When were the books of the Old Testament written?

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Answered by: Erik, An Expert in the Studying the Bible Category
The Old Testament consists of a very unique set of religious writings that constitute a majority of what is considered to be the orthodox Christian canon. The Old Testament consists of 39 books split into four topical categories: the Pentateuch, History of Israel, Wisdom, and Prophetic Books. However, the authoring of these books, according to Christian tradition, spans a wide range of years. In fact, most religious scholars believe that the final books of the Old Testament were completed around 450 B.C.E. This, however, begs the question of the origin of the canonized scripture and, more importantly, when the various books were written.

Numerous modern scholars believe that the first five books of the Bible, the section aptly named "Pentateuch," were written at some point during the 15th century B.C.E. Though the authorship of the books is disputed, some believe there was a single author whilst others defend the idea of multiple authors, the conceptualized timeline for the scripting of these foundational books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, is widely accepted by numerous groups.

It is believed that Moses wrote at least some of the book of Exodus, and the Exodus took place around 1446 B.C.E so it can rightly be inferred that at least some, if not all, of the Pentateuch was written during this time. The authorship of the complete first five books of the Bible, however, complicates the conception of time in regard to their creation. Scholars have debated the number of authors for numerous years, and these scholars have come to a somewhat generalized agreement that the Pentateuch was authored by four varying authors. This means that the Pentateuch was written at four different points in time. Regardless, most schoalrs are still obliged to agree that the Old Testament first began taking shape roughly around the time of the Jewish exodus from Egypt, 1446 B.C.E.

Outside of the first five books, however, the dates and times of writing are highly disputed. The next one thousand years for the Jewish people consisted of numerous writings on their history, wisdom, and prophetic works, ending abruptly with the final writings found in Malachi. These books have numerous theories attached to them concerning authorship and dating, but regardless, the old testament is believed to have been written between 1446 B.C.E and 450 B.C.E.

Some of the dates are fairly easy to attach concrete evidence to. For example, the dreams and vision of Ezekial, a major prophet who wrote a rather lengthy book in the Old Testament, can actually be traced back to an almost certain date, place, and time. However, for some books, the very broad notion of a century cannot even be assigned to them. For example, everything surrounding the whole of the book of Job, including the date and time of authorship, has been debated by scholars for decades. The dates, though not concrete, provide a very interesting cultural perspective into the thoughts and actions of the Jewish people in their own temporal culture. These dates help one realize a unique understanding of the Judeo-Christian canons.

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