A greek term for the first five books of the Hebrew Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
One Book or Five Books?
Though the Pentateuch is usually considered to be five separate books, more than likely it was originally constructed as one literary work. The term Pentateuch is actually a Greek word (ἡ πεντάτευχος), meaning “five-part-book.” Its first recorded use is the second century a.d. in an epistle to Flora by Valentinian Ptolemaeus.
The writers of the Old Testament considered the Pentateuch a single “book” (2 Chr 25:4; 35:12; Ezra 6:18; Neh 13:1) as Jesus called it the “book of Moses” (Mark 12:26). But the five-fold division was known at the time of Christ by Philo (c. 20 b.c. to a.d. 50) and Josephus (a.d. 37-100). This means that the divisions are probably fairly old, but that the Pentateuch was originally a single piece of literature.
Author & Date
Though modern critical scholarship would argue otherwise (see JEPD Theory), the Pentateuch was written by Moses in the wilderness around 1446-1406 b.c. He is named as the author in both the Pentateuch (Ex. 24:4; Deut. 31:9, 24) and the New Testament (John 5:46-7; Mk 12:19).
Moses wrote the Pentateuch to instruct those that would enter the promise land after his death. He wrote not primarily for the purpose of recording the Law, but to outline God’s covenants with Israel and to argue that those who lived by faith (the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as Joseph) received the blessing of God, and those that lived by the Law (Moses and the sinful generation) did not receive the blessing of God.
The Pentateuch can be divided into four sections, each with three literary parts; Narrative, Poetry and Epilogue.
Part I: narrative (Gen. 1-48), poetry (Gen. 49) and epilogue (Gen. 50).
Part II: narrative (Ex. 1-14), poetry (Ex. 15) and epilogue (Ex. 16-18).
Part III: narrative (Ex. 19-Num 21), poetry (Num. 22-24) and epilogue (Num. 25-26).
Part IV: narrative (Deut. 1-31), poetry (Deut. 32-33) and epilogue (Deut. 34).
The narrative sections tell the story, the poetry conveys the significance of what has happened, and the epilogue closes each major section with the blessings that have not yet been fulfilled.
|. ||John H. Sailhammer, The Pentateuch as Narrative (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 1.|