THE AUTHORSHIP OF THE FIVE BOOKS OF MOSES

by Kenneth K. Miller

The Christian Church, like the ancient Hebrews, always maintained firmly that Moses is the author of the first five books of the Bible. It is commonly supposed that the Church simply took over this "opinion" from the tradition of the Jews without question, as it adopted other Jewish legends. On the surface, that might seem to be the case, since the Jews did believe that Moses was the author of Genesis through Deuteronomy 34:4. But that is not why the Church teaches as it does. The Church teaches the Mosaic authorship of those books for the same reason the Jews did and still do: because it is the truth. The Church does not prove its case by saying, "The oldest tradition there is, the Jewish tradition, says Moses wrote these books; therefore he did." The real evidence which has always been conclusive for the Church is twofold: 1. Our Lord Jesus Christ testified to the fact that Moses wrote these books. Luke 2:22; 5:14; 16:29, 31; 20:28; 24:27; 24:44; et al. 2. These books themselves say and show that Moses is their author.

While a good many things could be said under No. 1, we shall concern ourselves only with No. 2 for the time being. There is a great deal of evidence which could be cited to show that the first five books prove our case, but it is equally important to point out that the objections raised against it are fallacious. To this task we shall restrict ourselves. For a brief summary of the positive evidence, one may consult E. J. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament, pages 46-50.

Genesis Connected with Exodus

Those who maintain that Moses did not write these books sometimes say that Genesis certainly is not by him, since the Bible nowhere says he is its author. Jesus never said so, and even the book of Genesis never says so. Those facts are true enough, but they are meaningless. Genesis cannot so readily be cut off from the other four and considered separately. It forms an organic part of the unit. It is inseparably connected with Exodus, which begins with "and" (KJV: "Now"): "Now these are the names of the children of Israel which came into Egypt: every man and his household came with Jacob." This verse presupposes the account of the entry into Egypt given in Gen. 46. Otherwise we would have no idea who Jacob was. Likewise verses 6 and 8 of Exodus 1 presuppose the last chapters of Genesis ("Joseph died; there arose a now king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph.") These verses are meaningless if we do not have the story of Joseph as related in Genesis.

At this point someone may argue that Exodus -Deuteronomy were written at a late date, and that these verses do not necessarily assume a written account of Joseph and Jacob, since these "stories" were part of Israel's oral tradition and were known by everyone. But even if we assume that to be true for a moment and assume that Genesis was written after the other books, it is still very remarkable that Genesis was written in such a way as to include just those matters which are referred to in the first chapter of Exodus, and supplies exactly the information we need to know what Exudus is referring to. There are also other references in Exodus to matters which are related in Genesis, such as 2:24; also in the other books, such as in Deut. 29:23. It would seem that there was some sort of plan common to Genesis and the other four books: in fact, that both were written by the same person. They form a literary unit.

No Personal Memoirs

More specific objections to Mosaic authorship have been catalogued by Aage Bentzen, Introduction to the Old Testament, 11, p. 11. He says, "it can be proved that Moses cannot be the author of the Pentateuch." His objections follow.

1. "The narrative parts speak of Moses in the third person, and it is not possible to prove why Moses should write anonymously." It is true, the reason why he should have written anonymously is not apparent. But that he wrote anonymously cannot be maintained in the light of a number of passages like Exod. 34:27, where it is stated that Moses wrote certain things.

It is equally impossible to prove why Moses should not have written in the third person. Such an approach gives an objective character to the whole work. It is not personal memoirs that Moses wrote, but the history of God's dealings with His people. The Evangelists also neglect to name themselves. There are extra-Biblical examples of the same approach. Caesar does not refer to himself in the first person in his Gallic Wars, nor does Xenophon in his Anabasis. Yet no one questions their authorship of these works. Perhaps Moses was simply humble enough to consider himself of no importance. For that matter, except for the title page, Bentzen does not say anywhere in his book that he wrote it.

