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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: Why Do Some People Reject the Idea That Moses Wrote the First Five Books of the Old Testament?

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Don Stewart
As we have seen, the traditional view is that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. This view was almost universally accepted until the 17th century. At that time doubts began to be cast upon the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. Today a large number of Old Testament authorities doubt that Moses had anything to do with the writing of the first five books of Scripture.

Wrong Assumptions

The higher critical theories that cast doubt upon the reliability of the early chapters of Genesis have been shown to be unreliable. These theories were born in an age of ignorance regarding early civilization. Many assumptions that were once held have now been shown to be untrue.

No Writing In Moses Day

For example, the higher critical theories originally assumed that writing was not in use in the days of the Patriarchs. Consequently they concluded Moses could not have written the Pentateuch because writing had not been invented at that time. We now know that writing was practiced centuries before the time of Moses and that he certainly had the capability to write the first five books of the Old Testament.

Written In Third Person

Another accusation against Mosaic authorship concerns the way Moses is portrayed in the Pentateuch. It is argued that Moses could not be the author of these books because he would not write about himself in the third person. In the Law, Moses is always referred to in the third person. For example, we read.

Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth (Numbers 12:3).

Supposedly, no writer would describe himself in such terms.

Not Persuasive

This argument against Mosaic authorship is not very persuasive. Many ancient authors wrote about themselves in the third person such as Julius Caesar in the Gallic Wars. We also have a biblical example of this occurring. Ezra, who wrote the book that bears his name, wrote in both the first and third person in his book.

Did Moses Write About His Death?

It is also contended that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch because he could not have written his own obituary (Deuteronomy 34:5-8). How could he have written about his own death before he died?

Perhaps Written By Joshua

However, it is not necessary to assume that Moses wrote the last part of Deuteronomy that contained his obituary. It could easily have been written by Joshua. We have a similar situation in the Book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah 51:64 states the words of Jeremiah end here. Then we have another chapter (52) in the book.


The idea that Moses could not or did not write the first five books of the Old Testament does not fit the facts. The main arguments raised by the critics have shown to be fallacious. The traditional point of view, that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, should be upheld.

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