FREE Catholic Classes
Pentateuch , in Greek pentateuchos , is the name of the first five books of the Old Testament .
Though it is not certain whether the word originally was an adjective, qualifying the omitted noun biblos , or a substantive, its literal meaning "five cases" appears to refer to the sheaths or boxes in which the separate rolls or volumes were kept. At what precise time the first part of the Bible was divided into five books is a question not yet finally settled. Some regard the division as antedating the Septuagint translation; others attribute it to the authors of this translation; St. Jerome was of opinion (Ep. 52, ad Paulin., 8; P.L., XXII, 545) that St. Paul alluded to such a division into five books in I Cor., xiv, 19; at any rate, Philo and Josephus are familiar with the division now in question ("De Abrahamo", I; "Cont. Apion.", I, 8). However ancient may be the custom of dividing the initial portion of the Old Testament into five parts, the early Jews had no name indicating the partition. They called this part of the Bible hattorah (the law ), or torah (law), or sepher hattorah (book of the law ), from the nature of its contents ( Joshua 8:34 ; 1:8 ; Ezra 10:3 ; Nehemiah 8:2, 3, 14 ; 10:35, 37 ; 2 Chronicles 25:4 ); they named it torath Mosheh (law of Moses ), sepher Mosheh (book of Moses ), sepher torath Mosheh (book of the law of Moses ) on account of its authorship ( Joshua 8:31, 32 ; 23:6 ; 1 Kings 2:3 ; 2 Kings 14:16 ; 23:25 ; Daniel 9:11 ; Ezra 3:2 ; 6:18 ; Nehemiah 8:1 ; 13:1 ; etc.); finally, the Divine origin of the Mosaic Law was implied in the names: law of Yahweh ( Ezra 7:10 ; etc.), law of God ( Nehemiah 8:18 ; etc.), book of the law of Yahweh ( 2 Chronicles 17:9 ; etc.), book of the law of God ( Joshua 24:26 ; etc.). The word law in the foregoing expressions has been rendered by nomos , with or without the article, in the Septuagint version. The New Testament refers to the Mosaic law in various ways: the law ( Matthew 5:17 ; Romans 2:12 ; etc.); the law of Moses ( Luke 2:22 ; 24:44 ; Acts 28:23 ); the book of Moses ( Mark 12:26 ); or simply, Moses ( Luke 24:2 ; Acts 15:21 ). Even the Talmud and the older Rabbinic writings call the first part of the Bible the book of the law, while in Aramaic it is simply termed law (cf. Buxtorf, "Lexicon Chaldaicum Talmudicum Rabbinicum", 791, 983; Levy, "Chaldaisches Worterbuch", 268, 16; Aicher, "Das Alte Testament in der Mischna", Freiburg, 1906, p. 16).
The Greek name pentateuchos , implying a division of the law into five parts, occurs for the first time about A. D. 150-75 in the letter to Flora by the Valentinian Ptolemy (cf. St. Epiphan., "Haer.", XXXIII, iv; P.G., XLI, 560). An earlier occurrence of the name was supposed to exist in a passage of Hippolytus where the Psalter is called kai auto allon pentateuchon (cf. edition of de Lagarde, Leipzig and London, 1858 p. 193); but the passage has been found to belong to Epiphanius (cf. "Hippolytus" in "Die griechischen Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte", Leipzig, 1897, t. I, 143). The name is used again by Origen (Comment. in Ev. Jo., t. II; P.G., XIV, 192; cf. P.G., XIII, 444), St. Athanasius (Ep. ad Marcellin., 5; P.G., XXVII, 12), and several times by St. Epiphanius (De mensur. et ponderib., 4, 6; P.G., XLIII, 244). In Latin, Tertullian uses the masculine form Pentateuchus (Adv. Marcion., I, 10; P.L., II, 257), while St. Isidore of Seville prefers the neuter Pentateuchum (Etym., VI, ii, 1, 2; P.L., LXXXII, 230). The analogous forms Octateuch, Heptateuch, and Hexateuch have been used to refer to the first, eight, seven, and six books of the Bible respectively. The Rabbinic writers adopted the expression "the five-fifths of the law " or simply "the five-fifths" to denote the five books of the Pentateuch.
