Who wrote the first five books of the Bible, including Genesis?
There you go.
Did you know that there are people who don’t think it was Moses? I’m serious. The entire Bible, the rabbis throughout time, the Talmud all say it was Moses. But certain 19th century Germans decided THEY knew better, and it wasn’t Moses after all. I’m not going to say a single word about Germans and Jews here. I’m not. But! There were German intellectuals who were so very smart. So brilliant. So clever. They decided that thousands of years of Jewish history had nothing to do with anything, and really what happened was this: over hundreds and hundreds of years, Jewish tradition was written down piece by piece by various groups, and eventually it was all edited and put together in the time of Ezra.
This is the popular view among intellectuals nowadays, by the way. Kids are taught it in their religious classes in school as though it’s all proven. Some scholars declare that Moses is merely a legend, and others defend him as a historical figure, but the Graf-Wellhausen Documentary Hypothesis argues that the five books of Moses, known as the Torah or the Pentateuch, were put together from four basic sources:
Because of these four groups, the Documentary Hypothesis is often called the JEDP Hypothesis or JEDP Theory.
The idea is that people who called God “Yahweh” (Jahweh) wrote one text and people who called God “Elohim” wrote another text. Then, there were priests who wrote most of the laws in Exodus and Leviticus, and Deuteronomy was written by yet another group. The intellectuals argue that there are different writing styles that indicate these were different sources. All these texts were put together in the time of Ezra, in the 5th century B.C. and boom, we have the Torah.
Okay. Now pay attention. The intellectuals don’t HAVE any of these supposed sources. It’s not like they found these alleged sources in a cave somewhere. No. They imagined them. With their excellent imaginations. (Not going to accuse the Germans of that too often.)
They have some problems in tossing out Moses as a legendary pretender. Shall we consider the evidence that they’re wrong? Let’s do that.
First. The five books of Moses are unique in all the Hebrew Scriptures, because they never use the “she” pronoun. The rest of the Scriptures use both “he” and “she” pronouns, but not the Torah. That’s worth paying attention to. If it was all put together during the time of Ezra, then they would have used “he” and “she” as was customary in that time. Also, that fact suggests that the whole Torah was written by one rather than four groups. We’d expect to see “she” and “her” show up in at least some of the passages if we had a hodge podge of sources coming together. The Priestly folks or at least the Deuteronomical folks could have given girls their own pronouns. The fact that female pronouns are not there at all? That points to a single author.
Herbert Wolf wrote, ‘Along with the overall continuity in the narrative we can also point to the grammatical features that underscore the unity of the Pentateuch. For some reason these five books fail to distinguish between the third person pronouns, “he” and “she.” Instead of using hu and hi like the rest of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch uses only the masculine form.’ 
Moses clearly saw girls and boys as equals, y’all.
“I WROTE IT” – Moses
Second, Moses said he wrote these things all down. Over and over, the text says, “Moses wrote all this down.”
- Exodus 24:3-4a
- Exodus 24:7
- Numbers 33:2
- Deuteronomy 31:9
- Deuteronomy 31:24-26
Deuteronomy ends with the death of Moses, and we recognize that Moses didn’t write that part. But, the whole thing stops at that point anyway! Moses wrote these books, then he died, and that’s it. And by the way, the Talmud tells us that Joshua wrote those verses at the end to finish it all off:
- And who wrote the books of the Bible? Moses wrote his own book, i.e., the Torah, and the portion of Balaam in the Torah, and the book of Job. Joshua wrote his own book and eight verses in the Torah, which describe the death of Moses… Bava Batra 14b
It’s foolish of intellectuals to throw out the clear, uncontested position of the Hebrew Scriptures and all of Jewish history with the hubris, the chutzpah to think they know better – without solid evidence outside their own swollen heads. It’s not like there was controversy among the Jewish scholars all those centuries. The Jews – who can argue about anything – all agreed that Moses wrote the Torah. That all by itself says something.
There’s more. Of course there’s more.
