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Evidence for Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch
Numbers 33:21 states, "And Moses recorded their starting places according to their journeys by the command of the LORD, and these are their journeys according to their starting places". Through the years, and particularly the last 150 years, the Old Testament has been under attack from external critics and from internal scholars. Some of the most serious attacks against the integrity of the Old Testament have been under the guise of Christian scholarship. Seminary students became accustomed to such terms as "higher criticism," "reconstruction," or "documentary hypothesis" and a fashionable theory that gained ground was that the Pentateuch resulted from the compilation of various documents labelled J, E, D, and P which were eventually strung together by an editor in about 400 B.C. to give us the present form in our Bibles.3,9,10 Many elaborate theories of this kind prevail in liberal circles and adherents become convinced that their positions were built and developed on solid exegesis and scholarship. Tragically these fanciful theories are based upon erroneous methods of investigation and often result in serious loss of faith for the adherents who can in no way claim to have solid belief in the Scriptures as God's Unchanging Word. It is vital for the child of God to know for certain that the Old Testament is all that it claims to be. Are the works credited to Moses and the prophets just a collection of documents written by anonymous individuals, or are they, as they claim, the work of Moses himself and of the prophets whose names are attached to their books?
It is educational to look carefully at Bible passages and evaluate the nature of the skeptics' charges. We can start in Chapters 1-2 of Genesis which relate the story of creation. These skeptics noticed that Genesis 1 calls God by the name "Elohim," whereas in Genesis 2, He is called by the Ineffable Name. Astonishingly, before the rise of modern archaeology, many assumed that, on this basis, the accounts had to have been composed by two different writers - each with his own name for God! The conclusion was that Genesis was not written by Moses, but was a patchwork from the hands of numerous people, some of whom added their "portion" as late as the Babylonian exile in 586 B.C. Yet ancient Egyptian documents demonstrate that ancient writers frequently employed, in the same piece of writing, different names for their gods and kings - sometimes even when the kings were referring to themselves. And it is important to realize that those Egyptian documents are dated, by reliable scientific methods, to the time of Moses and earlier.2 Moreover, inscriptions by Semitic miners under Egyptian employment in the turquoise mines of Serabit el Khadim, dating from 1500 B.C., indicate that even the lowest classes of Hebrews in the pre-Mosaic age could read and write3 - clear evidence against those who said that not only was the Pentateuch written by multiple authors, but that Moses could not possibly have been one of them, because the Hebrews were illiterate in his time.
The two lines of evidence which we can use to establish the credibility of the Old Testament are the "internal evidence" and "external evidence." The critics conveniently forget that the internal evidence of these books put Moses in an ideal position to write the Pentateuch. He was educated in the royal court of Egypt, which was highly advanced academically. He had firsthand knowledge of the geography of Egypt and the Sinai, with plenty of time - 40 years in wandering and 40 more years beyond that - to compose his work. Consequently, there is no reason for doubting that the Pentateuch could have been written by Moses himself, and every reason to believe that it was!
One example of internal evidence is that the Pentateuch claims to have been written by Moses. We started with the quotation from Numbers 33:2 where Moses recorded the journeys of the children of Israel by the commandment of the Lord. We also read:
"And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord" (Exodus 24:4, KJV).
"And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the hearing of the people" (Exodus 24:7, KJV).
"And the Lord said to Moses, Write these words; in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel" (Exodus 34:27, RSV).
After the battle against Amalek we read in Exodus 17:14:
"And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book."
Deuteronomy 31:22 records;
"Moses therefore wrote this song."
As one of his last acts we read in Deuteronomy 31:24-261:
24 And it came about, when Moses finished writing the words of this law in a book until they were complete, 25 that Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, 26 "Take this book of the law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may remain there as a witness against you.
All these passages provide written testimony, within the Pentateuch, that it was written personally by Moses and many other references could be added from the remainder of the Old Testament as additional testimony. Joshua 8:32 (KJV) refers to "the law of Moses, which he wrote." In Judges 3:4 we read about "the commandments of the Lord, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses." 2 Kings 21:8 reminds Judah of its responsibility to "observe to do according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them." And Malachi 4:4 commands, "Remember ye the law of Moses." Additional Old Testament references include 1 Kings 2:3, 2 Kings 14:6 and Joshua 23:6, which attribute to Moses the authorship of the Pentateuch.
