Earlier this week someone performing in the role of internet troll (Subsequent conversation reminded me that trolls are people, too, and in private they have less social pressure to perform antagonistically for the masses. Just remember that God doesn’t make junk and love your enemies applies to internet personnae as well.) snarked off that he wasn’t about to follow any book written by a bunch of goat herders.
So I roll up my sleeves and break open my never-to-be-sufficiently-humble breakdown of WHO wrote the BIBLE (and when…)
I have included details below for those who want to dig deeper, but here is the bullet-point list of what kind of person really wrote the Bible:
- Egyptian princes (Moshe)
- Kings (David, Solomon)
- Conquerors (Joshua, David, Solomon)
- Physicians (Luke)
- Regionally-famous scholars (Paul of Tarsus, Solomon)
- Imperial administrator-scholars (Ezra, Nehemiah)
- Kingmakers and religious heads of state (Samuel and other prophets)
- Fishermen (Peter, James, John)
- Roman administrators and religious scholars (Matthew was a tax collector from a family of scribes)
- Laborers (Jude, brother of Jesus, would have been in dad’s stone-cutting/carpentry business)
The great and the small, from the VERY great to the RIDICULOUSLY humble, they all have a voice, but the vast over-arching majority of Biblical authors are from the secular perspective 1%-ers, hyper-educated, regional powerhouses. The Hebrew of Job is some of the most advanced literature in 1000 years either way. Luke/Acts and Hebrews are written in graduate-level Greek. Paul writes as a man with at least one if not multiple college degrees.
The books of Moses, the first books 5 books of the Bible/Tanakh, lived and died 1520-something to 1400-ish, BC. Moshe is the shortened form of the traditional Egyptian noble appellation we find throughout the Egyptian record for princes and kings. It means “who is like”, and typically had the name of some particular deity slapped ahead of it. King Tut: Tothmoshe = who is like Toth, the God of wisdom. Rameses: Rahmoshe = who is like Ra, the sun god. Take the name of a pagan god off of it, and you just have
Someone-Moshe, who is like —-. So our first author/compiler in the Bible was raised, trained, and educated by the highest level of society in his age. Sure, he flees and becomes a shepherd, but to ascribe him goat herder status on that account is about the same as labeling Abraham Lincoln (lawyer, senator, president) a woodcutting squirrel hunter. Technically accurate, but grossly inaccurate regarding the intellect, social position, and status of the author of the Gettysburg Address.
Genesis: This appears to be assembled by Moshe of a series of pre-existing accounts. This is one of my favorite textual criticisms, in fact. There is a series of repetitions when the narrative changes over from author/source to author/source. Now, we in the English-speaking world tend to have our titles at the start of someone’s narration, but in Hebrew (and this makes numbering the Psalms occasionally really interesting) the title can come at the end. So the phrase eleh toledoth (lit: these are the generations of) occurs with some minor variations as original subtexts change. Now, you can claim word-of-mouth, but it’s interesting to note that the first narrative hand-off uses the phrase eleh s’phor toledoth (this is the scroll/book of the generations of), so the original precedent, which is nowhere contradicted later, was for a written record. Who started the written record? Adam.
What is really neat about this criticism is that the narrators don’t just break down logically, but they break down into reliable eye-witnesses to most of the events described, or those with access to first-hand records. Now, you can claim that it’s somehow invalid to compile pre-existing records, but before you say it to me, go throw out every history textbook you have ever seen, owned, or used, and reject all the knowledge from them on the same basis…
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy: These are the classic books of Moses, written by a an adopted noble with the highest education available on two continents, who then turned out to be the leader of a theocratic state, military commander, and lawgiver. But you know, for a while he did actually shepherd for his room and board. Interesting point: The role of shepherd was held in great cultural esteem as the model for proper rule, as evidenced in the Epic of Gilgamesh and several other near-contemporary accounts. A good king/ruler was like a shepherd, and anyone not acting like a shepherd was a bad king.
End of the Torah and Joshua:
There really isn’t any evidence that this was written by someone other than Joshua, who probably also filled in the final chapter or so of Deuteronomy after his mentor’s death. Joshua’s job credentials: Military spy, warrior (special ops much?), prophet, conqueror, judge, and politician. Perhaps he owned some goats, but I doubt it.
Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel: The author is not openly stated, but the oldest tradition (oral evidence) to which we have no contrary evidence, was that the prophet Samuel wrote this down sometime around King David’s lifetime. I’ve provided documentation prior that the history of written records goes to the oldest stories in the Tanakh/OT. Who was this guy? A life-long trained priest and scholar, eventually high priest and judge of the nation, also the earthly source to appoint the first two kings of Israel. Educated, elite, and influential, hardly a shepherd.
