The Bible: Where Did It Come From?
Who, precisely, wrote the Bible? Is it different from other ancient books?

jay asks: In on of your topics you state that the bible is one of the oldest written documents know to man, but failed to mention the thousands of other written documntations that were destored in claim that they were demonic origin just becuase chistians chaolics mormons and so on couldnt comperhend the differnce between a healing ceromony and a spirt sommoning. why did you make no mention of this, leavig out infomation is the same as lieing. without all the facts you make wrong chioces. exsample salam whitch trials. i believe in truth and lies. to leave out info to convince someone to believe the same way as you is a croupt from of convertion and is a round about from of lieing witch goes againt the 10 comandments.
Question about A General Question: The Bible as literature
Motivation - Curiosity: General interest; Curiosity: Sincere curiosity; Something happened: I heard something said
Bible view - Nothing special - [question 144, Thursday, 02-May-2013]

Jay asks a good question. He wants to know where the Bible comes from and what makes it different than other ancient literature. Maybe it is not different at all. There have been plenty of religious writings over the centuries, even to this day, so does the Bible hold special sway? Is it a book like any other book? Maybe yes. Maybe no.

Theologians call the process of selecting ancient writings for inclusion in holy Scripture canonization. Dictionary.com defines the verb canonize as:

  1. ecclesiastical to place in the canon of saints.
  2. to glorify.
  3. to make canonical; place or include within a canon, especially of scriptural works
  4. to consider or treat as sacrosanct or holy
  5. to sanction or approve authoritatively, especially ecclesiastically.

So Jay wants to know the basis for canonizing (sanctioning or approving) the books of the Old Testament and New Testament over and above all other ancient literature that carries similar credentials and stature. Further, Jay seems convinced that the canonization process has been laced with dark ulterior motives that leave out important information related to healing ceremonies and spirit channeling. While healing ceremonies and spirit channeling appear in the pages of the Bible, they apparently are not the ones Jay is thinking of.

As always at Answers from the Book, we are obliged to report what the Bible says about the subject, and that is the basis for our answer below. In addition to biblical precepts, there are also historical facts and observations that shape the answer.

Three Questions

boy reading Bible
The question 'where did the Bible come from?' leads to the question 'should it be an authority in my life?'

Jay's inquiry really poses three questions:

  • Where does the Bible come from?
  • Why should I believe it?
  • Should it hold authority in my life?

Aside from academic curiosity, the third question matters the most. Theological investigations can stimulate your senses and tickle your emotions, but giving the Bible preeminence in your life ultimately improves your life. This has been the experience of millions of people. For an answer to the third question, 'Why should the Bible hold authority in my life?' see this page on AFTB (click here).

What the Bible Says About Its Origin

Circular logic is faulty logic. You can't prove the Bible is true by citing what it says about itself. Nevertheless, the Bible comments on its own origins in at least two ways, and thus sets the stage for further investigation. First, the Bible claims to be God-breathed:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
- 2 Timothy 3:16ff [KJV]

The Apostle Paul who wrote the words above (2 Timothy 3:16-17) was a Jew's Jew. He was a theological powerhouse who studied with the leading Jewish authorities of his day. Paul claims that all Scripture, that is, the Old Testament which was the only Scripture available to Paul around 50 AD, is directly inspired by God. This means that not only the words themselves are divinely written, but the process of canonization is divinely directed as well.

The Apostle Peter agrees with the Apostle Paul:

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
- 2 Peter 1:20ff [KJV]

We are all indebted to the Jewish rabbis for bringing us the Bible

Second, if God wrote the words, who did the canonizing? That is, who assembled the Bible together from the diverse literature of ancient times? This, according to the Bible, is the primary calling of an extraordinary race of people, the Jews. Winston Churchill notes:

Some people like the Jews, and some do not. But no thoughtful man can deny the fact that they are, beyond any question, the most formidable and the most remarkable race which has appeared in the world.

The Bible says that God ordained the Jewish nation to carefully watch over God's communication with mankind:

What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
- Romans 3:1 [KJV]

The Tanakh and the Talmud

What we know as the Old Testament today is called the Tanakh by the Jews. It is composed of 39 individual books, starting with Genesis and ending with Malachi, and grouped into the Torah (Teaching), Nevi'im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (Writings), hence the abbreviation TaNaKh.

