The Uncertain Authorship of the Bible

Category 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 http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/authormoses.html.

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
http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/authorrest.html

On the Authorship of the New Testament
http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/authornt.html

On the Authorship of the Gospels
http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/jesus.html#sources