The Pentateuch and Biblical Inerrancy

By: Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon; ©2013
The first five books of the Bible, known collectively as the Pentateuch, set the tone for the rest of the Bible. These books claim to be a divine revelation written by Moses. These five books record everything from the creation, fall, and flood to the lives of the patriarchs, the exodus, and the giving of the Mosaic law—which greatly influenced the course of Western civilization, including modern law and ethics. If these books are fraudulent, then so is the rest of the Old Testament.

The Pentateuch and Biblical Inerrancy

What can an ancient Egyptian noble tell us about the Bible today?

The first five books of the Bible, known collectively as the Pentateuch, set the tone for the rest of the Bible. These books claim to be a divine revelation written by Moses, who was adopted by the Pharaoh’s daughter, treated as her son, and thus probably educated in the Pharaoh’s own court (Acts 7:21-22). Later he became the leader of the famed Jewish exodus. His five books record everything from the creation, fall, and flood to the lives of the patriarchs, the exodus, and the giving of the Mosaic law—which greatly influenced the course of Western civilization, including modern law and ethics.

If these books are fraudulent, then so is the rest of the Old Testament which is so integrally related to them. (For example, without the legitimacy of the divine law given by Moses, intended to keep Israel from corruption by her pagan neighbors, the entire Old Testament ministry of the prophets becomes useless.) The truth is that the credibility of the entire Old Testament stands or falls upon the legitimacy of its first five books. If these books are questionable, so is the entire Old Testament. And if the Old Testament can be doubted, no one can logically believe in the authority of the New Testament either. (For example, Jesus clearly claimed He was the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament and that the God of the Old Testament was His Father. He believed that the Old Testament was the inerrant Word of God. If He was wrong on such crucial matters, what could He be right on?)

Thus the legitimacy of Christianity itself is logically dependent upon the credibility of the Pentateuch and its claim to divine origin. Christians maintain that the historical evidence supporting the claims of the Pentateuch is solidly on their side. Biblical critics argue otherwise—that not only did Moses not write the Pentateuch, but even that he couldn’t have written it. They put forth their theories under the name “the documentary hypothesis.” Who is right and who is wrong?

The critical view holds that the Pentateuch was not inspired by God through Moses but was written by numerous unknown Palestinian editors from the ninth through the fifth centuries BC or later. In their compilation they used four principal source documents (J, E, D, P). The conservative view holds that the Pentateuch was written by Moses in the fifteenth century BC.

The historical facts document the conservative view of the Pentateuch as being written by Moses in the fifteenth century BC.

First, the Bible itself indisputably teaches Mosaic authorship. By accepted canons of historic investigation, the claims of an ancient document must be regarded as legitimate unless shown otherwise. Since the Bible has repeatedly been proven reliable historically (e.g., in archeological discoveries), its consistent testimony to Mosaic authorship should be accepted. The Pentateuch claims Mosaic authorship (Ex. 24:4; Num. 31:1-2; Deut. 31:9), as do the Prophets (Mal. 4:4), Jesus (John 5:46-47; 7:19), and the apostles (John 1:17; Acts 3:22; 13:39; Rom. 10:5; and more). Jesus Himself told His Jewish enemies, “Do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (John 5:45-47 NIV).

If Moses did not write the Pentateuch, then the Bible is wrong at all these points and more. Jesus was also wrong. Further, both promote blatant deception for declaring that Moses did write it. One wonders why critics would spend millions of man hours defending their rationalistic Pentateuchal theories concerning a document that promotes deception!

Second, the internal data of the Pentateuch (climate, flora and fauna, geography, linguistic data, etc.) show considerable familiarity with fifteenth-century Egyptian life. A thorough and very particular acquaintance with fifteenth-century BC Egyptian life and geography would be highly unlikely for ninth- through fifth-century BC Israelite editors. But such knowledge would clearly suggest that the author was a resident of Egypt and a contemporary eyewitness of the events recorded.[1] According to the New Testament, “Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22 NASB), so we would expect such knowledge.

