The Pentateuch, the name by which the first five books of the Bible are designated, is derived from two Greek words, pente, |five,| and teuchos, a |volume,| thus signifying the fivefold volume. Originally these books formed one continuous work, as in the Hebrew manuscripts they are still connected in one unbroken roll. At what time they were divided into five portions, each having a separate title, is not known, but it is certain that the distinction dates at or before the time of the Septuagint translation. The names they bear in our English version are borrowed from the Septuagint, and they were applied by those Greek translators as descriptive of the principal subjects -- the leading contents of the respective books. In the later Scriptures they are frequently comprehended under the general designation, The Law, The Book of the Law, since, to give a detailed account of the preparations for, and the delivery of, the divine code, with all the civil and sacred institutions that were peculiar to the ancient economy, is the object to which they are exclusively devoted. They have always been placed at the beginning of the Bible, not only on account of their priority in point of time, but as forming an appropriate and indispensable introduction to the rest of the sacred books. The numerous and oft-recurring references made in the later Scriptures to the events, the ritual, and the doctrines of the ancient Church would have not only lost much of their point and significance, but have been absolutely unintelligible without the information which these five books contain. They constitute the groundwork or basis on which the whole fabric of revelation rests, and a knowledge of the authority and importance that is thus attached to them will sufficiently account for the determined assaults that infidels have made on these books, as well as for the zeal and earnestness which the friends of the truth have displayed in their defense.
The Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch is established by the concurring voices both of Jewish and Christian tradition; and their unanimous testimony is supported by the internal character and statements of the work itself. That Moses did keep a written record of the important transactions relative to the Israelites is attested by his own express affirmation. For in relating the victory over the Amalekites, which he was commanded by divine authority to record, the language employed, |write this for a memorial in a book| [Hebrew, the book], (Ex 17:14), shows that that narrative was to form part of a register already in progress, and various circumstances combine to prove that this register was a continuous history of the special goodness and care of divine providence in the choice, protection, and guidance of the Hebrew nation. First, there are the repeated assertions of Moses himself that the events which checkered the experience of that people were written down as they occurred (see Ex 24:4-7; 34:27; Nu 33:2). Secondly, there are the testimonies borne in various parts of the later historical books to the Pentateuch as a work well known, and familiar to all the people (see Jos 1:8; 8:34; 23:6; 24:26; 1Ki 2:3, &c.) Thirdly, frequent references are made in the works of the prophets to the facts recorded in the books of Moses (compare Isa 1:9 with Ge 19:1; Isa 12:2 with Ex 15:2; Isa 51:2 with Ge 12:2; Isa 54:9 with Ge 8:21, 22; compare Ho 9:10 with Nu 25:3; Ho 11:8 with Ge 19:24; Ho 12:4 with Ge 32:24, 25; Ho 12:12 with Ge 28:5; 29:20; compare Joe 1:9 with Nu 15:4-7; 28:7-14; De 12:6, 7; 16:10, 11; compare Am 2:9 with Nu 21:21; Am 4:4 with Nu 28:3; Am 4:11 with Ge 19:24; Am 9:13 with Le 26:5; compare Mic 6:5 with Nu 22:25; Mic 6:6 with Le 9:2; Mic 6:15 with Le 26:16, &c.) Fourthly, the testimony of Christ and the Apostles is repeatedly borne to the books of Moses (Mt 19:7; Lu 16:29; 24:27; Joh 1:17; 7:19; Ac 3:22; 28:23; Ro 10:5). Indeed the references are so numerous, and the testimonies so distinctly borne to the existence of the Mosaic books throughout the whole history of the Jewish nation, and the unity of character, design, and style pervading these books is so clearly perceptible, notwithstanding the rationalistic assertions of their forming a series of separate and unconnected fragments, that it may with all safety be said, there is immensely stronger and more varied evidence in proof of their being the authorship of Moses than of any of the Greek or Roman classics being the productions of the authors whose names they bear. But admitting that the Pentateuch was written by Moses, an important question arises, as to whether the books which compose it have reached us in an authentic form; whether they exist genuine and entire as they came from the hands of their author. In answer to this question, it might be sufficient to state that, in the public and periodical rehearsals of the law in the solemn religious assemblies of the people, implying the existence of numerous copies, provision was made for preserving the integrity of |The Book of the Law.| But besides this, two remarkable facts, the one of which occurred before and the other after the captivity, afford conclusive evidence of the genuineness and authenticity of the Pentateuch. The first is the discovery in the reign of Josiah of the autograph copy which was deposited by Moses in the ark of the testimony, and the second is the schism of the Samaritans, who erected a temple on Mount Gerizim, and who, appealing to the Mosaic law as the standard of their faith and worship equally with the Jews, watched with jealous care over every circumstance that could affect the purity of the Mosaic record. There is the strongest reason, then, for believing that the Pentateuch, as it exists now, is substantially the same as it came from the hands of Moses. The appearance of a later hand, it is true, is traceable in the narrative of the death of Moses at the close of Deuteronomy, and some few interpolations, such as inserting the altered names of places, may have been made by Ezra, who revised and corrected the version of the ancient Scriptures. But, substantially, the Pentateuch is the genuine work of Moses, and many, who once impugned its claims to that character, and looked upon it as the production of a later age, have found themselves compelled, after a full and unprejudiced investigation of the subject, to proclaim their conviction that its authenticity is to be fully relied on.
