Tracing the Hand of Moses in Genesis


Damien F. Mackey


Three lines of evidence will be presented here in support of the traditional view that Moses was substantially the editor, or compiler (though not actual author), of the Book of Genesis. The first two lines of evidence, upon which two colleagues and I, in 1987, built our article,“A Critical Re-appraisal of the Book of Genesis” (SIS Chronology and Catastrophism Workshop, UK, Nos. 1 and 2), will be derived from a combination of:

(i) P.J. Wiseman’s colophon (Hebrew: toledôt) theory on the ancient structure of Genesis (Ancient Records and the Structure of Genesis. A Case For Literary Unity, Thomas Nelson, 1985), and

(ii) Professor A. Yahuda’s thesis that Genesis – and indeed the entire Pentateuch – is saturated with the Egyptian language (The Language of the Pentateuch in its Relation to Egyptian, Oxford U.P. 1933).

These two theses, when combined, are an explosive package capable of shattering the documentary (JEDP) theory.

The third line of evidence will be taken from:

(iii) I. Kikawada and A. Quinn (Before Abraham Was. A Provocative Challenge to the Documentary Hypothesis, Ignatius Press, 1989), an argument for unity in the arrangement or compilation of Genesis.

That the Book of Genesis shows evidence of having been derived from various sources, at least in part, none but the very obstinate, or excessively pious, would deny. The clever pair of Kikawada and Quinn, who are able to prove against the JEDP documentary theorists that Genesis is in fact a unity, nevertheless regard it as “mere polemic”, they say, to dismiss the claims of the documentists out of hand, without giving them a hearing; or, more especially, without being prepared to confront the JEDP assertions in the process of one’s arguing for an alternative. That is why I found quite unrealistic a recent paper sent to me for evaluation; an article written in French in which the author attempts to uphold a traditional view that Moses was the author of the Pentateuch (or first five books of the Bible). This paper seemed to be proposing (as far as my knowledge of French would allow me to grasp it) a blanket view of this tradition: namely, that Moses wrote every single word of the entire Pentateuch, even the account of his own death. And that no extra-Mosaïc sources whatsoever were involved (whether pre- or post-Moses).

My own view, based on the tradition of substantial Mosaïc authorship of the Pentateuch, is that, whilst Moses substantially wrote the books of Exodus to Deuteronomy, he was the editor or compiler, not author, of Genesis.

In this new article, “Tracing the Hand of Moses in Genesis”, I hope to update this 1987 SIS article and thereby to arrive at a more exact view of what was Moses’ own personal contribution to the Book of Genesis.


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