Both the Palestinian and the Alexandrian Jews had distinct names for each of the five books of the Pentateuch. In Palestine, the opening words of the several books served as their titles; hence we have the names: bereshith, we'elleh shemoth or simply shemoth, wayyiqra, wayedhabber , and elleh haddebarim or simply debarim . Though these were the ordinary Hebrew titles of the successive Pentateuchal books, certain Rabbinic writers denote the last three according to their contents; they called the third book torath kohanim , or law of priests ; the fourth, homesh happiqqudhim , or book of census ; the fifth, mishneh thorah , or repetition of the law. The Alexandrian Jews derived their Greek names of the five books from the contents of either the whole or the beginning of each division. Thus the first book is called Genesis kosmou or simply Genesis ; the second, Exodus Aigyptou or Exodus ; the third, Leueitikon ; the fourth, Arithmoi ; and the fifth, Deuteronomion . These names passed from the Septuagint into the Latin Vulgate, and from this into most of the translations of the Vulgate. Arithmoi however was replaced by the Latin equivalent Numeri, while the other names retained their form.
The contents of the Pentateuch are partly of an historical, partly of a legal character. They give us the history of the Chosen People from the creation of the world to the death of Moses, and acquaint us too with the civil and religious legislation of the Israelites during the life of their great lawgiver. Genesis may be considered as the introduction to the other four books; it contains the early history down to the preparation of Israel's exit form Egypt. Deuteronomy, consisting mainly of discourses, is practically a summary repetition of the Mosaic legislation, and concludes also the history of the people under the leadership of Moses. The three intervening books consider the wanderings of Israel in the desert and the successive legal enactments. Each of these three great divisions has its own special introduction ( Genesis 1:1 - 2:3 ; Exodus 1:1-1:7 ; Deuteronomy 1:1-5 ); and since the subject matter distinguishes Leviticus from Exodus and Numbers, not to mention the literary terminations of the third and fourth books ( Leviticus 27:34 ; Numbers 26:13 ), the present form of the Pentateuch exhibits both a literary unity and a division into five minor parts.A. GENESIS
The Book of Genesis prepares the reader for the Pentateuchal legislation; it tells us how God chose a particular family to keep His Revelation, and how He trained the Chosen People to fulfil its mission. From the nature of its contents the book consists of two rather unequal parts; cc. i-xi present the features of a general history, while cc. xii-1 contain the particular history of the Chosen People. By a literary device, each of these parts is subdivided into five sections differing in length. The sections are introduced by the phrase elleh tholedhoth (these are the generations) or its variant zeh sepher toledhoth (this is the book of the generations). "Generations", however, is only the etymological meaning of the Hebrew toledhoth ; in its context the formula can hardly signify a mere genealogical table, for it is neither preceded nor followed by such tables. As early Oriental history usually begins with genealogical records, and consists to a large extend of such records, one naturally interprets the above introductory formula and its variant as meaning, "this is the history" or "this is the book of the history." History in these phrases is not to be understood as a narrative resting on folklore, as Fr. Von Hummelauer believes ("Exegetisches zur Inspirationsfrage, Biblische Studien", Freiburg, 1904, IX, 4, pp. 26-32); but as a record based on genealogies. Moreover, the introductory formula often refers back to some principal feature of the preceding section, thus forming a transition and connection between the successive parts. Gen., v, 1, e.g., refers back to Gen., ii, 7 sqq.; vi, 9 to v, 29 sqq. and vi, 8; x, 1 to ix, 18, 19, etc. Finally, the sacred writer deals very briefly with the non-chosen families or tribes, and he always considers them before the chosen branch of the family. He treats of Cain before he speaks of Seth; similarly, Cham and Japhet precede Sem ; the rest of Sem's posterity precedes Abraham ; Ismael precedes Isaac ; Esau precedes Jacob.
Bearing in mind these general outlines of the contents and the literary structure of Genesis, we shall easily understand the following analytical table.
- Introduction ( Genesis 1:1 - 2:3 ) -- Consists of the Hexaemeron; it teaches the power and goodness of God as manifested in the creation of the world, and also the dependence of creatures on the dominion of the Creator.
- General History (2:4-11:26) -- Man did not acknowledge his dependence on God. Hence, leaving the disobedient to their own devices, God chose one special family or one individual as the depositary of His Revelation.
- History of Heaven and Earth (2:4-4:26) -- Here we have the story of the fall of our first parents, ii, 5-iii, 24; of the fratricide of Cain, iv, 1-16; the posterity of Cain and its elimination, iv, 17-26.
