Analyse The Assumptions About The Pentateuch Religion Essay


The aim of this assignment is to present as clearly as possible the Pentateuch and the assumptions about the Pentateuch. This will be done by vigorously and thoroughly challenging the first five books of the Bible. It will enable students to know the Pentateuch’s basic and theory content.

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1.2.1. What is the Pentateuch? The Pentateuch (that is, a book in five parts) has been a title for the first five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) of the Old Testament since the second century at least. When it assumed this five-part form is not really known. Though it may always have had such a form and was formally known to Philo (c. 20 B.C. – A.D. 50) and Josephus (c. A.D. 37-100) and probably earlier, the flow of the Sinai narrative from Exodus 19 through Leviticus to Numbers 10 shows and suggests a later division. More than ever, the Pentateuch must be viewed as a single book (Sailhamer 1992:1-2).

The basic content of the Pentateuch is not legal in character; it is the story of God who saved the people of Israel. While a theological use of law, as revealing of Israel’s sin, is present throughout the Pentateuch, inspiring words about God’s gracious actions also flow through the narrative (Arnold and Beyer 1999:27).

We can see that the five books give us the historical basis of biblical faith and are fundamentally important and will always remain so (Arnold and Beyer 1999:27).

1.2.2. What is the Pentateuch about? The Pentateuch handles God’s dealings with the world and especially the family of Abraham, from creation to the death of Moses. When the proper time came and Israel cried out to God from their bondage, God heard their cry and remembered His covenant with them (Arnold and Beyer 1999:27-28).

The Pentateuch is not just a book about the historical background within which it was written or the historical background of the events recorded, it is a book of faith. It speaks about the effective Word of God whilst giving comfort and warning to us (Arnold and Beyer 1999:28).

The book starts with Genesis (Genesis 1-11, LASB), explaining to us the origin of the world and of the nations. This section describes the Creation, the fall of man, the beginnings of civilisation, the flood, the table of the nations and the tower of Babel. Then came the patriarchal period (Genesis 12-50, LASB). This period depicts the call of Abraham, the initiation of the Abrahamic covenant, the lives of Isaac, Jacob and Joseph and the settling of the covenant (Arnold and Beyer 1999:28).

Exodus explains the departure of Moses and the Israelites from Egypt and the giving of the law at Mount Sinai. Exodus consists of a variety of traditions from various periods in Israel’s life. God’s creational and historical promises are fulfilled among Jacob’s family in Egypt (Arnold and Beyer 1999:28-29).

The book of Leviticus calls the people to physical, moral purities and moral holiness. This book is devoted to describe to us that sacrifices are ordained by God that bear on the upholding of man’s relationship with God. Worship without sacrifice is inconceivable (Arnold and Beyer 1999:29).

In Numbers the Israelites have heard much from both God and Moses since reaching Sinai. Instructions, rules and exhortations have been abundant. Now is the time to break camp and move on. Three different scenes are presented in this book. First, there is a general complaining about misfortunes in the camp. God responds with a consuming fire on the borders of the camp. Second, not satisfied with an ordinary menu (manna), the people cry to God for diverse food. Third, Miriam challenges both the wisdom of Moses in the choice of a wife and the credibility of his unique relationship with God. Therefore they were doomed to wander in the desert for forty years (Arnold and Beyer 1999:29).

Deuteronomy represents a long series of laws and Moses undertook to explain this law. These public addresses were the last words Moses spoke to the people as they were preparing to enter the Promised Land (Arnold and Beyer 1999:29).

1.2.3. What are the main themes of the Pentateuch?

For me the themes of the Pentateuch are as follows:

God as Ruler

God created the world and all living creatures on it. Human beings received life from the Creator quite apart from any knowledge of its source. It demonstrates that God’s work in the world has to do with more than human beings. We can see that God’s activity in Genesis 1 involves the creation of that which is other than human; indeed God involves things like the flood and the Tower of Babel. God chooses to interact with Isaac rather than Ishmael and Jacob rather than Esau (Fretheim 1996:44-45).


