Did Moses Write the Book of Genesis?

Biblical evidence and Jewish tradition both cite Moses as the author of the first five books of the Bible, which is referred to as either the Torah (Hebrew) or the Pentateuch (Greek). They are known more commonly to us as the five books of the Law. This categorization is somewhat misleading however, because vast portions of Scripture throughout this section of the Bible are not law at all, but narrative (such as the book of Genesis).

  1. Genesis
  2. Exodus
  3. Leviticus
  4. Numbers
  5. Deuteronomy

Internal evidence is as follows:

Israel Had Always Categorized Genesis Within the Law

This point does not necessarily prove the authorship of Moses, but it does add some weight. Just because a book is added to the collection does not always mean it held the same author as the others alongside it. Thus, the first point is broader in scope, but Jewish tradition has always logged the first five books as the books of Moses.

The Pentateuch Itself States the Name of Its Author

At this point, we are still not sure whether Moses specifically wrote the book of Genesis because, unlike the four books following, there is no direct reference to the name of the writer. The following examples give strong support for a Mosaic authorship of the other four books:

Ex. 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; Lev. 1:1; 4:1; 6:1, 8; Num. 1:1, 19; 33:2; Deut. 1:1; 31:9, 24-26

Other Parts of The Old Testament Declare Moses As the Author of the Law

Josh. 1:7-8; 8:31-34; 22:5; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Chron. 23:18; 34:14; Dan. 9:11, 13; Ezra 3:2; Neh. 8:1; 13:1-3

It is clearly undeniable in Scripture that Moses is the man who recorded the Law which was given by God. Numerous texts throughout both the Old and New Testaments attribute this section of God’s Word as the writings of Moses. The debate, however, is over whether Moses authored the book of Genesis.

The New Testament Writers Acknowledged Moses’ Authorship of the Law

Acts 3:22; 26:22-23; 28:23; Rom. 10:5, 19

While Moses is still not specifically named the writer of Genesis, there may be slight implications to this found in Paul’s defense before King Agrippa in Acts 26:22-23. In this passage, the apostle declares that he is only speaking “what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, He would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”[1]

  • Genesis 3:15 prophesies the coming Savior and His future suffering.
  • Genesis 12:3 predicts the coming Gentile blessing.
  • Genesis 22 pictures both the suffering Christ and His resurrection from the dead.

Jesus Himself Testified That the Law Was Written by Moses

Matt. 8:4; 19:7-8; Mark 7:10; 10:2-9; 12:26; Luke 16:29, 31; 24:44; John 1:45; 5:46; 7:19

While there are several instances when our Lord affirmed Moses’ authorship of the Law, Jesus never directly stated, “Moses is the writer of Genesis.” However, I believe He both implied and attributed Moses as the author.

Mark 10:2-9 is a great example directly from our Lord’s mouth. The Pharisees asked a question regarding divorce and Jesus asked them, “What did Moses command you?”[2] They responded with a verse from Moses, taken out of context, which they had used to justify their animosity towards other people. Jesus did not however, allow them the opportunity to continue picking and choosing which parts of His Word they would submit to, so I believe He intentionally chose to quote more of Moses for them (Gen. 1:27; 2:24). There are many other great passages in the Old Testament regarding the sanctity of marriage which He could have used, but He purposefully chose these verses from the beginning of Genesis to correct them of Moses’ view on marriage. While the text does not say that Moses authored Genesis, I believe it is implied within the overall conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees.

Conclusion:

Moses, nowhere in Scripture, is directly stated to be the author of the book of Genesis. However, there are some key points we must remember:

  • Moses received & recorded the Law (Ex. 20-23; 35; Lev. 1-27; Num. 1:1;15; 19; 28-30; Deut. 5; 11-26.
  • Jewish tradition has always attributed authorship to Moses.
  • Although Genesis is more narrative it does:
    • Present law.
    • Reflect the narrative portions of the Law:
      • Ex. 1-19; 32-33
      • Num. 12-14
      • Deut. 1-4; 6-10; 27-34
    • Lead right into the book of Exodus showing the oppression of Israel and God raising up Moses as a type of savior. A Mosaic authorship of the book of Genesis would make sense in how it summarizes the founding and forming of the nation of Israel. The author seems to carefully speed up to the person of Moses being used by God to rescue His people.

To sum up this section on the author of Genesis, whether Moses wrote this book or not should ultimately have no impact on our daily walks with the Lord. Jesus Himself affirmed it as inspired Scripture (Mark 10:2-9) which means that each one of us are accountable to the LORD for what it says.


[1] ESV Bible, ESV Text Edition: 2011. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2001)., p. 935.

[2] Ibid., pg. 845-846.

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