I was asked this question in an email and I thought it might be helpful to post the answer here.
Actually the question deals with how to date the books of the Bible overall, if there was a specific source I use for dating, and then specifically about the book of Job, because various commentators date it between mid 1400’s BC to 500 BC. Here is my answer:
That is a good question! But there is no easy answer to your questions and there are a number of reasons why. First some comments overall and then specifics on Job.
Overall, some general thoughts about the dating of books of the Bible overall
For some of the books, particularly the historical ones it is not difficult to date them. In the Old Testament 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings and in the New Testament, the book of Acts is fairly simple because it’s easy to compare them with what we know of secular history.
In the Old Testament, it get is much more difficult with the prophetic ones, because, after much study and comparison of many sources, I’ve come to the conclusion that the dating of the books depends primarily on the commentator’s view of scripture. If it is a high view of scripture, one that believes that the Bible was inspired by God and is inerrant, most books are dated earlier. For the prophetic books, this means that they would be dated before the events they prophesied, which is what the books themselves state.
If however, the commentator has a low view of the Bible, if they look at scripture as a compilation of “sacred writings” but ones written by men, they will always date the books later, especially the prophetic ones and put them after the events prophesied, because regardless of whatever other historical, textual, or other evidence is in the books themselves they approach them with the prior decision that God could not be actually involved and therefore no prophecy could be real. They have to date them as after the events or they can’t explain their accuracy if they don’t attribute it to God.
Side note: One source I read did attribute prophecy to time travel, but obviously that is not a widely accepted view. . . . . .
As to a specific source for dating the books of the Bible overall
I don’t have any one source–I think it is really important to read many, partly so that I can anticipate questions people might have. However, for general study, one of the best overall an online resource for dating is:
I agree with pretty much all of it (and his Old Testament chronology and dating is very good) except that the majority of current, conservative biblical scholarship (and some liberals ) date the writing of John and Revelation much earlier– prior to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. I do think this is important as the late dating, more and more people realize was the result of erroneously imposing a dispensational viewpoint on these books rather than looking at the testimony of the early church fathers and the interior evidence of the books themselves.
As to Job, you’ll notice even that list has just big question marks and doesn’t even begin to guess when he wrote. I have researched this question for a long time and there is no definite answer, but I do think we have some good evidence for an early date.
I’ve come to that conclusion after studying many resources from reading the Talmud (the Talmudic Tractate Bava Batra 15a-b says that Job was written by Moses, but as all the tractates do, it also has many of the other ideas, some interesting, most lengthy and tortuous to read) plus studying many contemporary scholars, and finally my own internal historical cross-referencing (I cross referenced many place names and people with the early lists in Genesis) I do believe the events in Job took place quite early, around Abraham’s time. I also think, most likely (as many sources believe) they were written down by Moses.
The exact dating itself however is not the critical issue because, though I don’t have the exact citation now, a great comment came from one of the resources I was reading earlier this week where the writer said that though we cannot date the exact date Job was written down, from all obvious internal evidence the events took place very early in Biblical history. We know they happened very early, but when they were recorded is secondary. Here is a book that the events and the authorship are separated, but so is all the early history that Moses wrote in the first five books of the Bible. Creation took place a long time before Moses wrote it down and so did the flood, Abraham and all the Patriarchs and the events in Job also. That all those things took place in the foundational times of our faith and that Moses recorded all of them for us, all evidence considered, it seems the most reasonable (though admittedly not proven) conclusion.