Was it and is it a common Christian belief to say that the 5 books of the Torah were written by Moses?

Is there anything in the New Testament or by church fathers (that might be of relevance to Catholics), on the subject. Any difference between Protestants and Catholics on the question?

Was it mainstream belief before the documentary hypothesis, and is it still mainstream belief now?

  • 2
    Jesus said 'Moses wrote of me' [John 5:46]. This link is to 79 New Testament references which mention the name of Moses. If one follows Jesus Christ, and the apostles whom he instructed to teach others, then one should at least read what they had to say, and accept the truth of it.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 27, 2020 at 23:19
  • @NigelJ: He relaid to Israel God's words, and was (sometimes) commanded to (have someone) put (some of) them (or other specific events) in writing (Exodus 17:14, 24:4, 34:27-28; Numbers 33:2; Deuteronomy 31:9, 31:19-24); many other times, the text mentions God writing them Himself (in stone); but that's not quite what the OP is asking.
    – user46876
    Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 10:25
  • Four of these five books are about Moses, and contain the Law given through him; as such, they bear his name, just as the ones directly following them (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings) are (also) called after their main character(s). The (apocryphal) book of Sirach is (also) part of a (different) Pentateuch (along with Proverbs, Song, Ecclesiastes, and Wisdom), traditionally called the five books of Solomon; but no one is saying that Solomon wrote Sirach.
    – user46876
    Commented Sep 28, 2020 at 11:08
  • It's my feeling that if Moses didn't write at least some of it, then Jesus was either unware of it or wanted to continue the common misunderstanding (“Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”), neither of which I can accept. I've found this resource helpful: ligonier.org/blog/introductions-deuteronomy Commented Oct 3, 2020 at 14:39

2 Answers 2


Was it and is it a common Christian belief to say that the 5 books of the Torah were written by Moses?

The short answer is yes.

It is and has been traditionally believed that Moses wrote the 5 Books of the Torah!

The first five books of the Bible, known as the Torah (a Hebrew word meaning “Law” and “to instruct.”) and also known as the Pentateuch (from Greek meaning five scrolls), are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Moses is acknowledged by most conservative Bible scholars as being the principal author of these five books. Many passages in the Bible attribute those books to Moses or as being his words:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven” (Exodus 17:14).

And Moses wrote down all the words of the Lord (Exodus 24:4).

These are the stages of the people of Israel, when they went out of the land of Egypt by their companies under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. 2 Moses wrote down their starting places, stage by stage, by command of the Lord (Numbers 33:1-2).

Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and to all the elders of Israel (Deuteronomy 31:9).

In Joshua 1:7 those first five book of the Bible are said to be the “law (Torah) which Moses My servant commanded you” and “the law of Moses” in 1 Kings 2:3. Perhaps the clearest evidences for Moses being the author of the Pentateuch is that Jesus Himself refers this section of the Old Testament as the “Law of Moses” (Luke 24:44).

Some verses in the Pentateuch appear to have been added by someone later than Moses, for example, Deuteronomy 34:5–8, which describes the death and burial of Moses. But most scholars attribute the majority of these books to Moses. Even if Joshua or someone else actually wrote the original manuscripts, the teaching and revelation can be traced from God through Moses.

Was it mainstream belief before the documentary hypothesis, and is it still mainstream belief now?

Yes, of course it was!

The Jewish Scribes and Pharisees and their religious leaders have always attributed authorship of the Torah to be Moses. Jesus himself referred to those first five books as “the Law of Moses”.

As a matter of interest, the 1917 English version of the Jewish Bible divides the Old Testament into its traditional Hebrew sections. The four sections include the Chumash (The Five Books of Moses), the Neviim (The Prophets), the Treisar (The Minor Prophets) and the Ketuvim (The Writings). The order of the five books of Moses, including their Hebrew names, is as follows:

Chumash / Torah / The Five Books of Moses

Bereshit / Genesis

Shemot / Exodus

VaYikra / Leviticus

BaMidbar / Numbers

Devarim / Deuteronomy

I would be utterly amazed if there was any difference of opinion between Protestants or Catholics on this question.

P.S. It is also interesting to note that Psalm 90 is attributed as being “a prayer of Moses the man of God”.

Addendum: I found this question (Did Moses write Deuteronomy 33:4?) which I found quite relevant.

  • 1
    Great answer, Lesley. Keep up the good work!
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Oct 3, 2020 at 16:34

Yes is the answer to the OP. To add about church fathers, here is Clement of Rome's First Epistle to the Corinthians.

Chapter XLIII.—Moses of old stilled the contention which arose concerning the priestly dignity. And what wonder is it if those in Christ who were entrusted with such a duty by God, appointed those [ministers] before mentioned, when the blessed Moses also, “a faithful servant in all his house,”186 noted down in the sacred books all the injunctions which were given him, and when the other prophets also followed him, bearing witness with one consent to the ordinances which he had appointed? For, when rivalry arose concerning the priesthood, and the tribes were contending among themselves as to which of them should be adorned with that glorious title, he commanded the twelve princes of the tribes to bring him their rods, each one being inscribed with the name187 of the tribe. And he took them and bound them [together], and sealed them with the rings of the princes of the tribes, and laid them up in the tabernacle of witness on the table of God. And having shut the doors of the tabernacle, he sealed the keys, as he had done the rods, and said to them, Men and brethren, the tribe whose rod shall blossom has God chosen to fulfil the office of the priesthood, and to minister unto Him. And when the morning was come, he assembled all Israel, six hundred thousand men, and showed the seals to the princes of the tribes, and opened the tabernacle of witness, and brought forth the rods. And the rod of Aaron was found not only to have blossomed, but to bear fruit upon it.188 What think ye, beloved? Did not Moses know beforehand that this would happen? Undoubtedly he knew; but he acted thus, that there might be no sedition in Israel, and that 17 the name of the true and only God might be glorified; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. -source-

Here is Augustine with the same belief that Moses wrote the first five books.

I would hear and understand, how “In the Beginning Thou madest the heaven and earth.” Moses wrote this, wrote and departed, passed hence from Thee to Thee; nor is he now before me. -Confessions-

And here is Justin Martyr.

I will begin, then, with our first prophet and lawgiver, Moses; first explaining the times in which he lived, on authorities which among you are worthy of all credit. For I do not propose to prove these things only from our own divine histories, which as yet you are unwilling to credit on account of the inveterate error of your forefathers, but also from your own histories, and such, too, as have no reference to our worship, that you may know that, of all your teachers, whether sages, poets, historians, philosophers, or lawgivers, by far the oldest, as the Greek histories show us, was Moses, who was our first religious teacher. -source-

Some 1,500 years later, Matthew Henry will write the same.

We have before us that part of the Old Testament which we call the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses, that servant of the Lord who excelled all the other prophets, and typified the great prophet. -source-

Hope that sheds some light on the OP.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .