As we start a new year I thought I might add a (hopefully) regular feature to my blog, namely, a few comments on various passages of Scripture. Last year, as I have done several times since my late teens, I read through the entire Bible, taking 3-4 chapters a day. This year I plan to devote considerable attention to the study of the books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), and I will post a few thoughts along the way.
The books of Moses are called the books of Moses because...well...they were written by Moses (for the most part). There is some evidence of a later editorial hand at work as well (e.g., the account of Moses death and burial, Deut. 34), but the higher critical theories that deny Mosaic authorship are unconvincing. The prophets and the apostles frequently recognize Moses as the author (e.g., Dan. 9:11-13; Mal. 4:4; Acts 3:22; Rom. 10:5), as does Jesus himself (e.g., Matt. 8:4; 19:8; Mk. 7:10; 12:26; Lk. 24:44; Jn. 5:46).
The books are often called the "Pentateuch", which means five books. Though the word "Pentateuch" does not appear in Scripture, it came to be used at a very early date as a convenient way to speak of the books of Moses collectively.
They are also frequently referred to as the "Torah", which is often mistranslated law. The Torah contains the revelation of God's law at Sinai, but the word itself has a much broader meaning, just as the books contain a much larger purpose than the revelation of the law.
"Torah" is derived from a Hebrew word that means to teach. Thus, the Torah is the teaching. It consists of the first and foundational elements of God's special revelation to his people and serves as the basis for all later revelation through the prophets and the apostles, and of course Jesus himself.