Perhaps you have wondered about these matters, or maybe you have been asked about them and were not sure how to go about giving an appropriate answer. An acquaintance of mine recently called and asked me both of those questions.
From the outset, let us recognize and acknowledge that nowhere within the text of the Bible do we find God’s direct answer to either one of these inquiries. Despite that, using the information that is given to us in God’s word, we can come up with a general, “ballpark figure” for each of these two matters under discussion.
All Scripture was given by inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16). The spokesmen/prophets of God who wrote His word in human language were guided in their writings by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20,21). In some cases, the human writers of a particular book of the Bible identify themselves; in other cases, the human writer is not named. For a biblical book to be “anonymous,” however, does not alter either the source or inspiration of its message.
Let us consider first how many humans were used to write the New Testament, as that situation is more cut and dried. Well, there were Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There is strong evidence that Luke wrote the book of Acts. After that, from Romans to Philemon, the apostle Paul was the writer. Add the names James, Peter, and Jude to those disciples we already noted. How many writers are we up to? Eight, correct? The book of Hebrews is the one book of the New Testament about which there is a lack of clarity concerning its human writer. If Paul wrote it, that would be a total of eight people who wrote the New Testament. If someone other than Paul or the other writers whom we have mentioned wrote it, that would be nine writers.
What about calculating how many men of God wrote the Old Testament? There is less certainty in our response. The writers of the Old Testament books would include Moses, Joshua, Samuel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Job, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the men who wrote the last fourteen books from Ezekiel to Malachi, with each book bearing the name of its writer. How many Old Testament writers did we just note, either by naming or describing them? I counted twenty-four.
There are several books in which the writer is not named, and we have no way of knowing for sure who wrote them — books such as Judges, 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles. So, if we say about eight men wrote the New Testament, then we add to that number the twenty-four Old Testament writers we noted above, that would be a total of thirty-two. If we further add in a few more unidentified writers, that might make the total number of Bible writers to be about 35-40 men.
From the writing of the first Bible book to the penning of the last, how much time passed? There are clear indications that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible (Genesis to Deuteronomy), sometimes called “the “Pentateuch,” “Torah,” or “the books of Moses.” Those five books were like one unit, so references to Moses as the writer of the law (Numbers 33:2; Joshua 23:6; John 7:22; Mark 12:26) would point to him as the writer of all five of those books.
Solomon became king in about B.C. 971. He began construction on the temple in the fourth year of his reign (1 Kings 6:1). In that same verse, it is written that the year in which he started the temple construction was 480 years after the Israelites left Egypt. Thus, if we put the starting point for the building of the temple as B.C. 967, the time of Israel’s exit from Egypt would have been around B.C. 1447 (figured by adding 480 to 967; some conservative-minded Bible students estimate the date for the exodus from Egypt as about B.C. 1490). We recall that Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years, so the historical date for their entrance into Canaan was approximately B.C. 1407.
It would appear that Moses’ writing of the Pentateuch took place somewhere between B.C. 1447 and B.C. 1407. What about the final portion of God’s word? The book of Revelation was written in the latter half of the first century, with a number of people thinking it was written in the late 60’s, while many more think John wrote Revelation in the mid-90’s A.D.
Let us do our final calculating. From around B.C. 1450 (Genesis) to the latter portion of the first century A.D. (Revelation) was more than 1500 years. Some would suggest it was closer to 1600 years. That is the general time frame in which the Almighty, all-wise God of heaven chose to reveal His will through His inspired spokesmen. Thank God for His word that continues to be a lamp for our feet and a light for our path (Psalm 119:105).
— Roger D. Campbell