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Authors of the Bible

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The Authors of the Bible are a collection of men (and possibly women) who have authored or co-authored literature that has appeared in the various canons of Judaism and of Christianity. The list that follows is perpetually subject to debate, and the declaration of canonicity of each work is dependent upon the religious group to which one refers. Authorship is always debatable, and consensus can only be reached to a certain degree. What follows is based on various sources, giving strongest credit to tradition and areas of large consensus.

Contents

Old Testament/Hebrew Bible

Pentateuch

Traditional religious views

Moses is regarded by Jewish and Christian tradition as the author of the Pentateuch, or the first five books of the Bible. However, the dating of these works has caused debate of Mosaic authorship. Mosaic authorship of Exodus is more plausible than of Genesis, because this is the first text in which the story of Moses himself is chronicled. Deuteronomy is the most debated of the books of the Pentateuch in terms of authorship. As much of it is a restating of the laws (hence the name, meaning "second law") it may have been written at a much later period. Many believe that the same author is responsible for Deuteronomy who wrote Joshua and Judges. The ending of Deuteronomy accounts the death of Moses, so at least this section is usually attributed to Joshua himself or some other author. However, some traditions do hold to Mosaic authorship of the whole text, including the account of his death.

Modern historical views -- the Documentary Hypothesis

The documentary hypothesis (DH) proposes that the five books of the Pentateuch), represent a combination of documents from four originally independent texts dating from various periods between the early 8th and late 5th centuries BCE. Some writers and thinkers of the Enlightenment began to discuss discrepancies in the Pentateuch, but it was not until the 19th century and the seminal work by Julius Wellhausen, that the Documentary Hypothesis reached its maturity.

The hypothetical texts are:

  • the J, or Yahwist, text (so named because it uses the YHVH, or tetragrammaton, to refer to the Deity)
  • the E, or Elohist, text (edited with J to form a combined JE text; so named as it uses "Elohim" rather than YHVH)
  • the P, or Priestly, text
  • the D, or Deuteronomist, text (which had a further major edit, resulting in sub-texts known as Dtr1 and Dtr2).

According to the traditional view, the texts were combined into their current form in the post-Exilic period (late 5th century BC) by an editor known as R (for Redactor), who also made small additions to harmonize discrepancies between his sources. Deuteronomy is D, and much of the book of Leviticus seems to be P; the books of Genesis, Exodus and Numbers are compilations of J, E and P.

Most scholars have characterized the God of J as more anthropomorphic than the God of E; the God of J walks up and down in the garden of Eden. The distant God of E, on the other hand, relies on the intercession of angels.

There has been very little agreement in the effort to disentangle J, E, and P, and which verses correspond to which source texts remains contentious. Attempts to refine the original hypothesis (such as splitting J into J1, J2, and J3) have not resolved the issue.

The Deuteronomistic History

As early modern scholars began to look critically at the texts of the Bible, they began to notice strong links between the texts of Deuteronomy and Joshua. On the basis of these links, they speculated that the book of Joshua was originally included with the five books of the Torah, and they called the entire collection of texts the Hexateuch.

However, as more researchers analyzed these textual connections, they began to notice that the textual links did not stop with the book of Joshua. Most scholars today believe Joshua to be part of a larger text, the Deuteronomistic History, which stretches from Deuteronomy to 2 Kings. On this view, the actions of the people of Israel are judged on the reformulation of the law found in Deuteronomy.

Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah

Chronicles was written in the Persian period (539-332 BCE), late in the formation of the Hebrew Bible. Its author or editor, referred to as "the Chronicler", draws upon a large number of earlier texts, including biblical poetry as well as much of the Deuteronomistic History. Many scholars have been tempted to see the books of Ezra and Nehemiah as written by the Chronicler as well; though this view has not been completely rejected, it is somewhat out of fashion.

Writings

Ruth, 1 & 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Esther, 1-4 Maccabees

Poetry

Psalms, Odes, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus

Though the traditional view of Psalms is that they were written by David, the king of Israel, modern scholars consider this unlikely. They argue that it is impossible to attribute all of them to one author and that each psalm must be treated individually.