- History of Adam (5:1-6:8) -- The writer enumerates the Sethites, another line of Adam's descendants, v, 1-32, but shows that they too became so corrupt that only one among them found favour before God, vi, 1-8.
- History of Noah (6:9-9:29) -- Neither the Deluge which destroyed the whole human race excepting Noah's family, vi, 11-viii, 19, nor God's covenant with Noah and his sons, viii, 20-ix, 17, brought about the amendment of the human family, and only one of Noah's sons was chosen as the bearer of the Divine blessings, ix, 18-29.
- History of the Sons of Noah (10:1-11:9) -- The posterity of the non-chosen sons, x, 1-32, brought a new punishment on the human race by its pride, xi, 1-9.
- History of Sem (11:10-26) -- The posterity of Sem is enumerated down to Thare the father of Abraham, in whose seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.
- Special History (11:27-50:26) -- Here the inspired writer describes the special xxyyyk.htm">Providence watching over Abraham and his offspring which developed in Egypt into a large nation. At the same time, he eliminates the sons of Abraham who were not children of God's promise. This teaches the Israelites that carnal descent from Abraham does not suffice to make them true sons of Abraham.
- History of Thare (11:27-25:11) -- This section tells of the call of Abraham, his transmigration into Chanaan, his covenant with God, and His promises.
- History of Ismael (25:12-28) -- This section eliminates the tribes springing from Ismael.
- History of Isaac (25:19-35:29 -- Here we have the history of Isaac's sons, Esau and Jacob.
- History of Esau (36:1-37:1) -- The sacred writer gives a list of Esau's posterity; it does not belong to the number of the Chosen People.
- History of Jacob (37:2-50:26) -- This final portion of Genesis tells of the fate of Jacob's family down to the death of the Patriarch and of Joseph.
After the death of Joseph, Israel had grown into a people, and its history deals no longer with mere genealogies, but with the people's national and religious development. The various laws are given and promulgated as occasion required them; hence they are intimately connected with the history of the people, and the Pentateuchal books in which they are recorded are rightly numbered among the historical books of Scripture. Only the third book of the Pentateuch exhibits rather the features of a legal code. The Book of Exodus consists of a brief introduction and three main parts:
- Introduction, i, 1-7.- A brief summary of the history of Jacob connects Genesis with Exodus, and serves at the same time as transition from the former to the latter.
- (1) First Part, i, 8-xiii, 16.- It treats of the events preceding and preparing the exit of Israel from Egypt.
- (a) Ex., i, 8-ii, 25; the Israelites are oppressed by the new Pharao "that knew not Joseph", but God prepares them a liberator in Moses.
- (b) Ex., iii, 1-iv, 31.-Moses is called to free his people; his brother Aaron is given him as companion; their reception by the Israelites.
- (c) v, 1-x, 29.-Pharao refuses to listen to Moses and Aaron ; God renews his promises; genealogies of Moses and Aaron ; the heart of Pharao is not moved by the first nine plagues.
- (d) xi, 1-xiii, 16.-The tenth plague consists in the death of the first-born ; Pharao dismisses the people; law of the annual celebration of the pasch in memory of the liberation from Egypt.
- (2) Second Part, xiii, 17-xviii, 27.- Journey of Israel to Mt. Sinai and miracles preparing the people for the Sinaitic Law.
- (a) xiii, 1-xv, 21.-The Israelites, led and protected by a pillar of cloud and fire, cross the Red Sea, but the persecuting Egyptians perish in the waters.
- (b) xv, 22-xvii, 16.-The route of Israel is passing through Sur, Mara, Elim, Sin, Rephidim. At Mara the bitter waters are made sweet; in the Desert of Sin God sent quails and manna to the children of Israel ; at Raphidim God gave them water form the rock, and defeated Amalec through the prayers of Moses.
- (c) xviii, 1-27.-Jethro visits his kinsmen, and at his suggestion Moses institutes the judges of the people.
- (3) Third Part, xix, 1-xl, 38.- Conclusion of the Sinaitic covenant and its renewal. Here Exodus assumes more the character of a legal code.
- (a) xix, 1-xx, 21.-The people journey to Sinai, prepare for the coming legislation, receive the decalogue, and ask to have the future laws promulgated through Moses.
- (b) xx, 22-xxiv, 8.-Moses promulgates certain laws together with promises for their observance, and confirms the covenant between God and the people with a sacrifice. The portion xx, 1-xxiii, 33, is also called the Book of the Covenant.
