When significant events happen in our world today, witnesses record the stories through writing and video. This raises questions about how the Bible was recorded. Take these three events, for example:
- How was Moses able to write about creation, Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, etc. when he was not there?
- Who recorded the long dialogue between Job and his friends? Was there a scribe with them documenting their conversation?
- How is it that we have a record of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness? Wasn’t that a private meeting between him and Satan?
Let’s address these questions!
To understand the formation of the Bible, we have to understand the world of the Bible.
Question 1: How was Moses able to write about creation, Adam and Eve, Abraham, Isaac, etc., when he was not there?
The Ancient Near East was an oral culture; they passed down information through spoken word. Today we’re not good at this because we rely on print. But the ancients were very good at oral storytelling. Because of this, most books of the Bible simply used information that was passed down through the oral tradition.
For instance, Adam could have told his son Seth what it was like in the garden, and Seth passed it along to his son Enosh. Since the story was so significant and meaningful, it’s quite reasonable that an oral culture would preserve it until Moses committed the information into writing.
Question 2: Who recorded the long dialogue between Job and his friends? Was there a scribe with them documenting that conversation?
We don’t have much historical data on Job. The author and the date of writing of this text are unknown. But judging by the structure and message of the book, we understand that Job belongs in the category of “Wisdom Literature.” Thus, the narrator of Job is telling a lesson/story. This means we should read Job like a parable of Jesus. The story is created to teach us a lesson, not provide historical data. Even if the story of Job is a historical event, dialogue in the ancient Near East was understood as paraphrased conversation, not precise quotation. This would have made it easier for Job, or someone close to him, to recount the story and capture its essence.
Question 3: How is it that we have a record of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness? Wasn’t that a private meeting between Him and Satan?
This may sound like a difficult question, but it’s not difficult to propose a solution. Jesus probably shared the event with His disciples. He was their teacher, after all, and he taught with stories. Why not use one of His own?
Let us not forget that with this story and the others we addressed earlier, God helped the authors of Scripture to convey His message. As it says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
As you now understand how this works, you can apply it other questions of similar nature.
- For more information on how the Bible came to be, check out God Breathed by Josh McDowell.
- To grow your knowledge of the Bible, read 77 FAQs about God and the Bible by Josh and Sean McDowell.
- Also read Josh and Sean’s recently revised apologetics classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict.