Around July 2010, a discussion was raised on another network about Biblical Authority. Someone had been attempting to witness to a homeless man, but was rejected on the basis that the Bible couldn't be trusted. When asked "Who wrote Genesis?" the answer of "Moses" did not provide a sufficient response: "How could he know. He wasn't even born yet." The following was my contribution to the discussion.
Okay, I'm probably going to receive a few "raised eyebrows" at this one, but I think it's worthy of mentioning. However, before I write, let me first say that Moses writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit is certainly a possible and adequate account for the book's creation. But there may be another answer.
Just like the homeless man's comment, many are critical of the Genesis text primarily because it doesn't seem to have been written by an "eye-witness." It is generally assumed to have been authored solely by Moses. Yet, unlike the last four books of the Pentateuch, Genesis makes no mention of Moses within its text at all. Why is this?
There exists within Biblical scholarship an idea known as the Tablet Theory of Genesis. Within the Genesis text, there exists considerable internal evidence (along with some archaeological evidence) that the book was originally a compilation of sections written (most likely) on clay tablets by a number of different individuals who were eye-witnesses to its events. These tablets would then be later compiled by Moses into the book we now refer to as "Genesis."
Archaeological evidence of Mesopotamian clay texts contain "colon phrases" at the end of most tablets, indicating the name of the writer or owner of the tablet, including words to identify the subject of the text and often some form of dating mechanism. If multiple tablets were utilized, "catch-lines" were used to connect the tablets in proper sequence. This writing structure is very similar to that within the text of Genesis.
Genesis appears to be divided into sections, separated by the phrases "These are the generations of ...." The word generations is the Hebrew word toledoth, and many scholars are now of the opinion that these toledoth phrases are wrongly assumed to be introductions to the text which follows. Instead, these toledoth phrases should be understood as ending markers to the preceding text. For example, in Genesis 37:2, the text begins, "These are the generations of Jacob ...," but from that point onward, the text describes Joseph and his brethren. Jacob was the central character of the preceding section. Assuming that the toledoth is ending the section about Jacob, we find this fits better with understanding the text. This is the same principle of the Mesopotamian tablets. The toledoth are acting as "colon phrases" concluding a section of text by naming its writer who would have lived as an eye-witness, or had sufficient knowledge, to the events described in that section.
If true, then the following would be the results:
Tablet (or section ) 1
- Gen. 1:1 - 2:4a, written by God Himself(?)
- Gen. 2:4b - Gen. 5:1a, written by Adam
- Gen. 5:1b - Gen. 6:9a, written by Noah
- Gen. 6:9b - Gen. 10:1a, written by the sons of Noah
- Gen. 10:1b - Gen. 11:10a, written by Shem
- Gen. 11:10b - Gen. 11:27a, written by Terah
- Gen. 11:27b - 25:19a, written by Isaac
- Gen. 25:19b - 37:2a, written by Jacob
- Gen. 27:2b+, written by Jacob's sons
Thus, it is possible that Genesis may have been written, guided by the Holy Spirit, by actual eye-witnesses to the events described. This would certainly add to the book's authenticity, and this theory does not violate any known fact. This is similar to the fact that Psalms and Proverbs (and possibly other books) were written by multiple authors and later compiled into single volumes.
Now, this is only a theory and cannot be absolutely proven. But it provides a sufficient answer to the homeless man's original criticism.