Who Wrote Genesis?
by Dr. Ted Burleson
Question: “I was thinking this last Sunday. Who wrote Genesis? I know it is God’s word but someone put it to paper. Who wrote that?”
Does anyone else remember learning Bible facts from flash cards? On one side of the card was a question posed by the teacher to the students. Raised hands indicated anticipated answers. When the correct answer was given, the teacher usually revealed the printed answer on the backside of the card. One of the flash cards I remember from childhood was, “Who wrote Genesis?” If I had replied anything other than Moses, I would have been told that I was incorrect.
After thirty-five years in ministry and a few degrees here and there, I would still give that simple answer; Moses wrote Genesis. However, I suppose the person who purposed the question wants a deeper answer, so we will explore the topic more carefully. Library shelves are loaded down with volumes of books on this topic but let’s cut to the chase and keep it simple. Moses was inspired (God-breathed) by the Holy Spirit to write the words he penned (2 Tim 3:16).
It does not weaken my faith at all to consider the possibility that the Holy Spirit guided Moses in the use of some reliable sources in the authorship of Genesis. Just as Luke collected materials and made a careful investigation for his Gospel (cf. Luke 1:3) Moses may have stitched together information to be included in the book we call Genesis. It is obvious that the five key figures are featured in various parts of Genesis lived hundreds of years apart (Adam, Lamech, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham).
Now the question is, “What sources might he have used?” In 1991, a scholar by the name of Duane Garrett wrote a book by the title, Rethinking Genesis. Garrett proposes that Moses had a written document that was the initial information about the centuries before his birth. He was also raised in a Hebrew home and was told the stories that had been told to his parents, grandparents, and other ancestors through the years. Guided by the Spirit, Moses may have penned a version of Genesis while he lived.
There is also the possibility that after Moses died, someone edited his work. We know that this is very probable when we read of Moses’ death and burial in the land of Moab (Deut 34:5, 6). The Genesis that we read today has gone through a long journey from the sources Moses used, Moses’ own hand, and perhaps an editor of Moses’ work after his death. We must take care to never underestimate the leadership of the Holy Spirit in the writing of Scripture. Who wrote Genesis? Moses did, of course.