Tag Archives: Bible History

Who Wrote the Bible? (Part 1)

Who Wrote The Bible

Who wrote the Bible?

God…right?  While that may be a profound and direct answer, it’s also overly simplistic. The Bible is God’s special revelation to mankind, delivered through the divine inspiration of human authors. So who were the human authors?

There’s a lot riding on the answer. Not so much in terms of their actual identities, but because many attacks against Christianity are targeted at disproving the reliability of human authorship. What kind of defense can those of us who believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible word of God offer regarding the trustworthiness of the authors of the Bible?

It’s not essential that we know the names of the human authors (otherwise they would have laid out their identities in the text with certainty), but it is essential that we know that the Scripture is trustworthy. So with this post we begin a series to help readers appreciate the Bible as an accurate, historical, and trustworthy document. In a companion series we will explore how we got the “Holy Bible,” but for now we’ll begin with the authors.

Let’s lay out one precept: we’re about discovering the truth, not defending traditional notions. For example, it is widely believed that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. But that cannot be completely true. Why not? Because the fifth book (Deuteronomy) contains the accounts of his death and post-mortem reflections on his life—so at the very least someone else put the ending on his five books. Likewise, some people who haven’t really read the Bible have notions that God’s inspiration constituted divine dictation. But it is obvious in many passages that the Bible is not dictation from the Creator of the universe. How do we know that? Because the human authors state so—point blank in many verses (see this post for one clear example).

Back to the authors. Ezra was a priest, who mourned over his people’s disobedience to God after they were delivered from the Babylonian captivity. He was also a painstaking historian whose detailed historical records are downright anal-retentive (who counts plates, really?!). Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet—and why not?  You’d weep too if you went through what he endured (by the way, there have been some stunning archaeological finds involving Jeremiah in recent months). Gad was the bag man for David’s bad news. Obadiah is said to have been a descendant of Eliphaz, the friend of Job. And on and on…you get the point.  There are a lot of fascinating biographical details to appreciate about these authors.  Our aim in writing this post is to make them readily accessible.

We created the following Bible infographic depicting the grouping of the Old Testament books, the authors, the approximate dates of writing, and how many chapters each book contains. It’s a snapshot of the construction of the Old Testament.

The Old Testament


So…sticking with just the Old Testament for now, here is a new color-coded table keyed to our original infographic with hyperlinks to articles about the inspired authors of the Bible.  As you’ll read in the linked material (click on the author’s name in the right-hand column), some books have considerable contention about authorship.  But the point here is not to resolve that contention—we simply want to expose you to the biographies of the plausible authors.

The Old Testament

Pentateuch (Mosaic Law)

Genesis

Moses

Exodus

Leviticus

Numbers

Deuteronomy

Moses

Joshua

History

Joshua

Joshua

Judges

Samuel

Ruth

1 Samuel

Samuel, Gad, Nathan

2 Samuel

Gad, Nathan

1 Kings

Jeremiah?

2 Kings

1 Chronicles

Ezra?

2 Chronicles

Ezra

Ezra

Nehemiah

Ezra?

Esther

???

Wisdom Literature

Job

Job?

Psalms

David,

Others

Proverbs

Solomon,

Others

Ecclesiastes

Solomon

Song of Solomon

Major Prophets

Isaiah

Isaiah

Jeremiah

Jeremiah

Lamentations

Ezekiel

Ezekiel

Daniel

Daniel

Minor Prophets

Hosea

Hosea

Joel

Joel

Amos

Amos

Obadiah

Obadiah

Jonah

Jonah

Micah

Micah

Nahum

Nahum

Habakkuk

Habakkuk

Zephaniah

Zephaniah

Haggai

Haggai

Zechariah

Zechariah

Malachi

Malachi

In an upcoming post we will give similar treatment to the New Testament  authors, and then review apologetic arguments that defend the trustworthiness of the human authors of the Bible.  Enjoy!

Resources

Areopagus-Journal-Spring-20The spring 2012 issue of the Areopagus Journal is an excellent resource for further study, and we will make use of several articles in our upcoming posts.

HT: Yvonne Brendley, Faith Smagalski


Historicity of the Bible

Is the Bible a reliable historical document?  This is a huge topic—too ambitious for a blog post—but here’s an attempt to whet your curiosity to dig a little deeper.

Sometimes it takes quite a bit of investigation, discovery, and thinking to connect the dots.  (For example, Rick Larson’s work on the Star of Bethlehem.)  But there are examples that are right in our faces.  Consider the Arch of Titus in Rome.  Titus was the Roman commander in charge of the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., which destroyed Herod’s Temple.  The Roman army carried off the Temple treasures, including the Menorah, Table of the Showbread, and Temple TrumpetsRecent research into the bas relief on the Arch of Titus has discovered that the Menorah in this frieze was originally painted gold.

