Last year’s best-selling book had nothing to do with Harry Potter. Oprah’s book club didn’t promote it, and it didn’t involve a code-filled cover-up of the Holy Grail.
The number one book was actually the Bible. With 6 billion copies now sold, it is the top seller of all time. Many of us believe the Bible is the word of God — 2 Timothy 3:16 says “All scripture is inspired by God.”
“With the Holy Spirit divinely guiding the authors,” said Dr. David Landry, a biblical scholar at St. Thomas. “I think the Bible is certainly the most misread and misunderstood book of all time.”
According to Landry, the question of who actually wrote down the books of the Bible is not as simple as it appears.
“Almost certainly the historical Isaiah did not write the book of Isaiah,” said Landry.
Biblical scholars challenge the traditional view many of us have been taught because they believe the stories of the Old Testament began orally.
“So stories about the exodus for example circulated orally before the first written versions were ever produced,” Landry said. “The book of Isaiah shows clearly having three different stages of composition with three different authors.”
The pattern is similar when it comes to the New Testament.
“When you think about Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, people have this image of them sitting down at the table and writing their gospels,” said Landry. “Most biblical scholars don’t think any of the four Gospels were written by the people whose name is on them.”
Many scholars believe the Gospels circulated anonymously, beginning about 40 years after Jesus’ death.
“It was much later that the church tried to figure out who their authors were and assigned the names,” said Landry.
In fact, scholars believe just seven of the 27 books of the New Testament were written by the name on them. The rest likely were written by their followers after their death.
Regardless of who wrote what, scholars say this doesn’t question the essential truth or value of the Bible, which Landry says is “to bring out the best in human beings … I think the Bible helps to do that.”
Various factions within Christianity argued over which books should be included in the Bible. It wasn’t until 367 A.D. that the Christian Church agreed to the 27 books of the New Testament we know today. However, there is still no universally agreed upon Bible. The Protestant Bible has 39 books in its Old Testament, whereas the Catholic Bible has 46.
There are biblical scholars and religious denominations that hold firm to the view that the books of the Bible were written by their named authors.
By Ben Tracy, CBS News