Yeshua (Jesus) reportedly said things like, “Moses wrote about me” (John 5:46) and “have you not read in the book of Moses?” (Mark 12:26). Many Christians argue that if Yeshua believed in Mosaic authorship of the entire Pentateuch (Torah, Five Books of Moses), we must believe it as well. The argument for Mosaic authorship might look like this:
1. Yeshua is omniscient.
2. He says Moses wrote some or all of the Torah and includes Genesis.
3. We have to agree with omniscience.
Or maybe it would look like this:
1. Yeshua existed before Moses and knew who wrote the Torah.
2. Yeshua’s statements indicate Moses is the author.
3. It is logical to agree with someone who was around when Torah was written.
I don’t believe either of these arguments. I’ll say why shortly. But first, let’s consider some alternative views about Yeshua’s sayings.
He Was Accommodating His Audience
Peter Enns, writing in The Bible and the Believer, lists a number of views held by some Protestant scholars who accept the documentary hypothesis and therefore do not believe Moses wrote all of the Torah. The documentary hypothesis, also called source theory or JEDP, is the belief that multiple sources were combined by an editor or by editors to make up what we now know as a single book called the Torah or Pentateuch. My favorite explanation of the documentary hypothesis is Richard Friedman’s Who Wrote the Bible?.
Enns says some scholars would offer this explanation of Yeshua’s saying: he knew better about the origins of the Torah, but he also knew that his audience was unprepared to accept the truth. So he accommodated his audience. He expressed with his words the idea of Mosaic authorship only for practical reasons, to make points far more important than who wrote what.
He Was Not Being Literal
Another view, says Enns, is that Yeshua was not expressing some literal idea like “Moses wrote all five books.” He understood that Moses was the originator and core of the Torah traditions and referred to the whole by its originating part. That is, Yeshua knew Moses was the author of some things included in the Torah and, furthermore, that Torah springs from the traditions Moses set in motion.
“Moses” Was Shorthand for “Pentateuch”
Yet another idea, according to Enns, is that “Moses” was a sort of shorthand for the fuller phrase “Book of Moses.” The idea is that people called the final edition of the Torah the “Book of Moses,” which was not really a definitive statement of authorship. Since Moses was the originator and greatest authority behind the traditions that were finally included in the Pentateuch, the whole thing was called by his name.
What’s Wrong with the Above Arguments?
I listed above several arguments people might use to claim, “Yeshua believed Moses wrote and we must believe that as well.”
The problem with the first argument is that Yeshua was not omniscient. I do happen to believe Yeshua was divine and I have a book about it (see it here on amazon). So, I do believe that Yeshua existed before he was born as a human being. I do believe he shares the one and only divine nature with the Father (and the Spirit). I do believe that in his pre-existent state, he was omniscient and that he is now omniscient.
I do not believe Yeshua the fetus was omniscient. Nor Yeshua the toddler. Nor Yeshua the child. Nor Yeshua the man.
I would not use this as a definitive proof text, but Luke did say, “Yeshua increased in wisdom and in stature” (2:52).
Yeshua did not know e=mc2. He did not know what actors would portray him in future movies. He did not know English, not even King James English. And he did not know who wrote the Torah.
The argument that Yeshua existed before the time of his incarnation and that he was around when Torah was composed or compiled also holds no water. As Paul said it, he “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself” (Phil 2:6-7). He did not retain his pre-incarnation knowledge.
The Non-Omniscient Yeshua and His “Moses” Sayings
Peter Enns says it with style:
Jesus’ view of the Pentateuch was formed by his cultural moment — in other words, Jesus thought Moses wrote the Pentateuch, which is a reflection of Jesus’ historical setting and therefore does not determine how the compositional history of the Pentateuch should be understood today.