What is the Pentateuch?

The Pentateuch refers to the first 5 books of the Bible, also called the books of Moses. Which with all of their tedious rules and minute details often seem irrelevant and disjointed from our modern times and lives. 

Yet nearly everything in Scripture builds upon these books, and they are pivotal for our Christian faith. They are extremely important as they provide both context and the necessary historical background which set the stage for the promised Redeemer or Messiah.

Pentateuch means five scrolls

It comes from two Greek words: Penta meaning five and teuchos, which we translate as scroll. These 5 books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, were important to the Jews and formed part of their Torah, or what is sometimes referred to as the Hebrew Bible.

It recorded their history starting from Creation up to their entrance into the Promised Land. And explained what God expected of them, in both religious and everyday life. It is often considered a backbone for the rest of our Bible, theologically speaking.

It is also known as the books of the Law.

But they contain much more than the laws God established for his people. They recount the story of the creation and God’s choosing of Abraham as the father of his chosen people from which the promised Redeemer or Savior would come. Along with many epic stories about God’s dealings with his people.

It has much to teach us

The Pentateuch is important in many ways.

1. It answers life’s basic questions

Such as: Who is God? Who created the world? Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? The Pentateuch provides answers to these elemental questions, and more.

2. It lays a theological foundation

By covering important theological doctrines, the Pentateuch lays the basis for much of our theological foundation. The person and being of God, the origin of the universe, the creation of man, the fall of man, sin, the purpose of the chosen people, and God’s plan of redemption.

3. It holds eternal truths for everyday Christian living

From Cain we learn to avoid the evils of anger, jealousy, and pride. And from the life of Jacob we are instructed on the pitfalls of deceipt, favoritism, and family strife. But we are also given many positive examples to follow. Such as Joseph’s life, which teaches us the worth of faithfulness, trust and confidence in God’s sovereignty, and a clear conscience.

4. It sets a standard for measuring our lives

By revealing sin and God’s righteousness, it reveals our need for a Savior. And our need of a standard against which to measure our lives.

5. It furnishes an overview of God’s redemptive plan

And in doing so, it lays the foundation for the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The Pentateuch helps us understand our need of salvation and a Savior. And fortells Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection as the fulfillment of God’s promise to send one.

Now the Lord said to Abram… ‘I will make of you a great nation. and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’

Genesis 12:1-3 ESV

Most reputable scholars agree that Moses wrote most of their content. Both Luke in Acts 3:22 and Paul in Romans 10:5 acknowledge Moses as the author. And even Christ himself referred to the Pentateuch as “the law of Moses” in Luke 24:44. Yet regardless of who actually wrote the original manuscripts, they record the words God spoke to his servant Moses.

But perhaps the importance of these books is best summed up by the words Jesus proclaimed to his fellow Jews: “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me,” (John 5:46 WEB).

The Pentateuch points to Christ

The Pentateuch is important because it points to Christ. He can be found on every page!

A Reading Challenge for you:

Read through the law books again, looking for Christ in its pages. And seek to understand how Christ would have you apply them to your everyday life. Remember that he’s on every page and he is always speaking.

Images: Book titled Genesis by Alabaster Co | Scroll by joduma | Woman holding Bible by Priscilla du Preez.

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