The narrator of Ecclesiastes goes only by the name Ecclesiastes (Greek) or Qohelet(h) (Hebrew). Roughly translated this could mean "Teacher," "Pastor," or "Teacher." He claims to have been King of Israel in Jerusalem, but this could have easily been an appeal to credibility which was a very common practice in this era. Authorship is most commonly attributed to Solomon, but it could very well be any Jewish man, likely later in life, who wished to advise future generations.

The opening line "The Song of Songs of Solomon" seems to verify the authorship of this work easily, but like Ecclesiastes, this could merely have been an appeal to credibility. Likewise, the author could have been referring to Solomon as a recognizable figure: one who was known for his appeal to women. The book is very emphatic on the feminine point of view, which has lead many to suggest female authorship at least in part. Affirming one author of the Song is nearly impossible as its appeal to various cultures and the vocabularies of various time periods leads one to believe that it evolved over time and cultures. It has strong similarities to Egyptian love poetry and may have first been inspired by that form of literature.

Major Prophets

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Baruch, Letter of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel

The works of the "major" prophets (Isaiah-Daniel), so named for their length in comparison to the "minor" prophets, are traditionally often attributed to their namesakes.

Minor Prophets

Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

The works of the "minor" prophets (Hosea-Malachi), so named for their brevity, are traditionally often attributed to their namesakes.

New Testament

Gospels

Matthew was most likely written by the apostle Matthew, also known as Levi. Source critics believe that the author drew much of his material from the gospel of Mark and a hypothetical source that contained many sayings of Jesus, often termed "Q." Mark is widely accepted as the first gospel written about Jesus. It was probably written by John Mark, a close friend of the apostle Peter, and a missionary associate of Paul and Barnabas. Luke is the first of a two-volume work, the second being Acts. Luke was the most likely author; he was a close associate of Paul. Like Matthew, he likely drew heavily from Mark and "Q." The Gospel of John is the last gospel written, and was quite certainly composed by the Apostle John near the end of the first century. The lack of parallels to many of the stories in the other Gospels demonstrates that he was not likely relying on the same sources of the authors. John himself is also unique in that he would have had more personal contact with Jesus himself than the other authors, and he wrote after Christianity had developed further; thus, his focus was very different. The differences between the Gospel of John and the other Gospels has lead to some major doubts of Johannine authorship or that it was written in the first century.

Acts

Acts is the second book of the two volume work preceded by the Gospel of Luke. Luke is not difficult to place as the author, as the detail of the book matches his claim of traveling with Paul.

Early Pauline Epistles

Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians

Pastoral/Late Pauline Epistles

1 & 2 Timothy, Titus

These three works are distinguished from the rest of Pauline literature because of their accompanying theological removal from the rest of his writings. Of primary interest is the new emphasis on vocational roles in a church body, a concept never mentioned in any of his earlier writings. Thus, scholars that hold to Pauline authorship date these books much later in his life. However, some believe that the theological differences are too great to reconcile these works to other Pauline writings.[1] They demonstrate a level of development of organization in the assembly of believers that only significant time could allow.

Ephesians

Philemon

Hebrews

In terms of authorship, Hebrews is usually the most debated work in the New Testament. It is placed canonically after Philemon to place it close to the writings of Paul, but separated in such a way as to cast doubt. Paul is traditionally assumed as the author, though there is no strong consensus on this point whatsoever. Other proposed authors of this work are Barnabas, a close associate of Paul, and Pricila, a woman who often worked with Paul (mentioned in Acts 18:2). Whoever the author was, he or she demonstrates a powerful knowledge and application of Jewish traditions and stories (e.g. a comparison of Melchizedek to Christ and the "Hall of Faith" in Hebrews 11).

James

Petrine Epistles and Jude

1 & 2 Peter, Jude

1 Peter

2 Peter Notably 2 Peter 3:15-16 refers to the writings of Paul on a common level with the rest of Scripture. So, whoever wrote this passage affirms Pauline authorship of several significant works (though he does not venture to name any).

Jude, also known as Judas, claims to be the brother of James, which, according to Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3, and Galatians 1:19, makes them both the brothers of Jesus himself. Similarities between the focuses of 2 Peter and Jude have lead to some belief in their common authorship.

Johannine Epistles

1, 2, & 3 John

Revelation

References

  1. see James Dunn in Unity and Diversity In the New Testament: An Inquiry into the Character of Earliest Christianity
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