Arch of Titus

Temple Plunder on the Arch of Titus, Rome

Here is an extra-biblical source showing the Menorah from the Hebrew Temple, carried off in the spoils of war, and sculpted into a Roman monument by the Roman people.  And it is identical to the lampstand prescribed by God to Moses in Exodus 25.  And it was described in detail by (non-Christian) first-century historian Flavius Josephus, and later rabbinical sources.  If you put that all together, we have extra-biblical evidence for the elements in the Holy of Holies, confirmation of a match between Scripture and what was found in the Temple, confirmation of the elements used in service by Hebrew priests, and a very big problem for those who deny that the Temple was ever on Mount Moriah.  It’s as close as we can get to an ancient photograph.  This particular sculpture was used to create an official seal for the modern State of Israel featuring the Menorah.  So there’s one small example of the historicity of the Bible.

Continue reading


The Subtraction of Easter

The Final Days of Jesus

The Final Days of Jesus: The Archaeological Evidence

Every year at this time (Holy Week) there is a dramatic increase in documentaries about the ‘real’ Jesus and the meaning of Easter.

To believers, it is difficult to fully appreciate the depth of God’s love for us—his fallen creatures—that in his redemptive plan he allowed himself to be tortured on our behalf.  However we accept that Jesus’ crucifixion was an historical event, and that his resurrection from death is the cornerstone of our faith (as the Apostle Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 15).

To skeptics, it’s difficult or impossible to believe.

But there are those in between that have no particular biases (or at least are willing to investigate the claims of Christianity objectively).  They are interested in figuring it out—essentially adding up the evidence before making up their own mind.  Undoubtedly this can be a great pathway to a strong faith.  Ask Lee Strobel.  Ask Hugh Ross.  Ask Josh McDowell.

In prior posts, we looked at what happened when and where on Good Friday, and the importance of the Resurrection.  But what I most want to share today is an example of getting to the Resurrection by subtraction.

Shimon Gibson is an esteemed archaeologist, arguably one of the foremost authorities on the archaeology of Jerusalem.  In his book, The Final Days of Jesus: The Archaeological Evidence, Dr. Gibson documents his interpretation of the archaeology of Holy Week.  Theologically his title is a bit provocative, but he does a good job relating the environment and settings.

I read Dr. Gibson’s book more than six months ago, but what really sticks with me is what one of his colleagues wrote about the book in a blog post.  Dr. James Tabor praised the book for its scholarship stating,

“There is no doubt in my mind that the rich contents of this wonderful and engaging book will make it a standard in the field of Christian origins. It is an indispensable handbook for the scholar, and a thrilling investigative read for the non-specialist wanting to know more of those last critical days of Jesus.”

But Dr. Tabor also wrote in the same post,

“I find Gibson’s closing lines of his last chapter, “Who Moved the Stone,” somewhat counterproductive in terms of what we might be able to responsibly say as historians. He writes: “The reality is that there is no historical explanation for the empty tomb, other than if we adopt a theological one, i.e., the resurrection. I leave it up to the reader to make up his own mind.” I have to disagree here. Though I freely admit our sources might never allow us to definitely state what happened that Easter weekend, I think by definition the explanation “God took Jesus bodily to heaven,” is not one that historians can responsibly entertain, as historians.”

“The reality is that there is no historical explanation for the empty tomb, other than if we adopt a theological one, i.e., the resurrection. I leave it up to the reader to make up his own mind.”  There are a lot of theologians who make just that point as the bottom line for belief in Jesus Christ and the Resurrection—the tomb is empty.

Dr. Gibson concluded his book immediately after making the empty-tomb statement with this statement,

“Some readers might think it is presumptuous of me, an archaeologist, to write about the character, achievements, and goals of such an important figure as Jesus.  After all, billions of people across the planet worship him as Christ the Saviour, and the Son of God.  But my views are expressed here honestly based on an analysis of archaeological and historical data available to me; I have no personal or religious axe to grind, one way or another, and I definitely have no wish to offend anyone, even though some of the things I say may be radical and controversial.”

Thank you Dr. Gibson for your honest lesson in subtraction.

Once you do your own subtraction and come to the realization that the Resurrection really is an historical event, then the evidence does demand a verdict.  What was that all about?  Who is that all aboutTruth is a person and the tomb is empty.  Happy Easter!