By far the greatest majority of events recorded in the Pentateuch can be seen as history. The first is the historical background within which the book was written (who wrote the book and for whom), second, the historical background of the events recorded in the book (the Garden of Eden, the Flood and Sinai wilderness). All of the above is theological truths and we as evangelicals don’t have to choose, we know the importance of all these historical events (Sailhamer 1992:3-4).

Human Beings as Sinful Creatures

The message is simple: Adam and Eve are put in the Garden of Eden to worship God and obey Him. They were there to enjoy God’s blessings, to trust Him and to be at peace. God alone knows what is good for human beings and God alone knows what is not good for them. The disobedience of Adam and Eve leads to temptation and the whole picture changes. Adam and Eve wanted to be like God, although the irony is that they were already created “like God” and in the “image of God”. So because of their sin, the perfect relationship with God was lost forever (Arnold and Beyer 1999:31).

God’s Protection

In striking contrast to God’s judgment on Adam and Eve, we can see that immediately after He judged them, God was at work: “Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21:12, LASB). God covered their nakedness because of His love and grace for them. God chooses to be our Saviour, nobody forced Him. God is the Saviour of the world and also the Saviour of the people of Israel like in the Pentateuch (Arnold and Beyer 1999:31-32).

God as Relational

God is present and active in the Pentateuch. In all of this, God has chosen not to stay distant, but to get caught up with the people of Israel. God gives the law and human beings are to be obedient, but not just because “God said so”. God gives motivations for obedience; the law is given for the sake of life, health and the flourishing of the people.

1.2. Critically evaluate the Documentary Theory and provide a defence of Mosaic authorship.

An evaluation of the Documentary Theory

The Documentary Theory was actually an attempt to take out the supernatural out of the Pentateuch and to deny its Mosaic authorship. It denies that Moses wrote the Pentateuch and instead ascribes its authorship to four or more authors (Wolf 1991:1). Jean Astruc came to believe that he could uncover the sources of the Pentateuch by using the divine names Yahweh and Elohim as a guide. He placed passages that use the name Elohim in one column (A), those that use Yahweh in another column (B) and passages with repetitions (C) and non-Israelite sources (D) in a third and fourth column. From this simple groundwork the Documentary Theory originated. Behind the Pentateuch are four source documents that came from different people, called J (Yahwist), E (Elohist), D (Deuteronomist) and P (Priestly Code) (Wolf 1991:11-14).

Wilhelm DeWette (Wolf 1991:12-13) argued that none of the Pentateuch was written before David. He said that the “D” document stood for Deuteronomy, which he believed was written during the reign of King Josiah around 621 B.C. They now had three source documents: J, E and D.

Weaknesses in the Theory

Here are just some of the weaknesses in the Document Theory:

There is no such thing as supernatural revelation. The Bible can’t be a supernatural revelation. The O.T. writers were incapable of using more than one name for God or more than one style of writing. The whole structure of source division has been applied exclusively to the Pentateuch and not to any other literature. Biblical statements are considered unreliable and suspect as archaeological evidence unless it conforms to the accepted theories. Pagan and heathen sources are automatically given preference over the Bible as historical witnesses. Hebrew literature alone cannot show any repetition or duplication by the same author. Repetition and duplication betray diverse authorship (Wolf 1991:16-19).

Accepting Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch

In Exodus the author gives eyewitness detail of every event that only Moses would know about. Moses was raised by the Egyptians and in Genesis and Exodus we read about all the Egyptian names and places. This knowledge is evident even in the style of writing used. The author used a large number of idioms and terms of speech, which is characteristically Egyptian in origin, even though translated into Hebrew (Wolf 1991:2)

First, there are many passages in Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy that point Moses as author. For instance, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for according to the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel” (Exodus 34:27, LASB). In fact, there are references throughout the O.T. (Joshua, 1 & 2 Kings, Ezra and Nehemiah) that claim that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. “But the children of the murderers he did not execute, according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, in which the Lord commanded, saying, “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers, but a person shall be put to death for his own sin” (2 Kings 14:6, LASB) (Wolf 1991:3-4).

