Encountering the Old Testament, 3rd Edition

A Christian Survey

series: Encountering Biblical Studies


3. Introduction to the Pentateuch: The Birth of God’s People

Chapter Intro Video

Chapter Objectives

  • Define the term “Pentateuch”
  • Draw conclusions about the purpose of the Pentateuch
  • Identify the key message of each of the five pentateuchal books
  • Compare the themes of the Pentateuch
  • Apply modern critical approaches to the question of authorship of the Pentateuch
  • Identify the key scholars who defined the documentary hypothesis
  • Assess the contribution of evangelical scholars to the study of the Pentateuch

Chapter Summary

  1. The Pentateuch consists of the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
  2. The Pentateuch provides us with the early history of God’s people and focuses on strengthening the faith of believers.
  3. Genesis is known as a book of beginnings.
  4. Moses is the key human figure in the Pentateuch.
  5. God’s sovereignty is emphasized in the Pentateuch.
  6. The concept of salvation is found in the Pentateuch.
  7. The Pentateuch is a complex collection of five books, and questions about its composition have dominated Old Testament scholarship for over two centuries.
  8. The primary modern forms of criticism include source criticism, redaction criticism, form criticism, tradition criticism, canonical criticism, and literary criticism.

Study Questions

  1. What is the derivation and meaning of “Pentateuch”? What Hebrew term is used for these books and what is its meaning?
  2. What is the derivation and meaning of “Genesis”? What is the problem of Genesis 1–11? What is the point of Genesis 12–50?
  3. What problem is presented at the outset of Exodus? What is the meaning of “exodus”? What role does the exodus play in Israelite history and theology? What term is used to describe the special binding relationship between God and his people?
  4. What does Leviticus seek to accomplish? What portion of Israel’s history is found in Numbers? What is the content of Deuteronomy?
  5. What are the overarching themes of the Pentateuch?
  6. What is the evidence for Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch? What name is given to the source theory approach and who was its principal advocate?
  7. What is the focus of each of the following: source criticism; redaction criticism; form criticism; tradition criticism; canonical criticism; and literary criticism?
  8. In what area have conservative biblical scholars contributed most to Old Testament scholarship? What three positions do these scholars take on authorship of the Pentateuch? What are their common points of agreement?