The first five books of the OT, traditionally ascribed to Moses, though by modern scholarship regarded as an editorial compilation of sources from different dates. One modern view is that the work is that of a single author who made use of a mass of material, or sources, which were reworked without removing inconsistencies. The books are also known as the Law of Moses (‘Torah’ in Hebrew). The Samaritans held to these five books only as scripture, in their own edition.

The Pentateuch is the holiest part of the Bible for Jews; the Torah scroll is kept in a place of honour in synagogues. It is highly regarded by modern literary critics, whose work has changed the main thrust of scholarship from being primarily interested in the history of the compilation of the books and the historicity within the narratives, towards greater appreciation of the text as a literary masterpiece. Within the whole, however, certain stories are themselves subject to literary evaluation, e.g. the Binding of Isaac (Gen. 22: 1–19) and the liberation of the Israelites (Exod. 1–15).