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Reference: Pentateuch


The five books the books of Moses; that is, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. See articles on those books, and also MOSES.


the five-fold volume, consisting of the first five books of the Old Testament. This word does not occur in Scripture, nor is it certainly known when the roll was thus divided into five portions Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Probably that was done by the LXX. translators. Some modern critics speak of a Hexateuch, introducing the Book of Joshua as one of the group. But this book is of an entirely different character from the other books, and has a different author. It stands by itself as the first of a series of historical books beginning with the entrance of the Israelites into Canaan. (See Joshua.)

The books composing the Pentateuch are properly but one book, the "Law of Moses," the "Book of the Law of Moses," the "Book of Moses," or, as the Jews designate it, the "Torah" or "Law." That in its present form it "proceeds from a single author is proved by its plan and aim, according to which its whole contents refer to the covenant concluded between Jehovah and his people, by the instrumentality of Moses, in such a way that everything before his time is perceived to be preparatory to this fact, and all the rest to be the development of it. Nevertheless, this unity has not been stamped upon it as a matter of necessity by the latest redactor: it has been there from the beginning, and is visible in the first plan and in the whole execution of the work.", Keil, Einl. i.d. A. T.

A certain school of critics have set themselves to reconstruct the books of the Old Testament. By a process of "scientific study" they have discovered that the so-called historical books of the Old Testament are not history at all, but a miscellaneous collection of stories, the inventions of many different writers, patched together by a variety of editors! As regards the Pentateuch, they are not ashamed to attribute fraud, and even conspiracy, to its authors, who sought to find acceptance to their work which was composed partly in the age of Josiah, and partly in that of Ezra and Nehemiah, by giving it out to be the work of Moses! This is not the place to enter into the details of this controversy. We may say frankly, however, that we have no faith in this "higher criticism." It degrades the books of the Old Testament below the level of fallible human writings, and the arguments on which its speculations are built are altogether untenable.

The evidences in favour of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch are conclusive. We may thus state some of them briefly:

(1.) These books profess to have been written by Moses in the name of God (7/14'>Ex 17:14; 24:3-4,7; 32:7-10,30-34; 34:27; Le 26:46; 27:34; De 31:9,24-25).

(2.) This also is the uniform and persistent testimony of the Jews of all sects in all ages and countries (comp. Jos 8:31-32; 1Ki 2:3; Jer 7:22; Ezr 6:18; Ne 8:1; Mal 4:4; Mt 22:24; Ac 15:21).

(3.) Our Lord plainly taught the Mosaic authorship of these books (Mt 5:17-18; 19:8; 22:31-32; 23:2; Mr 10:9; 12:26; Lu 16:31; 20:37; 24:26-27,44; Joh 3:14; 5:45-46,47; 6:32,49; 7:19,22). In the face of this fact, will any one venture to allege either that Christ was ignorant of the composition of the Bible, or that, knowing the true state of the case, he yet encouraged the people in the delusion they clung to?

(4.) From the time of Joshua down to the time of Ezra there is, in the intermediate historical books, a constant reference to the Pentateuch as the "Book of the Law of Moses." This is a point of much importance, inasmuch as the critics deny that there is any such reference; and hence they deny the historical character of the Pentateuch. As regards the Passover, e.g., we find it frequently spoken of or alluded to in the historical books following the Pentateuch, showing that the "Law of Moses" was then certainly known. It was celebrated in the time of Joshua (Jos 5:10, cf. Jos 4:19), Hezekiah (2Ch 30), Josiah (2Ki 23; 2Ch 35), and Zerubbabel (Ezr 6:19-22), and is referred to in such passages as 2Ki 23:22; 2Ch 35:18; 1Ki 9:25 ("three times in a year"); 2Ch 8:13. Similarly we might show frequent references to the Feast of Tabernacles and other Jewish institutions, although we do not admit that any valid argument can be drawn from the silence of Scripture in such a case. An examination of the following texts, 1Ki 2:9; 2Ki 14:6; 2Ch 23:18; 25:4; 34:14; Ezr 3:2; 7:6; Da 9:11,13, will also plainly show that the "Law of Moses" was known during all these centuries.

Granting that in the time of Moses there existed certain oral traditions or written records and documents which he was divinely led to make use of in his history, and that his writing was revised by inspired successors, this will fully account for certain peculiarities of expression which critics have called "anachronisms" and "contradictions," but in no way militates against the doctrine that Moses was the original author of the whole of the Pentateuch. It is not necessary for us to affirm that the whole is an original composition; but we affirm that the evidences clearly demonstrate that Moses was the author of those books which have come down to us bearing his name. The Pentateuch is certainly the basis and necessary preliminary of the whole of the Old Testament history and literature. (See Deuteronomy.)

