The Bible as we know it today is divided into two parts – the Old and New Testaments. The Old reflects the historic roots of Christianity in Judaism, for it is the Hebrew Bible; and the New reflects what has been written since the time of Jesus, and is recognised by the main Catholic and Protestant denominations as accepted genuine Scripture.
In order to consider who wrote the Bible, it is helpful to consider these parts of Scripture and how each of these two parts can be further broken down.
THE OLD TESTAMENT
The Jewish people call the first part of the Old Testament, the Torah, which is a word meaning “Instruction” or “Law”. It is also often called by its Greek name, the Pentateuch, which means “five scrolls”. It is the group of five books made up of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
According to Jewish belief, which is also accepted by Christians, the five books of the Torah were written by Moses. An obvious exception to this is the last eight verses of Deuteronomy, for they describe his death. It seems to be unknown as to who precisely wrote these.
Similarly, as believed by the Jews, which belief dates from at least 200 years after Jesus, the Book of Joshuawas written by Joshua, the Book of Judges and the Books of Samuel were by the prophet Samuel (with some passages by the prophets Gad and Nathan), while the two Books of Kings were put together by Jeremiah.
It is uncertain who wrote the book of Ruth. Maybe it was writing of a priestly historian.
The large portion of the Psalms were written by King David before and during his reign over Israel. Other authors of Psalms include Moses (Psalm 90), Solomon (Psalms 72 and 127), the sons of Korah (Psalms 42-49; 84-85; and 87-88), the sons of Asaph (Psalms 50 and 73-83), and Ethan the Ezrahite (Psalm 89). A number of Psalms are also written anonymously.
The book of Proverbs was penned largely by King Solomon during his reign—though chapters 30 and 31 were written by Agur and Lemuel respectively.
Authorship of Song of Songs (also known as the Canticles) is anonymous, though the majority of scholars have historically cited Solomon as the book’s probable author (there is debate because some of the book’s terminology probably didn’t exist in the Hebrew language until perhaps 500 BC).
Though such a date and parentage is contestable, Ecclesiastes is written in the voice of the character of King Solomon. Some have said that it may well be the last Biblical book written before the New Testament.
The prophetical books of Isaiah, Hosea, Amos, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, and Zephaniah were all written by the prophets whose names are borne by the books’ titles.
Habakkuk and Joel were probably written just prior the Babylonian capture of Jerusalem and were written by the prophets for whom the books are named.
Jeremiah wrote the book of Jeremiah and wrote over a course of years spanning the periods immediately preceding and succeeding the capture of Jerusalem.
The author of Lamentations is anonymous (though some traditions attribute authorship to Jeremiah) and was likely written in the years immediately after Jerusalem’s sack by Babylonian forces.
Obadiah probably wrote just after the Exile in Babylon began, while Ezekiel‘s and Daniel‘s respective books spanned the entirety of Israel’s 67-year captivity.
Ezra may have compiled both Ezra and Nehemiah and Jewish tradition names him the author of Chronicles.
Esther, written after the Exile, was likely penned by a Persian Jew.
Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi were all written after Israel’s return from Babylonian and Persian captivity and their authors share names with the books’ titles.
The book of Job is of a quite uncertain origin, but though the author remains anonymous, there is some thought that it was written during this era as well (though the time of the events portrayed may even have occurred millennia earlier, even before the time of Abraham, the father of the Middle Eastern peoples).
THE NEW TESTAMENT
The New Testament can be further divided into two further sections – the first historical narrative, containing the Gospels (narratives about the life of Jesus) and the book of Acts; followed by the epistles (letters).
The gospel according to Matthew was written by Matthew the tax collector. The gospel according to Mark was written by John-Mark. The gospel according to Luke was written by Luke the Physician. The gospel according to John was written by John, the disciple that Jesus loved. The Acts of the Apostles was written by Luke the Physician.
The Pauline Epistles are those written by Paul (Saul) of Tarsus: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon
Then follows the epistles of Peter: 1 Peter, 2 Peter
And then, are those written by John: 1 John, 2 John, 3 John
And then there is John’s Revelation (also called the Apocalypse), a writing combining visions, prophecy and direct letters.
The book of James was written most likely by James the brother of Jesus.
The book of Jude was written by Jude the brother of James.
The epistle of Hebrews is written anonymously. Some people ascribe it to the Apostle Paul, while others prefer Apollos. Others consider that it was written by someone other than Paul, because they feel that the grammar and terminology is markedly different from the rest of his work).
In the end, as in other cases, God didn’t consider identification of precise authorship as important to us (if He had, He would have identified everywhere the people who put pen to paper), so any guess as to the identity of the authors is, in quite a number of cases, mere speculation and should have no bearing upon our understanding of the passages that were written.
From what we have seen, its writers came from different times and came from many walks of life. Some were farmers, fishermen, and shepherds. Others were prophets, judges, and kings. The gospel writer Luke was a doctor.
Although, then, the Bible is now a combination of writings by different people (something around about 40 all told is the generally accepted number), what marks it as a unique work is its unity of teaching.
HOW WHAT THE AUTHORS WROTE IS RELEVANT TO US
The bible authors, although numerous and widespread over lifestyles and centuries, thus present different perspectives, which, combined and separately, proclaim the same one true God. The Bible itself states just how important the combined message that we now have is:-
For you know this first, that no prophecy of Scripture springs from any private interpretation. For prophecy was at no time brought by man’s will, but men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)
All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
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.(1 Corinthians 2:13)
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16)