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Posted on Mar 06, 2024 by Mike LeDuke

The Torah's Origin

The origin of a the Bible is a highly debated topic. Some will argue that the Bible was merely written by a group of Jews who sought to create a national narrative for Israel, and early Christians who wanted to create a polemic against Judaism. These scholars largely see the Bible as nothing more than the work of humans, similar to a history book or any collection of ancient sayings. Nevertheless, the Bible itself makes different claims about its origins, and, these intra-biblical claims harmonize with one another.

Throughout the book of Genesis, there are no references to recording or writing what took place. However, once one comes to Exodus, they find the first instance:

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven’” (Exodus 17:14). 

In other words, the first attested writer of the Bible is Moses. After writing about this war with Amalek, Moses writes down the ten commandments (which were originally written by God, but Moses had to create another set on his own, since he broke the first set; Exodus 34:1). Again, it is Moses who is writing. Later in that same chapter, God commanded Moses to write more commands than just the initial ten (Exodus 34:27). Deuteronomy suggests even further writing by referencing itself, the book of Deuteronomy, as a written law (Deuteronomy 17:18; 27:3). In these instances, Moses is not specifically described as the author, but the book earlier notes him as such (Deuteronomy 4:44). By the end of the book, Moses is again explicitly writing (Deuteronomy 31:19). In moving through the first five books, it would appear that the books themselves suggest Mosaic authorship, or at least, Moses’s hand in the very earliest versions of the books (certainly there was a version of Deuteronomy put together after Moses’s death which Moses could not have written; otherwise, how can one explain Deuteronomy 34?). 

This suggestion of Mosaic authorship accords not only with the Torah itself, but with the Lord Jesus. Repeatedly, Jesus referenced the books of Torah as “Moses” (Mark 10:3; Luke 20:37; 24:27). Biblically, Moses is the author of these words. With Moses as the author, it is fairly clear why Jewish tradition chose to see these books as special and set them apart as part of their scripture. Throughout these books, God spoke with Moses, and Moses recorded the interactions. The Torah contains God’s words for His people Israel and is thus seen as “inspired.”

But what about the rest of the books? The Old Testament is not just the Torah. In fact, the Torah is a small part of the Old Testament. Where did the other books come from? And why were they considered special?

— Jason Hensley, PhD