospels are estimated to have been written between AD 50 and AD 70, and John’s writings sometime between AD 80 and AD 90.
Confirmation of this timeline for the New Testament writings is found in a letter written by the bishop of Rome, Clement. In his letter (1 Clement, written around AD 95) he quoted many of the New Testament books, confirming that the dates of the New Testament writings had to have been written prior to AD 90.
Who Wrote the New Testament?
The New Testament consists of 27 books in total and like the Old Testament, was written by many different authors.
There are Five Major Divisions of the New Testament (27 Books)
- The Gospels – 4 books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)
- Apostolic History – 1 book (Acts)
- Epistles of Paul – 13 books (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon)
- General Epistles (non-Pauline) – 8 books (Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude)
- Apocalypse – 1 book (Revelation)
*The 13 Epistles of Paul listed above are traditionally accredited to Paul, however modern research leans towards doubting that this accurate. Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus are the letters in question and might not have actually been written by Paul.
The authors of the New Testament were either apostles, close associates of the apostles, or had a close relationship with Jesus Christ.
Here are a few examples:
- Matthew – Mathew is called Matthew the Apostle and was a disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ. He wrote one of the four gospels, the book of Matthew.
- John – John is called John the Apostle, and traditionally is attributed to writing the Gospel of John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and the Book of Revelation. However, which books of the Bible were actually written by John are still speculated and debated amongst scholars.
Close Associates of the Apostles
- Luke – Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts and was a doctor and close companion and traveler with the apostles. He interviewed the apostles and other eye witnesses and wrote down their accounts.
- Mark – Also known as John Mark was not one of the 12 apostles, but wrote the Gospel of Mark based on the memoir and testimony of Peter (a disciple and apostle of Jesus).
Brothers of Jesus
- James – James was a physical brother of Jesus and wrote the book of James. His teachings and book are apostolic because Acts 15 attests to his role as a leader in the church and in charge of the church in Jerusalem.
- Jude – Jude wrote the book of Jude and was also Jesus’ physical brother and was with the apostles at Pentecost in Acts 2.
Authors of the Books of the Bible PDF
Want to save a copy of the authors of the books of the Bible PDF found throughout this post? Just click the below button and it will be sent directly to your email. This way you can reference it at any point if you are confused. 🙂
I hope this post has helped you in understanding who wrote the Bible and when!
It’s important to note that Bible scholars still don’t have solid concrete evidence for who the author of every single book of the Bible is. Because of this, many scholars speculate and disagree on who wrote what, even for books of the Bible that the vast majority agree upon.
All of this to say, while it’s good to have a general understanding of who wrote the Bible and when, please don’t get hung up on it, and definitely don’t let this deter your faith and growth in the Lord.
What I would spend more time on is trying to understand why the author wrote a specific text.
What message was the author trying to convey? What is God wanting to teach you through Scripture? How can you apply this passage to your life?
Now that you have an understanding of who wrote the Bible, let’s start studying the Bible! If you want to see the exact study Bible I use , click here to view the Life Application Study Bible (highly recommend!).
Bible Overview: A Summary of the Whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation
Bible Translation Comparison: The Top 10 Most Accurate Bible Translations
Did you learn anything new about who wrote the Bible? Love to know below!
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Thanks for writing this! I learnt a lot of things I didn’t know.