The question of who wrote the Bible has been the subject of scholarly as well as popular debate for millennia. Is the Bible the result of divine inspiration or is it the product of human imagination?
Is the Bible the work of God, the work of man, or a combination of both?
Who wrote the Bible is important, because what one believes about the Bible determines what one believes about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, man, sin, salvation, the church, and the future.
The crucial question is whether the Bible is the word of God to men, or is it merely the word of men about God?
The Westminster Confession (1643-1646) states the Reformed tradition's view of who wrote the Bible: “The Old Testament in Hebrew...and the New Testament in Greek...being immediately inspired by God, and, by his singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as, in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal unto them.” Modern biblical criticism has challenged this view and offered alternative propositions as to who wrote the Bible on a sliding scale between divine origin and human authorship.
In my college classes on Bible introduction and hermeneutics (how to interpret the Bible) when we deal with who wrote the
Bible students have often asked me the following questions:
How does historical criticism help us understand who wrote the Bible? How was the Hebrew Bible written?
What is the Septuagint?
Is there a Bible code?
Is the Apocrypha part of the Bible?
What is the oldest manuscript of the complete Bible?
How was the New Testament written?
Which are the best Bible translations for Bible study?
Why are the Synoptic Gospels so similar?
In the eighteenth century biblical scholars applied the new Enlightenment tools of historical criticism and literary analysis of the origins of a text to biblical studies. This new discipline investigates the books of the Bible and compares them to other texts written at the same time, before, or recently after the text in question.
Higher criticism (or historical criticism) emphasizes the Bible as a text created by human beings at a particular historical time and for various human motives rather than the Bible as the inspired Word of God.
This class is not offered this term.
Columbus State University, Elizabeth Bradley Turner Center for Continuing Education, Corner of East Lindsey Drive and College Drive, Columbus, GA 31907
In this class Dr. Bond answers the following Questions:
Did Moses really write the Torah? How many Isaiahs wrote Isaiah? Why are there four Gospels? Which John wrote John? What is the Q document?
How does the Documentary Hypothesis explain the writing of the Torah? Does the Deuteronmistic History reveal a master editor? What is the solution to the Synoptic Problem? Do we have reliable Hebrew and Greek biblical texts?
How has modern historical and literary criticism helped us learn who wrote the Bible? Who decided which books to include in the Bible and why? If Paul did not write the letter to the Ephesians, then who did?
Why do billions of people claim that God still speaks through the Bible?
For more information
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"Dr. Bond is knowledgeable in the history of the Bible."
"The course materials were easy to follow."
"Knowledge of all parts (history, culture, languages) by Dr. Bond--he put into terms easily understood."
"I liked the openness of the presentation and willingness to answer questions."
"The instructor was well prepared and knowledgeable."
"The instructor presented the material in a neutral way."
The Old Testament and the New Testament seminars each require eight to ten hours of class time. This is ideal for a weekend seminar.
I am able to conduct seminars throughout the United States and Canada. I am also available to teach in other countries on a more limited basis.
Contact me for more information.
The Bible is a library of many books written by at least forty different authors over a period of at least 1,500 years. However, the unity and continuity of the Bible are so apparent that Christians have traditionally affirmed it having just one author—God himself.
Of the sixty-six different books in the Christian Bible canon, the authors of fifty-five are attributed by history and tradition. The eleven books whose authors are unknown are Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Esther, Job and Hebrews.
To read more about various theories conerning the authorship of Hebrews, click this link.
Some books, such as Genesis, Judges, 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles, cover such long periods of history it is likely that they are collections of ancient records brought together and edited by some individual(s) chosen by God, known by scholars as “redactors.”
Psalms and Proverbs also have several authors.
One of the most interesting debate among scholars is who wrote the Book of Isaiah.
Read the article on the authorship and unity of the Book of Isaiah.
It is interesting to note the wide variety of occupational backgrounds of those who wrote the Bible:
* Two were kings—David and Solomon.
* Two were priests—Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
* Luke was a physician.
* Two were shepherds—Moses and Amos.
* Two were fishermen—Peter and John.
* Paul was a Pharisee and a theologian.
* Daniel was a politician.
* Matthew was a tax collector.
* Joshua was an army general.
* Nehemiah was a butler.
* Ezra was a scribe
Over the last 250 years historical criticism has challenged several traditional views on who wrote the Bible. The authorship of certain parts of the Hebrew Bible has been questioned, such as the Torah (first five books) and the Book of Isaiah.
The remarkable discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran in Israel in 1947 brought scholars 1,000 years closer to who wrote the Bible.
In New Testament studies the fascinating phenomenon of the literary relationship between the Synoptic Gospels has led many scholars to attempt to solve the so-called "synoptic problem."
By placing emphasis entirely on the human aspect of who wrote the Bible, the influential New Testament scholar, Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) approached the Bible with a presupposition of anti-supernaturalism. In order to make the New Testament relevant to the modern reader Bultmann believed that the interpreter must "demythologize" it and re-clothe the primitive Christian message in terms understandable to modern man.
Fascinating questions of myths about the Bible and myths in the Bible about the Bible are addressed on the Bible mythbusters page.
