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Genesis is included in the Torah, which is the first five books of the Bible. Joshua 8:31 says that Moses wrote the Torah:

And there, in the presence of the people of Israel, he [Joshua] wrote on the stones a copy of the law [torah] of Moses, which he [Moses] had written. (ESV)

Moses is credited with writing Genesis but where did the information come from since he was born generations beyond 'Adam'?

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  • Hello Phillip, and Welcome the Hermeneutics Stack Exchange. If you have not done so already, please be sure to take our site tour.. Unfortunately, this question doesn't seem to be a good fit for two reasons: 1) I have made a case that Genesis 1-3 alone comes from 11 different creation stories from dozens of sources and that question was closed as "too broad." Asking about the entire Pentateuch is even more broad. 2) It is also subject to quite a few different opinions making it also "primarialy opinion based" Dec 17, 2016 at 16:41
  • Thank you James for your message. I have modified the question to cover only Genesis and will read your 'Genesis 1-3 alone' text which I also thank you for in advance.
    – Philip
    Dec 17, 2016 at 16:50
  • Wow, such an enormous amount of knowledge about creation stories but how would you summarise this in response to my question please?
    – Philip
    Dec 17, 2016 at 17:16
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    It seems that Genesis 1 is either loosely based on or is a corrective polemic to Babylonian creation stories. This is also True of Gen 4-12. Genesis 2-3 seems to be targeted at Egyptian creation stories. One other popular theory is the Documentary Hypothesis but I myself prefer a kind of Supplementary / Fragmentary hypothesis Dec 17, 2016 at 22:45
  • This does not address your question, but it seems that Jewish scholars do not believe that the entire Pentateuch, or even Deuteronomy alone, was written on the stones mentioned in Joshua 8:31-32. A footnote in the Oxford Jewish Study Bible only notes that the topic of "exactly what was written on them ... is the subject of much debate and discussion in rabbinic and medieval Jewish commentary."
    – user15733
    Dec 20, 2016 at 3:08

4 Answers 4

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If indeed, Moses wrote the Book of Genesis, some of the information contained therein is scientifically or historically invalid, so whatever his source it could not have been inspiration from God, in spite of 2 Timothy 3:16. It is then hard to imagine any other reliable source that would have told him that God made the whole world in six days, or that God made the earth and grew grass and plants before he created the sun as a light to rule the day (Genesis 1). Of course, he might have used sources such as the Babylonian creation story, if this was brought from Ur by Abraham and passed down to his day. On the other hand, so much of the biblical story of Abraham is contrary to history (such as meeting the Philistine king a thousand years before the arrival of the Philistines) that many historians believe Abraham never really existed.

Analysis of the Book of Genesis shows that it had more than one author, none of whom could have been Moses, whom tradition places in the second millennium BCE. However, knowing that the book was written later and by multiple anonymous authors (now known as the Yahwist, the Elohist and the Priestly Source) is not by itself enough to know the source of the information.


The first creation story (Genesis 1:1-2:4a) is attributed to the Priestly Source, writing during or shortly after the Babylonian Exile. It parallels a Babylonian creation account sufficiently to suggest that the author was influenced by the Babylonians.

There is a second, much older creation story in Genesis 2:4b-25. This is attributed to the Yahwist, who wrote quite early in the first millennium BCE. The Yahwist was strongly identified with the southern Hebrew kingdom of Judah and he must have recorded oral traditions extant in Judah at that time.

The biblical Flood story is remarkably similar to a similar story in the much earlier Epic of Gilgamesh, so either Gilgamesh was the source for Genesis or both accounts are based on an even earlier, common tradition. Ian Wilson, in Before the Flood reports credible evidence that the Flood was a folk memory of the inundation of the fertile plain that became the Dead Sea.

We do not yet have a consensus on the original sources of much of the information about the Patriarchs, but Genesis continued to be expanded right up to the sixth century BCE and later. Bruce Feiler says in Abraham, pages26-27, probably less than one per cent of the hundreds of stories about Abraham actually appear in the Bible.

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  • Why would Moses need inspiration from God when he actually sat and spoke with him?
    – Adam Heeg
    Dec 17, 2016 at 23:34
  • @AdamHeeg: How would Moses have been able to address Babylonian creation stories hundreds of years before the Babylonian Exile and before the empire existed? Dec 18, 2016 at 0:21
  • In terms of post-Excilic writings, I have noted before the crucial spiritual messages in the Creation account, namely, The Tree of Death (Knowledge) and Tree of Life appear to be not mentioned anywhere in the Bible apart from other post-Excilic writings, such as Proverbs, the later part of Isaiah & the New Testament. At least for me, the attainment of the Tree of Life as described in Revelation is the fulfillment of the Biblical message. This might indicate the Creation account is a later-day writing, i.e., not composed by Moses. Dec 18, 2016 at 6:39
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    @JamesShewey Rejecting Genesis because of the Babylonian accounts is flawed reasoning. For example, a belief that the Genesis flood account is taken from the Babylonian one based on the age of written documents, ignores the reality of the actual event as part of the knowledge base of all peoples. The source of the earliest written account is either oral tradition or divine revelation. Thus the issue is not who wrote first or who copied who; it is which one is accurate. Dec 19, 2016 at 20:27
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    Since all cultures can trace their ancestry back to the same base, either Adam and woman or Noah and family, means that all people would have a tradition of explaining the origins/creation. Again the issue is not who wrote first, but who has the divine revelation of what took place...obviously the events before man must come from the Creator or the deceiver or be products of the human imagination. Dec 19, 2016 at 20:31
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We do not know what the content, the "mishneh torat Moshe", referenced in Joshua 8:31 (MT Joshua 8:32) was. In particular, there is no evidence from the text itself that what Joshua wrote included what we now refer to as the five books of Moses. From the time of the pre-Christian Jewish tradition, the book of Deuteronomy was referred to as the "Mishneh Torah".