- (c) xxiv, 9-xxxi, 18.-Moses alone remains with God on the mountain for forty days, and receives various instructions about the tabernacle and other points pertaining to Divine worship.
- (d) xxxii, 1-xxxiv, 35.-The people adore the golden calf ; at this sight, Moses breaks the divinely given tables of the law, punishes the idolaters, obtains pardon from God for the survivors, and, renewing the covenant, receives other tables of the law.
- (e) xxxv, 1-xl, 38.-The tabernacle with its appurtenances is prepared, the priests are anointed, and the cloud of the Lord covers the tabernacle, thus showing that He had made the people His own.
Leviticus, called by Rabbinic writers "Law of the Priests " or "Law of the Sacrifices ", contains nearly a complete collection of laws concerning the Levitical ministry. They are not codified in any logical order, but still we may discern certain groups of regulations touching the same subject. The Book of Exodus shows what God had done and was doing for His people; the Book of Leviticus prescribes what the people must do for God, and how they must render themselves worthy of His constant presence.
Help Now >
- (1) First Part, i, 1-x, 20.-Duties of Israel toward God living in their midst.
- (a) i, 1-vi, 7.-The different kinds of sacrifices are enumerated, and their rites are described.
- (b) vi, 8-vii, 36.-The duties and rights of the priests, the official offerers of the sacrifices, are stated.
- (c) viii, 1-x, 20.-The first priests are consecrated and introduced into their office.
- (2) Second Part, xi, 1-xxvii, 34.-Legal cleanness demanded by the Divine presence.
- (a) xi, 1-xx, 27.-The entire people must be legally clean; the various ways in which cleanness must be kept; interior cleanness must be added to external cleanness.
- (b) xxi, 1-xxii, 33.-Priests must excel in both internal and external cleanness; hence they have to keep special regulations.
- (c) xxiii, 1-xxvii, 34.-The other laws and the promises and threats made for the observance or the violation of the laws belong to both priests and people.
Numbers, at times called "In the Desert " by certain Rabbinic writers because it covers practically the whole time of Israel's wanderings in the desert. Their story was begun in Exodus, but interrupted by the Sinaitic legislation; Numbers takes up the account from the first month of the second year, and brings it down to the eleventh month of the fortieth year. But the period of 38 years is briefly treated, only its beginning and end being touched upon; for this span of time was occupied by the generation of Israelites that had been condemned by God.
- (1) First Part, i, 1-xiv, 45.-Summary of the happenings before the rejection of the rebellious generation, especially during the first two months of the second year. The writer inverts the chronological order of these two months, or order not to interrupt the account of the people's wanderings by a description of the census, of the arrangement of the tribes, of the duties of the various families of the Levites, all of which occurrences or ordinances belong to the second month. Thus he first states what remained unchanged throughout the desert life of the people, and then reverts to the account of the wanderings from the first month of the second year.
- (a) i, 1-vi, 27.-The census is taken, the tribes are arranged in their proper order, the duties of the Levites are defined, the regulations concerning cleanness is the camp are promulgated.
- (b) vii, 1-ix, 14.-Occurrences belonging to the first month: offerings of the princes at the dedication of the tabernacle, consecration of the Levites and duration of their ministry, celebration of the second pasch.
- (c) ix, 15-xiv, 45.-Signals for breaking up the camp; the people leave Sinai on the twenty-second day of the second month, and journey towards Cades in the desert Pharan; they murmur against Moses on account of fatigue, want of flesh-meat, etc.; deceived by faithless spies, they refuse to enter into the Promised Land, and the whole living generation is rejected by God.
- (2) Second Part, xv, 1-xix, 22.-Events pertaining to the rejected generation.
- (a) xv, 1-41.-Certain laws concerning sacrifices ; Sabbath-breaking is punished with death ; the law of fringes on the garments.
- (b) xvi, 1-xvii, 13.-The schism of Core and his adherents; their punishment; the priesthood is confirmed to Aaron by the blooming rod which is kept for a remembrance in the tabernacle.
- (c) xviii, 1-xix, 22.-The charges of the priests and Levites, and their portion; the law of the sacrifice of the red cow, and the water of expiation.
- (3) Third Part, xx, 1-xxxvi, 13.-History of the journey from the first to the eleventh month of the fortieth year.