In addition, the New Testament writers, and the Lord Jesus Christ, concur with and support the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. The Pharisees, questioning Jesus in Matthew 19:7 asked, "Why did Moses then command?" In His response (19:8) Jesus agreed, "Moses ...suffered you." Both Mark 12:19 and Luke 20:28 employ the phrase, "Moses wrote." In Acts 3:22 we find, "Moses truly said..." and in Romans 10:5, "For Moses describeth." Many more examples could be cited and it is absolutely impossible to overcome such testimony. This is especially true in the case of the Lord Jesus, for otherwise we would have to believe either:
that He did not know that Moses did not write the Pentateuch, which would be a reflection on His divine omniscience; or
He accommodated Himself to the ignorance of the people of His time, in which case we have an assault upon His integrity.
It is not unreasonable to believe that the one who denies Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch denies to Christ the divine attributes that are His as the Son of God. Evidence for the authenticity of the remainder of the Old Testament is equally clear and convincing. In Matthew 24:15, Christ mentions the historicity of Daniel. He also gives us the reality of Jonah in Matthew 12:39-40. By quoting from Isaiah 42, in Matthew 12:17-21, He convinces us of the unity of the book of Isaiah. This destroys the deutero-Isaiah theory which teaches that chapters 1-39 were written by Isaiah, and chapters 40-66 were the work of some pious forger or unknown author. This charge betrays an anti-supernatural bias. The skeptics say that although chapters 1-39 may well have been Isaiah's work, chapters 40-66 had to be written by another author because those chapters deal with the fall of Jerusalem (587 B.C.) and the subsequent return of the exiles (539 B.C.); events which occurred after Isaiah's time. Since Isaiah lived in the eighth century, and since the skeptics do not believe that he could prophesy future events, they are left to conclude that two authors, one early, the other late, must have been involved. They point to one who lived before the Exile (Isaiah) and another Isaiah who lived during it. In fact, the evidence points to a single author. For instance, Isaiah chapter six is universally accepted as Isaiah's own writing and we find that the prophet discloses a foreknowledge of the Babylonian exile and restoration (vv.11 -13) in this chapter. If the skeptics are to be consistent, they ought to at least say that chapter six is not from the hand of Isaiah either.
We can examine the evidence from a geographical perspective as well. If the second half of Isaiah is to have been written in Babylon, then it seems peculiar that the prophet mentioned vegetation that is more appropriate to Israel. For example, cedar, cypress and oak trees are mentioned in Isaiah 41:19 and 44:14. This clearly indicates a pre-exilic authorship of the latter half of Isaiah. Linguistically, other post-exilic writings such as those of Ezra and Nehemiah show an influence from Aramaic and contain some Babylonian terms. However, Isaiah 40-66 is pure Hebrew, akin to the first 39 chapters. Stylistically, the use of certain vocabulary and terminology in both halves of Isaiah binds these halves together and testifies to their single authorship. For example, the phrase "Holy One of Israel" appears twelve times in chapters 1-39, fourteen times in chapters 40-66, yet only five times in all the rest of the Jewish Scriptures. There are over forty sentences or phrases that appear in both portions.5
All of this knowledge was shared by the Jews, the apostles, and later church tradition. The line of external evidence is powerful and worth considering carefully as archaeology and various other discoveries underpin the accuracy of the dating, historicity, and the identity of the various authors of the Old Testament. The Jewish scholar Nelson Glueck goes as far as to say that, "It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference."4 Dr. Leah Bronner, senior lecturer in Hebrew Studies at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg goes even further: "The ultimate aim of the Biblical archaeologist is Truth. Indeed, archaeology has illumined the dark past and has realized the word of the Psalmist that 'truth has sprung forth from the earth' (Psalm 85:11) to illustrate the living world of the Bible."5
