Who Wrote the Book of Genesis?

By Peter Salemi

Home Page www.british-israel.ca

The biggest misunderstanding among Bible scholars today, is that Moses wrote the book of Genesis. If we look at the entire Bible, you will notice that all of it has been written by eyewitness accounts. Many assume that the book of Genesis was made up of oral traditions. Just a bunch of stories passed on from one generation to the next, or that Moses borrowed from the pagans, the stories of Noah, and creation, and then wrote his own version in the Hebrew Bible. Is the Hebrew Bible a borrowed version of the pagan versions of the flood and creation, or is it the other way around? Is the book of Genesis the ORIGINAL DOCUMENT, and as time when on, and the populations grew, and as man moved away from the center knowledge, the creation accounts got all corrupted, hence we have the pagan accounts of creation from the Babylonians, etc.. and the original document was the book of Genesis?

The views are starting to change believe it or not. Many people are starting to realize that Moses DID NOT plagiarize these accounts of creation, and the flood. In stead there is evidence that Moses took the earlier documents of Adam, Noah, Abraham Enoch Isaac, and Jacob, these documents that were passed on from one generation to the next, and put them together into one book called the BOOK OF GENESIS!

After many excavations in the Middle East, archaeologists have found Ancient writings called "cuneiform" writings that date back all the way to 3500 B.C. Adam was still alive at that time, and so writing could have gone back even farther. So Adam could have composed his EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT OF THE GARDEN OF EDEN!

It may be a surprise to some people, but the reference to writing is found in Genesis 5:1 which says: "This is the book of the generations of Adam." This suggests that the that art of writing was known within the lifetime of Adam, which could make writing as old as the human race itself!

Cuneiform writing became the system used by all civilized countries east of the Mediterranean-Assyrian, Babylonia, Persia, and the Hittites. Cuneiform writing consists of wedge-shape impressions ("cuneia" means "wedge") made in plastic clay. The Hebrew word for "to write" means "to cut in" or "to dig." Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would have used this system of writing.

Although papyrus was the common writing material in Egypt. Cuneiform writing was understood, as the Tell-el-Amarna tablets found in Egypt in 1888 reveal. Among these clay tablets were letters, dated about 1400 B.C., from Palestinian officials to the Egyptian government-all written in Cuneiform.

It is no wonder that God allowed Pharaoh's daughter to raise Moses. He could have easily learned cuneiform writing, so he could easily translate the Hebrew cuneiform tablets of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, and Adam for the Israelites in the wilderness. Even in the book of Acts, in chapter 7 verses 21-22 Stephen says: "And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him up, and nourished him for her own son...And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds." All now agree that this learning would have included the knowledge of writing.

"Moses had the information necessary for the project. It is likely that records of pre-Mosaic history existed; and had they been in the possession of the Hebrews, they would have certainly become accessible to Moses the champion of his people. Had they been kept in the Egyptian archive from Joseph's time, they would have likewise been available to Moses during his early adulthood.

"Moses also had the time to record this history. He spent 40 years in Egypt and 40 years in Midian, and there was plenty of time in both of these periods to author Genesis.

"That Moses was pre-eminently prepared to author a work such as the Pentateuch is witnessed by the following qualifications:

(a) Education - he was trained in the royal Egyptian court in their highly developed academic disciplines. This without a doubt included a knowledge of writing, for even the women's toilet articles of the time were inscribed.

(b) Tradition - he undoubtedly received the Hebrew traditions of their early history and encounters with God.

(c) Geographical familiarity - Moses possessed an intimate knowledge of the climate and geography of Egypt and Sinai as displayed in the Pentateuch.

(d) Motivation-as the founder of the Commonwealth of Israel, he had more than adequate incentive to provide the nation with concrete moral and religious foundations.

(e) Time-40 long years of wandering in the Sinai wilderness easily allowed ample opportunity to write this work.

"At a time when even uneducated slaves working at the Egyptian turquoise mines were inscribing their records on the tunnel walls, it is inconceivable that a man of Moses' background would fail to record the details of one of history's most significant epochs.

"Kurt Sethe, one of the greatest authorities of this century on ancient Egypt, in attempting to find the father of one of the greatest contributions to the literary progress of civilization, the North Semitic script, mentions Moses as a possibility [Vum Bilde Zum Buchstaben, (1939), p. 56] (Evidence that Demands a Verdict vol.2, J. McDowell, pp.96-97).

