Authorship of the Bible
Table I gives an overview of the periods and dates ascribed to the various books of the Bible. Tables II, III and IV outline the conclusions of the majority of contemporary scholars on the composition of the Hebrew Bible (the Protestant Old Testament), the deuterocanonical works (also called the apocrypha), and the New Testament.
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Table I: Chronological overview (Hebrew Bible/Old Testament)
This table summarises the chronology of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament; the deuterocanonical works date from the 3rd century BCE to the 3rd century CE (see Table III), and the New Testament writings from the 1st and 2nd centuries CE (see Table IV). Dates are approximate, and mark the completion of the works rather than earlier source materials.
8th–6th centuries BCE
c. 745–586 BCE
6th century BCE
6th–4th centuries BCE
4th–2nd centuries BCE
2nd century BCE – 1st century CE
Table II: Hebrew Bible/Protestant Old Testament
The Hebrew Bible, or Tanakh, is the collection of scriptures making up the Bible used by Judaism; the same books, in a slightly different order, also make up the Protestant version of the Old Testament. The order used here follows the divisions used in Jewish Bibles.
Scholars are broadly agreed in placing the Torah in the mid-Persian period (the 5th century BCE). Deuteronomy, the oldest of the five books, originated in the second half of the 7th century BCE as the law-code contained in Deuteronomy 5-26; chapters 1-4 and 29-30 were added around the end of the Babylonian exile when it became the introduction to the Deuteronomistic history (Joshua-2 Kings), and the remaining chapters were added in the late Persian period when it was revised to conclude Genesis-Exodus-Leviticus-Numbers. The tradition behind the books stretches back some two hundred years to a point in the late 7th century BCE, but questions surrounding the number and nature of the sources involved, and the processes and dates, remain unsettled.
Many theories have been advanced to explain the social and political background behind the composition of the Torah, but two have been especially influential. The first of these, Persian Imperial authorisation, advanced by Peter Frei in 1985, holds that the Persian authorities required the Jews of Jerusalem to present a single body of law as the price of local autonomy. Frei's theory was demolished at a symposium held in 2000, but the relationship between the Persian authorities and Jerusalem remains a crucial question. The second theory, associated with Joel P. Weinberg and called the "Citizen-Temple Community", proposes that the Exodus story was composed to serve the needs of the post-exilic Jewish community, serving as an "identity card" defining who belonged to "Israel."
|Former Prophets:||The proposal that Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings make up a unified work (the Deuteronomistic history) was advanced by Martin Noth in 1943 and has been widely accepted, with revisions. Noth proposed that the entire history was the creation of a single individual, who was working in the exilic period (6th century BCE). Since then, there has been wide recognition that the history appeared in at least two "editions", the first in the reign of Judah's King Josiah (late 7th century BCE), the second during the Babylonian exile (6th century BCE). Few scholars accept his idea that the History was the work of a single individual.|
|Three Major Prophets:||
Isaiah includes the work of three or more prophets. The nucleus of Proto-Isaiah (chapters 1-39) contains the words of the original Isaiah; Deutero-Isaiah (chapters 40-55) is from an anonymous Exilic author; and Trito-Isaiah (chapters 56-66) is a post-exilic anthology. Other anonymous authors and editors have inserted various passages into these three: chapters 36-39, for example, have been copied from 2 Kings 18-20, and the Suffering Servant poems, now scattered through Isaiah 42, 49, 50 and 52, were probably an independent composition.
Jeremiah exists in two versions, Greek (the version used in Orthodox Bibles) and Hebrew (Jewish, Catholic and Protestant Bibles), with the Greek probably finalised in the early Persian period and the Hebrew dating from some point between then and the 2nd century BCE. The two differ significantly, with the Greek version generally regarded as being more authentic. Scholars find it difficult to identify the words of the historic prophet Jeremiah, although the text presumably preserves his orally-delivered sayings, but the text itself is the end-product of a long process involving, among others, Exilic Deuteronomists, post-exilic restorationists, and later editors and authors responsible for the modern Greek and Hebrew texts.
