ABOUT THE FIRST FIVE BOOKS
What are the first five books of the Bible together called? Who wrote them? How do we know who wrote them? What is written about in those first five books?
NAMES FOR THE FIRST FIVE BOOKS
There are a number of different names that are commonly used to designate the first five books of the Old Testament. They are sometimes called the Pentateuch. This name comes from two Greek words that mean the “five volumes.” These five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) are also called the Law. The Hebrew name for them is the Torah, the Hebrew word for “law.” They are also called The Law of Moses or The Five Books of Moses.
WHO WROTE THE PENTATEUCH?
The human author of the Pentateuch was Moses. There is no introduction to the Pentateuch that tells us this directly. However, the following evidence shows us clearly that Moses is the author.
- EVIDENCE FROM THE REST OF THE PENTATEUCH: In a number of verses from books of the Pentateuch we are told that Moses wrote down what God had directed him to write. Look up these passages – [Exodus 24:4] [Exodus 34:27] [Numbers 33:1-2] [Deuteronomy 31:9].
- EVIDENCE FROM THE REST OF THE OLD TESTAMENT: Other books of the Old Testament besides the Pentateuch speak of Moses being the author of the Pentateuch. See these passages – [Joshua 8:31] [2 Kings 14:6] [Nehemiah 8:1]. There are many more such passages in the Old Testament which clearly speak of the Mosaic authorship of the first five books of the Old Testament.
- EVIDENCE FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT, ESPECIALLY JESUS’ TESTIMONY: See these passages – [Matthew 19:7-8] [Matthew 8:4] [Luke 24:27 & 44] [John 5:47] [Acts 3:22].
It is evident from these passages and many more that Jesus and the writers of the New Testament credited Moses with the writing of the Pentateuch. We have pointed out this evidence for the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch because of the views expressed by some. They say that Moses did not write these books. They say that these books are only oral traditions written centuries after Moses. They claim that they were written by a number of men whose words do not always agree. The testimony of Jesus, however, is sufficient. He credits Moses with the human authorship and speaks of them as having the authority of God.
THE CONTENTS OF THE PENTATEUCH
The Pentateuch covers the period of time from creation to the death of Moses just before the conquest of the Promised Land under Joshua. That means that in the Pentateuch Moses writes about events covering thousands of years. Here is a brief outline of what is covered in these five books of Moses:
Genesis begins with an account of creation. Adam and Eve are created and given the responsibility of caring for the world about them. By their sin they lose their holiness. God promises a Savior. People become so wicked that God destroys all but one family in a flood. Noah and his family are spared. God chooses to work out His plans of redemption through Abraham. Genesis Chaps. 12-50 record the events in the lives of the Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Through this family line God promised the “seed” through whom all the people of the earth would be blessed. The account of one of Jacob’s sons, Joseph, is related in Chaps. 37-50.
Exodus Chaps. 1-19 tell of the Children of Israel (Jacob) going from Egypt to Mount Sinai. Exodus 19 to Numbers 10 tells of the encampment of the Children of Israel at Mount Sinai, where the Law was given. Numbers 10-21 tells of the wilderness wanderings of the Children of Israel, a period of about 38 years. In Numbers 22 to Deuteronomy 34 the Children of Israel are encamped before entering Canaan. Moses delivers a long farewell address in the Book of Deuteronomy. In all of the Pentateuch there are two main elements that show through all of the contents. The first is HISTORY. We do not mean that it is just a history of the ancient world or that it is a history of Israel. Rather it is especially a HISTORY OF SALVATION, a HISTORY OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD. The second element that shows through all the contents is LAW. Law is so prominent in the Pentateuch that all of the five books are often called simply THE LAW. The giving of the Law is a big part of Exodus; Leviticus is entirely composed of laws; Numbers has Law mixed up with historical accounts; Deuteronomy has laws as a large part of Moses’ long address in the book. We could say that the Pentateuch is a five volume book made up of HISTORY and LAW. (The Gospel always comes through in the history portions.)
THE NAMES FOR EACH OF THE FIVE BOOKS
Genesis – means “beginning.” The book tells of the beginning of many things: the universe, man, sin, promise of Savior, etc.
Exodus – means “a going out,” because it tells of Israel going out of Egypt.
Leviticus – means “relating to the Levites.” The book is so called because it records many laws which applied to the Levites, the tribe named after Levi, the priestly tribe.
Numbers – The book is called Numbers because it relates the numbers of people included in the tribes of Israel.
Deuteronomy – means “second law.” It is so called since Moses in this book states the law of God a second time.
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