Who Wrote the Bible?
Many people contributed to the writing of the Bible. In fact, the Bible is a diverse collection of writings from about 40 main contributors—30 in the Old Testament and 10 in the New Testament.
Some books are actually collections of writings from several authors, not just one. For example, while many people think of David when they think of the book of Psalms, there are individual psalms attributed to Moses, Asaph, a man named Ethan, and the sons of Korah.
Old Testament authors
The accounts preserved in the Old Testament—also known as the First Testament or Hebrew Scriptures—go back thousands of years. They were written down and communicated orally. Many regard Moses as the primary human author of the first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah. Regardless of the role others may have played in compiling the Torah, it’s thought that Moses ensured the narratives, genealogies, and law codes were collected and retold faithfully in these five books (which are, after all, known by many Jewish people as the “five books of Moses”).
As already mentioned, David is considered the main human author of the Psalms, though others contributed too. David’s son, King Solomon, is credited with writing or inspiring much of Bible’s wisdom literature (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, etc.).
The First Testament also contains oracles from prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and others. Many of these messages were delivered in person—shouted from street corners, spoken in front of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, or pronounced in the royal courts of Israel and Judah. Only later were these oracles written down, often by the prophets themselves or by their scribes.
As time passed, all these writings were collected together into the First Testament. The Jewish people received them as divinely inspired Scripture.
New Testament authors
The New Testament consists of stories, teachings, and letters that circulated among the first Christian churches. Letters from apostles like Paul and Peter are among the earliest writings in the New Testament. These letters were meant to be read aloud by communities of believers in specific locations. After the recipients heard the message intended for them, they often memorized it and shared it with neighboring Christian communities.
Luke and Acts, a two-volume series on the life of Jesus and the early church, was penned by a physician named Luke, who was also a traveling companion to the apostle Paul. The gospel of Matthew is popularly attributed to a tax collector variously known as Levi or Matthew—though given its content, some think it was written by someone with more training in the Hebrew Scriptures. Mark’s gospel is thought to record the memoirs of Peter, as told through the pen of John Mark. The gospel of John was written by one of Jesus’ closest disciples, giving us an eyewitness account of the Messiah's life.
Not just any book, not just any author.
Of course, for Christians, the Bible is more than just a human book. It is the authoritative, written Word of God. Through this ancient collection of books, God speaks into our world, revealing who he is and how he’s at work—then and now—repairing all that is broken. God did not simply give dictation to the human authors of Scripture; their contribution is real. Their personalities, perspectives, and writing styles are all discernable in the text—as are the unique situations and circumstances of those to whom they were writing. Yet God’s universal message is present from Genesis to Revelation.
It is truly amazing that God used so many people to tell his big story, one that transcends language, culture, and time. The Bible is a diverse collection of literature, yet it contains a unified message of redemption and renewal. God has given us a Bible that’s fully human and fully divine—fully inspired by his Spirit and fully a product of the world in which it was written.
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Photo by le vent le cri on Flickr (link)
Published Thursday, December 26, 2013