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Don Stewart :: Who Wrote the Book of Genesis?

Don Stewart
Now that we understand the purpose of Genesis, we need to consider the question concerning the human authorship of the book. Who wrote the Book of Genesis?

The Law Of Moses

The first five books of the Bible are known by various names. The Hebrew name is the Torah or Law (Joshua 1:7). The Old Testament also calls Genesis through Deuteronomy the book of the law (Joshua 8:34), the book of the law of God (Joshua 24:26), the book of the law of the Lord (2 Chronicles 17:9), and the law of Moses (1 Kings 2:3).

New Testament

In the New Testament these first five books are called the book of the law (Galatians 3:10), the book of Moses (Mark 12:26), the law of the Lord (Luke 2:23), the law of Moses (Luke 2:22), and the law (Matthew 12:5). In both testaments the five books of Moses are considered one book.

Pentateuch

These writings are also called the Pentateuch (which comes from a Greek word meaning five-volume). These five books are basically one book with the division between them being for sake of convenience. For example, the Book of Exodus begins with the word and which connects it with the end of Genesis.

Author Of Genesis Not Named

Though the Pentateuch is known as the Books of Moses, nowhere in the Book of Genesis is the author named. Until the last three hundred years, both Jews and Christians were almost unanimous in their belief that Moses was the author (or at least the compiler) of Genesis as well as the author of Exodus through Deuteronomy. Reasons for the rejection of Moses' authorship were not based upon any objective evidence but stemmed from an anti-supernatural bias on behalf of the critics.

Evidence For Moses' Authorship

There is, however, a large amount of evidence that the author or compiler of the Book of Genesis was Moses.

1.He Was Qualified

First, Moses was qualified to write the books. Moses was the adopted son of the daughter of Pharaoh. We are told that he was trained in all the wisdom and knowledge of Egypt.

And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter, and he became her son. So she called his name Moses, saying, Because I drew him out of the water (Exodus 2:10).

In the New Testament, the martyr Stephen said.

And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds (Acts 7:22).

Writing was common at his time. Since Moses personally lead the people out of Egypt to the Promised Land there is no reason why he would not record their experiences.

2.He Had The Information

We also know that Moses had the necessary information to write the Pentateuch. He was the most prominent person in the events that transpired in Exodus through Deuteronomy. In his farewell address (Deuteronomy 1-3) Moses displays intimate knowledge of their history. He, more than any of his contemporaries, had the ability to write about the nations experience.

3.He Had The Time

Moses also would have had the time to write these books. For forty years he led the people through the wilderness and though he was busy as their leader and judge, we also know that he appointed rulers of each tribe to relieve him of the trivial matters (Exodus 18:13-26). As he would be dealing with only the most important issues, Moses certainly would have had time to compose the history of the people.

4.He Wrote Some Of It

We have internal testimony from the Pentateuch that Moses wrote at least part of it.

Then the Lord said to Moses, Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven (Exodus 17:14).

And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel (Exodus 24:4).

Then the Lord said to Moses, Write these words, for according to the tenor of these words, I have made a covenant with you and with Israel (Exodus 34:27).

Now Moses wrote down the starting points of their journeys at the command of the Lord. And these are their journeys according to their starting points (Numbers 33:2).

Now therefore, write down this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel (Deuteronomy 31:19).

So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book when they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying: Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there as a witness against you (Deuteronomy 31: 24-26).

From the testimony of Scripture, it is obvious that Moses had the ability to write, and that he did write some things pertaining to Israel's history. If Moses wrote Exodus through Deuteronomy, it also follows that he wrote Genesis even though his name is nowhere mentioned in the book.

5.The Testimony Of The Old Testament

The writers of the Old Testament also assume Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Joshua states that it was already written at his time.

Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you . . . This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it (Joshua 1:7,8).

Now Joshua built an altar to the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the Book of the Law of Moses . . . (Joshua 8:30,31).

6.The Testimony Of The New Testament

The writers of the New Testament assume Moses wrote the Pentateuch. The Apostle John contrasts the Law of Moses with the coming of Jesus.

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17).

The Apostle Paul speaks about the righteousness of the Law of Moses. This is a reference to Leviticus 18:5 which Paul says that Moses wrote:

For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, The person who does these things shall live by them (Romans 10:5).

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he clearly indicated his belief that Moses wrote part of the Old Testament.

But their minds were hardened. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in reading the Old Testament because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart (2 Corinthians 3:14,15).

We also have the testimony of Luke. In the Book of Acts he writes:

And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brothers, Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved (Acts 15:1).

This verse describes circumcision as a custom taught by Moses. This most likely refers to Genesis 17 where the rite of circumcision is introduced to the Hebrew patriarchs and their descendants. Nowhere else in the first five books of Scripture are the regulations for circumcision given. This would indicate that Luke believed Moses wrote Genesis.

7.The Testimony Of Jesus

Jesus often spoke of the Law of Moses. He stated that Moses gave the Law.

Did Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill me . . . If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath, so that the law of Moses should not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath (John 7:19,23).

On one occasion Jesus spoke of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms.

Then He said to them, These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you - that everything written about Me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled (Luke 24:44)

This statement makes Moses the author of the first part of the Old Testament. He is placed on an equal footing with the Prophets and Psalms.

Jesus also said that Moses wrote of Him.

For if you, believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words? (John 5:46-47).

We discover, therefore, that New Testament authors Paul, Luke, and John give testimony to Moses being the author of part of the Old Testament. We also have the confirmation of Jesus who also acknowledged Moses wrote some part of Scripture.

8.Early Non-Biblical Writers

There is also the early testimony of writings that were not considered part of Scripture. In the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus we read.

He allowed him [Moses] to hear his voice, and led him into the dark cloud, and gave him the commandments face to face, the law of life and knowledge, so that he might teach Jacob the covenant, and Israel his decrees (Ecclesiasticus 45:5).

First centuries writers Flavius Josephus [Antiquities IV 8.48] and Philo [Life of Moses 3:39] also testified to Moses authorship of the Pentateuch.

Summary

A strong case can be made for Moses' involvement with the first five books of Scripture. He had the ability to write, had the time to write, and was in a position to know the facts.

In addition, we know that he wrote some of it. Add to this the testimony of the Old Testament, the New Testament, early non-Biblical writers, and Jesus Himself, we find good reason to accept Moses as the author of Genesis through Deuteronomy.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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