PENTATEUCH, the name applied to the five books of Moses, which form the earliest portion of the O. T. canon—viz., the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The term expresses the unity of this portion of Scripture as well as the variety of books comprised in it. Its unity depends upon the identity of author ship, of historical sequence, and of inspired autho rity, and has found expression alike in the form in which it has been preserved and the ancient titles given to it. In Hebrew manuscripts it constitutes but one roll or volume, divided into 669 sections, called perashioth, a division of high antiquity, certainly earlier than the Talmud, and believed by many to have been contemporaneous with the hooks themselves. In the Jewish canon, this portion of Scripture is termed the Book of the Law' (Deut. xxviii. 61 ; xxix. 20 ; xxx. 10 ; XXXI. 26), or simply the Law' (1 Chron. xvi. 40 ; Luke x. 46 ; xxiv. 44; Acts xxiv. 14, etc.), or 'the Law of Moses' (Mal. iv. 4 ; John vii. 23 ; xiii. 39, etc.), or 'the Law of the Lord' (2 Kings x. 31 ; Ezra vii.
; Luke ii. 39). The Rabbinical writers call it five-fifths of the Law. The Greek name rend reuxos, from ir4vre and which in the Alexan drian idiom signifies a volume, has been commonly accepted as an apt and convenient term. To what date the division into five books is to be ascribed, is, however, a matter of dispute. As the names of the separate books are of Greek origin, it has been supposed that the division is due to the Sep tuagint translators (B. C. 285). Josephus, however, states that five books belong to Moses' (c. i. 8), without any hint of this subsequent arrange ment ; and the structural peculiarities of the books themselves lead to the belief that the division was original. The general accuracy with which the Greek names describe the contents of each book, indicates a substantial division of subject, and points to the same conclusion. Thus the book of Genesis is exclusively occupied with the events preceding the settlement in Egypt, and lying beyond the memory of the generation for whom Moses primarily wrote, and stops rigidly at that point of the history. The book of Deuteronomy in the same way deals im mediately with the new generation who had grown up in the wilderness, and serves to mark their identity, naturally by immediate descent, religiously by the covenanted promises inherited by them, with the people that came out of Egypt. Each of
the three books which lie between has its own peculiarity of subject. The book of Exodus con tains an historical sketch of the events preceding and connected with the promulgation of the law, and closes with the consecration of the priesthood, and the establishment of the tabernacle services.
Leviticus is exclusively occupied with the laws regulating the services of the tribe and family of Levi. Numbers supplies the historical events which followed the formal establishment of the Mosaic code, and links that central point of Jewish history with the forty years' wanderings in the wilderness, and the final entrance into Canaan. Thus the central book of the five, as regards its order, stands like an historical resting-point amid the grand events which preceded and followed it.
The Mosaic authorship and inspired authority of the Pentateuch are very closely connected with each other. In asserting the Mosaic authorship, it is not intended to include every portion in that exception, such, for instance, as the portion which narrates the death of Moses (Dent. xxxiv.) Unless recourse is had to the violent and unnecessary sup position that Moses was inspired to narrate before hand his own death, which would convert history into prophecy, it is naturally impossible that this chapter can have been written by the great law giver himself. But the absolute nature of the im possibility clears away any imaginary difficulty, for so transparent and palpable a fraud as the ascription of these concluding verses to Moses himself, can never have been intended by those who framed the canon of Scripture, and cannot be imputed to our Master himself without blasphemy. No parallel can be drawn between them and other portions of the Pentateuch, for there are no other to which the same conditions apply. These verses form the necessary and natural conclusion to the preceding books, and possess the same canonical authority, though they do not claim the same authorship as the other portions of the Pentateuch. The old deistical objection to the Mosaic authorship from these verses may at once be put out of the way as unworthy of further or more serious notice.