What is the origin of the Bible? That is a question most of us have asked at some point along our Christian journey. But Bible history can be complicated and overwhelming to follow. And because of the complex nature of how we got the Christian Bible, there is often not a simple, clear-cut answer to the Bible’s beginning. I would love to be able to answer questions about the Bible’s history by saying “Oh yes, this person wrote the Bible, it was written this year, and it was compiled by these saints and scholars.”
But, it is not that simple.
The truth is, all 66 books of the Bible were written and compiled over centuries by various different people. Although God ultimately inspired the Bible, He used several human hands to bring it to life.
As a Christian mom, I want to learn as much as possible about the scriptures so that I have a solid foundation to teach my kids. I want my kids to truly believe in God. And being able to their questions as they grow up is so important. Having some knowledge about Bible history can help provide our kids with the information they need to solidify their faith.
However, the biggest challenge I run into is that a lot of articles about Bible history are very lengthy and complex. I mean, that’s the reality of our Chrisitan history. However, as a busy mama, I sometimes just need some quick answers. I want to be able to confidently explain Bible history to my kids, and nonbelievers in my life, with simplicity.
But to be honest, sometimes studying the deep, involved history of how we got the Christian Bible can leave me scratching my head.
There are a lot of details that branch off when you start diving into the history of the Bible. But sometimes we just want the core facts.
There is an article I found that does a pretty good job giving a brief history of the Bible. It’s called “How it Came to Be: A Brief History of the Bible“. And when it says “brief history”, it means it. I love how simple it is. There is a time for deep, in-depth studying, and there is a time when we just need the basics.
So in this post, the goal was to seek out the basics. The quick information that we can easily quote and share without having to go into a long-drawn-out explanation.
This is a quick breakdown of the core information about the Bible and its history for us moms who, although we love learning the deeper details, want to be able to share bite-size pieces of information with our kids and unbelieving friends and family.
If you want further details on a particular topic, you can always dive deeper yourself! But for now, I hope this short list of information is useful.
What is the Origin of the Bible?
What is the Bible? Well, that’s a pretty big question. The Bible’s history is rich, complex, and lengthy. A lot of the questions we might ask like “who wrote the Bible”, “what is the origin of the Bible”, or “why were certain books left out of the Bible”, can’t always be answered in one pretty, little sentence wrapped in a bow. However, through the wonderful work of many Biblical scholars over the years, there are some things we can conclude with some level of certainty. So, let’s dive into some of these questions!
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,2 Timothy 3:16
What is the Bible? The Holy Bible is the historical text we Christians believe to be God-inspired and authoritative. It has about 40 different authors and was written over a span of 1,600 to 2,000 years.
How many books are in the Bible? The Bible contains 66 books made up of the Old and New Testaments. The Catholic version has 7 more Old Testament books because of their acceptance of some of the Apocrypha (see below). And the Hebrew Bible includes only the Old Testament because Judaism does not acknowledge the New Testament as the inspired word of God; Judaism does not believe that Jesus was the Messiah.
What is the Apocrypha? The Apocrypha are 15 books that have mostly been excluded from the standard, Western Bible because of questionable authority and authenticity. Not all Christians accept these books as holy, God-breathed books to be included in the Word of God. Catholics, however, do accept 7 of these books as scripture.
Why was the Apocrypha left out of the Christian Bible? Historically, Christians have rejected these books as not being in line with the rest of scripture. These books did not meet certain criteria. (More on the criteria later).
What is the origin of the Bible? Because the Bible is 66 different books written by several different authors, it does not have a “origin date”. Each book or section of the bible has its own origin, so to speak.
What is the Old Testament? The Old Testament is the first 39 books of the Bible. The books were written prior to the birth of Jesus.
When was the Old Testament Written? These 39 books were written at different times somewhere between 1200 BC and 165 BC.
When was the New Testament Written? The 27 New Testament books were written in the first century after Christ’s death.
So, how old is the Bible? The oldest Biblical text that we’ve discovered is about 2,700 years old. This discovery is called the Silver Scrolls, which contained only some of the Old Testament, dated somewhere between 700 BC and 650 BC. The more famous Dead Sea Scrolls, which contains most of the Old Testament, was discovered in 1611 and dates somewhere between 408 BC and 300 AD.
Is there an original Bible? Bible stories were originally passed down orally. Most scholars accept that the book of Genesis was the first book written, dated around 1450 BC to 1400 BC.