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(See MOSES; LAW; GENESIS; EXODUS; LEVITICUS; NUMBERS; DEUTERONOMY.) A term meaning "five volumes" (teuchos in Alexandrian Greek "a book"); applied to the first five books of the Bible, in Tertullian and Origen. "The book of the law" in De 34:12; 29:21; 30:10; 31:26; "the book of the law of Moses," Jos 23:6; Ne 8:1; in Ezr 7:6, "the law of Moses," "the book of Moses" (Ezr 6:18). The Jews now call it Torah "the law," literally, the directory in Lu 24:27 "Moses" stands for his book.

The division into five books is probably due to the Septuagint, for the names of the five books, Genesis, Exodus, etc., are Greek not Hebrew. The Jews name each book from its first word; the Pentateuch forms one roll, divided, not into books, but into larger and smaller sections Parshiyoth and Sedorim. They divide its precepts into 248 positive, and 365 negative, 248 being the number of parts the rabbis assign the body, 365 the days of the year. As a mnemonic they carry a square cloth with fringes (tsitsit = 600 in Hebrew) consisting of eight threads and five knots, 613 in all. The five of the Pentateuch answer to the five books of the psalter, and the five megilloth of the hagiographa (Song, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther).

MOSES' AUTHORSHIP. After the battle with Amalek (Ex 17:14) "Jehovah said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in the Book," implying there was a regular account kept in a well known book. Also Ex 24:4, "Moses wrote all the words of Jehovah"; (Ex 34:27) "Jehovah said unto Moses, Write thou these words" distinguished from Ex 34:28, "He (Jehovah) wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments" (Ex 34:1). Nu 33:2 "Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of Jehovah." In De 17:18-19, the king is required to "write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests, the Levites"; and De 31:9-11, "Moses wrote this law and delivered it unto the priests, the son of Levi," who should "at the end of every seven years read this law before all Israel in their hearing"; and De 31:24," Moses made an end of writing the words of this law in a book," namely, the whole Pentateuch ("the law," Mt 22:40; Ga 4:21), "and commanded the Levites ... put it in the side of the ark that it may be a witness against thee," as it proved under Josiah.

The two tables of the Decalogue were IN the ark (1Ki 8:9); the book of the law, the Pentateuch, was laid up in the holy of holies, close by the ark, probably in a chest (2Ki 22:8,18-19). The book of the law thus written by Moses and handed to the priests ends at De 31:23; the rest of the book of Deuteronomy is an appendix added after Moses' death by another hand, excepting the song and blessing, Moses' own composition. Moses speaks of "this law" and "the book of this law" as some definite volume which he had written for his people (De 28:61; 29:19-20,29). He uses the third person of himself, as John does in the New Testament He probably dictated much of it to Joshua or some scribe, who subsequently added the account of Moses' death and a few explanatory insertions. The recension by Ezra (and the great synagogue, Buxtori "Tiberius," 1:10, Tertullian De Cultu Fem. 3, Jerome ad Helvid.) may have introduced the further explanations which appear post Mosaic.

Moses probably uses patriarchal documents, as e.g. genealogies for Genesis; these came down through Shem and Abraham to Joseph and Israel in Egypt. That writing existed ages before Moses is proved by the tomb of Chnumhotep at Benihassan, of the twelfth dynasty, representing a scribe presenting to the governor a roll of papyrus covered with inscriptions dated the sixth year of Osirtasin II long before the Exodus. The papyrus found by M. Prisse in the hieratic character is considered the oldest of existing manuscripts and is attributed to a prince of the fifth dynasty; weighed down with age, he invokes Osiris to enable him to give mankind the fruits of his long experience. It contains two treatises, the first, of 12 pages, the end of a work of which the former part is lost, the second by a prince, son of the king next before Assa, in whose reign the work was composed. The Greek alphabet borrows its names of letters and order from the Semitic; those names have a meaning in Semitic, none in Greek Tradition made Cadmus ("the Eastern") introduce them into Greece from Phoenicia (Herodot. 5:58).

Joshua took a Hittite city, Kirjath Sepher, "the city of the book" (Jos 15:15), and changed the name to Debir of kindred meaning. Pertaour, a scribe under Rameses the Great, in an Iliadlike poem engraved on the walls of Karnak mentions Chirapsar, of the Khota or Hittites, a writer of books. From the terms for "write," "book," "ink," being in all Semitic dialects, it follows they must have been known to the earliest Shemites before they branched off into various tribes and nations. Moses, Israel's wise leader, would therefore be sure to commit to writing their laws, their wonderful antecedents and ancestry, and the Divine promises from the beginning connected with them, and their fulfillment in Egypt, in the Exodus, and in the wilderness, in order to evoke their national spirit. Israel would certainly have a written history at a time when the Hittites among whom Israel settled were writers.

