Q&A: The Substance of the Pentateuch Was from the Days of Moses

The Substance of the Pentateuch Was from the Days of Moses

Why is it important to interpret the Pentateuch as coming from the days of Moses?

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Answer

Of course, we know that there was editing that went on after the time of Moses, for instance in Genesis where it talks about before there was any king in Israel, and of course, Moses' death in Deuteronomy. We know that there were sources before the time of Moses, but it looks like the substance of it was pulled together in the time of Moses for a couple of reasons that I can mention offhand. One is that the structure of Deuteronomy fits the structure of Hittite covenants from the time of Moses much better than it fits the majority of covenants from the time of Josiah and other periods. Another is, if you look at the structure of the first part of Genesis where you have Adam, Noah and Abraham, and each of those is connected by a genealogy with ten generations ending in three sons, and they're selective it doesn't include every name in the genealogy as genealogies often didn't do. But you also notice with each of these, there's a blessing, God blesses them. He says basically be fruitful and multiple to Adam and Noah, and then to Abraham he says something similar to that. There's a curse in each one of them: "Cursed be the serpent and his seed." In Abraham's time it's "cursed be those who curse you." But in Noah's time it's, "cursed be Canaan." Even though it was Ham who did it, Canaan is the one who's cursed. Well, for what generation would that be relevant? Especially for a generation getting ready to go in and take the land. And the land of Canaan gets emphasized over and over again, that the promise of this land, it's something that would be relevant to the generation getting ready to go in and take the land. But it's built even into the structure of how the first cycle of stories is recounted.

Answer by Dr. Craig S. Keener

Dr. Craig Keener teaches New Testament studies at Asbury Theological Seminary.