What Is the Pentateuch?

The Books of the Pentateuch Form the Bible's Theological Foundation

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Pentateuch Definition

The Pentateuch refers to the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). For the most part, both Jewish and Christian tradition credit Moses with primary authorship of the Pentateuch. These five books form the theological foundation of the Bible.

The word pentateuch means "five vessels," "five containers," or "five-volume book." In Hebrew the Pentateuch is Torah, meaning "the law" or "instruction." The five books, written almost entirely in Hebrew, are the Bible's books of the law, given to us by God through Moses.

Another name for the Pentateuch is "the five books of Moses."

Written more than 3,000 years ago, the books of the Pentateuch introduce Bible readers to God's divine purposes and plans and explain how sin entered the world. In the Pentateuch we also see God's response to sin, his relationship with mankind, and we gain insight into the character and nature of God.

Introductions to the Books of the Pentateuch

The Pentateuch contains God’s dealings with humankind from the creation of the world to the death of Moses. It combines poetry, prose, and law in a chronological drama spanning thousands of years.

  • Genesis - Genesis is the book of beginnings. It chronicles the creation of the world—the universe and the earth. It reveals the plan within God's heart to have a people of his very own, set apart to worship him.
  • Exodus - In Exodus God reveals himself to the world by setting his people free from bondage in Egypt through a series of spectacular miracles. To his people, God makes himself known through extraordinary revelations and through their leader, Moses. God also makes an everlasting covenant with his people. 
  • Leviticus - In Leviticus we find God's guidebook for teaching his people about holy living and worship. Everything from sexual conduct, to the handling of food, to instructions for worship and religious celebrations are covered in detail in the book of Leviticus.
  • Numbers - Numbers records Israel's experiences while journeying through the wilderness. The people's disobedience and lack of faith caused God to make them wander in the desert until all the people of that generation had died—with a few important exceptions. Numbers would be a bleak account of the Israelites' stubbornness, if it were not outweighed by God's faithfulness and protection.
  • Deuteronomy - Written as God's people are about to enter the Promised Land, Deuteronomy gives a stern reminder that God is worthy of worship and obedience. It also retells the covenant between God and his people Israel, presented in three addresses or sermons by Moses.

Pronunciation of Pentateuch

PEN tuh tük