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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Pentateuch

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This word, which is derived from the Greek Πεντατευχος , from πεντε , five, and τευχος , a volume, signifies the collection of the five books of Moses, which are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. That the Jews have acknowledged the authenticity of the Pentateuch, from the present time back to the era of their return from the Babylonish captivity, a period of more than two thousand three hundred years, admits not a possibility of doubt. The five books of Moses have been during that period constantly placed at the head of the Jewish sacred volume, and divided into fixed portions, one of which was read and explained in their synagogues, not only every Sabbath with the other Scriptures, but in many places twice a week, and not unfrequently every evening, when they alone were read. They have been received as divinely inspired by every Jewish sect, even by the Sadducees, who questioned the divinity of the remaining works of the Old Testament. In truth, the veneration of the Jews for their Scriptures, and above all for the Pentateuch, seems to have risen almost to a superstitious reverence. Extracts from the Mosaic law were written on pieces of parchment, and placed on the borders of their garments, or round their wrists and foreheads: nay, they at a later period counted, with the minutest exactness, not only the chapters and paragraphs, but the words and letters, which each book of their Scriptures contains. Thus also the translation, first of the Pentateuch, and afterward of the remaining works of the Old Testament, into Greek, for the use of the Alexandrian Jews, disseminated this sacred volume over a great part of the civilized world, in the language most universally understood, and rendered it accessible to the learned and inquisitive in every country; so as to preclude all suspicion that it could be materially altered by either Jews or Christians, to support their respective opinions as to the person and character of the Messiah; the substance of the text being, by this translation, fixed and authenticated at least two hundred and seventy years before the appearance of our Lord.

But, long previous to the captivity, two particular examples, deserving peculiar attention, occur in the Jewish history, of the public and solemn homage paid to the sacredness of the Mosaic law as promulgated in the Pentateuch; and which, by consequence, afford the fullest testimony to the authenticity of the Pentateuch itself: the one in the reign of Hezekiah, while the separate kingdoms of Judah and Israel still subsisted; and the other in the reign of his great grandson Josiah, subsequent to the captivity of Israel. In the former we see the pious monarch of Judah assembling the priests and Levites and the rulers of the people; to deplore with him the trespasses of their fathers against the divine law, to acknowledge the justice of those chastisements which, according to the prophetic warnings of that law, had been inflicted upon them; to open the house of God which his father had impiously shut, and restore the true worship therein according to the Mosaic ritual, 2 Kings 18; 2 Chronicles 29; 2 Chronicles 30; with the minutest particulars of which he complied, in the sin-offerings and the peace- offerings which, in conjunction with his people, he offered for the kingdom and the sanctuary and the people, to make atonement to God for them and for all Israel; restoring the service of God as it had been performed in the purest times. "And Hezekiah," says the sacred narrative, "rejoiced, and all the people, that God had prepared the people; for the thing was done suddenly," 2 Chronicles 29:36 ; immediately on the king's accession to the throne, on the first declaration of his pious resolution. How clear a proof does this exhibit of the previous existence and clearly acknowledged authority of those laws which the Pentateuch contains!

But a yet more remarkable part of this transaction still remains. At this time Hoshea was king of Israel, and so far disposed to countenance the worship of the true God, that he appears to have made no opposition to the pious zeal of Hezekiah; who, with the concurrence of the whole congregation which he had assembled, sent out letters and made a proclamation, not only to his own people of Judah, 2 Chronicles 30:1 , "but to Ephraim and Manasseh and all Israel, from Beersheba even unto Dan, that they should come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, to keep the passover unto the Lord God of Israel; saying, Ye children of Israel, turn again to the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and he will return to the remnant of you who are escaped out of the hands of the kings of Assyria; and be not ye like your fathers and your brethren, which trespassed against the Lord God of their fathers, who therefore gave them up to desolation as ye see.

Now be ye not stiff-necked, as your fathers were; but yield yourselves unto the Lord, and enter into his sanctuary which he hath sanctified for ever, and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of his wrath may turn away from you. So the posts passed from city to city through the country of Ephraim and Manasseh even unto Zebulun," 2 Chronicles 30:6 , &c.

Now, can we conceive that such an attempt as this could have been made, if the Pentateuch containing the Mosaic code had not been as certainly recognised through the ten tribes of Israel as in the kingdom of Judah? The success was exactly such as we might reasonably expect if it were so acknowledged; for, though many of the ten tribes laughed to scorn and mocked the messengers of Hezekiah, who invited them to the solemnity of the passover, from the impious contempt which through long disuse they had conceived for it. "Nevertheless," says the sacred narrative, "divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem; and there assembled at Jerusalem much people, to keep the feast of unleavened bread in the second month, a very great congregation; and they killed the passover, and the priests and Levites stood in their places after their manner, according to the law of Moses, the man of God. So there was great joy in Jerusalem; for since the time of Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel, there was not the like at Jerusalem: and when all this was finished, all Israel that were present went out to the cities of Judah, and brake the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all,"

2 Chronicles 30:11 ; 2 Chronicles 31. Can any clearer proof than this be desired of the constant and universal acknowledgment of the divine authority of the Pentateuch throughout the entire nation of the Jews, notwithstanding the idolatries and corruptions which so often prevented its receiving such obedience as that acknowledgment ought to have produced? The argument from this certain antiquity of the Pentateuch, a copy of which existed in the old Samaritan character as well as in the modern Hebrew, is most conclusive as to the numerous prophecies of Christ, and the future and present condition of the Jews which it contains. These are proved to have been delivered many ages before they were accomplished; they could be only the result of divine prescience, and the uttering of them by Moses proves therefore the inspiration and the authority of his writings. See LAW , and See MOSES .


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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Pentateuch'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/wtd/p/pentateuch.html. 1831-2.

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