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Who Wrote the Bible?

July 17, 2020 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

Scholars have investigated the question for centuries, but many questions persist.

Over centuries, billions of people have read the . “But they’re already asking the question—was it possible or not possible for [Moses] to have written them?”

By the time the Enlightenment began in the 17th century, most religious scholars were more seriously questioning the idea of Moses’ authorship, as well as the idea that the Bible could possibly have been the work of any single author. Those first five books were filled with contradictory, repetitive material, and often seemed to tell different versions of the Israelites’ story even within a single section of text.

As Baden explains, the “classic example” of this confusion is the story of Noah and the flood (Genesis 6:9). “You read along and you say, I don’t know how many animals Noah took on the ark with him,” he says. “In this sentence it says two of every animal. In this sentence, he takes two of some animals and 14 of any animals.” Similarly, the text records the length of the flood as 40 days in one place, and 150 days in another.

READ MORE: Discovery Shows Early Christians Didn’t Always Take the Bible Literally

The Old Testament: Various Schools of Authors

To explain the Bible’s contradictions, repetitions and general idiosyncrasies, most scholars today agree that the stories and laws it contains were communicated orally, through prose and poetry, over centuries. Starting around the 7th century B.C., different groups, or schools, of authors wrote them down at different times, before they were at some point (probably during the first century B.C.) combined into the single, multi-layered work we know today.

Of the three major blocks of source material that scholars agree comprise the Bible’s first five books, the first was believed to have been written by a group of priests, or priestly authors, whose work scholars designate as “P.” A second block of source material is known as “D”—for Deuteronomist, meaning the author(s) of the vast majority of the book of Deuteronomy. “The two of them are not really related to each other in any significant way,” Baden explains, “except that they’re both giving laws and telling a story of Israel’s early history.”

According to some scholars, including Baden, the third major block of source material in the Torah can be divided into two different, equally coherent schools, named for the word …read more