New Manuscript Evidence

Several pieces of the New Testament have been discovered recently, that when properly vetted will comprise the oldest New Testament fragment of the Bible, and the earliest copies of several Pauline letters.  The discovery of these ancient documents is exciting enough for anyone interested in ancient artifacts and Bible history, but this particular story is shaping up to be the New Testament equivalent of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which broke the record of the oldest surviving copies of Old Testament manuscripts by 900 years.  In so doing they demonstrated very clearly the precision of ancient scribes in handing down the original text.  (The methods used by scribes, particularly the Masoretes, will be covered in a future post—suffice it to say these people were extremely meticulous in quality control, and the Dead Sea Scrolls proved just how effective their methods were.)

P52, The Rylands Papyrus

The Rylands Papyrus (P52): the ‘current’ oldest New Testament fragment

Paper deteriorates over time due to chemical reactions with the atmosphere.  This is particularly true of ancient papyrus, parchment and vellum, although there are tens of thousands of surviving specimens.  When it comes to the Bible, there are far more documented copies than for any other ancient text.  But the fact remains we do not have the original Biblical manuscripts—we only have copies.

Many skeptics have tried to prove that the Scriptures were changed—and therefore corrupted—as they were copied over time.  In fact, even Josh McDowell set out many years ago to make an “intellectual joke” of Christianity by undermining the authority of the Scriptures.  Working with this intention, Josh had two main questions on which he focused his research:

    1. Is what we have today in the Bible what was written down 2,000 years ago, and
    2. Was what was written down true?

Eventually Josh McDowell said, “I came to the conclusion that I can hold the Bible in my hand and say it is the word of God, it is true, and it is accurate historically.”  His research is documented in a foundational work entitled New Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

“Textual criticism” is the discipline that attempts to determine the original wording of any document whose original no longer exists.  Never heard of textual criticism?  Sounds pretty boring doesn’t it?  Turns out it is a big deal.  A very big deal.

There are those who purport that the Bible was so corrupted by changes during the copying process over time that we no longer have reliable copies of the original documents.  The implication is that if the text is corrupt, we can’t trust the Bible.  And it would be hard to argue that point if in fact the Bible had been substantively corrupted in its transcription.  We would then be left at best to make our own determinations about what parts are genuine and what parts we could or should overlook.  (Actually, there are a lot of people doing that anyway—without thinking about textual corruption—but that’s another matter.)

But a main contention of this blog is that the Bible can stand up to scrutiny, so bring it on.

Let’s start with the obvious: there are problems with our current Bibles.  Pick up a copy of the New International Version or English Standard Version, both meticulous translations, and you will find notes like these:

  • “The earliest manuscripts and some other ancient witnesses do not have verses 9–20” (Mark, Chapter 16), and
  • “The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53—8:11.  A few manuscripts include these verses, wholly or in part, after John 7:36, John 21:25, Luke 21:38 or Luke 24:53.”

In attempting to produce the most accurate text, the translating committees and publishers took the most reliable ancient (mostly Greek) texts to translate from among many copies, which did not settle the matter of the definitive text in these two instances.  But these are minor problems, and they don’t negate the original message of the entirety of Scripture.  You can argue that these passages should be cut from the Bible, but nothing would be changed or lost by such deletions.

But before taking liberties with scissors, meet Dr. Daniel B. Wallace and the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts.  Dr. Wallace and his colleagues have spent decades studying ancient manuscripts.  They have developed intricate systems for comparing texts, and have some interesting conclusions about the accuracy of the Bibles we possess in the 21st century.  You might be very surprised at their take on textual criticism, and its value in defending the veracity of Scripture.  The Day of Discovery folks recently produced a three-part documentary on their work.

With that bit of introduction, read about Dr. Wallace’s exciting discoveries and all the press his work is generating.  He has a lot to say about the accuracy of the Bible.  He can quantify the textual variants, and you might be surprised to see how insignificant most of them are.  And how they resolve discrepancies between manuscripts.  Fortunately there’s a lot of evidence to work with in the thousands of manuscripts that are now catalogued.  You might also be interested to discover how the correct text can be determined from the volume of copies.  Don’t miss the radio interview in which he describes what is going on with the new discoveries and why he can’t rush to publish.  It’s important to get it right.  And that’s the point of this post.

Dan Wallace by Justin Taylor

Dan Wallace Interview


Paul’s Missionary Journeys

Here’s one of the best resources I’ve found for studying the Apostle Paul.  Dale Bargmann created a photo tour that traces Paul’s missionary journeys, with lots of sidebars and original material (Dale is a gifted photographer and has spent quite a bit of time photographing these locations and putting this material together).

Paul's Missionary Journeys

Paul's Missionary Journeys, by Dale Bargmann

To follow in an orderly (Kaqexeß) fashion, read down the left pane, and click the link at the bottom of each page.  Alternatively, use the navigation on the right to jump around.  You will find an amazing number of insightful comments while developing an appreciation for Paul and his ministry by ‘touring’ though this site.

Thanks Dale!


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