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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: How Could Moses Have Written Genesis?

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Don Stewart
We have seen that Moses could have written Exodus through Deuteronomy based upon his own eyewitness testimony. But what about Genesis? The events at the conclusion of the Book of Genesis occurred some three hundred years before Moses was born. In addition, when the heavens and the earth were created there was nobody around to observe it except for God, and possibly His angelic host. How then could Moses write about the original creation and the rest of the events in Genesis? Obviously he had to depend upon sources. What were these sources?

Direct Revelation

One possible answer to this question is that Moses could have received direct revelation from God as to what happened in the beginning. This would be consistent with the way God has revealed Himself in other parts of Scripture. For example, God revealed the future to the prophets, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah. It is, therefore, certainly possible that He could have told Moses what had happened in the past as He told others what would happen in the future.

Records Kept From Beginning

There is also the likelihood that records of God's dealings with humanity were kept from the beginning. The personal touch in which we find these events recorded, such as Abraham's prayer for Sodom, and his offering of Isaac, gives evidence that what we have are firsthand accounts. We know that Abraham came from a country where reading and writing were common. It is possible that he could have collected any earlier records and brought them with him. Scripture also tells us that Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac (Genesis 25:5). It is possible that records from earlier times were among his possessions.

One Tradition Known

We do know that at least one of the traditions from the time of Joseph was handed down until the time of Moses. Joseph made his brothers promise that they would carry his bones from Egypt to the Promised Land (Genesis 50:25). Joseph's body was preserved until Moses' time so that his request could be granted. We are told that his wishes were carried out.

And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, for he had placed the children of Israel under solemn oath, saying, God will surely visit you, and you shall carry my bones from here with you (Exodus 13:19).

Buried In Shechem

His bones were brought to the Promised Land and buried in Shechem.

The bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel had brought up out of Egypt, they buried at Shechem, in the plot of ground that Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of silver, and which had become an inheritance of the children of Joseph (Joshua 24:32).

From the time Joseph made his brothers take an oath to bury his bones in the Promised Land, until the time they were actually brought there, covered a period of four centuries. Therefore we know of at least one tradition from Genesis that was handed down to the time of Moses-hundreds of years later.

Easy Access For Joseph And Moses

More than three-quarters of Genesis (chapters 12-50) deal with events in the lifetime of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The events in their lives, including any written records, were undoubtedly known to Joseph. His powerful position in Egypt would have made it easy for him to collect and preserve any records of his forefathers if they were in written form.

Coffins Discovered

Moreover coffins from periods earlier than Joseph's time have been discovered with inscriptions and extractions from the Egyptian Book of the Dead. If the coffins of Egyptian priests and princes bore inscriptions from Egyptian holy books, it is not too difficult to imagine that the coffin of Joseph, the man whom God used to deliver Israel, would also contain records of the traditions of his ancestors.

How Moses Got The Records

This demonstrates how these records could have come into the possession of Moses. Moses, therefore, could have made use of the records preserved in Joseph's coffin in the compilation of the Book of Genesis.

Would Have Had Access

As one educated in Pharaoh's court and raised as a son of Pharaoh's daughter, Moses would also have access to any other written records from earlier times that would have made their way down to Egypt.

Events Recorded Accurately

The main issue, however, is the accuracy of what was recorded. The biblical doctrine of inspiration means that God inspired the writers to record correctly what had occurred. It argues only for the accuracy of the finished product; it does not mean that the writer had a mind that functioned as a blank tablet to be written upon by the Holy Spirit. Making use of previous written sources is permissible. If Moses used earlier documents it would not at all be inconsistent with the divine inspiration of Scripture. The point is that we simply do not know how Moses derived his information for the events in Genesis.


Although the events of Genesis concluded three hundred years before Moses was born there are still excellent reasons to believe he wrote or at least compiled the first book of the Bible. In addition, Moses could have written about creation without having been there by either receiving direct revelation from God or by making use of records that were already in existence. Whatever the case may be, the finished result was the inspired, inerrant Word of God.

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