N.T. writers claimed that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. In Matthew 19:8 Jesus refers to laws regarding marriage in Deuteronomy and gives honour to Moses for writing them. For me it would be hard not to attribute either deception or error to Jesus Christ and the apostles if Moses didn’t write the Pentateuch (Wolf 1991:4).

Moses received his training in the most advanced literature culture of the day as well as having access to the Jewish oral traditions and that makes Moses a remarkable and able author for God to use in writing the journeys of the Jewish nation. We also know that Moses wanted to learn more about God and the Promised Land (Wolf 1991:2).


Where does all the above leave us then today? I think we must remember that the Documentary Theory is only a hypothesis, it has never been conclusively proven to be correct in spite of the witnesses that say otherwise. If Luke and Paul can testify that Moses had written at least three of the books, if not all of The Pentateuch, why can’t we also belief. If this becomes the accepted view, Mosaic authorship can really be entertained.


Arnold B T and Beyer B E 1999. Encountering the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker.

Barton B B, Beers R A and Galvin J C (eds) 1996. Life Application Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Fretheim T E 1996. The Pentateuch. Nashville: Abingdon Press.

Sailhamer J H 1992. The Pentateuch as Narrative. A Biblical-Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Wolf H 1991. An Introduction to the Old Testament Pentateuch. Chicago: Moody Press.


The first thing that strikes us as readers of the Bible is the shortness with which the story of the creation of the world and man is told. The mathematics of Genesis is surprising. Only two chapters are devoted to the subject of creation and one to Adam and Eve with their sinful nature. The rest are contributed to Abraham, Jacob and Joseph. Nevertheless, we need to embark on this journey to experience God’s restoration of the human race and His faithfulness towards us.


2.1. Explain the structure of the book of Genesis. Pay attention to the development of different sections and how they point to a common purpose.

Read Genesis and be encouraged. There is hope in the book of Genesis. Genesis is a book about beginnings because it moves from the creation of the world to the ordering of families and nations to the forming of the fathers and mothers of Israel. Genesis testifies to the beginnings of God’s activity in the world. It is a new day for God too, and given the divine commitment to creation, God will never be the same again. Creation is more than chronology. If we look at the outline of Genesis, we see that it consists of two primary types of literature, narratives and genealogies. What does this mean to us? God used these things to stress His plan of bringing new lives into families. All of creation, from the least to the greatest, is shaped daily in wonderful ways by our Creator. God has a plan and that is where Genesis begins. God creates the world with power and purpose, culminating with man and woman made in His image. Before long sin entered the world and Satan was unmasked. Adam and Eve get expelled from the Garden of Eden, their first son turned a murdered and God decides to destroy everyone except Noah and his family. God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants are shown through His salvation plan with them so that the Saviour of the world will come through this chosen nation. The stories of Isaac, Jacob and Joseph which follow are promises of God and the proof that He is faithful. The people we meet in Genesis are ordinary people, yet through them, God did great things (Archer 1988:39-42).

2.2. Compare and contrast the biblical account of creation with one of the two nonbiblical creation stories Hamilton describes.

The Enuma Elish will be compared and contrast with the biblical account of creation:

Fighting broke out among the gods when the goddess Tiamut and her group of rebel people prepared for total war against the prevailing gods and this is very different from the record in Genesis. In Genesis we do not read of such barbarity as gods fighting, nor of immortal activity and nonsense whereby two rivers flow through the eyes of a goddess. The Bible account is dignified and noble, acceptable as a record of divine activity and it speaks about the one true God who is all-powerful, able to create from nothing (Hamilton 1982:80-81).