It is absurd to think that God would entrust his sacred word to the fragile memory of human beings. Scripture reveals the opposite. In Deuteronomy 31:19-21 Moses was given a song to teach the people, and was specifically commanded to write it down so that it would not be forgotten. Obviously God had little faith in oral transmission. The Bible is not written in that way. He told Isaiah to "Take thee a great roll, and write..."(8:1). "Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:" (30:8). He told Jeremiah also to "Write thee all the words that I have spoken unto thee in a book" (30:2). The Bible is written by EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS about what God DIRECTLY TOLD THEM AND WHAT THEY SAW, NOT BY ORAL TRANSMISSION! Should we expect less from the book of Genesis? Remember God does NOT change his ways (Malachi 3:6).

The Structure of Genesis

All scholars agree that the most significant and distinguishing phrase in Genesis is: "These are the generations of..." Commentators of all theological schools divide the book around the phrase, which is found 11 times in Genesis (2:4, 5:1, 6:9, 10:1, 11:10, 11:27, 25:12, 25:19, 36:1, 36:9, 37:2). The translators of the Septuagint (The Greek Old Testament) regarded that phrase as being so significant that they gave the book its name after the term. Genesis is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew TOLeDOT, "generations." Lubenow writes: "It is common for ancient records to begin with a genealogy or register documenting close family relationships" (Bones of Contention, p.216).

But who wrote Genesis 1:1-2:4? Adam could not have written about his own creation, or the creation of the universe. Duane Garrett in his book Rethinking Genesis; The Source and Authorship of the First Book of the Pentateuch explains that Moses at Sinai, since, "Moses wrote all the words of the LORD," (Exodus 24:4), must have written this part of Genesis when he communed with God on top of the Mountain. He says, that "Genesis 1 has NO PARALLEL anywhere in the ancient world outside the Bible. The creation myths from Egypt and Mesopotamia can hardly be set alongside Genesis 1 as a parallel in any meaningful sense. It must be regarded as an example of a genre unique to the Bible" (p.191, emphasis added). Since there is no corrupted version of the first chapters of Genesis, then it was not written from the time of Adam. It must have been written later! Garrett explains that Moses communed DIRECTLY WITH GOD, and he gave him the revelation of the origin of the Universe!

This is a lengthy quote but important to understand the origin of these beginning chapters:

"The most obvious formal aspect of Genesis 1:1-2:3 is its heptadic structure. More precisely, it has a 6 + 1 structure, the seventh day being set apart by the fact that on that day God rested. As a literary form, this structure reappears in only one other place. Remarkably, this place is the book of Revelation in the New Testament.

"These parallels are the three 6 + 1 heptads of Revelation 6:1-8:1; 8:2-11:19; and 16:1-2 1. In each of the three, the pattern is of six related events followed by a seventh, which is somehow significantly different. In 6:1-8:1, there are the seven seals, and the fury of the first six is followed by the silence of the seventh. In 8:2-11:19, the judgments unleashed by the first six trumpets are followed by the doxology following the seventh. And in 16:1-21, the torments poured out of the first six bowls are followed by the cataclysm of the seventh.

"Revelation is apocalyptic and visionary. Can there be any formal relationship between this and Genesis 1 ? The obvious parallel is in the 6 + 1 heptadic structure. Instead of seals, trumpets, or bowls, there are seven days. But there is more in parallel here than form alone. Both are alike in intention because both give the divine view of the outer limits of history. Revelation gives the heavenly view of human history with a view towards its culmination. In Genesis 1, the focus is the initiation of the world and its history. I suggest that Genesis 1:1-2:3 is visionary and revelatory and that Moses, the premier prophet of the Old Testament, is the direct author of this material.

"The 6 + 1 pattern does appear in one other place, in Exodus 24:16ff, not as a literary form but as a reference to a historic event. In Exodus 24:16, we read of Moses being called up to the mountain of God. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, but on the seventh day Moses went up the mountain into the cloud and remained for forty days. In addition, the text tells us that Moses was for a long time alone with God on Sinai. If we may draw all this together, while in God's presence Moses may have received direct visions and revelations, and one of these revelations was of creation in the 6 + 1 pattern already established at Sinai.

