The Bible was not written in one specific year or in a single location. The Bible is a collection of writings, and the earliest ones were set down nearly 3500 years ago. So let’s start at the beginning of this fascinating story.
The first five books of the Bible are attributed to Moses and are commonly called the Pentateuch (literally “five scrolls”).
Moses lived between 1500 and 1300 BC, though he recounts events in the first eleven chapters of the Bible that occurred long before his time (such as the creation and the flood).
These earliest accounts were handed on from generation to generation in songs, narratives, and poetry.
In those early societies there was no writing as yet and people passed on these oral accounts with great detail and accuracy.
The earliest writing began when symbols were scratched or pressed on clay tablets. The Egyptians refined this technique and developed an early form of writing known as hieroglyphics. The Bible tells us that Moses was “educated in all the learning of the Egyptians”, so he would have been familiar with the major writing systems of his time. We also read that God gave Moses “two tablets of the Testimony, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God”(Exodus 31:18). All this leads to the conclusion that the earliest writings in the Bible were set down around 1400 BC.
The writings of the thirty or so other contributors to the Old Testament span a thousand years! They recount the times and messages from Moses’ successor, Joshua, to the last of the Old Testament prophets, Malachi, who wrote his little tract around 450 BC.
Then there is a 500-year period when no writings were contributed to the Bible. This is the period between the testaments, when Alexander the Great conquered much of the world and when the Greek language was introduced to the Hebrews. Indeed, they began to use Greek so much that the Hebrew language was replaced by Greek and by another language, Aramaic, which was spoken all over that area of the world at that time.
The New Testament was written during a much shorter period, i.e. during the last half of the first century AD.
- It was the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, which ignited the flame that produced the New Testament, as the new faith swept across the Near East and then westward to Greece and on to Rome.
- Half of the New Testament books were contributed by one man, the Apostle Paul, in the epistles he sent to groups of new Christians and to his assistants Timothy and Titus.
- The Bible closes with a majestic book of visions and dramatic views of the future. It was penned by the aged Apostle John around 95 AD and describes the new heaven and the new earth when God’s kingdom will embrace the universe and all rebellion and death will be a thing of the past.
In looking at all these dates, the important thing to remember is that when the Bible was written is not as important as what was written. However, the when is important also as we sense how God’s presence persisted through the centuries and gave us “in the fullness of time” the full-orbed revelation of salvation and hope through his son Jesus Christ.