When Was The Book Of Genesis Written?

Preliminary Comments

The current scholarly consensus on the dates of writing of the first five books of the Old Testament is that these books were written / completed between 539BC and 330BC – i.e., from the time of the return from Babylon to the time of Alexander the Great1.  However, the scholarly consensus changes.  In the 19th century and the first half of the 20th it was widely believed that the first five books of the Bible were composed from four documents written between the reign of Solomon and the time of Ezra.  That consensus has now collapsed due to the work of revisionist scholars who date some documents later and question the existence of others.2


Modern writers (19th century to the present day) on Old Testament subjects generally do not believe that the book of Genesis dates back to the time of at least Moses.  This leads to incorrect expositional conclusions in a number of areas.  But what does the Bible say about when the book of Genesis was written – and how do those Biblical statements impact on our belief in Jesus Christ and the words of his apostles?

New Testament Evidence For The Early Writing Of Genesis

Gal.3v8 states “And the scripture (Gr. graphe), foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed”.  Stephen (Acts 7v2-3) tells us that God spoke the opening words of Gen.12 to Abraham when he was in Ur.  Paul in Gal.3 also informs us that the words were written down, that Abraham had them as Scripture and that this scripture preached the gospel to him.

In Rom.4v22 Paul quotes Gen.15v6 and informs us that what God there said to Abraham was written down – for Abraham’s sake and for ours also.  But when was it written?  Jas.2v23 tells us that when Abraham offered Isaac he fulfilled Scripture and that Scripture was Gen.15v6.  A scripture (again the Gr. is graphe) cannot be fulfilled until it has been written!  The passages in Galatians, Romans and James therefore teach that the things which God said to Abraham were written down in his lifetime – Abraham had a Bible!

Old Testament Evidence For The Early Writing Of Genesis

Gen.5v1 opens “This is the book of the generations of Adam”. The word “book” translates the Heb. sepher – in the AV it occurs as “book” 138 times out of 184 occurrences.  Nah.1v1 reads: “The book (sepher) of the vision of Nahum the Elkoshite”.  Most Bible students would readily accept that Nahum wrote the book – so why not Adam?  Adam was an eye-witness to all the events of Gen.3 & 4, he was created “very good” (Gen.1v31) why should he not have the ability to write?

Gen.10 records the descendants of the sons of Noah & includes a description of the border of the Canaanites: “And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar, unto Gaza; as thou goest, unto Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah, and Zeboim, even unto Lasha” (v.19).  But after the events of Gen.19 no one could “go” to Sodom and Gomorrah – they were utterly destroyed – evidence then for Gen.10 being a contemporary document, written before the destruction of Sodom.

When God brought Israel out of Egypt and into the wilderness, the people complained of hunger, so God sent the manna.  Aaron was commanded to take a pot (which Heb.9 tells us was made of gold), fill it with manna and lay it up before Yahweh, “so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept” (Ex.16v34).  What was “the Testimony”?  Ex.16v34 is the 1st occurrence of the word in Scripture.  It is later used of the 10 commandments and in 2 Ki.11v12 of the word of God which was given to a king when he was crowned.  The golden pot of manna was to be put in a very special place “before Yahweh” – thus it is very likely that “the Testimony” was the collection of scriptures which Israel had brought out of Egypt – their most precious possession – the word of God.

1 See the article “Dating the Bible” – Wikipedia.

2 The time has long passed for scholars of every theological persuasion to recognize that the Graf-Wellhausen theory, as a starting point for continued research, is dead.  The Documentary Hypothesis and the argumenta that support it have been effectively demolished by scholars from many different theological perspectives and areas of expertise.  (www.biblearchaeology.org “The Documentary Hypothesis”).

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