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 Studying the Bible, obviously 

Abraham visitors

 The Pentateuch and Criticism

 Alec Motyer

  • Photo of: Alec Motyer Alec Motyer is a former principal of Trinity College, Bristol, and the author of many books, including several Old and New Testament commentaries. View all resources by Alec Motyer

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The Primary Data1

May I share with you God's goodness to me in the course of my life in this basic regard? I was brought up in direct contact with the Scriptures taken as the Word of God. Consequently when I came upon that description of John's Gospel as ‘safe enough for a child to paddle in and deep enough for an elephant to swim in’, I knew what it meant, because I had discovered in the course of my life that it is safe to let people read the Word of God, and that God in His educative process only allows us to meet with problems in the Bible as we are able to bear them. So that when as a child we read John's Gospel we read it with child-like eyes, and He allows us to see problems that are appropriate to that child-like point in experience. Now of course I find many more problems in the Bible than I ever found when my grandmother was teaching me the Bible. But also, thank God, I've now had over 45 years of acquaintance with the Bible, so that when I meet problems I meet them with a certain background. Now, it seems to me that the difficulty which is faced in all theological courses is that students are plunged into a study faced with problems that are apparent to the specialist who is teaching them. This to my mind is educatively appalling – it is quite the wrong way in which to approach any subject, never mind a subject which is as important as Holy Scripture. Students are plunged into an examination of problems in detail, and are expected to face as beginners problems and questions which have arisen in the course of specialist study.

Now, because that's so, I want to make a small contribution to redressing that educational imbalance. I don't mean by that that I'm going to try to cram into the space of one hour everything that has happened to me since my grandmother first taught me the story of the creation, but I want to use this first lecture to paint in large strokes an over-view of the Pentateuch – so that we will have at least some appreciation that behind these pin-points of problems of which you are doubtless all too aware, there is a proper over-view which the Pentateuch itself declares to us.

I shall discuss this subject under four headings: 1) the nature of the Mosaic Claim; 2) the theological dynamic of the five books; 3) the compilation of Genesis; and 4) the meaning of the book of Numbers.

1. The Mosaic claim in the Pentateuch

I want to set four propositions before you.

Proposition 1: that Moses is the central, almost the solitary figure in the books of the Pentateuch after the time of the Patriarchs. Who else in the Pentateuch, after the Patriarchs, could you name besides Moses? Joshua perhaps and Aaron and Hur, and you might even remember that vinegary old spinster Miriam. But Moses is the one figure that stands out. Even if you simply take a chapter count of the Pentateuch, there are in fact 137 chapters, and the name of Moses is absent from only 55 of those. So that the name of Moses is the dominating name in the Pentateuch, and where the name of Moses is absent from a chapter (after Genesis), the absence is explained entirely by the fact that those chapters contain a record of the teaching that Moses gave. So that Moses is the assumption behind the whole of the Pentateuch after the Patriarchal times.

Proposition 2: many of the incidents recorded depend directly on Moses, or else are fictional. That is to say that they are all in the same category as our Lord's If temptation narrative – nobody else was there to hear, and therefore they must have proceeded directly from Moses, as the narrative of the temptation in the wilderness must have proceeded directly from the Lord. Moses' call in chapters 3 and 4 of Exodus is typical of so much of the material that is in the Pentateuch. Either it has been written down by him, or has been written down at his dictation, or else been told to someone else by him and then written down, by that person, or else somebody made it up. If you're interested, there are at least 123 such occasions from Exodus 7 to the end of Deuteronomy.

Proposition 3: most of the content of the Pentateuch after the book of Genesis is claimed to depend directly on the mediating work of Moses. This is particularly the case in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, which is rather interesting because Leviticus and Deuteronomy are the most thoroughly claimed to be non-Mosaic by modern schools of thought. 43 times in the book of Leviticus the claim is registered that this material is from God and through Moses. Concerning Deuteronomy, S. R. Driver – I think it's in his Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament – alleges that Deuteronomy does not purport to be Mosaic, and no printed statement was ever wider of the mark than that! If it helps you to think illustratively, Deuteronomy was woven on the Mosaic loom: it is there in the warp and in the weft. Artur Weiser is much more to the point in his Introduction to the Old Testament (p. 72) – he's noting the various passages that claim to be Mosaic – and adds at the end of the list these words: 'also the book of Deuteronomy’. Now that is correct, Deuteronomy has the strongest Mosaic claim of the Pentateuch.

