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#79 - Was Moses or J the author of Genesis 1?

by Robert Nguyen Cramer

This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.


Question/insight #79:

Moses mentions the creation of the earth in Exodus 20:11. Does it mean that at the time of Moses, Chapter 1 of Genesis was already written? Or since the 5 books of Moses are dedicated to him, is he the author of all 5 books even though Gen. 1 comes from J documents?

Response #79:

Actually it most likely is not one or the other. There almost certainly was a prominent "creation" story that was orally told among the Jews at the time of Moses. That and other stories continued to evolve. In summary, what we now know as Genesis was written many centuries after Moses, but at least some of the varied traditions from other cultures that are reflected in the Genesis creation stories predate Moses. There is no biblical basis for attributing the creation stories to Moses' authorship.

You can find some further explanation in the's glossary page on "Genesis" found at

A more complete answer to your question can be found in The Oxford Companion to the Bible (edited by Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, NY: Oxford University Press, 1993, page 579-582), which states:

This article goes on to say:

Another excellent resource is the article on "sources of the Pentateuch" in the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition, pages 1055-1059. It concludes:


Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer