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Tuesday
May062014

Theological Term of the Week

Pentateuch
The first five books of the Old Testament, i.e., Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy; also known as the Torah, the Law, or the Books of Moses.

  • From scripture, the theme of the Pentateuch:

    Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And 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)

  • From the Introduction to the Pentateuch in the ESV Study Bible:
    The Pentateuch is not simply the beginning of the Bible; it is also the foundation of the Bible. It serves to orient the reader for reading the rest of the biblical story line. It introduces the key promises that show God’s purposes in history and that lay the groundwork for the coming of Christ. Its theological ideas and ethical principles inform the rest of the Bible so that the subsequent books assume its authority and appeal to it as they evaluate people’s deeds and character. These points are illustrated briefly here:
    1. Orientation. The beginning of a book sets its tone and gives clues to the author’s perspective. Genesis did this for the ancient world of polytheism by explaining that the world is created and controlled by only one God, not by a crowd of competing gods and goddesses. Similarly it speaks to today’s readers, who often are essentially atheists (whether consciously or unconsciously): it shows them what it means to believe that behind all the phenomena of nature and the laws of science there is an all-powerful, loving God who controls all that happens.
    2. Divine purposes. The Pentateuch shows God’s intentions for his creation by describing what the world was like when he first created man and woman in the garden of Eden. Their sin sets back the divine program but does not defeat it, for God later calls Abraham and promises him descendants, land, and most important of all, blessing through his descendants to all the nations. These promises are more fully developed in the later books of the Pentateuch.
    3. Theology and ethics. The Pentateuch gives insight into God’s character and his ethical standards. It illustrates both his benevolence and his righteousness. He cares for mankind, creating man in his own image, providing him with food, and protecting human life from violent assault. Yet at the same time he demands moral behavior, from keeping the Sabbath to refusing adultery or theft. Tales of punishment, from the flood (Genesis 6–9) to the golden calf (Exodus 32), demonstrate the danger of disregarding divine standards.

Learn more:

  1. GotQuestions.org: What is the Pentateuch?
  2. Easton Bible Dictionary: Pentateuch
  3. ESV Bible: Introduction to the Pentateuch
  4. MacArthur Study Bible: Introduction to the Pentateuch
  5. Bible.org: Introduction to the Pentateuch

Related terms:

Filed under Old Testament

1According to the introductory notes on the Pentateuch in the ESV Study Bible.

Do you have a a theological term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

Clicking on Theological Terms in the navigation bar above will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order.

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