Third, Jerusalem is not mentioned by name in the Pentateuch. It is inconceivable that the vital capital city of Jerusalem would not be mentioned even once in extensive Jewish writings of the ninth through the fifth century BC, not only in light of the alleged diversity of authors, but the very nature of the source documents themselves, especially “P” (the priestly document), which was concerned with the temple worship and sacrifices. On the other hand, if the Pentateuch were written before Jerusalem was the capital of Israel (1000 BC), such absence is expected.

Fourth, Moses was fully qualified in every respect to write the Pentateuch, and Jesus Himself confirmed that He did in fact write it (John 5:47).[2]

Fifth, the assumption of the critic that miracles never occur (the exodus, predictive prophecy, etc.) is not tenable, particularly in light of an objective evaluation of the overall documentation for biblical prophecy (Daniel chapters 2, 7, 11; Isa. 53: Psal. 22; Micah 5:2). In fact, Pentateuchal predictions of the future Assyrian deportation and judgment of Israel (Lev. 26; Deut. 28) indicates a divine source behind Moses’ writings, since much later redactors would be unlikely to write of such a fate for Israel.

Sixth, the cumulative weight of recent archaeological discovery proves the antiquity of the Pentateuch. Hence, in the words of famed archaeologist W. F. Albright, it is “sheer hyper-criticism to deny the substantially Mosaic character of the Pentateuchal tradition.”[3] Indeed, biblical scholars with impeccable academic credentials, now reject the documentary hypothesis on archeological grounds alone. (In his Survey of Old Testament Introduction and other works, Dr. Gleason Archer has many examples of archeological confirmation of the biblical text in general and Mosaic authorship in particular.)

Seventh, the presence of social customs of the second millennium BC are difficult to explain if the Pentateuch was written in the first millennium BC.[4]

Eighth, the use of the divine names in the Pentateuch, Jehovah and Elohim, depend upon context and have never been successfully construed as proof of divergent sources.[5]

Ninth, the wholly unique monotheistic character of Israelite religion is unexplainable in light of her pagan surroundings, her regular lapses into idolatry, and the data of comparative religion. The alleged gradual social evolution of Israelite religion from polytheism to monotheism is thereby rendered untenable, and with it a supporting pillar of the documentary hypothesis.[6]

Tenth, the amazing unity[7] of the Pentateuch is highly suggestive of a single author. In light of the above data in points one through nine, a late editorial harmonizer(s) is not credible.[8]

Eleventh, Jesus Christ, who is God, authenticated the Mosaic authorship. Nowhere did Jesus ever express even the slightest doubt about Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch or about the divine authority of the entire Old Testament. In one place He spoke of “the Law of Moses” (Luke 24:44 NASB) and in another He asked, “Did not Moses give you the law?” (John 7:19 NASB).

Apparently, critics somehow assume that they are wiser and know more than Jesus.

In conclusion, the documentary hypothesis rejects the divine and Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. Yet the theory with real problems is not this one, but the documentary hypothesis itself. Innumerable internal contradictions and reversals characterize both the development and the current formulation(s) of the documentary theory.[9] These include circular reasoning, rationalistic premises, blatant ignoring of contrary data, a priori assumption of biblical error, special pleading, etc. Despite its prominence and popularity, the documentary hypothesis is now, like always, a thoroughly discredited theory.[10] This means that the only rational and credible view is the Christian view which supports the reliability of the Pentateuch.

Notes:

  1. Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), pp. 46-50.
  2. Ibid., pp. 51-52; and Gleason Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), p. 118.
  3. Archer, Survey, p. 176.
  4. Ibid., pp. 116-17, 121.
  5. Ibid., p. 121.
  6. Ibid., chs. 11-21, especially pp. 142-45.
  7. Ibid., p. 117.
  8. Ibid., pp. 117-18.
  9. Ibid., p. 90 and chs. 7-13.
  10. Ibid., pp. 105-09, 127-31, 162-63.

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