today with the relatively small religious group known as the Samaritans, who only acknowledge their version of the Pentateuch, called the Samaritan Penta- teuch, as Scripture. The Pentateuch also has a greater role in the religious life of modern Judaism, where the entire Torah is covered in Sabbath worship over a one-year period of time. Within various Christian traditions, the Pentateuch has had a tremendous impact. Many of the most well-known stories and passages of the Bible come from the Pentateuch, including the following: • creation in seven days • Adam, Eve, the serpent, and the forbidden fruit • the flood • Sarah laughing at God and giving birth in old age • Jacob and the ladder from heaven and wrestling with God • the plagues and the exodus • the Ten Commandments • the golden calf • the great commandments to love God and your neighbor as yourself • the Shema , a confessional statement about the singularity of God But the influence of the Pentateuch goes far beyond a few popular stories. The Pentateuch’s influence reaches into the smallest corners of daily life. It has affected everything from the way society organizes the calendar (the powerful rhythm of the seven-day week, with some days to work and some to rest and worship, is a result of the Pentateuch), to common names that many children are given (Adam, Noah, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, Leah, Rachel, Joseph, and Benjamin still rank among the most popular names), to how people think about the law (the pattern of legal principles and precedents is established in the Pentateuch). And, most significantly, the Pentateuch has deeply impacted how human beings conceive of God, the universe, and ourselves as created “in the image of God.” Authorship and Composition As is the case with most Old Testament books, the pentateuchal books are anonymous. Nowhere in any of the five books is an author named. Perhaps the best approach then would be to read and interpret them as anonymous volumes.
Shema The central affirmation of Jew- ish faith. Based on Deuteronomy 6:4–9; 11:13–21; Numbers 15:37–41, it was re- cited daily. Shema is the Hebrew word for “Hear!”
Fig. 3.1. This scene shows the Israelites crossing the Red Sea with Miriam singing and dancing: “Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with danc- ing. And Miriam sang to them: ‘Sing to Yahweh, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has cast into the sea’” (Exod. 15:20–21, modified).
But everyone enjoys a good mystery—or even better, a good conspiracy theory. Telling people that a piece of literature is anonymous is the best way to get them to wonder who the author is. The Tradition of Mosaic Authorship For thousands of years, tradition has ascribed authorship of the Pentateuch to Moses. This is for at least two reasons. First, Moses is the main human character from Exodus, which begins with the account of his birth, through Deuteronomy, which ends with the account of his death. Second, beginning in Exodus 20, God reveals the law through Moses, who delivers it to the people. For this reason, the many legal and ethical passages of the Pentateuch are called the Mosaic law. The tradition of attributing the Pentateuch to Moses began very early. Al- ready in the Old Testament, at least by the time of the exile (ca. 540 BCE) and
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