The story actually begins with Marduk as king in the assembly of the gods, the king of the gods of heaven and earth, the king of all the gods. We have seen that Marduk was confirmed by the full assembly of gods as king forever. Again, contrast all this with the Bible record which so magnificently introduces us to God who in eternal. He does not need to be made eternal. In the Babylonian story the creation of the earth is not discussed early in the story. In the Bible the creation is discussed in the first two chapters. Genesis is a revelation by God to man and of course the Bible account allows for no polytheism or myths (Hamilton 1982:80-81).

The Bible concept of God’s purpose in creation of man is also very different. In the reign of Marduk, man is just a slave, brought into being by Marduk at the plea of the rebel gods. For them man is just a labourer but in the Bible we read of man who is made in the image of God, to live in fellowship with God. I can give more examples, but the more I study these ancient records the more I am impressed with the Biblical account. If I must choose on Christian and Academic grounds, I will definitely select the Biblical account (Hamilton 1982:80-81).

2.3. Briefly describe a few interpretations of the six days and indicate which one you support.

The account of six days of creation in Genesis tends to be a controversial issue among Christians. There are numerous theories to reconcile the biblical account of creation with the secular account of creation. In the Bible the word “day” has several meanings. It means a day of twenty-four hours. On the view that a day is twenty-four hours, some have insisted that creation was carried out in six days literally. This does not agree with the facts of genealogy. Others have argued that a day represents a long period and sought to find a correlation with the genealogical records, a view which is tied too closely to the scientific theories of Charles Darwin. This is the belief that each of the six days of creation could represent more than an actual day but a day to God could mean a thousand years to us. Again, this does nothing to explain the contradictions between God’s Word and the word of science. Billions of years cannot be added to any particular day, and still reconcile the Word of God with the word of science. One of the major problems we all have is that we tend to start from outside God’s Word and then go to what God has written in the Bible to try and give our own ideas. I think we need to realise that the Bible is God’s Word and that it is authentic and truthful. Thus for me we should always start with what God’s Word says regardless of outside ideas. Only God’s Word is infallible. The Genesis account is not trying to set down a factual record of how God created the world, say in seven literal days, but enabling us to take in the essential truth about creation, sun, moon, stars, plants, animals and human beings came into being through the mighty power of God (Archer 1988:42-54).

2.4. Make a list of both obedient and disobedient personalities in Genesis, include verse references from Genesis.

“Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”. Therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken” (Genesis 3:22-23:12, LASB).

Obedient personalities

Abel (Genesis 4:1-8).

Noah (Genesis 5:29 – 10:32).

Abraham (Genesis 11-25).

Sarah (Genesis 11:29-25).

Melchizedek (Genesis 14:17-20).

Isaac (Genesis 17:15, 35:29).

Jacob (Genesis 25-50).

Joseph (Genesis 30-50).

Hagar (Genesis 16-21).

Rachel (Genesis 29:6 – 35:20).

Disobedient personalities

Adam (Genesis 1:26 – 5:5).

Eve (Genesis 2:19 – 4:26).

Cain (Genesis 4:1-17).

Lot (Genesis 11 – 14, 19).

Ishmael (Genesis 16, 17, 25:12-18, 28:8-9, 36:1-3).

Rebekah (Genesis 24-29).

Esau (Genesis 25-36).

Laban (Genesis 24:1 – 31:55).

Reuben (Genesis 29-50).

Judah (Genesis 29:35 – 50:26).


The book of Genesis gives us wonderful information of the lives of great men and women who walked with God. They sometimes succeeded and sometimes failed miserably. Where did they get their motivation and courage? They got it by realizing God was with them despite of their inadequacies. Knowing this should encourage us to rely on God and His guidance.


Archer G L 1988. A Survey of the Old Testament Introduction 3rd ed. Chicago: Moody Press.

Barton B B, Beers R A and Galvin J C (eds) 1996. Life Application Study Bible. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

Hamilton V P 1982. Handbook on the Pentateuch. Grand Rapids: Baker.


