were the biblical books written?
was shredded to pieces by biblical scholars in the 18th and 19th centuries,
but the information didn't get out to the bulk of the people..."
Till, The Skeptical Review
speaking, there is no such book [as the Bible]. To make the Bible, sixty-six
books are bound into one volume. These books are written by many people
at different times, and no one knows the time or the identity of any author."
A prerequisite disclaimer.
While many parts of
this site can stand alone, this section is uniquely dependent on the previous
one. The previous question was a critical prerequisite to understanding
that document dating, like archaeology, is an ongoing process of refinement.
With that understanding, we can proceed to examine what just might be the
best set of dates to come out of twentieth-century study for the books of
the Bible. The scholarly work herein is credited mostly to R.K. Harrison,
Gleason Archer, and F.F. Bruce. Of course, even their work
may be subject to further refinement in the future.
Confirming the author
of each biblical book will not be dealt with here as it's not as important
as discovering when the books were written. Authorship is of lesser importance
because the chief appeal of Jesus' divinity by first century Christians,
as by many today, was Jesus' fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. It is
therefore far more important to place dates on those prophecies than to
identify who spoke them (though many of those identities are confidently
established). So by establishing the dates of the Old Testament works, we
can then know that the prophecies of Christ's appearance were written long
before the fact, not afterwards.
4.2 The effect of the Enlightenment on document dating.
One method of establishing
dates for scriptural writings which was popular several hundred years ago
entailed counting the generations of descendants mentioned in the Bible
and then calculating backwards. This method assumed the completeness of
the genealogies in the Massoretic copies of Scripture (the earliest biblical
documents available at that time). It also assumed the listed descendants
were not just representative of larger genealogies (some were). Authorships
were simply taken at face value (e.g. Jeremiah wrote Jeremiah) or upon rabbinical
tradition (Jeremiah also wrote 1 & 2 Kings).
In the eighteenth and
nineteenth-centuries, a period also known as the Enlightenment, the
emphasis on rationalism came to seriously challenge the validity of this
dating method as well as the believed authorship of many of the writings.
It is during this period that doubt was stirred up about the age and authorship
of the biblical writings. This doubt was so embraced by critics of that
time that even today emerging archaeological facts on the authenticity of
Scripture are refused consideration by those wishing to remain content with
nineteenth century conclusions.
4.3 Scholarship of the Enlightenment.
WHAT WAS THE ENLIGHTENMENT?
The Enlightenment was
a period of multi-faceted change mainly from the late seventeenth to the
late nineteenth-century. Typical of historical paradigm shifts, there were
a number of factors that shaped this period; one of which were Isaac Newton's
scientific laws. His simplification of basic mechanical principles in an
earlier era had given rise to a philosophical direction called mechanism
viewed the universe as an enormous but fundamentally simple mechanism that
could be completely understood with mathematics. This manner of thinking
seemed to provide an empirical basis for deists who believed that God existed
in some remote form, but not in an intimate closeness as described in the
Bible. The Bible's more personal view of God was the previously more popular
belief in the western world (which Newton himself held).
Over the years, the
tremendous success of Newton's laws in predicting the behavior of objects
in motion progressively supported the idea that formulae and theories could
be equivocated to actual facts. The most recognizable of such equivocations
is that of evolution.
Belief that human life evolved from lower forms of life was initially
most prevalent in France and Germany. The theory of evolution helped
catapult a revolution in the former, and reshaped both science and philosophy
in the latter.
As a consequence to
France and Germanys' popular acceptance of evolutionary theory as fact,
from those same nations arose a similar theory of formation concerning the
-- HOW THE THEORY OF EVOLUTION AFFECTED DOCUMENT ANALYSIS
As man was being theorized
to have evolved, so critics began to theorize that the biblical writings
evolved. Philosophical reasoning of that era generally followed this line:
- If God is nonexistent,
or at least his intervention in the physical world is unnecessary, then
divine prophecy is either impossible or unlikely.
- If prophecy is impossible
or unlikely, then prophecies in the Bible were most likely added after
- If the prophecies
and books were so appended, then the books must be of multiple authorship,
- If the books are
of multiple authorship, then all of Scripture must be questionable because
most of the books claim, or give the impression, to have been written
by singular authors.
deistic philosopher Thomas Hobbes believed in the great antiquity
of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) and in Moses as its author,
but Hobbes assigned late dates to at least five other Old Testament books.
Jewish philosopher Benedict Spinoza similarly assigned late dates
to many books, but believed the biblical prophet Ezra to have authored the
In 1753, French physician
Jean Astruc anonymously published his thoughts that Moses was indeed
the author of Genesis. However, he also believed that certain repetitions
and discrepancies alleged by earlier critics was answered by the conjecture
that Moses merely compiled pre-existing documents of separate authors. 2
-- NOTABLE 19th CENTURY GERMAN SCHOLARS WEIGH IN
Beginning with his 1780's
work Einleitung, German scholar J. G. Eichhorn eliminated
Moses as either author or compiler of the Torah. Eichhorn instead divided
Genesis and part of Exodus into the work of two anonymous compilers on the
criteria of whether God was addressed as Elohim or Jehovah (Yahweh).
