Authors of The Bible

(Cameron Kufner) #1

Hello all! I just finished up my time of reading the Word of God this evening and I had a random thought just pop into my head, so I thought I would ask it here. I know that we can know for certain a number of different authors of The Bible (As far as who wrote what book in The Bible) but, how did we figure out who wrote each book if the writer didn’t specifically mention that they did. For example, we know Paul wrote 2/3 of the NT because he would leave his name at either the beginning or end of his letters, even directly mention himself at times in the middle of his letters. I know a number of authors aren’t for certain, yet. Christian and Jewish traditions say that Moses wrote the first 5 books of The Bible, yet we don’t know for certain, not yet at least. The same goes for Joshua. I’ve also heard that Genesis had 10 authors, one being Adam (Interesting, right?). I don’t personally believe that, though. The writer of Hebrews and Jonah is also uncertain, we can only guess for now. I would also be interested to know if they have anyone specific narrowed down to who could be the potential author(s)? Just wanted to name a few books. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

May our Lord bless you all!

(SeanO) #2

@CamKufner Great question. I think the first place to start is with the criteria by which books were included in Scripture.

  • does it claim to be authoritative? (Thus saith the Lord)
  • was it written by an apostle / prophet or someone associated with an apostle / prophet?
  • has it been confirmed by Jesus, an apostle or prophet?
  • is it faithful to previous Scripture?
  • Church usage and recognition
  • does it demonstrate God’s life changing power?

With books like Hebrews, which took longer to be accepted because the author is uncertain, you can see that the other tests for canonicity were applied. It was faithful to prior revelation, used profitably by the Church and demonstrated life changing power.

To discuss an individual book would be a discussion in and of itself. Is there a specific book you would like to discuss?

(Cameron Kufner) #3

I was just curious as to how they figured out how we can know for certain who wrote which book? Like how do we know who wrote the book if the writer didn’t make it known that they did? is it a guessing game? Do we have the individuals narrowed down? Thank you for the first part of your reply, I think those are necessary things to consider when examining the books. It all fits perfect like individual puzzle pieces. I did notice that the article from mentioned that the Roman Catholic Bible has other books that are not included in most Bibles, by chance, do you know what those books are about? Like the Macabees for example? Why aren’t they accepted? (Sorry for the long post, lol.)

(SeanO) #4

@CamKufner Regarding authorship when the author is unknown, take Hebrews as an example. In the following article from Zondervan, they consider:

  • the style of writing (as compared to other Biblical authors)
  • the names of people mentioned
  • names of cities mentioned
  • the theology / focus of the writing
  • the time period the book was written

The article has arguments for why it was likely not Paul who wrote it and suggests some other possibilities. But ultimately the author is unknown.

Clement? Paul? Luke? Timothy? Barnabas? Apollos? In spite of the weight of scholarly inference, the book of Hebrews does not in fact name its author. And so if you were ever asked about the authorship of Hebrews, the correct answer is well expressed by the church father Origen (AD 185? – 254?), who said, according to Eusebius, “Who wrote the epistle of Hebrews? In truth, only God knows!” (Hist. eccl. 6.25.14).

(SeanO) #5

@CamKufner Below is a summary statement of the contents in each apocryphal book and a website link that discusses the origin / acceptance of the apocrypha. The short version is that the apocryphal books were originally not considered Scripture, though some considered them edifying and informative. They were not included in the Canon, even of the Roman Catholic Church, until the Council of Trent in 1546 in response to the stirrings of the reformation.


  • First Esdras (sometimes called Third Esdras): Esdras is Greek for the Hebrew name Ezra. This book attempts to revise the Bible book of Ezra with supplemental material from II Chronicles and Nehemiah. It also contains a story of three young men who debate the question “What is the strongest thing in the world?” in front of the King of Persia, who promises to give the winner a prize. This is one of the few Apocryphal books that is not part of the Roman Catholic Bible.

  • Second Esdras (sometimes called the Ezra Apocalypse or Fourth Esdras): This book mostly contains conversations between Ezra and some angels sent to answer his theological questions. It also contains a fantastic story of how all the Hebrew Scriptures were lost during the Jew’s Babylonian exile, but were perfectly restored when Ezra, under God’s inspiration, dictated them word-for-word to 5 scribes. But he didn’t stop there. While he was at it, he dictated an additional 70 “secret books” that were only to be read by those who were wise. (Second Esdras is supposed to be one of those secret books.)

  • Tobit: This book could possibly have been written in Aramaic before being translated into Greek. It is a story about a blind man named Tobit who sends his son to collect a debt for him. He is led on his journey by an angel who takes him to the house of a virgin who has been married 7 times. (Each of her husbands were slain by a demon on their wedding night.) Tobit’s son marries the virgin and manages to drive away the demon by burning the heart of a fish in their bedroom on their wedding night. He then goes and collects his father’s debt, and returns to Tobit with the money, his new bride and the remains of the fish. When he gets home he heals his father’s blindness using some bile extracted from the fish.

