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The Importance of the Human Authorship of the Bible

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authorship of the Bible

I fully believe that the Bible is divinely inspired. It is God-breathed. His word to us. And it is truthful in all that it teaches us. But it was also written by people. A variety of people over a long period of time. Some of the authors are known. Some are identified through tradition. And some of the writings are anonymous. The question I want to explore in this post deals with the importance of knowing who did the actual writing. Is the human authorship of the Bible important? Does it really matter just who it was that God used to pen the different books that have been collected together to form the Bible?

A related question to this concerns the dates the individual books were written. When were these human authors working? Is a specific date or time frame for their writing important?

Traditional Authors

Most of the books in the Bible are anonymous; they do not specify an author. The major exceptions to this are the New Testament epistles and Revelation. With the exception of Hebrews, all of them identify a specific author. The prophets and many of the psalms are also identified internally with a specific author.

Many other books have authors that are traditionally associated with them. The titles of the four gospels are traditionally associated with the men the gospel is named after. The Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, is traditionally associated with Moses.

But there is no real consensus as to human authorship for other books in the Bible. Hebrews is the primary example in the New Testament. But most of the historical books in the Old Testament have a variety of opinions as to their authorship. By and large, the authorship of those writings is unknown.

You can find any number of websites that attempt to identify the authorship of Biblical books. https://aleteia.org/2018/01/27/this-is-who-wrote-the-old-testament/ is one of these that will give you at least one person’s perspective.

The View of Modern Scholarship

The view of modern scholarship is oftentimes quite different than the traditional view. Before looking at their perspective, though, a word about modern scholarship is in order. Some view modern Biblical scholarship as the work of liberals and skeptics, looking to discredit the Bible. And no doubt, there are many who fall into that camp. But there are also many devout, Bible-believing, evangelicals among them. Please don’t dismiss modern scholarship just because their conclusions differ from yours.

There are a few significant differences between the general view of modern scholars and the traditional view of authorship and dating of the Bible. One of the most challenging to the traditional view concerns the Torah. Traditionally we saw these five books as being written by Moses during the exodus from Egypt. But by and large modern scholarship has rejected that view. While there is a wide diversity in opinion as to who and when these books were written, most seem to believe that they were written by a number of people, based on oral traditions, and ultimately edited into their current form either during the Babylonian exile or shortly thereafter.

The book of Isaiah is another one whose authorship has been challenged. Today many see this as the work of two or three distinct people, or collections of people. One writing from before the exile. A second portion was written during the exile. And the concluding portion was written at the end of the exile.

For a view of modern scholarship, albeit somewhat skeptical, you might look at https://allthatsinteresting.com/who-wrote-the-bible.

Does it Really Matter?

The intent of this post is not to defend one view or the other. Instead, it is to argue that, in the end, it doesn’t really matter who the human authors were. Or when the writing occurred. If indeed God is the primary author of the Scripture, which I believe he is. And if indeed what we have in our Bibles is what God wanted us to have, which I also believe. Then does it really matter who the human instrument was that God used to produce the book of Genesis? Or when it was set down in its current form?

Inspiration of the Scriptures

I find a couple of passages particularly relevant to this discussion. The first comes from 2 Timothy 3:16-17. This passage affirms that all Scripture is God-breathed. God inspires it. He is the primary author.

The second is from 2 Peter 1:21. Here, Peter says that “prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Peter refers specifically to prophesy here. But I believe his intent was not just to limit this to those in the Old Testament that we have identified as prophets. Rather he is referring to all of those who spoke for God. And I believe that includes all of those who wrote the Scripture we have.

God spoke to us using human instruments. And those human instruments, in turn, have passed on God’s word to us. Who were they? When did they write? Was it passed down orally for a period before being written down? How much editing might have occurred during the process? While all of those are interesting questions, in the end, the Bible is God’s word to us. And I believe he has protected his word over the ages to ensure that it still speaks his message.

In the End

I tend toward accepting the view that Moses is not the human author of the Torah. That it was written later by a number of people. I accept that Isaiah was written by multiple authors. That the author of Matthew was likely not the disciple Matthew.

But that does not impact how I view any of the books in the Bible. God clearly speaks to me from the pages of Genesis, Isaiah, and Matthew. The human authorship of the Bible does not matter to me all that much. Because I know who it is that is speaking to me from their pages. And it is not Moses, Isaiah, or Matthew. It is God himself.

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Ed Jarrett

Just an old clay jar that God continues to see fit to use in his kingdom's work. I am retired, married with 2 children, and 4 grandchildren. I have followed Jesus for many years. And I love to share what He has given me from His word.

A Note to Readers

The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.

4 thoughts on “The Importance of the Human Authorship of the Bible”

  1. Im 71and didn’t know the Word until by His Mercy I received Jesus Christ as my LORD and Savior at 54. I believe other than a few Translations of the Word of God will led the individual to the place in their growth He intends…if He didn’t give us the who or when in the Bible and He feels you need 5o know this the Holy Spirit is able to get you an answer you will have confidence in. We need to Trust Him and what HE HAS GIVEN US


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