The Uncertain Authorship of the Bible

Christians would like us to believe that the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God. Of course, any honest reading of the Bible clearly refutes such an idea. The Bible is filled with numerous contradictions, absurdities, atrocities, and plenty of non-historical “history”. The fact is that we don’t even know who wrote much of the Bible, and that reality is what this article will focus on.

Moses is traditionally considered to be the author of the first five books of the Bible, but that is easily shown to be false. Aside from the fact that Moses is almost certainly mythical, there is no internal claim of Mosaic authorship. Some passages simply could not have been written by Moses, the presence of anachronisms shows that the stories were written long after the events they described, the account of Moses’ death and burial could not have been written by Moses, and internal evidence shows that the Pentateuch had more than one author. For a much fuller treatment of this subject, see

In fact, we know precious little about who actually wrote most of the Old Testament books:

Old Testament Books Traditional Authorship Attribution Conclusion Based on Critical Research Main Reasons Why Result of Critical Research Does no Agree with Tradition
1. Genesis
2. Exodus
3. Leviticus
4. Numbers
5. Deuteronomy
Moses False Among others the presence of the account of Moses’ death and burial in Deuteronomy
6. Joshua Joshua False Among others the presence of the account of Joshua’s death and burial in Deuteronomy
7. Judges
8. Ruth
9. I Samuel
10. II Samuel
Samuel False Outlook, framework and language is post exilic (circa 550BC). The presence of the account of Samuels’ death in I Samuel 25:1 and the narratives of events that occured after the death of Samuel.
11. I Kings
12. II Kings
13. I Chronicles
14. II Chronicles
15. Ezra
16. Nehemiah
17. Esther
18. Job
No firm tradition regarding authorship
19. Psalms David False The presence of post-exilic themes in some of the Psalms proves that David could not have written some of them.
20. Provers
21. Ecclesiastes
22. Song of Solomon
Solomon False Presence of word peculiar to post-exilic Hebrew vocabulary and syntax. Presence of Persian and Greek loan words disproves Solomon’s authorship.
23. Isaiah Isaiah Partially false Chapters 1-39 by Isaiah (cica 700 BCE), but chapter 40-46 is post exilic
24. Jeremiah
25. Lamentations
Jeremiah False of Lamentations The presence of many views in Lamentations that are in contradiction to those in Jeremiah suggests two different authors.
26. Ezekiel Ezekiel True
27. Daniel Daniel False The presence of gross historical errors regarding supposedly contemperanoeus events rules out the authorship of a sixth century BCE prophet.
28. Hosea Hosea True
29. Joel Joel True
30. Amos Amos True
31. Obadiah Obadiah ** Nothing is known about the author and Obadiah was a very common name.
32. Jonah Jonah False Jonah was supposed to have lived in the eighth century BCE but the presence of gross historical errors and the language points to the fourth century BCE as the date of composition.
33. Micah Micah True
34. Nahum Nahum ** Nothing is known about the author.
35. Habakkuk Habakkuk True
36. Zephaniah Zephaniah True
37. Haggai Haggai True
38. Zechariah Zechariah Partially true Chapters 1 to 8 generally accepted to have been written by Zechariah but differences in style from chapters 9 through 14 and presence of reference to Greece points to a later period.
39. Malachi Malachi True

The New Testament also suffers from uncertain authorship. We know that the Gospels were not written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. We know that several books traditionally believed to have been written by Paul were in fact not authored by him. They are later forgeries. The books of Peter were not actually written by him. They too are later forgeries.

New Testament Books Traditional Authorship Attribution Conclusion Based on Critical Research Main Reasons Why Result of Critical Research Does no Agree with Tradition
1. Matthew Matthew False The obvious dependence of this gospel on the gospel of Mark (who is a non eye-witness)means that it could not have been written by Matthew, who would have been an eyewitness to most of the events.
2. Mark Mark False The John Mark referred to in Acts 12:12 could not have made the geographical mistakes committed by the gospel (Mark 7:31, 5:1-13)
3. Luke Luke False The internal evidence points towards a late date of composition, circa 100 CE. Certain historical errors in Luke-Acts made it unlikely that Luke was the author.
4. John John the Son of Zebedee False Presence of Greek philosophy, mysticism and dogma that could not reasonable be expected of an unschooled Galilean peasant (Acts 4:13).
5. Acts of the Apostles Luke False Same reason as Luke.
6. Romans
7. I Corinthians
8. II Corinthians
9. Galatians
Paul True
10. Ephesians Paul False Style is sluggish, unlike Paul’s violatile one.
11. Philippians Paul True
12. Colossians Paul Doubtful Difference in style and vocabulary
13. I Thessalonians Paul True
14. II Thessalonians Paul Doubtful Difference in style and vocabulary
15. I Timothy
16. II Timothy
17. Titus
Paul False The existence of a highly organized church (I Tim 3:15), with definite creeds (I Tim 1:13, 4:6), and written gospels (I Timothy 3:16) seem presupposed in these three epistles.
18. Philemon Paul True
19. Hebrew Paul False No internal evidence suggest Pauline authorship.
20. James James the brother of Jesus False The cultured language of the epistle could not have been derived from a Palestinian with a humble background. It is unlikely that a Jew, whose mother tongue was Aramaic, could write the polished literary Greek of the epistle.
21. I Peter
22. II Peter
Peter False Author exhibits an extensive knowledge of Greek and Greek philosophical ideas. Highly improbable for an uneducated Galilean peasant. (Acts 4:13)
23. I John
24. II John
25. III John
John the son of Zebedee False Author introduces himself in II John and III John as John the Elder, a different person from John the son of Zebedee.
26. Jude Jude the brother of Jesus False Based on literary style a mid-second century document.
27. Revelation John the son of Zebedee False No internal claim that the author is John son of Zebedee. John was a very common Hebrew name.