"The seven days of Genesis 1, therefore, are neither the actual length of time of the creation event nor a mere anthropomorphism. They are the seven days of divine revelation to Moses. Genesis 1 may thus be regarded as revelatory, as in the formal structure of apocalyptic vision, and as having the intention of giving the divine view of the initiation of human history.

"What does this say for the redaction of Genesis 1-11? If Genesis 1:1-2:3 is directly from Moses, it implies that the whole ancestor epic pattern of Genesis 1-11 was not complete until he composed the prologue, 1:1-2:3. Also, if the toledoth sources were maintained as independent sources in the Egyptian sojourn, it is impossible to imagine that the material of Genesis 1-11 had anything like its present form until the whole was redacted. A possible solution, therefore, is that Moses took the triadic core sources, the story of Babel, the toledoth material, and the revelation of Genesis 1, and brought the whole together as the ancestor epic we now call the primeval history, Genesis 1-11" (pp.191-193, emphasis added)

Mesopotamian Writings

In 1936, P.J. Wiseman wrote a book entitled New Discoveries About Genesis. Wiseman seems to have found the key that unlocks the details of authorship of Genesis. His thesis is that there are several internal clues in Genesis that reveals how it was written; and that the actual authors of Genesis were Adam, Noah, the sons of Noah, Shem, Ishamel, Isaac, Esau, Jacob and Joseph; That the authors other than Joseph, probably wrote in cuneiform on clay tablets; and that Moses, utilizing these records, with the "wisdom of the Egyptians" that he learned in Egypt, was the redactor or EDITOR OF GENESIS RATHER THAN ITS AUTHOR!

Wiseman says that every time we see the phrase "This is the book of the generations of...", that the NAME in that phrase is most likely the AUTHOR AS WELL!

Wiseman by internal evidence  suggests that Genesis was written on a series of clay tablets as follows:

Wiseman's Assessment of the Book of Genesis

Genesis 1:1-2:4

Origins of Heaven and Earth. No author is given. Wiseman suggests that it was God himself, who wrote as he wrote the Ten Commandments, on clay tablets. According to the Text it was written after creation itself, then he must of taught Adam to write. Garrett's explanation is more feasible looking at the historical evidence.

Gen. 2:5-5:2 Tablet written by or belonging to Adam
Gen. 5:3-6:9a Tablet written or belonging to Noah
Gen. 6:9b-10:1 Tablet written by or belonging to the sons of Noah
Gen. 10:2-11:10a Tablet written by or belonging to Shem
Gen11:10b-11:27a Tablet written by or belonging to Terah
Gen. 11:27b-25:19a Tablet written by or belonging to Isaac and Ishmael
Gen. 25:19b-37:2 a Tablet written by or belonging to Esau and Jacob
Gen. 37b

It is significant that the last colophon (meaning the phrase "generations") is at Genesis 37:2a. From Genesis 1 to 11, the Mesopotamian setting and local color are obvious. From Genesis 12-37a, that influence persists. However, from Genesis 37b to the end, the setting and local color change dramatically. We are now in Egypt. This section has a strong Egyptian flavor and was probably written by Joseph on Papyrus or leather; hence without colophons (colophons are only associated with clay tablets).

 Halley's Bible Handbook comes to a similar conclusion:

“The age-old Hebrew and Christian tradition is that Moses, guided of God, composed Genesis out of ancient documents existent in his day. The book closes something like 300 years before Moses. Moses could have gotten this information only by direct revelation from God, or through such historical records as had been handed doom from his forefathers.

“Opening with the ‘Creation Hymn;’ there are then given ten ‘Books of Generations’ which constitute the framework of Genesis. It seems that they were incorporated bodily by Moses, with such additions and explanations as he may have been guided of God to make. These eleven documents are as follows:

‘Creation Hymn’ (1:1-2:3),

‘The Generations of the Heavens and Earth’ (2:4-4:26).

‘The Book of the Generations of Adam’ (5:1-6:8).

‘The Generations of Noah’ (6:9-9:28).

‘The Generations of the Sons of Noah’ (10:1-11:9).

‘The Generations of Shem’ (11:10-26).

‘The Generations of Terah’ (11:27-25:11).

