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Who actually wrote the Bible? Discover the real authors.

The Bible is the world’s bestselling book. It has been read by billions of people who consider it a sacred text. But for such an important book, many questions remain about how and when it was written. So, what do we actually know about the people who wrote the Bible? 

How many authors wrote the Bible?

There was no single author of the Bible. Rather, it was written by over 40 different people, across three continents, over nearly 2,000 years. These people came from very different backgrounds, from scholars to shepherds; kings to commoners. There are books by fishermen, tax-collectors, doctors and priests, each author writing in their own unique style. As a result, the Bible is a diverse library of many voices. 

In addition, the Bible was edited and re-shaped over the centuries. This article will tell you a bit more about how and when the books were compiled, and who decided which books made the cut.

Can we know who wrote the books of the Bible?

With many books of the Bible, we can have a reasonably good idea who wrote them, through a combination of internal evidence (what the writings say themselves), external evidence (what other sources tell us), and tradition (what people have historically believed and taught down the centuries). With others, there’s debate about who the specific authors were, and we can’t know with certainty. 

For example, some books include information gathered from different sources, including government records and official documents. They may have been commissioned or directed by a particular person, but we don’t know who was responsible for writing or compiling them. 

There are also collections of sayings and songs from various poets. Sometimes we’re told who the author was, and at other times they’re anonymous. There are books containing the stories or teachings of particular leaders, as recorded by people around them at the time. Sometimes the books bear the name of the person whose story they tell (for example Daniel, or Isaiah) but that doesn’t mean they were the original author.

Who were some of the authors and which books did they write?

Here are a few of the more well-known authors, and some of the books they are believed to be responsible for: 

Moses: Genesis–Deuteronomy

You may remember him as The Prince of Egypt who led the Hebrews out of slavery, accompanied by plagues, a parting sea, and a cracking soundtrack! The first five books of the Bible are often attributed to Moses. These are origin stories, about the beginning of the world, and the nation of Israel. 

While these books probably contain stories and laws that originated from Moses, they also drew from other ancient sources and were finalised centuries later. This is clear from the last book, which records and reflects on Moses’ death.

David: The Psalms

Every culture has its favourite songs; those you sing all year round, and others that are brought out on special occasions. Israel had its own collection known as the Psalms. These songs expressed the full range of human emotions and helped people celebrate the good times and find comfort in hard times.

Of the 150 songs, nearly half were attributed to David, who was one of Israel’s most loved kings, and many others to musicians who worked in his courts. These were collated and arranged thematically, centuries later.

The Apostles: The Four Gospels 

The New Testament contains many writings about Jesus – stories about his life and death, and collections of his teachings. There are four biographies, none of which were written by Jesus himself, but by some of his earliest followers. Today we call these ‘Gospels’ – which means ‘good news’, because the authors believed that all Jesus did and stood for was good news for a hurting world. 

The Gospels are named after the people traditionally believed to have written them: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each is slightly different in style, but together they paint a rich account of Jesus’ life and message. This article explores a bit more about whether Jesus existed, and what we can know about him.

Paul: The Letters  

The Bible contains a collection of letters, many of which were penned by a man named St Paul – the one who was blinded on the road to Damascus. He wrote to encourage churches in cities like Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome, and today most of the letters are named after the people to whom they were sent: Ephesians, Corinthians, Romans, and so on.  

Who wrote the Bible? God, or humans?

Have you ever heard Christians refer to the Bible as ‘the word of God’? This doesn’t mean they think God wrote it personally or dictated it directly from heaven. Instead they believe that God inspired the human authors who put pen to paper. 

It’s difficult to know exactly what this inspiration looked like. But in the same way that an architect is credited with creating a famous building, despite not having laid a single stone, so too Christians see God as the architect of Scripture. However, with a great building we know almost nothing about the people who laid the stones; their names, their life stories, their views on the world. But with the Bible, each author left their mark, bringing their own experience, insights and personality to their work.

The result is this diverse collection of writings. The breadth of voices and perspectives is one of the reasons the Bible has remained so popular across the centuries. The authors and genres within this book will resonate differently with each of us, and in different seasons of our lives. There’s something in it for everyone.

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