The Five Books of Moses

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor
of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

Our Fall Quarter is just around the corner. In a few days, I will have an infusion of new students who will begin their seminary education, eager to learn more about God’s Word and how to prepare themselves to serve the Lord as good ministers of Jesus Christ.

Most new students will begin their seminary education with my class on 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.

In my course on the Pentateuch, I will be using four textbooks. The primary textbook of the Pentateuch is the Bible. Students are expected to read the five books of Moses during the quarter. In addition, students are expected to read the following books: Henry J. Flanders, Robert W. Crapps, and David A. Smith, People of the Covenant, 4th ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), John Bright, A History of Israel, 4th ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000), and John Bright, The Kingdom of God (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1981). These are important books because they offer a good overview of the Old Testament. In future entries, I will provide more information detailing the reasons I selected these books for my course.

My students also will be required to read the following articles I wrote for the Biblical Illustrator: “The Anakim and the Nephilim,” “Ur and Haran: Abraham’s Background,” “Pharaoh’s Army,” and “Mount Nebo.” These four articles are available on my web page. Read these articles, and if you have questions on the topics being discussed in them, write your question and send it to me. I will give you an answer on my web page and provide you with additional information to help you understand the topic being discussed.

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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If you are looking for other series of studies on the Old Testament, visit the Archive section and you will find many studies that deal with a variety of Old Testament topics

This entry was posted in Book of Exodus, Hebrew Bible, Moses, Old Testament and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Five Books of Moses

  1. jimnelson says:

    Dr. Marriottini,

    I understand that you do not believe that Moses wrote the first five books and that you don’t believe that the story of Adam and Eve is historically accurate. I also understand that Northern claims to be an evangelical seminary. How do you teach at an evangelical school and not hold to traditional views on Holy Scripture?

    Thank you.


  2. Dear Jim,

    How do you know what I believe? And how do you know that I do not hold to the traditional views about Holy Scriptures? As an evangelical, the Bible is central to all I do. The Bible is the central focus of what I teach, what I preach, and what I believe as a Christian.

    Claude Mariottini


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