2 Samuel: The prophet Nathan is the traditionally understood author of this book. He is contemporary to events described, would have lived during or shortly after Samuel’s line, and the title doesn’t bother me at all since it continues the emphasis and narration of Samuel’s first book beyond Samuel’s lifetime.
1 and 2 Kings: Jewish tradition states that the prophet Jeremiah accumulated these books. Modern scholars are skeptical of this claim, but they can’t seem to agree on who else may have written it. The front runners are other prophets from the minor prophets. That is largely irrelevant to the question of the author’s ability to convey an accurate record, since prophets had access to Truth himself, but there are secular sources available, and references to multiple written records for cross-references, though most of those have been lost. (Don’t despair, gentle reader, if you were trying to perpetuate a later fraud or revision, would you refer your readers to available sources that you knew they could reach in the same way Muhammed’s fraudulent account leaned heavily on Judeo-Christian writings, or would you name books no one could find? Hmmm,,, So that’s another argument for the reliability of scripture for me. And any prophet = national levels of power, direct access to divine revelation, probably no mere goat-herder.
1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra/Nehemiah (they were originally 1 book), and probably Esther: The traditionally understood author here is the prophet Ezra wrote these around the time of the return from the Babylonian exile. Nehemiah is also put forward as the author of the end of the book, and an alternative author for the end of the historical section (hence now it is two books). In any case, once again we have authors who are contemporary to events described, or had access to written historical records (I have never seen a historical account from before Chronicles that was remotely as well-documented and referenced internally.) Nehemiah or Ezra, both were functioning as governors/heads of state for tributary states under a broader empire. These are 1%-er administrator scholars, folks, the intellectual elite of the empire. No simple goat herder’s here.
Job: This is a bit trickier, but not by much. Traditionally the author put forward has been Job, with the front and back portions provided by Solomon, son of David. Job and Solomon were both prophets, in that they spoke to the Lord, Job’s job from the text was high priest for his region, as well as the equivalent to head-of-state given the size of his holdings relative to the wealth of Ye Olde City-State in the region. The oldest and most linguistically beautiful whole book in the Bible, coming sometime between the flood and the life of Isaac, the end-notes and heavenly dialogue could have been and probably were provided by Solomon, the wisest man ever to live, king, prophet, conqueror, and sometimes screw-up.
Psalms: Kings like David, Solomon, Prophets, and religious leaders of state religions composed the vast majority of these, as ascribed by title.
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs: Solomon, other kings, and some anonymous authors, we hold this book to have been composed and compiled by King Solomon.
Tons of prophets: These are generally assumed to have been authored by the prophets they are named after, or written down shortly after their lifetime. Arguments against this tradition only start showing up around 1500 or so, and they’re mostly pathetic, depending on really dodgy references and arguments from silence. If the ascribed authorship was good enough for most everyone within 1000 years of the documents’ writing, it’s good enough for me without some astonishingly reliable evidence. Example of crap: Deutero-Isaiah. PLEASE…. *facepalm*
Matthew: Written buy a Levite and a Tax Collector. So: Educated, official political administrator with life-long connections to the oldest surviving tradition of scholarship in the land.
Mark, 1 and 2 Peter: Traditionally understood as Peter’s eyewitness account, Mark is short for John-Mark, who followed Peter to Rome as his translator. So, a linguistic scholar and a humble fisherman working together. The humble fisherman just happening to be the head of the religion at the time. He may have had another scribe/translator for his epistles.
Luke and Acts: A Greco-Roman physician and historian, and if you think he wasn’t smart, try reading his Greek without a table-full of study guides or overclocking Logos software on your tablet.
John and Revelation: A fisherman, but the lack of formal education in his formal life does not indicate ignorance. For starters, by Jesus’ time Isrealite country was nearly universally literate. You simply had to be able to read to be counted a man and participate in the socio-religious life of the time, the synagogue. By the end of his life, when he had his Revelation he was employing Greek linguistic devices at a pretty high level.
Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Phillipians, Philemon, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, Timothy, Titus, and I believe Hebrews, though it’s up for debate…: Paul. As a Pharisee the dude would have been expected to nearly memorize the entire Old Testament. His teacher Gamaliel is still cited in Jewish traditions in the Talmud. He was one of the great scholars of his age, but he was also a tradesman and a Roman Citizen. That’s pretty freaking elite, folks.
James: Traditionally understood as the follower of Jesus and brother of John, another fisherman, who in the humbly most literate society in the world at his time was already ahead of 80% of the world’s population just to be ignorant by Israeli standards.
Jude: Traditionally understood to be the half-brother of Jesus. He would also have been in the mere 80th percentile of education in the world as a Jewish adult male, and his professional training would be as a carpenter and stone-cutter, since those skills were intermarried in the region at the time, and that was his father’s business.
So, as a general breakdown, those are the sources of our Bible, but there is one more worth mentioning:
All scripture is breathed by God, and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and training in righteousness. -2 Timothy 3:16