A close-up photograph of an ancient, weathered quill pen resting on an open page of the Bible, symbolizing the countless individuals who contributed to its creation.

How Many People Wrote The Bible?

The Bible is one of the most influential books in human history, shaping cultures and faiths for over 2000 years. But with 66 books written over 1500+ years, many wonder – how many people actually wrote the Bible?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: over 40 authors contributed to writing the various books that today make up the Bible.

In this comprehensive guide, we will analyze the authorship of both the Old and New Testaments, examining the historical and textual evidence behind tradition authorship claims. We’ll also look at possible contributors whose names have been lost to history before summarizing with a final count.

Authorship of the Old Testament

Moses as the Author of the Pentateuch

The first five books of the Bible, known as the Pentateuch or the Torah, are commonly attributed to Moses. According to tradition, Moses wrote these books around the 13th-14th century BC. However, modern scholars debate if Moses actually wrote all or parts of the Pentateuch.

There are indications that the Five Books of Moses are a compilation of different source documents.

For example, in the Book of Genesis, there are two different creation stories and two distinct narratives for the great Flood. This suggests multiple authors rather than a single one. Nevertheless, Moses is still regarded as the most likely redactor who compiled and edited these sources into a single body of text known today as the “Five Books of Moses.”

The Prophets and Histories

The Prophetic books and Historical books found in the Old Testament are believed to be written by the prophets and figures whose names they bear. This includes Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve minor prophets such as Hosea, Joel, Amos, etc.

However, there is still debate if a single prophet wrote an entire book or if the books are compilations of writings from different periods. For instance, while Isaiah is named as the author of the Book of Isaiah, some scholars argue there were two or three major authors due to changes in style and historical references within the text.

Wisdom Literature and the Psalms

The books of wisdom literature and psalms in the Old Testament – such as Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs – have the names of authors to whom they are traditionally ascribed. King David is named as author of many psalms, King Solomon is named as author of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs.

However, the individual authors or contributors can be difficult to verify. Some scholars think various psalms were composed over a period of several centuries by temple poets and musicians. Similarly, there are theories different authors composed Proverbs over several centuries, though King Solomon’s influence looms large.

New Testament Authorship

The Gospels and Acts

The four canonical gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—were all written anonymously, with authorship being attributed later in church history. While Matthew and John were likely written by two of Jesus’ twelve apostles, most scholars believe Mark and Luke were not apostles themselves but rather companions of apostles.

Mark has traditionally been attributed to John Mark, companion of the apostle Peter, while Luke-Acts has traditionally been attributed to Luke the physician, companion of the apostle Paul. There is debate about whether these attributions are accurate, but there is wide agreement that the gospels were written sometime between AD 65-95 based on internal evidence and historical context.

Pauline Epistles

Thirteen New Testament books bear the name of the apostle Paul, making up the Pauline epistles. These include Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1&2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.

Most scholars agree that 7 of these epistles (Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon) were likely written by Paul himself as the style and content align closely with the book of Acts.

The other 6 are debated as having been written later by Pauline followers, though still attributed to Paul. The Pauline epistles are dated from around AD 50-60 for the undisputed letters up through AD 80-90 for the disputed letters.

General Epistles

The General Epistles, also called the Catholic Epistles, include Hebrews, James, 1&2 Peter, 1-3 John, and Jude. Authorship is more debated for these books than the gospels and Pauline epistles. The traditional authors are as follows: Hebrews – Paul or unknown; James – James the brother of Jesus; 1 Peter – Apostle Peter; 2 Peter – Apostle Peter; 1-3 John – John the Apostle; Jude – Jude the brother of Jesus.

There is debate about whether each book was written by these traditional authors or later followers writing in their name. These epistles are generally dated between AD 60-100.

The Book of Revelation

The book of Revelation was written by a man named John, traditionally identified as the apostle John. Some scholars believe it was written by another John, like John the elder. The style differences between Revelation and the gospel/epistles of John lend support to the idea they were penned by different authors.

Revelation is filled with apocalyptic symbolism and was likely written around AD 95-96 during the reign of Roman emperor Domitian, who persecuted Christians. This makes Revelation one of the last New Testament books to be written.

Lost Authors and Contributors

When we think about the authorship of the Bible, we often imagine a single writer penning each book. However, the truth is that the Bible had many contributors across centuries of time. In fact, most books of the Bible do not even mention an author in the text itself.

This opens up intriguing questions – who were the lost authors and scribes that worked on the biblical texts? How much of the authorship has been lost to time? Let’s explore what we know about the unnamed writers who helped shape the Judeo-Christian scriptures.

