How God Gave the Old Testament
September 2003 version

1407-340 BC.

Many often take the Old Testament for granted, never wondering how it came to contain its books, and how it is still reliable today. This tract explains who wrote it, how we know we have the correct books, and the evidence that it is still reliable today. The books below are agreed to by Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox and Jews. The Jews combine Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles into one book each.

Book Author Dates B.C. Some references
Genesis Moses ~1407 Mt 19:4;Mk 10:6
Exodus Moses ~1407 Mt 22:32; Lk 2:23
Leviticus Moses ~1407 Mt 22:39; Lk 2:24
Numbers Moses ~1407 2 Tm 2:19 (LXX)
Deuteronomy Moses ~1407 Mt 22:37; Lk 4:4
Joshua Joshua ~1377 ~Heb11;Jms 2:25
Judges anon. Samuel? 1377-1004 ~Heb 11:32
Ruth anon. Samuel? ~1011 ~Mt 1:5; ~Lk 3:32
1 & 2 Samuel anon. Samuel? 1050-1004 Rom 15:9; 2Cr6:18
1 & 2 Kings anonymous ~950-550  
1&2 Chronicles anon. Ezra? ~950-550  
  part written 340 B.C.  
Ezra Ezra 450-430 Neh 8:1; 12:32
Nehemiah Nehemiah 445-430 ~Ezra 2:2
Esther anonymous ~470-424  
Job anonymous perhaps 2100 Rom 1:35; 1Cr3:19
Psalms David & others ~1050 Mt 8:2; Lk 13:35
  Ps 137 after 587  
Proverbs Solomon,Agur, ~971-931 Rom 12:20; Jms4:6
  Lemuel, others    
  25:1 copied 729-686  
Ecclesiastes Solomon after 967  
S. of Solomon anonymous after 967  
Isaiah Isaiah 696-622 Mt 13:14; Lk 3:4-6
Jeremiah Jeremiah 627/6-587 Mt 21:14; Lk 23:30
  Jer 52:31-34 ~561 B.C.  
Lamentations likelyJeremiah 586-583  
Ezekiel Ezekiel 7/593-571  
Daniel Daniel 606-536 Mt 24:15; Mk 13:14
Hosea Hosea ~790-710 Mt 12:7; Lk 23:30
Joel Joel 900;587;400? Acts 2:21; Rom 10:13
Amos Amos 760 (earthquake) Acts 7:43; 15:16-8
Obadiah Obadiah 844;723;585?  
Jonah Jonah ~763 2 Ki 14:25;
Micah Micah before 722 Mt 2:6; Mt 10:35-36
Nahum Nahum before 612  
Habbakuk Habbakuk ~697-598 Acts 13:41; Rom 1:17
Zephaniah Zephaniah 640-609  
Haggai Haggai 520-515 Ezra 5:1;Heb 12:6
Zechariah Zechariah 520-515 Mt 21:5; Jn 12:15
Malachi Malachi 538; 450-430 Mt 11:10; Lk 7:27

The author is the person to whom God revealed his word. The words were either written down by him or by secretaries. For example, Jeremiah's scribe Baruch wrote down many of his prophecies. Jer 51:64 says, "...the words of Jeremiah end here."
Old Testament writers often mentioned each other.
Five books of the Law:
Josh 1:7;8:31;23:6;1Ki 2:3; 2 Ki 14:6;17:37;18:6; 1Chr16:40; 2Chr17:9;23:18; 30:5,16,18; 31:3; 35:26; Ezra 3:2,4; 6:18; 7:6; Dan 9:11,13; Hos 8:12
Ezra:
Neh 8:1; 12:32
Nehemiah:
Ezra 2:2
Isaiah:
2 Kings 19:2; 2 Chr 32:20
Jeremiah:
Daniel 9:2; 2 Chr 36:22
Jonah:
2 Kings 14:25
Micah:
Jeremiah 26:18
Haggai:
Ezra 5:1;6:14
Zechariah:
Nehemiah 12:1,4,16, Ezra 5:1; 6:14
The point of this is that the Old Testament books fit together, as interlocking pieces of a puzzle.

What Books are Not In The Old Testament?

In ancient times, just as now, there are a number of religious and historical writings, many of varying quality. Besides the apocryphal books, there are what a called "pseudo-apocryphal books" that are not accepted by anyone today. These are often spurious works that claim to be written by a great historical figure but in fact are not. Of course if something is false, it is not God's word. Other books, while not per-fect, are not too bad. Of course if a godly person writes something that is true, that is not necessarily God's word, nor did they claim it to be so. Likewise a good Christian book written today can be good, but not God's word. Some books, like First Enoch, are more complicated. First Enoch is a composite book, with the oldest author likely writing most of the first section. By the way, Jude 14-15 quotes from the oldest part of First Enoch.
The Old Testament itself mentions some books and records we do not have any copies of today.
Acts of Solomon
1 Kings 11-41
Chronicles of Kings
1 Ki 14:19, 29, 2 Ki 19:9-12, 11
Kings of Judah/Israel
2 Chr 16:11,25:26;28:26,32;27:2;
35:27;36:8
Kings of Israel
2 Chr 20:34;33:18;24:7;1Ki14:19
Jasher (Upright one)
Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18
Wars of the Lord
Numbers 21:14
These are not scripture, but simply other reliable records.