- (a) xx, 1-xxi, 20.-Death of Mary, sister of Moses ; God again gives the murmuring people water from the rock, but refuses Moses and Aaron entrance to the Promised Land on account of their doubt ; Aaron dies while the people go around the Idumean mountains; the malcontents are punished with fiery serpents.
- (b) xxi, 21-xxv, 18.-The land of the Amorrhites is seized; the Moabites vainly attempt to destroy Israel by the curse of Balaam ; the Madianites lead the people into idolatry.
- (c) xxvi, 1-xxvii, 23.-A new census is taken with a view of dividing the land; the law of inheritance; Josue is appointed to succeed Moses.
- (d) xxviii, 1-xxx, 17.-Certain laws concerning sacrifices, vows, and feasts are repeated and completed.
- (e) xxxi, 1-xxxii, 40.-After the defeat of the Madianites, the country across Jordan is given to the tribes of Ruben and Gad, and to half of the tribe of Manasses.
- (f) xxxiii, 1-40.-List of encampments of people of Israel during their wandering in the desert.
- (g) xxxiii, 50-xxxvi, 13.-Command to destroy the Chanaanites ; limits of the Promised Land and names of the men who are to divide it; Levitical cities, and cities of refuge ; law concerning murder and manslaughter; ordinance concerning the marriage of heiresses.
Deuteronomy is a partial repetition and explanation of the foregoing legislation together with an urgent exhortation to be faithful to it. The main body of the book consists of three discourses delivered by Moses to the people in the eleventh month of the fortieth year; but the discourses are precede by a short introduction, and they are followed by several appendices.
FREE Catholic Classes Pick a class, you can learn anything
- Introduction, i, 1-5.-Brief indication of the subject matter, the time, and the place of the following discourses.
- (1) First Discourse, i, 6-iv, 40.- God's benefits are enumerated, and the people are exhorted to keep the law.
- (a) i, 6-iii, 29.-The main occurrences during the time of the wandering in the desert are recalled as showing the goodness and justice of God.
- (b) iv, 1-40.-Hence the covenant with God must be kept. By way of parenthesis, the sacred writer adds here (i) the appointment of three cities of refuge across the Jordan, iv, 41-43; (ii) an historical preamble, preparing us for the second discourse, iv, 44-49.
- (2) Second Discourse, v, 1-xxvi, 19.-This forms almost the bulk of Deuteronomy. It rehearses the whole economy of the covenant in two sections, the one general, the other particular.
- (a) The General Repetition, v, 1-xi, 32.-Repetition of the decalogue, and reasons for the promulgation of the law through Moses ; explanation of the first commandment, and prohibitions of all intercourse with the gentiles ; reminder of the Divine favours and punishments; promise of victory over the Chanaanites ; God's blessing on the observance of the Law, His curse on the transgressors.
- (b) Special Laws, xii, 1-xxvi, 19.-(i) Duties towards God : He is to be duly worshiped, never to be abandoned; distinction of clean and unclean meats; tithes and first-fruits ; the three principal solemnities of the year. (ii) Duties towards God's representatives: toward the judges, the future kings, the priests, and Prophets. (iii) Duties towards the neighbour: as to life, external possessions, marriage, and various other particulars.
- (3) Third Discourse, xxvii, 1-xxx, 20.-A renewed exhortation to keep the law, based on diverse reasons.
- (a) xxvii, 1-26.-Command to inscribe the law on stones after crossing the Jordan, and to promulgate the blessings and curses connected with the observance or non-observance of the law.
- (b) xxviii, 1-68.-A more minute statement of the good or evil depending on the observance or violation of the law.
- (c) xxix, 1-xxx, 20.-The goodness of God is extolled; all are urged to be faithful to God.
- (4) Historical Appendix, xxxi, 1-xxxiv, 12.
- (a) xxxi, 1-27.-Moses appoints Josue as his successor, orders him to read the law to the people every seven years, and to place a copy of the same in the ark.
- (b) xxxi, 28-xxxii, 47.-Moses calls an assembly of the Ancients and recites his canticle.
- (c) xxxii, 48-52.-Moses views the Promised Land from a distance.
- (d) xxxiii, 1-29.-He blesses the tribes of Israel.
- (e) xxxiv, 1-12.-His death, burial, and special eulogium.