Proposition 4: there are certain passages in which Moses appears before us specifically as an author. There are as a matter of fact six passages referring to Moses as an historian, a lawgiver, and a poet - if you're interested to know the ascriptions of these six references to Moses as a writer, they can be distributed evenly over the document groups of J, E and P. But that perhaps is not information of any great significance. It is sometimes difficult to know what are the limits of a passage that is ascribed to Moses as an author or writer, but there is a definite assertion that Moses appears before us as a writer in the post-Patriarchal Pentateuch.

When we begin to appraise the nature of the Mosaic claim, we discover that within this Pentateuch there are also things that are best ascribed to a period after that of Moses. The account of Moses' death and the final appraisal of Moses in Deuteronomy 34 is best considered as having been written by somebody else after Moses' death. Numbers 12:3: 'the man Moses was meek above all men upon the face of the earth' is probably a comment written in by someone who knew Moses, the assumption being that if Moses really was meek, he couldn't have written that about himself. On the other hand, I have never met a person who was truly meek, and what such a person would have been capable of I really don't know. On the whole it is best to say that Numbers 12:3 is one of many examples in the Pentateuch which are best considered as the result of post-Mosaic editorial activity. Then in addition there are literary problems in the Pentateuch. We are told that there are contradictions and duplicate narratives, and the allegation is made that these can only be solved by multiplying editors. There are some post-Mosaic passages which are best ascribed to an editorial hand. But we are told that there are other problems – which we'll look at in a moment – which can be solved only by multiplying editors.

In other words, the nature of the Mosaic claim is this: the Pentateuch insists that it lies on a Mosaic base, but that does not solve the problems of how the Pentateuch came to be in its present form. Even the fact that Deuteronomy 34 is there and Numbers 12:3 is there tells us that the Pentateuch in its present form cannot be explained by the hand of Moses. There is a Mosaic base, but the Mosaic base does not answer the question of the present form of the Pentateuch.

2. The theological dynamic of the five books

Again I want to offer you an over-view, I want you to feel that there is one theme moving all the way through these books. They are not in any sense a haphazard collection of small fragments or even of large segments. There is demonstrable theological unity in the whole thing.

You discover when you stand back and take an over-view of the Pentateuch that it falls into two unequal sections. First, Genesis 1-11: the first bit is all universal and full of great things about the world – think of the covenant with Noah, a covenant with all flesh, with all the world. Then the next section is Genesis 12 – Deuteronomy 34. When you step over that line from Genesis 11 to Genesis 12 – How are you, Abraham?, and he's the only person in the world really, isn't he? Close your eyes and think, in Genesis, how Abraham stalks up and down, a lonely figure in an empty landscape. You're right out of this boiling mass of humanity that's in chapters 1-11, and you're into a lonely landscape, where Abraham is the only person. Occasionally he says How do you do? to Abimelech or somebody, but otherwise he is on his own. Then of course he has a son called Isaac, and Isaac has a son called Jacob, and Jacob has twelve and the world begins to become a little more populated than it has been. But that's what has happened – you're out of the universal and into the particular. That's the first observation. Now in this particular section, you have two mountain tops very close to the beginning – Genesis 15 and 17. They're both covenant mountains. God inaugurates His covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15, and brings His covenant into operation in chapter 17. Never read the covenant passages without a concordance because they all depend on different verbs. You've got to get the verb right to understand it. Chapter 15 is inauguration, and chapter 17 is affirmation. The one deals with sacrifice, and the other deals with law. Chapter 15 is where the great covenant sacrifice is made. Abraham divides the animals and God marches up and down between them. Chapter 17 is law: 'Walk thou before me and be thou perfect'. And the law of circumcision is given to Abraham. When you look forward from here, you come to two more mountain tops, Exodus 12 and 20; and they are also covenant mountain tops. Exodus 12 is sacrifice - God comes and offers the covenant sacrifice of Passover; and Exodus 20 is law – He gives the full itemised Mosaic law. Not any more this nice broad commandment 'Walk thou before me and be thou perfect'. How right Paul is in saying that where there is no law there is no knowledge of sin. The Patriarchs never repent; the law was this nice broad bland thing: 'Walk thou before me and be thou perfect'. Compare that with the itemised Mosaic law.

The Pentateuch is beginning to fall into some sort of pattern, isn't it? The Divine covenant is established, and you have a sequence - Genesis 15, Exodus 12 and the book of Leviticus (which elaborates the sacrificial system). And then you have the book of Deuteronomy, and that falls into the other sequence – law, a law in principle – 'walk thou before me and be thou perfect'; the law in itemised detail on Mount Sinai; and the law in exposition and application, in the life of the people of God, in the book of Deuteronomy. You see - it does begin to hang together as one thing, doesn't it?

