The term Pentateuch is the Greek name given to the first five books of the Old Testament. It comes from two Greek words, Pente meaning five and Teuchos meaning book or volume. It represents a five volume book. The books are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. They are called the Five Books of Moses because Moses has been ascribed as their author. The Jews called these books Torah, or the law and originally consisted of one scroll or book. Deuteronomy 17:11 The Jewish rabbi's called them the five fifths of the Law and speak of each part as a fifth.

In the Old Testament it is called:

  • The law
  • The book of the law
  • The book of the law of Moses
  • The book of Moses
  • The law of the Lord
  • The law of God
  • The book of the law of God
  • The book of the law of the Lord
  • The book of the law of the Lord their God
  • The law of Moses the Servant of God

These titles teach that its content is the law, it is in a permanent form of a book, it calls attention to the human author Moses and it points to the divine author, the Lord who is God.

Liberal scholars have chosen to add a book to these five and speak of it as the Hexateuch because they believe that their theory of documentary hypothesis can be applied to Joshua as well.

The Hebrews named each book of the Pentateuch following a Mesopotamian custom of using the first few words of each book to describe it. This resulted in a vague description to each book.

Genesis = In the beginning = Bereshith
Exodus = And these are the names of = We'elleh shemoth
Leviticus = And He called = Wayyiqra
Numbers = in the wilderness (this was the fifth word) = bemidbar
Deuteronomy = These are the words = Elle debharim

As it is clear these were not meant to be official titles for the books but simply an ancient method of describing the scroll or tablet.


An area of controversy and attack by liberals scholars is the authorship of the Pentateuch. They say that a number of Priest and Levites wrote it late in Israel's history.

Moses is clearly stated as the human author to the book of the Law in Deuteronomy 31:9. Exodus 17:14; Numbers 33:1 Jesus also attributed the writing of the Law to Moses John 5:46; 7:19. Mosaic authorship stands or falls with the words of Jesus. This is what is called Mosaic authorship. But while Moses wrote the book of the Law, this does not mean that He himself necessarily wrote every word. He obviously did not write the account of his own death in Deuteronomy 34. (Josephus and Philo thought that Moses even wrote this part in anticipation of his death.) Jesus Christ was the author of the Sermon on the Mount, but he did not write it himself. What is meant by Mosaic authorship is that Moses was the fundamental or real author. In compiling it Moses may have used parts of already existing written documents. However under divine inspiration (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21) Moses was lead by God the Holy Spirit to deliver to us the book of God's law.

Documentary Hypothesis


Modern criticism seeks to do away with anything supernatural in the Bible and teaches that God did not intervene in human history with Revelation. They try and explain the writing of the Pentateuch by using a form of higher criticism called Documentary Hypothesis. As this theory has been developed to modern times it holds that there were four major sources in writing. Liberal scholars have tried to analyse the types of authors by their style of writing. These four sources are represented by four letters, J, E, D, P. Jesus stands for the author who use the word Jehovah for God. E stands for the author who used Elohim for God and D stands for the Deuteronomic author and P stands for the priestly code. A late date of about 621- 400 B.C. was ascribed to the compilation of these documents. These four sources were mixed and twisted together to form the Pentateuch that we know today.


None of this theory can be documented and is pure speculation. No document of the so called original sources have been found to support their theory. In fact the archaeological evidence supports the authorship of Moses and an early date during the time of the Exodus and conquest. Liberals stated that the Hittite empire was not in existence until around the second millennium and must have been added to the text. However it is known that the Syrians were called Hittites in the first millennium. Many other examples have proved the documentary hypothesis wrong but liberal scholars continue to cling to a humanistic explanation for the origin of the Bible.

Conservative View

It is not denied by conservative scholars that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Moses was assisted by Godly men who recorded Moses words and helped to compile the text into what we have today as the Pentateuch. Also it is evident that a modernisation of the language was made by scribes during the time of Ezra, but these are not as numerous as some suggest and are consistent with Divine inspiration.