Who wrote the books of the Bible and when?

      The first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Pentateuch, or Torah in Hebrew ("law" or "teaching"), are attributed to Moses and are generally believed to have been written as early as 1450 B.C. Although critical scholars may argue that these books might have been the collaborative effort of later writers, since Moses was judge over all the people of Israel and was the chief informant of God's laws and decrees (Exodus 18:13-23), it's not surprising that he undertook to write them. Moses was also the chief person whom God spoke all these laws and decrees to on Mount Sinai (Exodus 21-30). The first record of the commandments of Israel were written by God on stone (Exodus 31:18 and 34:1), and from then on Moses wrote the laws in a book for future generations (Deuteronomy 31:24-26). The original writings have never been recovered and the earliest Hebrew copies, or fragments, are dated around 100 B.C., about 400 years after the Old Testament in its present Hebrew form was supposedly compiled. The oldest complete copy is Codex Babylonicus Petropalitanus, dated about 1008 A.D.

      Genesis (Hebrew Bereshit), which means origin or beginning, is believed to have been written by Moses some time between 1450 and 1410 B.C. It contains the creation of the world, the history of mankind, and the origin of God's chosen people, the Isrealites. The Book of Genesis includes accounts of the following events:

Creation of the world
The fall of Adam and Eve and the beginning of sin and death
Cain, Abel, and Seth
Tower of Babel and the diversion of races
Noah and the great flood
Lot and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
The lives of Abraham, Isaac, Esau, Jacob, and Joseph
The twelve tribes of Israel from the twelve sons of Jacob
Life and death of Joseph in Egypt

        In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning -- the first day. (Genesis 1:1-5)

      Exodus (Hebrew Yetziat Mitzraim, "Departure from Egypt"), the emigration of God's chosen people to the Promised Land, is believed to have been written by Moses some time between 1450 and 1410 B.C. It is about the emergence of Israel as a nation and the establishment of God's commandments for their lives. Its three major subjects include the exodus, wandering in the desert, and the building of the Tabernacle and the Tent of Meeting. The Book of Exodus includes accounts of the following events:

Oppression of the Israelites in Egypt
The life and calling of Moses and Aaron
Plea of Moses to let the Israelites go and the plagues upon Egypt
Origin of Passover and other festivals
Parting of the Red Sea
Provision of manna from heaven
Ten Commandments and the Laws of Moses
Building of the Tabernacle and the ark of the covenant
Establishment of burnt offerings
Worship of the golden calf
Guidance from the Lord in the cloud and the pillar of fire along the way to the Promised Land

        Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out -- until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel during all their travels. (Exodus 40:34-38)

      Leviticus (Hebrew Torat Kohanim, "The Law of the Priests"), a handbook for the Levitical priests, is believed to have been written by Moses some time between 1450 and 1410 B.C. It contains detailed outlines for sacrifies, festivals, and ceremonies which were to be conducted by the priests from the family of Levi. The Book of Leviticus includes: specifications on the different offerings; ordination of priests; practical regulations; various laws; feasts and festivals; rewards and punishments; tithes.

        The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting. He said, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When any of you brings an offering to the Lord, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock. If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to offer a male without defect. He must present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord. He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. He is to slaughter the young bull before the Lord, and then Aaron's sons the priests shall bring the blood and sprinkle it against the altar on all sides at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.' " (Leviticus 1:1-5)

      Numbers, the numbering of the men of Israel for battle, is believed to have been written by Moses some time between 1450 and 1410 B.C. It is the account of Israel's lack of faith in God which results in a period of forty years of wandering in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land of Canaan (the Hebrew title is Bamidbar, "In the Wilderness"). The Book of Numbers includes accounts of the following events:

The first and second census of Israelite men for battle
Arrangement of tribal camps
Quail from the Lord
Opposition to Moses
Scouts into Canaan and refusal to enter Canaan
Water from the rock
Balaam's donkey
Additional offerings and priestly duties
War with other tribes
Stages of Israel's journey
Inheritance of Zelophehad's daughters
The established boundaries of Canaan

        And they said to each other, "We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt." Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes and said to the entire Israelite assembly, "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them." (Numbers 14:4-9)

      Deuteronomy (Hebrew Mishneh Torah, "Repetion of the Law"), the reiteration of God's laws before entering the Promised Land for the second attempt, is believed to have been written by Moses some time between 1450 and 1410 B.C. Although it accounts for the death of Moses at the end, many believe the obituary was added by Joshua. It is a reminder of the laws and commandments that the Lord gave the Israelites through Moses. The Book of Deuteronomy includes accounts of the following events:

Wanderings in the desert
Wars against surrounding tribes
Moses forbidden to enter the Promised Land
Reiteration of God's laws and commandments
Moses writes the Book of the Law
Joshua succeeds Moses
Death of Moses

        Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, "Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (Deuteronomy 31:7-8)

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