Moreover, from Joshua downward the Old Testament books abound in references to the laws, history, and words of Moses, as such, universally accepted. They are ordered to be read continually (Jos 1:7-8); "all the law which Moses My servant commanded ... this book of the law" (Jos 8:31,34; 23:6). In Jos 1:3-8,13-18 the words of De 11:24-25; 31:6-12, and De 3:18-20 Nu 32:20-28, are quoted. Israel's constitution in church and state accords with that established by Moses. The priesthood is in Aaron's family (Jos 14:1). "Eleazar," Aaron's son, succeeds to his father's exalted position and with Joshua divides the land (Jos 21:1), as Nu 34:17 ordained; the Levites discharge their duties, scattered among the tribes and having 48 cities, as Jehovah by Moses commanded (Nu 35:7). So the tabernacle made by Moses is set up at Shiloh (Jos 18:1). The sacrifices (Jos 8:31; 22:23,27,29) are those enjoined (Leviticus 1; 2; 3).

The altar built (Jos 8:30-31; Ex 20:25) is "as Moses commanded ... in the book of the law of Moses." Compare also as to the ark, Jos 3:3,6,8; 7:6; circumcision, Jos 5:2; Passover, Jos 5:10; with the Pentateuch. There is the same general assembly or congregation and princes (9/18'>Jos 9:18-21; 20:6,9; 22:30; Ex 16:22); the same elders of Israel (Jos 7:6; De 31:9); elders of the city (De 25:8; Jos 20:4); judges and officers (Jos 8:33; De 16:18); heads of thousands (Jos 22:21; Nu 1:16). Bodies taken down from hanging (Jos 8:29; 10:27; De 21:23). No league with Canaan (Joshua 9; Ex 23:32). Cities of refuge (Joshua 20; Nu 35:11-15; De 4:41-43; 19:2-7). Inheritance to Zelophebad's daughters (Jos 17:3; Numbers 27; 36).

So in Judges Moses' laws are referred to (Jg 2:1-3,11-12,20; 6/8'>6:8-10; 20:2,6,13; De 13:6,12-14; 22:21). The same law and worship appear in Judges as in Pentateuch. Judah takes the lead (Jg 1:2; 20:18; Ge 49:8; Nu 2:3; 10:14). The judge's office is as Moses defined it (De 17:9). Gideon recognizes the theocracy, as Moses ordained (Jg 8:22-23; Ex 19:5-6; De 17:14,20; 33:5). The tabernacle is at Shiloh (Jg 18:31); Israel goes up to the house of God and consults the high priest with Urim and Thummim (Jg 20:23,26-28; Ex 28:30; Nu 27:21; De 12:5). The ephod is the priest's garment (Jg 8:27; 17:5; 18:14-17).

The Levites scattered through Israel are the recognized ministers (Jg 17:7-13; 19:1-2). Circumcision is Israel's distinguishing badge (Jg 14:3; 15:18). Historical rereferences to the Pentateuch abound (Jg 1:16,20,23; 2:1,10; 6:13), especially Jg 11:15-27 epitomizes Numbers 20; 21; De 2:1-8,26-34; compare the language Jg 2 with Ex 34:13; Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28; De 7:2,8; 12:3; Jg 5:4-5 with De 33:2; 32:16-17. In the two books of Samuel the law and Pentateuch are the basis. Eli, high priest, is sprung from Aaron through Ithamar (1Ch 24:3; 2Sa 8:17; 1Ki 2:27). The transfer from Eli's descendants back to Eleazar's line fulfills Nu 25

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The Greek name given to the first five books of the O.T., which are also called 'the five books of Moses.' The many references to and quotations from them in other parts of the scripture, and allusions to them by Christ under the name of Moses, show plainly that Moses was the inspired writer of them, except of course the small portion that records his death and burial. See MOSES.


