The Pentateuch

By Marvin A. Sweeney Published
Paperback image ISBN: 9781426765032 $29.99 Buy
eBook image ISBN: 9781426765384 $29.99 Buy
How the Pentateuch employs narrative and law to provide the foundations for an ideal national and religious identity.The Pentateuch, in the Core Biblical Studies series, introduces the Five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  It combines a purely literary approach to reading the final form of the Pentateuch with a historical reading of the text. The literary approach emphasizes the structural role played by the so-called toledoth (generations) formulae that trace the history of humankind from Adam, through the ancestors of Israel, and finally to Moses and Aaron as the founders of Israel’s priesthood.  The historical reading of the text challenges the older model of source analysis to argue instead for a model that traces the composition of the Pentateuch from its origins in northern Israel during the 9th-8th centuries B.C.E., (E), through its subsequent editions in Judah during the 8th-7th centuries B.C.E,. (J and D), and finally through the final redaction in the Persian period, (P).  

Discussion throughout the volume focuses on how the text presents the origins or early history of Israel and its ideals or how it employs narrative and law to provide the foundations for an ideal national and religious identity.

The volume concludes with a brief treatment of how the Pentateuch is read in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.


“A groundbreaking template on the study of the Pentateuch replete with up-to-date critical scholarship and captivating fresh insights. A renowned scholar and passionate teacher, Professor Sweeney’s book presents sequential readings of the Pentateuch in its overall structure while judiciously expounding key details and themes of each book in admirably reader-friendly ways. The result is a championing reading guide that will not only make learning the Pentateuch easy and enjoyable but also spur readers to consider its in-depth theology and inspiring homily for pertinent issues in our time.”
—Hyun Chul Paul Kim, Professor of Hebrew Bible in the Williams Chair of Biblical Studies, Methodist Theological School in Ohio, Delaware, OH

“Marvin Sweeney brings updated pentateuchal research to students and scholars by considering thoughtfully and broadly its contribution to a synchronic reading of the Torah. Sweeney also focuses on the theological and ideological aspects of the composition in its smaller and larger units, suggesting that creation—of the world and the people of Israel—is the overall theme of the Pentateuch. Easy to read and thought-provoking, this book is a great window into how biblical scholarship contributes intellectually to faith and conversations in our current culture.”
—Dalit Rom-Shiloni, Associate Professor at the Department of Biblical Studies, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel


“Marvin Sweeney provides a concise introduction to the Pentateuch. He clarifies the literary structure and central themes of each book while using source criticism to provide  insight into the text’s history of composition. The result is a helpful guide for students and instructors in reading through the Torah.”
—Thomas B. Dozeman, Professor of Old Testament, United Theological Seminary, Dayton, OH

About the Author

Marvin A. Sweeney

Marvin A. Sweeney is Professor of Hebrew Bible at Claremont School of Theology and Professor of Tanak at the Academy for Jewish Religion California.  He is Vice-President of the National Association of Professors of Hebrew.