A Question I Was Asked:

Could Moses Really Have Written Genesis?

The Question:

Who actually wrote Genesis? If it was Moses how could he have possibly known details of events from antiquity - from hundreds of years before his birth? Surely he could not be the author.

UK Apologetics Reply:

The Lord Jesus Himself and the Gospel writers said that the Law was given by Moses (Mark 10:3; Luke 24:27; John 1:17), moreover, it is the clear tradition of the Jewish scribes and the early Christian fathers, plus the conclusion of conservative Christian scholars to the present day, that Genesis was written by Moses. Genesis forms part of the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses), of course.

Without any question, Moses will have had access to ancient records which were available at his time but no longer are. If the great library at Alexandria had not been destroyed by fire, I am pretty sure we would all now be able to look at some of these ancient records for ourselves. The Ancient Library of Alexandria, in Alexandria, Egypt, was the largest and most significant great library of the ancient world. It flourished under the patronage of the Ptolemaic dynasty and functioned as a major centre of scholarship from its construction in the 3rd century BC. It was destroyed by fire in 48 BC when, on a visit to Alexandria, Julius Caesar "accidentally" burned the library (whether it was genuinely an 'accident' we will never know, but it seems unlikely; more likely is that the Roman Caesar was unimpressed with the heavily Hebrew/Greek flavour of the records therein). It is known that this library contained extensive records of Greek and Hebrew knowledge and traditions. Some of Moses' sources for his compilation of the Book of Genesis were unquestionably in there.

So Moses will have had access to patriarchal records, preserved by being written on clay tablets and handed down from father to son via the line of Adam - Seth - Noah - Shem - Abraham - Isaac - Jacob, and so on.

There are about 11 occasions in Genesis in which we read, "These are the generations [Hebrew: toledoth = 'origins' or by extension 'record of the origins'] of...," as these statements all come after the events they describe, and the events recorded all took place before rather than after the death of the individuals so named, they may very well be subscripts or closing signatures of certain earlier writers. If this is so, the most likely explanation is that Adam, Noah, Shem, and possibly others each wrote down an account of the events which occurred in his lifetime, and Moses, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, selected and compiled these, along with his own comments, into the book we now know as Genesis. This seems the most probable manner in which Moses worked.

Certainly, chapters 12-50 of Genesis were very clearly written as authentic history of specific families, as they describe the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and his twelve sons who were the ancestral heads of the 12 tribes of Israel. The Jewish people, from earliest biblical times to the present day, have always regarded this portion of Genesis as the true record of their nation's history. Moses - under inspiration of the Holy Spirit - was careful to record those details which later generations of believers most needed to know.

Conclusion? Moses is the author of the Book of Genesis but, of course, that included an editor/compiler role of much earlier Hebrew records which he had access to during his own lifetime. This would not be so unusual or strange; today we have access to numerous writings which rely heavily on source material which has now disappeared.

Robin A. Brace. April 2nd, 2012.

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