When Was The Bible Written?

Many people ask, "When was the Bible written?" It's a common question, and the answer shouldn't be so hard to find!

This article contains the likely dates of composition for the various books of the Bible.

Of course, the Bible contains many different books, written at different times by different people. This means that sometimes there isn't a straightforward answer to the question when was the Bible written.

The theology faculty at the University of Navarre, Spain, put together an outstanding Bible commentary called the Navarre Bible. These volumes also contain a number of excellent introductory essays about the Bible. I've used a number of sources for this article, but the bulk of this information can be found in the essays "General Introduction to the Bible" and "Introduction to the Books of the New Testament", both found in the Gospels & Acts volume of the Navarre Bible.

The Old Testament

It's hardest to answer the question, "When was the Bible written?" for the Old Testament books. In fact , their authorship spans a period of about twelve centuries!

The individual books of the Old Testament were written at different times. Scholars say that some of the earliest individual books were written down probably beginning near the end of the thirteenth century BC — perhaps 1200 BC or so.

The last Old Testament book to be written was 1 Maccabees, probably written around 100 BC.

The New Testament

It's easier to answer, "When was the Bible written?" for the New Testament books.

The New Testament was written within a much shorter timespan, more or less in the years between 50 AD and 100 AD. While none of the books contains a specific date of composition, scholars have managed to assign dates that are fairly accurate. Some are quite exact, while others are more approximate.

This chart shows likely dates of composition for the New Testament books. A question mark indicates that there is significant uncertainty about the actual authorship or the exact date of composition.

And of course, regardless of uncertainty about dates or even about exact authorship, the Catholic Church affirms that all texts of the Bible are divinely inspired and teach "solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation." (Vatican II, Dei Verbum, 11)

51-52 AD1 and 2 ThessPaul
50-55early version of Gospel of Mt in AramaicMatthew
571 CorPaul
57-582 CorPaul
62Col, Philem, EphPaul
64?1 PetPeter
642 PetPeter?
651 Tim and TitPaul
662 TimPaul
70?JudeJude Thaddeus
95-1001,2, and 3 JnJohn

(This information is mainly drawn from the Navarre Bible, "Introduction to the Books of the New Testament")

Another good page answering when was the Bible written is available on the Web site of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Mississippi. (They also have an excellent online Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

Now... Read the Bible!

I hope that this brief article has helped to answer the question of when was the Bible written. It's important to know that the Biblical texts are deeply anchored in historical facts.

But it's more important to read the Bible! Not only is it a literary treasure, but it contains the living Word of God. Your life depends on it!

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ."

(St. Jerome)

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