Christians traditionally affirm that the true, invisible author who wrote the Bible by working through the spiritual and intellectual faculties of the human writers and redactors was the Holy Spirit himself.
The Christian conviction is that behind the human authors it is God himself who wrote the Bible, implies that the Bible both contains the Word of God and is the Word of God in its sum and in its parts.
Paul testifies to this, describing the actual process as "inspiration" in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Paul uses the phrase pasa graphe theopneustos, lit. “all writing God-breathed.” theopneustos is a compound of theos, meaning God, and pneo, to breath, blow. It literally means “God-breathed” and is traditionally translated “inspiration of God.”
According to the New Testament Greek scholar, Gerhard Kittel, “It is thus evident that the author is differentiating the writings ordained by God’s authority from other, secular works.”
Paul affirms that the Bible is not the product of elevated human consciousness or enlightened human intellect, but is directly “breathed” by God himself.
The fact that all the words of Scripture are God’s words must not lead us to conclude that God dictated every word of Scripture to the human authors. There is a wide variety of processes by which God communicated to the individuals who wrote the Bible.
There are only a few instances of dictation explicitly mentioned in the Bible. The risen Christ tells the apostle John what to write to the seven churches in Asia, and John claims to write the exact words that he hears (Rev. 2:1, 8, 12).
Luke, on the other hand, employs historical research for the writing of his gospel (see Luke 1:1-3).
Theologian Wayne Grudem argues that in between the extreme of pure dictation and ordinary historical research, “We have many indications of the various ways by which God communicated with the human authors of Scripture.”
The underlying process of inspiration is described by Peter (2 Pet. 1:20-21):
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
This text declares that none of what was given was merely the private opinion of those who wrote the Bible and that each author or redactor involved in the production of the Scriptures was “carried along” by the Holy Spirit.
Peter uses the Greek verb phero, which means "to move by bearing." According to Strong it is used to refer to "persons borne in a ship over the sea; of a gust of wind" and "to be moved inwardly, prompted.” This does not mean that the writers and editors were merely robots, seized upon by God’s power to write automatically without their conscious participation.
In 1 Corinthians 2:10-13 Paul gives an expanded explanation of the process by which the revelation of the Scriptures was given:
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.
Does this mean that even the precise words used by those who wrote the Bible or just the ideas expressed were planned by the Holy Spirit?
Paul affirms that the Spirit inspired the individuals who wrote the Bible to express "spiritual truths with spiritual words,” that is, matching spiritual words to spiritual ideas. This view of the Bible’s derivation is called the plenary verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, which simply means every word is inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Theologian Millard Erickson argues that inspiration applies to both the writer and the writing. Primarily it is the writer who is the object of inspiration. “As the writer pens Scripture, however, the quality of inspiredness is communicated to the writing as well.”
I appreciate the view of inspiration proposed by the renowned Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968). This view is gaining wide acceptance among the postmodern emerging churches. Barth's "neo-orthodox" perspective challenged the fundamentalist notion of an infallible written Word, which he viewed as a “paper-pope.”
In Psalm 19:7 David testifies to the trustworthiness of God’s Word: “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple." Two adjectives are employed to describe Yahweh’s law and statutes:
1) Tamyim, which denotes complete, whole, entire, sound. According to Strong it means “wholesome, unimpaired,
innocent, having integrity...what is complete or entirely in accord with truth and fact.”
2) ’Aman, which means to be faithful. Biblical language scholar James Swanson states that it means to “be trustworthy, loyal, i.e., pertaining to reliability, so a state or condition of being dependable and loyal to a person or standard.”
These are direct references to the absolute, complete, and entire trustworthiness of the Scriptures, which make up the Bible. The Word of God is unimpaired in its accuracy and reliable in its dependability.
Precisely how the Holy Spirit inspired those who wrote the Bible is something the finite human mind cannot fully comprehend. That there is a divine side to the process cannot be denied. But that there is a human aspect is equally clear.
God used men. We recognize both elements, but it is not easy to reconcile them. The mistake is to try to explain the inexplicable, and to fathom the unfathomable.
The means of inspiration is a mystery of the providence of God.
At the time the Bible came to be printed (1455 CE) there were over 2,000 manuscripts known to scholars. Today there are over 4,500 extant (still in existence) manuscripts of the New Testament.
Click here to learn about how the original Bible text was written and transmitted. The two most important extant manuscripts are Codices A and B, known respectively as
the Sinaiticus and the Vaticanus. After the manuscripts, the next most important form of the Scriptures is the Bible versions.
A version is a translation from the original language of a manuscript into another language. The most important ancient version of the Hebrew Bible is the Septuagint.
The term “Bible canon” refers to the completed number of the books of the Bible.
William Tyndale (c.1494-1536) is recognized as the father of the modern English Bible. The most influential of all Bible versions, the King James Version published in 1611 was largely a revision of Tyndale’s Bible. Many new Bible versions have appeared recently that claim a more accurate textual basis than the older King James Version.
This is due to two factors:
1) From 1947, the impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls from Qumran on Old Testament studies.
2) The contribution to New Testament studies from the discovery of numerous papyri during the last one hundred fifty years.
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