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Who Wrote Genesis - Was Moses Just the Editor?

Updated on December 5, 2016
Moses with Ten Commandments
Moses with Ten Commandments | Source

The Pentateuch

Traditionally the first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy are credited to Moses. From the middle of chapter two of Exodus Moses would have been an eye witness to the events he recorded. Prior to chapter two of Exodus, Mosses would have had to rely on other sources. With literally thousands of years of human history to cover, where did Moses turn to when he began recording the history of man and mankind's relationship with God? It is theorized Moses recorded these books during the 40 years spent wandering in the wilderness.

It is certainly logical Moses would have been well aware of the story of how he came to be in Egypt and oral traditions would have certainly been fresh and accurate for recent times. When we venture further back, to the times of Adam, Noah, and the Patriarchs, oral tradition becomes more suspect. There is clear and compelling evidence oral traditions were handed down with astonishing accuracy from one generation to the next, but now some claim evidence exists that Moses would not have had to rely solely on these for his information.

Wiseman Hypothesis

Professor P.J. Wiseman studied cuneiform tablets extensively and wrote a book entitled "Ancient Records and the Structure Of Genesis". The original text was published in 1936, but his son D.J. Wiseman, a professor of Assyriology published an updated version in 1985. The theory proposed in this work offers strictly textual evidence of the theory concerning the tablets discussed as any actual physical evidence has been lost, or has yet to be discovered. In either event these two professors offer a very compelling theory regarding the early books of the Bible.

Clay Tablet
Clay Tablet

Early Writing

Archeological discoveries in Ebla, Mari and Nuzi have unearthed thousands of clay tablets. These tablets record many biblical names, but cannot be directly tied to the Bible. They do, however, offer two very important pieces of information regarding early record keeping. Some of the tablets are believed to pre-date Abraham, which indicates written documentation of history and social events were recorded much earlier than previously believed.

The second item is the format used in the writing on these tablets. Scholars who have studied the tablets believe they have found a pattern which can be directly transposed onto biblical text. On each tablet there was mention of the person who recorded the events as well as an indication if multiple tablets were used to record the event. When using this to look at the Bible there are some startling similarities. The Bible text is broken down in much the same way as the tablets, with each section possibly indicating the original author.

Biblical Formatting in Genesis

In Genesis the sections are broken down by phrases such as "These are the generations of Jacob,,," It is theorized this indicates Jacob was the original writer and the events were originally recorded on a clay tablet. Broken down this way, the Book of Genesis was written by Adam, Noah, Shem, Terah, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob and Jacob's Sons. These men were eye witnesses to the accounts they recorded, making the question of accuracy much less of an issue than when the stories were passed down through numerous generations only as oral traditions.

The belief is that Moses had access to these tablets and it is from these tablets that he accumulated and wrote most if not all of the book of Genesis. The book of Genesis is not a flowing narrative written by a single author, Moses, but a collection of first-hand accounts of past historical events. This can also explain why certain segments of Genesis seem to recap the same event, such as creation. It is possible the event was recorded on two separate tablets and Moses included both in his collection.

Bible's Historical Accuracy

Some make the bold claim that so much information and evidence now exists that everything from Genesis 12 forward can be considered historical accurate. Prior to Genesis 12 there is insufficient evidence to make such claims. This would mean with the exception of the Creation, Noah's Ark, and the Tower of Babel, the Bible is considered to be a documented historical fact. It should come as no surprise this theory is not supported by much of the historical community. While there is little or no physical evidence for Moses using any type of tablets as references, the textual evidence is substantial enough it should receive serious consideration and review. This theory offers a different view on the source for Moses' writings, but in no way takes away from the fact Moses' work was inspired by God and therefore should be considered accurate.

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