The Anonymous Scribes

The majority of books in the Old Testament do not mention an author. Scholars believe these texts had anonymous authors and then were edited by later scribes over centuries. For example, the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) are traditionally attributed to Moses.

However, textual analysis reveals that they were written by multiple authors over an extended period of time.

Likewise, scholars debate about the authorship of books like Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. Some books name authors like David, Solomon, or the prophet Isaiah. But even then, later editors likely added materials to these texts.

So while we have some names preserved, much of the authorship has been lost over time.

Oral Tradition

Another key aspect to consider is that some Bible texts originated from oral stories and tradition. Accounts would have been passed down before eventually being put into writing. For instance, some psalms are dedicated to (and possibly authored by) David and Solomon.

But the oral tradition could go back even further. Storytellers and bards may have shared these texts for generations before scribes wrote them down.

The same holds true for narratives like Genesis, filled with stories passed down through oral tradition. So even where we have a named author, the roots of the texts can usually be traced back to unnamed storytellers from older eras.

Lost Fragments

There is also evidence that anonymous scribes wrote Bible-related texts that have not survived to today. For example, both the Old Testament and New Testament reference other documents that are now lost. Some examples include:

  • The Book of Jashar
  • The Acts of Solomon
  • The Book of the Wars of the Lord
  • The Sayings of Jesus

These references indicate anonymous scribes wrote texts that contributed to biblical stories. But the documents themselves have unfortunately been lost over time. They likely contained influential traditions and accounts from now nameless writers.

Hidden Figures

By surveying the evidence, we see that many lost figures helped write and shape the biblical texts:

  • Anonymous scribes edited and compiled oral stories
  • Authors of lost biblical reference documents
  • Nameless co-authors and editors of biblical books
  • Countless bards and storytellers from oral tradition

The Bible we have today passed through the hands of many contributors over centuries. While some pivotal authors have their names recorded, many lost writers also played a key role from ancient times. They helped make the scriptures what they are through generations of re-telling, compiling, editing and revising these foundational spiritual texts.

Final Tally on Bible Authorship

Determining exactly how many people wrote the Bible is a complex question with no definitive answer. While many individuals contributed to the authorship of the various books, the total number of authors is difficult to quantify for several reasons:

  • The Bible was written over a span of around 1,500 years by at least 40 different authors.
  • Some books have unknown or disputed authorship.
  • Some books may have had multiple authors or editors.

Here’s a summary of what we know about Bible authorship:

Old Testament

The Old Testament contains 39 books written roughly between 1400 BCE and 400 BCE. Most scholars agree Moses wrote the first five books, known as the Pentateuch or Torah. The identities of other Old Testament authors are less certain, but many books are attributed to prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.

New Testament

The New Testament contains 27 books written in the first century CE. The Gospels and Acts were likely written anonymously and only later assigned authorship to apostles or their companions. Paul authored nearly half of the New Testament in the form of letters to early Christian churches.

Disputed or Unknown Authorship

Some Old Testament books like Job, Kings, Chronicles, and Psalms have highly debated authorship. The authorship of New Testament books like Hebrews and Revelation is also uncertain. And some books like Joshua and Isaiah may have been written by multiple authors over time.

Final Tally

Though we don’t know the identities of all the authors, most scholars agree that the entire Bible was written by over 40 different people. Some books had a single author while others may have had multiple contributors. Here is a summary of the approximate number of authors:

  • Pentateuch: 2-3 authors
  • Historical books: Around 9 authors
  • Poetic books: Around 5 authors
  • Major prophets: Around 6 authors
  • Minor prophets: Around 12 authors
  • Gospels and Acts: 4-5 authors
  • Pauline epistles: 1 author (Paul)
  • General epistles: Around 6 authors
  • Revelation: 1-2 authors

So while we don’t have an exact number, the best estimates suggest at least 40 different authors, possibly more, contributed to writing the diverse collection of books that make up the Bible over roughly 1,500 years.

The multitude of authors speaks to the Bible’s rich diversity and human collaboration over many centuries led by divine inspiration.


As we have seen, while tradition attributes authorship of Biblical books to over 40 different people, the true number of hands involved is likely higher when accounting for editors, translators and lost contributors over 1000+ years of Biblical history.

While the Biblical canon as we know it today developed over many centuries, the end result is a remarkably unified collection of books that have defined faiths and cultures globally. Understanding the long process of its composition can help readers better contextualize and interpret this sacred text.

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