Yet Moses' writings are not as entirely anonymous as one might think after reading Bentzen's comment. In the book of Deuteronomy Moses refers to himself in the first person many times, as even Bentzen grants on p. 201. Oddly enough, he and many like him will not admit that Daniel wrote the book of Daniel, even though Daniel makes that clear by saying ''I, Daniel” a number of times. Bentzen refers to this fact as "the problem of pseudonymity."

Thus is Moses does not speak in the first person, he is not the author. lf Daniel does speak in the first person, he is not the author. With that logic, that critics can't lose.

Self Praise

2. "And even an anonymous writer would certainly not praise his own humility (Num. 12:3), or exalt himself as in Dt. 34:10-12, cf. Num. 12:7f., and Ex. 11:3." (The reader should look at the passages we are discussing in this essay, because our space is too limited to print them out in full.)

First of all, we should mention that the Deut 34 passage could have been written by someone else after the death of Moses; perhaps it was Joshua. It tells of the death of Moses. The passage from Number 12 has the Lord speaking in defense of Moses against false accusations by re-affirming his office as the Lord's chosen prophet: "My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house.'' The Exodus 11 passage says that Moses was great in the land of Egypt, meaning that he was wellknown and of great influence. In other words, he was famous.

Now as for Numbers 12:3: "Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth." This was not foolish praise of himself, but is necessary to what follows in the chapter. Young correctly says, "It was because of his exalted position in the divine economy that Moses was the meekest of men and therefore would not stoop to defend himself agaisnt such an attack. Hence the Lord spoke suddenly, coming to his defense. lf v. 3 be not original, the action of the Lord

(v. 4) is inexplicable." (Introduction, p. 93)

  1. "Deut. 34:10-12 is one of the passages proving that the author lived after the time of Moses. They look back to that age and compare it with the author's own days." We have already mentioned that this chapter was possibly written by Joshua or some other prophet alter Moses died. But even so, it is not proved that Moses could not have written it. These verses do not necessarily refer to a distant past compared with the author's time. The passage reads, "there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses.'' But the word translated "since" can just as well mean simply "again." Thus it might be a prophetic statement with the meaning that Moses was the last kind, who met with the Lord "face to face," and that there would not be another like him until the Savior comes.

    1. "The frequently repeated formula "unto this day" (Dt. 3:14; 34:6; 10:8) belongs to the same category." We must observe that these references are all from Deuteronomy. One is from the last chapter, mentioned above. The book of Deuteronomy is the written record of Moses' final addresses to Israel just before his death. He reviews the history of their desert wanderings. Certain names and commandments which originated early in their wandering were still in effect at the time Moses spoke. Thus the words "unto this day" do not militate against Moses' being their author.

    2. Contradictions
  2. "Already Ibn Ezra murmured his doubts concerning Gen. 12:6; 13:7, compare also Ex. 15:15-17; Lev. 18:24-27; Dt. 2:12." Ibn Ezra was a Jewish scholar of the Middle Ages. The two passages from Genesis say "the Canaanite was then in the land.'' Bentzen draws the conclusion that the author of these verses wrote at a time when the Canaanite was no longer in the land. And this is supposed to contradict the other passages cited, from Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, which say or imply that the Canaanite was no longer in the land at the time of Moses. But this objection falls to the ground. The Genesis passages do not mean the Canaanite was still in the land, but that he was already in the land at the time when Abraham arrived there.

  3. "The land of the Hebrews', Gen. 40:15, is an anachronism." (That is, the name is supposed to have been written into the story of Joseph, even though that name did not exist at Joseph's time.) This objection supposes that the Jews were not called "Hebrews" until long after the Exodus. But that does not accord with the facts. Joseph says that he was stolen away "out of the land of the Hebrews." This is perfectly correct. The land from which he was stolen had first been Abraham's and had been left to Isaac and then to Jacob. In Genesis 14:13 we find reference to "Abram the Hebrew." Probably he was so called because he was a descendant of Eber.