We do not know anything about the number of or identity of the author or authors of Genesis. The labored style of much of the text certainly feels like it was written by a committee. We do not know if Genesis is in fact a redaction of an earlier work, possibly written in an earlier dialect of Hebrew.

The assertion that Moses was the sole author of Genesis is an assertion of faith that has no support in the text itself, nor from outside sources, not the least because we have no knowledge of who Moses was and what he did apart from what the text of Exodus tells us.

So, because the OP question assumes an unprovable position of faith regarding the authorship, I consider it a question of opinion, not hermeneutics. I think that asking what the source of the material in Genesis 1-3 is, without making any assumption regarding authorship is a question of hermeneutics.

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Where did the information come from for Moses to write Genesis since he was born generations beyond 'Adam'?<

This is not a hard question to answer. Enoch, the 7th generation from Adam, wrote a book called the Book of Enoch, from which a quote is taken by Jude, in his New Testament letter (Jude 1:14,15), who accurately portrays material from Genesis from the records kept of 'the faith once for all delivered to the saints' & which Jude was simply reminding them of 'that which they once knew.' Biblical people knew how to keep accurate records & passing them down.

Lamech, the father of Noah, only the 9th generation from Adam, was 65 years old when Adam died. Lamech, an adult man of 65 years old, would have been able to know & communicate with Adam, from whom he could get a direct account of the creation of the heavens & the earth. Lamech had the accurate, first hand source from the first & direct eye witness account of the historical narrative of the beginning of time & ancestry recorded in Scripure. Seth, the third son of Adam & Eve, knew Lamech & also knew Noah for 34 years & would be another accurate source for the book of Genesis, having learned it from his father & mother, Adam & Eve. Lamech was the son of Methusaleh, the oldest recorded person, who lived to be 969 years old.

Again, Methusaleh, only the 8th generation from Adam, who died the year of the worldwide global flood, would also be a reliable & accurate reporter. He knew Adam for 243 years and Seth for 355 years. Methusaleh knew Noah for 600 years & he was his grandson! He outlived his son, Lamech, by 5 years.

Just as the living Creator made a covenant with Adam & all living things, so God made a covenant with Noah & all living things after the global flood. (Gen 9:9,10) Accurate geneaologies were made before the flood & after the flood (Gen 10 & 11). Jewish people have kept accurate geneaologies & determine one's Israeli ancestry from them.

Eber, the great grandson of Shem, knew Shem & Noah & was able to obtain the accurate historical narrative of the contents of Genesis & the global flood from eye witness accounts, which Moses would later write down as a chronological historical narrative, from actual eye witness accounts. Eber outlived Abraham by 4 years!

Terah, the father of Abraham, also lived when Noah & Shem lived (Shem lived 502 years AFTER the flood) & had the ability to know & talk with them.

God made a covenant with Abraham, like He had made with Adam & Noah, concerning the historical narrative of God's plan of salvation after Adam & Eve sinned & passed sin & death to all mankind. This covenant was unconditional & centered on the one nation of all the nations that God chose to bring forth the promised Seed & Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. This unconditional covenant concerning the promised Seed, would become a blessing to all nations, covering all of time to the end of the age. Abraham knew Shem for 150 years & Noah died 2 years before Abraham was born.

This covenant was faithfully passed down to Abraham's son Isaac & his grandson, Jacob & God confirmed it both of them as well. Isaac knew Shem for 50 years. Jacob passed all this down to his 12 sons (tribes of Israel) & knew Abraham for 20 years.

Jacob's 3rd son, Levi, knew Isaac for about 45 years. Amran was his grandson & the father of Moses, who would have received all the historical information that had been passed down to him from the former patriarchs of Genesis historical record.

Moses was educated in the finest system in the world at that time trained by the ablest army of that time. He had access to the inner circle of the Pharoah's vast knowledge, some things of which our best scientists can't figure out today, such as the complex geological, physical & mathematical formula's used to build the pyramids of stones 2 to 50 tons each (2.3 million for Giza) & polished & flat to 1/100th of an inch. Egyptian paper, made from papyrus & pottery were mass-produced & exported throughout the Mediterranean basin, inventing a writing called hieroglyphs & a calendar based on 365 days & a number system based on 10, both of which we use in the modern world today.

Egypt had the famous Alexandrian Library. They were well advanced in ship building & navigation. In mummification, they knew what substances they needed to put on the skin — antibacterial, antifungal substances — to keep the skin best possibly preserved without having possible knowledge of any microbiological background.

Would Moses be qualified to write down the first five books of the Bible as assisted & commanded by God Himself? Would Moses had accurate & first hand knowledge of ancient historical narrative all the way back to Adam, that had been carefully passed down? The answers are definitely yes & yes.

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The Genesis story is told simplistically because if the Creator had tried to explain the creation of the universe and began with atomic theory, Adam would not have grasped it at all. Neither would Moses, wise as he was. Speed of light and light-years between stars (those tiny spots of light in the sky at night) would have been so far from knowledge of that day, whoever was taking notes would have stopped, saying, "Well no one will believe that." Scout it out. Where in the Bible does it say to the LORD a day is like 1,000 years and 1,000 years is like a day? [Try 2 Peter 3:8.] In those days they had a lot of trouble keeping track of the holidays the LORD wanted them to celebrate annually. They knew Adam and Noah were in the distant past, but most likely had troubles writing that down as well. I love Genesis. The most important part is its beginning, "In the beginning God..." Let's try and hang onto that fact and we will do better in life.

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