Related: 5 Reasons You Can Trust the Bible
How was the Bible Compiled?
The compilation of the Bible is not super straightforward. Surprised? lol. There have just been too many years and people involved in the process of writing, editing, scribing and assembling the Word of God to perfectly pin-point certain dates or individuals in every case. However, Biblical scholars have done their best! So let’s take a look!
When was the Bible compiled and by who? Around 400 AD, St. Jerome assembled the first widespread edition of the Bible, which was translated into Latin. He was the first to compile everything into a single volume.
Who selected the 66 books to be included in the Bible? Many argue that church councils gathered over the centuries to decide which books would be included. But in reality, there is no evidence that the fully assembled Bible was established by one council at one particular point in time. What we do know is that centuries of debate and scrutiny by Christian churches and their church fathers led to the eventual recognition of what we call the Bible.
How were the 66 books selected to be included in the Bible? By the time Jesus and His disciples arrived, the Old Testament had already been established and accepted as scripture, which is what Jesus often quotes from. Certain criteria were then developed over the centuries by churches that would determine which New Testament letters were authentic and worthy to include in the Bible.
What criteria determined whether something would make it into the Bible? New Testament documents had to generally pass the following criteria: 1) Written by one of the disciples, a witness of Jesus, or someone who interviewed witnesses, 2) written within the first decades of Jesus’ life, so anything written much longer after that wasn’t included, and 3) must be consistent with the Old Testament and not contradictory to what was already accepted as Scripture.
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Who Wrote the Bible?
Christians know that the Bible is not one book written and compiled by one human person. And really, I think most people know that. However, many skeptics will speak about the Bible as if it’s one book written by one person. Instead of acknowledging the fact that the Bible holds many “books” within its pages, it’s easy to group it all together and say “we don’t know who wrote that book, so we can’t trust it”. Well, that’s just irrational.
True, the authors of the Bible do not always identify themselves in every book in the Bible. However, that doesn’t automatically discredit its pages as untrustworthy. And let’s not forget to mention the work of the Holy Spirit that guided these authors in their writing.
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.2 Peter 1:21
Who wrote the Old Testament? For years, scholars believed Moses to be the author of the first 5 books of the Old Testament, although this has been challenged. But the Old Testament books were written over the centuries by many different prophets and leaders. (See list of authors of the Bible below)
Who wrote the New Testament? Jesus’ disciples and other individuals of the time wrote historical records of Jesus’ life and ministry. And church leaders wanted to help guide the newly established churches, so they wrote and circulated letters throughout congregations in various regions. We call these letters the Epistles. (See a list of authors of the Bible below)
How was the Bible written? Essentially, a variety of authors (about 40) from different places and times wrote the books of the Bible. The earliest writings were put on scrolls made from papyrus or parchment. And the many books of the Bible had to be copied over and over and over by scribes for other people to read them.
A list of authors of the Bible: In some cases, we cannot know with absolute certainty who wrote a particular book. But if you google search, you will find many lists detailing who the 40-ish authors of the Bible are. Here is such an example: Authors of the Bible List. However, just keep in mind that although these lists can be helpful, there is still a lot of debate surrounding who wrote some of the books. That’s one of the reasons I really like The Apologetics Study Bible, which is the Bible that I am currently reading. At the start of each book, there is a section titled “Author” which details who scholars and Biblical students generally agree the author is, why they believe this, and what challenges exist that might disprove that person to be the author. You can read my review of The Apologetics Study Bible here.
Bible history is a bit complicated. So, as we’ve seen, it can be challenging to answer the question of “what is the origin of the Bible?”. There are thousands of years behind the evolution of the Bible. It can be very tricky to answer some of the questions in this post because there just isn’t always a straightforward answer. However, through years of research by well-educated scholars, ancient discoveries & evidence, and discernment from the Holy Spirit, we can know what the truth is through careful analysis and relying on God to lead us.
I hope this list of questions and answers was simplified enough for you as you continue to learn more about the Bible and the God we call Father.
External Sources Used in Writing this post:
- Why Were Some Books Excluded From the Bible?
- The Bible
- How Old Is The Bible?
- History of the Bible: Who Wrote it and When?
- The “Original” Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls
- How Old is the Bible?
- History of the Bible (Timeline)
- What is the Hebrew Bible?
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