Anachronisms

7. "Place names like those of Gen. 14:14; Dt. 34:1; Num. 32:41; Dt. 3:14 according to Judg. 18-29;

10:14 originated after the time of Moses.'' The places referred to are Dan and Havoth-Jair. In Judges it is said that the Danites built a city and called its name Dan. This is supposed to contradict Genesis 14 and Deuteronomy 34, where Dan is mentioned as being in existence much earlier. There are several possible explanations. One is that there may have been two places named Dan, and one of these existed long before the other. Or the earlier references to Dan may be taken to refer to the territory, while the later one mentions the city. The name Dan was evidently quite common, since there was a later prophet Daniel, and since at Ras Shamra on the Mediterranean coast there was discovered a legend of one Dan'el. The name Dan means simply "judge." Or Moses may have used the name Dan to refer to the territory so that later readers might know where it was long after the original name had been forgotten.

Of the cities called Havoth-Jair Moses says in Numbers 32:41 that they were so named by Jair the son of Manasseh. This is supposed to contradict Judges 10:4, which says the cities were so called after the story of Jair the Gileadite, who had 30 sons. In other words, the cities were given the same name twice. The explanation of Keil-Delitzsch is quite to the point: "Jair (the son of Manasseh) gave the name of Havoth Jair to the towns of Bashan which had been conquered by him." The book of Judges does not say that Jair the Gileadite was the first to give that name to the cities, but "this name was brought into use again by the sons of Jair (the Gileadite), and was applied to these cities in a peculiar sense."

Kings Reigning

8. "The author of Gen. 36:31 writes during the period of the monarchy in Israel." This passage says, "before their reigned any king over the children." But it should be remembered that already in Genesis

17:16 and other passages, kings were promised to the children of Abraham. It is not necessary to assume that they were already reigning at the time this verse was written.

  1. "Num. 21:4ff. quotes a source dealing with the story of the time of Moses." The verse reads, "Wherefore it is said in the book of the wars of the Lord, What he did in the Red Sea,'' etc. This does not prove anything about the Mosaic authorship of the section; it simply furnishes a reference with corroborating or additional information concerning details which Moses did not choose to include in the sacred record. The authors of Kings and Chronicles also cite writings which may interest the reader. One thing is indicated, however, by this verse. It is unlikely that Moses wrote these books as he went along, as a "log book.'' More probably he did keep a record of the events from day to day and near the end of the journey gathered his records. Then, under Divine inspiration, he wrote one connected account.

    1. "In Gen. 50:10f.; Nu. 22:1; 32:32; Dt. 1:15; 3:8; 4:46 the land East of th Jordan is called the land on the other side of the Jordan, which proves that the author lived West of the Jordan -where Moses never set his feet.'' This problem does not exist in the King James Version, where the phrase is regularly and correctly translated "this side" of the Jordan. The Hebrew phrase basically means "beyond Jordan." But there is a simple explanation for the use of this phrase. E. J. Young explains (p. 113): "evidently it had somewhat of a technical sense, exactly like the modern equivalent, 'Transjordania.' It is perfectly possible for a person who lives east of the Jordan today to speak of himself as being in Transjordania."

    2. The same phrase, "beyond Jordan," is also used in the opposite sense sometimes, to refer to the land West of the Jordan, as in Num. 32:19.
  2. "And finally, the Pentateuch is no unity. In spite of all differences of opinion concerning the origin of the present Pentateuch it cannot be assumed that one man stands at its beginning as 'author.'" As evidence of this assertion Bentzen refers to:

Doublets

a. "The doublets." On pages 24-25 Bentzen cites a long list of what he considers to be double accounts of the same events. It would be a waste of space to attempt to answer all of them here. Generally one might say that a study of the context and circumstances of each narrative will explain the differences between two or more sections that appear to be identical. Sometimes, as with the 10 Commandments, there is an almost exact repetition; but the purpose Moses had in mind in each case is different. When he recites the Commandments in Deuteronomy, Moses is reminding the Israelites concerning them.