Ezekiel presents itself as the words of the Ezekiel ben-Buzi, a priest of Jerusalem living in exile in Babylon. While the book probably reflects much of the historic Ezekiel, it is the product of a long and complex history. There is general agreement that the final product is the product of a highly educated priestly circle, which owed allegiance to the historical Ezekiel and was closely associated with the Second Temple. Like Jeremiah, it exists in a longer Hebrew edition (Jewish, Catholic and Protestant Bibles) and a shorter Greek version, with the Greek probably representing an earlier stage of transmission.
|Twelve Minor Prophets||The Twelve Minor Prophets is a single book in Jewish bibles, and this seems to have been the case since the first few centuries before the current era. With the exception of Jonah, which is a fictional work, it is generally assumed that there exists an original core of tradition behind each book that can be attributed to the prophet for whom it is named, but the dates for several of the books (Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Zechariah 9-14 and Malachi) are debated.
Table III: Deuterocanonical Old Testament
The deuterocanonical works are books included in Catholic and Orthodox but not in Jewish and Protestant Bibles.
|Book of Tobit||Tobit can be dated to 225–175 BCE on the basis of its use of language and lack of knowledge of the 2nd century BCE persecution of Jews.|
|1 Esdras||1 Esdras is based on Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah.|
|2 Esdras||2 Esdras is a composite work combining texts from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries CE.|
|Book of Judith||Judith is of uncertain origin, but probably dates from the second half of the 2nd century BCE.|
|1 Maccabees||1 Maccabees is the work of an educated Jewish historian writing around 100 BCE.|
|2 Maccabees||2 Maccabees is a revised and condensed version of a work by an otherwise unknown author called Jason of Cyrene, plus passages by the anonymous editor who made the condensation (called "the Epitomist"). Jason most probably wrote in the mid to late 2nd century BCE, and the Epitomist before 63 BCE.|
|3 Maccabees||3 Maccabees was probably written by a Jew of Alexandria c. 100–75 BCE.|
|4 Maccabees||4 Maccabees was probably composed in the middle half of the 1st century CE by a Jew living in Roman Syria or Asia Minor.|
|Wisdom of Sirach||Sirach (known under several titles) names its author as Jesus ben Sirach, probably a scribe offering instruction to the youth of Jerusalem. His grandson's preface to the Greek translation indirectly dates the work to the first quarter of the 2nd century BCE.|
|Wisdom of Solomon||The Wisdom of Solomon probably dates from 100 to 50 BCE, and originated with the Pharisees of the Egyptian Jewish community.|
|Additions to Esther||The Additions to Esther in the Greek translation date from the late 2nd or early 1st century BCE.|
|Additions to Daniel||The three Additions to Daniel – the Prayer of Azariah and Song of the Three Holy Children, Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon – probably date from the 2nd century BCE, although Bel is difficult to place.|
|Prayer of Manasseh||The Prayer of Manasseh probably dates from the 2nd or 1st centuries BCE.|
|Baruch and Letter of Jeremiah||Baruch was probably written in the 2nd century BCE – part of it, the Letter of Jeremiah, is sometimes treated as a separate work.|
|Additional psalms||The additional psalms are numbered 151–155; some at least are pre-Christian in origin, being found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.|
Table IV: New Testament
|Gospels and Acts|
|Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon|
|Epistle to the Romans||c. 57 CE. Written to the Romans as Paul the Apostle was about to leave Asia Minor and Greece. He was expressing his hopes to continue his work in Hispania.|
|Corinthians||c. 56 CE. Another of the genuine Pauline letters. Paul expresses his intention to re-visit the church which he had founded in the city of Corinth c. 50–52 CE.|
|Galatians||c. 55 CE. Paul does not express any wish to revisit the church in Galatia, which he had founded, and so some scholars believe the letter dates from the end of his missionary work. The letter concerns the question of whether Gentile converts to Christianity are required to adopt full Jewish customs.|