This criteria was modified
by other German scholars including Hermann Hupfeld around 1853. He
noted that passages using Elohim nonetheless appeared to express more than
one particular interest and, therefore, the Elohim passages themselves must
have had more than one author. 3
Of Hupfeld's beliefs, Harrison writes,
He further maintained
that the second scribe was closer in linguistic peculiarities and style
to the Jehovistic author than to the first Elohistic scribe (die Urschrift),
who distinctly manifested priestly tendencies. There were now four principle
sources to be borne in mind in all considerations relating to the compilation
of the Pentateuch or Hexateuch: these consisted of a Jehovistic (J) document,
and Elohistic (E) compilation, a Priestly (P) source ..., and the book
of Deuteronomy (D). 4
This construction was
further modified in 1865 by K. H. Graf, and later Julius Wellhausen,
with an assignment of very late dates to the documents. Wellhausen, as did
many of his contemporaries like Nietzsche, Darwin, and Freud,
sought to explain all things in terms of singular, simple principles. Harrison
describes Wellhausen's methods, which became the foundation for critics
of the Bible until the mid-twentieth century:
Starting from the
Positivist premise that religion was merely an offshoot or product of
human cultural activity, he applied the evolutionary philosophical concepts
of Hegelianism to a study of the faith of Israel. On the view that little
could be known for certain with regard to Hebrew history and religion
prior to the beginning of the monarchy, Wellhausen rejected the idea that
the Torah... was the starting-point for the history of Israel as a community
of faith. 5
As a result of his premise,
Wellhausen concluded that the first five books of the Bible evolved into
their present form only as late as 200 BC. He also asserted that, for centuries,
oral tradition alone had preserved the writings, and that Israelites did
not even exist prior to Moses.
-- ANTI-SEMITIC PREJUDICES RUN AMOK
As late as 1893, supporters
of Wellhausen believed his document hypothesis to be correct based upon
literary style and mostly upon the belief that writing had not been developed
prior to 1000 BC. 7
Although biblical archaeology was still some fifty years from its greatest
discoveries (like dating writing back to 3100 BC), there still existed evidence
in Wellhausen's day clearly proving that writing developed far earlier than
he claimed. Yet as Germany was about to begin the twentieth century, its
scholarship in more fields than just biblical studies was taking on the
character of "intellectual aggression and domination and a self-assured
ideological superiority". 8
With great stubbornness,
Wellhausen and his colleagues continued to reject the mounting evidence
for the antiquity of Jewish writings. This rejection reflected the character
in Germany which, at that time, was increasingly expressing a hatred
of all things Jewish, including the rabbinical traditions in regards
to the scriptures.
stubborn and bitter atmosphere culminated in the German State Church and,
later in the 1930's, the German Christian movement. This movement
paralleled the rise of the Nazi movement and sought to completely
purge the Bible of its Jewish aspects and references including, unbelievably,
even the Jewishness of Jesus.
4.4 Modern scholarship.
Current biblical scholarship
is utilizing all of the methods of dating outlined in the previous
section. Although the modern researcher is still not without
his or her own bias, the rabid anti-Semitism and archaeological infancy
of the previous era are no longer the monumental problems they once were.
In Wellhausen's day,
conservative scholars never accepted his documentary hypothesis, and in
the last half of the twentieth-century, that hypothesis is being shunned
even by many of its liberal proponents. The current return to more conservative
dates and authorships can be attributed to several things according to scholars
Gleason Archer and Oswald T. Allis:
1) The anti-supernatural
premise in the previous age by certain French and German scholars
begged for anti-supernatural conclusions; this premise included bias against
revelation, prophecy, and even belief in God.
2) The Wellhausen
theory was not coherent unless it was inconsistently applied. If any
passages, for instance, exhibited more than one style by the rules of
those who supported the document hypothesis, those passages were written
off as having been contaminated by later scribes. Therefore, in Archer's
words, "...the same body of evidence which is relied upon to prove the
theory is rejected when it conflicts with the theory."
3) Scholars critical
of the Bible have been proven mistaken in assuming that any singular
author could not refer to the Almighty by more than one title, or create
a document with more than one theme.
4) The quick retreat
to attribute any alleged discrepancy to a later author or compiler has
proved unnecessary, thanks to a better understanding of ancient cultures
and practices as being gained through modern archaeology.
5) Current scholars
have additional ancient Hebrew writings with which to compare the
scriptures which earlier scholars did not. Scholarship as late as World
War II did not know of the material that we have today, including the
Dead Sea Scrolls; one of the greatest archaeological finds of all time.
4.5 Dates of origin for each book of the Bible.
As a culmination of
modern scholarship, the link below is a chart listing each book and letter
of the Bible with the approximate date, or date range, for each work's completion
(not beginning). This chart is a compilation of research by the aforementioned
scholars Archer, Harrison, and Bruce. 11
It is intended to represent the general consensus of many eminent scholars'
lifetime studies and, therefore, is not intended to represent any single
scholar's point of view.
HERE FOR CHART<<
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early manuscripts of the Bible exist today?