But you say, Well all right, but what's this dividing line at Genesis 11 and 12? Does that mean that God gave up on the world and said, Oh well, I can't manage the whole world, so I'll try my luck with one family and see if I can make any better fist of it? Not at all. Genesis 11:10 - 12:3 is a bridge. At 11:10, the writer of Genesis does a very interesting thing – he steps back from the tower of Babel, right back to the time of Noah, and you get another session of begats and begottens, and you say Whatever are we doing this for? Now if you examine the three great crises that occur here in Genesis 1-11 – the Fall, the Flood and the scattering at Babel – the Fall has a note of hope built into it, the Flood has a note of hope built into it, but the scattering hasn't: 'they were scattered on the face of the earth' full stop. Then you go right back and you're told that Shem begat Arphaxad and you say, How interesting’. But why do we go back?

God brings us right back to the new beginning with Noah, and picks up the son of Noah, and tells us about a crowd of people we don't know anything about – but they're all there, the right man at the right place to bring God's purposes to pass. That is why the genealogies in the Bible are so thrilling, as there are all these unknown people occupying key places in God's economy. And we trace the thing through from the new beginning with Noah through to a man named Terah who had a son called Abram; and God said to Abram, in your seed will all the families of the earth be blessed. So in the Fall and the Flood and the scattering at Babel are the problems that need solving; and here is the solution that solves them: 'In you will all the families of the earth be blessed'. And the word 'covenant' is the bridging word, because it first fell on human ears way back in the days of Noah, and then it began to fall on human ears again in the person of Abraham – who became Abraham in Genesis 17 – and it was brought to perfection. So it all hangs together, doesn't it? That's what I call 'the theological dynamic' of the Pentateuch.

The covenant is God's answer to a universal condition. We have in Genesis 1-11 the universal problem. Then God particularises and offers a solution. That's only one person's way of looking at it, but I share that with you. I want you to feel the weight and strength of the contention that we are dealing here primarily with one unit of literature, and that when you consult it about its own claims it makes a major claim that this one unit arose from one person. I want you to feel the weight and force of that.

3. The Compilation of the book of Genesis

As the book of Genesis stands, its material is described as 'generations' (Hebrew Tholedhoth). It appears for the first time in Genesis 2:4 'These are the generations of…' Be careful as the RSV after its fashion does not always give the same word the same translation into English. (If you want that kind of fidelity you've got to use the Revised Version). Genesis is based, as we have it, on some sort of 'generations' framework . The phrase occurs twelve times in the book. There is some disagreement among the commentators whether we are to take the phrase 'these are the generations of…' as beginning or ending the section in which it appears, but there is no disagreement as to the meaning of this word 'generations' (Tholedhoth). The verbal base of the word is the verb 'to beget' or 'to bear'. Tholedhoth means how one thing emerges out of another, one thing gives birth to another. Consequently, if you were on Jerusalem television, and you were providing subtitles for the continuing story of Peyton Place, you'd use the word Tholedhoth. It's the continuing or emerging story – the next step in history. The RSV translates the word as 'descendants' – that's good – how the next generation came out of the last generation. It does so in 11:10. At one point it translates Tholedhoth as 'the history of the family of' (37:2) – Tholedhoth is emergent story, not just history – in general, how history emerges from what has gone before.

This expression provides a problem for the documentary source analysis, because the analysis consistently says that Tholedhoth formula in Genesis must be ascribed to P. They are part of the P editorial scheme, and the P editor introduced this phrase in order to provide redactional subdivision of the material, so that he could impose a P-shaped unity on the whole of the literature as he found it. 'The formula', says Von Rad, 'is exclusively priestly representing a kind of chapter division in the priestly document'. But once you've said that, problems immediately follow. First, according to the analysis, P uses the Tholedhoth sayings as a prefix or a heading. The narrative takes a new turn, and is given a new chapter heading. Except in the case of Genesis 2:4, where the Tholedhoth saying comes not as a heading but as a tail-piece to the narrative of 1:1 – 2:3. Why should that be? The answer is that it has to be, because it is a P saying, and 1:1 - 2:3 is P material; and 2:4 onwards is not P material. Therefore the Tholedhoth saying cannot belong to 2:4ff and must belong to 1:1 - 2:3, because the theory requires this.

