Authors of the Bible

The Authors of the Bible have authored or co-authored literature that has appeared in the canons of Judaism and of Christianity. Scholars and theologians debate who authored much of the literature belowFact|date=May 2008. The list below gives strongest credit to tradition and areas of large consensus.Authors of the Bible are listed by book of the Bible. The sections mentions the author of each work mentioned in Christian tradition. When a significant number of modern historians and theologians disagree with this attribution, that author is mentioned as well.

Old Testament/Hebrew Bible

The Jewish bible (called the Hebrew bible by many scholars because it is written mostly in that language) differs from the Christian Old Testament notably in the order in which the various books within it are presented. The main principle behind the order of books in the Hebrew bible is authorship, and it is that order which is followed in this section.


The first five books of the bible are known by Jews as the Torah ("laws", or more accurately "instruction"). They were translated into Greek in the last few centuries before Christ, and are thus also known by their Greek title, the Pentateuch.

The tradition of the Mosaic authorship (i.e., authorship by Moses) of the Torah can be traced to the Jewish community of the time of Jesus and several centuries before. The source of this tradition lies in what Judiasm refers to as the Oral Torah, which is believed by Jews to have been handed down to Moses at the same time as the Torah and original Ten Commandments. To rabbis and Jewish scholars, the Torah's gematria and hidden meanings reflect the consistency of a single author. Traditional Christian belief also assumes Moses as the sole author.

There is no single consensus among secular biblical scholars as to just who wrote the Torah and when. Many follow the documentary hypothesis, which supposes that the Five Books - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy - were originally four separate but complete and competing documents, and were edited into the present Pentateuch; others point to major problems with this idea, and suggest instead that the Pentateuch grew by a process of slow accretion of material over the centuries; and others again, while accepting the problems with the documentary approach, believe that the Torah contains one basic document which was supplemented over the centuries by other writers with their own distinctive viewpoints and objectives. There is some general agreement among these scholars that the Pentateuch reached its present form around 450 BC.


The next group of books after the Torah/Pentateuch in the Hebrew bible is called the Prophets. This section is divided into two subsections, Former Prophets and Minor Prophets. Despite the name, the first of the Former Prophets - Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings - are history books, telling the story of the Israelite people from the conquest of Canaan to the fall of Jerusalem. They are included in the Prophets because their author was traditionally believed to have been the prophet Samuel, supplemented by other prophets for the period covering events after Samuel's death. Prophets concludes with Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel (the Major Prophets), followed by the twelve Minor Prophets (all the remaining prophetic books except Daniel).

In the 1940s the great German biblical scholar Martin Noth drew attention to what he called the Deuteronomistic History within the bible, a history of the Israelites beginning with the book of Deuteronomy and stretching across Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. Noth proposed that these books had been written as a unitary work, sometime around the year 600 BC, at the court of king Josiah of Judah, with the intention of providing a rationale for Josiah's plan to reconquer the northern kingdom of Israel. Noth's hypothesis has almost universal acceptance among biblical scholars today. It is impossible to know who the author of the original History might have been (although Richard Elliott Friedman makes the case that it may have been Baruch, the scribe of the prophet Jeremiah).

The other books are traditionally ascribed to the various prophets whose names they bear - Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and so on. Modern scholars consider it probably that real individuals lie behind the books, but all of them have had later additions, sometimes substantial.


The final section of the Hebrew bible, taking in all the remaining books, is the "Writings". The traditional authorship of many is reflected in the titles: Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, etc. The unnamed books are ascribed to various famous figures: King David is the traditional author of most of the Psalms, Solomon of the Song of Songs. None of these attributions are supported by modern biblical scholars, who see all these books as fairly late compositions by multiple anonymous and pseudonymous authors.

New Testament

The New Testament is divided into the Gospels, the Epistles, and the Apocalypse, the latter being the Book of Revelation. The Acts of the Apostles can be considered as a continuation of the Gospels


According to tradition the Gospels were written by the four named authors and in the order in which they appear in the New Testament - Matthew by the Apostle Matthew, Mark by a disciple of the Apostle Peter in Rome, Luke by Luke the companion of Paul, and John by John the Evangelist, traditionally identified with the Apostle John. Luke is also identified by tradition as the author of the Acts, as a continuation of the Gospel of Luke.

Scholarly opinion is evenly divided between those who accept and those who reject the traditional authorship of Luke/Acts. For Mark, Matthew and John there is far greater agreement that the traditional ascriptions are incorrect, and that the authors of these works are in fact unknown. Scholars are in broad agreement that Mark is the earliest gospel, and that Matthew and Luke rely on it for their narrative. All four Gospels are usually dated to a period after 70 AD, although a minority of conservative scholars continue to argue for earlier dates.

Epistles and Revelation

Thirteen of the Epistles are ascribed by tradition to the Apostle Paul. Modern scholars believe that about half of them are false attributions, introduced by later authors to lend authority to their own views. The following list identifies the traditional Pauline Epistles according to whether they are accepted as genuine, false, or uncertain (the Epistles are listed in the order in which they appear in the New Testament):
*Romans (genuine)
*First Corinthians (genuine)
*Second Corinthians (genuine)
*Galatians (genuine)
*Ephesians (false)
*Philippians (genuine)
*Colossians (uncertain)
*First Thessalonians (genuine)
*Second Thessalonians (uncertain)
*First Timothy (false)
*Second Timothy (false)
*Titus (false)
*Philemon (genuine)

Hebrews was regarded as Pauline by some early traditions, but this was questioned even in ancient times and is rejected by all modern scholars. The true author is unknown.

The remaining epistles are traditionally ascribed to the persons whose names appear in their titles - three epistles of John the Evangelist, (the author of Revelation), two of the Apostle Peter, and one each of James the Just, the brother of Jesus, and one of "Jude the brother of James" (which, if taken literally, would mean that both James and Jude are by brothers of Jesus).

The authorship of the Johannine works in general (the three Epistles plus the Gospel of John and Revelation) is still disputed, but the general opinion among scholars is that there are clear similarities between the First Epistle of John and the Gospel of John, so that a common author is plausible; the Second and Third Epistles probably come from within a circle of followers of the author of the First Epistle and the Gospel, but are not by that author himself: the hypothetical author of the Second and Third Epistles is often called John the Presbyter by scholars to distinguish him from the Evangelist. Revelation is believed to be by a third author, who introduces himself simply as "John" - this third author is referred to by modern scholars as John of Patmos.

The First and Second Epistle of Peter are both regarded as pseudonymous. The Greek of both letters is too polished to have come from a Galilean fisherman, and they both show familiarity with the Jewish scriptures only in their Greek translation. Nor are the two epistles from the same author: the second epistle relies on the Epistle of Jude and makes reference to multiple Pauline epistles, and the theology seems to belong to a 2nd century time-frame.

The Epistle of James and the Epistle of Jude are also regarded as pseudonymous, with James probably dating to 90-100 AD and Jude to the same period or a little later.


Old Testament

"(This table follows the canon of the Roman Catholic church - the mainline Jewish, Protestant and Orthodox canons differ significantly, both in the books regarded as biblical and in the order in which they are presented)"

New Testament

ee also

*Books of the Bible


*Gledhill, Tom. "The Message of the Song of Songs." InterVarsity Press: 1994.
*Kidner, Derek. "The Message of Ecclesiastes." InterVarsity Press: 1984.


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