I love doing mindless physical labor. I was pressure washing our concrete patio this afternoon, and the slow, back and forth motion of my Briggs & Stratton Rotating Surface Cleaner and the soothing hum of the engine on the pressure washer was enough to cause my mind start wandering. (I was wearing ear plugs, so it was a hum rather than a roar). I started thinking about what my next blog post might be.
Have you ever heard or read online someone say, “Everyone knows the Bible is just a bunch of stories that were written hundreds of years after the supposed events”?
So here’s a surprising answer. “Yes, you’re right. In a sense.”
Yes, the Old Testament….well…parts of it…ok, Genesis…. Yeah! Genesis was, in fact, written hundreds (thousands!) of years after the events in question. So that settles it, right?
But what about the rest of the Bible?
Moses is generally accepted as the author of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and probably Deuteronomy. Those books were (obviously) written during his lifetime, and they describe events that took place during his lifetime (there is some scholarly debate about this, but most conservative scholars and Jewish tradition say Moses was the author of the Pentateuch). Joshua likely finished Exodus and wrote the Book of Joshua. The latter part of Exodus and Joshua contain events that took place during Joshua's lifetime as well. The prophet Samuel is most likely the author of 1 and 2 Samuel (with some help from Gad and Nathan), again, with many of the events featuring Samuel as a main player. Most of the rest of the OT major and minor prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah, etc.) were likely written by their namesakes and describe events that took place during the lifetime of the authors. There are a few other books (Judges, Chronicles, Kings) that were probably compiled after the events in question. But on balance, the books of the OT were written during the lifetime of and describe events featuring the authors.
What about the New Testament?
There is exhaustive evidence that shows very early dating of the New Testament, and nearly all scholars agree that the letters of the NT were written within the lifetimes of the witnesses of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Former liberal scholar William F. Albright wrote, “We can already say emphatically that there is no longer any solid basis for dating any book of the New Testament after A.D. 80” and later wrote, “In my opinion, every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties and the eighties of the first century (very probably sometime between about A.D. 50 and 75)” (Geisler, 529).
Some of the evidence of early dating includes:
- Luke is the author of both the Gospel that bears his name and Acts.
- Scholars believe Acts was likely written by A.D. 62. There is no mention of the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 in any of the New Testament letters. (Since Jesus predicted the destruction of the Temple, it is unlikely any of the letters of the NT were written after A.D. 70, because the authors would have certainly pointed this out. “Hey, you remember those guys Matthew, Mark, and Luke? They wrote that Jesus predicted the Temple was going to be destroyed, and he was right!”)
- Luke opens Acts with a reference to his “former account”, so the Gospel of Luke was written before A.D. 62.
- In 1 Corinthians, Paul mentions eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection who are still alive (1 Cor 15:6).
- The early church fathers of the late first century and early second century (Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement, Tertullian, etc.) made over 19,000 citations of the four gospels alone. That would be hard to do if the NT was written “hundreds of years” later (or even 100 years).
When someone says, “The Bible is just a bunch of stories written hundreds of years after the events in question”, they simply don’t know what they’re talking about.
An excellent question to ask them would be, “How did you come to that conclusion?”
If they say anything other than, “Well, that’s what a read online,” I’ll come pressure wash your patio.
Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999.