The contents of the Pentateuch furnish the basis for the history, the law, the worship, and the life of the Chosen People of God . Hence the authorship of the work, the time and manner of its origin, and its historicity are of paramount importance. These are not merely literary problems, but questions belonging to the fields of history of religion and theology. The Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch is inseparably connected with the question, whether and in what sense Moses was the author or intermediary of the Old-Testament legislation, and the bearer of pre-Mosaic tradition. According to the trend of both Old and New Testament , and according to Jewish and Christian theology, the work of the great lawgiver Moses is the origin of the history of Israel and the basis of its development down to the time of Jesus Christ ; but modern criticism sees in all this only the result, or the precipitate, of a purely natural historical development. The question of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch leads us, therefore, to the alternative, revelation or historical evolution; it touches the historical and theological foundation of both the Jewish and the Christian dispensation. We shall consider the subject first in the light of Scripture ; secondly, in the light of Jewish and Christian tradition; thirdly, in the light of internal evidence, furnished by the Pentateuch; finally, in the light of ecclesiastical decisions.
It will be found convenient to divide the Biblical evidence for the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch into three parts: (1) Testimony of the Pentateuch; (2) Testimony of the other Old-Testament books; (3) Testimony of the New Testament.(1) Witness of the Pentateuch
The Pentateuch in its present form does not present itself as a complete literary production of Moses. It contains an account of Moses' death, it tells the story of his life in the third person and in an indirect form, and the last four books do not exhibit the literary form of memoirs of the great lawgiver; besides, the expression " God said to Moses " shows only the Divine origin of the Mosaic laws but does not prove that Moses himself codified in the Pentateuch the various laws promulgated by him. On the other hand, the Pentateuch ascribes to Moses the literary authorship of at least four sections, partly historical, partly legal, partly poetical. (a) After Israel's victory over the Amalecites near Raphidim, the Lord said to Moses ( Exodus 17:14 ): "Write this for a memorial in a book, and deliver it to the ears of Josue." This order is naturally restricted to Amalec's defeat, a benefit which God wished to keep alive in the memory of the people ( Deuteronomy 25:17-19 ). The present pointing of the Hebrew text reads "in the book", but the Septuagint version omits the definite article. Even if we suppose that the Massoretic pointing gives the original text, we can hardly prove that the book referred to is the Pentateuch, though this is highly probable (cf. von Hummelauer "Exodus et Leviticus ", Paris, 1897, p. 182; Idem, "Deuteronomium", Paris, 1901, p. 152; Kley, "Die Pentateuchfrage", Munster, 1903, p. 217). (b) Again, Ex., xxiv, 4: "And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord." The context does not allow us to understand these words in an indefinite manner, but as referring to the words of the Lord immediately preceding or to the so-called "Book of the Covenant", Ex., xx-xxiii. (c) Ex., xxxiv, 27: "And the Lord said to Moses : Write thee these words by which I have made a covenant both with thee and with Israel." The next verse adds: "and he wrote upon the tables the ten words of the covenant." Ex., xxxiv, 1, 4, shows how Moses had prepared the tables, and Ex., xxxiv, 10-26, gives us the contents of the ten words. (d) Num., xxxiii, 1-2: "These are the mansions of the children of Israel, who went out of Egypt by their troops under the conduct of Moses and Aaron, which Moses wrote down according to the places of their encamping." Here we are informed that Moses wrote the list of the people's encampments in the desert ; but where it this list to be found? Most probably it is given in Num., xxxiii, 3-49, or the immediate context of the passage telling of Moses' literary activity; there are, however, scholars who understand this latter passage as referring to the history of Israel's departure from Egypt written in the order of the people's encampments, so that it would be our present Book of Exodus. But this view is hardly probable; for its assumption that Num., xxxiii, 3-49, is a summary of Exodus cannot be upheld, as the chapter of Numbers mentions several encampments not occurring in Exodus.
