Authorship and Authenticity of the Bible
How do we know who wrote the books of the bible, and whether or not they are authentic? The answer depends upon the value we can ascertain regarding the authors, and the continuity and integrity of the text.
The lack of continuity and integrity of the text I have covered extensively in other essays-- there is an incredibly high number of contradictions, errors and irrationality found in the bible. In this essay, however, we will just look at the claims of biblical authorship. This is a critical issue.
The bible is packed cover to cover with strange and unnatural tales-- things that do not resonate with our personal experience and our sense of logic. Everyone can admit to this fact, even the staunchest Christian. If we were to read in the New York Times about a man walking on water, parting rivers, and raising the dead back to life, we would regard the claims skeptically-- extremely skeptically, hopefully.
But why shouldn't the bible be subjected to the exact same kind of skepticism? What reason can you give for automatically assuming the truth of these tales? Because they are the "Word of God?" Well, how can we know they are, if not by skeptically examining the quality of the texts?
Theologians insist that we hold the bible to different standards than other books, and that it must not be put to the same tests. Why? Because doing so will help the bible? It cannot be that. Because doing so would hurt the bible? I can think of no other answer.
Are the stories in the bible true or false? If they are true, we should accept them; if they are false, we must reject them. Therefore, the real question emerges: how do we know whether or not these books are true? How do we know where they come from? Christians claim that these words were revealed from God Himself. Can we find out by rationally looking at the text itself?
If you hear an unusual statement from someone you meet on the street, your inclination to accept or reject what you hear largely depends upon the quality of the person from whom you heard it. If he is a reputable person, you will be disposed to accept it; if he isn't (or if you are unable to discover the source of what you've heard) you will be more inclined to doubt it. Furthermore, the more out-of-the-ordinary the statement is, the more judgmental you will be regarding the quality of the person who told it to you.
Christians demand the acceptance of the bible as infallible truth. What evidence do they offer us to justify this demand? Where did they obtain these books? When were they written? Who wrote them? What is the reputation of the authors for intelligence and reliability? Were they wise and sober, or were they ignorant and foolish? If they were intelligent, is it possible they wrote these books in order to gain power, control and wealth? If they were honest men, isn't it possible that they could have been mistaken?
Theologians claim they know who wrote nearly all the books of the Bible. With one or two exceptions, they have assigned authors to all the books of the Old Testament, and to the exceptions they have assigned "probable" authors. They also claim that the Old Testament texts are very old-- that they were written as long ago as 3,500 years. They insist that the books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark Luke and John) were all written in the first century CE, and that they were written by the men whose names they bear.
The names and dates given for the books of the bible are paraded around as established facts. And yet the vast majority of them are mere assumptions, without even a shadow of proof upon which to base them. Many of names and dates are self-evidently false-- that means they are contradicted by the contents of the books themselves. The authorship of at least fifty books of the sixty-six books of the Protestant Bible (thirty in the Old Testament and twenty in the New) is unknown.
The truth is that the books of the bible are not as old as claimed. The books of the Old Testament, instead of having been written from 1520 to 420 BCE, were probably written from 1000 to 100 BCE The books of the New Testament, instead of having all been written in the first century, were, many of them, not written until the second century. On this subject, Professor George T. Ladd of Yale College writes: "The authorship and date of most of the Old Testament writings, and of some of the New Testament, will never be known with certainty." (What Is the Bible? p. 294)
The following essays will be devoted to an examination of the question of the authenticity of the books of the Bible. Through a compilation of scholarly arguments ranging from Modern, through the nineteenth-century "Golden Age of Freethought", back to the eighteenth-century "Age of the Enlightenment", I will attempt to show that the greater portion of the books of the bible, including the most important ones, are not authentic-- that it is not possible that they could have been written by the authors claimed, nor at the time claimed. You shall see why they are anonymous documents, written or compiled at a later age than that in which their alleged authors are supposed to have lived.
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New Testament (in progress)