Category Archives: Bible Study

Were the First Five Books of the Bible Really Written by Moses?

For over a century Higher Criticism (aka Source Criticism) has plagued Christianity with theories and hypotheses about the reliability of Scripture.  One such hypothesis is what is known as Documentary Hypothesis (DH). DH is simply that; it is a hypothesis, an educated guess as to the authorship of certain texts within Scripture, specifically speaking of the first five books of the Bible: the Books of Moses. The proponents of DH claim that because the books differ stylistically, use varying names for God, have updated names for towns, cities, people, supposed repetitions of accounts, etc., Moses could not have been the one who wrote the Pentateuch. Instead, the educated guess is that there were two, three, or even four writers from four different centuries, with perhaps four different motives who wrote what we now read as Genesis through Deuteronomy.  The first collaborator was a Yahwist (“J” for short [for Jehovah]) around 850 B.C. Most of Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers was sourced by the Yahwist. One can find his handiwork because of his affinity to call God by His proper name: YHWH. It is assumed that the Yahwist was from Judah (the Southern Kingdom) since Judah was more faithful to the traditions of Judaism. However, about a hundred years later, one from Ephraim (the Northern Kingdom who were not so faithful to the traditional Judaism to say the least) sourced other portions of Genesis similar to that of the Yahwist, using Elohim–the generic name for God–in reference to the Almighty. For that reason, the second source is named after his favorite designation: Elohim (“E” for short). At some point, when the Northern Kingdom was overthrown by Assyria, the two sources (J and E) were brought together by some good-hearted refugees.

The third source for the DHers, is simply known as Deuteronomy (“D” for short) which covers the book by that name.  The thought process is that when Josiah ordered the reformation of Judah in his twelfth year on the throne, “D” got to work. Since the material only covers the one book of the Pentateuch, it is not much help with the other four.

The fourth source: those were the Priests (“P” for short). The priests, by the very nature of man and office, sought to conserve their position and their jobs. Thus the portions of the Law that dealt with religious matters (practices, tabernacles, instruments, etc.) were sourced by the post-exilic priests.

All in all, the DH denies the possibility of one author. It also denies the possibility of these books being original. Some men like Delitzsch would argue that they simply plagiarized from the Babylonians, going so far as to say that the Law and perhaps the entire Old Testament is not to be trusted and is which is to be done away.

That being said. . .like all hypotheses, DH must be tested to assure its truth. If it cannot pass the test–multiple tests–then one must admit that the guess is untrue and begin again. DH cannot pass the tests that it must face. The issues that it seeks to answer, DH complicates. William of Ockham was correct: “The simplest answer is usually the correct one.” DHers tend to seek complicated guesses to explain the apparent discrepancies or questions they have. They began with two sources and worked their way up to four, and now are unsure if there were four or if there are four when they actually sourced the material. The simpler (and probably the correct answer) is that Moses did write the first five books as traditionally held. Within those books, he cites his sources. The varying names for God are varying for good reason: they describe God in the way that fits with the story; using God’s name (YHWH) before telling us when he learned it (Genesis 2 vs. Exodus 3) does not mean multiple sources. It does mean that the Uncreated One created all life. Updated place names were probably updated by scribes since location was a major component for the Jews to understand their history. It is not much different that the scribes who translated the Hebrew to Greek, forming the Septuagint. Repetitions of stories, if read closely, are not repetitions; sometimes it takes people a while to learn their lessons, and often times their descendants must go through the same type of circumstances. Common sense can answer virtually every problem that DH presents without muddying the waters or complicating the issues.

What DHers have done, whether advertently or inadvertently, is brought doubt into the hearts and minds of Christians wanting to be faithful to God’s Word. By nature, Documentary Hypothesis leads to question authenticity, historicity, and reliability.  Rather than spark doubt, one can easily explain the supposed difficulties.

I’d love to read your feedback and comments. Please feel free to reply to this article or any of my others.  If you’re wondering why this article was written, let’s just say I started seminary this week, and this was one of my assignments. I have precious little time to blog, and since I found the assignment interesting and enjoyed writing it, I thought I would share it with you. If you enjoyed the article, please feel free to like and/or share it on your social media pages.

Not Invited to the Party

When I was turning 7, I was allowed to have a birthday party. It was my first birthday party ever. I was so excited. I remember sitting at our hutch and writing out my guest list. I had been to a party or two, seen some on television shows, but had little to no idea what mine would be like. I could only imagine how amazing it would be. I was so excited; words could not express the joy. When I was finished writing my guest list, my mom checked it over, asked if I had included everyone I wanted to be there, and then filled out the invitations so I could hand them out to everyone the next day at school.

The next day I went to school, entered my first grade classroom and proceeded to hand out invitations to everyone in the class…everyone, but one boy. It wasn’t a mistake. It was on purpose. I don’t recall now why I didn’t like him; I just didn’t. He didn’t get an invitation and he wouldn’t be at my party. Thank heavens.

Finally, the day arrived. The party had begun. Streamers, balloons, cakes, games, and friends; it was everything I dreamed it would be. I never gave thought to that boy I didn’t invite, until my mom called me over to the side. I had a phone call. Being 7, I didn’t get many phone calls. Someone must be wishing me a happy birthday. I picked up the receiver and said hello. On the other end was that young boy who had not been invited to the party. He did call to wish me a happy birthday…through tears, wondering also why he had not been invited. My heart was crushed. I apologized as many times as I could and told him to please come (lying, I told him I meant to invite him but forgot). I told him to come and have fun and not to worry about a gift. A few minutes later he came. I was glad he did, but furious with myself for treating him so poorly.

Jesus has a lot to say about the way we treat others. Probably his most famous instruction has been paraphrased by The Golden Rule. In fact the saying is: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets,” (Matthew 7:12). If you are an astute student of the Bible you will probably know that Jesus said the same about the first and second great commandments.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets,” (Matthew 22:37-40)

It is easy to love those people you like, but not so with those with whom you don’t get along. That takes effort. Those who rub you the wrong way, those who are needy, those who are different, those who hurt you time and time again. Those are the people, however that we are to invite to the party.

He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just,” (Luke 14:12-14).

Throwing a party is often about us. It is to celebrate ourselves. It is to honor our birthday, our accomplishments, our being. Jesus said to make it about others. Make it about those with whom you would rather not associate. That’s loving your neighbor. That’s doing as you would wish they do to you. Yeah, loving the neighbor, especially the one we don’t get along with (the guy/gal that is so conservative or liberal that you want to pull your hair out when you’re around them, the one who is so needy and whiny; those people) is difficult. Jesus knew that. Boy! did He!

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect, (Matthew 5:46-48).

You know, I hate birthday parties. I don’t mind celebrating my birthday with my family, but that’s all I want to do. I’ve had one birthday party since I was 7. It was okay, but I would rather just spend it with my wife and kids. I don’t want to make a big deal about my birthday. I’ve blocked it from my social media accounts. I neither want nor need the attention. A private “happy birthday” is good enough for me. Perhaps I shouldn’t be that way, but I am. Perhaps I should throw a big birthday party and invite my enemies–of course, if they read this they will know that I don’t like them. I’m kidding; I like everyone. 😉

That being said. . .may we all seek to love our neighbors (even those with whom we don’t get along), treat them with kindness, goodness, and respect. May we do to them as we would have them do to us, and so fulfill the law.

I’d love to read your comments so please send them your way; even if it is a short note of agreement or disagreement. If this was a blessing, please feel free to like and/or share it on your social media account.

All Bible quotes are from the ESV published by Crossway Books. And no, today is not my birthday.