The genuineness and authenticity of the Pentateuch being admitted, the inspiration and canonical authority of the work follow as a necessary consequence. The admission of Moses to the privilege of frequent and direct communion with God (Ex 25:22; 33:3; Nu 7:89; 9:8); his repeated and solemn declarations that he spoke and wrote by command of God; the submissive reverence that was paid to the authority of his precepts by all classes of the Jewish people, including the king himself (De 17:18; 27:3); and the acknowledgment of the divine mission of Moses by the writers of the New Testament, all prove the inspired character and authority of his books. The Pentateuch possessed the strongest claims on the attention of the Jewish people, as forming the standard of their faith, the rule of their obedience, the record of their whole civil and religious polity. But it is interesting and important to all mankind, inasmuch as besides revealing the origin and early development of the divine plan of grace, it is the source of all authentic knowledge, giving the true philosophy, history, geography, and chronology of the ancient world. Finally, the Pentateuch |is indispensable to the whole revelation contained in the Bible; for Genesis being the legitimate preface to the law; the law being the natural introduction to the Old Testament; and the whole a prelude to the gospel revelation, it could not have been omitted. What the four Gospels are in the New, the five books of Moses are in the Old Testament.|
Genesis, the book of the origin or production of all things, consists of two parts: the first, comprehended in the first through eleventh chapters, gives a general history; the second, contained in the subsequent chapters, gives a special history. The two parts are essentially connected; the one, which sets out with an account of the descent of the human race from a single pair, the introduction of sin into the world, and the announcement of the scheme of divine mercy for repairing the ruins of the fall, was necessary to pave the way for relating the other, namely, the call of Abraham, and the selection of his posterity for carrying out the gracious purpose of God. An evident unity of method, therefore, pervades this book, and the information contained in it was of the greatest importance to the Hebrew people, as without it they could not have understood the frequent references made in their law to the purposes and promises of God regarding themselves. The arguments that have been already adduced as establishing the Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch prove of course that Moses was the author of Genesis. The few passages on which the rationalists grounded their assertions that it was the composition of a later age have been successfully shown to warrant no such conclusion; the use of Egyptian words and the minute acquaintance with Egyptian life and manners, displayed in the history of Joseph, harmonize with the education of Moses, and whether he received his information by immediate revelation, from tradition, or from written documents, it comes to us as the authentic work of an author who wrote as he was inspired by the Holy Ghost (2Pe 1:21).
Exodus, a |going forth,| derives its name from its being occupied principally with a relation of the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, and the incidents that immediately preceded as well as followed that memorable migration. Its authorship by Moses is distinctly asserted by himself (Ex 24:4), as well as by our Lord (Mr 12:26; Lu 20:37). Besides, the thorough knowledge it exhibits of the institutions and usages of the ancient Egyptians and the minute geographical details of the journey to Sinai, establish in the clearest manner the authenticity of this book.
Leviticus. So called from its treating of the laws relating to the ritual, the services, and sacrifices of the Jewish religion, the superintendence of which was entrusted to the Levitical priesthood. It is chiefly, however, the duties of the priests, |the sons of Aaron,| which this book describes; and its claim to be the work of Moses is established by the following passages: -- 2Ch 30:16; Ne 8:14; Jer 7:22-23; Eze 20:11 Mt 8:4; Lu 2:22; Joh 8:5; Ro 10:4; 13:9; 2Co 6:16; Ga 3:12; 1Pe 1:16.
Numbers. This book is so called because it contains an account of the enumeration and arrangement of the Israelites. The early part of it, from the first through the tenth chapters, appears to be a supplement to Leviticus, being occupied with relating the appointment of the Levites to the sacred offices. The journal of the march through the wilderness is then given as far as Nu 21:20; after which the early incidents of the invasion are narrated. One direct quotation only from this book (Nu 16:5) is made in the New Testament (2Ti 2:19); but indirect references to it by the later sacred writers are very numerous.
