In what script did Moses write the Pentateuch?

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By BibleAsk Team


The question of in what script Moses wrote the Pentateuch, also known as the Torah or the Five Books of Moses, is a matter of scholarly study. The Bible does not provide explicit details regarding the specific script or writing system used by Moses, but understanding the historical context and considering relevant passages can offer insights into this question.

Mosaic Authorship

Traditional Jewish and Christian belief holds that Moses authored the Pentateuch under divine inspiration. This belief, known as Mosaic authorship, asserts that Moses wrote the Pentateuch during the Israelites’ wilderness wanderings, likely between the 15th and 13th centuries BCE.

Historical Context

To understand the script in which Moses may have written the Pentateuch, we must consider the historical and cultural context of ancient Israel. During Moses’ time, writing systems existed in the Near East, including hieroglyphic, cuneiform, and alphabetic scripts. Egypt, where Moses was raised and educated, used hieroglyphic writing, while neighboring cultures like Mesopotamia employed cuneiform.

Alphabetic Writing

Skeptics mocked the idea that Moses could have written the Pentateuch in Hebrew during the second millennium B.C., convinced that Hebrew writing didn’t exist at that time. Those who admitted that Moses might have written part of the Pentateuch, or certain experiences, assert that he must have used either Egyptian hieroglyphic script or Babylonian cuneiform.

While the Bible does not specify the script used by Moses, it contains references to writing and written documents within the context of the Pentateuch. For example, Exodus 17:14 describes Moses writing down the victory over the Amalekites, and Exodus 24:4 records Moses writing down the words of the Lord in the Book of the Covenant. These passages suggest that Moses was literate and capable of recording events and divine instructions.

According to the evidence, the first alphabetic form of writing was invented—if not in Phoenicia or southern Palestine—in the very region of Sinai where Moses received the command to write the story of Amalek’s defeat in a book (Exodus 17:14). In 1916, Dr. Alan Gardiner published his first attempt to decipher inscriptions found some ten years earlier by Sir Flinders Petrie which the Egyptian copper mines of the Wadi Magâra on Sinai.

Later expeditions have increased the number of inscriptions from that place, and the combined labor of a number of outstanding linguists has succeeded in deciphering this previously unknown script. These inscriptions show the amazing fact that they constitute the earliest attempts at composing a Semitic script, which consisted of about 25 characters.

The makers of this alphabet were probably Canaanites who worked for the Egyptians in mines in Sinai. These used certain Egyptian hieroglyphs to express abstract phonetic sounds instead of concrete objects. This was a great invention. We still use a modified form of the alphabetic script invented probably on the Sinai Peninsula before the Exodus. For example, the letter b, is a direct descendant of the first character used at Sinai for that sound.

The emergence of alphabetic writing systems represents a significant development in the history of writing. Alphabetic scripts, such as Proto-Sinaitic and Proto-Canaanite, began to replace earlier pictographic and syllabic systems. The transition to alphabetic writing facilitated greater accessibility and literacy, influencing the composition and transmission of biblical texts.

The invention of alphabetic writing shortly before the Exodus was a gift from God as the invention of printing by movable type shortly before the Reformation. The Bible could never have become the “book of the people” if it had been necessary to write it in the complicated hieroglyphic or cuneiform systems which preceded the invention of alphabetic script. With this new script, it was easy for Moses to write the story of God’s dealings with His.

Conclusion

The question of the script in which Moses wrote the Pentateuch remains a subject of study due to the lack of explicit biblical evidence and the complex nature of textual transmission. Traditional belief attributes the authorship of the Pentateuch to Moses under divine inspiration. The emergence of alphabetic writing systems during Moses’ time suggests that Moses may have used an early form of alphabetic script.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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