In Exodus there is an amazing range of activity, from plaques to sea walls to wilderness to mountains and golden calves. I will try to find the theological significance in Exodus and also look at the relationship between God and Israel (based on covenant and law).


3.1. Provide an overview of the book of Exodus. Explain the structure of the book and demonstrate the link between different sections.

Exodus moves from slavery to worship, from Israel’s bondage to Pharaoh to its bonding to Yahweh. More particularly, the book moves from the enforced construction of buildings for Pharaoh to the glad and obedient offering of the people for a building for the worship of God (Barker and Schultz 1988:85). The book of Exodus advances from an oppressive situation in which God’s presence is hardly noted in the text to God’s filling the scene at the completion of the tabernacle. The not human order gets caught up in these occasions as much as do people. God becomes engaged in events in a way not often paralleled in the Old Testament. The people of Israel are the focus of all of this activity, but God’s purposes are creation-wide: “But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth” (Exodus 9:16:114, LASB) (Barker and Schultz 1988:85).

My own point of view is that Exodus is a patchwork quilt of traditions from various periods in Israel’s life. Yet it is also a finished product. In its earliest form, it was propbably a relatively brief narrative with the basic thread of the story, dating from the period before the monarchy. The Old Testament is the Word of God for the Christian church. That is, it is a means by which God speaks words of judgement and grace to the community of faith. It may be said to have other functions, it helps to define what the Christian was and still properly is, and it assists in delineating a shape for Christian life in the world. But, at the heart of things, the Old Testament has for centuries served more than a opening function; it has actually spoken an effective Word of God to Christians, calling, warning, exhorting, judging, redeeming, comforting and forgiving.

3.2. Briefly summarise the two main views regarding the date of the Exodus event, listing a few of the most important arguments for each view.

The first view is the “Late Date View”. The pharaoh came to the throne who had no respect for these desecendants of Joseph and feared their large numbers. This suggests that the pharaoh that forced the Isrealites into slavery in order to oppress and subdue them, was Seti I (Sthos, c. 1304-1290 B.C.) and the pharaoh of the exodus was Rameses II (Ramses, c. 1290-1224) B.C. (Barker and Schultz 1988:86).

For the “Late Date” View the most important arguments are:

Advocates of the late view also take the reference in Exodus 1:11 to the building of the store cities of Ramses literally. The Israelites were forced to build and make bricks for the great building projects of Ramases II. It is argued that he must have been ruling during that time, but the city could have existed earlier than that time and only renamed after Rameses II. The archaelogical evidence for the destruction of Jericho and other Canaanite cities also point to a late date as well (Barker and Schultz 1988:86-87).

The second view is the “Early Date” View. The pharaoh of the oppression was Thutmose III (C. 1504-1450 B.C.) and the pharaoh of exodus was Amenhotep II (C. 1450-1424 B.C.). The “Early Date” View typically dates the Exodus to about 1446. This date is derived by taking the 1 Kings 6:1 reference to 480 years literally and adding it to the fourth year of Solomon’s reign in 966 B.C. Likewise, the 430 years in Exodus 12:40-41 as well as the numbers in the rest of the texts identified above are taken quite literally. Overall, we suggest that a stronger case can be made for an early date around 1446 B.C. (Barker and Schultz 1988:87-88).

3.3. Acquaint yourself with the following major themes found in the book of Exodus and write brief notes on each:

Exodus – The book of Exodus is shaped in a decisive way by a creation theology. A creation theology provides the cosmic purpose behind God’s redemptive activity on Israel’s behalf. The deliverance of Israel is ultimately for the sake of all creation. God’s work in redemtion, climaxing God’s effert at re-creation, returning creation to a point where God’s mission can once again be taken up. Israel is called out from among other nations and commissioned to a task on behalf of God’s earth. The book of Exodus is concerned in a major way with the knowledge of Yahweh. Pharaoh sets this question: “Who is Yahweh”. This question is primarily undertaken by God in Exodus to show the people His identity (Barker and Schultz 1988:88-90).

