God’s Penmen—Who Were They?
The Bible’s Author is One, Jehovah God. However, he used human agents to write down that Word for us. Just who were these penmen?
JEHOVAH God himself wrote the Ten Commandments on tables of stone. For all the rest of the Bible he used human instruments to record his Word. There were some thirty-five of these penmen, all of them Jews. They came from all walks of life and were separated from each other in time by as much as 1,500 years. Such holy “men spoke from God as they were borne along by holy spirit.”—2 Pet. 1:21; Rom. 3:1, 2.
To know just who these were individually will be strengthening to our faith. True, we do not have direct testimony in each instance, but there is sufficient evidence so that a Christian can rout all skeptics whose attack on the Bible’s authenticity is based on a dispute over who wrote the individual books.
The Pentateuch, or first five books of the Bible, is credited to Moses. This was originally one volume and was divided for the sake of convenience. Although we repeatedly read of Moses’ writing or being commanded to write, the books themselves do not state in so many words that Moses wrote them.—Ex. 34:27; Num. 33:1, 2; Deut. 31:9.
That Moses did indeed write them is not only a logical inference and the voice of Jewish tradition, but also the testimony of the rest of the Bible itself. In it we find some two hundred references to “the book of the law of Moses,” and so forth, in twenty-seven different books.—Josh. 8:31; 2 Ki. 21:8; Ezra 6:18; Acts 15:21.
In the light of the foregoing the greater part of the Pentateuch presents no problem; Moses merely recorded what he saw and heard. But what about all that is recorded in the Pentateuch about creation, man’s fall into sin, the Deluge, the building of the tower of Babel, and suchlike? The latest evidence shows that Moses obtained this information from at least eleven previously penned histories.
Archaeological discoveries tell of writing before the Flood. That Adam knew how to write is therefore a reasonable inference that is clinched by what we read at Genesis 5:1: “This is the book of Adam’s history.” The word here translated “history” is toledóth, and means, among other things, history or story of origin, “historical origins.” It occurs at the conclusion of a document and is known as a colophon, identifying the writer of what went before. This same expression is found at Genesis 2:4, where we read: “This is a history of the heavens and the earth in the time of their being created.” Most likely Adam wrote this one also. In addition to these two histories the Bible tells of nine others that Moses made use of, at Genesis 6:9; 10:1; 11:10, 27; 25:12, 19; 36:1, 9; 37:2.
Archaeology shows that histories or accounts were written with a wedge-shaped stylus on soft clay tablets, which were then baked in the sun. Known as cuneiform writing, it continued to be employed even after the use of ink and papyrus. Clay documents were handed on from generation to generation, and doubtless suchlike were carried through the Flood by Noah and his sons. Moses, being skilled in all the learning of the Egyptians, would have no difficulty in deciphering these and translating them into the Hebrew that he and his people spoke at the time of the Exodus. Not that Moses necessarily copied these word for word; inspiration guided him in editing these even as it guided him in what to record of his own times. These eleven histories reach from creation to Genesis 37:2, to the time of Jacob and his sons. In addition to Adam, their writers or owners were Noah, the sons of Noah, Terah, Ishmael, Isaac, Esau and Jacob. The remainder of the record antedating his life Moses could easily have obtained from his father Amram, who doubtless heard it from the lips of his long-lived grandfather Levi.—Acts 7:22.
JOSHUA THROUGH ESTHER
Coming now to the book of Joshua, circumstantial evidence strongly supports the Jewish tradition that it bears the name of the one who did write it. Joshua 6:25 shows that Rahab was alive at the time the book was being written, so indicating that it was written by someone who lived at the time of the events recorded. Logically, the writer was Joshua. Besides, what is more reasonable than to conclude that just as Jehovah used Moses to record the events of his lifetime (and more), so he would use Moses’ successor to do the same? As Moses’ assistant, Joshua had ample opportunity to learn about recording events.
Who wrote the next book, Judges? Samuel, most likely. This book repeatedly uses the expression, “in those days there was no king in Israel,” implying that there was a king in Israel when it was written. The book also tells that the Jebusites were still in Jerusalem. Since they were driven out early in the reign of King David, it follows that the book must have been written during the reign of King Saul and so in Samuel’s lifetime. Would not Jehovah logically use his chief earthly spokesman at the time to record his Word?—Judg. 1:21; 17:6.
The very same line of reasoning points to Samuel as the writer of the book of Ruth. However, when it comes to the two books of Samuel we are in for a surprise, because it is very apparent that he could not have written the second; in fact, not even all of the first, for it tells us of Samuel’s death at 1 Samuel 25:1. An imposture? Not at all! The two books originally were one volume and it is therefore reasonable to conclude that those two prophets, Nathan and Gad, who as Samuel’s successors most likely completed it, preferred to remain anonymous.—1 Chron. 29:29.
Coming to the two books of Kings, here again Scriptural inferences support Jewish tradition in naming the penman, namely, Jeremiah. Many Hebrew words and expressions appear only in these two books and in Jeremiah’s prophecy, indicating the same writer. Both works manifest appreciation of the Law and burning zeal for Jehovah’s pure worship. The books of Kings tell of conditions in Jerusalem after the captivity had begun, indicating that the writer had not been taken to Babylon, even as Jeremiah was not. The book of Jeremiah and the books of Kings complement each other, events being briefly sketched in one if fully covered in the other. Particularly revealing is the fact that the books of Kings, though featuring the prophets, make no mention of Jeremiah, prominent as his work was. The only logical explanation is that, having told about his work in the book bearing his name, he left out all mention of himself in the books of Kings.
