Who Wrote the Pentateuch?

The first five books of the Bible (Pentateuch, The Law, The Torah) were written anonymously. Unlike many of the books of the Bible, these five do not claim to have an author. However, it is widely believed that Moses was indeed the author of these most important books. Here are a few reasons why I believe the Bible indicates Mosaic authorship.

I. Internal Evidence
Though it was uncommon in ancient literature for an author to reveal himself as the actual penman, there is indication directly in the Pentateuch that Moses did author at least some of it’s contents. Exodus 17:14 and Numbers 33:2 tell us that God directed Moses to write down historical facts. Exodus 24:4 and 34:27 show us that he was responsible to write laws for the people. Even Deuteronomy 31:22 is clearly a poem written by Moses himself. If he was known as the writer of the law, in the law, then it is likely that he was the writer of “the law.”

II. Old Testament Evidence
When the historians who wrote first and second Chronicles referred to the first five books of the Bible, they called them “the book of Moses.” (II Chr. 25:4, 34:14, 35:12) When Ezra and Nehemiah referenced the Pentateuch they called it “the book of the law of Moses.” (Ezra 6:18, Neh. 8:1) Even the Prophet Daniel spoke of the “law of Moses” when speaking of the Pentateuch. (Daniel 9:11-13) I suppose they must have thought Moses was the author.

III. New Testament Evidence
Personally, the greatest piece of evidence that Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible is that Jesus believed Moses wrote the books (Mark 12:26). Personally, I’m going with the guy who died and rose again. If that’s not enough the New Testament confirms Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch in Luke 2:2, Acts 13:39, and Luke 24:27.

IV. Ezra The Great Editor
Then why is it that some do not believe that Moses authored this collection of five books? In Genesis 14:14 it teaches that Abram attacked Lot’s persecutors all the way to the land of Dan. Yet Dan did not exist in that form until after the conquest of Joshua and Judges. Also, Moses speaks of his own death and his subsequent funeral in Deuteronomy 34:5-7. That would be a bit strange for anyone to be able to do other than Jesus Christ. So, if Moses did author the books of the law, then who added this other stuff? The answer is likely a man named Ezra who served as a major spiritual leader some 1000 years later. According to Ezra chapter seven Ezra was learned in the law of Moses and was an excellent scribe. He was tasked with teaching the law of Moses to the people. Jewish tradition teaches that it was he who transcribed the final additions of the Torah. Though the writings of Moses had been around for many centuries, studied as Scripture and obeyed as the Word of God, their likely final form was, as the theologian William Sanford Lasor postulates, “formed into a single collection by Ezra is the period of restoration after the Exile.”

Does this issue impact our view of Biblical inspiration?
It absolutely does! The doctrine of inspiration, that the Bible is of God with His direct wording, is amplified with this understanding and not diminished in the least. Since the Pentateuch is anonymously written it is up to the student to discover who was the penman. Through careful study of the entire Bible we conclude that the penman was Moses and the ultimate author was the Lord God. The fact that the Holy Spirit moved Ezra one thousand years later to edit and collate only increases the miraculous way in which God has provided to us the final product. The Bible is so incredibly unified though it was written by over 40 authors, in several countries, spanning thousands of years. It’s impossible to think that such a unified book was not written by one person. And that person would be the Holy Spirit of God (II Timothy 3:16).

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  2. Lawrence says:

    Who wrote Deuteronomy 34, since Moses is dead.

    • Joshua Teis says:

      Lawrence – that’s my point. I suppose I wasn’t clear. It is believed that Ezra the scribe edited and commented on the text and brought in into one volume. Therefore it was likely Ezra. Some believe Joshua, Moses successor, may have written this as a prologue of some kind and then Ezra formatted it.

  3. “The penman was Moses and the ultimate author was the Lord God.” – Love this truth!! Amazing how you dig deep to beautifully polish the Simple truth of our God. He is the Author. Even more so, he is our individual Author. What comfort I find in that the God who penned the Law is daily penning my life. That is peace.
    Thank you for this truth.

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