Young's comment is again excellent: "In reality this is a question of exegesis (careful study of the text). Are these really doublets and parallel passages? We insist that a careful exegetical study of such passages will show that they are not doublets. We protest against the constant reiteration that, for example, there are duplicate accounts of the creation in Genesis. lf exegesis be permitted to remain upon the throne, the documentary analysts will go by the board." (p. 163)

With doublets the critic cannot lose. lf the two accounts are exactly alike, then he can say, Aha, this is a case where a late editor wasn't watching what he was doing and quoted the same thing twice. And if the accounts are different, then he can say, Aha, the two accounts contradict each other. The critic thus has a two-headed coin; but he doesn't realize that the last call will be "tails." b. "The awkward way in which some pieces break the continuity of the narrative (Gen 38 in the context of the Joseph-story has the effect of a dog among ninepins)." This objection is an entirely subjective (personal) one. What may seem awkward to one person may not to another. In a narrative history of the origin and wanderings of a nation we might expect to find a number of abrupt changes of subjectmatter. There are so many things that need to be included, such as the entire matter of the Tabernacle, its furnishings, the ritual, etc. What is surprising is that the entire narrative is so smooth that it makes sense and does for a harmonic whole. The story of Judah's adultery with his daughter-in-Iaw (Gen 38) is quite properly in place when one remembers that the aim of this section of Genesis is not merely to tell the story of Joseph, but to include all the important events in the divine history. The events in this chapter took place "at that time" (38:1), or while Joseph was being transported to Egypt. The placement of the chapter contrasts Judah's wantonness with Joseph's chastity in the chapter following, and sets the stage for Joseph's forgiving heart a few chapters later.

Stylistic Differences

c. "The stylistic differences pointing not only to differences of place in life, but to different manners of story tellers.'' One wonders how many centuries scholars have been giving warning that differences in style are an entirely unsafe criterion for judging who did and who did not write something. Studies of this subject usually amount to little more than statistics about words. Ancient word-forms are often used in late writings and vice-versa. It is extremely difficult, usually impossible, to determine authorship from style. It has never been accomplished with Greek or English literature and has no more chance of success with the Bible. One is reminded of the conclusion which was once reached on the basis of style, that the Iliad and the Odyssey wre not written by Homer, but by an unknown poet of the same name.

Dr. Albright's observation can form a good rule of thumb also in matters of style: "Even when story motifs can be found in different contiguous lands, it is not safe to assume original relationship or borrowing except where the motif is complex, forming a pattern." Stone Age to Christianity, Doubleday Ed.., p. 67.)

d.
"The different phrases with character of fixed formulas." Unfortunately, Bentzen does not explain why he thinks such phrases militate against Moses being the author of these books; nor does he give any examples; nor does he explain what he means. Therefore it is not possible to comment on the matter.
e.
"The theological differences and contradictions." Again, he gives no examples, for there are no examples to give. The Bible does not contain any contradictions, especially in theology. It does contain some differences, but these are only differences of emphasis. One section may concentrate on

Theological Contradictions

the result of violation of a commandment, while another may concentrate on justification by faith. But this does not constitute a "theological difference."

JEDP

12. Finally, the use of the different names for God is often mentioned as evidence of multiple authorship of these books. But the theory that says there were several hands at work on these books is itself fraught with horrible difficulties. Not the least of these is the fact that the Septuagint Greek translation (about 300 B.C.) differs from the Hebrew text in 180 places. An even greater difficulty is this, that there is not one "author" who used the name Elohim, but three; no, four. The theory was first brought forth by dividing into two parts: the sections where the Lord is called Jehovah (J), and the sections where He is called Elohim (E). But this didn't work out very well, so there was added a Priestly writer (P) to account for the sections on the Tabernacle and ritual. And then there was added a Deuteronomist (D) to account for the book of Deuteronomy. Now, P uses the name Elohim (E), and Deuteronomy uses both Divine names. But this was not good enough, so (E) was divided into El and E2. Now there are five supposed authors. But some parts of P seemed to be a distinct "holiness code," so there is a sixth "author," H, plus a number of later "editors," or redactors (R). Still the adherents of this theory aren't entirely clear on which verses should be assigned to which "author." Nor have they been able to name a single one of them. The theory is clearly artificial. Its faults have been pointed out many times, as, for example, by 0.T. Allis in The Five Books of Moses.