The prominence of the priestly element in 1 and 2 Chronicles points to a priest such as Ezra as its penman, even as do the similarities found in the closing words of 2 Chronicles and the opening words of Ezra. That they were written in Ezra’s day is clear from the many Chaldaic expressions they contain, obviously acquired in Babylon. Not without good reason, therefore, does Jewish tradition point to Ezra as the writer of 1 and 2 Chronicles.
The book of Ezra tells of two groups of exiles returning from Babylon to Jerusalem. Ezra took the lead in the second of these and is the logical one to tell us about it, which he does in the first person in Ezra chapters 7, 8 and 9. Leaving no question as to the writer of the next Bible book, it begins with the expression “The words of Nehemiah.”
What about the book of Esther? Who was so well qualified as her cousin Mordecai to be its penman? He certainly was in position to know all the facts and had Jehovah’s blessing upon him. The Great Synagogue of the Jews and Josephus reached the same conclusion.
JOB THROUGH MALACHI
The book of Job may well be the oldest of all the Bible books, and references to Job at Ezekiel 14:14, 20 and at James 5:11 prove that Job actually lived. As for its penman, all the evidence points to Moses. Job is full of grand and powerful poetry, even as we find at Exodus 15 and Deuteronomy 32. Similar expressions are found in the book of Job and the Pentateuch. Further, it appears that the events of Job happened about the time when Israel was oppressed and so Moses could have learned about Job while in the wilderness of Midian, after having fled from Pharaoh. Also, leading early Christians credited Moses with being the penman of the book of Job.
Contrary to popular impression, David did not write all the psalms. He wrote but seventy-two out of one hundred and fifty. Among other penmen of the psalms were Moses, Solomon, Asaph and the sons of Korah. Thirty-four of the psalms are anonymous. As for the next book, Proverbs, it itself shows that Solomon wrote the first twenty-nine chapters, Agur the thirtieth and King Lemuel the thirty-first. The book of Ecclesiastes (1:1, 12) identifies King Solomon as its penman, even as does the title of the next book, The Song of Solomon.
The penmen of the next five books of the Bible were Isaiah, Jeremiah (two), Ezekiel and Daniel. There has been a veritable flood of literature trying to prove that Isaiah did not write all the book bearing his name. His detractors, however, cannot agree whether the book was written by two, three or even more different “Isaiahs.” But cannot a book have various styles to match varying messages without requiring a number of writers? Surely! For Christians the inspired apostle Paul settles the matter, for he quotes from the supposedly different sections of the book and credits Isaiah with all of them. See Romans, chapters nine and ten.
The prophet Jeremiah is rightfully credited with being the penman of the book of Lamentations. The style of writing, as well as the time of its writing, points unmistakably to him.
The book of Daniel has ever been a choice target for the higher critics. They all seem agreed that it could not have been written until hundreds of years after Daniel lived. However, much of their attack has been dulled by archaeological findings, and for Christians the words of Jesus Christ settle the question, for he quoted from the book and credited it to Daniel.—Matt. 24:15.
Following Daniel come twelve so-called minor prophets, each of which prophecies is identified by the name of its penman. If there is an exception, it might be Malachi, whose name means “Messenger of Jah,” and which may have been a pseudonym used by the prophet Nehemiah so as not to draw attention to himself. All the facts perfectly fit the time of Nehemiah, and yet Malachi is not mentioned by Nehemiah. The zeal of Malachi certainly is comparable to that manifested by Nehemiah.
THE CHRISTIAN GREEK SCRIPTURES
As far as can be ascertained, Moses began Bible writing about 1513 B.C., and the Hebrew Scriptures were completed with the writing of Nehemiah or Malachi about 442 B.C. For almost five centuries there was no inspired writing by any penman of God. Why? Doubtless because events during that time were without prophetic significance. But when the Son of God came to the nation of Israel as their promised Messiah, such was no longer true. Now events of the greatest importance were happening and there were new revelations of God’s will for his servants upon earth. This resulted in the adding of twenty-seven books to the Word of God, the Christian Greek Scriptures, misnamed “New Testament,” even as the Hebrew Scriptures are misnamed “Old Testament.”
Who were the penmen of the books of the Christian Greek Scriptures? Ancient papyrus manuscripts and the testimony of the early Christians invariably help to answer that question. They credit the four Gospels to the ones whose names they bear. Luke’s reference to his own Gospel in the book of Acts, as well as his use of the first person in telling of some of his travels with Paul, proves that he did indeed write both books. While some have insisted that it was not the apostle John that wrote the Gospel by his name, they are proved wrong by an archaeological find of a fragment of his Gospel, written between the years 100 and 150 and which was found down in Egypt. For a fragment to get down to Egypt by that date shows that John’s Gospel must have been written in his lifetime and not some fifty years later as the higher critics claim.
As for the next fourteen letters, written by Paul, all but the last one identify him as the writer. That he also wrote the letter to the Hebrews is made clear from the following facts: Early Christians name Paul as the writer; an early list of all his letters includes Hebrews; the style of writing, the use of logic and the marshaling of Scriptural testimony are all in the best Pauline manner. As for the remaining writings of the Christian Greek Scriptures, these all name their own penmen: James, Peter (two letters), John (three letters and Revelation) and Jude.
Thus we have some thirty-five penmen, beginning with Moses and ending with the apostle John, covering a period of some 1,600 years and being used to pen the sixty-six books of the Bible. The facts and the circumstantial evidence combine to prove that the writers of these books actually lived in the time they claimed to have lived and to have written. Such information is not only a matter of interest but also very strengthening to our faith. Further, it enables us to answer attacks made upon the authenticity of the Word of God, which endures in spite of all the efforts of its enemies to destroy it.—1 Pet. 1:25.