Relevant links:

On the Authorship of the Old Testament

On the Authorship of the New Testament

On the Authorship of the Gospels

The Tragedy of Religion

jeffhagueThis is me in the Hague in 1984. I was enjoying a trip through Europe after graduating high school. I was a typical teenage party animal at the time. I drank heavily, I smoked cigarettes heavily, and I smoked pot every chance I got. I remember getting so stoned in Amsterdam one time I almost passed out. I was barely conscious as I went from the bar where I was partying to a bookstore down the street to browse. Those were fun times, and I had an absolute blast in Europe. The tragic thing is, though, just nine or ten months after this photo was taken — in March of 1985 — I caught the religion mind virus bad, and it took me 15 years to get free. I went from being a typical teenage party animal to being a young religious fanatic in record time. The transformation didn’t take long, and in retrospect it was not a good change. Sure, I temporarily dropped the alcohol and drug use, but in exchange I bought into the religious bullshit hook, line, and sinker. I know my friend Mike meant well when he “witnessed” to me about Jesus, but I have to say now that getting so heavily involved in religion for such a long time is one of the worst things that ever happened to me. I lost 15 years of my life that could have been spent much more productively. I missed out on the opportunity to grow out of my “party animal” days normally, without religion. I lost some of the best years of my young life to religion, and in retrospect it’s hard to fathom the change I went through from having so much fun in Europe to being a religious fanatic in such a short amount of time. I was not just your average religious fanatic either. I annoyed everyone I came into contact with about Jesus. I wrote evangelistic letters to my family. I handed out those ridiculous Chick tracts to convenience store clerks and toll booth operators. I told my loving mother repeatedly that she was going to hell if she didn’t get saved. We fought over religion many times, and I couldn’t be reasoned with. I had religion really, really bad. I hate to admit it now, but I sent money to the 700 Club and TBN back in those days. What a fool I was… I once pledged $1000 to the 700 Club during one of their telethons back in the late 1980s, but they never got the money. I didn’t have it to give. I just wanted to hear my name called out on TV… lol…

It took 15 years, but now I am FREE and I have been that way since early 2000, with the exception of a few short-lived bipolar-induced “re-conversion” experiences. The last one of those happened last year and I was rapidly becoming a fanatic fundie again. It was a scary time, but I came back to my senses as I always do, and I am still FREE. I plan on staying that way for the rest of my life. I had some good times while I was religious. It wasn’t all bad. I made some good friends and had some fun times at church. But overall, religion had a profoundly negative effect on my life. It made my suffering from the effects of bipolar disorder much worse than it had to be. I was prayed for many times back before I was diagnosed and I hit the floor many times for Jesus, but I was never healed, of course.

I know now that the Bible is mostly ancient religious mythology with some known bad “history” and some atrocities thrown in for good measure. It hardly qualifies as the “word” of any god worth worshiping. But I bought into it for a long time. If I had read the Old Testament much back in those days, I might have broken free a lot sooner. But, of course, I back then I stuck with the “church-approved” “good” parts of the Old Testament. I never knew about the atrocities depicted within its pages until after I broke free. If I had known back then that the god I was worshiping was guilty of ordering or directly committing mass murder and genocide on multiple occasions, I would have broken free a lot sooner, I think. If it had dawned on me when I read Acts 5 that killing people simply for lying was a harsh and totally inappropriate punishment, I might have broken free a lot sooner. If I had considered that if the book of Revelation were to come true today, BILLIONS of non-Christian people would die horrible deaths, I might have broken free sooner. But… I was always reading the Bible back then with religious blinders on. I had my Jesus Goggles firmly in place. On the rare occasion that I read the Bible now, I see how ridiculous blind belief in it as a literally true divinely-inspired book really is. I can’t believe now that I ever believed it to be a book sent straight from the throne of God. I know now that several books in the New Testament (Ephesians, Collosians, 2 Thessalonians, Titus, the letters to Timothy) are known forgeries. And we have no idea who wrote the Gospels (it wasn’t Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John).

I bought into a pack of ancient myths and lies for 15 years of my life, and it’s 15 years that I will never get back. I deeply regret my religious years (I was young and foolish) and I wish that things could have been different. I would love to have lived a normal life free of religion. But that wasn’t to be… but I am FREE now, and I plan on staying that way for the rest of my life. Glory!