Myth 6: “Moses did not actually write the first five books of the Bible.”
Below is a summary of Myth 6. For the full chapter on this topic, download the Seven Myths book here.
Myth number 6 is: “Moses did not actually write the first five books of the Bible.”
Professors in many colleges today assert that Moses did not produce the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. They allege that “Moses did not have the ability to write…” or, that “the Hebrew language doesn’t date back far enough for the events recorded in the Bible.” Let’s find out why these claims couldn’t be further from the truth.
To begin with, keep in mind that Jesus himself supported that Moses produced the Torah, stating in John 5, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” When praying to the Father in John 17, Jesus said this: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” Jesus had a high view of Scripture, and He clearly believed in the Mosaic authorship of the Torah.
New Testament authors mention Moses 80 times and always give him credit for producing the Torah. Paul even noted in Romans 3 that God committed His “oracles” and teachings to the Jewish people, and this came through Moses. But wait a minute—Moses wasn’t present during the six days of creation recorded in the first chapter of Genesis—no one was, and Adam wasn’t created until the end of creation week. Moses also didn’t witness the Flood, or the events leading up to it. In fact, Moses didn’t even show up until at least 700 years after the Flood. So just how did he write or compile the biblical history that came before him?
The answer is quite simple: they were transmitted orally or in writing, or both. Interestingly, the first set of writings referenced in the Bible is the “Book of the generations of Adam” in Genesis 5. This book is actually 1 of 11 toledotes (pronounced “Toll-Dotes”) which means “histories” or “genealogies” that are included in the Book of Genesis, which is broken into 50 chapters in our Bibles today.
While we don’t know for sure, it’s likely that these 11 toledotes were memorized, compiled, or both by the generations that are relevant to them, and handed like historical batons between generations. For example, the toledote from Genesis 5:1 to 6:8 includes 13 people listed by name. The next one dealing with the Flood includes nine. The next toledote picks up in Chapter 10 and describes Noah’s sons and grandchildren, with over 70 people listed by name. The events of the toledot for Terah, Ishmael, Isaac, Esau, and Jacob even occurred during the period for which we have evidence of Hebrew writing.
While we don’t know for sure just how these histories were transmitted to Moses—whether by oral tradition, writing, or both—the Bible is clear and specific about the histories that pre-date Moses. It’s hard to imagine how the birth, death, or lifespan years given for the 87 patriarchs in the first 11 chapters of Genesis were passed down through oral history alone. However, the ancients transmitted stories orally much more frequently than we do today, and they were often quite reliable when they did so. Also, remember that the Holy Spirit had no limitations for guiding Moses through the transmission process, as “men being borne along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:21).
Another major clue that the early chapters of Genesis were preserved and given to Moses is found in Genesis 2. This chapter describes river systems that encircled certain areas that were rich with precious minerals and gems. Moses was not around to see this landscape, as it was completely reworked by Noah’s Flood which occurred long before his day. He knew about these things because they were passed down beforehand and given to him. So, if these accounts were preserved through the Flood and preserved after the Flood, it is conceivable that they were passed down from one generation to another by oral transmission or writing.
Liberal scholars today promote the “documentary hypothesis,” which argues against the Mosaic authorship of the Torah and suggests instead that it was a compilation of four originally independent documents, abbreviated as the “J-E-P-D” sources. This idea originally was promoted by Julius Wellhausen in the 19th Century. Creation Ministries International provides a thorough rebuttal of this hypothesis, showing even how modern scholarship does not support it.
Next we have the many instances in the Bible where Moses recorded the commands or words of God. For example, in Exodus 17:14, The Lord said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua.” Exodus 24:4 states that “Moses wrote all the words of the Lord,” and verse 7 records that Moses “took the Book of the Covenant” and read it to the people. Deuteronomy 6 also indicates the Israelites were collectively using writing, being directed by God to write His commandments “on the doorposts of their houses and gates.”
Then there are the 10 commandments, where God instructed Moses: “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written, that you may teach them.” Exodus 32:15 even says that these “tablets were written on both sides.”
So, it looks like God Himself was writing in a language that the Israelites would understand. Many Christians and Jews alike believe that this interchange occurred in ancient Hebrew. However, for one to compile a work like the Bible, the flexibility of an alphabet is necessary. While opinions vary, many secular scholars today hold that the Phoenicians developed the world’s first alphabet around 1050 BC. How can this be when most biblical scholars hold the view that Moses wrote the Torah in the 15th Century BC?
In filmmaker Tim Mahoney’s movie, “Patterns of Evidence: The Moses Controversy (2019),” he answers this question thoroughly. In this movie, Mahoney establishes Mosaic authorship by looking at evidence that answers four key questions: (1) Could Moses have written the Torah in a language by the time of the Exodus, (2) in the region of Egypt, (3) using the power of an alphabet, and (4) in a form of writing like Hebrew? This movie documents over two hours of evidence that supports the Biblical case. We’ll review some of the highlights here.
First, since at least the last third of the 19th century, we’ve known of alphabetic inscriptions that pre-date the alphabet-based writings from the Phoenicians that date to about 1,000 BC. Some of these discoveries were made in 1904 by Flinders Petrie, a man who has been called the father of Egyptian archaeology, in the turquoise mines that were controlled by the ancient Egyptians on the Sinai Peninsula. The inscriptions became known as “Proto-Sinaitic” and were dated to the middle of Egypt’s 18th Dynasty, which equates to the 15th century BC.
A more recent discovery of two alphabetic inscriptions was made in 1999 at a place called Wadi el-Hol. These inscriptions, which use the same script as the ones from the turquoise mines, also are alphabetic letters that are based on 22 specific hieroglyphic signs from the Egyptian sign list, but they date back to 1834 BC.
An additional tablet, called “Sinai 375a” also dates to the 15th Century BC and has the name Ahisamach from Exodus 31:6 written on two horizontal lines. Dr. Doug Petrovich stated that there is no other instance of this name in any other Semitic language than Hebrew. In the Bible, Ahisamach was the father of Oholiab, who along with Bezalel was one of the chief craftsmen appointed for constructing the Tabernacle and its furnishings. Dr. Petrovich points out clear evidence that the Hebrew letters developed continuously, becoming less pictographic over time, until the Hebrew script eventually converted into block letters under the Persian administration (6th and 5th centuries BC).
Leading up to the 7th century BC an excavation of a burial tomb near Jerusalem in 1979 uncovered two small silver scrolls with the “priestly blessing” from the Book of Numbers chapter 6. Today this is regarded as the earliest known copy of the biblical text!