Covenant – Exodus has to do with the people of Israel. Israel’s status as God’s elect people is in place from the beginning. They are the people of the covenant made with Abraham by God; the promises to Abraham are also their promises. Peoplehood is the assumption of these events, not the result. Israel is called beyond itself to a true covenant within the Abrahamic covenant. Israel’s obedience is ultimately for the sake of being a kingdom of priests among the other people of the world. The golden calf disaster demonstrates that Israel does not remain faithful. The importance of obedience is not thereby set aside and obedience remains central. God’s tabernacle assists Israel on that journey (Douglas 1973:265-266).

Torah – In the beginning the term “tora” was used to describe single instructions and decisions taken in concrete dilemmas. “Tora” is given to Moses through God. The central core of the many laws laid down in Exodus and Leviticus is the Ten Commandments or Decalogue. The first half sums up the people’s relationship with God and the second half their relationship with others. These laws are far more than a passing set of rules for one group of people. They have been widely acknowledged as universal and permanent; the present-day laws of many countries in the West are based on them. There are many other laws laid down in the Old Testament law books, some of them clearly relating to life as it was lived at that time. Ritual law has to do with the worship and service of God (Douglas 1973:718-719).

Tabernacle/worship – The tabernacle was Israel’s tent of worship. The Israelites were instructed to make a portable tent for God, to carry with them throughout their journey to the promised land. When they set up camp, God’s tent would be erected at the centre. God was in the midst of His people; He was always present with them. The tent had two rooms: the private inner room held the Covenant Box and the copy of God’s laws. In the outer room was a lampstand with seven lamps, an altar for incense and a table with twelve loaves of bread. An altar was provided for sacrifice. A bronze basin held water for the priests to wash before going into God’s tent (Cundall 1988:109-115).

3.4. What is the significance of the Exodus event and its bearing on Israel’s subsequent history?

The Exodus event marked the birth of Israel as a nation. God guided Israel out of Egypt by using the plagues, Moses’s heroic courage, the miracle of the Red Sea and the Ten Commandments. God is a trustworty guide. The fact that the Hebrews could call-out as a nation to serve God and live out a covenant directly with their God, was unique. Through these experiences, the Hebrews could look back at history and trusted God for future things they needed (Harrison 1988:97).

The events leading up to and following Israel’s flight from Egypt form the main theme of the book. The chronological setting is given only in general terms, consistent with the Hebrew treatment of history as a sequence of events and not as a series of dates. So we can see that to give the event a definite date is not possible (Harrison 1988:97).

3.5. Identify the terms and conditions of the Sinaitic covenant. Explain the importance of the covenant to Israel.

The Sinaitic covenant was to be the foundation of Judaism. It was also seen as a formal instruction of a relationship between God and His chosen people. The covenant gave Israel the freedom to become a theocratic state (ruled by God). The nation of Israel was called to stand in for all other nations before God. “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6:133, LASB). God wanted the priests to be pure and holy and they had to know God when they entered the tabernacle. God then gave the people of Israel a law that would assist them on their journey out of Egypt (Craigie 1988:135-136).

The importance of the covenant was designed to lead Israel to a life of practical holiness. In them, people could see the nature of God and His plan for how they should live. God was seen as the head of the nation and the Ten commandments were like the criminal law. If you broke the law, you were sinning against God. The covenant at Sinai was made for Moses and his people, but also for future generations that were following, like Joshua. The commandments and guidelines were intended to direct the community to meet the needs of each individual in a loving and responsible manner. God’s name is special because it carries His personal identity. When God told His people to worship and believe in Him, that wasn’t so hard for them. He was just one more God to worship, but when He said “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3:134, LASB), they accepted it instandly (Craigie 1988:136-137).


Exodus begins in gloom and ends in glory. This parallels our progress through our Christian life. We begin as slaves to sin, are redeemed by God and ends our pilgrimage living with God forever. The lessons the Israelites learned along the way we also need to learn.

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