Besides these four passages there are certain indications in Deuteronomy which point to the literary activity of Moses. Deut., i, 5: "And Moses began to expound the law and to say"; even if the "law" in this text refer to the whole of the Pentateuchal legislation, which is not very probable, it shows only that Moses promulgated the whole law, but not that he necessarily wrote it. Practically the entire Book of Deuteronomy claims to be a special legislation promulgated by Moses in the land of Moab : iv, 1-40; 44-49; v, 1 sqq.; xii, 1 sqq. But there is a suggestion of writing too: xvii, 18-9, enjoins that the future kings are to receive a copy of this law from the priests in order to read and observe it; xxvii, 1-8, commands that on the west side of the Jordan "all the words of this law " be written on stones set up in Mount Hebal; xxviii, 58, speaks of "all the words of this law, that are written in this volume" after enumerating the blessings and curses which will come upon the observers and violators of the law respectively, and which are again referred to as written in a book in xxix, 20, 21, 27, and xxxii, 46, 47; now, the law repeatedly referred to as written in a book must be at least the Deuteronomic legislation. Moreover, xxxi, 9-13 states, "and Moses wrote this law ", and xxxi, 26, adds, "take this book, and put it in the side of the ark. . .that it may be there for a testimony against thee"; to explain these texts as fiction or as anachronisms is hardly compatible with the inerrancy of Sacred Scripture . Finally, xxxi, 19, commands Moses to write the canticle contained in Deut., xxxii, 1-43.
The Scriptural scholar will not complain that there are so few express indications in the Pentateuch of Moses' literary activity; he will rather be surprised at their number. As far as explicit testimony for its own, at least partial, authorship is concerned, the Pentateuch compares rather favourably with many other books of the Old Testament.(2) Witness of other Old-Testament Books
(a) Josue.-The narrative of the Book of Josue presupposes not merely the facts and essential ordinances contained in the Pentateuch, but also the law given by Moses and written in the book of the law of Moses : Jos., i, 7-8; viii, 31; xxii, 5; xxiii, 6. Josue himself "wrote all these things in the volume of the law of the Lord" (xxiv, 26). Prof. Hobverg maintains that this "volume of the law of the Lord" is the Pentateuch ("Über den Ursprung des Pentateuchs" in "Biblische Zeitschrift", 1906, IV, 340); Mangenot believes that it refers at least to Deuteronomy (Dict. de la Bible, V, 66). At any rate, Josue and his contemporaries were acquainted with a written Mosaic legislation , which was divinely revealed.
(b) Judges; I, II Kings.-In the Book of Judges and the first two Books of Kings there is no explicit reference to Moses and the book of the law, but a number of incidents and statements presuppose the existence of the Pentateuchal legislation and institutions. Thus Judges, xv, 8-10, recalls Israel's delivery from Egypt and its conquest of the Promised Land; Judges, xi, 12-28, states incidents recorded in Num., xx, 14; xxi, 13,24; xxii, 2; Judges, xiii, 4, states a practice founded on the law of the Nazarites in Num., vi, 1-21; Judges, xviii, 31, speaks of the tabernacle existing in the times when there was no king in Israel ; Judges, xx, 26-8 mentions the ark of the covenant, the various kinds of sacrifices, and the Aaronic priesthood. The Pentateuchal history and laws are similarly presupposed in 1 Samuel 10:18 ; 15:1-10 ; 10:25 ; 21:1-6 ; 22:6 sqq. ; 23:6-9 ; 2 Samuel 6 .
(c) 1 and 2 Kings .-The last two Books of Kings repeatedly speak of the law of Moses . To restrict the meaning of this term to Deuteronomy is an arbitrary exegesis (cf. 1 Kings 2:3 ; 10:31 ); Amasias showed mercy to the children of the murderers "according to that which is written in the book of the law of Moses " ( 2 Kings 14:6 ); the sacred writer records the Divine promise of protecting the Israelites "Only if they will observe to do all that I have commanded them according to the law which my servant Moses commanded them" ( 2 Kings 21:8 ). In the eighteenth year of the reign of Josias was found the book of the law ( 2 Kings 22:8, 11 ), or the book of the covenant ( 2 Kings 23:2 ), according to which he conducted his religious reform ( 2 Kings 23:10-24 ), and which is identified with "the law of Moses " ( 2 Kings 23:25 ). Catholic commentators are not at one whether this law-book was Deuteronomy (von Hummelauer, "Deuteronomium", Paris, 1901, p. 40-60, 83-7) or the entire Pentateuch (Clair, "Les livres des Rois", Paris, 1884, II, p. 557 seq.; Hoberg, "Moses und der Pentateuch", Frieburg, 1905, p. 17 seq.; "uber den Ursprung des Pentateuchs" in "Biblische Zeitschrift", 1906, IV, pp. 338-40).
