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Who Wrote the Bible?

Who wrote the Bible? The answer to this question depends on what one means by “wrote”. Are you referring to the person who physically wrote the stories? Or are you referring the source of the content? If the latter, do you mean the earthly source or the heavenly source?

So, what might seem like a simple question, “who wrote the Bible?”, has multiple levels to it.

Of course, ultimately, “God is the author of Sacred Scripture” and the books of the Bible “have been written down under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 105). God wanted the story of Salvation History written down so that we might know how He has always loved and cared for his people.

As to who physically wrote the stories down, “God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. “To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 106, italics my emphasis).

It was by God’s hand, through the Holy Spirit, that the human authors wrote the Bible. Yet, they are human and the stories are written from the context of their experience. Thus, we need to appreciate the culture from which they wrote and rely on the Holy Spirit (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 110) to help us understand what the human authors wrote and to apply it in our lives today.

Who are the human authors? Even that question can have two levels to the answer. There are 73 books in the Bible (see “Are All Bibles the Same?” for an explanation why some Bibles have 73 books while others only have 66). Some of the books share authorship, for example thirteen of the New Testament letters are attributed to Paul. On the other hand, the gospels are attributed to four different authors.

Some of the books of the Bible are known to be written by the person whose name they bear. For example the Gospel of Luke was actually written by Luke (Luke also wrote the Acts of the Apostles). However, biblical scholars are uncertain to who physically wrote the other gospels. I emphasize “physically” because we still see the disciple for whom the gospel is named as the one who compiled all it contained and shared it with their communities. They may not have simply written it down because they expected Jesus’ Second Coming to happen immediately so it was not important to write it down. We thank God for inspiring those who did write them down so that we would have them today.

For this, we need to understand the importance placed on oral tradition in those days. We need to remember that most people could not read or write. Stories were handed down by oral tradition. However, recognizing the stories in the Bible as stories of the divine, great emphasis was placed on the accurate oral telling of the stories. We also trust in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when the human authors wrote the stories down for us.

We should also be mindful of the sense in which scripture is written (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 115-119). There can be a literal meaning. There is a spiritual meaning. Many passages contain a moral meaning. We must also be mindful of literary devices such as allegory and simile. Think of the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis. They each tell the story of creation differently in physical terms. They are not meant as scientific explanations. They are to provide meaning in the divine order of creation.

We should use consider how we view the Bible as revealing doctrine, history, and spiritual experiences (For more on this see the section entitled “Models of Revelation” in my article “The Bible”).

Lastly, when we are looking for something in the Bible, we should realize that we won’t always find the specific word we are looking for. For instance, we won’t find the words “Trinity” or “consubstantial” in the Bible but that doesn’t mean they aren’t talked about in the Bible. They are. The Bible just doesn’t use those exact words (I will talk about what the Bible does say about the Trinity and “consubstantial” in my upcoming webinar Praying With the Trinity on June 3, 2020).

Other examples of words that are not explicitly found in the Bible include “sacrament” and “Eucharist.” However, the institution of the Sacraments, most especially the Eucharist, have clear origins in the Bible. You can find the origins in my series, Sacraments: Channels of God’s Grace.

With this I think I will conclude my current series of articles on the Bible. I hope it has helped you to better appreciate what the Bible offers us as God’s Word. If you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out my video presentation, Navigating the Bible as well as the article on the bible I mentioned above.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

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