In yesterday’s post I began to explain why scholars have thought that the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), were not written by Moses, but later, and that they represent not a single work by a single author, but a compilation of sources, each of them written at different times.   The evidence for this view is quite overwhelming, and in the context of my textbook on the Bible, as in the context here, I didn’t really think it appropriate or useful to dig deeply into all the nuances and ins and outs.  Instead, I gave some of the prominent data.   Here is how I started to do that.


The internal tensions in the Pentateuch came to be seen as particularly significant.  Nowhere were these tensions more evident than in the opening accounts of the very first book, in the creation stories of Genesis chapters 1 and 2.   Scholars came to recognize that what is said in Genesis 1 cannot be easily (or at all) reconciled with what is said in Genesis 2.  These do not appear to be two complementary accounts of how the creation took place; they appear to be two accounts that are at odds with each other in fundamental and striking ways.  Read them carefully yourself.  Make a list of what happens in chapter one, then a list of what happens in chapter 2, and compare your lists.  Among other things you will notice the following:

  • According to Genesis 1, plants were created on the third day; only later, on the sixth day, were humans created. But not according to Genesis 2.  There we are told that “the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground” before there were any plants or herbs on the earth (2:4, 7).
  • According to Genesis 1….
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