The Importance of the Human 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 explored in this post deals with the importance of knowing just who it was that 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 exception 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 to the four gospels are traditionally associated with the men the gospel is named after. The Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, are traditionally associated with Moses.

But for other books in the Bible there is no real consensus as to human authorship. 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 just unknown.

You can find any number of web sites 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 persons 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 are different than your own.

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 witten during the exile. And the concluding portion written at the end of the exile.

For a view of modern scholarship, albeit with somewhat of a skeptical bent, 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 occured. 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

There are a couple of passages that I find particularly relevant to this discussion. The first comes from 2 Timothy 3:16-17. This passage affirms that all Scripture is God breathed. It is inspired by God. 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 prophecy 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 occured 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.

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.

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