Pentateuch (Gr. , from , five, and , book), the collective name of the first five books of the Old Testament, which seems to have been first used by Origen. The Jews called it Torah (the Law) or Torath Mosheh (the Law of Moses). For centuries the Pentateuch was generally received in the church as written by Moses. Differences of style and apparent repetitions to be found in different parts of Genesis led eminent critics, like the Protestants Yitringa and Le Olerc, and the Oratorian Richard Simon, in the 17th century, to suppose that in the compilation of the book written documents of an earlier date had been made use of. In 1753 a work was published in Brussels by Astruc, professor of medicine at Paris, which maintained that throughout Genesis and in the first chapters of Exodus there are traces of two original documents, characterized by different names of God, the one by the name Elohim, the other by the name Jehovah. Besides these two principal documents, Astruc believed that Moses, whom he regarded as the author of the entire Pentateuch, made use of ten other sources of information.
This view, which in the history of exegetical literature is known as the "documentary hypothesis," was adopted in part by Eichhorn, who extended it to the entire Pentateuch. It has been further developed by several German theologians, the most important of whom is Hupfeld, who besides the Elohim and the Jehovah documents assumed a third work by another and younger "Elohist," which three works in his opinion were combined by a fourth writer, called by him the " redactor," into the present Genesis. Some of the German theologians abandoned this theory in favor of another called the " supplementary hypothesis," which assumed the narrative of the Elohist to have been the foundation of the work, and to have been supplemented by the Jehovist or younger writer. More recently it has become a favorite practice of German critics to combine both theories and to find traces of more authors and of more than one general revision. The chief representatives of this latter view are Ewald, Knobel, Noldeke, and Schrader, all of whom, though disagreeing in many particulars, assume at least three different writers in the first four books of the Pentateuch, as the oldest of whom they regard the Elohist, while Deuteronomy appears to them to be the work of a later writer, who once more revised and enlarged the first four books, and also edited the book of Joshua, and, according to Schrader, the books of Judges and Kings. This last revision they believe did not take place before the Babylonish captivity.
Nearly all the theologians who suppose that the Pentateuch received its present form at a comparatively late period admit that some portions of the book, as the commandments, are undoubtedly of Mosaic origin. - The Mosaic authorship of the entire Pentateuch is still defended by many theologians, who hold that any other supposition is inconsistent with the plenary inspiration of the Bible; among these are Hengstenberg, Haver-nick, Drechsler, Kanke, Welte, Keil, Douglas, and Bartlett. But some of these writers admit that, besides the account of the death and burial of Moses, a few words and sentences in other parts of the Pentateuch may have been interpolated at some later period. Many theologians hold that the documentary theory is consistent with the divine authority and inspiration of the writings attributed to Moses. - The entire question is reviewed by Schrader, in the 8th edition of De Wette's "Introduction to the Old Testament" (Berlin, 1869); by Vai-pinger in Herzog's Beal-FncyMopadie, articles Pentateuch, Moses, and Mosaisches Gesetz; and in Schenkel's Bib el-Lexicon (Leipsic, 1868-'74). (See Colenso, John William).