(d) Paralipomenon.-The inspired writer of Paralipomenon refers to the law and the book of Moses much more frequently and clearly. The objectionable names and numbers occurring in these books are mostly due to transcribers. The omission of incidents which would detract from the glory of the Israelite kings or would not edify the reader is not detrimental to the credibility or veracity of the work. Otherwise one should have to place among works of fiction a number of biographical or patriotic publications intended for the young or for the common reader. On their part, the modern critics are too eager to discredit the authority of Paralipomena. "After removing the account of Paralipomena", writes de Wette (Beitrage, I, 135), "the whole Jewish history assumes another form, and the Pentateuchal investigations take another turn; a number of strong proofs, hard to explain away, for the early existence of the Mosaic books have disappeared, the other vestiges of their existence are placed in a different light." A glance at the contents of Parlipomenon suffices to explain the efforts of de Witte and Wellhausen to disprove the historicity of the books. Not only are the genealogies ( 1 Chronicles 1-9 ) and the descriptions of worship traced after the data and laws of the Pentateuch, but the sacred writer expressly points out their conformity with what is written in the law of the Lord ( 1 Chronicles 16:40 ), in the law of Moses ( 2 Chronicles 23:18 ; 31:3 ), thus identifying the law of the Lord with that written by Moses (cf. 2 Chronicles 25:4 ). The reader will find similar indications of the existence and the Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch in I Par., xxii, 12 seq.; II Par., xvii, 9; xxxiii, 4; xxxiv, 14; xxv, 12. By an artificial interpretation, indeed, the Books of Paralipomenon may be construed to represent the Pentateuch as a book containing the law promulgated by Moses ; but the natural sense of the foregoing passages regards the Pentateuch as a book edited by Moses.
Help Now >
(e) I, II Esdras.-The Books of Esdras and Nehemias, too, taken in their natural and commonly accepted sense, consider the Pentateuch as the book of Moses, not merely as a book containing the law of Moses. This contention is based on the study of the following texts: I Esd., iii, 2 sqq.; vi, 18; vii, 14; II Esd., i, 7 sqq.; viii, 1, 8, 14; ix, 3; x, 34, 36; xiii, 1-3. Graf and his followers expressed the view that the book of Moses referred to in these texts is not the Pentateuch, but only the Priestly Code; but when we keep in mind that the book in question contained the laws of Lev., xxiii, and Deut., vii, 2-4; xv, 2, we perceive at once that the book of Moses cannot be restricted to the Priestly Code. To the witness of the historical books we may add II Mach., ii, 4; vii, 6; Judith, viii, 23; Ecclus., xxiv, 33; xlv, 1-6; xlv, 18, and especially the Preface of Ecclus.
(f) Prophetic Books.-Express reference to the written law of Moses is found only in the later Prophets : Bar., ii, 2, 28; Dan., ix, 11, 13; Mal., iv, 4. Among these, Baruch knows that Moses has been commanded to write the law, and though his expressions run parallel to those of Deut., xxviii, 15, 53, 62-64, his threats contain allusions to those contained in other parts of the Pentateuch. The other Prophets frequently refer to the law of the Lord guarded by the priests (cf. Deuteronomy 31:9 ), and they put it on the same level with Divine Revelation and the eternal covenant of the Lord. They appeal to God's covenant, the sacrificial laws the calendar of feasts, and other laws of the Pentateuch in such a way as to render it probable that a written legislation formed the basis of their prophetic admonitions (cf. Hosea 8:12 ), and that they were acquainted with verbal expressions of the book of the law. Thus in the northern kingdom Amos (iv, 4-5; v, 22 sqq.) and Isaias in the south (i, 11 sqq.) employ expressions which are practically technical words for sacrifice occurring in Lev., i-iii; vii, 12, 16; and Deut., xii, 6.(3) Witness of the New Testament
We need not show that
Join the Movement
When you sign up below, you don't just join an email list - you're joining an entire movement for Free world class Catholic education.
Saint of the Day for Tuesday, Dec 6th, 2022
Mysteries of the Rosary
Saints & Angels
Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Female / Women Saints
Patron Saints A-Z
- Daily Readings for Wednesday, December 07, 2022
- St. Maria Giuseppe Rossello: Saint of the Day for Wednesday, December 07, 2022
- Prayer for Refugees and Victims of War: Prayer of the Day for Wednesday, December 07, 2022
- Daily Readings for Tuesday, December 06, 2022
- St. Nicholas: Saint of the Day for Tuesday, December 06, 2022
- Everything has its Time: Prayer of the Day for Tuesday, December 06, 2022
Copyright 2022 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2022 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.