& Conquest
Era of

Introduction to the
Torah & Genesis

A brief recap of what the Torah is:

  • First five books of the OT.

  • Moses traditionally considered the author.

    • This is the assumption of Orthodox Jewish rabbinic tradition,

    • Paul and the Gospel authors,

    • and Christians & Jews up until the 17th century.

  • Mostly law material, but also mythology and stories of Israel's origins (Genesis).

    • Also narrates the journey from Egypt to Canaan.

  • Probably canonized in the late 6th century BC (Post Exile)

  • may contain material from much earlier (12th century BC)

  • Why does authorship by Moses matter?

    • lends the text the credibility of an eyewitness account.

  • Today, Mosaic authorship is considered unlikely. Why?

    • in antiquity, authors did not "sign" their writings,

      • were rarely identified in the text

    • Attributions of authorship were given much later- often centuries after a work had been composed.

  • In the OT, the Torah is sometimes attributed to Moses.

    • [Joshua 8:31, 1 Kings 2:3, Nehemiah 8:1, 2 Chronicles 25:4 

    • And 1st Cent. Jewish historians like Philo and Josephus attribute the Torah to Moses.]

  • But scholars see problems with the text:

  • Most obvious is Deut 34:5-12. How could Moses have written it? Other problems:

  • Duplicate stories.

    • Ex: 3 different stories about a patriarch passing off his wife as his sister.

    • Were stories circulated in different contexts, then compiled?

  • Inconsistency/contradiction:

    • Gen 6, Noah is told to take 1 pair of each animal onto the ark.

    • Gen. 7, he is told to take 7 pairs of clean animals, 1 pair of unclean.

  • Anachronism ("out of time" or in the wrong time)

    • Gen 36:31: "The following are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the Israelites."

    • How does the author know about an Israelite monarchy?

  • Name of God

    • Gen 4:26 claims that "YHWH" was used as name for God since the time of Enosh, grandson of Adam.

    • But Ex 6:2-3 claims Moses was first to hear this name, centuries later.

  • All initially explained by holding to the belief that Moses was the author,

    • but claiming that some material may have been inserted (such as the account of Moses' death).

  • further study revealed that the changes/insertions were consistent

    • and could be broken down into different styles,

    • Moses was still assumed to be the author,

      • but later editors (redactors) were believed to have reshaped the material.


  • Jean Astruc, a French scholar, published a study of the Torah in 1753. He observed:

    • 2 different names are used for God in Genesis, in passages with distinctly different styles.


  • In 1798, Richard Simon, a French Catholic priest, wrote Critical History of the Old Testament,

    • arguing that Moses could not be the author of the Torah:

    • Anachronisms- references to the monarchy and ethnic groups such as the Philistines, which appeared centuries after Moses' own time.

    • Text is not a first person account- not written from Moses' perspective.

      • Narrates Moses' death.

  • Simon's work was condemned by Catholics & Protestants.

    • Of 1300 printed copies of his book, all but 6 were burned.

    • Today, Simon's conclusion is accepted by the majority of Christians and Jews.


  • In 1878, Julius Wellhausen published History of Israel, proposing the Documentary Hypothesis:

    • The Torah is the product of the combination or redaction of at least four distinct sources.

    • Wellhausen "put the pieces of the puzzle together,"

      • proposed a theory of how the text fit into the evolution of Israelite religion.

The Sources:

  • Earliest Source: Yahwist ("J")

    • Claims God was called by the name YHWH from the primeval period

    • Portrays God anthropomorphically- w/ human characteristics:

      • God walks in the garden of Eden,

      • asks Adam & Eve who told them they were naked

      • regrets making mankind (!)

      • smells Noah's sacrifice and

      • closes the door to the ark.

    • Many stories in Gen 12-50 focus on the territory of Judah, and focus on Jacob's son Judah in the narrative.

    • In J, Moses' father-in-law is Reuel, and the Mt on which he receives the law is called Sinai.

    • Focus on promise to Abraham of land, descendents, blessing.

    • Probably written in the 10th century BC,

      • early in the divided monarchy

      • in the southern kingdom.

    • characteristic words/phrases

      • 'to lie with'  as euphemism for sex (11x)

      • 'to know' as euphemism for sex (5x)

      • 'Sheol' (6x)

      • 'to suffer' (7x)


  • Second Source: Elohist ("E")

    • uses Elohim as a title for God until revelation of the divine name to Moses in Exodus.

    • Composed in Northern kingdom, 9th-8th centuries BC.

    • combined with J in Judah when citizens of the north fled south during the Assyrian Exile.

    • Probably starts @Gen 20, but maybe earlier.

    • God is more remote, revealing himself through dreams, angels, prophets (label used for Moses and Miriam).

    • In E, Moses' father-in-law is Jethro, and the mt on which he receives the law is called Horeb.

      • miracles are performed w/ Moses' staff.

    • In the patriarchal narratives, E focuses on the territory of the most important northern tribe, called Ephraim.


  • Third Source: Deuteronomist ("D")

    • Found almost entirely in the book of Deuteronomy,

      • but author is probably also responsible for the DH.

    • Acc. to 2 Kings 22, a book of the law was "discovered" in the temple during the reign of king Josiah of Judah- Deuteronomy, or at least part of it, is thought to be that book.

    • Has some in common with E:

      • Horeb

      • Prophecy

    • Has cyclical view of history

    • characteristic words/phrases:

      • 'lengthen your days in the land' (12x)

      • 'with all your heart and with all your soul' (9x)

      • 'to go after/turn to/worship other gods' (13x)

      • 'listen to the voice of YHWH' (12x)


  • Fourth Source: Priestly ("P")

    • Composed in the 6th Century BC,

      • probably after the return from the exile.

    • Emphasizes religious observance, ritual practice.

      • Gen 1 & Sabbath

      • Circumcision law required of Abraham

    • sacrifice is required as atonement for sins

    • Uses a variety of titles for God (El +)

    • Portrays God as

      • even more remote, abstract, transcendent than the other sources,

      • usually appearing in his "glory," a light-filled cloud.

    • Wrote the First Creation Story in Gen 1,

      • and added the last chapter to Deut (34).

    • Adds genealogies throughout Torah to connect stories.

    • No dreams, angels, talking animals

    • Emphasis on Aaron, the brother of Moses and considered the founder of the Israelite priesthood.

      • Only Aaron's descendents can be priests.

      • miracles are performed w/ Aaron's staff.

    • characteristic words/phrases:

      • the 'tabernacle' (200x)

      • 'gathered to his people' (11x, euphemism for death)

      • 'be fruitful and multiply' (12x)

      • 'YHWH's glory' (12x)

      • 'plague' (14x*)

      • 'complain' (22x*)

      • 'cubit' (56x*)

      • 'to expire' (11x)