An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


The biblical books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The term is from the Greek for “five” and “book.” The Pentateuch is traditionally called the Five Books of Moses. The Hebrew term Torah is also used to indicate the Pentateuch. It recounts the history of ancient Israel from Creation to the death of Moses in Moab just before the entrance of the Hebrew people into the promised land under Joshua. The traditional view has been that is was written by Moses at the command of God. After the Enlightenment, a Documentary Theory was developed by scholars that the Pentateuch consists of four different documents concerning Israel’s early life. According to this theory, the four documents were gradually combined over a period of several centuries to reach the Pentateuch’s present form around 400 B.C. The documents were termed the Yahwist epic, the Elohist epic, the Priestly Writing, and Deuteronomy. In more recent years this Documentary Theory has been challenged by various scholars, but no one view has proved itself sufficiently convincing to replace it.

Perhaps no part of the OT is more important for both Jews and Christians than the Pentateuch, or Torah, as it is frequently called. A portion of it is always read in the regular liturgy of the Synagogue. For Christians it provides the foundation of many basic theological understandings, such as Creation.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.