I’m excited to have my friend and fellow Mil-Spouse, Anji Budzinski back with us for Word Nerd Wednesday this week. I know you’ll learn something new with her thorough account of the word of the week!
The Pentateuch is a term applied to the first of the three divisions of the ancient Hebrew canon (called earlier the law or Torah which in Hebrew means teaching, instruction, or even law) meaning the first five books of the Old Testament in the Bible. “Pentateuch” comes to us from the ancient Greek translation of the Scriptures called the “Septuagint” via the “Latin Vulgate”.
Pentateuch – [pent-tuh-took, -tyook] Greek: Penta – five; Teuchos –a tool, vessel; implement; the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy < Late Latin Pentateuchus < Late Greek pentáteuchos, equivalent to Greek pent a– penta- + teûchos tool, vessel (Late Greek: scroll case book)
Torah – [towrah, to-raw’] a precept or statute, especially the Decalogue or Pentateuch: law; teaching, instruction. It refers specifically to the Five Books of Moses. A parchment scroll version of the Torah, carefully written by an expert scribe, is kept in the ark of the synagogue and taken out to be read during services. It can also refer to the entire Written Torah, meaning the entire canonized scripture, and to the Written Torah plus the Oral Torah, which includes: the compilation of laws and rulings known as Mishnah, along with other accepted compilations, the discussion and debate of that material, known as Talmud or Gemara, the stories and their lessons that are collected in the Talmud and Midrashic works, any other teaching that has been accepted by a long-term consensus of the observant Jewish community, because it is based firmly on some precedent, or because it has been demonstrated to emerge by accepted means from previous texts and opinion
Decalogue – The root deca- is combined with logos, Greek for “word”. In the Biblical book of Exodus, the original Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, was handed to Moses by God atop Mount Sinai. In Jewish and Christian tradition, the Ten Commandments are regarded as laws handed down from the highest authority and as the foundation of morality. They include commands to honor God, the Sabbath day, and one’s parents, and bans on worshiping images, swearing, murder, adultery, theft, lying about others, and envying what others have.
Septuagint – Septuagint (sometimes abbreviated LXX) is the name given to the Greek translation of the Jewish Scriptures. The Septuagint has its origin in Alexandria, Egypt and was translated between 300-200 BC. Widely used among Hellenistic Jews, this Greek translation was produced because many Jews spread throughout the empire were beginning to lose their Hebrew language. The process of translating the Hebrew to Greek also gave many non-Jews a glimpse into Judaism. According to an ancient document called the Letter of Aristeas, it is believed that 70 to 72 Jewish scholars were commissioned during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus to carry out the task of translation. The term “Septuagint” means seventy in Latin, and the text is so named to the credit of these 70 scholars.
Latin Vulgate – “The Vulgate” is the popular name given to the Latin version of the Bible, a translation usually attributed to Jerome. Before Jerome’s time, as the number of Latin-speaking Christians grew, the Bible was translated into Latin so that the Christians of the time could understand it. It is believed that the first Latin translation was completed around A.D. 200, although no manuscripts of this era exist today.
There are no Scripture references to the Pentateuch by name. The Pentateuch is a term applied to the five books of Moses, which in their ancient rolls or scrolls form, were kept in sheaths or cases for protections. A scroll 30 feet long would accommodate the Hebrew text of Genesis or Deuteronomy. If the length was longer than this, they became difficult to handle. The Hebrews were accustomed to employing the standard 30-foot size scroll. Because these scrolls were unwieldy, the division of books became necessary. The five-volume division of the Pentateuch is confirmed by both Philo and Josephus in the first century A.D. and its existence goes back to LXX times (third century B.C.) back to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (539 BCE).
The word Pentateuch first appears in the second century A.D. and was later employed by Origen (Origen Adamantius) who was a scholar, ascetic, and early Christian theologian who was born and spent the first half of his career in Alexandria (Egypt).
The Pentateuch is the first of the three divisions of the ancient Hebrew canon, called the law or Torah. It is also called chamishshah chumeshi torah or the “five-fifths of the law”: ho nomos, “the Law.”
This portion of God’s Word was written by Moses (Ex 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; Nm 33:1, 2; Dt 31:9, 22) and constitutes the foundation upon which all other Scripture rests. The Pentateuch begins with the creation of the universe and records God’s dealings with mankind in the Garden of Eden, his preparation of a seed-bearing line (the patriarchal stories), and the formation of the nation Israel. A substantial portion of the Pentateuch consists of laws governing the religious and civil institutions of ancient Israel’s theocratic national life. This section of the Hebrew Bible is composed of five books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven’.”
“Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said. He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel.”
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel’.”
“So Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the Levitical priests, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel.”
“So Moses wrote down this song that day and taught it to the Israelites.”
The works open with an account of the Creation and passes to the story of the first human couple. From there, the narrative accounts for genealogies. Then comes a history of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The story of Joseph is told in detail and Genesis closes with his death. The rest of the Pentateuch covers the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt, their exodus and wanderings, the conquest of the trans-Jordanic lands, and the lives of the people to the death of Moses. The four concluding books contain legislation.
Religious and Historical Importance
The Pentateuch is the foundation of all subsequent divine revelation. Both Christianity and Judaism rest on the inspired revelation of the Pentateuchal books. The three primary names of Deity – Jehovah, Elohim, and Adonai – and five of the most important compound names occur in the opening book of the Pentateuch. It is legitimately bound up with history and archeology. It’s pervading purpose is to include only such historical background intertwined with prophecy as is essential for introducing and preparing the world for the Redeemer. Babylonian cuneiform tablets illustrate the creation and particularly the Flood, yielding amazing parallels of detail. The longevity of the patriarchs is illustrated by the Sumerian king list. The Table of the Nations (Gen 10) is shown by archeological discoveries to be an amazing document. The patriarchal age is set in the framework of authentic history and the Egyptian sojourn, the Exodus, and the conquest are now much better understood as the result of the triumphs of scientific archeology since 1800.
Anji Budzynski and her husband Brian, a Navy Senior Chief, live in Virginia and look forward to retiring this year after 26 years of service. They are learning to adapt to a new season in life with two young adults (one successfully launched into the world and another graduating from high school soon, ready to spread his wings to test them out) and one five-year-old, feisty little girl teaching them all about life.
She is an author, speaker, writer and Bible teacher who enjoys encouraging women; researching, teaching about Bible history and ancient languages; sharing Jesus’ incredible love for us and who God is in His Word. She is currently working on a degree in Christian Ministries at Liberty University.
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