While the theory of multiple authorship is too long and involved to undertake here, it may be said that other solutions of the "problem" of the variations in the use of God's names have been set forth, and many of them explain the facts just as effectively, if not more so.

None of the objections which Aage Bentzen, a leading Old Testament scholar and advocate of the multiple authorship theory, has presented, have sufficient substance to cause us any sincere doubts about the testimony of Scripture. There is no reason to doubt that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. There may be some difficulties which confront us from time to time, but with sufficient knowledge they could all be solved. Meanwhile, there is plenty of reason to believe that Moses did write these books: the Scripture itself says he did.

APPENDIX

There are some today who are saying we have to accept those portions of the five books which the Bible actually says were written by Moses -but we can ascribe the remainder to other authors. Such an approach is silly in the extreme. Neither the liberal critics nor the conservatives can accept such a cutting job. It contradicts the liberal JEPD hypothesis, because sections from J, from E, from D, and from P are all found in the portions which must be attributed to Moses. It also contradicts the conservative thesis that the Pentateuch is a unity.

To demonstrate the absurdity of such an appoach, there are listed below those sections of the Pentateuch which are expressly ascribed to Moses by the Bible. The passages in parentheses indicate where authorship is ascribed to him.

Exodus: Chapter 3 (Mk 12:26), 17:8-14 (verse 14), 20-30 (Deut. 4:5,14; 29:1); 20:24-25 (Josh 8:31); 21:2-chapter 23 (24:4) and 34:10-26.

Leviticus: 13:1-14:32 (Matt. 8:4) and 20:23f.

Numbers: 24:17; 26:1-62 (v. 63); 32:1-33 (Josh 14:2); 33:3-49 (vv. 1-2); and 35:2-32 (Josh 21:2).

Deuteronomy: 1-31:8 (31:9; Josh. 8:34); 1-28 (21:9); 18:15 (Acts 3:22); 25:4 (1 Cor 9:9); 32

(31:22) and 32:21 (Rom. 5:19).

This listing does not pretend to be thorough, but simply mentions those passages which are most obviously mentioned as being Mosaic. A more thorough study would no doubt find many other passages which should be included. Among these would be many Messianic prophecies, such as Gen. 3:15; 4:1; 12:3; 17:19; 18:18; 49:10, passages which ought to be included as being mentioned by Christ in the general statements of Luke 24:27 and 44.

Besides these passages there is an overwhelming preponderance of passages which speak of the Law of Moses, or > said," or "Moses wrote" or the like. Such passages do not begin with the later stages of the history of Israel, but already in Joshua. Compare, for example, Johua 1:7-8, 13, 17. The whole system of readings from the Law of Moses must also be included, as Acts 15:21 testifies, "For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day."

Our "middle-of-the-road" scholars would never dare come to the critics and say, "Well, this section was written by Moses, but this section may not have been." lf they tried that, they would be laughed out of existence. Either all of it is by Moses, or none of it.

What is more, if we accept only certain sections as written by Moses and then put them together, we do not have any kind of connected narrative that makes sense, but only scattered jottings. No matter how many later editors we added, we could not in any sense call Moses an author then. So many large sections would have to be left out that the entire work could not justly be called the Law of Moses at all.

It is one thing for someone to lie upon his bed and deleriously dream that parts of these five books may have been written by someone other than Moses; but to prove that someone else must have written these sections is an entirely different matter.

Many more things could be said about this subject, but the one important thing is that we have honesty in dealing with the matter. Those who advocate taking part of the Pentateuch as written by Moses and part by others are rarely sincere. Many of them are just trying to accustom us to the idea that Moses did not write all of these five books, so, that we will soon be ready to accept the idea that he did not write any of them. If we first tolerate their doubts, then we can also accept their lies. Meanwhile, there are some who are actually sincere when they speak or write against Moses, but only because they have not looked at the evidence of the Bible.