|Epistle to the Philippians||c. 54–55 CE. A genuine Pauline letter, it mentions "Caesar's household," leading some scholars to believe that it is written from Rome, but some of the news in it could not have come from Rome. It rather seems to date from an earlier imprisonment of Paul, perhaps in Ephesus. In the epistle, Paul hopes to be released from prison.|
|First Epistle to the Thessalonians||c. 51 CE. One of the earliest of the genuine Pauline epistles.|
|Philemon||c. 54–55 CE. A genuine Pauline epistle, written from an imprisonment (probably in Ephesus) that Paul expects will soon be over.|
|Ephesians||c. 80–90 CE. The letter appears to have been written after Paul's death, by an author who uses his name.|
|Colossians||c. 62–70 CE. Some scholars believe Colossians dates from Paul's imprisonment in Ephesus around 55 CE, but differences in the theology suggest that it comes from much later in his career, around the time of his imprisonment in Rome.|
|Second Epistle to the Thessalonians||c. 51 CE or post-70 CE. If this is a genuine Pauline epistle it follows closely on 1 Thessalonians. But some of the language and theology point to a much later date, from an unknown author using Paul's name.|
|c. 100 CE. The three Pastoral epistles – First and Second Timothy and Titus — are probably from the same author, but reflect a much more developed Church organisation than that reflected in the genuine Pauline epistles. Most scholars regard them as the work of someone other than Paul.|
|Epistle to the Hebrews|
|c. 80–90 CE. The elegance of the Greek language-text and the sophistication of the theology do not fit the genuine Pauline epistles, but the mention of Timothy in the conclusion led to its being included with the Pauline group from an early date. Pauline authorship is now generally rejected, and the real author is unknown.|
|James||c. 65–85 CE. The traditional author is James the Just, "a servant of God and brother of the Lord Jesus Christ". Like Hebrews, James is not so much a letter as an exhortation; the style of the Greek language-text makes it unlikely that it was actually written by James, the brother of Jesus. Most scholars regard all the letters in this group as pseudonymous.|
|First Epistle of Peter||c. 75–90 CE|
|Second Epistle of Peter||c. 110 CE. The epistle's quotes from Jude, assumes a knowledge of the Pauline letters, and includes a reference to the gospel story of the Transfiguration of Christ, all signs of a comparatively late date.|
|Johannine epistles||90–110 CE. The letters give no clear indication of their date, but scholars tend to place them about a decade after the Gospel of John.|
|Jude||Uncertain date. The references to the "brother of James" and to "what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold" suggest that it was written after the apostolic letters were in circulation, but before 2 Peter, which quotes it.|
|Revelation||c. 95 CE. The date is suggested by clues in the visions, which point to the reign of the emperor Domitian (reigned 81-96 CE). Domitian was assassinated on 18 September 96, in a conspiracy by court officials. The author was traditionally believed to be the same person as both John the Apostle/John the Evangelist, the traditional author of the Fourth Gospel – the tradition can be traced to Justin Martyr, writing in the early 2nd century. Most biblical scholars now believe that these were separate individuals. The name "John" suggests that the author was a Christian of Jewish descent, and although he never explicitly identifies himself as a prophet it is likely that he belonged to a group of Christian prophets and was known as such to members of the churches in Asia Minor. Since the 2nd century the author has been identified with one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. This is commonly linked with an assumption that the same author wrote the Gospel of John. Others, however, have argued that the author could have been John the Elder of Ephesus, a view which depends on whether a tradition cited by Eusebius was referring to someone other than the apostle. The precise identity of "John" therefore remains unknown. The author is disambiguated from others as John of Patmos, because the author identified himself as an exile to the island of Patmos.|
- Kelle 2005, p. 9.
- Brettler 2010, p. 161–162.
- Radine 2010, p. 71–72.
- Rogerson 2003a, p. 690.
- O'Brien 2002, p. 14.
- Gelston 2003c, p. 715.
- Rogerson 2003b, p. 154.
- Campbell & O'Brien 2000, p. 2 and fn.6.
- Gelston 2003a, p. 710.
- Brettler 2007, p. 311.
- Gelston 2003b, p. 696.
- Sweeney 2010, p. 94.
- Sweeney 2010, p. 135–136.
- Blenkinsopp 2007, p. 974.
- Carr 2011, p. 342.
- Greifenhagen 2003, p. 212.
