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The Obituary of Moses

Scholars almost unanimously agree it was Moses who authored the first five books of the Bible, which are referred to as the Pentateuch. These writings are filled with invaluable information concerning the creation of the world, the origin of mankind, the establishing of covenant, the instituting of the law, the design for worship, and the list goes on. Included in the files of information are many details about the life of Moses. The documentation covers everything from his birth to his death, with reems of material sandwiched in between. It is his death many scoffers mention when attempting to discredit the Bible in general, and the authorship of Moses in particular. The complaint questions how the Book of Deuteronomy could document the death and burial of the great prophet when he is the person credited for writing the book.

Answering this allegation is rather simple. After forty years of aimlessly wandering in the wilderness following the Egypt exodus, God’s people were finally spiritually prepared to occupy the promised land. This proved to be a pivotal time of transition as the authority of leadership was transferred from Moses to Joshua (Deuteronomy 31:23). Joshua was given the assignment of leading the Hebrews into their homeland without the presence of Moses. The book of Joshua then logically follows the Book of Deuteronomy.

The most plausible scenario for answering this allegation rests in the fact that concluding chapters of certain books really functioned as the initial chapter for the book that followed. When biblical text was written, the typical manner of storing a book was in the form of scrolls. Where one book ended and the next book began, though, was not always plainly outlined. When the books of the Bible were originally written, they did not contain chapter or verse references. There are several chapter breaks that were poorly placed, which resulted in a difficult, if not confusing, grammatical flow. These divisions have absolutely nothing to do with biblical integrity, though. No truth of Scripture is altered. It is altogether possible that Deuteronomy 34 is really the introductory chapter of Joshua.

The chapter divisions used today are the result of Stephen Langston, an Archbishop in Canterbury. He developed the modern chapter and verse demarcations around A.D. 1227. He did this is the Latin Vulgate. The Wycliffe English Bible of 1382, was the first Bible to adopt this system of divisions. In 1551, Robert Estienne, also known as Stephanus, added verse divisions to his fourth edition of the Greek New Testament. The first translation to utilize versification was the Geneva Bible of 1557 and 1560.

A second possibility is that a someone else simply added the final chapter. It was common for another person to write the obituary of a deceased author. This same practice is widely used today in the form of a preface. Whether the supplemental information was provided by Ezra, Eliazar, or another reporter is irrelevant. The inspiration of Scripture is not violated.

In conclusion, the documentation concerning the death of Moses, and who actually provided the information, in no way refutes biblical authenticity. Using such an argument proves futile.

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