What Is the Pentateuch?

The Five Books of the Pentateuch Form the Bible's Theological Foundation

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The Pentateuch refers to the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). For the most part, both Jewish and Christian tradition credit Moses with primary authorship of the Pentateuch. These five books form the theological foundation of the Bible.

The word pentateuch is formed by two Greek words, pente (five) and teuchos (book). It means "five vessels," "five containers," or "five-volume book." In Hebrew, the Pentateuch is Torah, meaning "the law" or "instruction." These five books, written almost entirely in Hebrew, are the Bible's books of the law, given to us by God through Moses. Another name for the Pentateuch is "the five books of Moses."

Written more than 3,000 years ago, the books of the Pentateuch introduce Bible readers to God's divine purposes and plans and explain how sin entered the world. In the Pentateuch we also see God's response to sin, his relationship with mankind, and gain keen insight into the character and nature of God.

Introduction to the Five Books of the Pentateuch

The Pentateuch contains God’s dealings with humankind from the creation of the world to the death of Moses. It combines poetry, prose, and law in a chronological drama spanning thousands of years.


Genesis is the book of beginnings. The word Genesis means origin, birth, generation, or beginning. This first book of the Bible chronicles the creation of the world—the universe and the earth. It reveals the plan within God's heart to have a people of his very own, set apart to worship him. Redemption is rooted in this book.

The overriding message of Genesis for believers today is that salvation is essential. We cannot save ourselves from sin, so God had to act on our behalf.


In Exodus God reveals himself to the world by setting his people free from bondage in Egypt through a series of spectacular miracles. To his people, God made himself known through extraordinary revelations and through their leader, Moses. God also made an everlasting covenant with his people. 

For believer's today, the predominant theme of Exodus is that deliverance is essential. Because of our bondage to sin, we need God's intervention to set us free. Through the initial Passover, Exodus reveals a picture of Christ, the perfect, spotless Lamb of God.


Leviticus is God's guidebook for teaching his people about holy living and worship. Everything from sexual conduct, to the handling of food, to instructions for worship and religious celebrations are covered in detail in the book of Leviticus.

The prevailing theme of Leviticus for Christians today is that holiness is essential. The book highlights our need to be in relationship with God through holy living and worship. Believers can approach God because Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, opened the way to the Father.


Numbers records Israel's experiences while journeying through the wilderness. The people's disobedience and lack of faith caused God to make them wander in the desert until all the people of that generation had died—with a few important exceptions. Numbers would be a bleak account of Israel's stubbornness, if it were not outweighed by God's faithfulness and protection.

The reigning theme in Numbers for believers today is that perseverance is essential. Freedom in our walk with Christ requires daily discipline. God trains his people through times of wandering in the wilderness. Only two adults, Joshua and Caleb, survived the desert ordeal and were allowed to enter into the Promised Land. We must persevere to finish the race.


Written when God's people were about to enter the Promised Land, Deuteronomy gives a stern reminder that God is worthy of worship and obedience. It also retells the covenant between God and his people of Israel, presented in three addresses or sermons by Moses.

The reigning theme in Numbers for Christians today is that obedience is essential. The book focuses on our need to internalize God's law so that it is written on our heart. We don't obey God out of a legalistic form of obligation, but because we love him with all of heart, mind, soul, and will.

Pronunciation of Pentateuch

PEN tuh tük

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Fairchild, Mary. "What Is the Pentateuch?" Learn Religions, Aug. 26, 2020, learnreligions.com/what-is-the-pentateuch-700745. Fairchild, Mary. (2020, August 26). What Is the Pentateuch? Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-the-pentateuch-700745 Fairchild, Mary. "What Is the Pentateuch?" Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-the-pentateuch-700745 (accessed June 8, 2023).