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Discussion 9 to Talk Back 26
The Oldest Book in the World

by JT

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Amber tells us that the Bible is the oldest book in the world.

Well, how old is the Bible?

It is a difficult question, because it depends on what is meant by the Bible. So there is about a 1700 year range of possible answers.

What most Christians consider to be the Bible was determined at the Synod of Hippo in 393 CE and confirmed at the Third Synod of Carthage in 395 CE. Before then, there was no accepted standard for which specific scriptures belonged in the Christian canon. An argument can be made that the Christian Bible dates only to the late fourth century. And countless books are older than that.

Of course, the various texts which make up the Bible were written earlier. There's a wide range of estimates for the books of the New Testament but no text can be dated earlier than 50 CE and some may have been written 150 CE or later. So, if we consider the collection of texts that make up the bible, we could say the Bible dates to the early second century. And countless books are older than that.

Consider then, the earliest books of the Bible. Scholars generally consider the oldest books of the Old Testament were written between 800 BCE and 650 BCE with the more recent date becoming more accepted. But, whatever date in this range we pick, there are many books older than that.

Suppose that the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament were actually written by Moses as tradition claims; a strange claim given that Moses' death is recorded in Deuteronomy 34. But if we accept that Moses personally wrote these texts, then at least part of the Bible can be said to have been written in the early 13th century BCE. And there are no claims that it was written earlier than Moses. And yet, there are still books of greater age.

Just to give a few specific examples out of the many ancient texts that are known to still exist:

There are claims that the I Ching is the oldest book in the world, however, it can safely be assigned to the 13th century, BCE - thus about the same age as the Mosaic attribution for the Pentateuch.

The Papyrus Ebers is the oldest medical text in the world, dated to the middle 16th century BCE

The Epic of Gilgamesh is dated to the Third Dynasty of Ur or between 2100 and 2000 BCE

The Precepts of Ptah-hotep has been dated to the Sixth Dynasty of Egypt or between 2300 BCE and 2150 BCE.

Archeology goes on. It is not impossible that a new text will be discovered in the not too distant future that will predate all the above.

The Bible the oldest book in the world? Not by a long shot. If the age of a book is the criterion, Amber is following the wrong religion.

Amber wants to know why it is so hard to believe the Bible. It is not just the content that is unbelievable; the provably false claims some believers make about the book itself call all their unsupported claims into question.