‘The Generations of Ishmael’ (25:12- 18).

‘The Generations of Isaac’ (25:19-35:29).

‘The Generations of Esau’ (36:1-43).

‘The Generations of Jacob’ (37:2-50:26).

"These eleven documents, originally family records of God’s Chosen Line, and kindred families, which compose the book of Genesis, cover the first 2000 years of man’s history, from the Creation to Man to the Settlement of God’s Chosen People in Egypt.”  (Halley’s Bible Handbook, p.58, emphasis added).

The Role of Moses

Because of the education in the household of Pharaoh, Moses had the finest SCHOLARLY TRAINING OF THAT DAY! Moses first task would have been to organize the book under the guidance of the Holy Spirit-as a unified whole. Luke actually did the same thing (Luke 1:1-4). By retaining the colophons, Moses clearly indicates the sources of his information. Just as a scholar documents his sources of information today, by FOOTNOTES OR END NOTES, so Moses documented his sources that constitute the framework of the book of Genesis (see Kidner, pp.23-24, Creation and Blessing).

Moses second task would have been translation. Any tablets written in Mesopotamia would have to be written in Hebrew. Moses,because of his education would have been qualified to do so, as well as Joseph's written document. Since Joseph wrote in Egyptian Moses could have translated it to the Hebrew.

The third task for Moses as the editor would be to bring place names up to date for the Israelites of the Exodus. Geographic names change, and this updating is clearly seen in Genesis 14:2, 3, 7, 8, 15 and 17. Some of the place names between the time of Abraham and Moses had become obsolete in the 400 years between them. It is indicative of Moses' deep regard for the sacred text that he did not remove the old names but just added an explanatory note telling of the new names. Such notations are also seen in Genesis 23:2, 19, and 35:19. These up-dated place names were for the Israelites as they entered Canaan.

Several passages also indicate the antiquity of the tablets Moses had in his possession. In Genesis 16:14 regarding the well or spring to which Hagar fled, Moses added this note: "It is still there between Kadesh and Bered." Genesis 10:19 is one of the most important evidences of the great antiquity of the book of Genesis. This passage, part of Shem's tablets, had to have been written BEFORE the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Since these cities were destroyed (Gen. 19), never rebuilt, and their very location was forgotten, it is obvious that this tablet telling of the settlement of clans near those cities had to be written while those cities were still standing!

Question Answered!

So did Moses borrow from the ancient pagan stories of the creation and the flood? From all the evidence that we have seen, the answer is an absolute NO! If anything, the pagans knowing the original story, but as time went on, got corrupted in the telling, and we have the creation and flood myths Babylon, Assyria etc... The book of Genesis is the ORIGINAL AND EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY TO WHAT REALLY HAPPENED!

Norman Geisler writes: "In the ancient Near East, the rule is that simple accounts or traditions may give rise (by accretion and embellishment) to elaborated legends, BUT NOT VICE VERSA. In the ancient Orient, legends WERE NOT SIMPLIFIED or turned into pseudo-history (historicized) as have been assumed for early Genesis...The recent discoveries of Creation accounts at Elba confirm this. The library of more than 17, 000 clay tablets pre-dates the Babylonian account by about 600 years. The creation tablet is STRIKINGLY CLOSE TO GENESIS...This shows that the BIBLE CONTAINS THE ANCIENT, LESS EMBELLISHED VERSION OF THE STORY and transmits the facts without the corruption of the mythological rendering" (When Skeptics Ask, p.182, emphasis mine). You see, as the stories get OLDER, they more and more RESEMBLE THE BOOK OF GENESIS, so the book of Genesis had to be the original account, and as Geisler says it was NEVER THE OTHER WAY AROUND! We have the true version of what happened by the people who actually WITNESSED IT! Thank God for the preservation of his word!

Preservation-There is also an indication in the book of Genesis, that the people of God were preserving the knowledge of the word of God, on these clay tablets in the book of Genesis itself. Speaking of Noah they wrote: "This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which YHWH hath cursed" (Genesis 5:29). Notice their "work" AND the "toil of our hands." Its NOT their work COMMA, the toil of their hands. It is talking about two different things. Since these were men of God, they were preserving the knowledge of the word of God on tablets. THIS WAS THEIR "WORK."