- Enns 2012, p. 5.
- Nelson 2014, p. 214.
- Nelson 2014, p. 214-215.
- Carroll 2003, p. 730.
- McKenzie 2004, p. 32.
- Grabbe 2003, p. 00.
- Meyers 2007, p. 325.
- Rogerson 2003c, p. 8.
- Nelson 2014, p. 217.
- Day 1990, p. 16.
- Collins 2002, p. 2.
- Romer 2008, p. 2 and fn.3.
- Rogerson 2003b, p. 153-154.
- McEntire 2008, p. 8.
- Bandstra 2008, p. 19-21.
- Ska 2006, pp. 217.
- Ska 2006, pp. 218.
- Eskenazi 2009, p. 86.
- Ska 2006, p. 225-227.
- Person 2010, p. 10-11.
- Brettler 2010, p. 161.
- Soggin 1989, p. 394.
- Sweeney 1998, p. 78.
- Brettler 2010, p. 161-162.
- Lemche 2008, p. 20.
- Davidson 1993, p. 344-345.
- Diamond 2003, p. 546.
- Goldingay 2003, p. 623.
- Joyce 2009, p. 16.
- Blenkinsopp 1996, p. 167-168.
- Blenkinsopp 1996, p. 166.
- Redditt 2003, pp. 1.
- Floyd 2000, p. 9.
- Dell 1996, pp. 86–89.
- Redditt 2003, pp. 2.
- Emmerson 2003, p. 676.
- Nelson 2014, p. 216.
- Carroll 2003, p. 690.
- Rogerson 2003d, p. 708.
- Coogan, Brettler & Newsom 2007, p. xxiii.
- Crenshaw 2007, p. 332.
- Crenshaw 2007, p. 331.
- Whybray 2005, p. 181.
- Crenshaw 2010, p. 66.
- Snell 1993, p. 8.
- Exum 2005, p. 33-37.
- Bush 2018, p. 295.
- Crenshaw 2010, p. 144-145.
- Hayes 1998, p. 168.
- Dobbs-Allsopp 2002, pp. 4–5.
- Crawford 2003, p. 329.
- Collins 1999, p. 219.
- Graham 1998, p. 210.
- Grabbe 2003, p. 313-314.
- Fitzmyer 2003, p. 51.
- Japhet 2007, p. 751.
- Schmitt 2003b, p. 876.
- West 2003, p. 748.
- Bartlett 2003, p. 807-808.
- Bartlett 2003, p. 831-832.
- Alexander 2003, p. 866.
- deSilva 2003, p. 888.
- Collins 2007, p. 667.
- Horbury 2007, p. 650-653.
- Rogerson 2003e, p. 803-806.
- Towner 1990, p. 544.
- Schmitt 2003a, p. 799.
- Thornhill 2015, p. 31.
- Perkins 2012, p. 19ff.
- Theissen & Merz 1998, pp. 24–27.
- Schröter 2010, p. 278.
- Perkins 1998, p. 241.
- Duling 2010, p. 298-299.
- Duling & 2005 1057.
- Duling 2010, pp. 302-03.
- Duling 2010, p. 296.
- France 2007, p. 18.
- Charlesworth 2008, p. unpaginated.
- Horrell 2006, p. 7; cf. Knox 1948, pp. 2–15 for detailed arguments that still stand.
- Aune 1987, p. 77.
- Robbins 1978, pp. 215-42.
- Boring 2012, p. 587.
- Perkins 2009, p. 250–253.
- Lincoln 2005, p. 18.
- Brown 1988, p. 10.
- Lindars 1990, p. 11.
- Aune 1987, p. 20.
- Furnish 2003, p. 1274.
- Ehrman 2004, p. 385.
- Ehrman 2011, p. 107. "Before showing why most scholars consider them to be written by someone other than Paul, I should give a brief summary of each letter."
- Black 2013, p. 1.
- Fonck 1910.
- Kim 2003, p. 250.
- Jones (1992), p. 193
- Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 81.4
- Harris 1985, p. 355.
- Ehrman 2004, p. 468.
- Stuckenbruck 2003, p. 1535.
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