Category Archives: pastor

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.

Book Review: Pray for the Flock

Brian Croft has done it again! I am probably becoming this pastor’s biggest fan.  This is the fifth book I have read of his in as many weeks; I am just as impressed with this one as I was the first, perhaps even more so.  You can read my other reviews on The Pastor’s SoulThe Pastor’s FamilyThe Pastor’s Ministry, and Caring for Widows.  Pray for the Flock is actually co-written by Ryan Fullerton.  Pastor Fullerton is the lead pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville, KY and Pastor Croft is the senior pastor of Auburndale Baptist in the same city.  Brian Croft is the founder of Practical Shepherding, and Ryan Fullerton serves on their board of directors. It is obvious that these two men have authored this book having a good rapport with each other, and if not, they mention their longstanding friendship a couple of times within its pages.

That being said, Pray for the Flock: Ministering God’s Grace Through Intercession, published by Zondervan in 2015, is a short but powerful book on prayer.  Fullerton takes most of the first half of the book (Croft wrote one chapter of six in the first half), and deals with the question of why we should pray.  In other words, as the section heading states: “What Does the Bible Teach” about prayer? I have read quite a few books on prayer because, like everyone else, I do not believe my prayer-life to be “up to snuff.”  I want to learn to pray better, longer, more earnestly, and so I go in search of my answers.  I’ve read E.M. Bounds (not every one of his books), I’ve read Mohler, Miller, Tautges, Sproul and others as well. They have helped me with my theology of prayer, some with the practicalities of prayer, and some (quite frankly) have made me feel guilty about my prayer life (and well they should) but none have made me excited to pray. That is what Pastor Fullerton has done in this book.  He reminded me that “If we want to have New Testament ministries, then we must understand and practice the New Testament priority given to prayer,” (p. 24) and instructs us: “Don’t just read God’s promises. Like Daniel, pray them. Ask God to bring them into reality!” (p. 45). Why? Because “God has decided that he is most glorified in accomplishing his purposes by answer the prayers of his people.” (p. 45).  The reality that “Most of us don’t have a theology of prayer that is capable of getting us out of bed in the morning, let alone powerful enough to move mountains,” is convicting because it is true.  But the great thing is that Fullerton doesn’t just leave us convicted, he provides the hope that is needed to alleviate this truth.  I’ll let you read the book so that you can get the full picture and have your heart warmed, primed and ready to go to God in prayer.

Pastor Croft took the second half of the book, as is often the case. He dealt with the more practical side of praying for the flock in the section titled, “The Practice of Prayer.” This is where the book takes more of the pastoral tone (the first half could be read by anyone, with only a few spots dealing directly to pastors).  The titles of some of the chapters in the second half are almost like “click-bait” that can make one think, “I’ve got to read that; how is the true?” Like the chapter titled, “Pray Occasionally.”  That is actually the penult chapter of the book (second to last), but each chapter deals with a specific time or type or way to pray.  We are to pray specifically for our people, not in general. Each person ought to be prayed over, for, and with.  We are to pray with other pastors. We are to pray for missions and that God would raise up and send missionaries and pastors from our churches specifically.  Through six short but eye-opening chapters, Brian Croft revealed thoughts I had never considered as to that which we ought to pray.  In fact, I have already taken a few of those ideas and put them into practice.  My favorite (a “why haven’t I thought of it before” kind of lesson) is getting a little notebook (small enough to fit in my back pocket) and writing every person in the church on a page, then when I hear of a prayer request I can write it down under that person’s name and continually pray for and with that person (adapted a little from his suggestion) and then I contact that person with a short note letting them know I’ve been praying for their situation.

The Appendix deals with Pastor Fullerton’s 40-day fast that he had apparently just finished during the writing of this book.  I found it a bit slow, and not as compelling, as the rest of the book. However, it still gave great insight as to how fasting and prayer go together.

Coming in at only 125 pages, this is the shortest book I have read by Pastor Croft, but it is the best book I’ve read on prayer.  I woke up early the other day, having just finished the book, and as I lay there I was wondering what I should do: try to fall back asleep? get on Twitter or Facebook? Then an excited feeling deep within came bubbling up, I knew what I wanted–wanted!–to do: pray.  Much of the time we simply don’t believe in the power of prayer or we don’t know how to pray as it seems we say the same things over and over again. If that’s you, I’d highly recommend reading this little book. If you’re not a pastor, I would still encourage you to read this–especially the first half.