“IT’S ALL ME” – The Most Humble Man Ever
Notice how Genesis covers some 2500 years all in one book? That’s because Moses was writing a history about other people, other lives that came before him. His life? Moses’ own life takes four more books. That’s how it is when you write about things that you yourself experienced, things you were there for. He wrote about the Exodus and the wanderings in the desert. He wrote all the law that God gave him, and then some. He reminded the people of Israel of God’s laws in Deuteronomy and gave them warnings of blessings and curses. He messed up and didn’t get to go into the Promised Land himself, and he died. And that’s where the account ends.
So, this trouble all started because Genesis 1 uses the term “Elohim” – the generic name “God”, and Genesis 2 uses the name “Yahweh” – which is the personal name of God. The intellectuals think, “Woah! Two different accounts were stuck together, and they used two different names for God.”
Except… when Moses is talking to God at the Burning Bush, both names are used. Elohim “God” and Yahweh, God’s personal name to the Israelites.
“And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” -Exodus 3:15
Hebrew writers often used specific names for God according to what He is doing in the passage. Isaiah does it all the time. The “Yahweh of Hosts” is what Isaiah calls God when he’s talking about military matters, but Lord Yahweh is what Isaiah calls God when He’s tender toward Israel, like in Isaiah 25:8 when God promises to wipe away all the tears from our faces.
The Hebrew term “el” is a word translated “god” – but it has a sense of might and power. Moses calls God “Elohim” when He is busy creating the universe from scratch, showing His great power. Then, He calls God “Yahweh” when His creation is more personal in Genesis chapter 2, when we see God forming humankind from the earth before He planted Eden for their home.
I actually don’t have a problem with the idea that MOSES used different sources for his information about Hebrew history. Clearly he had to get the information about Genesis 1 from God Himself [which was possible. Moses of all people in the whole world talked to God face to face. (Exodus 33:11, Numbers 12:6-8)] But, Genesis claims a variety of books and histories. Genesis 5:1 mentions the BOOK of the Generations of Adam. It might be that every time it talks about the “generations” of so and so, it’s actually referring to the history given by those people, and Genesis 5:1 ends the Book of Adam. You think Adam, created in perfection without any genetic defects, lived 930 years and didn’t develop a way to write? There’s a lot a person could figure out in 930 years.
Anyway, the fact that Moses used different names for God is not a big deal.
One of the things the Germans point out is that there are a lot of repetitions in the Hebrew text. They say, “This is clearly two accounts squished together!” But, that just shows they don’t understand Hebrew poetry. Hebrew writing uses repetitions all the time. It’s on purpose. There’s something called chiastic structure – like a poetry palindrome, the same backward as forward. Moses uses chiastic structure a lot, which involved repetition as a purposeful writing style, and it shows the text was written by one person and wasn’t a bunch of different accounts smushed together.
For instance, Genesis 7:21 has been assigned to P and 22 to J, because there’s an echo in content.
And all flesh died that moved on the earth: birds and cattle and beasts and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, and every man. – Genesis 7:21
All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died. – Genesis 7:22
This repetition is the same forward and backward, and it’s on purpose. It’s a carefully constructed writing style.
All flesh died
that moved on the earth
all the birds and animals and man
all in whose nostrils was the breath of life
all that was on dry land
Bible scholar Francis Andersen explains, “The rhetorical effect of this kind of epic repetition is to slow down the pace of the narrative. It holds the picture a little longer and enforces it on the mind.”2 Andersen says the Flood narrative was written in a highly artistic fashion that points solidly to a single author.
The bottom line is this: we don’t have to worship “intellectuals” who want to tear apart the Bible. We can listen to their ideas, but self-proclaimed scholars are not always full of knowledge. Sometimes they’re full of their own egos. As Paul wrote in Romans 1: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”
That happens a lot. Feel free to think for yourself and consider that there is always more to the story.
By the way. Jesus Christ said Moses wrote the Torah. I trust His opinion before I trust self-proclaimed intellectuals.
1) Wolf, H. (1991). An Introduction to the Old Testament Pentateuch (p. 20). Chicago: Moody
2) Andersen, F. (1974).The Sentence in Biblical Hebrew (p. 40). The Hague: Mouton Publishers.