Pentateuch - the five-fold volume, consisting of the first five books of the Old Testament. This word does not occur in Scripture, nor is it certainly known when the roll was thus divided into five portions Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Probably that was done by the Septuagint translators. Some modern critics speak of a Hexateuch, introducing the Book of Joshua as one of the group. But this book is of an entirely different character from the other books, and has a different author. It stands by itself as the first of a series of historical books beginning with the entrance of the Israelites into Canaan. (See JOSHUA .)
The books composing the Pentateuch are properly but one book, the "Law of Moses," the "Book of the Law of Moses," the "Book of Moses," or, as the Jews designate it, the "Torah" or "Law." That in its present form it "proceeds from a single author is proved by its plan and aim, according to which its whole contents refer to the covenant concluded between Jehovah and his people, by the instrumentality of Moses, in such a way that everything before his time is perceived to be preparatory to this fact, and all the rest to be the development of it. Nevertheless, this unity has not been stamped upon it as a matter of necessity by the latest redactor: it has been there from the beginning, and is visible in the first plan and in the whole execution of the work.", Keil, Einl. i.d. A. T.
A certain school of critics have set themselves to reconstruct the books of the Old Testament. By a process of "scientific study" they have discovered that the so-called historical books of the Old Testament are not history at all, but a miscellaneous collection of stories, the inventions of many different writers, patched together by a variety of editors! As regards the Pentateuch, they are not ashamed to attribute fraud, and even conspiracy, to its authors, who sought to find acceptance to their work which was composed partly in the age of Josiah, and partly in that of Ezra and Nehemiah, by giving it out to be the work of Moses! This is not the place to enter into the details of this controversy. We may say frankly, however, that we have no faith in this "higher criticism." It degrades the books of the Old Testament below the level of fallible human writings, and the arguments on which its speculations are built are altogether untenable.
The evidences in favour of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch are conclusive. We may thus state some of them briefly:
(1.) These books profess to have been written by Moses in the name of God (Ex. 17:14; 24:3, 4, 7; 32:7-10, 30-34; 34:27; Lev. 26:46; 27:34; Deut. 31:9, 24, 25).
(2.) This also is the uniform and persistent testimony of the Jews of all sects in all ages and countries (comp. Josh. 8:31, 32; 1 Kings 2:3; Jer. 7:22; Ezra 6:18; Neh. 8:1; Mal. 4:4; Matt. 22:24; Acts 15:21).
(3.) Our Lord plainly taught the Mosaic authorship of these books (Matt. 5:17, 18; 19:8; 22:31, 32; 23:2; Mark 10:9; 12:26; Luke 16:31; 20:37; 24:26, 27, 44; John 3:14; 6:19-22), and is referred to in such passages as 2 Kings 23:22; 2 Chr. 35:18; 1 Kings 9:25 ("three times in a year"); 2 Chr. 8:13. Similarly we might show frequent references to the Feast of Tabernacles and other Jewish institutions, although we do not admit that any valid argument can be drawn from the silence of Scripture in such a case. An examination of the following texts, 1 Kings 2:9; 2 Kings 14:6; 2 Chr. 23:18; 25:4; 34:14; Ezra 3:2; 7:6; Dan. 9:11, 13, will also plainly show that the "Law of Moses" was known during all these centuries.
Granting that in the time of Moses there existed certain oral traditions or written records and documents which he was divinely led to make use of in his history, and that his writing was revised by inspired successors, this will fully account for certain peculiarities of expression which critics have called "anachronisms" and "contradictions," but in no way militates against the doctrine that Moses was the original author of the whole of the Pentateuch. It is not necessary for us to affirm that the whole is an original composition; but we affirm that the evidences clearly demonstrate that Moses was the author of those books which have come down to us bearing his name. The Pentateuch is certainly the basis and necessary preliminary of the whole of the Old Testament history and literature. (See DEUTERONOMY .)
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