Von Rad adds a problem of his own here. He says that the Tholedhoth saying doesn't really suit Genesis 1; it really means 'family tree' or 'genealogy', a 'register of generations', he says. Why on earth should P want to put it near Genesis 1 at all if it doesn't suit it?

The distribution of the formula in Genesis is very interesting, and I'd like you to help me understand what P's editorial policy was. Tholedhoth occurs at 2:4, and that's to be explained on the documentary theory, that it was added because of the need for system. This is a system of chapter-headings, to divide up the material coherently. Well now, what system would work as follows? It allocates two Tholedhoth sayings to Esau, within the space of nine verses; none at all to Abraham; and introduces the 'generations' saying about Moses at Numbers 3:11, Now what sort of editorial policy is that?

I want to suggest a different view of these Tholedhoth sayings – namely that this formula points to the existence of written records from the earliest times. And the Tholedhoth formula occurs in the book of Genesis as an acknowledgement of sources – written, early sources – from which this material was taken. The occurrence of the formula is determined not by editorial policy, but by the sources that were available. I think that you'll find that this works, if you look at the book of Genesis. Thus Genesis 2:4 – the first time it occurs – 'these are the generations of the heavens and the earth', is a prefix to the narrative of 2:5-25. It answers the question, What happened next? We've had this magnificent display of all creation as a great synthetic Divine enterprise, but what happened next? What is the emergent story? Here is this wonderful, fascinating world, all revolving around the will of God, and climaxing in the production of a creature, man, who's in the image of God. Do tell us what happened next!

And in the proper answer to the question, you come into an entirely different setting with man in the centre, and history comes into operation, and you are told 'the continuing story of the heavens and the earth'. And this view matches the programme exactly. It avoids forcing which Von Rad admits at Genesis 2:4, and it exactly suits the material.

Even the non-existence of a Tholedhoth formula for Abraham could almost have been forecast, if we'd sat down to think about it. Abraham's own life story comes under the heading, 'these are the generations of Terah' (11:27): this is what emerged out of Terah, namely Abraham. But Abraham's own son was not born ‘til his father was 100 years old, and in point of fact by comparison with the other Patriarchs did little or nothing – there's hardly anything recorded at all about Isaac. And that matches the implication in Genesis that there was no Tholedhoth book, there was no record kept in written form in the same detail as say for Abraham himself. Ishmael of course lies outside the covenant development and therefore there would not be a Tholedhoth book for Abraham in relation to Ishmael. So that it is almost predictable that there would have been no Tholedhoth book for Abraham. (On the other hand of course if there was one involved, it would have contained the story about Isaac).

Now, there are two Tholedhoth books for Esau – but they refer to different stages of his life. This is what emerged out of the Esau man at one stage, but then he hived off and went to meet them and he opened a new diary. And the unexpected reference to a Tholedhoth book for Moses and Aaron, coming as it does at the beginning of Numbers, shows the free and practical way in which the Pentateuchal writer used his sources. He didn't build an editorial scheme with chapter headings (as the supposed P theory suggests), but he handled his material as he felt he needed to handle it; and the Tholedhoth formula is not a chapter heading but an acknowledgement of sources where he needs to use the material in that source. And it was at Numbers 3 that it was appropriate to take notice of the authorised genealogy of Moses and Aaron. If you want to continue this study of Tholedhoth, have a look at Ruth 4:18 which lends its support to the view that 'generations' points to a written document which had that title, and against the idea that this is an editorial device of the P editor.

The accuracy of the portrayal of Patriarchal times in the book of Genesis (for our knowledge of which we give due thanks to the archaeologists) – the accuracy of the Egyptian material in the story of Joseph, for example – suggests that the Tholedhoth books were written close to the events they record, and that we have in them veritable early records which were put together, sewn together, into our present book of Genesis. I offer you then in this bit on the structure of Genesis a two-stage reasoning – first, that the formula 'these are the generations of…’ is intelligible only as an acknowledgement of sources; it is not intelligible as an editorial device. Secondly, that it introduces material of marked accuracy fitting in well with the situations which it purports to describe. And granted the highly literate state of the ancient world, there is no reason to resist the implication that we have here documents close to the events recorded.

4. The meaning of the book of Numbers

I hope it didn't escape your attention that when I was doing the Pentateuchal theological over-view, I made no reference to the book of Numbers. It has every appearance of being a bit of a historical, religious and cultic rag-bag, doesn't it? I'd like you just to look at the book of Numbers with me. Again, my purpose is not to say this is the only way of looking at the book of Numbers, but that this is a way of looking at it. I'd like you to share with me one view of the structure and theology of the book of Numbers.

