Who Wrote Each Book and Chapter of the Bible?
I had to make several decisions while collecting and structuring the files on this site. What data should I include? How should it be shaped? What do I trust? Recently, I assigned writers at the chapter level instead of by book as before. This post goes over some of the decisions behind that.
Facts can be more ambiguous than they seem when looking at spreadsheets. We don’t know the exact location of some ancient places. It’s tough to correctly align timelines with our calendar system. It’s not always obvious who wrote certain passages. For all of these, I have a decision to make: leave out ambiguous parts, or include our best guesses about the facts. So far I have chosen the latter.
First, the Obvious Ones
Thankfully, most books of the Bible contain some claim of authorship within the text. Most books have only one author, so those didn’t have to change from my previous file. Psalms needed more detail to properly list writers of each chapter. In other books, some argue there may have been multiple writers or compilers where we traditionally only list one. I disagree with those arguments.
The dawn of textual criticism in the 19th century led a segment of scholars to question accepted authorship. For example, the JEDP theory argues that four different writers were involved in the first five books of the Bible. I don’t give any weight to this theory since Jesus affirms Mosaic authorship in several places. I also don’t seriously consider the claim that there are two writers behind the book of Isaiah. Jesus credits Isaiah with both major sections of the book in Matthew 13:14 and Mark 7:6. If Jesus accepts Moses and Isaiah as the writers, let that be the end of it.
Who Wrote Hebrews?
Did Paul or Luke write Hebrews? The general consensus is that it was one of the two, but given such wide disagreement most will simply say the writer is “Unknown.” I list Paul as the writer and I’d like to explain why I think that’s the best guess available.
The argument against Pauline authorship is that it isn’t his style. Every other letter he wrote has his name somewhere inside it, but this one doesn’t. Stylistic differences just don’t line up with the way Paul wrote other epistles. But, Hebrews is aimed at a different audience which may explain why there would be a different style. The main argument towards Paul is that Hebrews 13 references Timothy as the author’s companion.
So, there are reasonable arguments on both sides. What tipped the scales for me? For several hundred years, most Christians accepted Paul as the author. Doubts have always been around, but until the modern surge in new English Bible translations, the printed title was: “The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews.” That’s how the KJV does it, and that translation serves as the main source for MetaV.
Mere tradition won’t be convincing enough for everyone. If that describes you, feel free to download the writers file and replace the author of Hebrews for your own purposes. Personally, I don’t think writing style is a strong enough reason to break from the traditionally dominant view.
Even Harder Ones
Chapter-by-chapter assignments are hard in I and II Samuel. You may think Samuel wrote them, but the prophet dies in 1 Samuel 25. The rest of both books go on without a stutter, leading us to believe others helped write and compile them after Samuel died. Scholars believe Gad and Nathan are the likely candidates for that. So, I assigned all three of them to Chapters 1-25 with Gad and Nathan taking the remainder.
Finally, 50 of the 127 Psalms have no internal attribution, few textual clues, and sparse traditional views about who wrote them. These are the only chapters where I listed the writers as “Anonymous.”