Chapter 1: What is the Pentateuch?

“The Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, has always been regarded as one of the most significant parts of scripture” (1). When I read this, I immediately stopped reading and thought, “Really? Where are you getting your information? IF this is true, then WHY have I not heard this emphasized in any Christian environment I have been at prior to Redeemer?” I went to church my whole life (a United Church), I went to youth group at various different churches along the way, and I was a faithful child of summer camp. Have I felt as though the Old Testament and the Pentateuch has been explained to me as being very important? No, not at all. I did not begin to understand the important/ relevance of the Old Testament until I came to Redeemer and took REL 101. Prior to that, no one in my life had ever told me the importance of the Pentateuch. Why am I a Christian who has not learned this prior to the age of 19? Why do we spend so much time on the New Testament (which is smaller in relative terms) and so little time in the Old Testament? The reason I chose to take this course is because I felt like I did not know enough about the Old Testament, and I do not deny that the Pentateuch is very significant, I am just astounded that it is not more widely spoken of.

There was a lot in this chapter about the genre of the Pentateuch. At first, my question was, are the details about the genre of the Pentateuch really that important? Do we need to be concerned about knowing exactly what the intended genre of the Pentateuch is? Which leads to the question of, is the genre for readers of the Pentateuch today different than the genre for the audience it was created for? With this in mind, potentially there was a chance that the Pentateuch was created for the people of the OT strictly to be about laws, but for us it is more narrative based.

I found the theory of genre being a biography of Moses to be fascinating. I had never heard of this theory or emphasis before, but it makes sense because how much Moses is in the Pentateuch. However, he is not in the last few books, nor is he in the beginning of Genesis, so can we really accept this theory? If we do, then why did the authors of the Pentateuch want us to know so much about Moses? Similarly, why does God want readers today to know in so much detail about Moses, his life, and his character? When thinking of this, I was reminded of some scripture: Deuteronomy 34:10: since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face; and Numbers 12:3: Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth. Did God want us to learn about Moses so we can understand what a true follower of God looks like? With that, does God want us to look to Moses for an example of how to be humble? What does God want us to learn from Moses?

Although there is discussion back and forth between the genres and the main purpose of the Pentateuch, I personally see the Pentateuch as having a large purpose of demonstrating God’s grace and revealing His character to His people, Israel, and the world. Why don’t we see the Pentateuch and OT more of God’s grace, rather than mainly look at it as laws (which can inherently be a negative thing). Maybe, this is part of the reason why Christians tend not to focus on the Pentateuch, because often people do not see the Pentateuch as having grace.

On a different topic other than the genre of the Pentateuch, I found myself reflecting on the canonization of the scrolls. How many of them were initially made? How did everyone memorize the law (there was so many)? Was it harder to memorize the law than we perceive, because there weren’t scrolls? Thinking about this makes me grateful to have a Bible.

What is the main point?
The Pentateuch is, and always has been a foundational part of the Bible. However, there are many scholarly perspectives to the Bible, and seeing the Pentateuch from each different perspective will allow for different learning and understanding of it. We must not see the Bible as just one thing because we do not want to limit the power of the word, but instead see it as many things, with many different purposes.

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