  • Judith: This is one of the few Apocryphal books that really did start out in Hebrew. It is the story of a beautiful widow who saves her city from a military siege. When the city is surrounded, and all appears lost, she sneaks out to the enemy commander’s camp, endears herself to the general, gets him drunk, chops off his head, and brings it back to her city. (I shall refrain from making a remark about losing one’s head over a woman.) When she shows her people the enemy commander’s head, they take heart, go out and rout their foes.

  • Additions to the Book of Esther: Here are 6 paragraphs designed to be inserted at various places in the Bible book of Esther. Their main purpose is to give the book a more Jewish and religious tone.

  • Wisdom of Solomon: Sometimes this book is simply called “Wisdom”. It contains devotional and theological essays written such that they appear to have come from King Solomon. It compares Jewish religion with Greek philosophy, and attempts to prove that the highest form of wisdom is faith. This is one of the few Apocryphal books that was used and respected by early Christian writers.

  • Ecclesiasticus (also called The Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach, or just Sirach): This book contains discourses, proverbs and wise sayings by a teacher named Joshua Ben Sirach. Originally written in Hebrew, it was translated into Greek by Ben Sirach’s grandson. It is the most highly respected of all the Apocryphal books, and in early times was read in church services.

  • Baruch: Baruch was the prophet Jeremiah’s secretary — “Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of The Lord” [Jeremiah 36:4]. This is a rather disjointed book, and includes exhortations against idolatry, promises to faithful Jews, and affirmations that the Law of God is real wisdom. It is written as if by Baruch during the Babylonian exile.

  • Letter of Jeremiah: This is a letter from Jeremiah to the Jews in exile in Babylon. Often, because it is only one chapter long, rather than being a separate book, it is included as part of the book of Baruch.

  • Song of the Three Holy Children (sometimes the Prayer of Azariah): This book was written as an addition to the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. It contains prayers and hymns that were offered to God while the three were in the fiery furnace. It is typically added to the book of Daniel after Chapter 3 Verse 23.

  • Susanna: This is also an addition to the book of Daniel. It is the story of two men who try to seduce a pious, young wife. When she refuses their advances, the men publicly accuse her of adultery. Susanna is condemned to death in a trial where the men testify falsely against her. But Daniel comes to the rescue, exposing the lies of the two men during a second trial. The men are put to death and Susanna regains her status as a virtuous woman.

  • Bel and the Dragon (sometimes Bel and the Snake): Here we have two different stories that were expected to be included in the book of Daniel. In the first, Bel is a Babylonian idol that supposedly ate food left for him (although really it was eaten by priests who sneaked in through a secret entrance). When Daniel refuses to give Bel an offering, he is challenged by the King. Daniel tells the King that the idol does not really eat anything. As a test, food is left at night for the idol — but unknownst to the priests, fine ashes are spread over the floor. In the morning the food was gone, but the King could see lots of footprints in the ashes. Score one for Daniel. In the second story, the people are worshipping a living dragon (actually a big snake.) Daniel kills it by feeding it a mixture of pitch, fat and hair, which causes it to burst open. Too bad they didn’t try that in the Garden of Eden.

  • Prayer of Manasseh: This is a short psalm of repentance, purportedly by King Manasseh of Judah, as he was being carried off captive to Babylon. This is one of the few Apocryphal books that has also been rejected by the Catholic Church.

  • First Maccabees: Here is contained an honest and stirring account of Jewish history between 175 B.C. and 135 B.C. when the Jews gained their national independence from their Syrian oppressors. Historians consider this book an accurate account of events at that time. As an historical account, it is valued — but as Hebrew scripture, it never cut it.

  • Second Maccabees: This book relates many of the same events as I Maccabees, but in an attempt to add a religious flavor, it includes many legendary and fanciful additions. Some of the statements in this book support the Roman Catholic teachings on Purgatory, prayers for the dead and the intercessory work of deceased saints.

(Cameron Kufner) #6

That was an excellent read! Definitely helped me understand the differences between those books that weren’t accepted. I have a cousin who is a priest, I’m sure we can have a civilized discussion about the books that are mentioned in his Bible, but not in mine. The threads you attached will definitely come in handy for that. Thanks!

(Kathleen) #7

Hi, @CamKufner! This is an intriguing thread, thanks for the question! :slight_smile:

A couple of things that I try to keep in mind when discussing the human element involved in authorship…

  1. What exactly is meant by ‘authorship’ or ‘writer’? The actual writer might have been an unknown scribe, who was commissioned by someone else (more senior) to record the stories. I’m especially thinking of the histories, the prophets and the Gospel writers.
  2. Much of the Old Testament was passed down via oral tradition. It’d be worth looking into if we know how and when those stories were finally written down. Side note, I highly doubt Adam wrote anything, but it is possible that he did not leave his story untold. And it’s likely that the Pentateuch wasn’t written by Moses, but it’s likely that he would have commissioned some writing down of laws and such.

Do you guys happen to know if authorship was as important in the canonisation of the OT as it was to the canonisation of the NT? :slight_smile: