Yes, Critics, Moses Did Write Parts of the Bible!

Posted on November 7, 2022


By David Ettinger

False Accusation
Critics accuse the Bible as being false for a variety of reasons, one of which being that Moses could not have written the first 5 books of the Old Testament (the Pentateuch).

One reason for this claim is that, according to their “research,” alphabets did not exist during Moses’ time, hence, no letters or words existed with which he could have written.

However, archaeologists – both Christian and secular – quashed such claims long ago when their findings led them conclude that the first alphabet was developed around 1750 B.C. The Exodus occurred around 1450 B.C., meaning Moses would have written the Pentatuch between then and 1410 B.C.

It was from this original alphabet that all others alphabets derived, and by 1500 B.C. – 50 years before the Exodus – at least 5 different writing systems were known to have existed, some located only about 50 miles from the traditional site of Mount Sanai.

In fact, writing was widespread in Mesopotamia as early as 3000 B.C. on clay tablets. And dating back further, Egyptian texts have been uncovered in the form of hieroglyphs on monuments, temples, and tombs.

Looks like the critics got routed in their Moses claim!

That said, let’s briefly look at ancient writing materials – those on which the Bible was written over the centuries.

The earliest material on which writing has been discovered is stone. In fact, you yourself know of at least one example. In case you’re stumped, here’s a clue: It has to do with a set of 10 commandments!

In the “stone” category of writing is texts written by ink on plaster. We see an example of this in Deuteronomy 27:2-3: “So it shall be on the day when you cross the Jordan to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, that you shall set up for yourself large stones and coat them with lime and write on them all the words of this Law …” (emphasis added).

Moist clay was written upon then either baked in an oven or dried in the sun. We see this technique in Ezekiel 4:1: “Now you, son of man, get yourself a brick, place it before you, and inscribe a city on it …”

Clay was so trustworthy and resilient that to this day we have about a half-million artifacts from antiquity! Their contents include royal edicts and letters, treatises, and hymns to pagan gods. Some of these date back to 2400 B.C.

Wood and Wax
Tablets of wood were crafted, then covered with wax and written upon.

At Jesus’ death, the inscription above His head on the cross (John 19:19) – “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews” – was likely written in this manner, that is, with the wax-covered wooden board whitewashed and then written upon.

Gold as a writing surface is mentioned in Exodus 28:36: “You shall also make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engravings of a signet, ‘Holy to the Lord.’”

Other metal writing surfaces of antiquity include silver, copper, and bronze.

In Greece and Rome, government records, treaties, and decrees were frequently inscribed on bronze tablets.

“Ostraca” is a fancy word for pieces or shards of pottery. In a sense, ostraca was the scrap paper of the ancient world. Writing on shards of pottery goes back to 3100 B.C. Egypt.

Archaeologists have discovered about 25 samples of ostraca containing small portions of the New Testament.

This is a biggie as scholars believe every original New Testament book was written on it.

But even before this, papyrus is mentioned in the Bible in the ancient book of Job: “Can papyrus grow tall without a marsh? Can the rushes grow without water?”

Papyrus, light and flexible, grew in Egypt along the Nile River, where marshes and swamps remained after the river’s annual flood. This was an ideal place for papyrus to grow and flourish.

As a writing material, papyrus dates back to about 3000 B.C.

Papyrus is the word from which our English word “paper” is derived. Furthermore, Biblos is the original Greek word for papyrus, which led to the English word “Bible,” which means “book.” Thus the word “Bible” goes back to the original papyrus plant.

And just for the record, when the apostle John writes, “Though I have many things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink …” that word “paper” should be “papyrus.”

Leather and Parchment
Animal skins for writing goes far back as 2500 B.C., but not perfected until about 200 B.C.

Skins used for writing came mostly from small animals such as sheep, goats, and calves. The Old Testament writings were regularly copied on animal skins.

Eventually, parchment replaced papyrus because it was far more durable. From the 4th century A.D. to the Middle Ages (A.D. 500-1500), the principle material for the written Word of God was parchment. Furthermore, the vast majority of ancient New Testament manuscripts that survive today are written on parchment.

Biblically, Paul was most likely referring to Old Testament passages written on parchment when he told Timothy, “When you come, bring … the books, especially the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13, emphasis added).

More Planned
I hope you enjoyed this brief study.

I’m currently studying how the ancient biblical manuscripts were preserved, as the information in this blog is from the book, How We Got the Bible by Neil R. Lightfoot.

I plan to write more on this topic as I continue my studies.

David Ettinger is a writer/editor at Zion’s Hope, Inc., and has written for Zion’s Fire magazine since its inception in 1990.