First Question: Do We Have the Right Books?

Independent of anyone else, how do we determine if a book belongs in the Old Testament, when the book was written at an unknown time, by unknown author, who refers to events we cannot verify as true or false? The simple answer is that we cannot; we need help for confirming Old Testament scripture from another source.

Jesus is the Answer!

A song says, "Jesus is the answer"; He is the answer for this question too. Jesus answered this question in three ways: his teaching about scripture in general, his comments on specific prophets and books, and finally what he did teach about the transmitted reliability of scriptures to His day.
1. Jesus defended himself against Satan by quoting scrip-ture as God's direct word, "It is written..." Matt 4:4,7,10, Luke 4:4,8,12. Jesus stated that scripture cannot be broken in John 10:35, and scripture was "the commands of God" in Mark 4:8-9. His entire life was spent quoting, living, and fulfilling scripture as all the gospels show.
2. Jesus rebuked the Sadducees, who only accepted the Torah (Law) as the Word of God. Matt 22:29 says, Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God." Jesus said the following people wrote their books:
Moses
in Mark 10:3,5; Luke 20:37
David
in Matt 22:43-5; Mark 12:36-7; Luke 20:42-4
Isaiah
in Matthew 15:7
Daniel
in Matthew 24:15
3. The Jews in Palestine had the same Old Testament as Protestants have today. They divided scripture into three categories: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. Jesus said "Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms" in Lk 24:27,44. (Psalms is the earlier name for Writings.) He references the order of books in Mt 23:35 and Lk 11:51.
Jesus was silent on any need for correcting, adding to, or taking away from the scripture that was accepted in Judea at that time. As far as scripture was concerned, as the song says, "All things were beautiful in His Time."

Second Question, But What About Today?

Knowing that we have the correct books in the Old Testament solves a major problem concerning sources of authority for belief. However, we have another problem. How do we know that scripture today is not substantially altered? There are three sources of Confirmation

1. God's Promise

God's Word is God's Word, whether spoken, written, or both. Jeremiah 1:12 promises that God is watching over His word to perform it. Psalms 119:89 says, "Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens."
How about on earth? Isaiah 59:21 "As for me, this is my covenant with them," says the LORD. "My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever," says the LORD."
1 Pet 1:24
quoting Isa 40:8 "...For 'All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever."
Isa 55:11
"So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desired and achieve the purpose for which I sent it." God's ability and promise ensure His word is preserved.
God's word will not mislead His people on the essentials.
Prov 30:5-6
"Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar."
2 Tim 3:15
"and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."
2 Tim 3:16
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in right-eousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" See also Hebrews 4:12.
Heb 4:12: "The word (logos) of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."

2. Confirmed by Jewish and Christian Writers

New Testament ~250 quotes. Every O.T. book except Ecclesiastes, Esther, Song of Solomon
Ben Sira, in 2nd century B.C.
missing Ezekiel
Philo (De Vita Contemplativa 25)
3 sections
Jewish writer Josephus <100 A.D. Contra Apion 1.8.
Jewish Council at Jamnia 90 A.D.
no Apocrypha
Council at Carthage 397 A.D.
has historic Apocrypha
When Alexander the Great was outside of Jerusalem, the priests showed him the prophecy in the Book of Daniel where Greece triumphs over Persia. Obviously, Daniel had to have been written before then.
The early church before 325 A.D. referred thousands of times to scripture from the Old Testament. For example, they referred to just the first three chapters of Genesis 257 times and the Book of Jeremiah 410 times., and even the little book of Haggai 12 times. They quoted out every Old Testament book except Ruth and Obadiah.

3. Ancient Manuscripts We Have Today

The simplest evidence of reliability is in museums today.
Dead Sea Scrolls from 250 to 100 B.C..
Nash Papyrus 150 B.C. to 68 A.D.
Cairo Geniza fragments 5th century A.D.
Massoretic Text scrolls from 895 and 1008 A.D.
Of course, since many of these scrolls are radiocarbon-dated prior to Jesus, the prophecies about the Messiah written in them were written prior to Jesus too.

Conclusion


We know we can rely on the Old Testament because of Jesus' words and reliance on it. We know it is preserved reliably today because of God's promise, confirmation by others, and the fact that we have ancient manuscripts.
(All Bible quotes are from the NIV).

Christian Debater™ P.O. Box 144441 Austin, TX 78714