This book is truly the work of a genius. Without getting bogged down in details, I want to describe the meaning of the Pentateuch in your ministry.

Summary of The Meaning of the Pentateuch

Sailhamer does not hide his convictions. The back of the book reads, “The Pentateuch is the Foundation for Understanding the Old Testament and the Bible as a Whole.” That statement accurately depicts how Sailhamer views the Pentateuch in the canon of scripture. Furthermore, he works from a uniquely evangelical hermeneutical viewpoint. After a long description of hermeneutics, including a rehash of Hans Frei’s Eclipse of Biblical Narrative, Sailhamer describes his view. He understands the Pentateuch to be the work of at least two human authors who were both inspired by God. The first (and in some sense the main) author of the Pentateuch, for Sailhamer, is Moses, and the second author would be an unidentified scribe during the late second temple period just before the close of the canon. This second author took the work of Moses, and added a few minor things to it so that he created (to use Sailhamer’s term) the Pentateuch 2.0. The message of this final composition is that right relationship with God comes through faith, and not the law. So for Sailhamer, the authors of the NT are in agreement with the OT, not in opposition to it. Abraham is the example to follow in the Pentateuch, and not Moses. Abraham believes God and is righteous. Moses (the lawgiver) is disobedient and perishes before entering the promised land. Every time the Pentateuch presents a section of laws, it is immediately followed by the people breaking the law, demonstrating that a right relationship with God is not the result of following law. Humans cannot keep rules very well, going all the way back to Adam (who immediately breaks the one rule he was given).

The Meaning of the Pentateuch and Ministry

First, this book can give one a confidence in the Pentateuch. WIth all of the work done by scholars from the perspective of the Documentary- or Fragmentary-Hypothesis, the Redaction Critics, etc., confidence in the Pentateuch is often questioned. Sailhamer’s work takes the observations that these scholars have made, and then views them through a literary lens, and views the apparent contradictions or repeated stories as intentional literary devices. Ultimately the very same literary features that can cause one to think that the Pentateuch was the result of a long process of merging documents can also cause Sailhamer to think that that the author has used those features to make a point to the reader.

Second, the book can help us ministers present the “big idea” of the Pentateuch more easily. At its core, according to Sailhamer, the main points of the Pentateuch are that Law does not bring righteousness but faith does, and that there is a more perfect law giver still to come who will put the law of God on people’s hearts so that they are righteous.

Third, the book can help ministers to understand the Bible as a unified whole. If God inspired the whole thing, then ministers can take confidence in the unified and consistent message throughout. So a question of “what laws in the OT do we need to follow” becomes “how do we faithfully follow God in a way that is consistent with the whole Bible?” The NT message of righteousness by faith can also be preached from the OT with confidence.


As always, if you are interested in purchasing this book, please use my affiliate link. You won’t pay any extra, but I’ll get some much needed cash to feed my growing children.

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