Today on Strong Sword we’re going to take a look at the first book of the Bible, Genesis. This book is where it all begins. The title comes from the Greek word that means origins or beginnings. Which is an appropriate title, for in this book we find the beginning of the universe, humankind, and the nation of Israel. In this post I’m going to go over who the author of this book was, when it was written, and why it was written.
The author of Genesis
Up until the 18th century scholars believed Moses to be the author of Genesis as well as the rest of the Pentateuch. Genesis is the first book of the Pentateuch, which comes from Greek and means “five volumes.” In Hebrew the Pentateuch is known as the Torah, which means the “law” or “instruction.” So, when you read about the “law” in the New Testament the writer is usually referring to the first division of the Hebrew Bible. The other two divisions are the Prophets and Writings.
As I said above, critical scholars began to question the Mosaic authorship in the 18th century. Eventually their theories for the composition of the Pentateuch became too convoluted and contradictory to be of any use for studying the first five books of the Bible. Emphases has now been placed on studying the Pentateuch holistically.
Conservative scholars still believe the Pentateuch to have been authored by Moses. Though many would recognize that scribes may have updated certain parts, like geography (“Dan” for instance in Gen. 14:14) or spelling and grammar, along the way so that the nation of Israel would understand what was being talked about.
However for Genesis in particular the question still arises, “where did Moses get his information from?” For the most part, everything that is recorded in Exodus to Deuteronomy occurred in his lifetime. So how did he know what happened 400 years prior to the time he was born?
No one knows for sure. Perhaps these stories were passed down and God oversaw that what Moses wrote was faithful to what really happen. We have creation and flood stories from this area that are dated to about the same time Moses lived. The surrounding cultures would have been familiar with these stories and perhaps the Israelites did a better job than others passing them down. In any case Moses was buddy buddy with God who could have just told him how it all happened (Exodus 33:11).
Depending on how you date the Exodus, Genesis was either written in the 15th century B.C. or the 13th century. Conservative scholars agree that the reign of Saul, the first king of Israel, began sometime around 1050 to 1010 B.C. The issue of dating biblical events before Saul’s reign comes in when determining the date of the Exodus.
The arguments are a little too detailed to go into in this post but just know that some scholars date the Exodus at 1446 B.C. while others date it at 1260 B.C. Both dates are estimates made by conservative evangelical scholars. For me I favor an earlier date because that gives more time for the events of the book of Judges.
When Moses was writing the first book of the Pentateuch it was meant as the introduction and foundation to the rest of the Torah. First it introduces the reader to God, then creation, and finally to humanity. The first eleven chapters tells us why things are the way they are. Then in chapter twelve the scope is narrowed to Abraham and the nation of Israel. You need to remember that the Torah/Pentateuch serves as the Constitution for the nation of Israel. It gives them laws yes, but more importantly it establishes their identity as a people specially chosen by God.
I would love to hear what your thoughts are on Genesis. This one book covers so much. Within the first eleven chapters it covers way more history than any other book of the Bible. If you have anything to add or if you like to see me cover another angle to Genesis let me know in the comments section below.