Following the completion of the Hebrew canon, the Old Testament was translated into various languages. As the years passed, the original manuscripts of Moses, the various historians, and prophets, were used and copied many times, until they eventually disappeared. But, we can read in Jeremiah 36, an example of the meticulous care which was involved in successfully transmitting these sacred Scriptures. The prophet commanded his scribe, Baruch, to duplicate the copy of the book he had written, which the evil king Jehoiakim had destroyed in a fire. We should take care to notice the strength this fact gives to our testimony of the supernatural nature of the transmission of Scripture. Clearly, even if men were allowed to destroy the whole, or most, of the Bible, as the Mormons have claimed in their attempt to replace God's word with their false Scripture, we have the clear evidence that God is able to perfectly restore all of His words for the guidance of men through His chosen servants (Jeremiah 36:27-321):
27 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah after the king had burned the scroll and the words which Baruch had written at the dictation of Jeremiah, saying, 28 "Take again another scroll and write on it all the former words that were on the first scroll which Jehoiakim the king of Judah burned. 29 "And concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah you shall say, 'Thus says the LORD, "You have burned this scroll, saying, 'Why have you written on it that the king of Babylon shall certainly come and destroy this land, and shall make man and beast to cease from it?'" 30 'Therefore thus says the LORD concerning Jehoiakim king of Judah, "He shall have no one to sit on the throne of David, and his dead body shall be cast out to the heat of the day and the frost of the night. 31 "I shall also punish him and his descendants and his servants for their iniquity, and I shall bring on them and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the men of Judah all the calamity that I have declared to them--but they did not listen."'" 32 Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the son of Neraiah, the scribe, and he wrote on it at the dictation of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire; and many similar words were added to them.
Verse 32 shows that God can even add words to His first inspiration to confound His worse critics further!
This reverence for the Word of God did not diminish with the passing of the centuries. If anything, it increased with every generation. Hundreds of years later, scribes would use ingenious means to guarantee the accuracy of the scroll. Each scroll contained a count of the number of letters, the number of words, the number of lines, even such insignificant facts as the middle word or letter. When a copy was made, the letters, words, and lines would be counted and double checked against the original. If a difference existed, the entire copy would be checked until the error was located and immediately corrected. If a scroll contained more than a prescribed minimum of errors it would be destroyed.
Jewish tradition was so strong in its belief in Mosaic authorship that even Ecclesiasticus, one of the books of the Apocrypha (and therefore not acknowledged as inspired Scripture by orthodox Christians, but used to gain an insight into traditions and historical details when viewed with caution) and written about 180 B.C., states, "All this is the covenant-book of God Most High, the Law which Moses enacted to be the heritage of the assemblies of Jacob" (Ecclesiasticus 24:23). The Talmud, in Baba Bathra, 146, which is a Jewish commentary on the first five books (around 200 B.C.), along with the writings of Flavius Josephus (born A.D. 37) and Philo (A.D. 20) also sanction Moses as author of the Pentateuch. Early Christian tradition is in agreement and the writings of Junilius (527-565 A.D.) and Leontius of Byzantium (about 600 A.D.) along with Church fathers Melito (A.D. 175), Cyril of Jerusalem (348-386 A.D.) and Hilary (366 A.D.) teach that Moses wrote the Pentateuch.3
In his famous commentary on the Old Testament,11 Adam Clarke wrote, in his introduction to Genesis:
Supposing, then, all the curious facts recorded in the book of Genesis had no other authority than the tradition already referred to, they would stand upon a foundation of credibility superior to any that the most reputable of the ancient Greek and Latin historians can boast. Yet to preclude all possibility of mistake, the unerring Spirit of God directed Moses in the selection of his facts and the ascertaining of his dates. Indeed, the narrative is so simple, so much like truth, so consistent everywhere with itself, so correct in its dates, so impartial in its biography, so accurate in its philosophical details, so pure in its morality, and so benevolent in its design, as amply to demonstrate that it never could have had an earthly origin. In this case, also, Moses constructed every thing according to the pattern which God showed him in the mount.
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