The Tanakh's supporting volume is called the Talmud, a central text of Rabbinic Judaism. The Talmud has two components: the Mishnah, the first written compendium of Judaism's Oral Law, and the Gemara, an elucidation of the Mishnah and related rabbinic writings. The whole Talmud spans 6,200 pages of standard print and contains the opinions of thousands of rabbis on a variety of subjects, including law, ethics, philosophy, customs, history, theology, lore and many other topics.

Camera man
Only eyewitnesses qualify as Bible-writers. Other writers are excluded.

According to the Talmud, the Tanakh was finalized (i.e., canonized) around 450 BC by The Great Assembly, a group of 120 Jewish scribes, sages, and prophets. Of course there is dispute of this idea, and, according to this Wikipedia page, modern scholars believe that the process of canonization of the Tanakh became finalized between 200 BC and 200 AD. The oldest existing Christian document we have today that lists the books of the Old Testament is from Melito, Bishop of Sardis, and is dated about 170 AD. This is much, much older (and therefore carries more authority) than, for instance, the Council of Trent which was an important council of the Roman Catholic church.

Although I am sure there was plenty of debate and deep thinking applied by the rabbis to the canonization process, it does not take a rocket scientist to see a clear pattern in selecting the books. First-hand eyewitness experience with historical biblical events was a primary criteria for entry into the canon. So these writers: Moses, Joshua, Kings of Israel, and Prophets qualify as Bible-writers; others do not qualify. Pre-historic events, such as the Creation, the Flood, and the Jewish Patriarchs are all covered by Moses, who lived sometime between 1600 and 1300 BC. Mosaic authority extends beyond the Tanakh to the Qur'an, and Baha'i scripture, as well as from secular historians, some non-Jewish, such as Artapanus, Eupolemus, Josephus, Philo, Hecataeus of Abdera, Alexander Polyhistor, Manetho, Apion, Chaeremon of Alexandria, Tacitus and Porphyry.

The Apocrypha

The Council of Trent in 1545 AD decreed that certain Jewish non-canonical books should be entered into the Bible. These 14 books are known as the Apocrypha and appear today in Catholic Bibles. Since they were not included in the Tanakh by the rabbis, and since they were not considered Scripture by Jesus, and since they contain some inconsistent teachings, the Apocrypha is rejected as Scripture by Protestants today.

The New Testament

Development of the New Testament canon is not as straight-forward as the Old Testament (the Tanakh). Influence of the Jewish rabbis was not as strong, although Bible students easily recognize the deep connections between the Old and New Testaments, by direct Scriptural reference and by parallels in doctrines and teachings.

The New Testament books themselves were written after Jesus' death and resurrection, between about 50 and 125 AD. According to Wikipedia, Orthodox Christians recognized these writings as authoritative at the Second Council of Trullan of 692 AD, although the canon was nearly universally accepted in the mid 300's. In a letter dated 367, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, gave a list of the books that we know today. As with the Old Testament canon, the Catholic church did not finalize the books until the pressures of the Protestant Reformation invoked the Council of Trent (mentioned above) in 1545.

Although too liberal for our conservative taste, there is a good synopsis of the canonization time on the web page by Columbia University (click here). This page mentions two other documents, the Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, which were instrumental in biblical history.

The New Testament sits squarely on the foundation of the Tanakh, the Jewish Bible. Some non-canonical writings support it, others are excluded by some people.

As with the Old Testament, first-hand eyewitnesses are the biblical writers. Specifically, the Apostles of Jesus wrote most of the books (see this article on the Apostles), plus a few close associates such as Mark and Luke.

Why Should I Believe the Bible is True?

Armed with this overview of its origins, the logical question about the Bible is this: 'Is it true?' This is the subject of an article on this web site, Is the Bible a Pack of Lies? which presents rationale, non-spiritual reasons for believing the Bible. We hope you do. The Bible:

  1. Has influenced human history more than any other book
  2. Has improved the lives of millions of people worldwide
  3. Is unmatched in literary beauty and depth
  4. Contains much verified historical detail
  5. Contains predictive prophecy which has come true
  6. Presents Jesus as either a lunatic or God Himself

by Paul Richards

Mon, 26-Jun-2017 03:45:05 GMT, unknown: 642331 ABr720fI8wOMA
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