The Pentateuch

The Pentateuch is the name given to the first five books of the Old Testament. The word “Pentateuch” is composed of two Greek words: Penta (five) and teuchos (scrolls). The Pentateuch then, is another name for the five books of Moses found in the first section of the Old Testament.

The five books of Moses are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The name Pentateuch was first used by Tertullian, a leader of the Christian church and a prolific writer who lived in the second and third centuries of the Christian era. In one of his writings, Tertullian used the expression ha pentateuchos biblos, “the book of five scrolls,” and this name has been used widely to identify the writings of Moses.

The Pentateuch is also known as “The Book of the Law of Moses,” or “The Law of Moses.” The Pentateuch was divided into five books of equal length which could be fit on one scroll each. The Law of Moses served as the spiritual and legal basis for the religion of Israel.

The five books of Moses is also known as Torah, a Hebrew word which means “teaching.”

The five books of Moses are:

1. Genesis also known as בראשית (Bereshit) in Hebrew, which means “In [the] beginning.”

2. Exodus, in Hebrew שמות (Shemot) which means “The names of.”

3. Leviticus, in Hebrew ויקרא (Wayyikra) which means “And he [the Lord] called.”

4. Numbers, in Hebrew במדבר (Bemidabar) which means “In the wilderness.”

5. Deuteronomy, in Hebrew דברים (Debarim) which means “Words.”

The Pentateuch is known as the five books of Moses because it contains a collection of laws, historical facts, and traditions of the past that reflect the teachings of Moses. What God taught His people through the five books of Moses was God’s Word for Israel and it is God’s Word for the church of the twenty-first century.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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