Deuteronomy, the second law, a title which plainly shows what is the object of this book, namely, a recapitulation of the law. It was given in the form of public addresses to the people; and as Moses spoke in the prospect of his speedy removal, he enforced obedience to it by many forcible appeals to the Israelites, concerning their long and varied experience both of the mercies and the judgments of God. The minute notices of the heathen people with whom they had come in contact, but who afterward disappeared from the pages of history, as well as the accounts of the fertility and products of Canaan, and the counsels respecting the conquest of that country, fix the date of this book and the time of its composition by the hand of Moses. The close, however, must have been added by another; and, indeed, it is supposed by some to have formed the original preface to the Book of Joshua.
Joshua. The title of this book is derived from the pious and valiant leader whose achievements it relates and who is commonly supposed to have been its author. The objections to this idea are founded chiefly on the clause, |unto this day,| which occurs several times (Jos 4:9; 6:25; 8:28). But this, at least in the case of Rahab, is no valid reason for rejecting the idea of his authorship; for assuming what is most probable, that this book was composed toward the close of Joshua's long career, or compiled from written documents left by him, Rahab might have been still alive. A more simple and satisfactory way of accounting for the frequent insertion of the clause, |unto this day,| is the opinion that it was a comment introduced by Ezra, when revising the sacred canon; and this difficulty being removed, the direct proofs of the book having been produced by a witness of the transactions related in it, the strong and vivid descriptions of the passing scenes, and the use of the words |we| and |us,| (Jos 5:1-6), viewed in connection with the fact, that, after his farewell address to the people, Joshua |wrote these words in the book of the law of God| [Jos 24:26] -- all afford strong presumptive proof that the entire book was the work of that eminent individual. Its inspiration and canonical authority are fully established by the repeated testimonies of other Scripture writers (compare Jos 6:26 with 1Ki 16:34; compare Jos 10:13 with Hab 3:11; Jos 3:14 with Ac 7:45; Jos 6:17-23 with Heb 11:30; Jos 2:1-24 with Jas 2:25; Ps 44:2; 68:12-14; 78:54-55). As a narrative of God's faithfulness in giving the Israelites possession of the promised land, this history is most valuable, and bears the same character as a sequel to the Pentateuch, that the Acts of the Apostles do to the Gospels.
Judges is the title given to the next book, from its containing the history of those non-regal rulers who governed the Hebrews from the time of Joshua to that of Eli, and whose functions in time of peace consisted chiefly in the administration of justice, although they occasionally led the people in their wars against their public enemies. The date and authorship of this book are not precisely known. It is certain, however, that it preceded the Second Book of Samuel (compare Jud 9:35 with 2Sa 11:21), as well as the conquest of Jerusalem by David (compare Jud 1:21 with 2Sa 5:6). Its author was in all probability Samuel, the last of the judges (see Jud 19:1; 21:25), and the date of the first part of it is fixed in the reign of Saul, while the five chapters at the close might not have been written till after David's establishment as king in Israel (see Jud 18:31). It is a fragmentary history, being a collection of important facts and signal deliverances at different times and in various parts of the land, during the intermediate period of three hundred years between Joshua and the establishment of the monarchy. The inspired character of this book is confirmed by allusions to it in many passages of Scripture (compare Jud 4:2; 6:14 with 1Sa 12:9-12; Jud 9:53 with 2Sa 11:21; Jud 7:25 with Ps 83:11; compare Jud 5:4, 5 with Ps 7:5; Jud 13:5; 16:17 with Mt 2:13-23; Ac 13:20; Heb 11:32).
Ruth is properly a supplement to the preceding book, to which, in fact, it was appended in the ancient Jewish canon. Although it relates an episode belonging to the time of the Judges, its precise date is unknown. It appears certain, however, that it could not have been written prior to the time of Samuel (see Ru 4:17-22), who is generally supposed to have been its author; and this opinion, in addition to other reasons on which it rests, is confirmed by Ru 4:7, where it is evident that the history was not compiled till long after the transactions recorded. The inspiration and canonical authority of the book is attested by the fact of Ruth's name being inserted by Matthew in the Saviour's genealogy [Mt 1:5].
The First and Second Books of Samuel. The two were, by the ancient Jews, conjoined so as to make one book, and in that form could be called the Book of Samuel with more propriety than now, the second being wholly occupied with the relation of transactions that did not take place till after the death of that eminent judge. Accordingly, in the Septuagint and the Vulgate, it is called the First and Second Books of Kings. The early portion of the First Book, down to the end of the twenty-fourth chapter, was probably written by Samuel; while the rest of it and the whole of the Second, are commonly ascribed to Nathan and Gad, founding the opinion on 1Ch 29:29. Commentators, however, are divided about this, some supposing that the statements in 1Sa 2:26; 3:1, indicate the hand of the judge himself, or a contemporary; while some think, from 1Sa 6:18; 12:5; 27:6, that its composition must be referred to a later age. It is probable, however, that these supposed marks of an after-period were interpolations of Ezra. This uncertainty, however, as to the authorship does not affect the inspired authority of the book, which is indisputable, being quoted in the New Testament (1Sa 13:14 in Ac 13:22, and 2Sa 7:14 in Heb 1:5), as well as in many of the Psalms.