PENTATEUCH. This word, which is derived from the Greek ???????????, from ?????, five, and ??????, a volume, signifies the collection of the five books of Moses, which are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. That the Jews have acknowledged the authenticity of the Pentateuch, from the present time back to the era of their return from the Babylonish captivity, a period of more than two thousand three hundred years, admits not a possibility of doubt. The five books of Moses have been during that period constantly placed at the head of the Jewish sacred volume, and divided into fixed portions, one of which was read and explained in their synagogues, not only every Sabbath with the other Scriptures, but in many places twice a week, and not unfrequently every evening, when they alone were read. They have been received as divinely inspired by every Jewish sect, even by the Sadducees, who questioned the divinity of the remaining works of the Old Testament. In truth, the veneration of the Jews for their Scriptures, and above all for the Pentateuch, seems to have risen almost to a superstitious reverence. Extracts from the Mosaic law were written on pieces of parchment, and placed on the borders of their garments, or round their wrists and foreheads: nay, they at a later period counted, with the minutest exactness, not only the chapters and paragraphs, but the words and letters, which each book of their Scriptures contains. Thus also the translation, first of the Pentateuch, and afterward of the remaining works of the Old Testament, into Greek, for the use of the Alexandrian Jews, disseminated this sacred volume over a great part of the civilized world, in the language most universally understood, and rendered it accessible to the learned and inquisitive in every country; so as to preclude all suspicion that it could be materially altered by either Jews or Christians, to support their respective opinions as to the person and character of the Messiah; the substance of the text being, by this translation, fixed and authenticated at least two hundred and seventy years before the appearance of our Lord.

But, long previous to the captivity, two particular examples, deserving peculiar attention, occur in the Jewish history, of the public and solemn homage paid to the sacredness of the Mosaic law as promulgated in the Pentateuch; and which, by consequence, afford the fullest testimony to the authenticity of the Pentateuch itself: the one in the reign of Hezekiah, while the separate kingdoms of Judah and Israel still subsisted; and the other in the reign of his great grandson Josiah, subsequent to the captivity of Israel. In the former we see the pious monarch of Judah assembling the priests and Levites and the rulers of the people; to deplore with him the trespasses of their fathers against the divine law, to acknowledge the justice of those chastisements which, according to the prophetic warnings of that law, had been inflicted upon them; to open the house of God which his father had impiously shut, and restore the true worship therein according to the Mosaic ritual, 2Ki 18; 2Ch 29; 30; with the minutest particulars of which he complied, in the sin-offerings and the peace- offerings which, in conjunction with his people, he offered for the kingdom and the sanctuary and the people, to make atonement to God for them and for all Israel; restoring the service of God as it had been performed in the purest times. "And Hezekiah," says the sacred narrative, "rejoiced, and all the people, that God had prepared the people; for the thing was done suddenly," 2Ch 29:36; immediately on the king's accession to the throne, on the first declaration of his pious resolution. How clear a proof does this exhibit of the previous existence and clearly acknowledged authority of those laws which the Pentateuch contains!

But a yet more remarkable part of this transaction still remains. At this time Hoshea was king of Israel, and so far disposed to countenance the worship of the true God, that he appears to have made no opposition to the pious zeal of Hezekiah; who, with the concurrence of the whole congregation which he had assembled, sent out letters and made a proclamation, not only to his own people of Judah, 2Ch 30:1, "but to Ephraim and Manasseh and all Israel, from Beersheba even unto Dan, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto the Lord God of Israel; saying, Ye children of Israel, turn again to the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and he will return to the remnant of you who are escaped out of the hands of the kings of Assyria; and be not ye like your fathers and your brethren, which trespassed against the Lord God of their fathers, who therefore gave them up to desolation as ye see. Now be ye not stiff-necked, as your fathers were; but yield yourselves unto the Lord, and enter into his sanctuary which he hath sanctified for ever, and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you. So the posts passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh even unto Zebulun," 2Ch 30:6, &c.

Now, can we conceive that such an attempt as this could have been made, if the Pentateuch containing the Mosaic code had not been as certainly recognised through the ten tribes of Israel as in the kingdom of Judah? The success was exactly such as we might reasonably expect if it were so acknowledged; for, though many of the ten tribes laughed to scorn and mocked the messengers of Hezekiah, who invited them to the solemnity of the passover, from the impious contempt which through long disuse they had conceived for it. "Nevertheless," says the sacred narrative, "divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem; and there assembled at Jerusalem much people, to keep the feast of unleavened bread in the second month, a very great congregation; and they killed the passover, and the priests and Levites stood in their places after their manner, according to the law of Moses, the man of God. So there was great joy in Jerusalem; for since the time of Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel, there was not the like at Jerusalem: and when all this was finished, all Israel that were present went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all," 2Ch 30:11; 31. Can any clearer proof than this be desired of the constant and universal acknowledgment of the divine authority of the Pentateuch throughout the entire nation of the Jews, notwithstanding the idolatries and corruptions which so often prevented its receiving such obedience as that acknowledgment ought to have produced? The argument from this certain antiquity of the Pentateuch, a copy of which existed in the old Samaritan character as well as in the modern Hebrew, is most conclusive as to the numerous prophecies of Christ, and the future and present condition of the Jews which it contains. These are proved to have been delivered many ages before they were accomplished; they could be only the result of divine prescience, and the uttering of them by Moses proves therefore the inspiration and the authority of his writings. See LAW, and See MOSES.

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