First of all, it starts with the people of God, an ideal realised (chapters 1-9) – and these fall into two sections, A. Holiness and order, which is not irrelevant as God is a God of order, and it's all part of the orderliness of the people of God (chapters 1-6); and B. Divine indwelling, (chapters 7-9) – God dwelling in the midst of His people.

Then the March (1) (10-12). It has a particular emphasis, if you examine it, on the Lord's tender care to Moses. In these chapters, things are getting a bit on top of our old friend, and the Lord looks after him so graciously.

The next two sections (3 and 4) deal with the topics of faithlessness (chapters 13-15) and after that reassurance. The instance is the matter of the spies. They are faithless in two things – God has gone before them hitherto, but now their faith lapses and they feel they must have men going before them; so they send the spies. And when the spies come back and say that it's a gorgeous land, and two of them say it's a push-over, and the others say No, we can't do it; they accept the report of the 10 and not the minority report, and they refuse to enter the land that God said He would give them. Hence the topic of faithlessness. But the topic is dealt with in chapters 13-15 also in terms of reassurance – that the Lord against whom they act in faithlessness comes back to them and says, Nevertheless you will inherit. Thus God speaks to them of the offerings that they will offer when they come into the land. That's an interesting point, because it shows that this funny mixture that you have in the book of Numbers – of history (the story of the spies) followed immediately by a section dealing with cultic ordinances really has a pattern to it. It is God's way of saying, Nevertheless, you are going in there!

Next we have rebellion (chapters 16-19) coupled with vindication. The rebellion is the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, and all that. They rebelled against God's appointed leaders over the people. They had a rebellion against civic, or national, authority, in the person of Moses; and against religious authority in the person of Aaron. And this is followed by a narrative that at first sight might seem to have nothing whatever to do with it. But God steps in and vindicates the Aaronic priesthood – and so you have the passage where Aaron's rod buds, and where God will not accept the strange fire offered to Him by Korah, Dathan and Abiram. The whole thing hangs together, you see – the rebellion was specifically against Moses and Aaron, and God steps in to vindicate His appointed servants.

In the next section, we are back on the march once more. Again, in the March (2) the subject matter is the Lord's tender care. (You mustn't take my word for this: you must read Numbers tomorrow and find out that this is so!) But here it is His tender care of His people. It is in this passage that you get the fiery serpents attacking the people of God; and God steps in and offers a provision for His people who are under this attack. The March (2) – we're getting very near the borders of the land of Canaan now. And so you come to the last section, which I call the Inheritance (chapters 22-31). That falls into two sections – A. the Supreme Challenge: our old friend Balaam. Notice this story of Balaam. The challenge of Balaam is written so as to be a direct challenge and threat to the promise that God made to Abraham. Did you ever notice that? When Balak sent to Balaam he said he had been told that whoever he blessed was blessed, and whoever he cursed was cursed – but God promised to Abraham that he would be the blessing of the nations, not Balaam. And here's a direct threat. Is God going to be true to His promise, or is this old fogey from Mesopotamia – ls he the person upon whom the whole of world history suspends? The other thing to notice about Balaam particularly is that the people of God weren't aware that they were under threat. This all happened away up on the hills of Moab. You may be certain that Balak didn’t send down and tell them, gentlemanly fashion, I feel I ought to let you know that I'm hiring a sorcerer against you from Mesopotamia! It all happened secretly up in the hills of Moab – they didn't know anything about it. They didn't know that they were under supernatural assault. And the significance of the story of Balaam for the book of Numbers is secondly this: when the people of God are under threat of which they are not aware, God is aware of it. And He turns their threat into a blessing. For if God had stepped back and allowed Balaam to operate, that would have stopped them getting into their land. But God said, My promise is going to prevail; and so He steps in and turns the curse of Balaam into a blessing.

And B, where the book of Numbers comes to an end, is Possession and Ratification (chapters 26-31). They begin to possess the land, and in the context of that beginning to possess, a lot of things are ratified by God. First, they will inherit; secondly, the ritual law is His appointment for them; and thirdly, Moses was the mouthpiece of God. So that they begin to go into the land of Canaan with all that they had begun to learn in the wilderness ratified as the will of God for their life in the land.

