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Old Testament Survey

The Pentateuch



The first five books of the Bible are attributed to Moses as their author and are commonly called the Pentateuch, a word which simply means “five books.” These books form the foundation for the rest of both the Old and New Testaments. These are the “books of the Law.”

Torah properly means “law.” It is used to refer to the first five books of the Bible, the Books of Moses or the Books of the Law. These books are called the Pentateuch, a word which means “five-volume. book.”

The term "Pentateuch" comes from the Greek term pent teuchos meaning "five-volumed (book)”. The Jews call this "the five-fifths of the law." These books are the “Torah” or “law” as the Hebrew word is often rendered in English. In Hebrew, the word more properly means instruction.

Talmud refers to the entire Jewish Old Testament, together the rabbis’ interpretations. There are actually two different versions of the Talmud in existence. One was written in Palestine, the other in Babylon. They are of different lengths.

The Talmud is another term often related to the Jewish Scriptures. The Talmud is properly all of the books of the Old Testament, together with the rabbis’ interpretations. There are actually two different versions of the Talmud in existence. One was written in Palestine, the other in Babylon. They are of different lengths.

Theocracy means a kingdom ruled by God. It is government by God, not by man.

Although the Pentateuch is really five different books, they form a composite unity creating the theological backbone for the entire Bible. Within their pages is a chronological and theological progression which shows the story of man’s fall away from fellowship with God coupled to God’s efforts to reestablish this relationship. The Theocracy of God is founded as God chooses Israel to become His special people for reestablishing this relationship. God will use these people as the vehicle by which He ultimately will conquer evil and regenerate creation.

Theology in the Pentateuch is presented both in the form of stories and in the giving of rules or principles of law. But, we must remember that while the Bible is accurate in its presentation of history, science, and so on, it is not a textbook on these subjects. The Bible is a book about theology, the study of God. As Paul reminds us, it is a spiritual book designed to be understood by a spiritual man (1 Cor 2:14-17).

While no author is named in the Pentateuch, Moses is ordered several times by God to write His Words (Exod 17:14; 24:4, 7; 34:27ff; Num 33:1-2; Deut 31:9, 22). More importantly, both the balance of the Old Testament and the New Testament witness to Moses’ authorship of these books (Joshua 1:7-8; 8:32, 34; 22:5; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6; 21:8; Ezra 6:18; Dan 9:11-13; Mal 4:4; Matt 19:18; Mark 12:26; Luke 2:22; 16:29; 24:27; John 5:46-47; 7:19; Acts 13:39; Rom 10:5).

Lower criticism is a study of the textual issues of Scripture, most of which have resulted from human errors in the transmission of the manuscripts. Remember, they did not have Xerox and fax machines or word processors. For around 2800 years the Bible was conveyed by copies made by hand!

Higher criticism, on the other hand, arises out of the growth of rationalism and is “intended” to “determine” the date, authorship, and “unity” of the literary works which comprise the Old Testament. In its simplest terms, it is an attack upon the accuracy of God’s Word.

The philosophy of rationalism subjected all “truth” to the bar of reason, declaring reason as being the only true trait since only reason is universal in time and common to all humanity. This being the case, the liberals of higher criticism disregard the Bible’s claim of special revelation, inspiration, and miracles. Thus, not all of the Bible may measure up to reason. The Bible declares, on the other hand, that faith is the cornerstone of a relationship with God.

Hebrews 11:6
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

An obvious influence upon these critical studies was the development of the theory of evolution.

This approach developed what is referred to as the “document hypothesis.” This is a study to determine what documents were involved in the creation of the Pentateuch. Reason demanded that Moses not be the author, so the writings had to come from somewhere! The liberal approach viewed the stories as containing a variety of elements and subject matters. Where duplications in materials occur and where the use of divine names change (Yahweh, Elohim), these “scholars found multiple authors as the explanation. After all, no “reasonable” author would tell the same story twice!

The priestly rituals and methods of worship “must” have developed over time. Therefore, these were collected late in the life of Israel and could not have been presented in completed form by Moses. These scholars argue over similarity of vocabulary and style (or lack thereof), uniformity of theological outlook (or lack thereof), and worship rituals to develop this theory.

Most of this is based upon the earliest studies of a French doctor who suggested that the use of two different divine names in Genesis (Yahweh and Elohim) meant two different authors. In 1875 a German, Julius Welhausen, used this theory to propose four sources behind Genesis which were called J, E, D, P.

This theory is, you will notice, an “evolutionary” approach to the Bible. The story of the beginnings and the law and the Nation and its rituals of worship “evolved” over time and were compiled in their “final” form in the Bible. A major difficulty with this approach is that it overlooks literary styles and techniques used in narration (e.g., the use of duplications to communicate sovereignty, the use of divine names to teach theology, etc). The theory has lost much of its appeal over the past 50-100 years following several new archaeological discoveries, but the basic thought behind this theory is one of the major problems the church faces today. The Bible itself is attacked and God’s Word is stripped of its accuracy.

Although the theory of Welhausen has lost its sparkle, the attacks which it commenced continue today.

Man’s view of the Bible is the watershed for his belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Man’s view of the Bible is the watershed for his belief in Jesus Christ.

 

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December 10, 2019

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