The First and Second Books of Kings, in the ancient copies of the Hebrew Bible, constitute one book. Various titles have been given them; in the Septuagint and the Vulgate they are called the Third and Fourth Books of Kings. The authorship of these books is unknown; but the prevailing opinion is that they were compiled by Ezra, or one of the later prophets, from the ancient documents that are so frequently referred to in the course of the history as of public and established authority. Their inspired character was acknowledged by the Jewish Church, which ranked them in the sacred canon; and, besides, it is attested by our Lord, who frequently quotes from them (compare 1Ki 17:9; 2Ki 5:14 with Lu 4:24-27; 1Ki 10:1 with Mt 12:42).
The First and Second Books of Chronicles were also considered as one by the ancient Jews, who called them |words of days,| that is, diaries or journals, being probably compiled from those registers that were kept by the king's historiographers of passing occurrences. In the Septuagint the title given them is Paraleipomenon, |of things omitted,| that is, the books are supplementary because many things unnoticed in the former books are here recorded; and not only the omissions are supplied, but some narratives extended while others are added. The authorship is commonly ascribed to Ezra, whose leading object seems to have been to show the division of families, possessions, &c., before the captivity, with a view to the exact restoration of the same order after the return from Babylon. Although many things are restated and others are exact repetitions of what is contained in Kings, there is so much new and important information that, as Jerome has well said, the Chronicles furnish the means of comprehending parts of the New Testament, which must have been unintelligible without them. They are frequently referred to by Christ and the Apostles as forming part of |the Word of God| (see the genealogies in Mt 1:1-16; Lu 3:23-38; compare 2Ch 19:7 with 1Pe 1:17; 2Ch 24:19-21 with Mt 23:32-35).
Ezra was, along with Nehemiah, reckoned one book by the ancient Jews, who called them the First and Second Books of Ezra, and they are still designated by Roman Catholic writers the First and Second Books of Esdras. This book naturally divides itself into two parts or sections, the one contained in the first six chapters, and which relates the circumstances connected with the return of the first detachment of Babylonish exiles under Zerubbabel with the consequent rebuilding of the temple and the re-establishment of the divine service. The other part, embraced in the four concluding chapters, narrates the journey of a second caravan of returning captives under the conduct of Ezra himself, who was invested with powers to restore, in all its splendor, the entire system of the Jewish ritual. The general opinion of the Church in every succeeding age has been that Ezra was the author of this book. The chief objection is founded on Ezr 5:4, where the words, |Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building?| have occasioned a surmise that the first portion of the book was not written by Ezra, who did not go to Jerusalem for many years after. But a little attention will show the futility of this objection, as the words in question did not refer to the writer, but were used by Tatnai and his associates [Ezr 5:3]. The style and unity of object in the book clearly prove it to have been the production of but one author. The canonical authority of this book is well established; but another under the name of Ezra is rejected as apocryphal.
Nehemiah appears to have been the author of this book, from his usually writing in his own name, and indeed, except in those parts which are unmistakably later editions or borrowed from public documents, he usually employs the first person. The major portion of the book is occupied with a history of Nehemiah's twelve years' administration in Jerusalem, after which he returned to his duties in Shushan. At a later period he returned with new powers and commenced new and vigorous measures of reform, which are detailed in the later chapters of the book.
Esther derives its name from the Jewess, who, having become wife of the king of Persia, employed her royal influence to effect a memorable deliverance for the persecuted Church of God. Various opinions are embraced and supported as to the authorship of this book, some ascribing it to Ezra, to Nehemiah, or to Mordecai. The preponderance of authorities is in favor of the last. The historical character of the book is undoubted, since, besides many internal evidences, its authenticity is proved by the strong testimony of the feast of Purim, the celebration of which can be traced up to the events which are described in this book. Its claim, however, to canonical authority has been questioned on the ground that the name of God does not once occur in it. But the uniform tradition both of the Jewish and the Christian Churches supports this claim, which nothing in the book tends to shake; while it is a record of the superintending care of divine providence over his chosen people, with which it is of the utmost importance the Church should be furnished. The name of God is strangely enough omitted, but the presence of God is felt throughout the history; and the whole tone and tendency of the book is so decidedly subservient to the honor of God and the cause of true religion that it has been generally received by the Church in all ages into the sacred canon.