Well now, if you stand back and look at that, you see that the book of Numbers is not the rag-bag you might have thought it was. Again, please may I say, l'm not saying that this is the only way of looking at the book of Numbers: I'm simply sharing this observation with you. For if you stand back from this apparently heterogeneous mass of material, it can be seen to form a pattern, as I have shown you. You may find another pattern that suits it better. But it can be seen as a pattern and as a coherent whole. It opens with a major section, dealing with the ideal constitution of one people on the face of the earth, the holy people with whom God dwells. And then at the other end of the book, a major section dealing with the fact that this people will be brought into their inheritance by the operation of divine power. So there in those two major sections at the beginning and the end – there you have the theme of the book of Numbers: that God cares for His people, and will bring them to that which He has said. And then the middle section of the book is bracketed around by these two sections dealing with the March; and the centre-piece in each case is God's care, He cares for the individual and for the totality. And in between the two sections on the March, you have – What sort of people are these with whom God is dealing? Why, they are faithless, recalcitrant, rebellious people. And God says Nevertheless: I'm not going to be knocked off my course by their faithlessness and their recalcitrance. Who do you think I am? Do you think I'm leaf or a twig to be kicked out of the way? And in each of these sections where the people show gross faithlessness – they will not enter the land; gross rebellion – they will not accept God's authorised agents: God says Nevertheless – what's that got to do with it? It's my will and my word that comes to pass. And this funny old rag bag of the book of Numbers becomes one of the most thrilling and one of the most satisfying parts of the Bible, once you begin to look at it. And you will find as I showed you so briefly and so quickly in passing - you will find that related to all these historical bits are ritualistic bits, but they are all relevant. They're not irrelevant: they're put there because they are relevant to the experiences through which the people are passing at that particular time. So now you see we can slot the book of Numbers into the Pentateuch. You have Genesis 15 and 17, the sacrifice and the law; Exodus 12 and 20, the sacrifice and the law; then the end of Exodus and Leviticus where the whole sacrificial system is explained and elaborated – this is what you're to do about it. In Deuteronomy the legal system is elaborated and applied – this is how you are to live and how you are to obey. And right at the centre, there at the end, but when all comes to all, it is not you who are going to inherit, it's God who is going to see that you inherit! See right at the heart of the Pentateuch how the marvellous purposes of God triumph! It is He who brings to pass that which He has pledged He is going to bring to pass. So that whether the threat is an internal threat (look again in Numbers) arising from their own sin against God, or whether it's an external threat, that they may not even be aware about, like the supernatural threat posed by Balaam, God is there to counter and check, and to say His divine Nevertheless – it's not what you say that's going to happen, but what I say that is going to happen. So the whole covenant system in its application revolves around the will of God. It is God who brings to pass that which He purposed and pledged from the beginning. And so these three books that come at the end – Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy – are all books in application. Leviticus applies the sacrificial system into a programme; Deuteronomy applies the legal system into a way of life; and Numbers applies the truth of the sovereign majesty of God who decides whom He is going to save and brings them through to eternal glory. Three books in application.

One sentence in conclusion. I set out to try and share with you the sort of background to the Pentateuch which everyone ought to have before anybody says the word 'problem'. This is the material that we're dealing with. I'm going to start my next lecture pretty well on this point. This is the material that we're dealing with – and when you stand back from it, you find that it's registering two things: one, that it is in the main the product of one man and his life and what God did to it; and that it is in its totality one exercise in theology. And when you come into the detail of it, and we've only dipped into it in the books of Exodus and Numbers, you find as we noted in Genesis that it rests on veritable early records, and when you come to it in the book of Numbers, that even when it appears at its most fragmentary, it is in fact still living within this great, vital, theological unity of the whole, and it all belongs together. I want to share with you that observation of the Pentateuch, trusting that you feel with me the weight of this mass of evidence for its unity, its unitary character, because it is against this background that we ought to be thinking of the problems.


The other two lectures are only available in PDF format. Click here to download them.

Many thanks to Rob Bradshaw of Theology on the Web for digitising this monograph. 

1. The acknowledgement from the original publication: "These lectures were delivered at Midlands Regional Conferences of the Theological Students' Fellowship: the first two in 1974, at Cambridge, the third in 1972 at Loughborough. They were tape-recorded, and Mr Motyer kindly consented to their being transcribed. They have however been edited only very loosely, and Mr Motyer has not seen the final version which is printed here; so they should not be regarded as a formal publication nor cited as such. We should like to express our gratitude to those who have been so kind as to undertake the laborious task of transcription, at a busy time." Cambridge University Theological Students' Fellowship, June, 1974; Reprinted: 1976; Reset: 1978, by TSF, 38 De Montfort Street, Leicester LE1 7GP.