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When Was the Bible Written?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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The question of when the Bible was written sparks a great deal of debate because of differing theology. Many believe that it is specifically the word of God, and thus, writing the Bible implies that humans had something to do with it, and might corrupt it. So, for example, much of the Old Testament, especially the first five books, is held by both Jews and Christians to be the divine word of God, scribed by Moses around 1400 BC. According to believers, there is no possibility of error in the scribing of God’s literal word.

What many biblical scholars suggest, however, is that several interpretations seem to exist within the Old Testament. Particularly in Genesis it is confusing to many that there are two, or some count three, creation stories. “Why would God,” some argue, “deliberately obfuscate his own words?”

This has led to many biblical scholars believing that there are actually two to three texts running in the Old Testament’s first five books, or Torah. One is probably the work of Moses, another a superimposition by priests or Rabbis, to spin the Bible toward beliefs held important at the time of writing. In fact, some scholars believe that the current first five books continued to be edited until about 800 BC.

Biblical scholars also take issue with the thought that first five books were written by Moses on his rather short time on Mt. Sinai. How did he manage to get all five books written? This suggests earlier scholarship of some of the books, and then additional information from Moses and his followers, as well as scholarship occurring after Moses. So the timeline of when the Bible was actually written is questionable to even some devout Biblical scholars.

Since the Bible has undergone numerous translations, some Biblical scholars suggest that earlier translations were fraught with error. As well, not all Bibles are the same. The Catholic version, for example, contains several books that are not in the King James version. This has to do with decisions regarding what books were divinely inspired, and what books were not. Thus the Catholic Apocrypha is considered to be not a part of the King James Bible, and to many non-Catholics, represents a divergence in what is believed in Christianity.

Continuing biblical scholarship has rewritten the Bible in many parts. New translations where words are now more clearly understood occur with frequency. They may change the policies of a church or they may not. So in a sense, the Bible continues to be written, as biblical archaeology makes new discoveries about the way in which words were used, at the time certain books were written.

From a more traditional perspective, all New Testament books were considered written between 50 - 95 AD. The Old Testament dates are as follows:

  • Job is considered as written between 2166 - 1876 BC.
  • Genesis, Leviticus, Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are dated at about 1400 BC.
  • Joshua and Judges are dated at sometime between 1400 - 1000 BC.
  • Ruth, Samuel, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon were written between 1050 - 900 BC.
  • Obadiah, Joel, Jonah, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Amos, Nahum, and Zephaniah were written in the 800s - 700s BC.
  • Jeremiah, Daniel, Kings, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, and Lamentations are dated in the 600s BC.
  • Haggai, Zechariah, Esther, Chronicles, Ezra, Malachi, and Nehemiah were written from around 600 - 440 BC.
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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By pastanaga — On Sep 07, 2012
I did a religious studies paper at university a long time ago and one of the things I remember that was amazing was that at one point they managed to find the text of the Old Testament that had been carried forward in isolation by a Jewish group who had been living somewhere like the back lands of Russia and it was compared to the religious texts of modern Jews.

Bear in mind that these two examples of the Torah had been copied and recopied hundreds of times when the original books wore out and had been done by different cultures and generations thousands of kilometers apart.

They found that there was only one word that was different between them and it was a very similar word. That's because there's very strict rules surrounding anyone copying out the Torah. So to some extent you can really trust that the first five books of Genesis are actually what was written thousands of years ago (depending on the translation of course!).

By pleonasm — On Sep 07, 2012

@Mor - The problem is that in order for a religion to survive, it has to be the kind of religion that spreads and in order to spread it has to really promote that it is the one true religion. The bible has survived for thousands of years because people do believe they need to take it seriously.

Now, a lot of people I talk to tend to think that religion is the source of a lot of pain and suffering. I don't believe that is true, to be honest. The bible preaches love and forgiveness and considering how long ago it was written, that's actually pretty amazing.

I think that even if all of humanity was based around science, you would still get the same troubles. People would go to war over whether genetic modifications should be done, or they would judge people who don't install the latest technology as being cruel to their children and worthy of punishment. People will always be people and the bible itself gives lots of examples of that all through time.

By Mor — On Sep 06, 2012
I find bible study to be fascinating, but I also think that people take the whole thing too seriously. There's obviously a lot of poetry and wisdom to be found in the bible but, let's face it, a lot of the instructions were for a nomadic desert people and don't really apply for modern folk who are probably living in a city in a whole different country.

The idea that God would expect us to follow the same instructions for thousands of years with no deviation or further instructions seems a bit strange as well. I mean, people can do what they like, but it's sad when it leads to division and hatred among people for what seems to me like ridiculous reasons.

By BigBloom — On Jul 18, 2010

Many consider the King James Version to be the definitive version of the Bible, with its romanticized archaic sound dating from the time it was written. This version, however, is based on the few texts that were originally available when it was written. Today, with the archaeological work which has been conducted around the areas where the Bible was originally written, we have access to a greater variety of sources and therefore have a more reliable base for translation.

By SilentBlue — On Jul 18, 2010

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and Aramaic, and the New Testament in Greek. Much of the Old Testament speaks of a redemption for mankind which will come in the form of the Messiah. The New Testament was written during the first and second century AD and there are substantial documents dating from that period. The New Testament is likely the most controversial compilation of literature in history.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Language & Humanities contributor,...
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