Age of the Bible
by Michael A. Asher
Of all the books written in the entire history of mankind, there is one book that clearly stands out as the most read, most researched, most quoted, most influential, most controversial, most argued about, and, by far, the best-selling literary work of all time. The main character focused on throughout the work, Jesus Christ, is the central figure of all human history, and it is from his death that we established our calendars. Of course, the book we are speaking about is the Bible; but what do we know about the origin of the book itself?
First of all, the Bible was not written in a single location, by a single individual or even during a specific year. The Bible is a collection of writings from approximately forty separate authors, written on three separate continents, comprised in three separate languages, and was compiled over the span of an estimated 1,500–1,600 years. For one work of various messages, penned by forty different writers over multiple centuries, gathered together not simply as an anthology but to successfully convey a comprehensive theme in harmony with an overall prophetic message, it is nothing short of a miracle itself. The Bible speaks about this in 2 Peter 1:20, 21, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (NIV).
The earliest portion of the Bible was written over 3,500 years ago. The first five books of the Bible are attributed to Moses and are commonly called the Pentateuch (literally meaning “five scrolls”). Moses lived between 1500 and 1300 BC, though he recounts events in the first eleven chapters of the Bible that occurred long before his time (such as the creation of the world and the worldwide flood). Many biblical scholars believe the book of Genesis was the first book to be written down. This would have happened around 1450 BC to 1400 BC. Other scholars believe the first book of the Bible to be written was the book of Job, somewhere around 1500 BC. These earliest accounts were handed down from generation to generation in songs, narratives, and poetry. In those early societies, writing was not available yet with historical accounts being passed down orally while taking great care to reproduce with precise detail and accuracy.
The earliest known writing for mankind began with symbols scratched or pressed on clay tablets. The Egyptians refined this technique and developed an early form of writing known as hieroglyphics. The Bible tells us that Moses was “educated in all the learning of the Egyptians,” so he would have been familiar with the major writing systems of his time. We also read that God gave Moses “two tablets of the covenant law, the tablets of stone inscribed by the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18). All this leads to the conclusion that the earliest writings in the Bible were produced around 1400 BC. The writings of the thirty or so other contributors to the Old Testament span an estimated thousand years! They recount the times and messages from Moses’ successor, Joshua, to the last of the Old Testament prophets, Malachi, who wrote his message around 450 BC.
After these writings, there was a period of nearly 500 years when no additional writings were contributed to the Bible. This is the period between the testaments, when Alexander the Great conquered much of the world and when the Greek language was introduced to the Hebrews. Indeed, they began to use Greek so much that the Hebrew language was replaced by Greek and by another language, Aramaic, which was spoken all over that area of the world at that time.
The New Testament was written during a much shorter period, primarily during the last half of the first century AD. It was the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, that ignited the flame that produced the New Testament, as the new faith swept across the Near East and then westward to Greece and on to Rome. Half of the New Testament books were contributed by one man, the apostle Paul, in the letters he sent to groups of new Christians and to his assistants Timothy and Titus. The Bible closes with a majestic book of visions and dramatic views of the future. It was penned by the aged apostle John around AD 95 and describes the new Heaven and the new earth when the kingdom Jesus established will be taken from earth into Heaven when its King returns. All sin, rebellion, and death will be a thing of the past.
When we reflect on when the Bible was written we can’t help but notice the persistence of God’s guidance through the centuries as this amazing book was compiled. The Bible says that “in the fullness of time” God provided us with the complete revelation of salvation and hope through his Son Jesus Christ. From Genesis to Revelation, the story of the One and only Savior for mankind is revealed. The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16, 17,“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (NIV).The authors who wrote the Bible related what they saw and heard in human language, but their message came directly from God. Without God orchestrating the circumstances to complete the Bible the correct way, it would never have been able to impact every human being in the manner in which it has throughout its existence. Jesus said very directly in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (NIV).
What other book could make such a claim, and actually live up to it?
Mike Asher is a financial controller who has nourished a lifelong love of the Bible by sharing God’s Word through creative writing.