A close-up photo of ancient parchment, illuminated by soft candlelight, displaying a beautifully scripted page from the Bible, capturing the essence of its historical significance.

When Was The Bible Written Timeline

The Bible is the most widely read book in human history, but when exactly was it written? This is a complex question with many possible answers depending on which part of the Bible we’re talking about.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: The earliest parts of the Old Testament were likely written between 1200 and 500 BC, while the New Testament books were composed largely in the second half of the 1st century AD.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the origins and authorship of both the Old and New Testaments, providing context on when each section of the Bible first appeared.

When Was the Old Testament Written

Origin Stories and Early Writings (1200 – 1000 BC)

The first books of the Old Testament contain origin stories and early writings recording the beginnings of the Israelite people. These include the five books known as the Torah or Pentateuch, traditionally said to have been written by Moses around 1200 BC.

Key stories include God’s covenant with Abraham, the Exodus story of Moses leading the people out of Egypt, the giving of the Ten Commandments and laws at Mount Sinai, and the Israelites’ 40 years wandering in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land.

These foundational texts would have begun as oral history before being recorded in writing between the 13th and 10th century BC.

The Period of the Judges and the United Monarchy (1000 – 922 BC)

After settling Canaan, the Israelites were led by “judges” – leaders God raised up to deliver them from enemy attacks. This period from about 1000 to 922 BC saw threats from neighbors like the Philistines and Canaanites. Writings like Joshua, Judges, and early prophets such as Samuel record this era.

The high point was the anointing of the first two kings, Saul and David, establishing the United Monarchy around 1000 BC. Key events included David capturing Jerusalem and bringing the Ark of the Covenant there.

The Divided Monarchy (922 – 587 BC)

After King Solomon died in 922 BC, the united kingdom split into the northern kingdom of Israel and southern kingdom of Judah. This period saw influential prophets like Elijah, wars between Israel and Judah as well as with neighboring countries, and ultimately the conquering of the northern kingdom by Assyria around 722 BC.

Writings from this period include later prophets like Amos, Hosea, Micah and Isaiah as well as historical accounts in Samuel and Kings. In 587 BC, Babylonia conquered Judah, destroying Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple.

The Babylonian Exile (587 – 539 BC)

With Jerusalem and the temple destroyed, many Judeans were exiled in Babylon. Key writings from this era reflect Israel’s struggle to maintain identity while in captivity. Major prophets include Jeremiah, who warned of the coming Babylonian attacks, as well as Ezekiel and Daniel who prophesied messages of judgment and hope to the exiled people.

The exile ended around 539 BC when the Persian King Cyrus conquered Babylonia and allowed the Judeans to return home.

The Persian Period (539 – 332 BC)

Under Persian rule, Judea regained autonomy in their land. Three waves of returning exiles rebuilt Jerusalem and the second temple with Persian support. The records of Ezra and Nehemiah come from this restoration period.

Inspiring post-exilic prophets like Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi provide messages exhorting the people to rebuild and renew their covenant with God. Other key writings like Chronicles and Esther come from this era as well before Alexander the Great eventually conquers Persia in 332 BC.

When Was the New Testament Written

The Gospels and Acts (45-90 AD)

The four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – were likely written between 45 and 90 AD. Jesus’ ministry took place around 30-33 AD, so the Gospels were written within living memory of his life. Mark is considered the earliest Gospel, written around 45-60 AD, followed by Matthew and Luke around 60-85 AD.

John was likely the last Gospel written around 80-90 AD.

The book of Acts was written by Luke as a sequel to his Gospel. It records the early history of the apostolic church and the spread of the gospel after Jesus’ ascension. Acts was likely written between 60-90 AD as a companion work to the Gospel of Luke.

The Epistles (50-95 AD)

The Epistles, or letters, of the New Testament were written before the Gospels. The earliest letters were 1 Thessalonians and Galatians, written around 50 AD. Romans was written around 57 AD. The Prison Epistles – Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon – were written 60-62 AD when Paul was imprisoned in Rome.

1 Timothy, Titus and 2 Timothy were Pastoral Epistles written after Paul’s release, around 64-67 AD. 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Hebrews and James were likely written in the 60s. 1 and 2 Peter, Jude and 1, 2 and 3 John were written between 60-95 AD.

Revelation (95 AD)

The book of Revelation was likely the last book of the New Testament written. The Apostle John recorded his apocalyptic visions while exiled on the island of Patmos. Most scholars date the writing around 95 AD during the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian.

The book is filled with vivid symbolism and imagery of the end times, and has inspired much debate over its interpretation and meaning throughout history.

The Formation of the Biblical Canon

The Old Testament Canon (200 BC – AD 100)

The Old Testament canon refers to the set of books that Christians recognize as Scripture containing God’s revelation to humankind. This process of canonization began around 200 BC when Jewish scholars and prophets recognized the need to collect and preserve the sacred writings that would eventually form the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament.

According to biblical tradition, the prophet Ezra led an assembly of scribes and priests to collectively establish an authoritative set of Hebrew religious scriptures during the 5th century BC. However, the canonization process continued over several centuries.

The Council of Jamnia (AD 90) is considered a pivotal moment when Jewish religious leaders made final decisions on the 39 books to be included in the Old Testament canon.

By AD 100, the Old Testament canon was recognized by Jewish and early Christian communities as authoritative Scripture revealing God’s truth and divine inspiration. This collection of books includes the Torah (Genesis to Deuteronomy), the prophetic books telling Israel’s history, and the wisdom literature like Psalms and Proverbs.

The formation of the trusted Old Testament canon provided stability and unity around these Hebrew scriptures.

The New Testament Canon (AD 140-397)

Unlike the Old Testament which took centuries to canonize, the core of the New Testament canon emerged during the late 1st and early 2nd centuries. The letters of Paul were some of the earliest Christian documents circulating among churches by AD 140.

His epistles and the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were referenced by early church fathers and recognized as carrying apostolic authority.

Throughout the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, church leaders referenced an evolving list of New Testament books they considered scriptural, inspired and authoritative for teaching doctrine. Key figures like Athanasius of Alexandria and Jerome gave strong support to the 27 books making up today’s New Testament canon.

The Third Council of Carthage (AD 397) affirmed this definitive list, while also formally approving the Old Testament canon.

By AD 397, the biblical canon of both the Old and New Testaments had been established. This became the definitive set of books that the early church recognized as God’s revealed truth. Having an authoritative canon was crucial for unity around doctrine and for transmitting God’s Word faithfully to all generations.

😊👍 The full biblical canon also enabled Christians to carry out Jesus’ Great Commission to make disciples throughout the world.


In summary, the Bible emerged over a vast span of time, with its earliest sections dating back over 3000 years and its final form not settled until nearly 400 AD. While many faithful treat the Bible as the unified Word of God, our timeline reveals a diverse text with roots across numerous eras, authors, and historical contexts.

We hope this guide provides helpful background on the complex origins of the most influential book in human history.

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